Our rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness
can only be secured by a state strictly separated from religion

29 July 2011

Best.Comment.Ever

By Diana Hsieh

I've been blogging on NoodleFood and elsewhere for nearly ten years now. In all that time, I've never gotten as wildly inane a comment as this one on my CSG post on the efforts to impose anti-abortion "personhood" laws on Mississippi. The comment is from "Carol Arens532." Brace yourself:

Think about it before abortion was made legal, the abortionist had to worry about maternal deaths from abortion, simply because these could very easily lead to an investigation by the FBI, after all if you are going to break the law the last thing that you would want to do is leave behind evidence of your illegal activity so that there can be an investigation. Thus before Roe vs Wade should a pregnant woman be seriously injured from an illegal abortion, she would be brought to a hospital and should she die there, there would be an oddtopisy done to determine the cause of death, the medical personal of the hospital would then be required to report this to the police clearly letting them know that someone is breaking the law, and initiate an investigation. Now however that abortion is legal the abortion can botch as many abortion as he wants without having to worry about there being an investigation, infact he can have a number of women die from abortion at his facility and never have to worry about the police or the FBI investigating his activity. It sure is good to think that the state of Mississippi thinks that it's women and children are worth protecting from this. Sincerely Carol
When I posted it to Facebook and Twitter, many people noted that they hoped that they'd never have to have an "oddtopisy." But my favorite comment was posted by Roberto Sarrionandia to Facebook.
This is hilarious. Presumably the same thing is true for all surgery. Paul can get away with strangling his patients, because radiography is legal and thus the authorities aren't concerned with investigating it.

Similarly, when people are stabbed, nobody bothers investigating because knives are legal.
Exactly!

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27 July 2011

Criminalizing Miscarriage

By Diana Hsieh

Outcry in America as pregnant women who lose babies face murder charges:

Rennie Gibbs is accused of murder, but the crime she is alleged to have committed does not sound like an ordinary killing. Yet she faces life in prison in Mississippi over the death of her unborn child.

Gibbs became pregnant aged 15, but lost the baby in December 2006 in a stillbirth when she was 36 weeks into the pregnancy. When prosecutors discovered that she had a cocaine habit – though there is no evidence that drug abuse had anything to do with the baby's death – they charged her with the "depraved-heart murder" of her child, which carries a mandatory life sentence.

Gibbs is the first woman in Mississippi to be charged with murder relating to the loss of her unborn baby. But her case is by no means isolated. Across the US more and more prosecutions are being brought that seek to turn pregnant women into criminals.
The article reports on some other cases -- including a woman being prosecuted for killing her fetus when she attempted to commit suicide -- and then reports:
Women's rights campaigners see the creeping criminalisation of pregnant women as a new front in the culture wars over abortion, in which conservative prosecutors are chipping away at hard-won freedoms by stretching protection laws to include foetuses, in some cases from the day of conception.
Exactly.

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25 July 2011

Evolutionary Theory: Fact Versus Faith

By Diana Hsieh

Should evolution be taught in schools? I can't help but laugh as these Miss USA contestants answer that question... but then I want to cry.



Evolutionary theory is the integrating theory of biology. As such, it should be a major part of middle and high school biology. Alas, it's not, and the result is the widespread acceptance of blatantly faith-based views like those expressed in this video.

When I taught introductory philosophy at the University of Colorado at Boulder, I'd spend a day discussing evolutionary theory. Evolutionary theory explains the supposedly mysterious order and complexity of living beings cited by Paley's analogical argument for God's existence via purely natural law. Hence, the existence of a divine designer cannot be inferred from the complexity and order of life.

Before starting that class, I'd ask my students whether they'd studied evolutionary theory before. Only about two-thirds of them had done so. That was bad enough, but even worse, most of those students were utterly confused about evolutionary theory, usually thinking it to be nothing more than sheer random variation.

When young people aren't taught the basic facts of biology, is it any wonder that they default to religious superstition and myth?

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Regulating Abortion Providers to Death

By Diana Hsieh

The New York Times reports on new Kansas laws that will regulate abortion clinics to death:

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- One in a series of abortion limits approved in Kansas since Republicans took full control of the state government this year -- a new license law -- is raising uncertainty about the future of all abortion providers in the state.

Opponents of abortion say that the licenses -- which newly dictate requirements for the size of rooms at abortion clinics, the stocking of emergency equipment, medications and blood supplies, and ties to nearby hospitals -- will ensure at least a modicum of safety standards in a state that Troy Newman, the leader of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, said "had been the Wild West for abortionists for as long as anyone can remember."

But abortion rights supporters, here and nationally, say the rules, which take effect next week, are onerous, have been rushed into place too rapidly and are actually aimed at ending abortion services at the only three places in the state now providing them, perhaps as early as Friday.

"These requirements range from the impossible to the absurd," said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights. "They're not designed to protect patient safety; they're designed to shut down abortion providers."
Unfortunately, supporters of abortion rights are learning just how dangerous the regulatory state is to individual rights.

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20 July 2011

Religion in Harry Potter

By Diana Hsieh

Ari Armstrong recently published Religion in Harry Potter: Do J. K. Rowling's novels promote religion or undermine it? in ESkeptic. The article begins...

