Exclusive: See God's Actual Handwriting!

While I was in San Francisco this January, I happened to notice this pamphlet in a newspaper kiosk outside my hotel:

Intrigued, I picked up a copy and read more. It turns out that this is the newsletter of one Vassula Ryden, a Greek housewife who, for over twenty years now, has been receiving regular messages from her guardian angel, God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary, and many more august theological personages. Naturally, she's made it her mission to tell the world - because, really, who wouldn't?

And yea, verily, great loquacity hath poured forth from the pen of the Lord. Since 1986, Ms. Ryden has received over 1,550 pages (!) of divine revelation, which are all available for download on her website in convenient PDF form. This comes out to about 645,000 words - or to put it another way, several times the length of the New Testament and about four-fifths as long as the entire King James Bible.

But possibly my very favorite part of the whole collection of messages is this part, right at the beginning:

Copyright © Vassula Rydén... If you wish to view, print or download this material for commercial purposes, you must first obtain written authorisation from the Foundation for True Life in God. You are not permitted under any circumstances to remove or amend any trademark, copyright or other proprietary notice on this material.

Say what you will about the woman, but it takes serious stones for a mere human to claim copyright on God's actual words!

Now, I bet you skeptics are already scoffing, saying, "Anyone can claim to be receiving messages from God and make up some theological gibberish that sounds like the way they think God would talk. There's no proof that these 'messages' are anything other than her own imagination." But scoff at this, skeptics: Ms. Ryden isn't just receiving these messages in the privacy of her own head. No, she sets them down on paper for the whole world to see - in God's actual handwriting! Just take a look at this excerpt or the scan below, and see for yourself how the penmanship clearly changes from one line to the next:

Although I do have to say, there's a definite fifth-grader-practicing-cursive feel to this. I always kind of thought God's handwriting would be more, you know, Gothic. And have echo-reverb.

I suppose it would be unkind of me to ask if anyone has considered a basic test such as oh, I don't know, writing a message on a chalkboard in a room while Vassula isn't present, then erasing it and bringing her into the room so that God, who is all-knowing, can dictate what it said through her hand. But really, who'd bother with a boring test like that, when we have images of Jesus appearing in a tree behind Vassula, or even Vassula's own persuasive testimony of how her prayers saved the earth from a meteor impact:

This is in the prayer He gave us on the 28th November 2009! Otherwise who says that the meteor was not intended to hit the earth and cover us with ashes if it did? He had put in our mouths the words: "lash not on us Your wrath" twice, otherwise if His wrath was lashed out, "the waters will run dry and nature will wither." Yes, if that meteor hit the earth that night it would have done this sort of damage.

Unfortunately, God hasn't been speaking much to Vassula lately - he's only communicated with her six times since February 2003, and not at all since December 2009. You know how it is; blogging is such a time-consuming hobby, he was probably feeling a little burnt out. (I hear he spends more time on Twitter these days.) Or could it be that he's moved on to greener pastures? Now, if another contender turned up claiming to communicate with God and writing out messages in the exact same handwriting, that would be something to see. Any bookmakers want to offer odds on that proposition?

March 14, 2011, 6:57 pm • Posted in: The LoftPermalink22 comments
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The Catholic Church Answers Your Sex Questions

Gather round, readers! I've got a real treat in store for you, because today the Roman Catholic Church is going to answer all your questions on dating and sex. Yes, that's right - if you've ever wanted your raunchiest, most explicit questions about human intimacy answered in full, uncensored detail by a group of elderly white men who are also lifelong celibates, today is the day you've been waiting for.

First of all, a reader writes in with this dilemma:

When pregnant, I have am prone to receiving a type of bacterial infection that can cause pre-term labor, and my first child was born several weeks early because of it.

During my second pregnancy, I read that many doctors recommend the use of condoms during pregnancy to try and reduce the transition of the bacteria... I solicited opinions on a Catholic e-mail list as to whether or not the use of condoms during pregnancy under these conditions would be licit. I assumed that it would be. If I'm already pregnant, I am obviously not trying to contracept, right?

