RELIGION: “I Will Help Them Pack; I Will Help Texas Pack Too, When They are Ready to Secede!”

RELIGIONh/t: We Fucking Love Atheism

Too Close For Comfort- FSU Shooting

I've spoken out about mental illness before, and how the system no longer steps in to prevent the kind of harm that we're seeing time and time again from mental health clients who had given every indication that they were in crisis and potentially a danger to themselves or others.

Myron May was in crisis.  It was known that he was suffering paranoid delusions.  Welfare checks resulted in only the most cursory evaluation, and, as so often happens, the workers sent out to do the evals walked away clueless as to what was coming.  I suspect, if they'd listened to May's ex-girlfriend or others close to May, that they would have been a lot less clueless, and perhaps some lives would have been saved.

Of course, that would seem to trample on what some people see as patient rights... the same rights which allowed this man who had what seems to be a fairly sudden breakdown into madness to take a gun, travel 1500 miles, and walk onto the campus of his former school with a gun and start shooting students.

And now May is dead, which is another tragedy, because May should have been in a psychiatric hospital being evaluated and treated long before he left Los Cruces, before he pulled the trigger the first time, and before the police shot him dead on the steps of the library.  Now I'm not saying what the police did in this case was wrong. It was a tragedy, but it was clear that May was endangering the police and bystanders and that there was no other option.  But it never should have gotten this far.

But for me there's another angle on this story, because I first heard about it on Facebook via messenger... from my daughter... who is completing her PhD at FSU.

Now at first reports claimed that this was NOT one of those mass/ random shootings, and that there likely were specific targets.  We now know that isn't the case.  We also know more about May's history and psychiatric state.

And I know that it could have been my daughter in the library that night.  I'm relieved it wasn't.

But it was someone's children who were there, who were shot, and someone's child died at May's hands as a result of a failure of the mental health system.  And of course May himself died as a result of that failure as well.

I'm not sure how many times I'll be writing this over and over and over, or how many times an untreated or under treated psychiatric patient will harm themselves and/or others before things change in mental health treatment.

We live in a society that fails to recognize neurobiological disorders as diseases of the body (and after all, the brain IS part of the body) and sees them as failures in character.  We live in a society that, rather than treating individuals with these illnesses wait for tragedy to happen before killing or incarcerating the ill individual.

We live in a society where my son, a mental health client, is put in constant risk due to insufficient treatment and the tendency to incarcerate rather than address the illness.  

And one where my daughter, an innocent and mentally healthy individual, is put at risk as well.

It's time to put an end to this and make profound changes in the mental health system and the stigma and ignorance about mental health issues in our society.  We've had more than enough deaths and injury to warrant a closer look at both issues involved: mental health and gun control.

Yes, May was mentally ill when he pulled the trigger.  But the other side of all this is that he had to have a trigger to pull. 

Atheist Rapper Gifted Anomaly Has a Song Out Called “Worship”

Gary Gibson, Jr. (a.k.a. Gifted Anomaly), who previously released hip-hop songs about atheism here and here, has a (possibly NSFW) song out called “Worship.” Check it out:

The lyrics are sharp, too:

… you just assumed your god is real is the picture you paint/ do your deepest thoughts ever center on if he ain’t/ if he didn’t create/ this universe then what would it take/ is it the devil or a better explanation for hate/ wait/ if he’s all good then why is there hate/

Want more? Like the Grand Unified Theory page on Facebook.

When It Comes to Pop Culture, There’s a Christian Version of Everything Secular

A couple of months ago, I saw Seth Andrews (The Thinking Atheist) give a talk on how Christians co-opt just about everything in secular culture. For every great musician, or book, or movie… or fast food logo… there’s a Christian equivalent.

I got his point after a few examples. But then he kept giving more. And they didn’t stop coming. The message was clear: There’s no bit of pop culture too irrelevant to turn into a promotion of Jesus:

If any examples stand out to you, leave them in the comments!

ESPN is totally screwed up

I’ve bumped into Curt Schilling on twitter now and then — he has a penchant for posting flamingly stupid creationist idiocy. (I know, you’re thinking, how can a baseball pitcher possibly be that inane, don’t they teach science in ball-throwing-school? But he is.)

