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Lying for Jesus in the Sunshine State

From Ron Gold at The Invisible Pink Unicorn comes this gem. Read his post for more info, but here’s the summary.

The Community Issues Council is putting up billboards across Florida similar to the one pictured below.

Community Issues Council Billboard

Where’s the lying bit come into play? Here’s a statement by Terry Kemple, the group’s local chapter president, where she refers to a billboard with the quote "It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible" attributed to George Washington.

I don’t believe there’s a document in Washington’s handwriting that has those words in that specific form," Kemple said. "However, if you look at Washington’s quotes, including his farewell address, about the place of religion in the political sphere, there’s no question he could have said those exact words.

So they’re making up at least one quote about church/state separation issues and falsely attributing it to our first president. So not only are they attempting to discard the establishment clause of the second amendment, but they’re lying to do it.

…but they’re doing the Lord’s work.

Sin Yourself Righteous!

original-sin Paul Fidalgo, who is the blogger at Bloc Raisonneur, also posts as the DC Secular Examiner on Examiner.com. He posted a piece today about “The Apparently Weak Faith of the Unfaithful Republicans” which had a bit to say about Governor Sanford, but more about the bigger picture.

One great point he made about those politicians who are so in-your-face about their religious piety and moral values (“Christians all, and every one of them extremely noisy about it” says Fidalgo), is that the reason they fessed up isn’t because of… well… here’s what Fidalgo said (emphasis his):

It was not the wrenching guts of a tortured soul that got Sanford, Vitter, Ensign, or Craig to fess up. They didn’t fear for their timeshares in the afterlife, nor did they see a vision of a tut-tutting Jesus hovering over them while in passionate throes. They held their conferences, released their dour statements, and apologized to those unwise enough to have faith in them, because they got caught.

His post is definitely worth reading and highlights the pseudo-devotion of this type of Christian.

What also got my attention was a comment made by Chris Henson about Christian morality in the comments section at the end of the post. I’ve posted similar things myself here, but he phrases it in a wonderfully colorful way that I needed to share.

Yeah, but “God gave his only begotten son” so that Christians can break all the rules they want to. Probably the most convenient twist of religious chicanery ever devised. You’ve got one book spelling out the “Commandments” and “Deadly Sins.” Then you’ve got the other book with this hippy dude who died so you can pretty much sin all you want to.

It’s like “Eat Yourself Thin.” Or “The Four Hour Work Week.” Combined, the Old and New Testaments should be called “Sin Yourself Righteous!”

Sin Yourself Righteous!

Christians tend to make the claim that morality comes from God or the bible, but in reality, biblical religions just teach that you can have a free pass to sin without consequence.

It seems that some politicians take advantage of that.

Judging theories on their merits

Darwin's Tree of Life DrawingIn Friday’s The Daily News Online in Batavia, NY, John Cantillion wrote a letter to the editor in response to a piece by Reverend Fred Jensen a few days before. I didn’t read the original piece, but the reply by Mr. Cantillion was just so awash with misinformation and theological chest thumping that it was virtually screaming for a response.

The original topic by Reverend Jensen was “Science and religion should cooperate as well as co-exist.” Jerry Coyne and Chris Mooney are currently having their own debate, but I come down pretty squarely in Coyne’s camp. However, they’re both scientists and (I think) atheists, so they’re not that far apart generally. Cantillion, however, seems to have wandered off into the “science and religion go hand in hand and compliment each other” field, one that I don’t believe Coyne or Mooney endorse.

Cantillion starts off with a bang in the first paragraph, claiming biblical scientific credentials because the book of Job describes the water cycle, something he says was not “scientifically” described until the mid 1500’s. For those of you who are biblically challenged, here are the verses in question from Job chapter 36 (NSRV).

27 For he draws up the drops of water; he distils his mist in rain,
28 which the skies pour down and drop upon mortals abundantly.
29 Can anyone understand the spreading of the clouds, the thunderings of his pavilion?

I’m pretty sure those verses don’t qualify as being “scientifically” described, either, but that’s Cantillion’s first bit of evidence for biblical science. More quoting from Job, this time from chapter 26, verse 7.

He stretches out Zaphon [or the north] over the void, and hangs the earth upon nothing.

This passage, he states, is “an apt description of the earth in space.”

I’m pretty sure it’s not.

After his first paragraph of proselytizing, Cantillion continues…

There is a legitimate case for fear when a portion of science is eliminated because it does not agree with the worldview of those in power. Science looks at all the views, and based on empirical evidence, chooses the best one. Declaring one theory to be illegitimate and then forcing all evidence to fit the theory that has been declared to be legitimate is not science.

I wholeheartedly agree with that entire paragraph (as long as it remains out of the context of the rest of his letter). Science should be based on empirical evidence and should not be twisted to suit the political agenda of the day. It should be based on observable facts, should be testable, and should be peer reviewed.

What’s the problem with Cantillion’s view, then? The problem is that, after that one paragraph, the rest of his letter is mind-numbingly anti-science, anti-intellectual, and anti-rationality.

The theory of evolution is just that, a theory, not scientific fact. It has strengths and weaknesses.
Creation science is a theory just as evolution is. Let it stand or fall based on its merits, or lack thereof, as demonstrated through empirical evidence, not prejudice.

Here’s where things take a turn into creationist-land. The “just a theory” line is a classic creationist talking point and shows a complete lack of understanding of what a scientific “theory” actually is. When the statement is used in conjunction with evolution, not only does it show a lack of understanding of the definition of the word, but it shows an even greater lack in understanding of evolution… what the theory states, and what the evidence is. When that line is trotted out, it’s a pretty safe bet that it will be followed up with Ray Comfort’esque ramblings… which in this case, is excruciatingly true.

Creation science is not “a theory just as evolution is.” Creation “science” isn’t even “science.” If it was to stand or fall based on its merits, it would have fallen decades ago, as it has with reputable scientists, but that’s not what creationists really want. What they want is for creationism to be what is taught in schools. They want creationism to be taught as fact. They want creationism to be exempt from any sort of real scientific scrutiny so that they can claim it as true.

Cantillion continues with this

If evolution is really so superior to creating, why is every effort being made to eliminate the theory of creation from public awareness so that only the theory of evolution is known and believed? If the theory of evolution is truly so superior over creation, then put them side by side and let evolution destroy creation once and for all.

First, nobody is trying to eliminate the biblical account of creation from public awareness. What rational people are doing is removing it from (or rather keeping it out of) the science curriculum, where it has no business. The science curriculum should be teaching science, a branch of which is biology, a part of which is evolution… by natural selection. Evolution is not a matter of “belief” or “faith.” It’s a matter of scientific evidence processed using the scientific method.

As for the second part, evolution and creationism have been put side by side and evolution has destroyed creationism. Sadly, it hasn’t been “once and for all” because the creationists won’t accept anything but the overwhelming victory of their biblical (or Koranic) version of creation over any scientific, evidence-based alternative. So no matter how much evidence is presented, no matter how much “proof” is piled up and presented to a creationist, it makes not a lick of difference because it doesn’t match their beliefs, to which they desparately cling despite the contradictions between the facts and their beliefs.

Cantillion asks…

The strategy being used [to support evolution] is not science, but politics. Why is politics needed to prove and establish the theory of evolution, unless it cannot be established by empirical evidence?

I find Cantillion’s statement strange because what’s actually happening is the exact opposite of what he claims. Evolution is completely supported by science. Creationism is what is desparately seeking political support because that’s the only support it can possibly muster in a scientific world. Cantillion doesn’t seem to get the dependencies correct. Evolution depends on science. Creationism depends on politics.

He goes on to criticize Reverend Jensen for what he seems to think are poorly chosen examples of God’s hand in creation and then really goes off the deep end.

Everyone has a religious faith of some sort. Even an atheist has religious faith. An atheist cannot prove that God does not exist. Therefore, it takes at least as much faith for an atheist to believe that there is no God as it does for a religious person to believe that there is a God. So then, not mentioning God and not praying is not being neutral regarding religion but is, in fact, promoting atheism. All religious faiths do not get us to the same place, unless atheism is true. Then everyone just winds up dead. Atheism, not science, is at the root of evolution.

I find it difficult to not use profanity here. Lack of a belief in a god is not, in any way, shape, or form, religious faith. It’s true that atheists cannot prove that God does not exist. However, most atheists do not make an irrefutable claim of absolute knowledge regarding the existence of God (as Creationists do), so no proof is necessary. As an atheist, I’m not stating that a god does not exist. I’m stating that I have no evidence for the existence of a god… any god. So, no… it takes no faith to be an atheist.

So, contrary to the absurd conclusion at which Cantillion arrives, not mentioning God and not praying is definitely neutral regarding religion. Leaving out religious actions is neutral to religion. Praying, reading bible verses, singing hymns, and teaching creationism are all actions that are most assuredly not religion-neutral.

As for the last sentence, the claim is just absurd. Evolution is based on evidence… factual, observable, testable evidence. Again, Cantillion gets his cart before the horse. Atheism is not the root of evolution. Evolution is, however, quite a gaping hole in the creationists’ claims.

Cantillion goes off on Reverend Jensen again at this point in his letter, but starts his criticism with this bit.

All the religions of the world cannot be held in equal esteem. Christ, Mohammed, Buddha, Confucius, and other great spiritual leaders are not equal and are in contradiction with one another.

I have to agree that great spiritual leaders contradict one another. I’m not sure what point Cantillion was trying to make here, but he inadvertently (I assume) brought up one of the main arguments atheists use regarding the truth of religion. There are so many religions, all of which claim to be true, that it’s not difficult to conclude that the most likely answer is that none of them are.

Cantillion finished with this…

Jesus claimed to be God. It is Jesus who causes the lame to walk and the blind to see, not religion and not science. Science proves what God has already established.

Unsurprisingly, Cantillion is wrong again. Science has long ago created prosthetic devices allowing the “lame” to walk and, just recently, the blind to see.

Go figure

Mike Pence says Republicans are not Anti-Science

ScienceRepresentative Mike Pence (R-Ind.) spoke to Chris Matthews in defense of Republicans, saying that his party is not anti-science and that this whole “anti-science thing is a little bit weak.”

That, in and of itself, would not be particularly noteworthy. However, in the same interview, Pence goes on to show that he, himself, is quite anti-science… which seems, to me, to somewhat negate his credibility in defending the Republicans on science issues.

When asked if he believed in evolution, Pence replied…

I embrace the view that God created the heavens and the earth, the seas and all that’s in them…the means that he used to do that, I can’t say.

He also expressed skepticism about the science surrounding global warming.

From an article on Politico

On global warming, Pence said that Republicans are “more than willing to stand for clean air,” but added that “in the mainstream media there is a denial about the growing skepticism about global warming.”

I find the claim of a “growing skepticism” to be interesting. If the skepticism is growing, it’s definitely not among scientists with knowledge in relevant fields of study.

Then Pence drops this bit of joy.

“What is science but an exploration?” Pence asked. “Science is an explanation of demonstrable facts, isn’t it?”

I suppose, as a very simple summary, that’s true. However, it’s not particularly accurate. For instance, creationism (and ID), despite providing an “explanation of demonstrable facts” is not science. Science depends on a method, a series of steps, without which you have no science. If you bypass the steps, as does creationism, you can’t claim to be scientific. Pence, in that one quote alone, shows that he really doesn’t get science.

Here’s the video of the full interview (or at least a large part). It’s kind of painful to watch. Matthews keeps pushing the question about evolution, but Pence refuses to give any answer other than his “God created the heavens and earth” answer. Pence also makes the claim that Democrats put ideology over science regarding stem cell policy (?!?). It’s a lot of dancing around the questions on Pence’s part.

He also intimates that schools should be teaching creationism alongside evolution, but doesn’t say it outright.

So on one hand, Pence says the Republican party is not anti-science, but then on the other, his answers show him to be unequivocally anti-science.

Is that irony or hypocrisy?

Barry Goldwater on Religious Pressure in Politics

There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this supreme being. But like any powerful weapon, the use of God’s name on one’s behalf should be used sparingly. The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent.

If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both. I’m frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in ‘A,’ ‘B,’ ‘C,’ and ‘D.’ Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me? And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of ‘conservatism.’

– Barry Goldwater, Congressional Record, September 16th, 1981

(via Library Grape)