Rightly or Wrongly...

...it is my belief that I spend a lot of time agonizing over decisions that come easily to others. An example would be my last post about homosexuality, something that I struggled with for years before coming down on the side of gay rights. More recently, I have been agonizing over what is a proper attitude toward Trump supporters, my problem being that Trump doesn't just represent a different vision for America than I, Trump represents blatant and unbridled arrogance, narcissism, dishonesty, moral turpitude, and appalling stupidity. How then, am I to respect those who support Trump? The fact is that I can't.

I am so outraged by everything (and I do mean everything) that Donald Trump says and does that there are days when I am too disgusted to even turn on the radio, but I did turn it on earlier this week, only to learn that Trump was in Europe criticizing Britain's prime minister and London's mayor. Such is the man's ego. Then I heard him, yet again, favoring the denial of Russia's murderous and election stealing dictator, Vladimir Putin (with Trump took the unparalleled step of meeting in private for a two-and-a-half hours), concerning American election tampering despite the combined testimony of America's Federal Bureau of Investigation, its Central Intelligence Agency, its Division of Homeland Security, and fourteen other intelligence agencies, and I thought, ENOUGH! From the day he took office, Trump has done everything he can to undermine this nation's trust in ITS OWN GOVERNMENT in favor of a cult of personality, HIS personality. If you can look at this man and think that he represents anything but depraved psychopathy, you are a different cat than I, and I have nothing more to say to you. You might argue, "Let us discuss our differences, and perhaps we will discover that we're more similar than dissimilar." I would respond that you if you can defend Donald Trump, you can defend bestiality, child abuse, dog fighting, raping the elderly, and mugging blind people.

I have tried to hang in there with you; I really have, but if you can honestly believe that Donald Trump is an honorable man who has his country's best interest at heart despite what he has already said and done, you can support Trump no matter what he says and does. During his 2016 campaign, he boasted that he could walk up to a stranger on a crowded Manhattan street and blow the person's brains out without losing the support of the faithful, and he was right. I didn't believe it at the time, but I believe it now. Trusting Donald Trump is a degeneracy, and I feel sorry for you and sorry for our country because you and Trump are doing everything you to stuff us into the sewer.

It's not about sex


"I increasingly began to feel like I was living behind an invisible wall. The inner secrecy of holding that inside was divorcing me from reality–I was living in my own head. Anybody I was in a friendship with, or anything I was doing in the church, was accompanied by an internal mantra: 'What if they knew?' It felt like all of my relationships were built on this ice that would break if I stepped out on to it.

"I felt like it was ripping me in half. I knew I couldn't carry on. I was trying to align the loving God I knew and believed in with this horrendous reality of what was going on inside me. I remember kneeling down and absolutely sobbing into the carpet. I said to God, 'You have to either take my life or take this attraction away because I cannot do both.'"*

These words described Vicky Beeching's life at age 13. She carried the secret of her lesbianism for several more years before confessing it before a religious gathering of 4,000 people, Her fellow Christians gathered around her and prayed that God would cast out her "demon of homosexuality." She soon lost her career as a Christian singer and song writer, and the hate mail and death threats started rolling in. What she experienced was reminiscent of what I went through on the road to atheism. First I prayed for faith. When my prayers failed, I railed against God. When I finally expressed my doubts to my fellow Christians, they ostracized me. Religion is a system by which people feel justified in treating others hatefully in the name of a God of Love; and it is the only means by which they can legally violate the rights of others despite the fact that their institutions are taxpayer supported. Yet the Bible can be understood in various ways. 

The faith tradition that Vicky Beeching and I grew up in believed the Bible to be the literal word of God as dictated to men. The Episcopal Church that I gravitated to in my upper teens, regarded it as a fallible collection of documents that contain the Word of God as understood by primitive men over a 1,500 year period, hence what the Bible held to be true changed even during its writing. I have also seen most Christians' interpretation of it change during my lifetime. For instance, the Southern Baptist denomination that dominated the Mississippi of my childhood held that drinking, gambling, gluttony, and divorce were sins, and my own prominent denomination made Southern Baptists seem almost liberal. While the hold of evangelical Christianity is no less in Mississippi now as it was then, Mississippi has long since legalized gambling and ended prohibition. Because it's the most obese state in the Union, preachers are unlikely to rail against gluttony, and because its divorce rate has increased dramatically, churches no longer deny communion to divorced people who remarry (they were formerly regarded as adulterers). Although the values of religion are everchanging, yet it's a rare day when religious people institute those changes or even admit to them.

