Monthly Archives: March 2010

Sunday School

Atheist Cartoons has given me a way to express my empathy for anyone who ever suffered, or still suffers, the mind-numbing affliction called Sunday School:

— the chaplain


Posted by on March 13, 2010 in humor


A New Era of Partnerships

President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships unveiled its report, “A New Era of Partnerships” yesterday. You may recall that the committee’s assignment was to “develop recommendations on how the government can better partner with faith and neighborhood based organizations.”

According to the White House press release (cited above), the final report, which is 176 pages long, made “more than 60 consensus recommendations.” Eboo Patel, who served on the committee, reported that the committee made “60-some” and “60-plus” recommendations. Jesus Howard Christ! Can’t anyone count above 60? Patel was there, for Thor’s sake! How difficult is it for him, or the White House press office, to say that the committee made 64 recommendations (yes, I counted every single one of them), several of which were also accompanied by sub-recommendations?

As I’ve already mentioned, the full report is long: 176 pages – many of which are filled, or nearly filled, with glossy feel-good photos.  Nevertheless, the report does actually have some textual content. Since I can’t copy and paste text from a .pdf document (if anyone knows how to do this, please enlighten me), I’ll share some screen captures with you.

I’ll start with the major areas that the six sub-committees studied:

The thirteen recommendations regarding economic recovery and domestic poverty are:

The nine recommendations regarding fatherhood and families are:

The committee also made nine recommendations regarding the environment and climate change:

The next section of the report addresses inter-religious cooperation:

The committee then looked outside of the USA’s borders and considered global poverty and development:

And, the final task force focused on reform of the faith-based and neighborhood partnerships office:

One of the sub-sections that may interest you dealt with abstinence-based sex education. The committee was supportive of separating religious abstinence sex education programs from government-funded sex education programs. One of the recommendations was:

I haven’t had a chance, yet, to digest the recommendations, let alone the entire report. I will read the report carefully in the next few days and may have more to say about it later. Regardless of whether nonbelievers like it (many of us don’t), faith-based initiatives (which originated in the Charitable Choice Act of 1996) will be with us for quite some time into the future. That being the case, it behooves nonbelievers to keep abreast of developments in this area. History has taught us (or should have taught us) that blurring the boundaries between church and the state does not, ultimately, serve either institution well (not that I particularly care about the interests of religion). To the contrary, history has shown – repeatedly – that such blurring is often detrimental to both church and state. Any partnerships between the two must be monitored and tweaked incessantly to ensure that the interests of both parties are respected until the relationship dissolves, either from lack of interest on the part of one or both partners, or, ideally, lack of need on the part of society.

— the chaplain


Posted by on March 11, 2010 in politics, religion


Some Semblance of Sanity in Lone Star State

In recent years I’ve watched with horrified interest – and fear – as right-wing theocrats entrenched in the the Texas Board of Education have fought to insert fundogelical content into the state’s (and, ultimately, the nation’s) public school curriculum. I breathed a quick sigh of relief this evening upon learning that, in a recent election, Don McLeroy, a fundogelical dentist from Bryan, Texas, lost the board seat he had held since 1999.

My sigh was just a little one, though, since the vote was awfully close: 50.4%-49.6%. Also, McLeroy will retain his position until the end of the year (academic rather than calendar year, I pray hope), so he’s still got time to do some damage. Still, I will allow myself to enjoy (for tonight only!) some hope that the futures of both Texas and the USA may not be entirely bleak, and that reason may yet prevail in the world sometime in the current millennium.

— the chaplain


Posted by on March 9, 2010 in history, politics, rationalism, religion, science


Charity Must Begin At Home

Charity must begin at home, because one cannot count on it beginning at church. Perhaps I should say, one cannot count on charity beginning at the Roman Catholic Church. Not if one is gay. You may recall that, in November 2009, the city of Washington D.C. passed a law recognizing gay marriages, a law that the city’s Catholic Archdiocese opposed immediately. An objection they raised was this:

Under the bill…religious organizations would not be required to perform or make space available for same-sex weddings. But they would have to obey city laws prohibiting discrimination against gay men and lesbians.

Fearful that they could be forced, among other things, to extend employee benefits to same-sex married couples, church officials said they would have no choice but to abandon their contracts with the city.

It didn’t take long for Catholic Charities to devise a solution to this dilemma (and keep government funds flowing their way): as of March 2, 2010, employees of Catholic Charities are not allowed to add spouses to their health insurance plans. This applies to the spouses of straight and gay employees alike. Since the organization can’t blatantly provide benefits to one group (straights) and deny said benefits to the other (gays), it will simply deny benefits to all of them. Equal opportunity exclusion. Because that’s what Jesus would do.

The policy applies to new employees enrolling for benefits after March 2; spouses covered before that date will retain their benefits. The group explained its decision in a memo:

We sincerely regret that we have to make this change, but it is necessary to allow Catholic Charities to continue to provide essential services to the clients we serve in partnership with the District of Columbia while remaining consistent with the tenets of our religious faith.

The tenets of their religious faith. Those tenets include sheltering priests who rape children and shuffling those predators from one traumatized diocese to another unsuspecting diocese to another, and another, and another ad infinitum. They include purchasing abuse victims’ silence, or, when that fails, paying them large sums of money in legal settlements. They include lying to millions of African AIDS victims about the efficacy of condoms in reducing the spread of that dreadful disease. They include opposing the rights of men and women to control their reproduction via contraception and abortion. And they include withholding basic employment benefits from people who marry spouses with matching rather than complementary genitalia. Do you look at those tenets and see anything worth preserving? I sure as hell don’t. If you agree with me and you want to donate some time or money to a charity, you may want to consider giving to a secular charitable group. Contrary to the myth that many fundogelicals are peddling, churches are not the only charitable organizations in town, and Christians are not the only people who give time and money to their communities.

For this atheist, charity must begin at home because religious charity often comes with strings attached. And if those strings can’t be attached, then some groups cut off both the strings and the gifts. Their thinking seems to be, ’tis far better that no one get anything at all than that the wrong people get something. That may be the Catholic Charities’ way; it certainly is not mine.

— the chaplain


Posted by on March 7, 2010 in atheism, humanism, prejudice, religion, sex


Miracle in My Mailbag!

Take a look at what I found in my mailbag this morning:

Hxxxxx Wxxxxx will be having a special experimental treatment “dry run” on March 8th (Monday). Be in prayer that all that needs to fall into place for the treatment to move forward will go right where it needs to go to eliminate the cancer cells. It is a new treatment that has only existed exactly since Hxxxxx was diagnosed with cancer. A miracle!

A miracle, indeed! Gawd didn’t prevent HW from getting cancer, but at least he came up with a miracle treatment just in the nick of time. Too bad about all those other folks who got cancer before HW did and missed out on it.

Maybe Gawd’s next project should be a treatment for narcissism.

— the chaplain


Posted by on March 4, 2010 in rationalism, religion


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