Posts Tagged ‘Religion’

Madville Times Top Ten of 2010: What Readers Said

Posted: Thursday, December 30, 2010 at 7:53 am
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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There are many ways to determine an annual “Top Stories List.” In the blogosphere, one useful measure is the amount of conversation provoked by a story. So here’s my list of the this year’s big conversation starters, as measured by number of comments, here on the Madville Times:

  1. Full-Reserve Banking? My Cousin Must Be Kidding…: Didn’t expect that, did you? My wingnut cousin Aaron (who works in finance and should know better… unless he’s in with Glenn Beck on trying to push gold prices) proposed requiring banks to maintain full reserves instead of doing what George Bailey and every other banker does: loan your savings out to borrowers who want to build homes and business. A host of other interested parties joined in to explain why the free market has rejected this economy-crashing system.
  2. Christians, Get with the Program: Ditch Creationism for Real Science: I noted some more theologically inclined writers’ position what the church should stop fretting over creationism and embrace evolution.
  3. Want Nazi Tactics? See Arizona’s Anti-Immigration Law: mention Arizona, immigration, and fascism, and you’re sure to get people talking.
  4. Gordon Howie, Please Quit: Retiring State Senator Gordon Howie failed to get his health care reform nullification act through the Legislature. He then failed to gather enough signatures to place it on the general election ballot. He kept flogging the issue, thinking it would propel him to victory in the June gubernatorial primary. No such luck.
  5. Brothers’ Keepers: Cognitive Dissonance in American Health Care: We Americans pay for our health care almost entirely through the collective means of insurance. Yet we reject efforts to use the most effective, inclusive collective health insurance system possible, a nationwide risk pool created through single-payer or a strong public option. I still don’t get it.
  6. President Obama: “Government Is Us”: Our President said that to graduates at the University of Michigan. I’ve been saying that readers here from the start. The Tea Party still doesn’t get it.
  7. Dog Bites Man; Bob Ellis Wrong; Howie Is Teabagger: Various conservatives preferred to bog us down in a debate over an obscene term that Gordon Howie and other Tea Party sign-wavers publicly embraced.
  8. Gordon Howie Campaigning to Stop Deportation of God: Howie slurped up all sorts of my bandwidth, here by manufacturing the false issue of God’s imminent expulsion from South Dakota.
  9. KELO Editorializes, Says God Exists: Fortunately, our liberal media asserted that, even after Howie’s defeat at the polls, the Deity was still among us.
  10. Religion and Politics: Engaging the Beast Versus Becoming the Beast: Legislative candidate Pastor Steve Hickey got me thinking more about the proper role of pastors and religion in politics. Pastor Hickey led off the comments by assuring us he seeks no theocracy or oppression of atheists like me. With the good pastor now ascending (take a moment… think about that) to the State House to make laws amidst a Republican supermajority, I will be watching to hold him to that word.

Honorable Mentions: a few stories didn’t draw quite as many comments per post but did draw lots of comments over several separate posts as the stories developed.

  1. The Madison Central School District new gym and high school renovation plan has elicited a great deal of discussion, including details of the MHS video tour, practical alternatives to put more priority on academics and arts, and concerns that the school’s early voting scheme bends if not breaks state election laws.
  2. The Blog Control Acts, HB 1277 and HB 1278, proposed in the State Legislature in February got bloggers riled up and speaking out on both sides of the issue. Mr. Epp and I and many others debated the extent of the First Amendment.
  3. Kristi Noem and her supporters dissembled and spun her way to South Dakota’s lone U.S. House seat, while South Dakota Dems wreslted with finding the right balance between defending and challenging our Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin.

Wikileaks, Persian Psychosis, and American Mullahs

Posted: Tuesday, November 30, 2010 at 8:00 am
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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Bob Ellis will surely consider this post treason as well.