Keith Law is a sports writer for ESPN who uses Twitter a fair bit, and argued sensibly against Schilling.

Guess what ESPN did? They told Law to stop using Twitter. This is going to do wonders for the reputation of athletes as meatheads.

Can’t Miss Session: Mythmaking at Christian Tourist Attractions

Can’t miss this one! Directly relevant to my new research project!
North American Association for the Study of Religion
Theme: Strategies of Mythmaking at Christian Tourist Attractions
Saturday – 9:30 AM-11:50 AM
Hilton Bayfront-202B
wiki commons photo

wiki commons photo

This panel theorizes four present-day Christian tourist attractions as sites of ongoing social and mythic formation: The Creation Museum in Petersburg, KY, the Ark Encounter in Williamstown, KY, Bible Walk in Mansfield, OH, and the Holy Land Experience in Orlando, FL. Working from Bruce Lincoln’s observation that “myth is ideology in narrative form,” the papers examine various strategies by which Christian tourist attractions enable visitors to interact directly within mythic configurations. This direct interaction functions as a type of pilgrimage, whereby visitors locate themselves within a mythic trajectory that begins with the creation of the world and points toward an eternity with (or, perhaps, without) Christ.

Erin Roberts, University of South Carolina
Mythic Formation at the Holy Land Experience
Jennifer Eyl, Tufts University
Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego…and Jesus?: Anachronism as a Constituent Feature of Mythmaking
Steven Watkins, Northern Kentucky University
Myth, Anachronism, and Fiction: The Creation Museum’s Production of Scientific and Biblical Misplacements
James Bielo, Miami University
How to Build an Ark: Intertextuality and Authority Among Creationist Artists
Sean Durbin, Macquarie University
“It is what it is”: Rhetoric of Legitimation and Authentic Identity Construction on a Christian Zionist Tour of Israel

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I get email

Do you ever get that kind of email that makes you want to compulsively wash your hands? The kind that makes you think, “Well, this computer is completely soiled, time to get a new one”? I do. Here’s an example, and this is how it starts:

Rape is a controversial topic, i get that. But we need to keep a sober mind and try to analyze rape in a way that is rational and objective.

A lot of people are against rape and the reason why they are, are well-known to almost anybody. But i have to offer a different perspective on this controversial topic

You’re probably done already. Just that announcement that they’re going to “analyze rape in a way that is rational and objective” is puke-inducing…you know they’re not, but are instead going to try rationalizing abusing human beings. You are excused if you have no desire to read further, because I guarantee you, it gets worse. Much worse.

Id like to give six good reasons why rape is good for society

1) It instilles shame in women

Thats actually a big factor. The shame instilled in women is one of the reasons why rape is a good thing.

Women need to be ashamed otherwise they go off the rails.

They need to be concentrated on themelves and their shame otherwise they become a burden to society.

Only women who are deeply ashamed of themselves can properly focus on the good they can do in the world.

2) Destroys the self-esteem of women

Women with too much self-esteem are a danger to society. Some of them will even get politically involved and will try to change things for what they percieve is the best for society. And we all know that cannot be allowed to happen.

3) Makes it easier to control women

A direct consequence of the first two points. Ashamed women with low self-esteem are way easier to control and it should be obvious why that is a clear cut advantage for society.

4) Shows women their role in society

It makes women depart from following their dreams and concentrate on themselves which will show them their proper role in society.

5) Many women enjoy their rape-experience

At first glance it seems counter-intuitive, but yes. I guess a majority of women really enjoy their rape-experience.

An even those who don’t are often glad their life has been enriched by a valuable experience. Even though they didnt like the act in and off itself, nevertheless it taught them some valuable lessons.

6) There is genuine satisfaction involved

We always look at the rape from the perspective of the victim but never from the perspective of the perpetrator

Many men dont have regular sexual encounters and cant afford a good prostitute, so they obviously have to rape somebody

I think rape really manages to satisfy many men and makes it easier for them to cope with the hardships of this life.

Think about it, would you rather deal with somebody who is totally sexually frustrated or with somebody who is satisfied because he just had the pleasure of raping some woman???

