A Modest Proposal for Anti-Abortion Catholics (and Some Others)

When I recently ran across yet another of BillDo’s rants against abortion, I was struck by an idea: during transubstantiation, a priest turns a piece of bread into living flesh. But surely this is a reversible operation, no? People turn living wheat into nonliving bread all the time.

In addition, if there’s any kind of conservation law, the after centuries of Catholic rites, there’s bound to be mountains of bread accumulating somewhere, that could be put to good use.

So I propose the following: if a woman wants an abortion, a priest can cast a reverse-transubstantiation spell, and turn the fetus into a piece of bread. And then the abortion can proceed normally.

If Catholic priests can’t or won’t do this, then I’ll do it. I’m ordained, and I have as much evidence to back up my supernatural claims as they do.

BillDo Has A Totally Practical Solution to Zika

Looks like it’s time for another edition of Bill Donohue Is A Terrible Person.

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights commented on the current Zika epidemic:

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said Friday, adding that laws and policies that restrict access to sexual and reproductive health services in contravention of international standards, must be repealed and concrete steps must be taken so that women have the information, support and services they require to exercise their rights to determine whether and when they become pregnant.

So if women get to decide when they get pregnant, there’ll be fewer pregnant women with Zika, and thus fewer kids with microcephaly. Does that sound pretty reasonable to you? Yes? Well, that’s because you’re not a frothing anti-contraception dogmatist like BillDo.

The way he sees it (emphasis emphatically added):

Zeid wants restrictive abortion laws repealed. More than that, he is fuming over the notion that women are in charge of their bodies. They are not. Moreover, he smirks at the advice that women should delay getting pregnant. According to the High Commissioner such advice “ignores the reality that many women and girls simply cannot exercise control over whether or when or under what circumstances they become pregnant, especially in an environment where sexual violence is so common.”

Okay, back up to that “They are not” for a moment. Is that poor phrasing, or did Bill just say that women are not in charge of their bodies? And if the latter, is it safe to assume he means something abstract and nebulous like “all our bodies ultimately belong to Baby Jesus, and we’re just caretakers”, rather than a more concrete bit of horribleness like “men get to decide whether women get and stay pregnant”? (I mean, we know he endorses the “stay” part of that, but I don’t know to what extent he’s willing to say so out loud.)

Be that as it may, he continues:

Here’s some advice for Zeid. Number one, girls should not be getting pregnant, and it is his job to say so.

Okay so far. I’m curious to know how BillDo proposes to enable them to make this choice.

Second, women are not the powerless wimps that he says they are: they can, in almost all circumstances, control when to have sex and with whom.

Yes. In almost all circumstances (let’s say over 95%), women decide when and whether to have sex. The other cases are called rape.

Third, he needs to man-up and name those Latin American nations (those were the ones he was addressing) where rape is commonplace.

Oh, Jesus Mary-fucking Christ on a consecrated cracker! Is this really that hard to look up in the age of Google and Wikipedia? Here’s a chart of rape rates in Latin America. And here’s Wikipedia’s section on rape in Brazil, one of the countries currently worst-hit by Zika.

Whichever way you slice it, we’re talking about tens or hundreds of thousands of women whom BillDo dismisses with a wave of his in-almost-all-circumstances, women far more alive and breathing than the virgin Mary, the only woman he seems willing to protect.

Fourth, killing innocent persons is never a morally acceptable remedy for any disease. Fifth, he ought to be policing the U.N. instead of lecturing us about the wonders of abortion

For some reason, BillDo doesn’t mention that the document he’s complaining about isn’t a paean to abortion, but rather talks in more general terms about letting women control their bodies, including sex ed, medical services, and contraception, as well as (and preferably before) abortion.

But I guess none of that matters, because when women use contraception instead of abstinence, it makes Baby Jesus cry.

Still, I’d like to end on a positive note by treating Bill better than he would half the human population, and allow him to choose for himself whether or not to choke on a barrel of contraceptive jelly.