Among the documents in the latest Wikileaks release is this August 1979 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Tehran to the State Department. Deputy Ambassador Victor Tomseth, who was among the American hostages taken three months later, wrote home with some less than flattering observations on the Persian psyche. Tomseth remarked on the incompatibility of Ayatollah-style fundamentalism and reason:

Coupled with these psychological limitations is a general incomprehension of casuality [sic]. Islam, with its emphasis on the omnipotence of God, appears to account at least in major part for this phenomenon. Somewhat surprisingly, even those Iranians educated in the Western style and perhaps with long experience outside Iran itself frequently have difficulty grasping the inter-relationship of events. Witness A Yazdi resisting the idea that Iranian behavior has consequences on the perception of Iran in the U.S. or that this perception is somehow related to American policies regarding Iran. This same quality also helps explain Persian aversion to accepting responsibility for one’s own actions. The deus ex machina is always at work [Victor Tomseth, Deputy Ambassador to Iran, cable to U.S. State Department, 1979.08.13, as published by Wikileaks].

Hmm… fanatic faith clouding grasp of causality and consequences… why does this sound familiar?

The earth will end only when God declares it’s time to be over. Man will not destroy this earth. This earth will not be destroyed by a flood. … I do believe God’s word is infallible, unchanging, perfect [Rep. John Shimkus, quoted in David Gibson, “Bible Protects Against Global Warming? Energy Chair Hopeful Tells Us So,” Politics Daily, 2010.11.27].

That’s Republican Congressman John Shimkus from Illinois, whose Lutheran (?!?) faith apparently tells him human actions don’t have earthly consequences. We can emit all the greenhouse gases we want without destroying the world. By the same logic, we could stop using crop rotation and no-till farming, or unleash biological weapons, or just throw a global thermonuclear war and not see crops fail or the world end.

Congressman Shimkus also wants to be chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Expect policy based on rejection of the conservation of matter and energy.

Folks who fret that President Obama is related to Muslims are missing the point. Considering what Ambassador Tomseth said about our Iranian friends, it’s the fundagelical Republicans who act more like the mullahs.

Bonus Causality Quiz: To restore your ability to recognize cause and effect, connect these dots.

…Shimkus and the Bible-believing skeptics of climate change have powerful allies in the emergent Tea Party movement, which in turn has extensive support for the oil and coal industry [Gibson, 2010].

South Dakota Counter-Protests Westboro Hatemongers

Posted: Sunday, November 21, 2010 at 9:38 am
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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It’s a cold and gray November day in Sioux Falls, but dozens of real South Dakotans are on the scene to protest the handful of whackos from Fred Phelps’s “church” who’ve come to tell us we’re all going to hell because we’re not as pious (or obnoxious) as they are. Thea Miller Ryan submits this photo via Twitpic from outside First Congregational Church in Sioux Falls:

photo credit: Thea Miller Ryan, Sioux Falls, Twitpic, 2010.11.21

Remember, kids: we only win with love. Keep showing the love. Someone bring those good people some hot chocolate… and hey, maybe even offer some to our guests from Kansas.

Phelps Phanatics at SF Churches, WHS, USD

Posted: Saturday, November 20, 2010 at 6:02 am
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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Worse than wingnuts: A Facebook friend alerts me that the Westboro Baptist Church is coming to South Dakota Sunday and Monday scream and holler and make Christians look bad.

I’ll direct you to their website, even though their URL demeans homosexuals and God, and even though their icon desecrates the American flag by flying it upside down. You can find there the following picketing schedule for these angry, deluded, inbred Christian fakers:

