Monday, May 02, 2005

Problems With Basing Anti-Same Sex Marriage Views on the Bible

A few days ago, in our daily paper, a visitor to our fair city expressed the opinion that as all Creation was designed by God, we're all God's creatures, even if we're lesbians or homosexuals. Then, an Austin-based columnist for the paper wrote that proposed legislation banning same sex foster parents was "misguided." Having experienced first hand the homophobia that is so rampant in Nueces City, I can only conclude that the place is crawling with closet homos and dykes. (Yes, I am a Freudian at least to the extent that I believe in his theory of projection, the putting off onto others those unwanted traits one cannot acknowledge in oneself). In any case, almost all op-ed items supporting lesbian and gay rights draw the fundamentalists and Bible thumpers out of the woodwork -- in droves.

One responded to the columnist's article by saying that the "reason" she was against homosexual marriages was that Genesis 2:23 reports that Adam created Eve from a bone, and "[t]herefore, shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh." In other words, as expressed in that old bumper sticker adage, "It says Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve." In the same epistle, the writer also quoted Leviticus 18-22 for the proposition that a man lying with a man is an abomination. The other letter writer made reference to exactly the same Biblical books, chapters, and verses, but he threw in his opinion that Lucifer was to blame and that the notion that nature rather than nurture produces homosexuality is "blasphemy."

Since I agree with Huxley that one should believe in nothing without evidence to support it, and that for the man of science, faith-based ideas like the existence of "God" are not only illogical but immoral, I considered writing a letter to the editor of my own, but the Nueces City Times is not in the habit of publishing the blatherings of curmudgeonly agnostics. Had I written to the paper, I would have pointed out the blatant fallacies of the two similar letters, beginning with the obvious fact that Creationism flies in the face of all geological, biological, and other scientific evidence showing that the "Miltonian" version of our origins is naive at best and nonsensical at worst. I certainly would have adumbrated the reasons why it is downright silly to cite the Old Testament book of Leviticus for much of anything.

Leviticus 18:22 is almost always pressed into service of the arguments against homosexuality by fundamentalist Christians, but it is hardly the only passage frequently cited. The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is similarly employed, although more learned Biblical scholars now believe that the actual "sin" of the Sodomites was their refusal of hospitality in an age when the Hebrews were nomadic and had to rely on the graciousness of urban folk for food, shelter, and even, where local custom allowed, the companionship of one's wife or daughter. I find it strange that Fundamentalist Christians read homosexuality into this passage in Genesis almost entirely because the "men" of Sodom surrounded Lot's house and asked him to send the Angels out "so that we might know them," assuming, as the Bible thumpers do, that the word, "know" is used in its Biblical sense, perhaps a palimpsest of the concordancers.

It is risky to "read into" the O.T. anything one wishes, not only because it was written in Greek, translated, retranslated, and translated again. Not only that, but the ancient form of Greek in which it originally appeared (as Robert Anton Wilson has deftly pointed out, may Discordia praise him!) was koine Greek. Koine Greek had no punctuation. Hence, the words, "God is now here" could just as easily have been "God is nowhere." Every day the Fundamentalists make fools of themselves just as surely as do Fundamentalist Muslims, who, for example, seem to be unawares that Arabic scholars differ as to the meaning of that passage in the Qur'an promising "seventeen virgins" as attendants to martyrs who enter Paradise. It seems that the word for virgin in 7th century Syriac was the same, or greatly similar, to the word for a rare and therefore prized white grape. Can you imagine the silly get who straps bombs to his chest, goes into an infidel establishment, and blows himself (and the crowd) to smithereens in order to ascend immediately to Heaven for 17 white grapes?

But that is the least of problems giving scripture literal meaning on a claim it is the Word of God. Not only can one find support for any proposition soever by resort to holy writ, one can remove pronouncements from their context and make a selective choice of quotable passages to the disregard of all else in the same book or even chapter. Why, for example, is it wrong for the Sodomites to "know" their own sex -- if in fact that is their "sin" -- when it is perfectly all right for Lot to impregnate both of his daughters upon their flight to Zoar? Is the message thus, it is all right to commit incest but a no-no to lie with your own sex? (It should be clear by now that if homosexuality was prohibited by God, it was only out of the perceived necessity of tribal survival, as is suggested by Genesis 19:31-32.

This same selective culling of prejudices greets us when we read the condemnations of lesbianism and homosexuality based upon Leviticus. As it is a catalogue of ancient Hebraic law, chock full of "thou shalts" and "thou shalt nots," and as almost all of the proscriptions against this or that refer to the practices as "abominations" and mete out the penalty of death, Fundamentalist Christians should consider the multitude of other sins set out therein. Would we stone a person to death for violent opposition to slavery when Leviticus 25:44 says that it is perfectly all right to own human beings so long as we purchase them from another country. (Exodus 21:7 even allows one to sell his own child into bondage.) If we dare touch a woman during her menstrual cycle, have we committed an abomination per Lev. 15:19-24. Working on Saturday (Sunday for Christians) is an abomination; should we stone our neighbor for mowing his lawn?

There are other ludicrous proscriptions such as the eating of shellfish (certainly akin to the prohibition against pork, which in Biblical times was bound to be laced with trichina). Should we stone persons with astigmatisms or other defects of sight just because Lev. 21:20 says so? What about Lev. 19:27's condemnation of trimming one's hair, especially that around the temples (a sanction still followed by orthodox Jews). Will God smite all football players for touching the skin of a dead hog? (Lev. 11:6-8.) How about farmers who dare to grow two different crops on the same parcel of land in defiance of Jehovah in Lev. 19:19. I think you get the picture.

Nowhere in the New Testament do we find Reb Yeshua saying anything at all about homosexuality. This fact is usually subjected to Fundamentalist spin in the form of one or two passages from the epistles of Paul, but we now know enough about him to safely conclude that Saul of Tarsus was a dedicated misogynist with latent homosexual tendencies. His attitude toward women, especially, is odd when it is considered that Reb Yeshua is said to have not only taken a prostitute under wing, but his first appearance upon supposed resurrection was before a female. Many wags have also wondered what this fellow was doing roaming around the Levant with twelve males accompanying him. Was there something more to the kiss of Judas than met the eye? Why was John called "the beloved Disciple" and "the one whom God loved best," &c. Some of the Gnostic (e.g. the Cainites) even believed that the "raising" of Lazarus referred not to resurrection after death but erection after detumescence.

No, no, it just won't do to rely upon Biblical authority to condemn homosexuality and claim that it is a choice and not a birthright. To quote a latter-day sect of Magdalenic votaries who organized in San Francisco in the 60's, calling themselves C.O.Y.O.T.E., come off your old tired ethics!

Sunday, May 01, 2005

How Do People Like This Get Elected?

That Republican Senator George Allen of Virginia keeps appearing on the pundit talk shows surely suggests he thinks he's presidential material, but it's difficult if not impossible to believe his party put him up to it, for surely the GOP can find someone who can think logically, understands English, and doesn't argue in circles. On Meet the Press, May Day, 2005, Allen, debating Sen. Dodd of Connecticut, found himself boxed into a corner vis-a-vis King George II's refusal to back down on privatization of Social Security. Asked by moderator Tim Russert if he could support sending an S.S. reform bill to the Prez that did not contain privitization, thus chancing a veto, Allen deadpanned: "I support what I'm for." Duh! One would certainly hope so! Now, who does this leave for nominations? Sen. Fist? Puleeeeeeze!

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Proof of God?

A dumbass Protestant preacher in the Georgia home of a missing bride-to-be says that he and his congregation prayed to Jesus to grant their collective wish that the woman was only missing because of premarital jitters, and God "answered our prayers." Seems that Jennifer Wilbanks, the missing woman, just couldn't cope with the thought of a big wedding, where 1,200 eyes would be checking her out, so she took off via bus and ended up in Albuquerque before relenting and informing authorities of a ruse she had concocted about her "kidnapping." Peace officers and search parties "turned over probably every leaf in the city" of Duluth. Imagine how silly they felt when Ms. Wilbanks turned up unharmed, announcing that she's mislead everyone and that she was OK.

I would like to be the first to suggest that Jennifer immediately dye her hair blonde and take all of her blouses and coats to a tailor, requesting that inflatable shoulder pads be sewn into the clothing so that she would not hurt herself when bobbing her head from side to side in answer to the simplest questions, saying, "I don't know!" The only person more clueless than Jennifer is the man who was to preside over her wedding, the aforementioned Protestant pastor. Apparently, he obtained his D.D. without studying logical fallacies since, in his pronouncement about prayer for Jennifer's survival, he resorted to one of the most common, and the one most often exposing weaknesses in the arguments for the existence of God.