Pope Francis Might Not Be A Liberal Savior After All

BillDo, the founder and sole apparent member of the Catholic League, has decided to make himself useful by listing a number of things Pope Frankie Goes to Vatican has said that may not entirely square up with some people’s image of him as the liberalest theologian since Hippie Jesus.

A lot of these quotations are short, and thus I suspect that they’re as cherry-picked as anything, but some of them stood out to me (emphasis added by me, throughout):

“Those with alternative teachings and doctrines [have] a partial belonging to the church. [They] have one foot outside the church. They rent the church.”

which sounds like “make up your minds. Do you want to control your sex lives with contraception, or do you want communion?”

“The dominant thinking sometimes suggests a ‘false compassion,’ that which believes that it is: helpful to women to promote abortion; an act of dignity to obtain euthanasia; a scientific breakthrough to ‘produce’ a child and to consider it to be a right rather than a gift to welcome; or to use human lives as guinea pigs presumably to save others. Instead, the compassion of the Gospel is that which accompanies in times of need, that is, the compassion of the Good Samaritan, who ‘sees,’ ‘has compassion,’ approaches and provides concrete help.”

No, you don’t get to control when you have kids or how many, nor do you get any say in when you die. Sorry not sorry.

“If someone says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch. It’s normal. It’s normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.

Not a big fan of the US First Amendment, or of article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, I’m guessing.

“If someone is gay and is searching for the Lord and has good will, then who am I to judge him?”

Sure, we love gays! At least, as long as they repent and promise to stop acting gay in public.

“Gender ideology is demonic!”

On the issue of women priests:

“The Church has spoken and said: ‘No.’ John Paul II said it, but with a definitive formulation. That door is closed.”

As I said, this is BillDo we’re talking about, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he were spinning some or all of these quotations to fit his right-wing agenda. But I don’t think it’s all him. I’m pretty sure that while Francis may seem progressive in the Vatican, elsewhere that just makes him slightly less reactionary than other cardinals.

Someone Would Have a Fit If This Aired Here

This video was posted on the feed of a Belgian comic book artist I follow. I can’t help thinking that if it aired in the US, someone *cough*Bill Donohue*cough* would have an apoplectic fit.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1pXdavw4NxY?rel=0&w=480&h=360]

Translation for non-francophones:

Announcer: This is what it was like before.
Priest 2: No, tonight, I’m reading the Bible.
Priest 1: No, you read it yesterday.
Priest 2: I didn’t read it yesterday. I read it for an hour while I couldn’t sleep. That doesn’t count.
Priest 1: Give me that Bible, God damn it!
Priest 2: Good one.
Priest 1: See what you made me say?
Priest 2: But still, you’re the one who said it.
Priest 1: Meanie!
Priest 2: Jerk!
Announcer: Today, the life of these priests has changed: In The Bible According to the Cat, which [artist] Philippe Geluck and God have cleverly divided into two volumes, no more arguments. Harmony has again settled upon the couple.
Priest 2: I’ve finished this one. Do you want it?
Priest 1: With pleasure, my angel.
Priest 2: Here it is, sweetie.
Priest 1: What if… we read it tomorrow?
Priest 2: What a great idea!
Announcer: The Bible According to the Cat. The Bible for everyone.

So, yeah. I’m pretty sure social mores in France and Belgium (the author is Belgian; the publishing company is French) are a bit different than in the US.

Update, Oct. 18, 2013: Changed to the new video with English subtitles.

That “Adopt an Atheist” Campaign

By now, you’ve probably heard about BillDo’s “Adopt an Atheist” campaign:

Today we are launching our “Adopt An Atheist” campaign, the predicate of which is, “We want atheists to realize that there may be Christians in their community, even if those Christians don’t even know they are Christian.

Here’s what our campaign entails. We are asking everyone to contact the American Atheist affiliate in his area […] Let them know of your sincere interest in working with them to uncover their inner self. They may be resistant at first, but eventually they may come to understand that they were Christian all along.

If we hurry, these closeted Christians can celebrate Christmas like the rest of us. As an added bonus, they will no longer be looked upon as people who “believe in nothing, stand for nothing and are good for nothing.”

