Saturday, January 28, 2012

"The more I study religion the more I am convinced that man never worshipped anything but himself."
Sir Richard Burton

Church of de Botton

Atheist temple my ass. This brief piece in Huffington Post does give a little more insight into why Alain de Botton seems determined to muddy the basic definition of atheism. It will not be a temple of atheism in any way but rather a temple to de Botton or at least his odd ideas about religion and art. It seems to be an extension of his moronic TED talk and the book he recently published. I do not believe it is coincidental that his background is in architecture.

It all makes a little more sense when you string together a few other facts. The church used to be one of the biggest sponsors of art and architecture but has essentially moved away from such patronage. What is one of the faster growing demographics in the US and globally? The non-religious (not necessarily atheist). It seems as though de Botton wants the more secular groups to take up where the religions left off regarding the arts. His insistence on adopting the baggage of religion to achieve this goal is just a manifestation of his own ignorance. Religion was a patron of the arts for two main reasons; propaganda and prestige. The church had the resources and recognized the potential benefits. That does not in any way mean religion was necessary for either the creation or the appreciation of art.

I may be wrong but it seems that he is trying to reinvigorate his field of interest by attempting to inspire the nonreligious to step back into old unnecessary patterns of behavior. What's wrong with promoting art for arts sake. Why build a "temple"? How about a series of monumental structures designed to celebrate different forms and/or aspects of art. Such a project might inspire art lovers whether they are religious or not. That would at least be honest and far less self-centered.

The Vatican: Epitome of Power and Corruption

"Corruption Scandal Rocks Vatican, Whistle Blower Archbishop Vigano Was Transferred Against His Will"

Ratzinger, as the Pope, has averaged at least one major speech a year in which he blames cruelty, corruption, immorality, or a combination of those three on secularism or atheism. Yet, it is the Church that has been promoting by example all three for over a millenia. It would be laughable if the consequences weren't so despicable.

When will be people stop listening to such selfish power hungry bastards like the Pope. He does not deserve respect he deserves our contempt as do all within the hierarchy that refuse to live up to the ideals they claim to stand for.

Doublespeak or Just a Lie?

I thought religious people believed that to lie is to sin. Doesn't seem to keep clergy from constantly telling fibs. Father Peter-Michael Preble certainly has no problem with it. In "Religious Freedom Under Attack", he states " was announced by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that the religious exemption on certain parts of the health care plan would not continue and now religious organizations, like the church, would have to supply health insurance that provides coverage for contraception and abortion." There are a couple problems with this interpretation of the announcement. No religion is required to provide health insurance at all. Only those taking funds from or supplying services to the government would lose their exemption. While we're on it lets take a look at that word, "exemption." Basically, so long as religions stay out of government coffers they are basically free to be the biggest assholes around but that's not enough. The hierarchy of various religions think they should have the "right" to tell all of us not only what we can or can not say and do but also what we can or can not think. The moment anyone disputes this bogus "right" they insist we're attacking "religious freedom."

This is no different from the lies clergy have told regarding marriage equality. It has nothing to do with them. It is none of their business. Government can not and will not force them to perform, participate, or witness homosexual marriages. The only thing that has ever been proposed is that government endorse civil marriage and recognize religious marriages performed by willing clergy and sects/denominations. Yet, they have always falsely claimed that it would make them act against their conscience by participating. Bullshit! AS for their consciences I don't see any evidence they have any such thing. For their lies and distortions the scumbags deserve nothing but contempt.

Seems to me that it is those who attempt to dictate to others what they can say and think are the ones attacking "freedom", religious or otherwise. They are attacking the rest of us.

Pontificating Doublespeak

Orwell would be proud, or perhaps horrified at one of the Pope's more recent speeches. The Catholic Online piece on the event is nearly as bad as the speech itself in its feeble attempts at spinning the real intent behind it.
The "news" piece opens with this gem, "Grave threats to the Church's public moral witness presented by a radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres." This from the organization that not only has covered up the most widespread instances of sexual abuse but continues to refuse any responsibility. What "moral witness"? Who's threatening the church? It's utter nonsense.

In his speech the Pope rambles on about "radical secularism", "suppression", and "limits." I'm unaware of any rules, regulations, or laws that prevent individual Catholics or groups from worshiping as they see fit. Nor are there any preventing the Church from conducting its affairs. I think the last word is the key to what really bothers the Pope. The church, though still overly influential, is losing some of its sway. The Church is not happy that it can't simply bully people and get whatever it wants whenever it wants. What the Pope objects to is being held to some basic standards of conduct. Considering how lax even that it is, the arrogant prick aught to be grateful.  If clergy were held to the standards the rest of us are far more of them, including the Pope, would be behind bars.

