The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

God's blog

From the New Yorker:

UPDATE: Pretty pleased with what I’ve come up with in just six days. Going to take tomorrow off. Feel free to check out what I’ve done so far. Suggestions and criticism (constructive, please!) more than welcome. God out.

COMMENTS (24)

Beta version was better. I thought the Adam-Steve dynamic was much more compelling than the Adam-Eve work-around You finally settled on.

Adam was obviously created somewhere else and then just put here. So, until I see some paperwork proving otherwise, I question the legitimacy of his dominion over any of this.

Heh.

I want to live in Ame-ri-ca!

Because only in the United States do we have, enshrined in our basic law, the right to establish a city populated exclusively by religious nutters:

Kiryas Joel is an enclave of ultra-orthodox Jews who belong to the Satmar Hasidic sect. Members of this group believe in separating themselves from others – they’d rather not be around non-sect members. Thirty-four years ago, they won the right to create their own village from the surrounding community of Monroe.

The village’s founders might have envisioned an idyllic community where people of a shared faith lived in harmony. It hasn’t worked out that way. As often happens when people live in insular communities, factions emerge. Dissidents in Kiryas Joel don’t like the way the town of about 20,000 is being run. The dissidents, who by some accounts now make up 40 percent of the community, say religious discrimination is rampant. They say if you don’t belong to the right synagogue, you’re a second-class citizen.

Money quote:

A sign at the village entrance admonishes visitors to dress modestly. Cleavage-revealing tops for women are verboten, and both sexes are told to cover arms and legs. Couples are advised to "maintain gender separation in public places." ... Imagine the reaction from the Religious Right if this were a town of fundamentalist Muslims and they erected a sign reading, "Women are welcome to visit if accompanied by a male relative. Please respect our values by wearing a burqa."

Of course, the same constitutional language giving people freedom of religion also takes a little bit back. In fact, the establishment clause comes before the free exercise clause. We adopted the first amendment to prevent having the head of state also be the head of the official church, as it was (and still is) in England. What does this mean for Kiryas Joel? Well, you see, if the village government and the biggest synagogue are the same people...yeah. Thus, the lawsuit.

I'll keep my eye on this.

NPR made my brain hurt this morning

They aired two back-to-back stories on Weekend Edition. First, they reported that for reasons that passeth understanding, the NRA got Florida to pass a law prohibiting doctors from asking about guns in the house:

For decades, the American Academy of Pediatrics has encouraged its members to ask questions about guns and how they're stored, as part of well-child visits.

But Marion Hammer, the National Rifle Association's lobbyist in Tallahassee, says that's not a pediatrician's job.

"We take our children to pediatricians for medical care — not moral judgment, not privacy intrusions," she says. NRA lobbyists helped write a bill that largely bans health professionals from asking about guns. Hammer says she and other NRA members consider the questions an intrusion on their Second Amendment rights.

"This bill is about helping families who are complaining about being questioned about gun ownership, and the growing anti-gun political agenda being carried out in examination rooms by doctors and staffs," Hammer says.

What the...? Getting shot causes medical problems, right? And there's a demonstrated (but not necessarily causal) link between gun ownership and medical risks, right? So asking about guns and other dangerous items in the house might be part of a good medical history, don't you think? Apparently the NRA don't. If they're so concerned about gun-owner privacy, why not pass a privacy law instead? Oh, right—doctors are already forbidden from sharing medical histories.

The story immediately following that one had Barbara Bradley Hagerty asking, completely straight-faced (which is easier to discern on the radio than you might imagine), why people believe May 21st is judgment day:

Most Bible scholars note that even Jesus said he had no idea when Judgment Day would come. But May 21 believers like Haubert are unfazed.

"I've crunched the numbers, and it's going to happen," [actuary Brian Haubert, 33,] says.

Haubert says the Bible contains coded "proofs" that reveal the timing. For example, he says, from the time of Noah's flood to May 21, 2011, is exactly 7,000 years. Revelations like this have changed his life.

"I no longer think about 401(k)s and retirement," he says. "I'm not stressed about losing my job, which a lot of other people are in this economy. I'm just a lot less stressed, and in a way I'm more carefree."

Only last week I read a Mother Jones article about denial science, which opened with a description of The Seekers, who believed aliens would spirit them away on or before the end of the world, which would happen 21 December 1954. After giving up all they owned and waiting for their version of the Rapture, they concluded from the lack of cataclysm that the aliens had seen their devotion and decided to save the planet, thanks to the Seekers. I wonder what Haubert and his friends will say on May 22nd?