I struggled for years with my own thoughts about homosexuality, my primary objection being that since sex is nature's way of reproduction, sex in which reproduction is a physical impossibility is unnatural and therefore aberrant. The fact that Peggy and I did our best to thwart our own reproduction or that she eventually had a hysterectomy seemed irrelevant because our desires were at least natural. I later learned that homosexual sex is found in other species, and I became increasingly struck by the irony of heterosexual teenagers being able to marry while the same right was denied to homosexuals who had lived together for decades. I concluded that it doesn't matter what causes homosexuality, because it's just how some people are and there is no way they can change it, so to deny them the right to marry is wrong, wrong, and wrong.

It is one of the few political positions about which Peggy and I differ, her argument being that since marriage has always been exclusively for heterosexuals it would be wrong to change it now (she favors "civil contracts" that would give gay people the same right as married people without calling it marriage). My response is so what if marriage has been for heterosexuals only? Instead of seeing this as reason to continue the tradition, I see it as high time that society corrects a longstanding error. I also believe that civil contracts would further institutionalize the notion that homosexuals are unworthy of the same legal protections as straight people. As with school integration, separate but equal never was and never could be anything but separate in fact and equal in fantasy. 

Another difference between Peggy and me is that I am greatly interested in the experiences of homosexuals within the context of the larger society (I learned of Vicky Beeching from a radio interview), while Peggy is so averse to wanting to know that it seems to bother her than I do. She is very much of the Don't ask, Don't tell philosophy that became the Law of the Land in 1994 under Bill Clinton (it was overturned in 2011). What Don't ask, Don't tell meant was that, unlike straights, gays in the military had to hide their sexual orientation, which continued the tradition of keeping gays in the closet by telling them that their "dirty little secret" was shameful. Under Don't ask, Don't tell it was considered so shameful that it represented a threat to military cohesiveness and hence to national security.

I cried while reading the interview I quoted from, and if I hadn't been running power tools and ten feet up a ladder when I heard the radio interview, I would have cried then too, possibly because I know so well what it feels like to be hated by people who claim to guided by love for something that I deplored within myself and did everything I could to rid myself of, only to conclude that being a nonbeliever was just the way I am. I also related to Vicky Beeching in that the things we're hated for are not things that harm others.

Vicky Beeching's own childhood church at least recognized that homosexuality wasn't something that people simply pray their way out of, although it continued to regard homosexual sex as sinful. Where is the humility, the willingness to say, Our understanding of God is limited, so maybe the parts of the Bible that condone hatred for homosexuals is simply a tragic legacy from an ancient culture. Nearly all Christians finally came around to admitting that slavery was wrong, so doesn't it make sense to at least remain open to the idea that the condemnation of homosexuals might be wrong too? As the Apostle Paul wrote, "...the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life."

I am sometimes tempted to say to Peggy, "Consider Raymond Burr, this actor who you so respect and enjoy, the one who loved and shared a home with the same man from 1960 until Burr's death in 1993, how can you deny people like that the same right that another actor, Elizabeth Taylor, exercised on the eight occasions that she stood before a minister and said, "I take you to be my lawfully wedded husband...from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part'?"

As with heterosexual marriage, if homosexual marriage is to mean anything, it is about love and commitment rather than sex and frivolity, about a man being able to pull out his wallet and pass around a photo of his husband to his friends at work without the fear of being fired, ridiculed, ostracized, beaten, or even killed. It's about a teenage girl being able to introduce her female date to her parents without fearing that she will be driven from her home or shamed in church. It's about compassion, about equality, about society saying to its citizens that it only asks that they live honorably. There is no half way, no room for civil contracts, no way to hate the sin but love the sinner because homosexuality isn't what people do, it's who they are.

