This nonsense no doubt goes on in Christian private schools all over the nation, but I felt the need to write about this here because it involves my home state of South Carolina. The images below show an actual test given to fourth-graders at Blue Ridge Christian Academy in Greenville, S.C., which is about an hour drive north of where I grew up. Consequently, in college at Clemson University, I participated in a point-counterpoint debate in a student newspaper in which I defended public school education versus private schools. I was a Christian at the time, but even then, I recognized that private schools, unfortunately, provide a certain level of “shelter” from the real world, whereas public school students learn to interact with people of all backgrounds, and they get more of a well-rounded and less biased education.
These captures, from Blue Ridge Christian Academy, speak for themselves:
If this is not overt and immoral indoctrination of children, I don’t know what is. The “history book” of the universe is the Bible? Seriously? I could go point by point on each of these questions in this “quiz” and show how they are all terribly wrong in every single degree, but I think question 15 gets at the basic problem. Was the average size of a dinosaur a sheep? Nope. And far from it. But do believers teach their kids to be unquestioning and un-inquisitive sheep? Yep. And that is immoral, sad, pathetic and a pitiful record for the human species.
I can, of course, present a full argument against Pascal’s wager — and have in previous posts that I haven’t time to look up right now — but it will suffice to reference Richard Dawkins’ answer to this question:
It’s not a good sign for the future of your party when the GOP’s “Hispanic outreach director” has had enough of his own party’s dim view of immigrants and immigration. A little more than a year ago, Pablo Pantoja was tabbed as the guy to reach out to Hispanic voters on behalf of the Republican Party.
Pantoja is not just calling it quits on the job, but on the party. He announced this week that he was switching parties, writing in an email:
Yes, I have changed my political affiliation to the Democratic Party.
It doesn’t take much to see the culture of intolerance surrounding the Republican Party today. I have wondered before about the seemingly harsh undertones about immigrants and others.
Look no further; a well-known organization recently confirms the intolerance of that which seems different or strange to them.
Studies geared towards making – human beings – viewed as less because of their immigrant status to outright unacceptable claims, are at the center of the immigration debate. Without going too deep on everything surrounding immigration today, the more resounding example this past week was reported by several media outlets.
A researcher included as part of a past dissertation his theory that “the totality of the evidence suggests a genetic component to group differences in IQ.” The researcher reinforces these views by saying “No one knows whether Hispanics will ever reach IQ parity with whites, but the prediction that new Hispanic immigrants will have low-IQ children and grandchildren is difficult to argue against.” (Here is some more information on what Pantoja was referencing).
Although the organization distanced themselves from those assertions, other immigration-related research is still padded with the same racist and eugenics-based innuendo. Some Republican leaders have blandly (if at all) denied and distanced themselves from this but it doesn’t take away from the culture within the ranks of intolerance. The pseudo-apologies appear to be a quick fix to deep-rooted issues in the Republican Party in hopes that it will soon pass and be forgotten.
The complete disregard of those who are in disadvantage is also palpable. …
Of course, this switch should not surprise anyone within the GOP; if it does they are even more out of touch than I thought. The party has been anti-immigrant and in some ways, anti-color, for so long now that attempts by Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham, John McCain and others to send the message that the GOP is now more Hispanic friendly probably falls on deaf ears at this point. Much too little and much too late.
P.Z. Myers whiffed on that Atheism Plus foolishness, but nonbelief should be about celebrating our similarities, right? That said, I couldn’t agree more with what P.Z. Myers wrote about Minnesota’s recent vote to OK gay marriage.
Gov. Mark Dayton wrote:
In my heart, I grieve on both sides. Because I know what it’s like to be alone and I know what it is like to have somebody close to you and love you. But I grieve inside because I feel we are opening the doors to Sodom and Gomorra. And in the end, God is going to be the judge,” said Nelson, of Blaine, tears running down her cheeks.
Aww, he grieves on both sides. How compassionate. He apparently doesn’t shed too many tears, however, since priestly exhortations against sodomy by fiat trump any loneliness folks might feel from the lack of a mate, straight or otherwise. In the end an all-loving, peaceful, war-loving God — depending on which part of the Bible you read — with his fire and brimstone, will be the judge.
Myers concludes his remarks about Dayton:
I would bottle your tears and perhaps dot a little on my wrists every morning — Eau de Schadenfreude. Or perhaps I would drink them like a rich bitter wine, and laugh. Those aren’t tears of sorrow, but of nasty cruel bigotry — you didn’t get your way, you weren’t allowed to demean other citizens of this state in the way you wanted, and now you get to weep in frustration, while I have no sympathy.
And to compare the happy men and women who can now aspire to share equally in love and marriage with evil, wicked horrible people from your book of lies, to tell yourself they are damned and will be destroyed…well, I’ll dance an especially happy spiteful dance on your broken dreams of oppression, lady.
Conservatives and religious types just need to swallow this conclusion hook, line and sinker because it’s reality: in regard to equal rights – particularly gay and civil rights – as San Francisco goes, so goes the nation. Resist this trend all you want but believe you me, whatever is now acceptable in California, the Pacific Northwest and New England, will one day be acceptable in the entire nation, the South included, and no matter how long it takes, resistance to this fact is futile.
I’m not big fan of network sitcoms anymore, mostly because of their boilerplate predictability, but Michael J. Fox‘s upcoming show has the potential to be quite brilliant, and might I say, brave for Fox to come out with a work that essentially seems like an irreverent satire of his own condition and his experiences with Parkinson’s disease. It could be an entertaining show as long as the writers don’t go crazy with too many Parkinson’s jokes.
