Thursday, January 05, 2006

AFA Goes After NBC

These people are nothing but racists but we can beat them at their own game. They have a nice form letter here for their racist followers to sign and send to the Chairman of NBC.

Dear Chairman Wright:

I am disappointed that NBC has decided to air "The Book of Daniel."  I know that AFA will keep us posted on which companies desire to underwrite this program.

We are told in Hebrews that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever."  Obviously you don't believe that.  It would be beneficial to all if NBC showed a little more respect for Christians who believe the Bible.

I ask you to inform all NBC affiliates, in writing, (according to your testimony before a Congressional hearing last year) they are not required to air this program if they choose not to.

I suggest you click on it and delete the letter they have pre-written and send a letter of support to NBC for not caving into these bastards. Here is what I sent to them:

Dear Chairman Wright:

Do not bow down to these people. They are racists and bigots. Strong words but there seems to be no other way to describe them. I for one will boycott your station if you cave into these people.

Come on people, they did half the work for you now you just have to send a letter with their letterhead stating that you support the network for not caving into their racist demands.

If you do send a letter and I hope you do, copy and paste it back here so all can know what has been sent under the disguise of the AFA. [Insert evil laugh here]

Posted by The Bastard at 12:01 AM in Religion | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Saturday, December 31, 2005

A Challenge for Scientists to Stop Terrorism

Written by Icoman:

Religion is a touchy subject for most people. In light of religious terrorism Science has taken an objective look at religion. Building on the November 22nd posting on this blog entitled “Objective Religious Study” we can look at Scott Atkins, a Clinical Psychologist and Cognitive Anthropologist, for his work in the book “In Gods We Trust”. Studies show that social animals have a natural instinct for fairness and justice. It is critical for the survival of their species. All primates, including humans, along with wolves and other social critters instinctively know that murder, cheating, greed and theft are wrong. We all naturally reward altruism and unselfish benevolence. With or without religions people would probably still have the hospitals and charitable organizations as we see that most international good will groups are secular. However, only humans are characterized with murder, war and executions. Also, only humans have religions. Is there a connection? President Bush, along with Muslim and Christian fundamentalists, should stop the slaughter for a minute to look at history and the current scientific research.

Religious terrorism and persecution have been major causes of violence, suffering and death among innocent people for centuries. However, it appears that throwing bombs and bullets at religious terrorism is like pouring jet fuel on a raging fire to put it out. Clearly, another approach is desperately needed. In order to formulate a better policy it becomes necessary to understand religion. It is critical to be able to approach religious leaders with simple demonstrations that display our psychological nature and how this relates to religious intolerance. A challenge to the scientific community is to construct these examples in a way that they are basically indisputable so that they will serve to convince the vast majority that we must change the way we think about religion.

Why are religious beliefs often the cause of extreme responses whenever they are under attack? First off, everybody is convinced that they are right. It’s called Cognitive Consonance and it’s critical for good mental health. We may go through times of depression when we doubt ourselves, question our thinking or actually believe that we are wrong. These are periods of Cognitive Dissonance and people will go out of their way to avoid these periods, if possible, usually because of the danger to their mental balance.

Therefore, we currently have over six billion people in the world who think that they are right. Fine, this is perfectly normal behavior. The problem occurs when an individual or group thinks that they are perfectly right and that everybody else is wrong. This is called intolerance and it can lead to conflicts that occasionally become violent because it may have created Dissonance. But intolerance could occur with any line of thinking. So why do religious conflicts often lead to such extreme Dissonance Avoidance? To find out let’s start by taking a quick look at the origin of religions.

As human groups or tribes grew in size it became necessary to insure trust and cooperation among the members simply for protection from outside tribes who may want to control the same territory and resources. Over time, initiation rites and frequent rituals were developed to better forge and strengthen tribal loyalty. As some members traveled off to more remote regions, deities and other metaphysical spirits were employed as overseers to keep the tribe together in spirit. These practices eventually evolved into the religious rites and beliefs we have today. Virtually every culture unearthed that has existed over the past 40,000 years had religions and deities. It explains, among other things, why some members will sacrifice themselves for the benefit of the tribe. This also explains why there are so many religions and sects. These ingroup structures, by nature, are divisive and purposely serve to create separatism and hostility.

The ingroup/outgroup designation, or our tribe versus your tribe, was very important for survival. This means, however, that the rules that applied within a tribe may not necessarily extend to members of other tribes. For example, when Moses descended from the mountain with the commandment not to kill, one of the first things he did was to order the death of all who had sinned while he was gone. He then led the Jews on a blood soaked trek back to their homeland. Today we hear most Muslims say that Islam is a religion of peace and yet we continue to see vicious and murdering assaults in the name of Allah. These examples may seem like a paradox but to a scientist there is no paradox. This is exactly what is to be expected from ingroup religious structures.

So, this ingroup/outgroup behavior explains why religions can be very pugnacious. Further study shows even more reasons that contribute to extreme religious reactions. To understand these reasons we have to look back at our evolutionary ancestors and at the common traits that began near the early phases of the development of life itself.