  1. First Congregational Church, Sioux Falls, November 21, 2010, 10:00 AM – 10:30 AM. “WBC to picket this dog kennel where the big lies are taught.” What, is First Congregational doing the blessing of the animals this weekend?
  2. St. Joseph Cathedral, Sioux Falls, November 21, 2010, 10:30 AM – 11:00 AM.
    WBC will faithfully remind their fellow man in Sioux Falls that priests rape children! Giving your children over to those pedophile rapists is equivilent—” wait. At the point where the Phelps family points at St. Joseph’s and squeals “these rapists,” that’s slander, right? Bring your camcorders and your lawyers.
  3. Calvary Cathedral, Sioux Falls, November 21, 2010, 11:30 AM – 12:00 PM… because Bishop Gene Robinson is the greatest threat to humanity in the world.
  4. Washington High School, Sioux Falls, November 22, 2010, 7:40 AM – 8:10 AM. Great, even more congestion in the Warrior parking lot.
  5. University of South Dakota, Vermillion, November 22, 2010, 9:30 AM – 10:00 AM. “These institutions of so-called higher learning are pathetic substitutes for reading the Bible and BELIEVING GOD!” Right—try substituting “Read Bible” and “Believe in God” for “Graduated summa cum laude, USD Law” or “MBA” on your next job application. Really.

I am at a loss as to recommend the proper response. An angrier atheist than I—or heck, even a good Christian disgusted with such grandstanders puffing themselves up with sensational hate—might get some friends together to organize counter-protests. But some people, like Fred Phelps, are so mentally unbalanced, so incapable of rational discourse, so dedicated to making themselves feel important by drawing attention to their madness through any means available, that it’s not worth good people’s time to give them any attention. I’m probably helping them “win” here by even mentioning their little protests.

I have an easy out: the Phelps shouters aren’t coming to my school or my town. They aren’t laying picket lines anywhere that I must cross. But parishioners at three Sioux Falls churches and students at Washington and USD will face a brief test of character Sunday and Monday. How will they respond to crude, aggressive insults offered in a spirit of sheer, selfish hatred? How will parents explain to their children the deception and malevolence that drives these “Christians”? And how will they stop the Westboro infection of hatred from spreading?

Update: Looks like the coming South Dakota appearances of the Phelps fakers may end up going about as well as this Thursday demonstration in front of a mosque in Dearborn, Kansas, where counter-protesters outnumbered Westboro “Baptists” about 10 to 1. Since posted about the impending protests on the Madville Times, two Sioux Falls copunter-protests have popped up on my Facebook invite list:

  1. Love Is Bigger Than Hate: Tove Bormes started this event. Attendees plan to bring signs and music to all three church events. Says Bormes, “[R]ather than addressing our protest at the idiots, address it to those watching, with positive messages about a) God’s love, and/or (for you atheist and agnostic pals o’ mine!) about your acceptance of ALL people.” Thanks for including us secularists, Tove!) People who’ve clicked “Attending”: 379.
  2. Protesting the Anti-American Westboro Baptist Church: Fellow DSU denizen Scott Richardson has put up this event. They’re bringing American flags. Four attendees so far.

Fawkes You, Protestant Oppressors!

Posted: Sunday, November 7, 2010 at 6:58 am
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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Father Tyler in Rapid City marks Guy Fawkes Night with the provocative contention that the Catholic persecution against which Fawkes was rebelling is on a par with the intolerance American Catholics face today:

The Gunpowder Plot was the attempt of desperate men to be allowed the freedom to practice the faith demanded of them by their conscience.

I do not condone terrorism. I do not think blowing up the British Parliament was a good idea. It is helpful, however, to consider what drives a man to consider such extreme action. England claimed to permit a great deal of “tolerance” towards Catholics in those days. It is a mantra almost identical to the message of tolerance we hear today. By my estimation, this country tolerates faithful Catholics about the same way that England did in 1605 [Fr. Tyler Dennis, “Thumbing My Nose at England,” Prairie Father, 2010.11.05].

As a member of the 1.6% minority of declared atheists in this country, I am perhaps insufficiently sensitive to the intolerance experienced by the largest Christian denomination in America and in the world. So let me ask you, pious readers: do you find the practice of your faith (Catholic or otherwise) so oppressed in America that you could be driven to Fawkesian rebellion?

