December 7, 2007
We were, of course, never at war with Eastasia.
July 19, 2007
More good news for advocates of abstinence programs: a five-year study cited by the New York Times found that 49% of teenagers who had, er, benefited from abstinence education had never had sex—while 55% hadn’t had sex in the past year. Sadly, the equivalent statistics for teenagers who hadn’t had abstinence education were 49% and 56%—and the study also found no difference in the age at which each group first had sex. Although there was the odd outlier:
Through a combination of less sex and more contraception, pregnancy and birth rates among American teenagers as a whole have been falling since about 1991. Texas, however, has seen the smallest decline despite receiving almost $17 million in the name of virginity.
Small wonder that many states are reconsidering the millions of taxpayer dollars they have squandered on the religious right’s sex-obsessed agenda. The Times reports that 11 state health departments rejected abstinence education so far this year, while legislatures in Colorado, Iowa and Washington have passed laws that could take it out of public schools for good.
July 14, 2007
How to spot the one true church
If there’s anything Christians truly want to believe, it’s that their hard-earned dollars will miraculously do the loaves-to-fishes thing. Enter British con artist Howard Welsh and his wonderfully named American girlfriend, Lee Hope Thrasher, who managed to take American Christians for more than $30 million.
And yet still they believe:
One investor of £60,000 [$120,000], Greg del Ferro, told the local newspaper, even as the trial was underway last July, that he still did not believe it was a con.
“It was about helping other people. That’s what Lee Hope and Howard were stressing. By all means they made mistakes, but they are not the types to deceive or take advantage,” he said. Mr Del Ferro wondered whether the pair may have had problems after inviting the “wrong people” to invest.
Sounds to me like they invited all the right people.
July 8, 2007
The creator of “creation care”
If you were wondering when the religious right would jump on the global-warming bandwagon, meet Joel Hunter, one of America’s “New Guard” evangelicals:
Until recently, the national evangelical leadership included those who denied the scientific consensus that global warming exists. They rejected the notion that climate change is primarily a result of human activity and feared that significant remedies would cost too many jobs.
Hunter and his allies reject these notions and have adopted the term “Creation Care” as an evangelical euphemism for environmentalism. “We’re approaching it with a biblical agenda rather than a political agenda,” he said. “The church should be about replenishing as much as repenting.”
This should have been obvious, said the Rev. Fred Morris, former executive director of the Florida Council of Churches, who has long urged Hunter to become involved in environ-
“Anyone who professes to believe in a Creator God has a moral and spiritual obligation to care for and defend God’s Creation,” Morris said. “I think he is going to get into hotter and hotter water with his evangelical colleagues, but he is willing to do that, because he knows it is a crucial issue.”
Plus Hunter knows that with a Democrat in the White House, the deranged Dobson/
Robertson axis will lose its grip on power faster than California is burning up—and he wants to fill that vacuum.
July 7, 2007
Regula Sancti Benedicti
Pope Benedict turns back the Vatican clock another century. Pissing off everyone from liberal Catholics to Jews (“a body blow to Catholic-Jewish relations”) in the process.
July 4, 2007
Happy Independence Day
But only if you’re a God-fearing, bible-thumping Christian—because, as we all know, today is primarily a religious holiday. At least, according to a full-page ad in today’s New York Times it is (click here or on image to see in its full PDF glory). And the ad quotes former presidents, the founding fathers, supreme court justices and rulings, Congress, education (?) and—God forbid—foreigners to make the case that the US of A is just the most goddamn Christian country in the known universe.
As the ad says: Blessed is the nation whose GOD is the LORD.
Except of course that it isn’t, and ads like these will hopefully drive even more cash into the pockets of Democratic presidential hopefuls.
And away from the wingnut businesses that sponsored the ad: Hobby Lobby Creative Centers, Hemispheres, Mardel Stores, and all their sad little affiliates.
July 1, 2007
Department of fish, guns and barrels
Michael Behe represents all that is entertaining about creationist pseudo-intel-
lectuals. Even his own faculty, Lehigh University’s Department of Biological Sciences, disowns him, noting on its Web site that Behe is the “sole dissenter” from its “unequivocal” support of evolutionary theory, and adding that “While we respect Prof. Behe’s right to express his views, they are his alone and are in no way endorsed by the department. It is our collective position that intelligent design has no basis in science, has not been tested experimentally, and should not be regarded as scientific.” (Odd, then, that Lehigh continues to employ him.)
Still, no harm in giving Behe another kick, which the New York Times has done by getting Richard Dawkins to review his new book. And Dawkins doesn’t disappoint: “Trapped along a false path of his own rather unintelligent design, Behe has left himself no escape. Poster boy of creationists everywhere, he has cut himself adrift from the world of real science.”
Tell us what you really think, Richard.
June 28, 2007
Although I’ve written about the activities of the Exclusive Brethren sect in Australia and New Zealand, I hadn’t realized how well-established it is in Britain, too. There, as in Australia and New Zealand, the sect is targeting kids: the Brethren’s Focus Learning Trust already runs 37 private schools, and is now angling to back one of Tony Blair’s flagship city academies.
Britain’s clueless minister for schools, Lord Adonis*—who before his baffling enoblement was plain Andrew Adonis, an equally clueless newspaper reporter—has made it clear that he won’t rule out such a move. Which is hardly surprising, given his embrace of creationists and other religious nuts. And Ofsted, Britain’s alleged schools watchdog, just loves Focus Learning. As the Telegraph notes, in 2005 Ofsted praised the trust for providing “good support to its schools” and a “generally good” quality of teaching. In a country where “teaching standards” is an oxymoron, that’s high praise.
But then again, perhaps they wouldn’t.
[*Adonis may yet lose his job as a result of Gordon Brown’s Cabinet reshuffle, so there is hope.]
June 25, 2007
Pilgrims’ (lack of) progress
And in more news from the 12th century, Todd Johnson, director of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts, estimates that 7% of the world’s Christians—around 150 million people—are “on the move as pilgrims” each year. Add the 80-100 million Hindus, Jews and Muslims visiting their various shrines, and you have close to a quarter of a billion zealots traveling the world in pursuit of, well, figments of their collective imagination.