Survival ability is the predominant criteria in evolution’s Natural Selection. Life forms that possessed better defenses against and/or detection of predators gained the edge over others and advanced. Early on, fear of death motivated the quick escape from any surrounding movement or noise that was unfamiliar. A grazing deer will suddenly dart away when the brush makes a sound. Even though the cause may have only been the wind, she imagined it to be her most feared predator. If she was wrong then she lost nothing but if she was right then she lived to see another day. Psychologists term these imagined causes as “agents”. As human brains developed over time these agents grew in our imagination. Eventually, these invisible agents regularly became creatures in myths and fables that were passed down through the generations.

After awhile, besides predation, some of these imagined agents were assigned to explanations for other events. Agents became wonderful mythological characters that put the stars in the sky, sent volcanoes erupting, carried the sun and the moon across the heavens, caused the rain to fall and essentially solved all of the mysteries that humans could come up with. As tribal customs evolved these invisible agents easily became the overseers that watched the members wherever they traveled and insured their vital trust and cooperation. Some of these agents eventually became the powerful deities represented by the religious idols that were worshipped frequently in the tribal rituals.

The fact that these deities evolved from such a critical core survival mechanism deep within the human psyche serves to explain why any attack on the belief of these deities or the rituals used to worship them can result in some extremely negative reactions. Such attacks on one’s belief systems can create the greatest amount of Dissonance possible and can frequently elicit the ultimate defense mechanisms. Understanding these basic human instincts is essential to understanding right wing religious terrorism and persecution.

Civilization and education will bring these facts to light for most around the world. This may be why the Islamic extremists fear civilization and seek to destroy it. But we don’t have time to educate the whole world in Psychology and Cognitive Anthropology. This is why we need Scientists today who can present the experiments and demonstrations to the important leaders around the world who can make a difference. We are certainly not going to get rid of religions, at least not in the near future, but we can do a lot towards convincing many that these troubled times call for a reconsideration of how we came to where we are today and what solutions can be brought into play to prevent the terrible destruction continually wrought by religious extremists.

Posted by The Bastard at 03:32 PM in Religion | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Thursday, December 29, 2005

From The First to The Fourth Amendments; The Constitution Rules

I thought I would continue The Christmas Wars.  No, if I never hear about any holiday, secular or not, again I will be very happy.  And I have banned certain words from my vocabula

I want to briefly talk about Judge Jones and the Intelligent Design decison.  No, I don't.  I want to gloat over it.  Why?  Several months back I wrote a post that used very similiar reasoning to Judge Jones's.

Why when we at Bring it on! have been saying this since we began am I bringing this up now?  Because many radical Christian Rightists still don't get it.  It's simple; it's the Amendment that guarantees the most basic of rights, the right to practice or not practice a religion, and never have to worry that a state religion will be formed, and also and equal, guarantees freedom of speech.

That's the first time I have ever quoted myself.  I explained how faith is untestable.  No matter how much you want to believe that something bigger than us created the universe, nobody is able to test faith.

It's easy to test one type of faith: Faith in ones ability to do something.  I have faith that I will cross the street without being killed.  If I'm not, I have prove my hypothesis.  But the type of faith that proponents of Intelligent Design believe in is simply not testable.

Here's Judge Jones;

To be sure, Darwin's theory of evolution is imperfect. However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions.

If you haven't read Judge Jones decision; I have linked it.  Okay I have gloated enough.


I found an article in that blew me away.  Yes, really. Fox or as we like to call it here Faux News.   It's by Martin Frost, former Democratic Congressman from Dallas/Fort Worth  He was in Congress for 26 years, and isn't faux anything.

Recently I have been trying to figure out who President Bush reminded me of.

Was it Richard Nixon with his willingness to break the law to hold onto the presidency? Was it FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover who bugged Martin Luther King Jr. and anyone he considered to be a political enemy?

And then it struck me. President Bush most closely resembles King George III of England. You remember him -- he’s the guy whose high-handed rule led to the American Revolution.

Frost reread The Constitution; he's a lawyer, was a Fellow at the Institute of Politics, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, and was a Congressman for a long time.  When he talks about the Fourth Amendment I will listen:

Now the "new King George" would have us believe one of three things: (1) the president’s powers as commander-in-chief supersede the fourth amendment during the war on terror (2) the resolution adopted by Congress shortly after the 9/11 attack can be read to give the president the authority to conduct domestic wiretaps against American citizens without going to court to seek a warrant and (3) modern technology is such that the founding fathers could never have anticipated the need to conduct wiretaps without a warrant.

Let's see Frost debase these arguments:

First, it takes a very broad reading of the commander-in-chief clause to justify any conduct as superseding the constitution. President Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus during the U.S. Civil War, an action that was very controversial at the time; it is hard to equate the ongoing war on terror with the American Civil War, which threatened the very existence of the Republic.

Second, I was a member of Congress when we passed the resolution giving the president the authority to use all force necessary against the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11. Congress clearly meant this as authorization to go into Afghanistan and find Usama bin Laden. No one ever thought this authorized our government to wiretap American citizens in our own country without court approval.

Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle wrote an op-ed piece in the Dec. 23rd Washington Post detailing how the Bush administration proposed last minute language to the 9/11 resolution which would have given the president the power to engage in domestic spying without a search warrant, and that this language was specifically rejected by the bills’ authors.

And third, the modern technology argument is an interesting one but is not very persuasive. Congress in 1978 passed legislation permitting spying inside the United States under certain circumstances. That law created a special court that can respond within hours to a request for search warrants. And the law also contained an exception, permitting the Attorney General to authorize wiretaps in an emergency situation and then seek a warrant within 72 hours.