Well, reader, of course you can! I mean, obviously the use of condoms to prevent pregnancy is a grave sin in the eyes of God, but since you're already pregnant, you can't conceive again whether you use one or not. And since your intention is to prevent harm to your fetus, a laudable desire considering the church's protect-the-unborn-at-any-cost attitude, surely a condom couldn't be impermissible under those circumstances. This is just an obvious implication of the church's teachings on... wait, what?

First, Catholic moral theology holds that the marital act includes both a unitive and a procreative aspect and that neither of these may be deliberately frustrated... The unitive aspect involves more than just the spouses giving each other the experience of sexual release. That could be accomplished any number of ways that would not be open to procreation. For the spouses to truly be united in marital congress that is open to procreation, at least some insemination must occur. Without insemination, one does not have a completed marital act.

...For this reason, even when a condom is not being used to prevent procreation, it could not be used on the grounds that it prevents the spouses from being united in marital congress.

Ah, of course. You see, I forgot something very important: the Catholic belief in Sperm Magic. Regardless of your intent, if you do anything during sex that prevents sperm from entering a vagina, you make Jesus angry (and you wouldn't like Jesus when he's angry). But never fear, folks, this writer has the perfect Catholic solution:

While it is necessary for some insemination to occur in order for the marital act to be completed, it does not appear that there is any set amount of insemination that must occur. Some orthodox Catholic moralists... have thus proposed the possibility of using a perforated condom that would allow some but not all of the seminal fluid to be transmitted.

Ha ha ha, perforated condoms!? You've got to be kidding me! That's like a religion that believes driving is sinful but allows it as long as your car has a hole in the gas tank! But surely this is just one kook's ridiculous notion, there can't possibly be a whole community of Catholics who oh come on you can't be serious:

The only morally acceptable way to collect a semen sample for analysis is for the man to don a perforated condom and make love to his wife. The perforated condom will allow some semen to escape, making conception possible, while retaining enough for analysis.

The logic here boggles my mind. If using condoms is morally wrong because it's a violation of God's plan for your marriage, how is it any different to seek medical tests and fertility treatments if you're having problems conceiving? Wouldn't that also be an attempt to subvert the plan God put in motion by making you infertile in the first place? (Note, the Vatican does declare IVF off-limits to Catholics, so clearly they accept this reasoning in at least some cases.)

The Catholic acceptance of perforated condoms is like the Islamic practice of "temporary marriage" - a logical contortion to get around a problem they created for themselves in the first place. The church believes that sex has both a "unitive" and a "procreative" purpose, and that's fine, I agree with that. But what's bizarre and arbitrary is the church's insistence that both those functions must be served in every sex act, and any kind of sex that has one without the other is sinful. This is like saying, "The purpose of your eyesight is both to let you take in beautiful sights and also to help you find your way around. Therefore, it's wrong to look at a painting, because you're using your eyes just for pleasure and neglecting the navigational function of your vision." (The "Catholic" solution, one presumes, would be to only look at actual beautiful landscapes and not mere reproductions.)

One last question for today, and this one, unlike the others, filled me more with pity than with amusement:

The other night... we were lying in bed after the kids were down and started to cuddle. The cuddling got pretty active and one thing led to another and I 'went off' (as we like to put it). I wasn't trying to make it happen, but I didn't really try and stop it either. I am familiar with Onanism and I am not sure if this situation qualifies. I know Onanism is wrong, so if what happened was that, then I would be in a state of mortal sin. But I don't know if it is Onanism if it happens in the context of a husband and wife showing affection.

Like the Christian believer Contraskeptic, to whom I wrote a letter of advice a few years ago, this is a case of a well-meaning person hogtied by irrational rules, made to feel guilt, shame and fear for no good reason at all. And the other commenters in the thread didn't help:

All forms of masturbation are inherently, mortally sinful, even within the context of marriage... you need to go to confession. Today.