As with much that I write about, I very much doubt that I can reach those who disagree with me. Perhaps this is somewhat due to my inadequacy, but I'm going to share something that I think also plays a part. The numbers differ a little from year to year and from poll to poll, but for several years now the one group in America that is primarily responsible for persecuting all the others, by which I refer to theologically conservative Christians, identify themselves as America's most persecuted group. But consider this: 70% of Americans claim to be Christians along with 100% of America's presidents and nearly 100% of its Congressman, Senators, and other elected officials. Even so, America's Christians say that it's not gays, Jews, blacks, Moslems, Hispanics, atheists, refugees, or women, who constitute this country's most persecuted group; it's themselves. Does this not suggest an almost pathological absence of compassion and empathy? 

I think the source for their imagined persecution rests in theologically conservative Christianity's black-versus-white worldview according to which they believe it is God's will that those who are lost in sin deserve to suffer, but that their own suffering is due to the machinations of Satan. In other words, if others are persecuted, it's because they are evil, but when Christians are persecuted, it's because they are good. But in what ways do people who control the legislative and executive branches of government regard themselves as oppressed? As a group, all it takes for theologically conservative Christians to feel oppressed is for them not to get their way. 

For example, they feel oppressed because the Supreme Court upheld the legality of gay marriage. They feel oppressed every time they pass a Planned Parenthood clinic; every time their children learn about evolution in a science class; and every time a gay couple adopts a child or a gay person gets a teaching job. Christian teachers, coaches, and school administrators feel oppressed when they're sued for trying to force their religion upon public school children. Christian pastry chefs and florists feel oppressed by having to provide equal services to Muslims, atheists, and gay people; Christian government officials feel oppressed by their inability to deny the right of other religions to erect displays in public parks alongside manger scenes. Christians who are prevented from forcing the values, ceremonies, and representations of their religion onto others always conclude that it is they who are being oppressed. Small wonder, then, that they are devoid of compassion for others.

*https://www.google.com/search?q=don%27t+ask%2C+don%27t+tell&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-b-1

Dog Tales and a Reflection on Cats


Baxter with his white woman, 2009
He is your friend, your defender, your partner, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion. 
Anonymous

I’ve never been worthy of “such devotion,” but it wasnt for a lack of trying. I thought it would be easier with cats. Some stories...

Peggy and I went to a Christmas crafts’ fair, and behind one of the tables stood a psychic” who, for a price, would go to people's houses, read their pets' minds, and share what she learned. I decided to test her ability: “My wife and I have a black schnauzer named Baxter who likes to sit in my wife's lap and stare adoringly into her eyes while she pets him. When she stops petting him, he slaps her.” (All of this was true except that it was a touch rather than a slap). Do you think it could be a racial thing?” The psychic patiently explained that black fur on a dog doesnt imply African ancestry, and that schnauzers dont think of race in the same way people do. I thanked her for the information.

Bonnie Blue, 1999
When Bonnie was half-grown, she and I would pick Peggy up after work. One night I saw Peggy before Bonnie did, so I said to Bonnie, Bonnie, where’s Peggy!? expecting her to look toward the building, but she instead jumped to the floorboard and looked under the seat. This isn't to say that Bonnie wasnt smart. One day, Peggy was alternating between throwing a Frisbee and a tennis ball to Bonnie, when she decided to throw them both in rapid succession to see which one Bonnie would retrieve first. Bonnie put the tennis ball onto the cupped side of the Frisbee and brought them back together. Another time, she was playing fetch with an eight-foot limb by holding it midway so the weight was balanced. When she ran between two closely-spaced trees, the limb knocked her on her butt. After regaining her composure, she grabbed one end of the limb and continued on her way.

Bonnie loved to swim, and one day she got caught in a strong current. Peggy was upstream of me, and yelled for me to swim out and grab Bonnie when she passed, but Im a weak swimmer, and I had complete confidence that Bonnie could make it out on her own. I later had Peggy promise me that she would never, ever try to save a dog from drowning, lest she end up like a local woman who died in the Willamette near a downtown park when she tried to save not just one but three dogs, all of whom made it to shore. 