Recently there have been a number of instances where the church was not awarded publicly funded grants. Contrary to the false statements made by the Catholic Church, this is not due to any discrimination. The church has outright refused to meet the requirements of the grants in question. An excellent example is a Health and Human Services grant designed to aid the victims of human trafficking. Many of these victims have been sexually abused, especially those forced into prostitution. Guess what the Church refused to do? They would not even refer individuals to those willing to supply contraceptive or reproductive services and/or advice. Not even advice! Basically, they cried foul when they were not allowed to re-write and dictate the terms of the grant.

The Pope and the Catholic hierarchy don't really give a shit about freedom of religion, at least not beyond their own faith. When they talk about "suppression" and "limits" they are unconcerned about limiting anyone else's rights they are concerned with legitimate checks on their power.  I see no difference between their whining and the tantrum of any spoiled brat who doesn't get their way. Grow up!

The December 28, 2011 edition of Jesus and Mo does a pretty good job summarizing not only The Catholic Church's  idea of what religious freedom means but what most organized religions mean when they talk about religious freedom.

What's the Surprise?

Why is it surprising that a movie studio would resort to cheap antics to promote a film? Why is it surprising that a particular religion, Catholicism in this instance, is riddled with superstitious nonsense? There is nothing new in either of these. There have been plenty of movies that use exorcisms as its topic over the years. What makes The Devil Inside notable? Noting that the Vatican has not endorsed it is barely worth mentioning. Catholicism has always been two-faced when it comes to such matters.

The Vatican does still recognize exorcism. They do not generally talk about it in public if they can help it. However, there are still not only Catholic priests who perform exorcisms they are still being trained to perform this mumbo-jumbo. No matter how hard the church tries to modernize its image it is still as primitive and superstition laden as ever. I can't imagine how it would even be possible for the Catholic church to truly modernize since its most basic doctrines are by their nature antiquated gibberish. Original sin? Resurrection? Transubstantiation? All of it is just as fanciful as demonic possessions and exorcisms.

Here is a short sampling of articles on exorcism from the past few years.

"Surge in Satanism sparks rise in demand for exorcists, says Catholic Church"

"At Vatican Conference, Experts Debate Exorcism, Satanism And The Internet"

"Bishops' upcoming exorcism conference responds to queries about rite"

"What happens at exorcism school?"

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Misused and Abused: Spirituality

Over the previous decade or so the term spirituality has become far more commonplace. If it didn't denote something that is so important to so many I would be tempted to say it has become fashionable to use the term and its variations. Believing in ideals and values that go beyond us as individuals is important and should not be scoffed at. Unfortunately, that is not what Spirituality really means. I don't think most people who use the term understand its origin or its meaning.

I keep hearing things like, "I'm not religious, I'm spiritual" or "I don't believe in religions, I believe in being spiritual."

It seems to me that what most people who use the term in this manner really mean is that they do not follow and/or believe in organized religion. Even though spirituality and religion are not completely synonymous they are interdependent. If you are "spiritual" you are by definition religious and vice versa.

Looking at a few dictionary entries might help demonstrate what I mean a little better.

Penguin English Dictionary defines spirituality:
1.sensitivity or attachment to religious values
2.a practice of personal devotion and prayer

Collins English Dictionary defines it:
1.the state or quality of being dedicated to God, religion, or spiritual things or values, especially as contrasted with material or temporal ones.
2.the condition or quality of being spiritual.
3.a distinctive approach to religion or prayer: the spirituality of the desert Fathers.
4.(often plural) Church property or revenue or a Church benefice.

It seems pretty clear to me that spirituality is definitively linked to religion. So why do people misuse this term? Simply separating from organized forms of religion does not seem to completely explain it. I suspect that those who describe themselves as spiritual but not religious may understand, at least subconsciously, that religions are nonsense. They may also have some sense that beyond being subjective and silly it is also frequently harmful. Who wants to be associated with that? In the end, spirituality is essentially a slightly diluted version.
"God is a word to express, not our ideas, but the want of them."
John Stuart Mill

A Religion onto Himself

Just recently I watched one of the most ridiculous talks I've ever seen on TED Talks. Most of the talks I've seen there are well done. Even when I strongly disagree with the speaker I am generally impressed with the presentation. Alain de Botton's "Atheism 2.0" was pathetic in every possible way. It not only was premised on old myths, misconceptions, and falsehoods it was not even presented well. de Botton actually negated most of the points he tried to make in the course of his talk within the first few minutes of the Q&A portion.