Given the runaway popularity of J. K. Rowling's novels and the related films, readers of the works, parents of readers, and those interested in cultural trends may wonder about the religious themes of the stories. Do the novels promote sorcery, as some conservative Christians allege? Do they instead endorse Christian notions of immortality, recapitulate the story of Christ's sacrificial love, and promote religious faith? Or is it a mistake to read any religious theme into these fantasy stories?
... and Ari does a great job of answering those questions. Go check it out!

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15 July 2011

The Pope and Harry Potter

By Ari

Did Joseph Ratzinger condemn the Harry Potter novels before he became Pope?

In my book Values of Harry Potter, I write on page 10: "Before he became Pope, Joseph Ratzinger warned Catholics to beware the books' 'subtle seductions,' according to Catholic News Service." My source is a January 15, 2008, story by Cindy Wooden titled, "Writers in Vatican newspaper debate lessons of Harry Potter novels."

In my article published just yesterday by eSkeptic, "Religion in Harry Potter," I use a different source to make the same point. I write, "Before he became Pope, Joseph Ratzinger said the books threaten to 'corrupt the Christian faith'..." For this I use a January 16, 2008, article by Katherine Phan of Christianity Today, "Vatican slams Harry Potter as 'wrong kind of hero.'"

However, in his 2008 book How Harry Cast His Spell -- which I also cite in my eSkeptic piece -- John Granger claims the story about Ratzinger is false (see pages 266-67). Is it true that "Pope Benedict XVI has condemned Harry Potter," Granger asks? He writes that LifeSiteNews "started this absurd Skeeter effect that won't go away." (Rita Skeeter is the corrupt and deeply dishonest journalist in the Potter series.) To Granger, claims that Ratzinger "commented on [the Potter novels] critically" is "laughable."

Granger writes, "[A]n article in the Catholic News Service the week the LifeSiteNews post was made... denied the Pope had taken a position on the matter." Granger continues, "The Harry Potter books... have not been opposed, condemned, or criticized by any agency or person of authority in the Vatican... The Pope certainly hasn't spoken on the subject. ... The Pope doesn't oppose Harry Potter."

However, while Granger accuses LifeSiteNews of bogus Rita Skeeter-like journalism, in fact it is Granger who is distorting the record.

The LifeSiteNews article of July 13, 2005, "Pope Opposes Harry Potter Novels" (which was apparently updated at some point) includes a translated transcript of Ratzinger's letter. (Granger suggests the letter may have been written by "a page in [Ratzinger's] office," but regardless the note carries Ratzinger's name.)

The web page makes available a scanned copy of the letter. It is written on the letterhead of "Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger" and dated March 7, 2003. While English translations may vary, the letter clearly talks about the possible "subtle seduction" ("subtile Verführengen") of the novels. The letter also talks about corrupting the soul ("das Christentum in der Seele zersetzen").

Is Granger correct that another article "denied the Pope had taken a position on the matter?" No.

It turns out that Cindy Wooden also wrote the July 14, 2005, article for Catholic News Service, "New attention given to 2003 Cardinal Ratzinger letter on Harry Potter." Here is what Wooden writes:

In the cardinal's letter, excerpted on [recipient Gabriele] Kuby's Web site and published widely since late June, he praised the author's attempt to 'enlighten people about Harry Potter' and the possible 'subtle seductions' that can distort children's thinking before they mature in the Christian faith.
Contrary to Granger's suggestion, the article does not deny that Ratzinger took a position on the Potter novels. Instead, Wooden writes:
Although the Vatican press office July 14 said it would have no comment on the letter since Pope Benedict XVI and his secretary were on vacation in the northern Italian Alps, a former Vatican official said Harry Potter books must be read as children's literature, not theology.
Granger seems to be playing something of a game here. He says "the Pope" has not taken a position on the Potter novels, but that doesn't change the fact that Ratzinger in fact took a critical position, before he became Pope. And that remains the interesting point.

(This article originally was published on Ari Armstrong's blog.)

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13 July 2011

Doonesbury on Creationism

By Diana Hsieh

I'm not a Doonesbury reader, but the July 10th strip on teaching creationism was just too perfect to ignore.

Also, be sure to check out this classic strip from 2005 on the real-life implications of creationism.

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06 July 2011

Michelle Bachmann, Theocrat

By Diana Hsieh

I refuse to vote for politicians whose votes are determined by prayer. I'm looking at you, Michelle Bachmann!



She's speaking about the 2003 Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling that denying marriage rights to same-sex couples violated the state constitution. Here's the transcript:
When that happened, I heard the news on my local Christian radio station in Minneapolis, St. Paul and I was devastated. And I took a walk and I just went to prayer and I said Lord, what would you have me do in the Minnesota state senate? And just through prayer I knew that I was to introduce the marriage amendment in Minnesota.
While we're here, don't forget about the varieties of marriage that God sanctions in His Holy Scriptures. (Click to read the fabulous details!)



Maybe, Michelle, if you pray real hard, God will make you some powerful man's concubine! Alas, that's one of the better alternatives.

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