Frost then asks if Bush...  Oh, he says it so well, and I never want to be accused of mangling words.

Does he simply want dictatorial powers? Does he so mistrust the court system (even a secret one specifically set up to make it easier to wiretap people inside the United States) that he doesn’t want any of the traditional checks on the power of the executive to violate basic civil liberties? Does he just want a political issue that makes him look tough and opponents (Democrats and some Republicans) look weak?

This is our country and this is our Constitution. Even if for some reason you like Bush, he has seriously abused the powers of the presidency.  Don't tell me that I'm convicting him without a trial.  What has Bush been doing?  Here's the one question that you should ask yourself:

"The Bush administration simply cannot answer this one question - if time was of the essence, why didn't they conduct the searches and get the warrants after the fact, something that is allowed under the FISA law? They conducted the searches alright, but they never once sought the retroactive warrants."

Then join us, Bulldog, and the entire Impeach Bush Blog Coalition in taking these steps:

2. Send an email to all of these media folks and ask them "The Question."

3. Sign Senator Boxer's petition .

4. Contact your senator.

5. Contact your congressman.

6. Contact Congressman Pete Hoekstra too.

7. File a Freedom of Information Act request HERE.

8. Sign John Conyers' petition to censure and investigate impeachment.

9. Join the guerilla marketing campaign .

10. Make a donation to ImpeachPAC.

11. Join the Impeach Bush Coalition.

(Thanks to Redneck Mother for inspiring the list.)

Please read the articles in The Impeach Bush Coalition.  More people and newspapers than you would imagine are joining us.  Join with everybody at BIO, in calling for an impeachment hearing.  It's the only way that we're going to ever learn anything unless Bush muzzles the prosecuter, and that's a possiblity that our Congress, and judical system won't allow.  Why?  We have an incredible Constitution and Bill of Rights. Nobody will allow that to be mocked.

We already know that Fitzgerald is incredible; he's the perfect antitode to Ken Starr and that mockery of an impeachment hearing..  Maybe lying about sex is a minor crime; but everything Bush has been doing is a high crime and misdemenor.

Let me end by saying that the only way 2006 can be a great year is by getting rid of Bush and all the Bushettes.

Personally I would like to thank everybody at BIO! for being so great; and Bulldog for beginning the Impeach Bush Coalition.

Let the lost children of New Orleans be found; New Orleans to be rebuilt quickly, and bring the troops home now, please.  We don't belong in Iraq; it's the only way we can ensure their safety.

Peace in 2006.

Posted by Pia Savage at 12:01 AM in Current Affairs, Education, Politics, Religion, Science | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Friday, December 23, 2005

Of Men, of God, and Godless Men

Implying you are favored because you have faith does not negate the impact of the deeds done. Here to put that far more eleoquently that I can, is this week’s guest author, Jones of the Nile.

Dick Cheney is a man of God.  The 50 Senators who voted with him on Wednesday to cut federal deficits by $39.7 billion are also God-fearing (and God-loving!) men and women of moral values. 

Or so they’ll have you believe, while behind closed doors they cash in their Bibles for tax cuts, and their rosaries for special interest dollars.

Wednesday’s 51-50 vote in the Senate (with Cheney as the tie-breaker) on the federal deficit will likely be a monumental blow to millions of middle-class, working Americans, who will wake up today and find out that, as Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau Chief Carl Leubsdorf put it, “On its way out of town, Congress voted to give millions of Americans the fiscal equivalent of coal for their Christmas stockings.” 

Leubsdorf’s column explains well what this measure will do: It will raise the cost of student loans for millions of college students by raising interest rates. It will increase health care costs for millions of poor and elderly Americans by curbing benefits in Medicare and Medicaid. It will prevent millions of taxpayers from claiming local and statewide sales taxes on their federal income tax returns.

And here’s what the measure won’t do: It won’t significantly (or even nominally) reduce the U.S. deficit, which has ballooned under President Bush with the blind approval of the Republican-led Congress.

I’m struck by a very cruel sense of irony.  All over our TV screens we have folks who claim they are people of faith crusading over one issue or another. Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and their ilk have taken to putting the “Christ” back in Christmas, believing the holiday is under siege by misguided secular Americans. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, flipped his lid this week after a judge in Pennsylvania ruled that intelligent design belongs in a church and not in public school science classes, saying “This decision is a poster child for a half-century secularist reign of terror that's coming to a rapid end with Justice Roberts and soon-to-be Justice Alito.” And who could forget Pat Robertson’s call for the assassination of a world leader (or his wish of terror for the town of Dover, PA); Rev. Jerry Falwell blaming gays and pro-choice advocates for 9/11; the Web site “Repent America” saying that New Orleans deserved Hurricane Katrina because it promoted an annual conference for GLBT people…

I could go on and on. And while this group of ‘onward Christian soldiers’ marches on, 50 Christians and one lapsed Jew (Sen. Norm Coleman from Minnesota) voted on Wednesday to short-change the poor and cut social spending. Meanwhile, tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans continue to fly out of the halls of Congress to the mouths of corporate fat cats. 