Wendy, 1988
When Peggy and I lived in the country, I would sometimes sneak off into the woods and climb a tree while Wendy was napping on the porch. I would then call her, and she would track me to the tree, although she never once thought to look up. She would instead circle the tree repeatedly before returning to the yard and starting out again. When I tired of the game, I would climb down when she wasn’t looking and call her. 

I took Wendy everywhere I went. When I was a roofer, she spent her days on roofs. When I traveled the country visiting communes, she visited communes. Peggy, Wendy, and I, were at a Paul Winter concert at a Sufi retreat center in New York state when he invited the audience to join him in a howl. When he signaled an end to the howl, Wendy didnt get the message, and people looked around angrily trying to locate the jerk who wouldn't shut-up. I considered stopping her, but since it was her species that had inspired the howl, I let er rip.

I left another concert with Wendy flat on her back in my arms. She often lay that way, but the day being hot, and Wendys limbs flopping loosely (schnauzers joints are unusually flexible), a lady asked, Is your dog okay? Shes dead, I answered, but its okay because she was old anyway. When people complimented me on what a neat dog she was, I would say, Im glad you like her. Give me $50, and she's yours. When they declined, I would drop the price until they either caught on or went away mad. My mother said that I had an inappropriate sense of humor.

Twice, I left Wendy with other people while I ran an errand, and both times I met her on the road looking for me when I returned. The second time, I felt sure she would stay put because Peggy was there too, but no, she came after me. Despite her devotion, she never liked to be petted. She would endure a pat or two, but then she would walk away.

Wendy and I used to hitchhike. One cold winter's day, we got only one ride between Vicksburg, Mississippi, and Tallulah, Louisiana, and that ride was a short one. We surely walked fifteen miles on asphalt that day, which was far enough that Wendys footpads became blistered, and I had to carry her.

I used to bike all over Eugene with Bonnie and Baxter, and, unless there was a lot of traffic, I didn't leash them. One cold day when I walked to the heart of downtown, I leashed them, but my hands were in mitts with the mitts in my coat pockets. I was too lazy to loop the leashes around my wrists before putting on my mitts, so I didn't know that the end of Bonnies leash had fallen to the sidewalk until I got to where I was going, and she was nowhere to be seen. I soon found her standing on the far side of a busy intersection. Two women were with her, but she snarled at them when they tried to pick up her leash. Both women thought I was a complete moron, and I was in no position to argue.

Scully and Ollie, 2016

I have many dog stories but few cat stories. Our four cats miss us when we're gone, rejoice when we return, and are devoted both to us and to one another, but nothing can beat a dog for sharing adventures. One reason we got cats was that we thought their lack of interest in going places would protect us from a surfeit of grief when they died. We were wrong. 

Scully, our tuxedo girl, tends toward timidity, but she would have to be a block of wood to not realize how much I love her. Two weeks ago, I was writing a post when she ran into the room crying insistently. I stupidly surmised that she wanted to be petted, but when I got up to pet her, she ran from the room, and I returned to my post. Two minutes later, she came again, and this time I followed her to the far end of the house where Sage had accidentally been locked in the laundry room and was crying to get out. 

The next day I was in bed when Scully got tangled in a string, one end of which was tied to a stick and the other to a toy. I didn’t know of her trouble until she jumped into bed so I could free her. Free her? FREE HER!? Oh presage of death! I will never be able to free Scully, the weight of my love equaling the weight of my bondage. She’s only a cat, some might say, but what an empty saying it would be to a heart on fire with adoration. 

“What greater gift than the love of a cat.”
—Charles Dickens

In Response to Tom Sightings



Tom (in the comment section to yesterday's post): "I'm no Trump supporter, but while I cannot speak for your Uncle Earl, I do not believe that everyone who voted for him is an evil hateful person. My brother-in-law, for example. He voted for Trump.... I don't agree with him on a lot of things. But I know he's a popular teacher; he's volunteered to help a lot of disadvantaged kids; and yes, he also volunteers at his church. Anyway, I suggest you read 'Liberals, You're Not as Smart as You Think' from May 12 NY Times for another perspective. And even so, I don't think the proper response to hate ... is to hate back."