You see, there are obviously aspects of rape that are good for society. If you keep an open mind and really try to think about it rationally you will surely see that there is much to say in favour of rape

I hope you change your mind (which you will surely do) and consider rape to be one of the few good things in life

I wouldn’t normally do this, but this sick fuck has crossed a line — and I don’t care whether they’re “trolling” or are serious. Here’s the header information from the email. Please note that there is no verified digital signature, so it could be someone spoofing someone else’s email address, so don’t bombard the sender with hate mail — I’m more interested in seeing the message traced and the sender regarded as a pariah.

Received: by with SMTP id t92csp80910ioe;
Fri, 21 Nov 2014 08:12:49 -0800 (PST)
X-Received: by with SMTP id v10mr5860959lag.13.1416586368743;
Fri, 21 Nov 2014 08:12:48 -0800 (PST)
Received: from ([])
by with ESMTPS id xi1si597103lbb.29.2014.
for (version=TLSv1.2 cipher=ECDHE-RSA-AES128-GCM-SHA256 bits=128/128);
Fri, 21 Nov 2014 08:12:47 -0800 (PST)
Received-SPF: pass ( domain of designates as permitted sender) client-ip=;
spf=pass ( domain of designates as permitted sender)
Received: from [] by (via
HTTP); Fri, 21 Nov 2014 17:12:43 +0100
MIME-Version: 1.0

As for his argument — utterly dismissable. It requires regarding women as less than human, and less deserving of basic human dignity.

Now excuse me, I have to go wash my hands some more.

South Carolina Elementary School Fundraisers Benefit Local Church’s Mission Work

Oakbrook Elementary School in Summerville, South Carolina ran a teacher-led fundraiser recently with all proceeds supporting missions sponsored by the Old Fort Baptist Church:

The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center sent a letter to the district yesterday:

The purpose of this letter is to advise you that such school-sponsored fundraising efforts — the proceeds of which go directly to an evangelical Christian Church — must immediately cease, and that our organization will pursue the matter through litigation in federal court if it does not.

None of this is to suggest that the School District should not be participating in charitable endeavors. To the contrary, the AHA strongly supports charity giving. Such good intentions, however, can be pursued in innumerable other ways that do not involve religion.

Another fundraiser being put on by the school involves a canned/boxed food drive. Those items will be donated to the church for its missions, too.

Some Christians will inevitably cry foul, but the moment a public school charity drive becomes a vehicle with which to spread the Gospel, it’s gone too far.

Pastor Says Florida School Board Should Say No to Atheist/Satanist Book Giveaways Since They’re Not “True Religions”

In a piece that’s light on facts and heavy on ignorance, Pastor Troy Schmidt writes that the Orange County School District should ban atheists and Satanists from distributing their books, but still allow Christians to give away Bibles.

He’s referring to the recent controversy where the district is considering banning all book distributions by outside groups because atheists want to participate and the Satanic Temple created coloring books for the occasion.

After claiming the coloring book mocks other beliefs — which it really doesn’t — Schmidt says this:

The Satanic Temple calls itself a religion. Pull it up on the Web, and see how comfortable you feel reading about its “benevolence and empathy” and “common sense and justice.” It’s Satan. He’s a deceiver. He’s about evil.

The Satanic Temple makes very clear they don’t actually believe in Satan. If it wasn’t for their name, you might mistake them for Secular Humanists. Their website is only scary if you have a visceral aversion to anything Satan-related.

Let’s use our own common sense. There is no Satanic Temple in our community; nor would we want it here. Neither The Satanic Temple nor the Freedom From Religion Foundation has any right being a part of Religious Freedom Day because neither are true religions.

Says him.

He’s wrong on a couple of counts, the first being that “Religious Freedom Day” matters. It doesn’t. The question is whether outside groups can ever do a book distribution and that’s the decision the school board needs to make. If they say yes to one, they must say yes to all, and they can’t discriminate based on which religions are their favorites — or which ones they consider real.

As for whether they’re true religions, all that matters is that the courts (in theory) treat all beliefs the same way. If it’s a firmly held belief, Satanism must be treated the same as Christianity.

I also wonder whether Schmidt would consider Islam or Scientology “true religions.”