The hypocrisy is enough to make even the most compassionate person lose faith and hope. As someone who tries to pursue a spirituality of justice, I find myself often in dark places, ready to write off human nature, God, the Creator, or whatever it is that makes this world tick.  But in those dark places, I’m drawn to a quote by a nun named Joan Chittister, who writes a weekly progressive, faith-based column here. Here are Joan’s words…

“If what we wait for is not within us in the first place, we wait in vain. To wait with anxiety for peace is never to be peaceful. To wait for public success without feeling good about ourselves is to never know achievement. To wait for the spiritual life without a continuing sense of the presence of God is to be consumers of religion, perhaps, but to miss its meaning.”

Maybe it’s not religion itself that leaves a distaste in peoples’ mouths.  Perhaps it’s the consumers of religion – those who have little interest in trying to live a life rooted in compassion for the common good, but a lot of interest in playing religious “gotcha”.

Earlier this week I read a poem by Ewuare Osayande, an author and activist in Philadelphia, that he wrote after Hurricane Katrina. To close, here’s a quick excerpt:

they are pulling our dead out of the dead water now
counting them as if they were tallying votes
but you cannot measure disgrace with a body-count
and no one wins in death

what have we now but our heartbeats?
and tears
and the whys
of our questions keep coming

even Jesus was said
to have fed the poor
with a few fish and some bread
should we not expect more
from the richest nation
in the history of the world?

Cruel irony, indeed, that during the holiday season our lawmakers and TV moguls use their religion to seek power over others, instead of empowering the common good.

Posted by Jet N. at 12:01 AM in Politics, Religion | Permalink | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Thursday, December 22, 2005


Some Christians have come to the conclusion that the only way to “be saved” is through Jesus Christ. The point is that Jesus came to Earth and preached his message. He didn’t write down his message, but those who heard his message wrote it down, and we have multiple versions of Jesus’ time on Earth and the message that he preached. The question is: How do we address the message that Jesus left behind for us to follow? What better way to explain what Jesus meant than through a parable. I hope that this parable will lend some insight into what Jesus taught us.

There were two twins from a military family. Their mother had been called up a couple of months ago and their father had just been called up to report on November 1. The two young men were seniors in High School and they really wanted to finish their school year and graduate with their High School classmates. Their father thought that these young men were certainly responsible for their age and capable of living at home for the time that they would be away. They were both 18, which meant that they were legally adults, but they had not been away from home to live on their own. The father created an extensive list of instructions for them to follow. He gave them his e-mail address so that they could communicate with him while he was away. On Halloween the three of them dressed up as ghosts to celebrate the new responsibility that they would all face over the next few months. They all hoped that they would be reunited in June for their graduation. One of the instructions that he gave his sons was that they should eat three meals a day without snacks and exercise at least an hour a day.

The one son followed his father’s advice legalistically. He ate breakfast at 7:00 am everyday. For breakfast he usually ate pancakes or waffles with lots of syrup. He was careful to eat as much as he could, because he feared that he would get hungry before lunch. He ate Lunch at noon every day. He ate grilled ham and cheese, a bag of potato chips and a milk shake. He wanted to pack as many calories as he could so that he wouldn’t get hungry before dinner. He ate dinner at 6:00 pm every day. For dinner he liked to go to Joe’s diner where he spent two hours at the “all you can eat buffet.” He went to the tennis or golf club every day for an hour. Most of the time he stood around and talked with the guys at the club.

The other son believed that it was more important to understand how his body was using its food. This son didn’t worry so much about when he ate. Instead he ate a good mix of food over the entire day. He began to understand how many calories he ate everyday and how many calories he burned in his exercise. When he ran hard for an hour he realized that he could eat a few more calories than when he worked out less strenuously.

The father and mother came home for graduation and there was much rejoicing. The first son was about eighty pounds over weight, while the second son was fit and trim. The father accused the first son of not following his advice, although we all know that he technically did everything that the father had told him. The second son was assumed to have followed the father’s advice although he had not. His father praised him.

This is like the Christians who are getting the message from Jesus. They are told to follow the teachings of Jesus and then they will be saved. But, the Christians are focused on the legalistic implications of what Jesus taught and not the life Jesus wants you to lead. Jesus preached for us to love each other and form a Christian community. Jesus preached the importance of feeding, clothing and housing the poor. Jesus taught us to be peacemakers and to heal disagreements among us. However, the Christians that quote that we need to legalistically be saved through Jesus don’t think about the people that God has inspired in other ways.

The so-called Christians of the religious right create legalistic arguments for why they can cut programs meant to help the poor. They tell us that the government shouldn't be aiding the poor, but other private organizations should be used to help the poor. The argument is a legalistic argument used to defend the selfish that would rather not spend their money on the poor. So, yesterday they cut 40 billion dollars in assistance to the poor so they could give tax breaks to the wealthy. The point is not how we can legalistically save ourselves money, but how Jesus would want us to have a healthy spiritual life.

But the true Christians know what Jesus meant by his teachings. True Christians know that Jesus wanted us to comfort the lonely, clothe the poor, feed the hungry, care for the sick and love thy neighbor. So, Merry Christmas to the Christians! And, remember what Christmas means, Peace on Earth Good Will to Men. And, Happy Holiday to everyone else...

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Posted by Dr. Forbush at 10:58 AM in Religion | Permalink | Comments (36) | TrackBack

Sunday, December 18, 2005

This is where my gratefulness ends

....there can be surprises like the one that happened in Manhasset on Dec. 2, when the Rev. Nick Zientarski invoked "Jesus Christ, our Lord" in blessing the Christmas tree at a public ceremony....