The religious oppression wrought by King James leads Fr. Tyler to declare it “impossible to have a good grasp of history and remain a Protestant.” Hmmm… wind the clock back a hundred years from King James, and don’t we find the men of the Catholic Church engaged in such earthly corruption as to drive any conscientious historian out of the Catholic faith as well? Demand a history free of fallen men and earthly excess, and no church ‘scapes whipping.

I think that was Luther’s point (I’ll check with my wife: she’s studied history… and she’s still in Lutheran seminary). None of us well acquit the institutions and faiths we represent. None of us are worth following. The only man for the faithful to follow (cue that preacher from the Old Time Gospel Hour) is a certain carpenter and fisher of men from Nazareth.

Palin’s Powerful Magic

Posted: Wednesday, August 25, 2010 at 11:21 pm
By: Ken Blanchard
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palinbroomFor one brief moment, I was a fan of Sarah Palin.  Then she started talking.  Perhaps I am being a little unfair, but only a little.  It is clear by now that Governor Palin’s poor work in the 2008 presidential campaign was not merely the result of being badly handled.  Ms. Palin looks to be a person without the slightest intellectual curiosity.  It is very difficult for such a person to learn much about the larger world around her; and without that, it is very difficult to be taken seriously on a national stage.

That doesn’t mean that Palin is stupid.  She is anything but.  Nor was my initial excitement, when John McCain plucked her from near-Arctic obscurity two years ago, altogether misplaced.  Governor Palin did give John McCain the best week in his campaign.  It is now evident that the Palin magic is something real and enduring.  She is wielding her wand to astonishing effect.  From John Dickerson at Slate:

Sarah Palin is having a good morning. Twenty of the candidates she’s endorsed have won. Ten have lost. That’s a pretty good record. Her biggest victory looks like it might come in the Republican Senate primary in her home state. Joe Miller wasn’t well-known and spent only about $300,000 on his race against incumbent Murkowski. Analysts were predicting he’d get trounced and that Palin would be embarrassed. He is now a few thousand votes ahead, though the outcome won’t be certain for about a week.

See here for a map of Palin’s endorsements colored by wins and losses.

The Miller thing really does make this muggle very nervous.  Alaska is a place where you can order a pizza and have it delivered by airplane.  Absentee ballot counting won’t happen overnight.  The fact that the race is a virtual tie, and that Miller might well emerge the victor, is astonishing.  Without Palin’s endorsement and support, it is difficult to imagine that most election watchers would ever have heard of Joe Miller, let alone find themselves Googling for his resume.  It is a pretty stout resume by the way.

When Sarah Palin resigned as Governor almost everyone (yours truly included) thought it was a dumb, even inexplicable move.  Well, guess who looks smart and who looks dumb now.  Had she remained a Governor with hopes of a Presidential run in 2012, she would have had to start all over again.  She would also have left behind a Dan Quayle-like reputation.  Palin guessed that this was her year to be a national force, and she guessed right.

What is the secret of Palin’s magic?  I think it’s pretty simple.  She represents a lot of folks out there who cling to guns and religion and think that there is nothing wrong with that.  Such folks do not, by and large, have PhDs.  They do not contribute to the Sierra Club or the American Civil Liberties Union.  They don’t live in rent-controlled apartments or have wine cellars.  They have never been followed around by or been part of an entourage.  They suppose, nonetheless, that they are just as good as anyone else.  They think they have just as much right to hold and express their own opinions as anyone who reads or writes for the New York Times.

Consider the guy who drives a truck for a living and wears hip waders and carries a rifle for fun, or the woman who left college and went back to the ranch to herd critters and children.  The idea that these two are equal in dignity to a news anchor, or a movie star, or a president, might be a uniquely American idea.  It is certainly a profoundly democratic idea.