So what’s his solution to this controversy?

There are two ways Satanists can win if their coloring books come to town — if the materials are allowed in the schools or if the day is canceled. That’s exactly the group’s motive. It wants one or the other. However, the community and students can win if the materials are rejected and Religious Freedom Day is allowed to stay.

If the atheist/Satanist materials are rejected, there will be a lawsuit. The school board will lose. And they will have to pay out a lot of money in legal fees. That’ll ultimately affect the community and the students. So Schmidt is just flat-out wrong there. (A pastor being illogical? Shocking, I know.)

He displays a stunning lack of awareness as to how the legal system works. If Religious Freedom Day remains in place, nothing will change. The issue isn’t that the books are being distributed on that day, but that they’re being distributed at all. I have a hunch that Schmidt wouldn’t be cool with the Satanist coloring book being handed out the following day, either.

By the way, if anyone wants to write an opinion piece, it looks like the Orlando Sentinel will print whatever drivel you come up with, regardless of how well-thought-out your argument is. So good luck getting published!

(Thanks to Bill for the link)

NC Triad Chapter Hosts Gloria Fitzgibbon on The Constitution and Public Morality

Beth Corbin

On Tuesday, November 25, the Triad AU Chapter is hosting historian Gloria Fitzgibbon. She will explore the Constitutional issues surrounding legislation that regulates public morality.  
Read more

Zimbabwe: Disaster strikes religious rally

Earlier this month it was reported that over 3,000 foreign visitors had arrived in Zimbabwe for a night of prayer organised by the Prophetic Healing and Deliverance Ministries (PHD) headed by a flamboyant charlatan called Walter Magaya, above.

Today we learn that 11 people who attended the conman’s latest healing and deliverance service in the central town of Kwekwe died as the result of a stampede.

The BBC reports that four people died in the Kwekwe stadium, while seven others were declared dead on arrival in hospital.

The stampede occurred as thousands of worshippers rushed to leave after Magaya service.

PHD’s Facebook page prophesied this about those attending the Kwekwe stadium event:

No one will go back the same – all for the glory of God. We serve a Mighty God of wonders!

Some witnesses accused the police of blocking most of the stadium exits and then firing tear gas as people battled to get through the only one left open.
The police have denied firing tear gas.

Magaya told a local newspaper that when he learnt of the deaths, it was:

The saddest moment of my life.

Walter Magaya  claims to use miracles to cure all kinds of ailments, help people achieve their desires, and cast out demonic spirits. Magaya counts the popular Nigerian pastor T B Joshua as his mentor. In September, Joshua blamed a “UFO” for the collapse of a church building that killed 17.

His popularity increased when he sought to convert a well-known pole dancer, Beverly Sibanda to Christianity. But her love affair with his ministry was pretty short-lived and she began bad-mouthing the fraud, something she later apologised for.

Prophetic Healing and Deliverance Ministries was again in the news at the end of October when two of its “bouncers” were arrested along with some other thugs for assault and threatening behaviour.

On November 8, PHD official, Admire Mango, was reported here as saying that in addition to the 3,00o foreigners who had poured into Zimbabwe for the the all night prayer spectacular – oddly called “Turning Around Part 3″ – had also attracted over 180 000 local visitors.

Ahead of the event, Mr Mango declared:

This is going to be Southern Africa’s biggest religious show.

He called upon all Zimbabweans with various problems to come and receive blessings.

After the entertainment, the crowd will have an opportunity to listen to the prophet’s healing and deliverance message. We are calling upon all people from different races who are suffering from any ailments such as HIV, BP and cancer among other diseases to come and be healed. At the all night prayer, some will receive prophetic words that will change their lives according to God’s plan.

Hat tip: Agent Cormac

The Weekly Wrap Up

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November 21, 2014

House Armed Services Committee Holds Hearing on Religious Accommodations

Military image courtesy of Shuterstock.

On Wednesday the Military Personnel Subcommittee of House Armed Services Committee held a hearing titled "Religious Accommodations in the Armed Services." The Secular Coalition for America submitted testimony in support of nontheistic service members. 