When people say that religion gives them peace and happiness that atheism never can, I want to point them to stories like these. This is how so many theists decide what's permitted and what's forbidden when it comes to sex: not by judging whether it causes harm to any other human being, whether it fosters love and intimacy in their marriage, or whether it gives them pleasure and happiness, but by consulting a book of superstitious rules laid down by clerics. And because these rules are so arbitrary, so unconnected to human needs and desires, it puts them in constant fear of accidentally crossing the line and committing some imaginary transgression.

The Pascal's Wager logic, which so often assumes that joining a religion is cost-free, hides the fine print: you will end up paying a price, and it may be a lot higher than you think. How can anyone be truly happy in the mental slavery of a religion that layers on the guilt and threats for breaking such absurd laws? And wouldn't people like this be much happier if they abandoned these superstitious beliefs and instead adopted a rational, humanist alternative sexual ethics?

(HT for this whole post: my wife, the talented and lovely MissCherryPi, whom I didn't believe when she first told me about the perforated condoms!)

March 7, 2011, 6:44 am • Posted in: The LibraryPermalink101 comments
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An Open Letter to Jeremy Stangroom

Dear Mr. Stangroom:

It's come to my attention that you've recently devoted your blog to the purpose of highlighting uncivil statements by the so-called New Atheists. This is a laudable pursuit, as I strongly believe that the world needs to know exactly who these people are and what they stand for. To that end, may I submit some statements from my own blog, Daylight Atheism, for your consideration? After all, if you're showcasing the viciousness and rudeness of outspoken atheists, I wouldn't want to be overlooked.

"As you'd expect, most doctors [in Catholic hospitals] suffer agonies of conscience when forbidden to save the life of a dying woman... regardless of the actual outcomes, these accounts show the Catholic hierarchy's cold, callous attitude. Whether a woman dies is of no importance to them, so long as their dogma is respected, and they're ready and willing to enforce that on every woman who comes into their power. The most hideous absurdity is that these monsters have the audacity to label themselves 'pro-life', when their beliefs have the exact opposite effect in practice."
http://www.daylightatheism.org/2011/01/abortion-care-at-catholic-hospitals.html

"In all these stories, we're hearing the shrill screams of Christians who've discovered that they're not the only ones allowed to speak in public, and are furious over the perceived loss of that privilege. It doesn't matter what the actual message atheists are promoting is. No matter how meek, how inoffensive, how conciliatory we make it, its mere existence will draw hatred and fury from religious bigots, because they really want is for us not to exist. Nothing less will satisfy them."
http://www.daylightatheism.org/2010/12/atheists-still-face-censorship.html

"It's no wonder that so many believers react with outrage and try to censor us when atheists unapologetically stand up and proclaim our existence - especially if the message is that the godless can be good people too. As peaceable as that is, from the standpoint of religious culture warriors, it's the most dangerous message we can possibly convey."
http://www.daylightatheism.org/2010/12/breaking-the-religion-morality-link.html

"Ridicule has its uses: If skillfully deployed in an argument, it can be more persuasive than anything else - nothing gets someone on your side like making them laugh. It helps break down the stifling aura of solemnity and respect that religions have convinced themselves they deserve, and that they use to smother legitimate criticism. And it communicates, more eloquently than any cool and dispassionate argument ever could, that it's okay not to believe this stuff!"
http://www.daylightatheism.org/2010/08/on-the-uses-of-ridicule.html

"The one thing that absolutely terrifies a prejudiced majority is anger, no matter how righteous or how justified, from any oppressed or marginalized group. That's why any member of such a group who does express anger for any reason whatsoever will immediately be tarred with the standard, well-worn insults used to belittle and dismiss the speaker's concerns and equate their passion for justice to irrational insanity... The reason why they do this is obvious: because a movement led by its least ambitious, most conciliatory members isn't going to get anything done. The guardians of tone are really the guardians of popular prejudice, concern-trolling for all they're worth in an effort to prevent us from making anything more than cosmetic changes. They counsel us to be meek, to be mild, to be small and bland and inoffensive, because that makes it much easier to ignore us altogether."
http://www.daylightatheism.org/2011/01/the-guardians-of-tone.html

Thanks for your consideration! I hope you'll post about some of these statements, as it would be just awful if I was allowed to get away with saying such things in public.