Not only that, but: he's an actuary? On the basis of the available information, one must conclude he's not a very good one.

Render unto Caesar, part 2

The Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee is bankrupt:

On the first anniversary of his installation, Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki announced Tuesday afternoon that the archdiocese will file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Listecki said the move was necessary to fairly compensate victims and continue the "essential ministries" of the church, and urged the faithful not to blame the victims.

Yes, Archbishop, blaming the children that priests raped for the Church passing the criminals around instead of surrendering them to the secular authorities would be in poor taste.

The story continues:

The bankruptcy petition will not include parishes, schools and other Catholic entities that are separately incorporated, he said.

Just before the news conference, a group of advocates for the victims of clergy sex abuse said bankruptcy allows Listecki to avoid depositions and questions under oath in court about the abuse cases.

"This is about protecting church secrets, not church assets," said David Clohessy, national director of SNAP, the Survivor's Network of those Abused by Priests. "The goal here is to prevent top church managers from being questioned under oath about their complicity, not 'compensating victims fairly.' "

Do you suppose Ratzinger will pass the plate in the Vatican to help the archdiocese?

Render unto Caesar?

I admit that phrase doesn't have as much pull with Orthodox Jews as it might with other religious groups. Still, the story of an Orthodox couple who don't accept that they're divorced even though they have a perfectly valid divorce under state law encapsulates much of what frustrates me about fundamentalists:

The Friedman case has become emblematic of a torturous issue in which only a husband can "give" a get. While Jewish communities have historically pressured obstinate husbands to give gets, this was a very rare case of seeking to shame the husband in the secular world.

Holding signs saying, "Do the right thing" and "Free your wife," the crowd [protesting outside the husband's apartment] included religious women with their heads covered, men in skullcaps and a rabbi with a bullhorn who shouted, "Withholding a get is abusive."

All parties have said that Mr. Friedman is angry about the custody order, which grants him three weekends a month with his daughter, two of them in Philadelphia, beginning at 6 p.m. on Fridays. As a religious Jew, Mr. Friedman will not drive from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday — so he cannot see his daughter until Sunday.

The custody order is "a joke," said Yisroel Belsky, a prominent Brooklyn rabbi. "The court decided in a bullheaded way not to respect the Shabbos," or Sabbath, he said in a interview.

On the first point: they're divorced. The only reason to get the Get is to marry someone else in a religious service. Nothing, at all, legally prevents either party from marrying right now. But they have chosen to follow their religious laws instead of Maryland's and Pennsylvania's. That's a choice.

On the second point, which is similar: Belsky has it backwards. Mr. Friedman is deciding in a bullheaded way not to drive. He's choosing his religious beliefs over seeing his daughter. Rabbi Belsky should be advised that the judge really can't respect the Sabbath qua Sabbath because of the first amendment; but the judge should respect the agreement of the couple. So the question should be, why did Friedman's lawyer agree to a custody arrangement that ran afoul of Friedman's religion? Or what happened in the courtroom that led to this outcome?

Protesting outside the guy's house and writing to his employer (like one rabbi) cross the line. Get your crazy back in shul where it belongs.

And not to fan the crazy, but can someone tell me why the ex-wife doesn't just rip up the ketubah? Doesn't that accomplish the same thing as a get?

The Smithsonian on our history of religious tolerance

Via Sullivan, Kenneth Davis at the Smithsonian sets the record straight on our history:

From the earliest arrival of Europeans on America’s shores, religion has often been a cudgel, used to discriminate, suppress and even kill the foreign, the “heretic” and the “unbeliever”—including the “heathen” natives already here. Moreover, while it is true that the vast majority of early-generation Americans were Christian, the pitched battles between various Protestant sects and, more explosively, between Protestants and Catholics, present an unavoidable contradiction to the widely held notion that America is a “Christian nation.”

... Future President James Madison stepped into the breach. In a carefully argued essay titled “Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments,” the soon-to-be father of the Constitution eloquently laid out reasons why the state had no business supporting Christian instruction. Signed by some 2,000 Virginians, Madison’s argument became a fundamental piece of American political philosophy, a ringing endorsement of the secular state that “should be as familiar to students of American history as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution,” as Susan Jacoby has written in Freethinkers, her excellent history of American secularism.

Among Madison’s 15 points was his declaration that “the Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every...man to exercise it as these may dictate. This right is in its nature an inalienable right.”