That is where I draw the line.

Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman, who had presided at the ceremony, was heard muttering angrily during the blessing. After Father Zientarski finished, Mr. Kaiman stood up and addressed the crowd of about 200.

"This is inappropriate," the supervisor said of the invocation. "I just want to make it clear that this is in no way a religious ceremony."

Mr. Kaiman's response was considered rude by an overwhelming majority of several hundred people who e-mailed or phoned his office afterward to complain.

Manhasset is a village in the town of North Hempstead in Nassau County, Long Island.  While Manhasset might be "overwhelmingly" Christian; North Hempstead isn't.  But that's beside the point.  A display is one thing; reciting The Lords Prayer is something else.  That is pointed and exclusionary. I expect better from Long Island where I was raised thinking all religions were equal.

A prominent local citizen, the Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly, who has made what he calls the "war on Christmas" a regular feature of "The O'Reilly Factor," scolded Mr. Kaiman on the air.

Mr. Kaiman received several hundred emails and phone calls in protest.

"We have a national holiday called Christmas and the central meaning of Christmas is the birth of Jesus."

That person is right.  Maybe Christmas shouldn't be a national holiday.  While I personally enjoy Christmas and the holiday season--properly called holiday as it goes from Thanksgiving to New Years, often I had to work much overtime to make up for the two days I would take off during the year for the Jewish Holidays.  It did annoy me especially when Good Friday was also a recognized holiday.

This past week I wrote about Christmas and being grateful.  On a comment in another blog my post was in, somebody couldn't understand how I could be grateful to the founding fathers as they are no longer alive.  Hello.  I'm grateful for their foresight.  I am grateful to the huge majority of Christians in this country who recognize that legally America is a secular country.

When I read something like the quote above, and when I read about The Lords Prayer being recited in a public place without other religions being represented, my respect for the Founding Fathers, for the Constitution, for The First Amendment deepens.

We have a president who believes that he is above the law as evidenced by his radio address yesterday, which I'm not going to get into.  He consulted with a "Christian" leader before announcing a Supreme Court nominee.  Again I'm grateful to all the wiser heads who prevailed.

Get it through your heads.  This is my country also; as it is every Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, etc., who are citizens. 

Don't like the changing demographics? 


Leave it to us who really love and feel grateful for America and the promises it holds.  Again in that thread on another blog, I was told that every person who is a citizen of a free country should just accept it, and not think about it.

I don't wake up every morning and say:

"Thank G-d, I'm an American."

But I'm glad that my ancestors settled here.  My family has done well here.  We have prospered in ways that might have been impossible anywhere else.  My father probably wouldn't have been able to go to college in another country.  That he was able to was considered to be a miracle by his parents.

I'm glad that I live in a country where I can feel free to protest what I see as wrong.  The reason I wrote the post the other day was that I went to several blogs to comment.  They talked about minority groups coming here and protesting traditional values and ways; they ended with The Lord's Prayer.  What could I say?

As a Jew I did feel insulted.  I could easily blend into the fiber of the country and the blog world.  I don't even believe in G-d.  But I respect how much people have gone through the centuries to remain Jewish. I'm proud to be Jewish; I'm proud to be American, and I'm proud that I have been able to navigate through many cultures and religions.

This is from another article on the same subject.

The Christmas"defense" movement is starting to be openly anti-Semitic. The two people Mr. O'Reilly has demonized the most frequently on the issue are Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show," and George Soros, the billionaire financier whom O'Reilly has called the "moneyman" behind the anti-Christmas movement. The New York Post, owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation — the same company that owns Fox News — recently put a story on its front page under the headline "Treeson" about a Jewish town supervisor from Long Island who tried to keep Christian prayers out of a government-sponsored tree-lighting ceremony.

Charges that Jews are behind the "War on Christmas" are beginning to be made directly. The president of Liberty Counsel, a conservative religious group, stated on Fox last year that a Florida mayor was conducting a vendetta against a nativity scene at least partly because he "apparently is Jewish." When a Jewish caller to Mr. O'Reilly's radio show objected to Christmas in the schools, and said that he "grew up with a resentment because I felt that people were trying to convert me to Christianity," Mr. O'Reilly responded. "If you are really offended, you gotta go to Israel."

No, Mr. O'Reilly, this is my country. Israel is not the point here. I neither speak the language nor feel at home there.  Again, this is my country. Three generations of my family lived here before me; another generation is growing up now.

The nation is rapidly becoming more religiously diverse. The percentage of the population that describes itself as Christian has declined to 77 percent in 2000, from 86 percent in 1990. The biggest increase has been in people who do not identify themselves with any religion, a group that has more than doubled since 1990.

America is still very much a country of Christians, these numbers show. But nearly a quarter of the country, representing as many as 70 million people, is not Christian. It stands to reason that stores and politicians would try to take into account the inclinations of such a large part of the population.

So Mr. O'Reilly if anybody leaves I suggest that you do. If you had a parent or grandparent born in Ireland you can become a citizen.

See how stupid this debate can become?  I tried suggesting that people enjoy the secular aspects of Chistmas.  John Gibson works with Bill O'Reilly.