-Sincerely,
Adam Lee
http://www.daylightatheism.org

UPDATE: I get a response!

March 3, 2011, 7:29 pm • Posted in: The GardenPermalink27 comments
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Will the Real Deity Please Retweet This?

My friends, I have to confess: I'm having a crisis of faith.

You see, as an atheist, I've always maintained that if God were real, he would communicate with us clearly and directly and wouldn't leave human beings to guess blindly at his wishes. Well, honesty leaves me no choice but to admit it: my prayers have been answered. Just the other day on Facebook, I saw a link to this Twitter account, The Tweet of God. Perusing it, it was inescapable that God Himself was reaching down to humanity, in the form of 140-character text messages, to make his almighty will plain. My eyes have seen the light! Amen and hallelujah!

But as I read on, basking in the glorious divine wisdom revealed therein, I felt a horrible worm of doubt insinuate itself into my heart. It was probably some lingering remnant of my fast-fading skepticism, but I couldn't help feeling it was just remotely possible that this wasn't the Twitter account of the true Lord and Savior. Blasphemous though my doubt was, I had to have proof.

I did a Google search, hoping to turn up some evidence, and got a horrible shock. On the very first page of my search results was not one, not two, but three other Twitter accounts, all claiming to be the sacred tweets of the Creator - just like the one I'd initially found!

My head awhirl in confusion, I sought desperately for an anchor in the chaos, something solid and dependable that I could believe in. Then it hit me: Jesus! As we atheists all secretly know (though we deny it in public), Jesus Christ is the only Son of God, the risen messiah and the one true light of the world. It was so simple - I could put my faith in Jesus! Surely he wouldn't lead me astray.

But what happened next, I'm afraid you can already guess. Confidently, like the pilgrims of old, I set out to search for Jesus' Twitter account - and once again, I found a a myriad of contenders, each one claiming to be the way, the truth and the light. (I also found the Twitter account of Odin, but I suspect that one might be a hoax.) I was hopelessly confused.

And here I am still, spiritually adrift without an anchor. I've got to say, telling the one true deity apart from his Twittering imitators is a nightmarishly difficult, near-impossible task. I'm certainly glad we don't have to face any such dilemmas in the real world!

February 12, 2011, 8:56 pm • Posted in: The LoftPermalink29 comments
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New Atheist Quote of the Day

I don't usually write posts that are just quotes, but sometimes it's nice to take a stroll down memory lane. Back in the day, this guy used to be one of the sharpest pro-science writers around, and I used to really love reading his stuff. I wonder whatever became of him.

"At its most basic level, the modern Right's tension with science springs from conservatism, a political philosophy that generally resists change. The dynamism of science - its constant onslaught on old orthodoxies, its rapid generation of new technological possibilities - presents an obvious challenge to more static worldviews. From Galileo to Darwin and beyond, this conflict has played out repeatedly over the course of history."

—Chris Mooney, The Republican War on Science, p.5. Perseus Books Group, 2005.

December 28, 2010, 10:11 am • Posted in: The LoftPermalink9 comments
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Out of the Mouths of Babes

From the Win section of Failblog, this was too good not to share:

epic win photos - Church Attendance WIN

November 30, 2010, 6:54 am • Posted in: The LoftPermalink20 comments
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Book Review: The Naked Bible

(Editor's Note: This review was solicited and is written in accordance with this site's policy for such reviews.)

Summary: Entertainingly irreverent, but with a sharp point under the silliness - though I still haven't figured out why the Bible on the cover is wearing a bra.