There was a brief moment at the beginning where I felt as if he might have something interesting to contribute. Opening with the statement that he had a "new way of being an atheist" certainly got my attention. Within a few minutes he set a quite different and disappointing tone. He implied, rather strongly, that in order to have a sense of morals and community and to appreciate art and literature people need religion. Utter nonsense. If this were even partially true how could atheist artists exist? And what about the fact that even though I have always been an atheist I have always had both a strong sense of personal ethics and a deep love for the arts. One of my all time favorite artists happens to be Albrecht Durer. I can't think of a single piece of Durer's that does not have religious themes and/or elements. I also have always been interested in social issues and have participated in a wide variety of community activities. No religion required.

Simply perpetuating such foolish ideas would have been bad enough but de Botton took it even further by setting up a false dichotomy.

"...seems as though you either accept the doctrines and then you can have all the nice stuff or you reject the doctrine and you are living in a spiritual wasteland under the guidance of CNN and Wal-Mart."

Seriously?! He thinks the choice is that cut and dry. He does use terms like "seems" but throughout the talk this comes across as more of quirk of his speech pattern than a qualifier. By this point I started to notice that he always references religion. Not once does he use the word God. I started to wonder if de Botton, who is trying to tell me and everyone else about being an atheist, is himself an atheist. He apparently does not believe in organized religion but that is far from being an outright atheist. It also began to stick out that he likes the term spiritual.  It seems more likely that he's one of those individuals that is uncomfortable with organized religion and with the more scriptural personal conception of God.

de Botton finally got to a point I could agree with him on, sort of, when he started speaking about how we could replace scripture with culture. He insisted that this is a good idea but an idea we have somehow forgotten. He had me till the "forgotten" part. Who is the "we" the has forgotten this would be a good thing.  I am by no means alone in pointing out that any given Shakespearean play contains more ethical and cultural value than the entire Bible, old and new testament. Maybe religious people have forgotten or never accepted it in the first place but the various non-religious communities certainly have not. It also does not seem to occur to him that the forces that have hampered humanism and the humanities are not the people who want to see scripture replaced by culture but by those who want religion to be a dominant force in all our lives.

He then throws in another false dichotomy when he insists, "The other thing religion knows is that we are not just brains, we are bodies..." Just brains? The brain is a pretty complex and amazing organ. Last time I checked the brain is an organ of the body so religion doesn't "know" any such thing. This is just a rehash of the foolish dualistic mind/body argument. The mind is not separate from the brain. It is a product of the brain. It is literally impossible to experience anything or to exist at all without a functioning brain. The nonsense de Botton throws around is staggering.

Then after that whopper he sets about redefining and in the most narrow terms possible what art is. I can think of any of the art majors I lived with in college who would get pissed off if they were told each of their pieces of artwork not only had to have a set message but that he also had to leave no room for any alternate interpretations. De Bottton actually comes out and states definitively that all art "should be didactic." What happened to his praising the humanities? I don't recall the humanist tradition ever favor a one-size-fits-all approach to anything let alone something as personal and subjective as art.

Earlier I mentioned that he contradicts himself in the Q&A part of the talk. He does this by saying that there is not a definitive connection between religion and art, community, and morality. What? The whole talk was about what atheists can learn, borrow, or "steal" from religion. If he concedes that as atheists we already have these things why do we need to get them from religion? In hi own mind what was the talk about? I already knew I could appreciate and learn form art and literature. I already have a strong sense of morals and community. What was I suppose to take away from his stereotype laced ramblings? Perhaps the answer lies in another one of his foolish statements where he says we, "can have spiritual moments without belief in spirit."

Did you catch that? Spiritual without Spirit. No you can't! By definition that is not possible. Notice the word "spirit" makes up not only the word but the meaning of "spiritual." Basically, I think it comes down to de Botton not knowing what he's really talking about. I think he wants to be religious but only on his own terms. he doesn't seem to get that he already is. That's both the amazing and dangerous thing about belief, you can make it into whatever you want. His need to have those around him accept it as some sort of universal thing is unnecessary and rather annoying.

Note: As I started thinking about what to pick from this smorgasbord of idiocy I noticed other were already starting to blog on it. I particularly like what PZ Meyers picked out to ridicule. His observations on de Botton's claim that religion gets education right is great. There are other points and statements made by de Botton I could have focussed on but I prefer to keep these posts short.