Just to be clear... First off, Earl is my father-in-law. Secondly, Trump is not a conservative by any common measure of conservatism that existed pre-Trump, yet Trump has so dominated the Republican Party (the same party that deplored him a mere two years ago) that it only recognizes two kinds of people, those who support Trump (who Republicans euphemistically refer to as conservatives) and everyone else, who they call liberals. While I might lean more toward the liberal end of the spectrum than what used to be called the conservative end, I am not a liberal. For example, I want strong borders; I deplore political correctness; I favor the death penalty; I'm appalled by "Black Lives Matter;" and where its feasible, I think that long-term welfare recipients should be required to work. I also agree with yesterday's definition of conservatism inasmuch as it upheld the importance of a balanced budget.

"And even so, I don't think the proper response to hate ... is to hate back."

You previously expressed the same sentiment in regard to another of my posts, and I didn't know what you meant then or what you mean now, or what you would suggest in lieu of what you call hatred. That said, I think that fear and hatred are understandable responses to being attacked, and to the extent that they inspire a productive counterattack, I even think they're admirable. Of course, one can split hairs, such as many Christians do when they claim to hate the sin but love the sinner, this despite the fact that their love sure can look like hatred. Do I hate Earl? No. What I see in Earl is a formerly good man who keeps Fox TV on all day, and when you expose yourself to hours of lying and ad hominem attacks, day in and day out, you can't help but be affected. The day that Earl told me of his admiration for Trump was actually the first time I had ever seen him angry in the 47 years that I've known him, and, although old age itself often changes people, the main influence I saw in his anger was Fox, without which we surely wouldn't have Trump.

I know whereof I speak because I used to listen to Fox radio (Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Lars Larson, and even Michael Savage) for hours everyday, but after several years I gave it up, the turning point being when I undertook a serious effort to verify what these men were telling me. What I found was that Fox would take some story about, let's say, a condo owners' association telling some aged war veteran that he couldn't fly his boxcar size American fly all day everyday, and then people like O'Reilly would omit such details as the size of the flag, and the fact that it obscured other residents' view of nearby scenery. Finally, he would spend hours and hours waging personal attacks against the members of the condo association. He would constantly refer to them as "America haters," and his staff would uncover every potentially embarrassing thing they had ever done and twist it to cause maximum humiliation, after which these poor schmucks would be besieged by insults and death threats.

After I stopped listening to Fox, I came to feel as if some violence-inducing drug was working its way out of my system, and the Fox of today is far more virulent than the Fox I used to listen to. In fact, Fox has gotten so bad that, on the rare occasions that I turn it on, I can't listen for more than five minutes before I become too disgusted to continue. I have a blog reader who told me that he listens to Fox so that he can get "both sides of the story," but Fox doesn't give both sides. Fox doesn't even give one side. Fox only gives a fictionalized version that is calculated to provoke maximum outrage. Like Fox, Trump is beside himself with anger every waking moment, and I see Earl going in the same direction.

Say what you will about hatred, Tom, there is no longer room in the Republican Party for anyone who doesn't support Trump, and who could be more hateful than Trump himself or more cowardly than the Congresspeople who stand behind him for fear of losing their jobs? My problem is this: when someone voices support for a man who exhibits continual depravity, I can't see in that person a good heart or even an intelligent mind, no matter how mild-mannered he might seem. Think back to Hitler, do you really believe that all those people who supported Hitler went about yelling and assaulting people like so many frothing-at-the-mouth mad dogs? No, no, no. While the Brown Shirts were spittle-flecked, most Nazis seemed like ordinary people, people like Earl, at least until the conversation turned in a direction that set them off.

Supporting a man like Trump is not something you do if you're good at heart because Trump's mean-spirtedness and ignobility are so appallingly obvious. Take his policy of separating immigrant kids from their families and insisting that he had no choice but to do it because the Democrats made a law that forces him to do it, yet the Obama administration didn't do it; no new laws have been passed since Trump took office; and Trump's OWN PARTY controls both houses of Congress. When public outrage became overwhelming, Trump signed an executive order banning the practice of separating children from their families, saying that he did so because he cares deeply about children. What can any reasonable person conclude from this other than that he was lying when he said he could do nothing about the problem?

Sadly, another bizarre twist to the story is that the executive order by which Trump claims to have solved the problem is so lame that all but one of the 2,500 children are still separated from their parents (that one sued). Even before he signed the order, Trump was told that it wasn't a problem that an executive order could remedy because the only way to keep the children with their parents would be to do what Obama did which was to release the parents from custody prior to their hearing date (it being unlawful to keep families in prison, and there being no other place to put them). Trump was unwilling to do that, and wouldn't have needed an executive order to do it if he had been willing. He has therefore knowingly left the people who are enforcing America's immigration laws with no way to carry out his executive order. As the days go by, and the kids are still living in detention centers, he will no doubt do what he always does when something doesn't go his way: he'll blame the Democrats and some imaginary "Deep State."

No one who isn't brainwashed by Fox is likely to be fooled by Trump, and even then, it would require willful ignorance because Trump's lies are as unsophisticated as those of a five year old and there are new ones everyday, often at a rate of several a day (CNN puts the average lies per day at 6.5*). Trump lies so often that I feel nauseous just trying to remember the ones from a week ago. So, Tom, you deplore my "hatred," but what would you suggest that I replace it with given that I truly don't believe that anyone can support Trump from a position of innocence? While I recognize the necessity of compromise when it comes to electing a president; in order to support Trump, one has to go beyond mere compromise and into taking the position that "the ends justify the means," which is the very thing that conservatives used to condemn Communists for doing. 

* https://www.cnn.com/2018/05/01/politics/donald-trump-3000/index.html

What do Romans 13 and Melania's Jacket Have in Common?


In the last six weeks, the Trump administration has separated over 2,500 immigrant children from their parents in an attempt to discourage other parents from applying for refugee status. Many of these children have become so lost within the system that the system itself doesn't know where they are.

Last week, Trump's attorney general quoted the Biblical book of Romans to justify the administration's position that it is immoral for people, even people who are in fear for their children's lives, to bring those children into America illegally: “Let every soul be in subjection to the higher powers... for the powers that be are ordained of God.” The passage was previously used by British loyalists to proclaim the sinfulness of America's secessionist movement, and later by American slave holders to insist upon obedience to a law requiring all Americans, abolitionists included, to return escaped slaves to their masters. 


Yesterday, Donald Trump's wife put the frosting on the cake of the latest insanity when she traveled to one of the hundred or so child detention centers to show how much she cared about the welfare of immigrant children. Her jacket read, “I REALLY DON'T CARE, DO U?”* Her spokeswoman defended Melania's apparel by saying, “It’s a jacket. There was no hidden message. After today’s important visit to Texas, I hope the media isn’t going to choose to focus on her wardrobe.” The president disagreed, saying that Melania meant to convey that she didn't care what the "Fake News Media" says. I will spare you additional details, but suffice it to say that it was a fairly ordinary week in the Trump administration, with the country becoming even more angry and even more divided between the pro-Trumps and the anti-Trumps. Many wonder if we'll even have a country by the time Trump leaves office.


Peggy's father, Earl (who I knew for 40-years before I started calling him Dad), voted for Trump, and every time we've talked for the last two years, I wanted to ask him how he likes his choice, but I didn't because Peggy objected. Yesterday, he volunteered that Trump is just what America needs, a claim that he underscored by comparing The Donald to Teddy Roosevelt, a pre-WWI president whose racist imperialism spread senseless death around the world and who is best remembered for saying, "Walk softly but carry a big stick." 


I was so appalled by Earl's claim that the loudly bullying and ever boastful Trump "walks softy," that I seriously wondered if my 88-year-old Baptist deacon father-in-law is becoming senile. When I remembered that he watches Fox TV for hours a day, I surmised that a steady diet of hate speech in combination with old age must have rattled his brain, this being the most kindly interpretation that I could make. He and I have often disagreed, but until yesterday I at least respected his goodwill and intelligence. How though, am I to respect a man who believes that the fascistic callousness and brutality of the Trump Administration is born of strength, even Godliness? When I hung up the phone, I felt as if something within me had died. Scant though it is, my only comfort is that the same experience is being repeated all over America. Like Jesus before him, Trump  can truthfully claim: "I came not to bring peace, but a sword... to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person's enemies will be those of his own household.”