(emphasis added)

Here’s what I just sent him:

Dear Mr. Donohue,

I have just heard about the Catholic League’s “Adopt an Atheist” campaign, and am intrigued.

I am an atheist, one of those people who, according to you, “believe in nothing, stand for nothing and are good for nothing.” But apparently, according to your press release, it is possible that I am actually a Christian without realizing it.

I don’t understand how this is possible, but perhaps one of the atheist-adopters with whom you are working can explain it. I am not a member of American Atheists, so sending mail to them will not reach me. Please ask one of your adopters to contact me.

You also write that “We want atheists to realize that there may be Christians in their community, even if those Christians don’t even know they are Christian”. Is this true? Is it possible that there might be Christians in my community? Could it be my neighbors, who attend church every Sunday? Or perhaps the pastor who lives two doors down? Who? Perhaps an atheist-adopter can help me figure it out.

I look forward to hearing back from you or your organization.

I’ll post if I hear back. It ought to be a lot of fun.


If you’ve been around for a while, you may remember Bill Donohue as a guy who has called for boycotts of Calvin Klein, HBO, Disney, Target, the TV show Nothing Sacred, 20th Century Fox, the Brooklyn Museum of Art , the city of San Francisco, Showtime, the New York Jewish Museum, the Arlington diocese lenten appeal, Wal-Mart, Madonna concert sponsors, the Roger Smith Hotel, the movie The Golden Compass, Miller beer, and probably others that I’ve forgotten.

Now he warns us of a new threat:

The Charity Give Back Group (CGBG), formerly known as the Christian Values Network, is an online service that partners with more than 170,000 charities, religious and secular, enabling users to support their favorite charities when they shop on the web. Because some of the charities embrace the traditional Christian understanding of marriage, some activist organizations have sought to pressure retailers not to associate with CGBG.

If these extremists get their way, they will silence the Christian voice. Which is why the bullies must be defeated.

Right now, Catholics need to let three major companies know of their need not to follow the dictates of these anti-Christian forces: Netflix, Walgreens and Petco. We are not asking them to jump into the culture war on our side; we simply ask that they remain neutral.

(emphasis added)

I suggest starting a new charity, to be affiliated with the Christian Values Network CGBG: the Buy BillDo A Mirror And A Fucking Clue Foundation. BillDo and thousands of religious leaders like him live lives bereft of any smidgen of self-awareness or sense of irony, condemning in others that which they routinely advocate themselves. Please, won’t you think of the bigots?

(HT Ed Brayton.)

Fact-Checking the BillDo

Recently, BillDo farted the following onto the intertubes:

Moreover, Jenkins wrote that “Out of 100,000 priests active in the U.S. in this half-century, a cadre of just 149 individuals—one priest out of every 750—accounted for over a quarter of all allegations of clergy abuse.” In other words, almost all priests have never had anything to do with sexual molestation.

(italics in the original).

Just for comparison, the Wikipedia page for Crime in Detroit, Michigan, says that the murder rate there was 40.1 per 100,000 people in 2009.

Assuming that each murder was committed by a different person, this means that about one Detroiter out of every 2500 accounted for all of the murder in 2009. In other words, almost all Detroiters are not murderers.

So by BillDo’s reasoning, Detroit does not have a murder problem. Good to know. Presumably if I gave him a glass of water with only one part of arsenic in 750, he’d drink it.

Shooting the Message, Not the Messenger

Today, White House staff met with a group from the Secular Coalition for America, an association of disparate atheist and secular groups, to discuss policy (USA Today, by way of RichardDawkins.net. McClatchy article).

Apparently the meeting went pretty much as I expected: brief meeting with White House staff (but not the president), polite airing of views, no immediate effect on anything.

Of course, not everyone was happy with that. Christian NewsWire reports:

“It is one thing for Administration to meet with groups of varying viewpoints, but it is quite another for a senior official to sit down with activists representing some of the most hate-filled, anti-religious groups in the nation,” says In God We Trust’s Chairman Bishop Council Nedd.