Madison also made a point that any believer of any religion should understand: that the government sanction of a religion was, in essence, a threat to religion. “Who does not see,” he wrote, “that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects?” Madison was writing from his memory of Baptist ministers being arrested in his native Virginia.

Here's Madison's entire essay from 20 June 1785:

To the Honorable the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia A Memorial and Remonstrance

We the subscribers, citizens of the said Commonwealth, having taken into serious consideration, a Bill printed by order of the last Session of General Assembly, entitled "A Bill establishing a provision for Teachers of the Christian Religion," and conceiving that the same if finally armed with the sanctions of a law, will be a dangerous abuse of power, are bound as faithful members of a free State to remonstrate against it, and to declare the reasons by which we are determined. We remonstrate against the said Bill,

1. Because we hold it for a fundamental and undeniable truth, "that Religion or the duty which we owe to our Creator and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence." [Virginia Declaration of Rights, art. 16] The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate. This right is in its nature an unalienable right. It is unalienable, because the opinions of men, depending only on the evidence contemplated by their own minds cannot follow the dictates of other men: It is unalienable also, because what is here a right towards men, is a duty towards the Creator. It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage and such only as he believes to be acceptable to him. This duty is precedent, both in order of time and in degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society. Before any man can be considered as a member of Civil Society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governour of the Universe: And if a member of Civil Society, who enters into any subordinate Association, must always do it with a reservation of his duty to the General Authority; much more must every man who becomes a member of any particular Civil Society, do it with a saving of his allegiance to the Universal Sovereign. We maintain therefore that in matters of Religion, no mans right is abridged by the institution of Civil Society and that Religion is wholly exempt from its cognizance. True it is, that no other rule exists, by which any question which may divide a Society, can be ultimately determined, but the will of the majority; but it is also true that the majority may trespass on the rights of the minority.

2. Because if Religion be exempt from the authority of the Society at large, still less can it be subject to that of the Legislative Body. The latter are but the creatures and viceregents of the former. Their jurisdiction is both derivative and limited: it is limited with regard to the co-ordinate departments, more necessarily is it limited with regard to the constituents. The preservation of a free Government requires not merely, that the metes and bounds which separate each department of power be invariably maintained; but more especially that neither of them be suffered to overleap the great Barrier which defends the rights of the people. The Rulers who are guilty of such an encroachment, exceed the commission from which they derive their authority, and are Tyrants. The People who submit to it are governed by laws made neither by themselves nor by an authority derived from them, and are slaves.

3. Because it is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties. We hold this prudent jealousy to be the first duty of Citizens, and one of the noblest characteristics of the late Revolution. The free men of America did not wait till usurped power had strengthened itself by exercise, and entangled the question in precedents. They saw all the consequences in the principle, and they avoided the consequences by denying the principle. We revere this lesson too much soon to forget it. Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects? that the same authority which can force a citizen to contribute three pence only of his property for the support of any one establishment, may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsoever?

4. Because the Bill violates that equality which ought to be the basis of every law, and which is more indispensible, in proportion as the validity or expediency of any law is more liable to be impeached. If "all men are by nature equally free and independent," all men are to be considered as entering into Society on equal conditions; as relinquishing no more, and therefore retaining no less, one than another, of their natural rights. Above all are they to be considered as retaining an "equal title to the free exercise of Religion according to the dictates of Conscience." Whilst we assert for ourselves a freedom to embrace, to profess and to observe the Religion which we believe to be of divine origin, we cannot deny an equal freedom to those whose minds have not yet yielded to the evidence which has convinced us. If this freedom be abused, it is an offence against God, not against man: To God, therefore, not to man, must an account of it be rendered. As the Bill violates equality by subjecting some to peculiar burdens, so it violates the same principle, by granting to others peculiar exemptions. Are the Quakers and Menonists the only sects who think a compulsive support of their Religions unnecessary and unwarrantable? Can their piety alone be entrusted with the care of public worship? Ought their Religions to be endowed above all others with extraordinary privileges by which proselytes may be enticed from all others? We think too favorably of the justice and good sense of these denominations to believe that they either covet pre-eminences over their fellow citizens or that they will be seduced by them from the common opposition to the measure.

5. Because the Bill implies either that the Civil Magistrate is a competent Judge of Religious Truth; or that he may employ Religion as an engine of Civil policy. The first is an arrogant pretension falsified by the contradictory opinions of Rulers in all ages, and throughout the world: the second an unhallowed perversion of the means of salvation.

6. Because the establishment proposed by the Bill is not requisite for the support of the Christian Religion. To say that it is, is a contradiction to the Christian Religion itself, for every page of it disavows a dependence on the powers of this world: it is a contradiction to fact; for it is known that this Religion both existed and flourished, not only without the support of human laws, but in spite of every opposition from them, and not only during the period of miraculous aid, but long after it had been left to its own evidence and the ordinary care of Providence. Nay, it is a contradiction in terms; for a Religion not invented by human policy, must have pre-existed and been supported, before it was established by human policy. It is moreover to weaken in those who profess this Religion a pious confidence in its innate excellence and the patronage of its Author; and to foster in those who still reject it, a suspicion that its friends are too conscious of its fallacies to trust it to its own merits.

7. Because experience witnesseth that ecclesiastical establishments, instead of maintaining the purity and efficacy of Religion, have had a contrary operation. During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution. Enquire of the Teachers of Christianity for the ages in which it appeared in its greatest lustre; those of every sect, point to the ages prior to its incorporation with Civil policy. Propose a restoration of this primitive State in which its Teachers depended on the voluntary rewards of their flocks, many of them predict its downfall. On which Side ought their testimony to have greatest weight, when for or when against their interest?

8. Because the establishment in question is not necessary for the support of Civil Government. If it be urged as necessary for the support of Civil Government only as it is a means of supporting Religion, and it be not necessary for the latter purpose, it cannot be necessary for the former. If Religion be not within the cognizance of Civil Government how can its legal establishment be necessary to Civil Government? What influence in fact have ecclesiastical establishments had on Civil Society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the Civil authority; in many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny: in no instance have they been seen the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wished to subvert the public liberty, may have found an established Clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just Government instituted to secure & perpetuate it needs them not. Such a Government will be best supported by protecting every Citizen in the enjoyment of his Religion with the same equal hand which protects his person and his property; by neither invading the equal rights of any Sect, nor suffering any Sect to invade those of another.

9. Because the proposed establishment is a departure from that generous policy, which, offering an Asylum to the persecuted and oppressed of every Nation and Religion, promised a lustre to our country, and an accession to the number of its citizens. What a melancholy mark is the Bill of sudden degeneracy? Instead of holding forth an Asylum to the persecuted, it is itself a signal of persecution. It degrades from the equal rank of Citizens all those whose opinions in Religion do not bend to those of the Legislative authority. Distant as it may be in its present form from the Inquisition, it differs from it only in degree. The one is the first step, the other the last in the career of intolerance. The magnanimous sufferer under this cruel scourge in foreign Regions, must view the Bill as a Beacon on our Coast, warning him to seek some other haven, where liberty and philanthrophy in their due extent, may offer a more certain repose from his Troubles.

10. Because it will have a like tendency to banish our Citizens. The allurements presented by other situations are every day thinning their number. To superadd a fresh motive to emigration by revoking the liberty which they now enjoy, would be the same species of folly which has dishonoured and depopulated flourishing kingdoms.

11. Because it will destroy that moderation and harmony which the forbearance of our laws to intermeddle with Religion has produced among its several sects. Torrents of blood have been spilt in the old world, by vain attempts of the secular arm, to extinguish Religious discord, by proscribing all difference in Religious opinion. Time has at length revealed the true remedy. Every relaxation of narrow and rigorous policy, wherever it has been tried, has been found to assuage the disease. The American Theatre has exhibited proofs that equal and compleat liberty, if it does not wholly eradicate it, sufficiently destroys its malignant influence on the health and prosperity of the State. If with the salutary effects of this system under our own eyes, we begin to contract the bounds of Religious freedom, we know no name that will too severely reproach our folly. At least let warning be taken at the first fruits of the threatened innovation. The very appearance of the Bill has transformed "that Christian forbearance, love and charity," which of late mutually prevailed, into animosities and jealousies, which may not soon be appeased. What mischiefs may not be dreaded, should this enemy to the public quiet be armed with the force of a law?

12. Because the policy of the Bill is adverse to the diffusion of the light of Christianity. The first wish of those who enjoy this precious gift ought to be that it may be imparted to the whole race of mankind. Compare the number of those who have as yet received it with the number still remaining under the dominion of false Religions; and how small is the former! Does the policy of the Bill tend to lessen the disproportion? No; it at once discourages those who are strangers to the light of revelation from coming into the Region of it; and countenances by example the nations who continue in darkness, in shutting out those who might convey it to them. Instead of Levelling as far as possible, every obstacle to the victorious progress of Truth, the Bill with an ignoble and unchristian timidity would circumscribe it with a wall of defence against the encroachments of error.

13. Because attempts to enforce by legal sanctions, acts obnoxious to so great a proportion of Citizens, tend to enervate the laws in general, and to slacken the bands of Society. If it be difficult to execute any law which is not generally deemed necessary or salutary, what must be the case, where it is deemed invalid and dangerous? And what may be the effect of so striking an example of impotency in the Government, on its general authority?

14. Because a measure of such singular magnitude and delicacy ought not to be imposed, without the clearest evidence that it is called for by a majority of citizens, and no satisfactory method is yet proposed by which the voice of the majority in this case may be determined, or its influence secured. "The people of the respective counties are indeed requested to signify their opinion respecting the adoption of the Bill to the next Session of Assembly." But the representation must be made equal, before the voice either of the Representatives or of the Counties will be that of the people. Our hope is that neither of the former will, after due consideration, espouse the dangerous principle of the Bill. Should the event disappoint us, it will still leave us in full confidence, that a fair appeal to the latter will reverse the sentence against our liberties.

15. Because finally, "the equal right of every citizen to the free exercise of his Religion according to the dictates of conscience" is held by the same tenure with all our other rights. If we recur to its origin, it is equally the gift of nature; if we weigh its importance, it cannot be less dear to us; if we consult the "Declaration of those rights which pertain to the good people of Virginia, as the basis and foundation of Government," it is enumerated with equal solemnity, or rather studied emphasis. Either then, we must say, that the Will of the Legislature is the only measure of their authority; and that in the plenitude of this authority, they may sweep away all our fundamental rights; or, that they are bound to leave this particular right untouched and sacred: Either we must say, that they may controul the freedom of the press, may abolish the Trial by Jury, may swallow up the Executive and Judiciary Powers of the State; nay that they may despoil us of our very right of suffrage, and erect themselves into an independent and hereditary Assembly or, we must say, that they have no authority to enact into law the Bill under consideration. We the Subscribers say, that the General Assembly of this Commonwealth have no such authority: And that no effort may be omitted on our part against so dangerous an usurpation, we oppose to it, this remonstrance; earnestly praying, as we are in duty bound, that the Supreme Lawgiver of the Universe, by illuminating those to whom it is addressed, may on the one hand, turn their Councils from every act which would affront his holy prerogative, or violate the trust committed to them: and on the other, guide them into every measure which may be worthy of his blessing, may redound to their own praise, and may establish more firmly the liberties, the prosperity and the happiness of the Commonwealth.

The non-threat of gay people

Via Sullivan, the dating site okcupid.com analyzed their 3.2 m users to determine that gay people really don't want to date straight people:

The subtext to a lot of homophobic thinking is the idea that gays will try to get straight people into bed at the first opportunity, or that gays are looking to "convert" straights. Freud called this concept schwanzangst; the U.S. Army calls it Don't Ask Don't Tell.

We combed through over 4 million match searches, and found virtually no evidence of it:

Match Search Returns 
» only 0.6% of gay men have ever searched for straight matches.
» only 0.1% of lesbians have ever searched for straight matches.
» only 0.13% of straight people's profile visitors are gay.

Furthermore
In our dataset, there was not a single gay user, male or female, who primarily searched for straight people.

Of course, actually looking at data is no way to have a political argument.

As a side note, the OKCupid guy who wrote the post, Christian Rudder, found this disturbing bit of data:

I also spent a lot of time looking up match questions to debunk this particular claim. Down in the database I discovered one question with a surprising disparity, not between orientations, but between genders. Like Frodo to the Balrog, I wished I'd never unearthed it.

Come on, people. #facepalm.

I'd like to see a couple of regressions on that dataset.

Gay kaken am meer

Apparently a former Hitler Youth called me a Nazi today:

The pontiff praised Britain's fight against the Nazis - who "wished to eradicate God" - before relating it to modern day "atheist extremism".

Afterwards his spokesman Federico Lombardi said: "I think the Pope knows rather well what the Nazi ideology is".

Yes, Ratzinger should know what the Nazi ideology is, but I'm afraid we athiests are rather unlike him. In the same speech he also said, "I also recall the regime's attitude to Christian pastors and religious who spoke the truth in love, opposed the Nazis and paid for that opposition with their lives," forgetting, I suppose, how these pastors were resisting the organization he himself wanted to join and how the organization he himself now leads turned Jews over to the Nazis throughout the war.

Really, is there any reason to continue treating this man with the deference and respect we show actual world leaders?