The visceral antipathy of the news media and political elite to Sarah Palin and to the rise of the Tea Party movement, suggests contempt for a lot of ordinary Americans.  At any rate that’s how a lot of ordinary Americans read it, and a lot of them are watching Glenn Beck.  Like him or not (and I don’t, much) he is telling a lot of people that they aren’t stupid or inferior because they refuse to swallow everything that the mainstream media wants to feed them.  That is the secret of Beck’s magic and of Palin’s.  That is what has made Beck and Palin forces to be reckoned with in these times.

Of Moose & Mosques

Posted: Tuesday, August 24, 2010 at 10:15 pm
By: Ken Blanchard
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virginia statute religious libertyIn the lodges and campgrounds of Glacier National Park, like those of Yellowstone, internet connections and cell phone signals are largely out of the question.  There are no televisions in the rooms, and the only newspaper I could get had a lot of about Montana, a little about foreign countries, and virtually no mention of the rest of these United States.  You would hardly have known from the Great Falls Tribune (a pretty good regional paper for the most part) that an election approaches or that we even have a President and Congress.  Perhaps the people of Montana are so furious at the Federal Government that they refuse to acknowledge its existence.

When I entered the internet free world, the Ground Zero Mosque story loomed large in the news.  I did not expect that it would still be the dominate story when I emerged.  My SDP colleagues, Ms. Flint and Professor Schaff, have done a fine job on this; however, I cannot resist weighing in.

Somewhere between sixty and seventy percent of Americans, not to mention New Yorkers, oppose the building of the Mosque “near” Ground Zero.  Leaving aside the questions of whether it is a mosque, exactly, or exactly how near to Ground Zero it is, “opposition” can mean one or both of two things.  To oppose X can mean that one does not like X.  It can also mean that one favors action or is prepared to take some action against X.

Americans are entitled to their likes and dislikes.  I do not think that the opposition to the Mosque is motivated largely by bigotry, nor is it motivated largely by religious partisanship.  I have visited Buddhist temples across the country and these institutions have very rarely aroused any local opposition or notoriety.  Opposition to the Mosque in New York, and similar Mosques elsewhere, is motivated by a strong suspicion that Muslims are, by and large, hostile to America and all that it stands for.

That opinion may be wrong.  It may certainly make it harder to build bridges between Muslim communities and nations, and liberal democracies.  It is hardly irrational or xenophobic.  Perhaps radicals and militants constitute only a small portion of Muslims.  Nonetheless, European Jews have a new and good reason to fear for their persons and synagogues as the immigration of Muslims into their various nations has increased.  If recent history teaches anything, it is that the security of Jews as Jews is the canary in the coalmine for liberal democracy.  If you don’t believe me, ask independent film makers or cartoonists who have offended Muslim sensibilities.

If opposition in the one sense is reasonable, opposition in the second sense is out of the question.  I emphatically agree with Miranda that we should not and constitutionally cannot prohibit the building of a Mosque (or quazi-Mosque or whatever it is) just because it offends us.

To be sure, Churches and Mosques are not immune to zoning regulations.  Clouds in Water Zen Center, in St. Paul, gave up the idea of buying an abandoned church because they couldn’t afford to comply with all the municipal regulations.  The Islamic Center in New York may fail for similar reasons.  If, however, the group wishing to build the Mosque owns the property and can meet the regulations, then they get to build what they want.  As Professor Schaff says, they can’t be prohibited from building because any we should object to their religious affiliation.  Whatever Islam is, free exercise of religion is what we are.

Some conservatives are exploiting anti-Mosque sentiment to build support.  Some liberals are exploiting the issue to paint conservatives (including, apparently, most Americans) as simple minded bigots.  Both ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Vote Now: What’s My Religion? What’s Bob’s?

Posted: Friday, August 20, 2010 at 5:34 am
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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I find the Pew Forum survey results about Americans’ perceptions of President Obama’s faith fascinating. I want to see what happens if we ask a similar question about two South Dakotans with reasonably well-known (if not known to be reasonable) religious views.