Here is a trailer:
If any of us thought there was any chance for the GOP to grow up and move past partisanship in order to get something done in Washington during Obama’s remaining years in office, we might as well dream on. This do-nothing bunch of Republican lawmakers seem dead set on not only inaction, but attempting work against the administration, no matter how detrimental this might be to the nation itself or people’s faith in the political process.
Here’s part of an article from Slate:
In the past couple weeks, in interviews with House and Senate staffers for the Republican leadership, there has been a depressing message: Nothing is going to get done for the next four years. Again and again, the same mantra could be heard. Partisanship and election jockeying for 2014 and 2016 is going to keep everything locked up.
Watching the live feed from the White House on Friday it became hard to argue otherwise. President Obama held an event with mothers defending the Affordable Care Act, the start of a monthslong effort to protect his signature achievement, which Republicans have promised to fight all the way to the 2014 elections and beyond. Then, shortly thereafter, White House press secretary Jay Carney jumped between answering questions about the administration’s response to the attacks in Benghazi to the Internal Revenue Service targeting the Tea Party and other conservative political groups for audits.
It’s going to take some time to get to the bottom of these controversies, but we can conclude the pessimists are probably right. Nothing is going to get done in this siege environment.
This New York Times editorial also highlighted this pervasive tone within the GOP camp in Washington. The paper even goes so far as to recommend that Obama outright abandon any attempts to extend an olive branch to the Republicans:
It is time for President Obama to abandon his hopes of reaching a grand budget bargain with Republicans.
At every opportunity since they took over the House in 2011, Republicans have made it clear that they have no interest in reaching a compromise with the White House. For two years, they held sham negotiations with Democrats that only dragged down the economy with cuts; this year, they are refusing even to sit down at the table.
I can’t say that I disagree, but we should also remember that on at least one piece of important legislation, the Affordable Care Act, Obama and the Washington Democrats moved forward and did the right thing without GOP support. The Republicans have not been interested in actual leadership the past four years, only interested thwarting Obama’s policies, and they even seem willing to let the nation default on its debt to make a point. This is not nasty, cut throat maneuvering; it’s childish school yard politics.
Here is how The Times concluded its editorial:
Republican lawmakers have become reflexive in rejecting every extended hand from the administration, even if the ideas were ones that they themselves once welcomed. Under the circumstances, Mr. Obama would be best advised to stop making peace offerings. Only when the Republican Party feels public pressure to become a serious partner can the real work of governing begin.
President Barack Obama said the following back in 2009:
Although he now has nothing to lose being a lame duck president, hopefully he still means these words.
Agreeing with some advice Jonathan Chait offered about political discourse and argumentation, Ta-Nehisi Coates said political commentators — I think he would probably extend this to all opinion writers — should increasingly take on intellectual giants, rather than go after mental featherweights such as Sarah Palin and Michelle Malkin:
Write about something other than current politics. Do not limit yourself to fighting with people who are alive. Fight with some of the intellectual greats. Fight with historians, scientists, and academics. And then after you fight with them, have the decency to admit when they’ve kicked your ass. Do not use your platform to act like they didn’t. Getting your ass kicked is an essential part of growing your intellectual muscle.
I agree to a degree, insofar as it helps the person doing the writing. In Christian apologetics, for instance, it would be more beneficial to the intellectual growth of the writer to argue against some of the best thinkers apologetics has to offer — William Lane Craig, Gary Habermas or Ravi Zacharias, for instance, rather than charlatans like Pat Robertson or James Dobson. That’s not to say the “best thinkers” in apologetics offer a compelling case for belief. I just mean that these “thinkers” — and I used the term loosely — sometimes hold more nuanced views on faith than less erudite pastors and priests who simply quote scripture and assume that’s going to convince us of anything. A person, then, is better equipped to argue from a position of nonbelief when she has anticipated all the ways believers jump through rhetorical hoops attempting to defend faith.
A quote from Omar Khyyam seems apt here:
The Koran! Well, come put me to the test — Lovely old book in hideous error drest. Believe me, I can quote the Koran too. The unbeliever knows his Koran best.
That’s Rhetoric 101. Know your opponents, and anticipate their arguments. So, in this regard providing commentary on the brightest thinkers from any field of inquiry, rather than the most asinine, continues a pattern of learning that, as Coates argues, should not stop once a person gets a college degree.
What Coates doesn’t address is the flip side to this. Does pointing out stupidity benefit readers or does it just needlessly proliferate garbage and give people like Malkin more “air time” than they deserve? Media Matters, of course, has more or less built an empire on pointing out stupidity that takes place on FOX News on a daily basis, and I could crash this server writing about the latest antics of people like Malkin, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and their ilk. While I criticize them on here occasionally, would it be helpful to the larger and probably never-ending debate about which ideology, liberal or conservative, is the best one for leading a nation? Probably not.
But I think pointing out stupidity accomplishes at least two important goals. Deservedly, it marginalizes people like Beck and Malkin and their ultra-religious counterparts to the sidelines. Second, and more importantly, it shines a bright light on just how far the political and religious message in America has gone off the rails and how far the GOP spectrum has shifted, and making light of this could hopefully result in more moderate approaches, even among conservatives. Fringe ideology in either direction, left or right, will get us nowhere fast.