"My Religion Is Better Than Yours"

I agree with the sentiment that Mr. Dasa expresses, "...if we made even a little bit of an endeavor to understand another's faith, it could make all the difference in the world." I doubt that our views would line up very well beyond having an interest in seeing people get along better. It's a worthwhile goal. It does seem to be his main point throughout his Huffington Post piece, "My Religion Is Better Than Yours," that the superior attitude that religious people sometimes end up subscribing to is divisive and foolish. He's also right on this point. However, I'm not sure it has occurred to him that if all religions are viewed as completely equal and completely valid that the rational for choosing a specific one to follow starts to fall apart.

Again, I agree with the goal of trying to get along despite any differences that may exist. I do have another motive for favoring the demise of this superior attitude. I see it as increasing the odds that individuals will turn away from organized religion. If you have no strong feeling towards a specific sect/denomination why remain part of one? This, of course, does not automatically follow. It is also not a given that a person will leave their particular brand of religion. If they do that then makes the odds better that they might think more critically of religion in general. I have no doubt if that happens its just a short step away from abandoning religion altogether.

Mr. Dasa, himself, will probably never follow this route. He has definitely drunk deep the Christian kool-aid regarding Christ. It is clear that his ideas about religion will not be viewed in any substantial way. The Christ he talks about is the pleasant side of the mythical figure. All the references to Jesus' being forgiving and compassionate is a nice enough story but it overlooks all the passages where he speaks and behaves quite differently. Mr. Dasa may have read those passages but like Christians he either fails to comprehend what he's reading or makes up some convenient interpretation to gloss over it. His comparisons between his own Hindu faith and that of Christianity is interesting. There are certainly some parallels. Both definitely have their share of contradictions and absurdities.

Mr Dasa is right that all religions are basically equal. Equally loaded with nonsense. I can accept the continued existence of religion, not that I really have a choice, but it would be easier to do so if the believers would accept that it is a personal matter best left out of public life.

There is an atheist community

I was a little disappointed by a recent post of John Loftus on his Debunking Christianity blog. Usually, he has pretty sound reasons for the arguments he makes. "There is No Atheist Community, No Atheist Movement," is certainly an exception. His main points seem to be that there is no one single leader among atheists and that we are willing to criticize each other. So? I don't see him stating there is no Humanist community or Skeptical community. There are multiple leaders for each of those and there is most certainly criticism within them.

Perhaps, he meant it is not a religious community. It isn't. Let's face it, the various sects/denominations are good at criticizing each other but fail miserably at viewing there own critically. If that is what Loftus really meant, fine. But the notion that atheists do not have a community is foolish. He does mention communities. I did notice the plural and even get that to some degree but still don't think it implies what he seems to think it does. There may be very little that unites all atheists but that does not make us less of a community. Especially, since when push comes to shove we tend to defend each other far more quickly and resiliently than any other "community" I can think of.

As fractious as we may be we are a community. Our individuality makes us stronger not weaker.

PS: I still like and respect John Loftus and strongly recommend people read his books and his blog. Differences of opinion happen. There is no perfection so it is not even remotely possibly that we will ever 100% agree with anyone or anything. That's just the way it is.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

"The third-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the majority. The second-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the minority. The first-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking."
A. A. Milne

Science, Religion, and False "Peacemakers"

Karl Giberson's Huffington Post piece, "The Top Peacemaker in the Science-Religion Wars: John Polkinghorne," is yet another example of just how ignorant people are when it comes to distinguishing between individual perspectives on specific institutions and the nature of those institutions. In a previous post (Science Vs. Religion, November 6, 2011) I pointed out how it is possible for individuals to not find conflict between religion and science but that that is not the same as there not being a conflict.

The notion of a "peacemaker" to the conflict between religion and science is ludicrous. The conflict is innate. These institutions are opposites in many ways. To me this claim would be the same as saying we can have both full light and full darkness simultaneously. We can't! It is not possible. By their basic traits and definitions religion and science as institutions are not reconcilable.

For the record, "peacemakers" like Polkinghorne should be seen as diluting science and blurring the distinct lines between the two institutions. That is a horrible thing. Any theist who wants to argue I suggest trying to live without any modern technology (medicine, computers, transportation, etc...) and instead try living by religious doctrines and traditions alone.

"What happens when candidates called by God drop out?"

"What happens when candidates called by God drop out?" Unfortunately, nothing. Religious right nuts will continue to run for various political offices claiming God told them to do so. When they fail, they will not think they were wrong, question the existence of God, or question their delusions about knowing the will of such a being.