It's always good to see fellow atheist bloggers breaking into the publishing world, and it's in that vein that I'm pleased to review The Naked Bible by Andrew Bernardin, the blogger behind 360 Degree Skeptic. The lengthy subtitle of this book is: An Irreverent Exposure of Bible Verses, Versions, and Meanings that Preachers Dishonestly Ignore, and it delivers on that promise.

I'll emphasize at the beginning that this book doesn't aim to be a critical, scholarly analysis of the Bible. Nor does it attempt to be even-handed and fair to Jews and Christians (except in the sense that it relies on quoting the words of their own holy text). Instead, it sets out to be an irreverent and skeptical commentary, discussing and mocking the verses, doctrines and ideas in the text that stand out as the most ridiculous - similar to my essay "Behold, I Am Against Your Pillows", but lengthier and far more comprehensive. Most of these verses, naturally, are the ones that are politely ignored by the majority of preachers and lay believers.

Another nice touch is that, for many verses, this book quotes several different translations. Often, this shows how some contemporary publishers have tried to paper over the uglier side of the Bible by deliberately softening the translation or making it vague, as compared to other translators who had no such scruples. Here's an example from the book, Genesis 24:60, as translated in the New Living Version:

"They prayed that good would come to Rebekah, and said to her, 'You are our sister. May you become the mother of millions. May your children and all their children's children after them take over the cities of those who hate them.'"

The modern Message Bible, meanwhile, makes a comical attempt at whitewashing:

"And they blessed Rebekah, saying, 'You're our sister - live bountifully! And your children, triumphantly!'"

As Bernardin says, "Nice try, Message Bible. Those who know better don't deny that the Bible expresses bloody values" [p.38]. He also asks, "Why wouldn't they simply pray that Rebekah's children weren't hated?"

There are some nice quips in here too, such as this line commenting on God's punishing all of Egypt to make the pharaoh let the Israelites go:

Wouldn't a just and fair god cause the source of his consternation to, say, have a heart attack? Even better, with a touch of his wondrous magic, couldn't a benevolent god make the Pharaoh simply undergo a change of heart? If a bit of Who singing was capable of making the Grinch give back Christmas, imagine what the touch of a god could do. [p.50]

Or on Exodus 21:17, which bars deformed people from approaching the altar:

I could understand, "He who hath a broken soul or a boil upon his spirit, he shall not enter the house of our god." But he who hath a harelip is unfit to kiss the mighty one's feet? Talk about a double whammy: first a god does a shoddy job directing your creation, and then he bars you from his house. [p.129]

And in reference to one of the many verses in which God promises that a man's sin will taint his descendants forever:

Apparently, to err is human, but to hold a grudge is divine. [p.143]

There's more than enough ridiculous material in the Bible to fill out a book, and it's good to have this one pointing that fact out. I had more than a few laugh-out-loud moments reading through it. (Some of my other favorites were the Halloween-themed chapter and Bernardin's clever exegesis, on par with the finest feats of Christian apologists, "proving" that Goliath had a brother also named Goliath.) But there's a sharp point under all the silliness: for an allegedly divine book, the Bible is chock-full of ridiculous rules, archaic customs, bloody savagery, and much else of no use or relevance. Most of the people who loudly revere the Bible have never read it for themselves and are unaware of this, and the more attention we call to it, the better.

September 10, 2010, 5:55 am • Posted in: The LibraryPermalink25 comments
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Some Rejected Catholic Recruiting Posters

Today, I'm excited to report that I have some breaking news to share with Daylight Atheism readers.

From a highly placed anonymous source inside the Vatican, I've received a letter containing proofs for a new advertising campaign that the Roman Catholic church has been developing for the past several years. The ultimate goal was to run these ads on billboards throughout the world. The bishops in charge described these ads as "the most compelling argument ever made for Holy Mother Church's supreme moral authority and sanctity", and anticipated that they would provoke millions of conversions to Catholicism in the first few days after they went up.

