And here I always thought lying was supposed to be a sin.

Pic of Marc Mutty

What's a little dishonesty in the service of God? It's not like God never lied to anyone, right?

Silly me. I was dumb enough to think that Christians actually believed in that Ten Commandments thing they’re always promoting as the Ultimate Guide to Morality that deserves to be emblazoned in court rooms and classrooms everywhere. Much like the fabled “Pirates Code”, it appears they may actually be more guidelines than actual rules. At least when it’s politically expedient.

That’s the lesson I’m picking up on in this news article about a documentary called Question One about the vote to ban gay marriage in Maine back in 2009. It seems the folks making the documentary got permission from both groups that were campaigning for and against the proposal to allow their efforts in pushing their positions to be filmed so long as the film wasn’t released until after the election.  Probably a wise stipulation given the following revelation that was made by Yes on 1 campaign chairman Marc Mutty:

We use a lot of hyperbole and I think that’s always dangerous,” says Mutty during a Yes on 1 strategy session, at the time on leave from his job as public affairs director for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Maine.

“You know, we say things like ‘Teachers will be forced to (teach same-sex marriage in schools)!’ ” he continues. “Well, that’s not a completely accurate statement and we all know it isn’t, you know?”

“No,” interjects a woman off-camera. “We don’t say that.”

“Let’s look back at our ads and see what we say,” Mutty persists. “And I think we use hyperbole to the point where, you know, it’s like ‘Geez!’”

In the interests of giving credit where its due, I should point out that Mutty was at least ethical enough to voice concerns over statements in their advertising that were flat-out lies. It’s just a shame his ethics didn’t compel him to actually do more than voice his concerns:

Mutty admitted that what they were doing was the equivalent of slamming people over the head with “a two-by-four with nails sticking out of it,” adding,  “it’s the only thing we’ve got — it’s the only way. That’s the way campaigns work.

In short, we had to lie because we couldn’t pass the legislation if we told the truth. But hey, such moral relativism is easy when you have an all-loving God who’ll forgive you so long as you sincerely repent. I’m sure the Big Guy will understand that this legislation to deny others equal rights was just too important to allow a little thing like honesty to get in the way.

Which isn’t to say that his lack of ethics won’t have some consequences:

Mutty now regrets allowing the filming, worrying that “what impact it will have on my professional life remains to be seen.”

You’ll note that Mutty doesn’t regret the lie. He regrets letting himself be filmed acknowledging the lie. Because it may have an impact — not on his mortal soul mind you — but with his professional life here and now.

But at least those nasty gays won’t be allowed to get all the benefits of being married. That’s something to be proud of, right?

Hat tip to the Box Turtle Bulletin.

Frequent church goers more likely to approve of torture.

So much for religion providing the moral high ground:

WASHINGTON (CNN) —The more often Americans go to church, the more likely they are to support the torture of suspected terrorists, according to a new survey.

More than half of people who attend services at least once a week—54 percent—said the use of torture against suspected terrorists is “often” or “sometimes” justified. Only 42 percent of people who “seldom or never” go to services agreed, according to the analysis released Wednesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

I’m not happy that 42 percent of “seldom to never” respondents also think it’s often or sometimes justified, but at least it’s not a majority.

Which group do you think most approves of torture? Com’on, it’s easy!

White evangelical Protestants were the religious group most likely to say torture is often or sometimes justified—more than six in 10 supported it. People unaffiliated with any religious organization were least likely to back it. Only four in 10 of them did.

Consider that for a moment: Evangelicals, a group which often lays claim to being morally superior to all others, are the most likely to support torture whereas people unaffiliated with any religious organization, the so-called Godless heathens, are the least likely.

Doesn’t surprise me at all. These people worship a God that sees nothing wrong with tossing people into a pit of everlasting fire to be tortured for all eternity. Why should they be bothered by a little torture here on Earth? At least here there’s some glimmer of hope it’ll end for the poor bastards experiencing it. If it’s good enough for God then it’s good enough for America!

 

Megachurch pastor caught soliciting sex with a minor.

Yet another Medgachurch leader has taken the phrase “get ‘em while they’re young” a bit too literally:

BRYAN, Texas (May 17) – A minister from a Dallas-area Baptist megachurch was caught in an Internet sex sting and charged with online solicitation of a minor, police said Friday.

Undercover officers posing as a 13-year-old girl communicated with Joe Barron, 52, of Plano for about two weeks. The online conversations were sexual in nature, police said.

On May 6, Barron suggested meeting the girl in person. He eventually made the nearly 200-mile drive to Bryan on Thursday, when he was arrested. Police said they found a web-cam and condoms in his car.

Whenever someone tells me that absent a belief in God I have no basis for my morality I always have to wonder why it is that so many of those who do have said belief are so lacking in morality themselves.

United States is number 1 in the world for locking up her own citizens.

Am I the only person who finds this particularly disheartening?

US: Record Numbers for World’s Leading Jailer

Statistics released today by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), a branch of the US Department of Justice, show that at the end of 2006, more than 2.25 million persons were incarcerated in US prisons and jails, an all-time high. This number represents an incarceration rate of 751 per 100,000 US residents, the highest such rate in the world. By contrast, the United Kingdom’s incarceration rate is 148 per 100,000 residents; the rate in Canada is 107; and in France it is 85. The US rate is also substantially higher than that of Libya (217 per 100,000), Iran (212), and China (119). 

“These figures confirm an unenviable record: the United States is the world’s leading prison nation,” said David Fathi, director of the US program at Human Rights Watch. “Americans should ask why the US locks up so many more of its citizens than do Canada, Britain, and other democratic countries. The US is even ahead of governments like China that use prisons as a political tool.” 

The US prison population has increased approximately 500 percent in the last 30 years, and continues to grow. The 2006 increase was the largest one-year jump in the last six years. The per capita incarceration rate has also increased steadily, from 684 per 100,000 residents in 2000 to 751 per 100,000 in 2006. 

The new BJS figures also show sharp racial disparities in US incarceration rates, with black men incarcerated at a rate 6.2 times higher than white men. Nearly 8 percent of all black men ages 30 to 34 in the United States were incarcerated as sentenced prisoners at the end of 2006.

“Land of the Free” my ass. There’s a certain irony when one stops to consider that America is also one of the most religious countries in the world. Christians often argue that being a Christian promotes morality and better living so you’d think that would lead to fewer people in prison, but that’s not the case and I know most of those people sitting in jail cells aren’t atheists. Not to suggest that being a Christian makes you more immoral, but it certainly doesn’t seem to help all that much.

Christian neighbors decide to vandalize atheist’s cactus plants…

Because, you know, that’s what Jesus would do, right? A snippet from Kazim’s Korner on the incident:

So I rang the bell and greeted them in as friendly a manner as possible, all smiles. I reintroduced myself to the woman and asked if she perhaps knew anything about the chopped plant. Despite giving me a fairly frosty reception, she invited me in and called her husband down. I had a seat on their couch, they took positions opposite me, and the husband had his arms folded the whole time and a very sullen scowl on his face.

Yes, he cut down the agave. I received a lecture on how dangerous it is to the neighborhood kids, and all sorts of gruesome scenarios about eyes being poked out. But what struck Ginny and me as weird later was when we realized that they hadn’t cut any of the spines facing the sidewalk—only the side on the street. (Again, see the picture.)

They then went on to lecture me about the general awful nature of our yard. Now, our yard may not be the most beautiful and well-kept in the neighborhood, but it is mowed regularly and there are quite a few houses that look worse than ours. I’m not a gardener myself, and I’m really busy with school, but I think Ginny does a reasonable job with it.

I took all this politely and said I understood their concerns, and is there anything else? Then we got into the bumper stickers. The wife said several times that they “make her sick” and she is very angry that we disrespect her religion. That she could never be friends with someone who doesn’t “share her values.” That she is firmly set in her beliefs and would never change them.

I said I don’t want or expect her to change her beliefs, I have never asked her to. I don’t proselytize to people who haven’t approached me about the subject. And while I sympathized with her feelings, the very fact that she is willing to announce that the bumper stickers sicken her is unfortunately one of the chief reasons why we feel the need to express ourselves in this way. That Christians—not you, I stated—feel that it’s acceptable to go door-to-door inviting people to their religion, and that we are expected to keep quiet about our opinions because they are supposedly offensive. We are sad that you view our bumper stickers that way, but we see it as a small but legitimate exercise of our free speech.

His wife has her take on the story as well:

t wasn’t an act of kindness or neighborly caring that drove this man to mutilate my poor agave, it was an act of a bigot who holds nothing but disdain for us because we believe differently from him. He is a Christian(the kind that gives Christianity a bad name) and we are atheists. In his mind he has all the justification he needs to break the law by not only trespassing, but to vandalize as well, because we don’t matter as far as he is concerned. He views us as the lowest of the low and we don’t deserve to be treated with respect.

For the record the cops were called, but they decided not to press charges against the neighbors or even have the cop give them a warning. While it’s commendable that they decided to turn the other cheek, so to speak, I can’t help but wonder if the fact that they weren’t at least reproached by the officer will be taken as a sign that they are free to vandalize again in the future. I suppose the police at least have it on record now in case the neighbors decide to practice their particular variation of Christian morality again in the future.

Links found via The Friendly Atheist.

Examining the fictional morality of “Star Wars.”

I have to admit that I really didn’t care much for the Star Wars prequels and I thought it was because of idiotic plot devices such as the “midichlorians” and JarJar Binks, but perhaps the reason I didn’t like them was more involved than that. Perhaps I didn’t like them because the morality they present just plain old sucks. And not just in the prequels, but in the original movies as well.

I came to realize this after reading Fictional Morality: Star Wars over at Action Skeptics which turns a critical eye on the “Jedi Code” and explains why it’s one of the worst moral systems ever imagined:

Even bigger problems arise when we look at the Star Wars universe as context. The biggest implication of this part of the Jedi Code is that Jedi are urged to be completely emotionless. On one hand, this allows them (potentially) to deliver impartial judgements. On the other, it denies them things that might well make them better people, put them more “at peace,” so to speak. Anakin Skywalker could have had a perfectly fine marriage were it not for this code. Instead, he hid his marriage and was wracked with (poorly acted) anxiety over his breach of the code. Were this tenet absent, he would have had emotion and peace. Instead he had emotion and emotional turmoil because he was breaking Jedi dogma.

This tenet is also inherently cruel given the structure of Jedi training. The Padawan learner inevitably builds a strong emotional bond with his teacher, all the while being told that such emotion is immoral and wrong. We have problems from the outset. It is almost reminiscent of the oft-told story about various militaries through time: the troops are each given a puppy and told to love it and take care of it, then once they have bonded with it are instructed to kill their puppies. The Padawans are thrown into a situation where emotion is inevitable but are led to believe that such emotion is wrong and should be eliminated.

I hadn’t really sat down to think about it, but seeing it spelled out by Akusai in this essay really brings home one what is arguably the most irritating thing about the whole Star Wars universe. Namely that its system of morality sucks and results in some pretty piss-poor storytelling as a result. In the original trilogy the Jedi mythology was kept murky enough that you could overlook it, but we become much more familiar with the Jedi in the prequels and it’s then that the problems with the morality become more pronounced. Why it never occurred to me prior to reading Akusai’s excellent essay about it is puzzling. It’s a good read and you should check out the full essay. Next up is the morality of Dungeons and Dragons and I can’t wait.