The rest of society will most likely also fail to question such claims. Most will shrug it off as the foolish pronouncements of fringe candidates even if the candidate in question is a notable figure within one of the two major political parties (usually Republican) and therefore not "fringe" at all. They certainly will never question the various pronouncements they themselves frequently make about God.

Mythical Interpretations

Like most of Howard Bess' pieces on Consortium News his latest, "Genesis Myth: God Doing Good", contains a few kernels of truth which he then all but obscures with a vast amount of nonsense. The fourth paragraph is true enough:
      "Myths address questions of values and morals – why, not when or how. They are not history and are not to be read to satisfy scientific inquiry. Myths are commentaries about life and are found in every civilization. They are simple to remember, and their roots predate written language."

He is also correct in stating that Genesis is a myth and does a decent job comparing it to other myth traditions. However, he never addresses or even acknowledges the double standard his views imply. He clearly does not believe the various beings referenced in the other myths are real in any way, yet, he assumes God is. I do have to applaud him for admitting to a few of the contradictions present in the Genesis portrayal of God. Even with that glimpse of reason he manages to go right back to his blind faith interpretations.

Bess ends his piece with the statement, "According to the Genesis myth, chaos was God’s opportunity to do good. It can be ours as well." It is a rather flimsy conclusion especially since most of his thoughts on Genesis do not reflect that book of the Bible as a whole. Seems to me that God does a lot more harm than good in Genesis. It also seems odd that he fails to note the source of "chaos." I guess it isn't as impressive solving problems when you cause them in the first place.

Religious Athletes

Prayerful Players: The Top 10 Religious Athletes

Who gives a shit? Really? They're athletes. They're job is to play the sport and win. I don't see what their personal views on religion has to do with how they play and I don't care. When I watch a game it's to see the game. I also find it both idiotic and belittling to say some play or maneuver is "miraculous." I may take issue with how much they get paid or how much attention professional athletes get but I have no problem acknowledging the hard work they put in and the skill they attain.

I also have no problem with individual athlete's who want to pray or thank mythical figures. If it makes them happy, why not. But the media does not have to get all excited over it. It should be a surprise that so many athletes are religious. The majority of people are religious. So, why is this newsworthy?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

"Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
"Self Reliance"

Misused and Abused: Militant

"Militant Atheist" is yet another term that is incredibly misleading and loaded with a variety of myths and prejudices. Usually, it is used to identify some of the more publicly outspoken atheists. If those using it mean to imply that the person being labeled is confident or forceful there are better ways of indicating it (like the words I just used). But the term implies violence.

I am unaware of any atheist advocating the use of violence to advance atheist ideas or issues. It is true that Chris Hedges has falsely accused Sam Harris of doing so. In I Don't Believe in Atheists Hedges claims that Harris was promoting using nuclear weapons against Muslims in his book The End of Faith. I would have thought Hedges just misunderstood the passage that he so blatantly took out of context but Harris himself on numerous occasions explained to him that he was in fact not advocating any such thing. If anyone takes the time to read the entire passage it becomes clear that Harris is actually pointing out the futility and self-defeating nature of  militant responses.

The truth is that when it comes to intellectual debate it is the theists who tend to resort to physical threats not the atheists. So there is no misunderstanding, I am in no way implying that the majority of theists are violent. They are not. In heated exchanges between the more ardent proponents of the God debate it tends to be the theists that encourage and condone violence to advance their beliefs. "Militant Atheist" is a slanderous term used to denigrate atheists. "Militant Christian" can be properly used since I can think of a large number of individuals who have advocated violence. A large percentage of the religious right fit the label quite nicely.
If any theists object to this I'd be happy to create a list of Christian individuals and groups who are on record supporting violence and I would at the same time challenge them to provide a list of their own on atheists that do so.

Supreme Liar

Examining the God of scripture may help explain why a majority of Christian fundamentalists and evangelicals are so hypocritical and ethically challenged. The claiming that the Bible is literal is idiotic enough but their failure to acknowledge that it is impossible to actually follow such a literal reading is both hypocritical and delusional. I find it odd that anyone would even want to follow such a horrible role model as the God portrayed in the Bible. There are any number of traits and incidences that expose this God as a treacherous being. For the sake of brevity I'll stick to one trait in this posting: lying.

I can't think of any Christians who would claim lying is ethically or morally acceptable and yet God is a liar.