Mr. Gibson takes up the cause of Sherrie Versher, the mother of a 10 1/2-year-old public school student in Plano, Texas. For her daughter Stephanie's birthday, Ms. Versher brought 24 brownies to school, to which she wanted to attach pencils that contained the message: "Jesus Loves Me This I Know Because the Bible Tells Me So." When the principal asked her not to distribute the pencils, she walked through the school building saying, "Satan is in the building."

And what were the kids who aren't Christian supposed to feel?  That they are followers of Satan should be the literal translation.  That is unacceptable.  I will always love Christmas displays.

I will always work to make sure that G-d doesn't become an issue in public schools.  I will always feel uncomfortable when I hear The Lords Prayer in a public place and it's not followed by prayers of other faiths.

Yes, damn it, I do feel grateful to the ACLU for making sure that Bill O'Reilly, John Gibson, Dobson, Frist and more are thwarted in their attempts to make people believe that America isn't a legally Christian country.

To all of who you, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Festivus celebrants, who believe that I'm wrong in being grateful to the founding fathers for their foresight, and for the First Amendment; to forget history and to just live in the moment when it comes to this subject is akin to walking around with blinders on. 

Don't ask me for your help later on.  Now is when we must stand together.  Enjoy the Christmas lights; enjoy the menorah.  But realize that what you might think is an absurd stance by Fox News is growing.  If you can live with a growing anti-Semitic movement, don't take the ACLU for granted now.  You just might need them later. 

Enjoy the holidays.  Just remember that not everybody thinks like you do.  And that is what has made America such a great country; the infusion of minds from different cultures coming together to form a polyglot of ideas and communities.

Posted by Pia Savage at 02:58 PM in Current Affairs, Religion | Permalink | Comments (63) | TrackBack

Thursday, December 15, 2005

America: Seduced By War

Dr. Andrew Bacevich is a graduate of West Point and a Vietnam veteran. He’s currently a Professor of International Relations at Boston University.

His newest book is titled “The New American Militarism: How Americans are Seduced by War.”

Bacevich describes himself as conservative, and he says Americans have become seduced by a “military metaphysic.” All international problems are seen as military problems, and inevitably a military solution is always sought. It’s a variation on that old saying: if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

According to Bacevich, up through the end of World War II, America’s military needs were always gauged by the current situation. At the end of all of our major wars – including the Civil War, World War I and World War II – the extra troops raised for that war were disbanded when they were no longer needed.

Since the end of the Cold War, America has valued military power for its own sake. It’s now standard policy to maintain military capacity far beyond that of any adversary or any possible combination of adversaries. The defense budget is now 12% larger (adjusted for inflation) than the average defense budget during the Cold War era.

“By some calculations” (sorry, the author doesn’t get more specific than that) the United States now spends more on defense than every other country in the world put together. There’s no historical precedent for anything like this.

There are American bases and forces in dozens of countries. A lot of these countries are perfectly capable of providing their own defense. In every corner of the world, U.S. forces are training, planning, exercising. This has been standard for so long now that practically nobody – liberal or conservative – gives it a second thought.  It’s gradually become the norm, sort of like a huge glaring billboard that you’ve gotten used to and now you don’t even notice it any more.

Bacevich says “Whether any correlation exists between this vast panoply of forward-deployed forces on the one hand and antipathy to the United States abroad on the other has remained for the most part a taboo subject.”

I first heard of Andrew Bacevich through this article written by Pastor Anthony Robinson.

At some point in our recent history, “religious” leaders began promoting a “Crusade theory of warfare.” This has replaced the earlier doctrine of “Just War.” Under the mindset of the Crusade theory, supposedly “preventive” wars – like the Iraqi invasion – are justified.

This is a carryover from the Cold War. Some conservative religious leaders framed the Cold War as a worldwide struggle between Christianity and godless communism. In order to maintain our Crusade mindset, Islam has now been substituted for communism. Franklin Graham (Billy’s offspring) has denounced Islam as “a very evil and wicked religion.”

Other “Christian” leaders just lash out blindly at anyone and everyone who doesn’t meet their approval. Southern Baptist President Jack Graham has said, “Satan is the ultimate terrorist” and “this is a war between Christians and the forces of evil, by whatever name they choose to use.”

Yup, there’s evil everywhere, and it’s our job to stamp it out.

Ironically, during the third century some Christians splintered off into their own branch (called Manichaeism). This school of “Christianity” divided the world into good and evil, and thought it was the duty of all “good” people to stamp out evil. Manichaeism was branded by the Church as heresy from the time it first reared its head. It blinded people to their own capacity for evil, and it made self-delusion too easy.

As we can see, the Manichaeism school of “Christianity” has been alive and well in America for the past few decades.

Under our traditional doctrine of a Just War, war is considered the last option. In order to be “just,” a war has to meet the following requirements: “just cause” (i.e. self-defense); public declaration of war by a lawful authority; and no ulterior motives (vengeance, personal gain, etc.).

Which of these criteria does the Iraqi war meet?

“Christian” leaders who are pushing this modern-day Crusade have betrayed their faith. Andrew Bacevich – a Christian and a soldier – believes Christianity should serve as a check against the excesses of war and an over-reliance on the military. Christians should not be cheerleading for war.

cross-posted at Who Hijacked Our Country

Posted by Tom Harper at 03:01 AM in Current Affairs, Military, Politics, Religion | Permalink | Comments (23) | TrackBack

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Don't blame the ACLU or me we didn't close the megachurches

Yes I know; you're sick of this subject.  Me too.  But here I go...

