Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Here's A Reason to Support the Health Care Reform Bill

For years, promises to leave the United States in the wake of an undesirable political development have been the domain of liberals. Celebrities such as Alec Baldwin, Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon all at some point suggested they would move to Canada if a Republican won the White House


But now the decidedly non-liberal Rush Limbaugh has made a similar move, telling his audience he will move to Costa Rica if health care reform becomes law. And now the only question that remains is whether Limbaugh will make good on his word, or join the ranks of the empty-promisers.

Christian "Family Values" Group Wants to Stone the Whale

Reprinted from American Atheists News:


"And he piled upon the whale's white hump the sum of all the rage and hate felt by his whole race. If his chest had been a cannon he would have shot his heart upon it."
-- Herman Melville, "THE WHALE" or "MOBY DICK"

While it is misleadingly called "the Good Book," that collection of scriptural snippets known as The Holy Bible is, in fact, filled with outrages, blood-curdling tales of divine wrath, absurd instructions and -- as Richard Dawkins has so aptly pointed out -- downright psychopathic behavior.

Jehovah, God, call-him-what-you-will is an especially wrathful creature demanding the full supplication of His human subjects, and bringing havoc to those who disobey. or even doubt. Jesus, the star and central character of the New Testament, is a bit less barbaric perhaps. He does not command the slaying of countless first-borns by a worldly king, nor the wholesale sacrifice of thousands of other innocents (children included) who happened to reside in the Sodom and Gomorrah zip code areas. He instead washes feet, feeds a crowd using his miraculous powers, and promises an afterlife for those who comply with his Father's commandments. Still, the bible remains a book of horrors, baffling contradictions, and for the most part brutal instructions on how people should live.

Which brings us to Exodus, 21:287 and 21:29, which calls for the stoning to death of any oxen which kill a man or a woman. In the first passage, the animal's owner is spared, but in the second, he, too, shall meet his maker by stoning.

Oxen may not be common in most advanced countries which practice mechanized farming, but stoning remains a popular and almost fetishized method of execution for some Christians and their brethren Muslims. Christian Reconstructions advocate this brutal penalty for those guilty of transgressions like adultery, homosexuality, blasphemy and "witchcraft." Indeed, Gary North, a leader in the Reconstructionist church movement, praised this method of execution since stones were "cheap" and readily available.

Now comes the American Family Association which, since its founding over three decades ago, has served as the nation's self-appointed arbiter of all things obscene, unwholesome and at odds with God's commandments. Hardly a swatch of exposed, inappropriate skin has escaped the watchful eye of the AFA (Janet Jackson's Super Bowl gaffe is a case in point) which has denounced a long list of movies, television programs, theatrical plays and books for objectionable content. The group, founded by Rev. Donald Wildmon is based in Tupelo, Mississippi, and describes itself as "a Christian organization promoting the biblical ethic of decency in American Society..."

AFA tactics include boycotts, pickets and, of course, lobbying state legislatures and Capitol Hill for tough -- and likely unconstitutional -- restrictions of anything deemed "obscene." It has also been a stalwart opponent of gay rights; and recently an AFA official proposed that homosexual behavior be criminalized.

Lately, however, the group has waded into, well, new waters. No longer reserving its wrath for pornographers or salacious entertainment industry moguls, it is now targeting a new and formidable nemesis, namely Tilikum, the killer whale of Sea World Fame.

No, this is no fish tale!

Recall that two weeks ago, the whale dragged 40-year old trainer Dawn Brancheau to her death during a performance in front of a stunned, terrified audience. No sooner had questions been raised about how this horrify accident happened than an American Family Association blogger promptly posted a call for Tilikum's execution by stoning in accordance with biblical mandates. No, the prophets of the Old Testament never anticipated something like Sea World where the ferocious creatures of the deep performed tricks for the amusement of their human captors, but they did know a thing or two about oxen.

The blogger, identified as Bryan Fisher, unearthed the relevant passages from the Book of Exodus. One was Chapter 21, Verse 28:

"When an ox gores a man or woman to death, the ox shall be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten, but the owner shall not be liable."

In the following Verse 29, the wisdom of Jehovah is even more obvious.
If the same owner has another ox guilty of the same offense:

"The ox shall be stoned, and its owner also shall be put to death..."

Tilikum is guilty of this second transgression, at least according to the writer of Exodus. In 1991, the killer whale downed another trainer at a Sea World facility in Canada. Eight years later, a man who apparently entered the park after it had officially closed was discovered dead and naked on Tilikum's back.

The divine message is clear, at least to the American Family Association: the offending whale has violated God's law and must be put to death by stoning, along with the principals of the Sea World corporation which includes hundreds, if not thousands of "owners" in the form of officers, shareholders and possibly even employees related to the incident.

That's a whole bunch of stones!

The story would be utterly ridiculous -- just the thought of the AFA turning to the ossified passage of a bronze age holy book for fair and legal answers to complex modern problems is absurd -- were it not for the influence the organization wields. AFA is part of a coterie of groups that constitute "the religious right," and until recently enjoyed carte blanche on Capitol Hill and at the White House. Some Hollywood studios even gave Wildmon's board of censors advance screenings of forthcoming films with an eye to excising offending segments that might prompt boycotts (never mind letting the "free market" of consumers decide the box office success). And for many politicians, there was not sufficient book-spittle on hand when Wildmon and his legal arm demanded more restrictions on free speech in the name of that elusive chimera known as "community decency."

Hopefully, this incident will be the nail-in-the-coffin for the American Family Association, There is debate among biologists and other experts as to the wisdom of releasing the 13-ton Tilikum into the open sea or keeping him at Sea World. Mr. Fisher did urge the parents of Dawn Brancheau to "sue the pants off Sea World for allowing this killer whale to kill again..." That is wiser counsel than suggesting that Tilikum and his owners be stoned to death. It also confirms that groups like AFA and other Christian Reconstructionists, while purporting to represent the best interests of (Christian, heterosexual) families harbor a dark and brutal creed. Their God is coming not with loves, fishes and blessings, but with a vengeful attitude and a very, very large pile of stones.