However, due to recent news events and the perceived sensitivity of some of the unfortunate facts thus disclosed, the ad campaign was delayed and ultimately dropped. The concept art and proofs, most of which were already finished, were shelved in a secret Vatican archive. They've never been seen by the world - until now. It's my privilege to be able to show them to you. I think you'll agree with me that they do indeed make a convincing case!

Inspiration: here, here and here. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Inspiration here. Original copyright unknown.

Inspiration here. Image via, original copyright John Carrington/Savannah Morning News.

Inspiration here. Image via Wikimedia Commons, released under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Inspiration here. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Creative Commons License

April 10, 2010, 11:36 am • Posted in: The LoftPermalink24 comments
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Blood Transfusion Foe Defies Party on Health Care Bill

By Sarah Braasch

The following is a parody of a recent New York Times interview with Representative Bart Stupak of Michigan, which may be read here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/07/us/politics/07stupak.html

This parody constitutes a 'fair use' of this copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law, 17 U.S.C. § 107


Representative Sarah Braasch often endures things others find unbearable. She crisscrosses a Congressional district so vast that some constituents live eight hours apart and so cold that the beer at her beloved football games sometimes freezes. Years ago, as a state trooper, she blew out her knee chasing a suspect, and she has since had so many operations that she now returns to work the same day, toting crutches and ice.

After her younger son committed suicide in 2000, using the congresswoman's gun, Ms. Braasch soon resumed her predawn commute to Washington and her solid voting record with the National Rifle Association.

Now she is enduring more hatred than perhaps any other member of Congress, much of it from fellow Democrats. Her name has become a slogan: "Stop Braasch!"

Ebonmuse, her chief of staff, said wearily, "I can't tell you how many New Yorkers have called me up and yelled at me about this Braasch woman."

With final negotiations on a health care overhaul beginning this week, complaints about "the evil Braasch amendment," as the congresswoman dryly called it over dinner here recently, are likely to grow even louder. The amendment prevents anyone who receives federal insurance subsidies from buying blood transfusion coverage – but critics assert it could cause those who buy their own insurance difficulty in obtaining coverage.

Ms. Braasch insists that the final bill include her terms, which she says merely reflect current law. If she prevails, she will have won an audacious, counterintuitive victory, forcing a Democratic-controlled Congress to pass a measure that will be hailed as an anti-blood transfusion triumph. If party members do not accept her terms – and many vow they will not – Ms. Braasch is prepared to block passage of the health care overhaul.

"It's not the end of the world if it goes down," she said over dinner. She did not sound downbeat about the prospect of being blamed for blocking the long-sought goal of President Obama and a chain of presidents and legislators before her. "Then you get the message," she continued. "Fix the blood transfusion language and bring the bill back."

Ms. Braasch says her stand is a straightforward matter of Jehovah's Witness faith, but it also seems like the result of a long, slow burn. As dinner progressed, the congresswoman described years of feeling ignored, slighted or marginalized by her party for her anti-blood transfusion views.

"We're members without a party," she said. "Democrats are mad at you, and Republicans don't trust you."

Ms. Braasch, 57, with a mane of thick auburn hair and the stare of a law school professor, is a Yooper, a resident of this state's Upper Peninsula – snowy and hushed in winter, lush and tourist-filled in summer.

Her father attended the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead before marrying and later also sent his 10 children to the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead until the money ran out. As a state trooper, Ms. Braasch worked the highways but also trailed Ku Klux Klan members and drove home drunken state legislators. She attended law school at night, spent a term in the State Legislature, and then ran for Congress in 1992.

In the primary, she beat a candidate who supported blood transfusion rights. But when she tried to hire Democratic political consultants for the general election, they refused – with expletives, she says – to work for a candidate with her views.

Ms. Braasch won anyway, and her freshman year in Washington, she requested but did not receive a seat on the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee. "I had one or two members tell me I'd never get on because I'm right-to-blood," she said.

She cannot run for governor, she continued, because no one with her stands on guns and blood transfusions can win in Michigan.