I'm a New York Jew; a life long Democrat and a card carrying member of the ACLU.  Much of the time I'm very disappointed in the Democratic party, but at this moment it's better than the alternative.  I don't believe in all of the ACLU's causes, but I believe that everybody has a right to be represented.

But when I read blogs that blame the ACLU and/or minority groups for taking Christ out of Christmas, I have to say that as a Jew I, and most Jews, want you to celebrate Christmas.   On Christmas Jews traditionally went to the movies and ate Chinese food.  We think it would be good if you spent time in church or with your family; as we liked it when the theaters weren't packed.

In the 80's my friends practicing Catholics wanted to go to the Limelight on Christmas Eve after Midnight Mass.  I was beyond shocked. The Limelight was (is?) a disco in a former Catholic Church.  It sounded blasphemous to me.  It felt like eating pork on Yom Kippur.  We went; and I did have a life changing experience.

I don't think I believe in G-d but I respect people of any religion who truly believe.  If I were to feel that I was in any way denying you the ability to pray, I would feel that I have failed as both a person and a person who does worship The First Amendment.  I don't care about the manger in the courthouse.  But understand something else.  I care greatly that church and state stay separate.

Before the news of the mega churches closing I wrote a post in my personal blog about the Christmas/holiday season mess.  One of the comments was from a Jewish blogger, Neil, who is usually very witty and tres lite.  He really struck a chord; couldn't stop thinking about his comment and asked for permission to quote him.

Frankly, I think one of the things that makes our country so great is that the majority religion has tried so hard to make minorities feel comfortable. Where else have Jews and others been made to feel as equals and as comfortable with Christian holidays? Certainly not in many European countries where you are considered Jewish first, then a citizen of that country.

New York is not the rest of the country. I think it would be nice to bring back some of the religiosity to Christmas in big cities, so it isn’t such a consumerized holiday. Thank you, Christians, for being so good to the rest of us. You can now celebrate Christmas a little more openly.

However, things are different in smaller cities and towns around the country. Those places have a habit of mixing up religion and public policy. It is places like those where I don’t think it appropriate for the public sector to promote religion symbolism and ideology.

Here is where I want to delete most of what I wrote before Neil's comment.  It feels too silly.  As Jews we do feel grateful to the Christians in this country for allowing us to be full citizens.  We're grateful because our great grandparents weren't, usually, allowed to own land, have a profession or be citizens of their towns. They were allowed to be conscripted into the Czars army so they could wipe out Jewish villages. We're grateful that they left and came to this remarkable country. 

As a child I would ask my father why they didn't do anything about the camps.  "We didn't know."  After Viet Nam, I understood.  But Roosevelt, the people's hero, had evidence of the camps, and our country did nothing.  Nor did Roosevelt bomb the train tracks leading to them.

When boats of refuges came here, we turned them away, or didn't let them near here, knowing that we were dooming them to death.  After the war we took people who had been in concentration camps and put them in displaced persons camps.  We had strict quotas on the number of refuges let in here

Yet we were still grateful because we who were here, and those of us yet to be born were afforded the opportunity to be full citizens.  When we bought houses we remembered our ancestors who weren't allowed to.  It still amazes me and I'm basically third generation; but I heard so many stories and met so many people with numbers on their arms.  I have never taken being free for granted.  You accept us as we have never before been accepted in modern history. 

Separation of church and state is built into our Constitution.  If you understand the history of Jews in America, you will understand why we care so much about The First Amendment.  It's not just a symbol of our freedom, but a tool that is used to preserve every Americans right to keep church and state separate.  Here are two quotes by Fran Quigley, Executive Director, Indiana Civil Liberties Union

For example, the Alliance Defense Fund celebrates the season with an "It's OK to say Merry Christmas" campaign, implying that the ACLU has challenged such holiday greetings. (As part of the effort, you can get a pamphlet and two Christmas pins for $29.)
The website WorldNetDaily touts a book claiming "a thorough and virulent anti-Christmas campaign is being waged today by liberal activists and ACLU fanatics." The site's magazine has suggested there will be ACLU efforts to remove "In God We Trust" from U.S. currency, fire military chaplains, and expunge all references to God in America's founding documents. (Learn more for just $19.95 . . .

Of course, there is no "Merry Christmas" lawsuit, nor is there any ACLU litigation about U.S. currency, military chaplains, etc. But the facts are not important to these groups, because their real message is this: By protecting the freedom of Muslims, Jews, and other non-Christians through preventing government entanglement with religion, the ACLU is somehow infringing on the rights of those with majority religious beliefs

Many of us are fully assimilated; marry outside our religion; feel and look WASPier than the biggest WASP.  But there's always one moment when something happens that reminds us that other people view us as different.  I know that most people are rational; that most people don't believe this.  (Did a Google "ACLU" "Christmas" search and this was the number one document.

According to ACLU "Christmas haters" everyting refering to Christ inpublic has to go. But try as they might, they can't take the spirit out of Christmas, something this group is in dire need of. Boy talk about selfishness

Yes let's talk about being selfish; selfish is the same woman saying the following. 

The Constitution can be read front to back, sideways, upside down, and nowhere does it read there needs to be a separation of church and state. Good grief! The framers would have been very dense or dumber than a box of rocks, to put separation of church and state in the most "intentionally" misunderstood document, and then proceeded to have a nation built on God and in every aspect of their lives

Good grief, indeed.  If this is true then I have to not only be grateful to you, but bow down to your religious superiority, and that is where I draw the line. 