Thus, the newest Madville Times poll, a “pew poll” of our own! Two questions:

  1. Do you happen to know what Cory Allen Heidelberger‘s religion is?
  2. Do you happen to know what Bob Ellis‘s religion is?

The options available mirror the options presented in the Pew Forum poll. Click your answers in the right sidebar at my home site. If you’d like to explain your answer, do so in the comment section beneath this very post.

Poll runs until Tuesday breakfast time. Tell your friends, and vote now!

al Arabiya Boss: No Ground Zero Mosque

Posted: Tuesday, August 17, 2010 at 10:49 pm
By: RadioActive Chief
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The Majority of Muslims Do Not Want or Need a Mosque Near Ground Zero


In an August 16, 2010 column in the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, ‘Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, Al-Arabiya TV director-general and the paper’s former editor, criticized President Obama for supporting the construction of the Cordoba House mosque at Ground Zero in New York. He stated that it would be unwise to construct a mosque at that location, saying that no practicing Muslims live in the area, and that the mosque would become a focal point for both the supporters of terrorism and the champions of Islamophobia. Therefore, he argued, it would be preferable for Obama to throw his support behind issues that are of real concern for the Muslims, such as promoting Middle East peace.

For the full text of these remarks, follow the above link to the translation.

One must suppose that even NBC/MSNBC/Mayor Bloomberg would refrain from accusing al-Rashed of being prejudiced against Islam.

In light of B.O.’s quasi-endorsement of the project, his position is demonstrated to be beyond reason.

This being the case, the interesting question is what motivates his continued devotion to poking the American people in the eye on this issue (along with many other previous ones).

Happy 4th of July, Babylon!

Posted: Saturday, July 3, 2010 at 6:17 am
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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I love the Fourth of July. Even as I criticize the various injustices and foibles of our polticial and economic system, I can celebrate the constitutional guarantees of my right to criticize my country. As an atheist, I can also embrace this wholly secular holiday more whole-heartedly than any of the church holidays that dominate our Western calendar.

If I were a Christian, I might have to change my fife-and-drum tune. Pastor Shel Boese warns his fellow believers to watch what the worship this Sunday. Pastor Shel refers us to Pastor Bob Wyatt of Oregon, who questions the compatibility of national patriotism and Christianity:

Tony Campolo puts it this way: “America may be the best Babylon the world has, but it is still Babylon nonetheless.”

We are exiles living in Babylon, folks. Our corner may be called “America,” or “Canada,” or “France,” but it’s still all a part of the same thing: a world system that transcends borders, is dominated by materialistic consumerism and exploitation, and is fundamentally opposed to the Kingdom of God. And while love and affection for the people living in that system is entirely necessary, and while we should certainly pray for the peace and well-being of the place where God has set us, we need to avoid the mistake we see over and over in Scripture: becoming so enamored with our temporary dwelling—whether that’s called Egypt, Babylon, or even America—that we lose sight of what Hebrews calls “a better place” [Pastor Bob Wyatt, “Be Careful What You Worship on July 4,” Out of Ur, 2010.07.01]

Lest you revert to conflating piety and patriotism, take a couple more swigs of that Campolo quote:

  1. “America is the best Babylon in the world. But Babylon is a whore. Whores seduce. Babylon consumes all the resources on the earth, and eats up the souls of men (Rev 18).”
  2. “As the system was collapsing, as Babylon was going down the tubes, this other group of people was saying, ‘hallelujah, Babylon is no more! The great whore is dying’…. Don’t get me wrong, I love the United States of America. It’s the best Babylon on the face of the earth, but it’s still Babylon and it’s not the kingdom of God.”

Whew—I’m glad I don’t have to reconcile that on Sunday morning. And hey, what is that flag doing up on the Christian altar, anyway?

As some of my more enlightened Christian friends would say, God Bless America… and the rest of the world, too!