When Republicans ruled Washington, her fellow Democrats had to listen to anti-blood transfusion views, she said. But, with Democratic victories, blood transfusion rights supporters felt their time had come.

"You're never getting a right-to-blood amendment," Ms. Braasch said Representative D, Democrat of New York and chairwoman of the Rules Committee, told her during health care negotiations. "We have pro-choice Democrats in the White House. We have majorities in the House and the Senate. You're done."

In a phone interview, D said she did not recall the conversation.

But Democratic control of the House carries a paradox: because the party expanded by winning what had been Republican districts, it has more members who oppose federal financing for blood transfusions and restrictions on guns. Ms. Braasch's measure on blood transfusions passed the House with the support of 64 Democrats.

"Before, when we talked about pro-blood Democrats, you'd get a snicker and a laugh," she said. "We were just always overlooked. We're not overlooked anymore."

Now the disagreement over blood transfusion financing has become a game of chicken, with Ms. Braasch saying she and 10 or 11 others, whom she would not name, will vote against a final bill that does not meet her standards, and some backers of blood transfusion rights threatening to do the same in what is expected to be a close vote.

Last fall, Ms. Braasch told constituents that even if her amendment failed, she would still vote yes on the overall health care legislation – she merely wanted to vote her conscience first. Now she says that statement applied only to the bill's early version.

"You fight for a principle you've believed in your whole life, then you fold up the tent?" she said.

Some of Ms. Braasch's colleagues on the other side of the blood transfusion issue offer a different version of her lonely-woman-of-principle story. She has hardly been an outcast within her own party, they say; two years after being elected, she joined the Energy and Commerce Committee, and now serves as chairwoman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. Like Ms. Braasch, they say they have worked for months to avert precisely this sort of standoff. And they accuse her of being less of a brave holdout than an instrument of conservative Jehovah's Witness and anti-blood transfusion organizations.

"The National Right to Blood Committee and the Governing Body of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society saw this as a way to vastly increase restrictions on choice," said Representative Slater, Democrat of Colorado, who is a chief deputy House whip and co-chairman, with D, of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus.

Ms. Braasch was "not given very much negotiating room" by those organizations, Slater said. Now "she's gotten herself into a corner where she says it's my amendment or it's nothing."

(Ms. Braasch says she urged the Governing Body of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society to toughen its stance on the legislation; representatives from the Society and the National Right to Blood Committee did not return calls.)

For now, as she mulls her return to Washington, Ms. Braasch is canvassing her district, adding to the 180,000 miles on her Oldsmobile, and grilling – in the snow, without a jacket – at her lakeside log-cabin home for her wife, Ophelia.

She is trying to pass the health care overhaul, she insists, not sabotage it, and predicts that the legislation will ultimately collapse for reasons apart from blood transfusions. But she will be blamed anyway, she is sure.

"I get the distinct impression that I'm the last woman the president wants to see," she said.

January 16, 2010, 10:00 am • Posted in: The RotundaPermalink61 comments
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Suggestions for the Conservative Bible Project

Although I haven't commented on this previously, I'm sure you've heard of the Conservative Bible Project, a brilliant initiative proposed by the savvy folks at Conservapedia. The plan is that they'll retranslate the Bible to eliminate "liberal bias" in existing verses - but not by going back to the oldest manuscripts or the original languages or anything like that. No, the Conservapedia community simply plans to take an existing, modern English translation of the Bible, and when they come across a verse that strikes them as unacceptably liberal, they'll just change it so as to be in line with what they know God must have meant!

This is a major project and I'm sure it will take all the hands they can get. Since I've previously given advice to the prosperity-gospel believers on how to interpret some difficult Bible passages, I'm sure that the editors of the Conservative Bible Project would be equally happy to hear my suggestions. So, I thought I'd offer them some.

Let's begin with this classic example of liberal bias in the Bible, Matthew 5:9, from the Sermon on the Mount:

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God."