“President Obama seems to believe that it is a good idea to have a key senior aide plan political strategy with people who believe faith in God is a disease,” Nedd says. “Some of the people in this coalition believe the world would be better off with no Christians and no Jews and they aren’t shy about it. The fact that this meeting is happening at all is an affront to the vast majority of people of all faiths who believe in God.”

According to the Freedom from Religion Foundation’s President Dan Barker, “Christianity is an enemy to humanity, and the antithesis of freedom.” (Dan Barker, Freedom from Religion Foundation Co-President in Losing Faith in Faith Page 255) and “Religion also poses a danger to mental health, damaging self-respect, personal responsibility, and clarity of thought.” (Losing Faith in Faith Page 217.)

“The President should tell the American people whether he believes these groups’ hate-filled views to be ‘mainstream’ and worthy of his supposedly inclusive administration,” Nedd says.

BillDo cranked up the Persecut-O-Tron and pounded out a predictable spittle-flecked screed:

[I]t is the business of the American people, most all of whom are believers, to know where the president and his administration stand with regards to their concerns. It is not likely that this outreach to anti-religious activists—many of whom would crush Christianity if they could—will do anything to calm the fears of people of faith.

Ooh, scary! Atheists are “hate-filled” and want to “crush Christianity”. They think “the world would be better off with no Christians”. The meeting is “an affront”. Kinda makes you want to lock up your daughters and barricade the windows, doesn’t it?

BillDo, in particular, doesn’t actually come out and say that the ravenous atheist hordes want to burn down your church and rape your pets. He’s just saying people have a right to know if that’s the case.

But look at what the atheists’ quoted or paraphrased words are: that “faith in God is a disease”; that “the world would be better off with no Christians and no Jews”.

What if I said that heroin addiction is a disease, and that the world would be better off if there were no heroin addicts. Who in their right mind would think that I want to go off on a junkie-killng spree?

A more apt comparison would be to homophobes who claim that homosexuality is a disease. I’d bet money that if you surveyed the people who believe that, that the vast majority of them would rather use some therapy to turn gays straight, than to execute them.

Dan Barker is quoted as saying that “Christianity is an enemy to humanity”. Christianity, not Christians. And that “Religion also poses a danger to mental health”. Again, religion, not religious people (except, obviously, insofar as religious people act on their beliefs). If religion is a disease, the obvious course of action is to cure it, not to kill the patient.

In An Anthropologist on Mars, Oliver Sacks writes of a patient with Tourette’s Syndrome:

[The patient says:] “Funny disease—I don’t think of it as a disease but as just me. I say the word `disease,’ but it doesn’t seem to be the appropriate word.”

It is difficult for Bennett, and is often difficult for Touretters, to see their Tourette’s as something external to themselves, because many of its tics and urges may be felt as intentional, as an integral part of the self, the personality, the will.

(An Anthropologist on Mars, ISBN 0-679-43785-1, LCC 94-26733, p. 102.)

It looks as though people like Nedd and BillDo have the same relationship with their religion: they can’t distinguish between killing the disease and killing the self. Either that, or they’re fear-mongers trying to stir up anti-atheist feeling.

How about a reality check? Atheism has been on the rise in the US for at least a decade. Millions of Americans don’t believe in any gods, and millions have read (or at least bought) the “new atheists”‘ bestsellers. How much anti-religious crime has there been? I’ll even tentatively spot you Jason Bourque and Daniel McAllister, at least until the facts of the matter, and whether they’re atheists and whether that played any role in their alleged crimes, come to light.

Equally importantly, try to find an atheist who defends them. Or those perennial favorites, Stalin and Pol Pot. In contrast, it’s much easier to find someone who defends or supports Scott Roeder’s murder of Dr. George Tiller. To say nothing of mass murderers like Moses and Joshua in the Bible.