Those invited to testify heavily favored the story of a military that discriminates against Christians, including representatives from the Liberty Institute, Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, and the Center for Religious Liberty Family Research Council.
"I don't think any government should dictate the conscience of any human being, be they a minister or a chaplain. That's not what God intended," said U.S. Representative Walter Jones (R-NC), who is a member of the House Armed Services Committee.  "These kids are giving their lives in Muslim countries so that Muslim imans can have freedom to pray as they see fit, yet in America where they came from and live their life, our chaplains are being challenged on how they close their prayer? It's a sad day in America when that happens."

Representative John Fleming (R-LA), also a member of the Committee said there should be no limits placed on religion in the military. 

"We see things on TV and movies now that were unthinkable a few years ago. Why? Because the courts say its your First Amendment rights, it doesn't matter if it offends somebody," Fleming said. "Yet in the military, someone has a bible on their desk or whiteboard, and all of a sudden it offends people and has to be taken down. There's clearly a double standard being applied."

The Secular Coalition for America, as well as member organization Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, submitted written testimony and were in attendance at the hearing. SCA’s testimony asked that service members be protected from religious coercion and proselytizing, and the diversity and training of the Chaplain Corps be appropriately expanded to support nontheist service members.

Mikey Weinstein, President of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation was invited to testify.  Also speaking were Rabbi Bruce Kahn, former Navy chaplain and former Executive Director of the Equal Rights Center.
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Maryland City Council Member Won’t Take Oath on Bible Because That’s Not What She Was Elected to Uphold

Jessica Fitzwater (below) just won a seat on the Frederick County Council in Maryland, and I already have reason to like her. On December 1, when she takes the oath of office, she won’t be swearing in on a Bible:

Fitzwater, who is Jewish, said she’s not interested in replacing the Bible with a Torah. Instead, she is thinking of taking the oath on the Frederick County charter or some other government document that will represent her commitment to public service.

I think it’s more appropriate to swear my oath on something I will be upholding. I’m not upholding the teachings of the Bible. I’m upholding the charter or the Constitution,” said Fitzwater, who will represent Council District 4.

Note to politicians: That’s how you do it! Even if you’re religious, there’s no reason you can’t say the same thing.

(Can we please elect more politicians who think like that?)

It brings to mind the statement that’s been said a number of times before: We put our hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution; we did not place our hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible.

(Thanks to Michael for the link)

National Secular Movement Call – November 20 2014

Note: This will be the last call for 2014. We will resume regular calls in January. For this week’s full call agenda, click here!

National Secular Movement Call – November 13 2014

This week in secularism there’s action on climate change, healthcare, and the position of nontheists within the military. Click here for this week’s full call agenda.

Louisiana School District Apologizes for Veterans Day Assembly That Included Christian Prayer

A couple of days ago, I posted about a Veterans Day assembly that took place at Morgan City High School in Louisiana. It began with a Christian prayer — and students were told to stand up and bow their heads. The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center wanted assurances it would never happen again:

It didn’t take long for the district to admit the prayer never should have happened. In a statement released by the superintendent and a district attorney, they said the blatant Christianity was “not consistent with district policy”:

St. Mary Parish Schools Superintendent Dr. Donald Aguillard, in collaboration with board attorney, Eric Duplantis, carefully reviewed the recent student complaint concerning a moment of reflection at Morgan City High School’s Veterans Day Ceremony. The program has endured as a quintessential element of the school’s legacy for over 20 years. The Historical Society at MCHS plans and carries out the community celebration of honor for local veterans to recognize and show appreciation for the sacrifices made by both veterans and their families. Dr. Aguillard wants to ensure that nothing detracts from this poignant ceremony while continuing adherence to laws governing school prayer. Accordingly, Mr. Duplantis has determined that the introductory prayer by an invited veteran during the opening of the program was not consistent with district policy. The district will provide guidance to school principals to preserve compliance to the law while protecting the Constitutional rights of all of our students.

Great! Problem solved.

By the way, if that superintendent’s name sounds familiar, it’s because Donald Aguillard was the former Biology teacher who challenged Louisiana law requiring that Creationism be taught in the classroom. In 1987, the Supreme Court struck down that law in Edwards v. Aguillard.

(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Randall for the link)