Peacemakers? What is Jesus, some kind of liberal Democrat? This is unacceptable.

Real conservatives, as defined in the official Republican Party creed, know that the will of God is to drop bombs on any country that even looks like it might threaten us. After all, that's just what God did through Joshua in the Old Testament. And anyway, we know from good conservative books like Left Behind that the Antichrist will be a peacemaker, so we know from sound logic that any peacemaker must therefore be the Antichrist.

How can we interpret this verse more fittingly? I have a few different suggestions:

"Blessed are those who wage preemptive war on rogue states that we think might be developing weapons of mass destruction."

"Blessed are the waterboarders, for those who torture illegal enemy combatants will be called sons of God."

"Blessed are the politicians who run secret black-site prisons for high-value detainees, for they are righteous in God's sight."

"Blessed are the private mercenaries and the contractors working for Blackwater, for they shall inherit the earth."

Now that's a properly conservative Jesus for you!

Next, Matthew 6:5-6:

"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

Now, obviously, this is a disgustingly liberal statement. If you read this verse in modern translations invented by egghead Ivy League elitist professors, you might get the impression that Jesus was telling people to keep their faith a private matter and not flaunt it in public. But as we can tell from modern conservatives, who demand that explicitly Christian prayers and overtly religious language be prominently placed in every courthouse, school board, classroom and town council meeting, we know that Jesus couldn't really have meant that. We need a new translation that's more in keeping with what Jesus was obviously trying to say. Here's my suggestion:

"And when you pray, do not be like the liberals, for they love to pray standing in their room, behind closed doors, and to insist that the public square is secular. I tell you the truth, if God can't see you praying - and he can't, because he doesn't know what you do in your own house behind closed doors, except of course for gay sex - then you'll get no reward for it. But when you pray, go into the courthouse, or the floor of Congress, or the workplace, or just stand on a street corner with a bullhorn and a stack of Bible tracts! The important thing is to be sure that the greatest possible number of people see and hear you praying, because then they'll realize how pious and humble you are, and that will totally make them want to convert."

Once this translation is in Bibles everywhere, the religious right will be able to say with perfect honesty that they're just following Jesus' example. And that's what really matters, right?

Finally, let's take one of the most often misinterpreted verses in the Bible, Matthew 19:16-24. Here's the usual, inferior translation chock-full of liberal nonsense:

Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?"

...Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

This liberalism-inspired mistranslation could drive a stake into the heart of Christianity. What Jesus is proposing in this passage is nothing more or less than socialism! And as we good conservatives know, once you've started down the road to socialism, there's only one place you can end up - death panels, abortions at the local 7-11, and mandatory gay indoctrination in elementary schools.

Clearly, we need a dash of good conservative common sense to interpret this passage properly. Here's my advice on how to read it:

Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?"

Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, you must get as rich as possible. The more treasure you have on Earth, the more God is blessing you. I recommend a well-balanced portfolio, with wise asset allocations in both stocks and bonds, plus some side bets on over-the-counter mortgage derivatives. If you run your own business, I recommend hiring cheap immigrant labor, and of course firing anyone who tries to organize a union. And don't forget, politicians who want to tax capital gains hate God!"

When the young man heard this, he went away joyous, because he knew that his great wealth was a sign that his virtue was superior to the sinful people whom God punished by making them poor.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, "I tell you the truth, it is easy for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is as easy as your chauffeur driving you in through the golden gates of a luxury resort in a black Escalade SUV. That's not a metaphor. Rich people will actually be chauffeured through the gates of heaven in black Escalade SUVs. If any of the poor somehow make it, they'll be your drivers."

Not even Ayn Rand could find fault with that!

This should get the Conservative Bible Project off to a good start, but there's lots of other liberalism that's crept into the Bible and will have to be purged. What other mistranslations can you detect in the Good Book? And what proper, conservative translations can you offer instead?

December 9, 2009, 8:36 am • Posted in: The LoftPermalink27 comments
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