Just understand that we're not your problem.  You are.  If a person can find G-d in a concentration camp, any American can find G-d anywhere.  It's up to you to put Christ back in Christmas, not us. 

I could never celebrate Christmas as a secular holiday.  Why?  It is the symbolic observation of Christ's birthday no matter how you look at it.  But selfishly I want you to celebrate it so that I can see the trees, lights, decorations and even go to some Christmas parties.  That's right; Christmas parties at peoples homes.  Every other year my friends make an Italian feast in their Tudor house in Forest Hills Gardens, a picture perfect Ives & Currier Christmas community.  It's wonderful, but I will never have a Christmas dinner in my apartment.

Merry Christmas; Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Winter Solistice. I will call this season whatever you want me to call it as long as The First Amendment remains intact.  And I will always be grateful to the USA for allowing my family to live as full citizens for over a century.  Grateful but I will never feel less an American than you do.  And I thank G-d for organizations like the ACLU that make sure I will always be a full American.

Crossposted at

Posted by Pia Savage at 12:01 AM in Current Affairs, Politics, Religion, Right Wing Nut, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (17) | TrackBack

Friday, December 09, 2005

Christmas For Sale

Today’s guest post comes from a blogger we were privileged to host about six months ago. His fine mind, practical perspective, and uncanny knack for getting to the heart of the matter without camouflaging fluff or rhetoric makes him a favorite of mine. Regardless of the importance faith plays in your personal life, faith plays an increasing role in American political life. It's good to remember that what's happening there is a sham, and a shame to many practicing Christians in this country.

I'm not feeling well tonight so instead of doing work I was resting and watching TV, and I decided to watch a little Bill O'Reilly.

During one part he was talking with a lawyer and a Pentecostal Minister about the "siege" upon Christmas. The lawyer talked about the ACLU and a case he had against them, that didn't catch my attention.

And the Minister really didn't catch my attention much either. He talked about preaching from his pulpit about supporting those businesses that say Merry Christmas in their ads and slogans. He didn't even say don't shop the other places, but just support those that do say Merry Christmas.

I wasn't sure what was making me unsettled, maybe it was Fox News, maybe I was looking for something.

But then Bill mentioned certain companies that underwrite his show, and I realized what it was.

We are turning Merry Christmas into nothing more than a slogan.

If you say the magic words "Merry Christmas" then I will shop at your store.

If you say "Merry Christmas" I will reward you with money.

It doesn't matter if you also say Happy Kwanza, Chanukah, Solstice, or Blessed Harry Potter Day, just say Merry Christmas and you will make me happy.

Falwell is doing something similar with his Friend or Foe campaign, talking about the Target Stores that apparently don't say Merry Christmas anymore.

It doesn't matter if you don't even believe in Christ, or act morally, or whatever. Just say Merry Christmas and I'll give you money this season..

It makes me sad that all we fight for are words. I wish I could hear more people fight for those that are homeless, those that work but don't have health care, for trying to save our money as opposed to driving ourselves further into debt.

But all I'm hearing about Christmas is, "Just Say IT!"

Christmas has become so mediocre by Black Friday and the sales we all try to get to, that now we make it even more pointless by turning into a marketing campaign.

I have this image of Jesus running into the temple and throwing out the money changers. I actually think that he would be more happy with no mention of Christmas in stores, at least that way they aren't selling it.

I'm not stupid, simply telling me "Merry Christmas" doesn't mean you believe in Christmas or that you actually mean it either.

In a strange way I believe those "people" that want us to stop saying Merry Christmas understand the power of that message more than those that are supposed to be preaching it.

Those "people" understand that Merry Christmas actually means something very important.

Now those "people" maybe afraid of Christmas and are trying to stop it in public discourse, but however I may disagree with those "people", I give them this, they fully understand that Merry Christmas actually means something powerful and important.

Those that are upset that Target isn't advertising Christmas, just turn Christmas into a thing to be bought.

And those are the people that don't understand the power and importance of Christmas.

Posted by Jet N. at 12:01 AM in Current Affairs, Politics, Religion, Television | Permalink | Comments (17) | TrackBack

Monday, November 28, 2005

The War On Sneezing

Where is it? I mean all this talk of the War On Christmas and saying Happy Holidays as opposed to Merry Christmas got me thinking about who actually says "God bless you" after someone sneezes.

So with the cold season upon us I started listening  to what people would say after someone sneezed and to my astonishment I found people saying "bless you" instead of "God bless you" and I was immediately appalled that some how, some way, the liberals have quietly removed "God" from "God bless you". I actually heard one of these Nazi liberals say "Gesundheit!"

What nerve they have thinking they could take away such a cornerstone of the Christian faith. Don't they know that by not saying "God bless you" after someone sneezes could cause the recipient of the blessing to catch the plague or even worse, they might turn gay.

I say we take a stand today and force these liberal and atheist morons to acknowledge God when someone sneezes. With the next pandemic coming down the pipeline I say we launch a nationwide campaign to put God back into sneezing. If we don't act now who knows what could be next. They just might try taking "God" out of "God Damn it!"

Posted by The Bastard at 10:45 PM in Religion | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack