Archive for the 'Against Theocracy' Category

Preliminary response to Michael Cuneo on exorcism

February 12, 2011

I recently ordered a copy of American Exorcism: Expelling Demons in the Land of Plenty by Michael Cuneo, who teaches anthropology and sociology at Fordham University in the Bronx, here in New York City. According to various reviews (listed near the bottom of this post), Cuneo’s book is an in-depth study, from an open-mindedly skeptical point of view, of exorcism as practiced by both Catholics and Protestants here in the U.S.A.

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Christine O’Donnell and her alleged “little midnight picnic on a satanic altar”

September 19, 2010

In response to Bill Maher’s re-playing, on Friday, of Christine O’Donnell’s claim to have “dabbled into witchcraft” and “had a little midnight picnic on a satanic altar” (as reported by New York Magazine, ABC News, the Washington Post, and Think Progress, among other sources), some Pagans have defensively insisted that she must have dabbled in Satanism and not witchcraft/Wicca, and that the alleged “witch” whom she dated must have been a Satanist and not a Wiccan.

In fact, neither a serious practicing Wiccan nor a serious practicing Satanist is likely to have a picnic on one’s altar.

A more sober Pagan response is Speculations on Christine O’Donnell and Witchcraft by Gus diZerega, Saturday September 18, 2010. He even admits the possibility that she might have dated one of the “creeps infesting the Pagan community” who “used his alleged ‘magickal powers’ to try and impress simple-minded women attracted by power that he was hot stuff.” Of course, as Gus diZerega correctly points out, such “creeps” are not representative of the Pagan community.

Anyhow, to put Christine O’Donnell’s claim into perspective, we should note her tendency to confuse Satanism with not only Wicca but also rock fan culture.

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Christian supremacists in the U.S. military

July 17, 2010

An aspect of the Christian religious right wing that is a serious longterm danger to everyone in the entire world is the illegal, unconstitutional activities of Christian supremacists in the U.S. armed forces.

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More about the controversy over the Khalil Gibran International Academy (KGIA)

May 31, 2008

My post The “Stop the Madrassa” Coalition and its campaign against the Khalil Gibran International Academy has been quoted on the FrontPage magazine site in an article titled Fantasizing “The New McCarthyism” by Phil Orenstein, FrontPageMagazine.com, Friday, May 23, 2008.

Islamism (the totalitarian ideology) does pose a real threat. But it’s a threat that needs to be addressed with surgical precision, not blind hysteria.

Alas, Phil Orenstein’s article comes across to me as hysteria-mongering: a flood of accusations against various people, combined with a blatantly fallacious dismissal of the civil rights concerns of Muslims. But his article has inspired me to research several topics more deeply this past week, including hate crime statistics and the recent history of bigotry against both Jews and Muslims.

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Satanisms and politics: To Julian Karswell

May 17, 2008

On my Theistic Satanism blog on Google/Blogspot, I posted a brief response to Julian Karswell’s “Opus Diaboli” website. I’ll now post some commentary about his blog, which I’ll do here on WordPress.com, to take advantage of the “trackback” feature.

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To atheists: A secularist alliance is needed

May 4, 2008

These days, too many public atheists come across as even more hostile toward liberals and religious moderates than toward fundamentalists. This is unfortunate, because, in my opinion, atheists and religious liberals and moderates need to stand together against the worldwide trend toward theocracy.

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The “Stop the Madrassa” Coalition and its campaign against the Khalil Gibran International Academy

April 29, 2008

When I first ran into the “Stop the Madrassa” Coalition’s blog last week, I was inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt that they may have had a valid church-state separation issue regarding the Khalil Gibran International Academy (KGIA). I do think it’s important to uphold separation of church (mosque) and state.

However, the more I’ve looked into this matter, the more it seems to me that the “Stop the Madrassa” Coalition is crying wolf. Their one valid complaint is the Board of Education’s unwillingness to provide complete information about the curriculum to the general public. On this matter, their arch-scapegoat, the Khalil Gibran school’s founder and former principal Debbie Almontaser, agrees with them, as I learned last night. She too wishes that the Board of Education and the school’s current administration would be more transparent, to allay public fears.

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More about the fine line between opposing Islamism and promoting bigotry against Muslims

April 29, 2008

I finally got a response on the “Creeping Sharia” blog. (See my earlier post More about Islamism and bigotry against Muslims.) Below is my reply.

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More about Islamism and bigotry against Muslims

April 25, 2008

New Yorkers Against Religion-Based Bigotry will oppose both Islamism (the political ideology of Sharia supremacy) and bigotry against Muslims, as stated here (as well as opposing bigotry against people of various other religions too).

As I now envision our activism, it will include, among other things, both (1) participating in political actions against torture and in favor of indicting Bush, Cheney, et al for war crimes, and (2) attempts to reason with anti-Muslim bigots, who often seem to be motivated by valid concerns about Islamism.

In trying to reason with anti-Muslim bigots, I’m inclined to argue from a pragmatic point of view, rather than an abstract moral point of view. Specifically, I think a good approach might be to empathize with their concerns about Islamism (which I share) and point out that there are many Muslim reformers and Muslim moderates who are not just different from Islamists but also our natural allies against Islamism and against the more repressive and retrograde forms of Islam.
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Islamism vs. Muslim reformers and moderates: Response to “The Apostate”

April 25, 2008

I’ve been having a very interesting discussion with “The Apostate,” who is “a Pakistani woman, raised as a Muslim in Saudi Arabia, and an atheist since the age of 17,” now 25 and living in San Francisco.

In a post of hers titled Why I Criticize Islam and Muslims, she wrote:

Nevertheless, I don’t wish to ‘demonize’ Muslims, nor to paint a monochromatic picture of them. There are Muslims who have commented on this blog who represent a kinder gentler Islam. I know they exist – I also know they are, at this point in time, few and far between. I can also differentiate between truly enlightened Muslims and those who are primitive in their religious interpretations but who have good hearts.

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Gay repentant hawks on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

April 24, 2008

Back in 2001, shortly after 9/11, I remember seeing rhetoric about how the U.S invasion of Afghanistan was going to liberate Afghanistan’s women. Various “gay conservatives” claimed that a U.S. invasion would be good for Afghanistan’s gays, too. Likewise, various gay neocons thought the U.S. military was going to bring human rights to Iraq as well.

Some have belatedly changed their minds, at least about Iraq.
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More about Islam & Islamism: Response to “Islamoscope”

April 23, 2008

After publishing my previous post, I clicked on the “Islamism” tag to see what other folks were saying on that topic here on WordPress.com. One of the blogs I came across was Islamoscope, whose About page says:

We believe that by creating awareness of the radical element of Islam both moderate Muslims and non-Muslims from all religious and ethnic persuasions can ensure we can still enjoy the freedoms created in the West free from radical persecution.

I agree so far.
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Islam and religion-based bigotry

April 23, 2008

New Yorkers Against Religion-Based Bigotry will need to tread a very delicate balance as far as Islam is concerned.

On the one hand, the Muslim world seems to be dominated, to a large and very scary degree, by extremely intolerant Islamist factions. We need to take a stand against Islamist persecution of “apostates,” persecution of gays, etc. (Among other things, this means we should expose the history of U.S. government support for Islamist militants – continuing even after 9/11/2001!)

On the other hand, Muslims in general, including the more moderate and reformist Muslims, have themselves been the target of a lot of bigotry here in the U.S.A. We need to oppose that, too. We also need to oppose the egregious human rights violations, e.g. torture, that have been justified in the name of opposing Islamist terrorism.
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Jerry Falwell has died, but the religious right wing hasn’t – far from it

May 18, 2007

After posting my recent blog entries on same-sex marriage and religious right wing groups here in New York, I clicked on the tags “gay rights” and “same-sex marriage” to see what, if anything, other people on WordPress.com were writing about these topics. Among other things, I came across a few different blogs in which there was some agonizing over whether it was okay to feel good about the death of Jerry Falwell.

I agree with those who say it’s fine to feel good about the death of someone who has caused so much misery for so many people, especially if you yourself happen to be one of those people.

But I do think we should refrain from expressing any such happy feelings in a truly tasteless manner, such as by picketing Falwell’s funeral a la Fred Phelps and his clan.

Guess what? The Phelps clan will be picketing Falwell’s funeral, or so says this news story on 365Gay.com. Apparently Falwell wasn’t homophobic enough for Fred Phelps, who, according to the 354Gay.com article, complains that Falwell “spent his entire life prophesying lies and false doctrines like ‘God loves everyone.'” (P.S.: I’ve subsequently confirned this story. The front page of the Phelps clan’s website God Hates America now proclaims their intent to “preach” at Falwell’s funeral.)

Anyhow, I also suspect that some folks may be rejoicing out of a mistaken belief that the death of Falwell was a crippling blow to the religious right wing. That it most definitiely wasn’t. Although he was a kingmaker in the early 1980’s, Falwell has not played nearly as significant role in the religious right wing since then. His “Moral Majority” was soon eclipsed by Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition as the leading religious right wing organization. More recently, the most powerful leader of the religious right wing now seems to be James Dobson.

Anti-gay right wing groups here in New York State

May 16, 2007

In my previous post, I mentioned a brief news story about the Coalition to Save Marriage in New York. I just now found that group’s website here. Their links page provides a handy list of major right wing groups here in New York State.

Of course, as I hope will be obvious to nearly everyone who would bother to read my blog, the Coalition’s name is just plain idiotic. Exactly how is the legalization of same-sex marriage going to destroy or in any way harm heterosexual marriages???

Anne F. Downey, co-chairwoman of the Coalition to Save Marriage in New York, is a lawyer practicing in the Town of Boston, according to the brief bio following an op-ed by her in the Buffalow News.

According to a page on the Albany Times-Union site:

The group’s steering committee includes the Rev. Duane Motley of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, a frequent face at the Capitol on hot-button issues. Among the advisors is Mike Long, the state Conservative Party chairman. Signing on to a position statement opposing same-sex marriage were such groups as the New York Christian Coalition and New York Family Policy Council.

The Times-Union site also has a PDF copy of a press release by the Coalition to Save Marriage in New York.

The coalition’s site’s links page lists the following:

  • New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms (NYCF) – “The Christian Voice in Albany,” run by Rev. Duane Motley, who claims to be “New York State’s only full time Christian Lobbyist. Lobbying on Religious, Family and Moral issues.” Well, nice to know there’s only one, if indeed that’s the case.
  • Concerned Women for America of New York (CWA of NY) – local chapter of one of the older national religious right wing organizations. The national organization is run by Beverly LaHaye, wife of Tim LaHaye, author of the “Left Behind” series and one of the leading members of Jerry Falwell’s “Moral Majority” back in the 1970’s.
  • New York Family Policy Council – an evangelical Christian-oriented group. Judging by its name, I would have expected this to be an affiliate of James Dobson’s empire, but I find no reference to Dobson or his organizations in any conspicuous part of the site such as the About page. Lots of very scary rhetoric about Christians “occupying” the rest of society.
  • New York State Christian Coalition. Judging by its name, this would seem to be a local branch of Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition, though the website doesn’t say so, at least not on any page I’ve looked at so far.
  • The Association of Politically Active Christians (APAC) – run by some evangelical Christians.
  • Caucus for America, run by Rabbi Aryeh Spero.
  • New York State Catholic Conference – this site appears to be entirely in Chinese (or some closely related Asian language), at least on the browser where I am working now. I’ll see later if it still is on my computer at home. Seems strange that a New York “Catholic Conference” website would be in Chinese; I didn’t know that there were that many Chinese-American Catholics.
  • The Conservative Party of New York State – site contains a link to What Is Conservativism?, an interesting collection of articles about the Conservative movement in the U.S.A., on the website of the American Conservative Union Foundation
  • .

Same-sex marriage here in New York State

May 16, 2007

This post is a little belated, because it has been at least a few weeks since the last time I paid close attention to the same-sex marriage issue here in New York. But it appears that New York State’s governor Eliot Spitzer has indeed fulfilled his promise to draft and propose a same-sex marriage bill. Here are some relevant news stories:

  • “Spitzer Files Gay Marriage Bill,” April 27, 2007 – 10:00 am ET, 365Gay.com
  • “Spitzer unveils gay marriage bill; Senate leader balks,” by Marc Humbert, Associated Press, April 27, 2007, 3:08 PM EDT, New York Newsday
  • “Spitzer Offers Gay Marriage Bill Today” by Paul Schindler, Friday, April 27, 2007, Gay City News
  • “New York governor proposes legalizing gay marriage,” By Holly McKenna, April 27, 2007, Reuters, Boston Globe

Good for him. More recently the governer sent out a memo reaffirming his support for same-sex marriage:

The following commentary claims that Spitzer could more easily just issue an executive order legalizing same-sex marriage, without needing to go through the legislature:

  • “Governor Eliot Spitzer’s Same-Sex Marriage Hoax'” by Kimberly Wilder & Ian Wilder, OpEdNews.com

But, in 2006, there was a court decision that the issue of same-sex marriage had to be decided by the legislature.

In any case, Spitzer has issued an executive order requiring the state insurance department to recognize same-sex marriages from out-of-state jurisdictions:

  • “Same-Sex Spouse ‘Open Enrollment’,” by Andy Humm, 05/10/2007, Gay City News
  • “NY Gay Couples Married In Mass. Have Weddings Validated,” May 16, 2007 – 11:00 am ET, 365Gay.com

Here’s an article about a coalition of local conservative groups opposing the same-sex marriage bill:

  • “New York Coalition Opposes Same-Sex Marriage Bill: New Yorkers resisting governor’s proposed bill,” May 14, 2007, EURweb.com

But the member groups in that coalition are not named in the above article. I guess I’ll have to try to dig up that info later.

Below is a summary of the summary of the situation in various states across the U.S.A.:

  • “Civil Unions & Same-Sex Marriage State By State,” May 10, 2007 1:27 pm US/Central, CBS2Chicagolcom

The Catholic Church’s troubles in Brazil

May 9, 2007

I just now came across the following:

This article said some things I expected, such as the following:

Latin America is still predominantly Catholic, but not like it used to be. In Brazil, for example, as evangelical Pentecostalism has spread, the country’s population has gone from being 89 percent Catholic in 1980 to about 64 percent today, according to a survey released this week by the Brazilian polling firm DataFolha.

But there were also some surprises (to me, anyway). In particular:

Young people have shown a greater reluctance to join the clergy, resulting in a priest shortage that is 10 times more severe regionwide than it is in North America or Europe.

“There is a trend here — even among priests — that people should be more free to follow their own conscience, and there’s a growing distance between most Catholics and the church’s hierarchy,” said the Rev. Luiz Roberto Benedetti, a Catholic priest who is a professor of social science at the Catholic University of Campinas, near Sao Paulo. “It’s a trend that goes in the complete opposite direction of the message that the pope wants to send.”

Very interesting, and quite contrary to Philip Jenkins’s characterization of the Catholicism of the southern hemisphere, in general, as a hotbed of Catholic traditionalism and love of hierarchy. (See The Next Christianity by Philip Jenkins, originally published in The Atlantic, Volume 290, No. 3, October, 2002, about the recent explosive growth of the more fanatical forms of Christianity in non-Western countries.)

I would be interested to hear from anyone who can give me solidly sourced information about religious trends in Latin America.

(For more about religious trends in general, see the many articles listed on my page about The growing number of Christians of kinds which inherently fear demons, Satanists, witches, occultists, Pagans, and atheists.)

Welcome, Theistic Satanists (and others)

April 29, 2007

Hi everyone! I’d like to experiment with the idea of using WordPress categories/tags to create a de facto unmoderated forum, as a possible replacement for my Theistic Satanism forums on Yahoo, in the event that I decide to phase out the latter.

For every tag, WordPress.com has a page of all the recent posts on WordPress.com with that tag. So, if a bunch of us regularly use a sufficiently rare tag, that page becomes a defacto forum for all relevant posts by us here on WordPress.com.

Publishing this post with the tag “theistic Satanism” will enable me to find the page for the tag “theistic Satanism.” I’ll then add a comment with a link to that page.

To put a tag on a post the first time, type the tag in the text field under the heading “Categories,” next to the “Add” button, at the top of the side panel of the page where you write a new post, and then click the “Add” button before you publish the post. To add the same tag again to a subsequent post, check the checkbox for that category/tag.

As we can do with the tag “Theistic Satanism,” so some of us can also do with the tags “Black Goat Cabal” and “Church of Azazel.”

To try out another neat feature, let’s experiment with trackback pings. In your post, put a link to this post. (Note: That’s a link to this individual post, NOT to the page for the tag, or to my home page.) Soon afterward, a link back to your post will automatically appear as a comment on my post.