"And I will set my face against that man, and will make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of my people; and ye shall know that I am the Lord.
And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the Lord have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand upon him, and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel." (Ezekiel 14:8-9)

So God lies to his own spokesman and then kills him. Nice boss!

"And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie." (2 Thessalonians 2:11)

Even though the cause (opposing Satan) seems positive it is still lying. Of course, it is also contradictory since deception is generally considered the domain of Satan. Why couldn't God use the truth to fight Satan?

Earlier in the Bible God uses deception to ingratiate himself. This seems a bit odd coming from a being who is suppose to be incredibly if not all powerful. In Genesis God tells Noah his name but then later when he is sweet talking Abraham insists that he is honoring him by allowing him to be the first to know his name. Either God has a really bad memory or this is another example of lying. There are, of course, variations of all these tales and more examples that clearly indicate that God has no problem lying.

Shouldn't a divine role model provide better examples. I'd cut the fundamentalist and evangelicals some slack but then I'd have to do the same for every other ignorant delusional fool. That would only lead to a higher level of stupidity and bad behavior. So, I continue to view them with the contempt they have earned and will consider their Sky Daddy a mythical asshole.

John Shelby Spong

Even though I disagree with John Shelby Spong on a wide variety of topics I genuinely like him. In terms of modern theologians and Christian apologists his is certainly one of the more thoughtful and even somewhat original theists. Most of what he believes is just as delusional and loaded with nonsense but he does a far better job supporting them than most. He also comes across as just a really nice person. When he disagrees he tends to focus on the issue or concept at hand rather than resort to personal attacks. It would be great if his fellow theologians and apologists would follow his example.

Any non-religious person, atheist or not, who has an interest in religion/theology I would strongly recommend becoming familiar with Spong's work. He has written numerous articles and books. Despite the failure of his ideas to stand up to any deep scrutiny they are none the less very interesting and worth exploring.

A few of the pieces on or by Spong from around the internet:

CNN Belief Blog post: "My Take: The 3 biggest biblical misconceptions"

Culture Shocks podcast: Interview with Barry Lynn

John Shelby Spong website

He also has a Facebook page and there are numerous clips of him on YouTube.

I encourage everyone to read as widely as possible on as many topics/issues as possible. I intend to regularly post on individuals I find interesting whether I agree with them or not. Opinionated or not, I truly believe that we should constantly question and challenge ourselves.

Christian Stereotypes

Stereotypes are often viewed as being false, even denigrating, characterizations that very few if any members of a particular group fit. This impression is basically accurate to the definition. For the most part I agree with Christian Piatt's post "Top Christian Stereotypes of 2011" However, it should be noted that his piece is also misleading. Even though they are stereotypes and should not be used to apply to all Christians they should by no means be dismissed so lightly. Unfortunately, there are sizable numbers of Christians who easily fit the stereotypes he lists. Even though they are not a majority they do have an impact on society. The implication that they represent fringe elements is also dangerously false.

"The Gay Basher" is an excellent example. Not long ago in my home state of Maine the gay bashers managed to overturn a major civil rights accomplishment. Through fear and misinformation various religious based groups repealed marriage equality. The Catholic Church, which is as mainstream as you can get, played a lead role in this anti-civil rights campaign. The Bishop of Portland provided both social/political leadership and a considerable amount of funding. So even though it is unfair to characterize all individual Christians as gay bashers far more are complicit in this than are not. Very few Catholics, whether they personally support equality or not, publicly spoke against their church's role in opposing marriage equality.

Piatt does ridicule those who fit the stereotypes but never accepts any responsibility for enabling those individuals in the first place. He shifts virtually all negative aspects to Republicans and Conservatives. Though those two groups are the most blatant there are Democrats and Liberals who either perpetuate the behaviors being stereotyped or fail to oppose them in any way. Why do liberal Catholics meekly accept all the horrible things their Church is responsible for. They could push back or leave the church. Either would be better then tacitly becoming accomplices to such unethical and immoral behavior. Please remember that I am using Catholics as an example rather than singling them out. There are plenty of other religious groups that fit the stereotypes.

Until Christians do more to end the behaviors that lead to the stereotypes I will continue to find it difficult to sympathize with them. That is not to say I will not continue to oppose discrimination no matter who it is aimed at. Personally, I find it repulsive to harass or discriminate against anyone. Bishop Malone is a complete bastard but I'll defend to my last breath his right to speak his mind and participate in civil society. I may find it distasteful, especially since I think Malone should be investigated for violating among other things the tax code, but I will defend his rights the same way I would defend anyone else.