The Dawkinses, the Dennetts, the Barkers and Gaylors, the Hitchenses, Harrises, and PZs just aren’t into bloodshed, rape, and arson, and neither are the people who listen to them. They pose no threat to religious people’s health, safety, or property. The worst they’re likely to do is to pen sharply-worded books and blog articles. Perhaps get legislation passed to curb the most egregious excesses of religious organizations. Very few of them have horns or eat babies.

If you’re so worried about these people that they shouldn’t even be allowed to meet with a White House staffer to try to have a say in how their country is run, you’re a loon. Get over it.

(Thanks to Attempts at Rational Behavior for pointers.)

BillDo on Sex Ed

Yesterday, BillDo blew a gasket over the use of the phrase “opposite-sex marriage” in the New York Times. Which is, I suppose, his function in the great circle of life.

But then he went on to say:

Here’s how it will play out in the classroom: kindergartners will be told that some adults choose same-sex marriage and some choose opposite-sex marriage. There is no moral difference—it’s just a matter of different strokes for different folks. Not mentioned, of course, will be that some male-on-male sex practices are dangerous.

This brings up some questions: how should one talk about dangerous “male-on-male sex practices” (by which I assume he means anal sex) in a manner that’ll make sense to 2- to 7-year-old children? Should teachers tell them about hetero anal sex at the same time, or wait until after nap time?

In Donohue’s mind, should children also be taught about other potentially dangerous sexual practices, such as autoerotic asphyxiation or BDSM?

Is there any conflict between this and his earlier advocacy of abstinence-only sex ed? Religious conservatives like Bill don’t generally strike me as the type of person who’d want to discuss hot man-on-man action in graphic detail with small children.

Why Blaspheme?

September 30 is Blasphemy Day. This has a lot of people upset, including Bill Dembski, and I’m sure we can count on BillDo to splutter something incoherent about it when he hears about it.

Which raises the question, why blaspheme?

For one thing, it’s fun, even if it’s not very noble: it’s pushing people’s buttons for the sake of watching them react.

Of course, it’s religious people’s own damn fault for being so easily manipulated. In Elbow Room: the Varieties of Free Will Worth Wanting, Daniel Dennett asks what free will is, and why we would want to have it in the first place. Part of the answer is that we don’t like being coerced or manipulated. When we talk about pushing someone’s buttons, we mean that that person can be manipulated into reacting a certain way to a given impulse, as reliably as pressing the on/off switch on a machine. We have power over that person. But we don’t like others having power over us, so we generally strive not to have buttons that can be pushed.

Albert Mohler writes:

How should Christians respond?

First, take no offense. Refuse to play into the game plan of those sponsoring International Blasphemy Day.

which is good advice.

However, there’s a better reason to blaspheme:

Because we can.

Blasphemy day is a celebration of freedom. In far too many places and times, it has been — and in many places, still is (I’m looking at you Ireland!) — illegal to express certain thoughts. If freedom of speech is a good thing because it gives us the right to criticize the rulers of the country we live in, how much better the freedom to criticize or even deny the guy who supposedly runs the universe we live in?

If you think about it, the very notion of blasphemy is bizarre: if the existence of a god were really as obviously true as many people believe, why would they take offense at someone who denies it? If I said “there’s no such place as Indonesia”, people might look at me funny, they might want to call for the nice men in white coats, but they wouldn’t be offended. Why would “there are no gods” be any different?

But the third reason for blaspheming is perhaps the best: because it helped me out of religion.

At some point when I was a kid, I noticed that you can say “God damn it!” or “Jesus fucking Christ!” without being zotted by lightning, and wondered why that was. I don’t remember what conclusion I came to at the time, but it was obvious that God wasn’t an omnipresent Stasi policeman, ready to punish any transgression as soon as it was committed. Perhaps I decided that God trusted his created creatures to figure out for ourselves what we should and shoudn’t do, and didn’t need to enforce his rules with a heavy hand. In any case, it meant that I could think about God without worrying that my thoughts would get me punished. And the rest is history.

The more people blaspheme, the more they demonstrate that it’s safe to think. And the more people think, the more superstitious dogmas they’ll discard, leaving only those ideas that can stand on their own merits.