It's called post hoc ergo propter hoc, which means "after this, therefore because of this." It's the error of assuming that just because Event B follows Event A, then Event B was caused by Event A. A wonderful illustration that comes to mind is that of the aboriginal tribe whose Emperor died following an eclipse of the sun. From then on, the tribe believed that when a solar eclipse occurred, their king would die, and when this prophecy failed to come through, the tribe decided to kill their king with each eclipse the better to please the gods. Same principle at work in the Duluth minister's thinking. That Jennifer turned up unharmed in Albuquerque explaining that she concocted her own kidnapping because she had cold feet over the impending wedding proves nothing so much as the gullibility of the preacher and his flock.

Interestingly, although she did not kill anyone and lie about how the victims met their unjust deserts, Ms. Wilbanks succumbed to a variation of the implied racist claims of a predecessor in stupidity, Susan Smith, who drove her two small sons into a lake, then claimed that the children were kidnapped by "a black man." Jennifer Wilbanks told authorities that one of her kidnappers was "a Hispanic male." If she wanted to invent a kidnapping, why did the perp have to be a Mexican-American? (Or Cuban-American, or Puerto Rican-American -- you get the idea.) Stupidity, blind faith, and racism have much in common.

You have to forgive me, I am reading Thomas Henry Huxley's essays on agnosticism and agreeing with them wholeheartedly. Huxley thought that religion is bunk. As the late Anton Szandor LaVey (or someone) said, "The only god there is is the one between your ears." Of course, in Jennifer's case, it could be argued that there is no god because there is obviously nothing between her ears.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Conciliatory Bush?

In a rare press conference April 28, 2005, King George II gave a short (10-minute) speech about overhauling Social Security and passing energy policy legislation, then opened the forum to questions from reporters. The only time he allowed the press to ruffle his feathers was when one Fourth Estatist asked whether use of a means test to determine eligibility for Social Security benefits would mean that Cheney would be eliminated; a somewhat testy Shrub snapped, "Hey, let's not get personal here, we're on network TV." Bush seemed in a somewhat conciliatory mood. For one thing, he didn't think that refusing to support a rules change to do away with the filibuster in imbroglios over judicial consent marked the refusenick as anti-Christian, a position bound to cost him support among the religious right.

On the other hand, he surprised the pundits when he announced, in questions concerning radical reform of Social Security, that privitization was anything but off the table. Those of us who assumed that provision for private accounts was nothing more than a conservative trial balloon, and since the barnstorming Prez had encountered such heavy opposition to the idea in all his travels across the land, meant certain death to the notion were surprised to say the least. The nod to means testing was even more unlike anything we could have expected since that proverbial one percent at the top holding something like 90 percent of the wealth would be the first to see their benefits forfeited for the public good.

But, as usual with George II dealings with the media, the most important ideas concocted by the administration were never addressed. It is no secret that the G.O.P. in general, and the far right wing conservative element in particular, has long dreamed of dismantling every last vestige of New Deal liberalism so that entitlements become a thing of the past, and money and land are tied up in the hands of a select few in perpetuity. Enter right wing fundamentalist Christians and such constitutional guarantees as separation of church and state and the separation of powers doctrine become imperiled as well.

It is also no secret that these same forces have on their agenda abolition of the United Nations. Although George II professed admiration for the organization during the press conference, he showed total disregard for it during the period before the invasion of Iraq, when he took the position that the U.S. should act unilaterally when its interests were at stake -- despite the fact that Saddam posed less a problem for us than either Iran or North Korea; despite the fact that the U.N. had ongoing monitoring for WMD; despite the fact that no American blood would have been spilled had a diplomatic solution been found. Shrub is no friend of the U.N. If he were, he would not have put up the current nominee for ambassador, an ideologue and toady with a volcanic temper and penchant for belittling underlings.

When history writes its accounts of the administration of Shrub, it will note that his administration was characterized by secrecy, obfuscation, and outright lying to advance its Neo-Con agenda. Doing away with Social Security and the U.N. are at the top of the list.

(This blog was about three times as long as this, but it's my first effort and, somehow, I managed to delete a good portion of it.)