The pacifistic Quakers surely give more thought to morality than other churches. One of their guidelines is based upon the belief that we can only bring peace into the world to the extent that we rid ourselves of the animosity that causes war. I am failing miserably in this because I no longer regard our nation's political divide as representing a difference of opinion between well-meaning groups with neither group having a monopoly on truth, but rather as a war between the flawed good of the Democratic Party and the limitless evil of the Republican. To illustrate the enormity of this change, until well into this century, I consistently voted for Gordon Smith, a Republican senator, and I'll never forgive his Democrat rival, Jeff Merkely, for the dirty campaign that he waged in the election in which he defeated Smith. Now I don't know if I will ever again so much as consider voting for a Republican.


Democracy rests upon the high-minded belief that the best form of government is one in which issues are debated thoroughly, after which the people decide. Sadly, I can no longer accept the people's decision if their decision is in favor of a political party that I regard as distilled evil, a party exemplified by a man who starts his every day with a predawn resumption of the lying, bigotry, bullying, boastfulness, ignobility, and seamless asininity, of the day before. There is a huge chasm between being mistaken but acting honorably, and knowing exactly what manner of man you're voting for and electing him anyway. This is the essence of my disillusionment with Earl. When he voted for Trump in 2016, I thought he must surely be acting in ignorance, but now I see that I was the one who was ignorant, ignorant in my high esteem for Earl. It is said that time heals all wounds, so I can but hope that the future will find me thinking better of him than I do today.


*https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/21/style/zara-jacket-melania-trump.html 

Is This Funny?


The following joke was forwarded to me by a Christian who was dismayed that I took offense: 


"An atheist was seated next to a little girl on a plane when he turned to her and said, 'Do you want to talk? Flights go quicker when you do.'
"The little girl replied,
 'Okay, what would you like to talk about?'
"'Oh, I don't know,' said the man, smiling smugly at her sweet, trusting innocence, 'maybe how we know that God, heaven, and hell are all imaginary.'
"'Okay,' she said. 'Those could be interesting topics, but let me ask you a question first. A horse, a cow, and a deer all eat grass. Yet a deer excretes little pellets, a cow turns out flat patties, and a horse produces clumps. Why do you suppose that is?'
"The atheist, visibly surprised by the little girl's intelligence, says,
"'Hmm, I have no idea.'
"The little girl replies, 'Do you really feel qualified to deny the existence of God, heaven, and hell, when you don't know shit?'"



I asked Peggy what she thought. "Christians might like it," she said, "unless, of course, the roles were reversed." I reversed the roles: 



"A Christian was seated next to a little girl on a plane when he turned to her and said, 'Do you want to talk? Flights go quicker when you do.'
"The little girl replied,
 'Okay, what would you like to talk about?'
"'Oh, I don't know,' said the man, smiling smugly at her sweet, trusting innocence, 'maybe how we know that God, heaven, and  hell are all real.'
"'Okay,' she said. 'Those could be interesting topics, but let me ask you a question first. A horse, a cow, and a deer all eat grass. Yet a deer excretes little pellets, a cow turns out flat patties, and a horse produces clumps. Why do you suppose that is?'
"The Christian, visibly surprised by the little girl's intelligence, says,
"'Hmm, I have no idea.'
"The little girl replies, 'Do you really feel qualified to affirm the existence of God, heaven, and hell, when you don't know shit?'"



Turning the joke around is like remaking a silent film so that a fair-skinned maiden with golden curls laughs dementedly while tying a swarthy man in a black cape to a railroad track. Jokes about Jews, gays, black men, blonde women, atheists, and other groups, usually rely upon unflattering stereotypes, so by reversing the roles of the characters, a joke simply becomes a head-scratcher. But in the case of atheists, what stereotypes? That atheists are conceited, embittered, condescending, unethical, white, and male*. 



I think it possible that the creator of this particular joke was inspired by the story of David and Goliath and by Matthew 18: 2-6:



"And He [Jesus] called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, '... Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven... but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.'" 



Although the child in the joke failed the humility test, the predatory desire
of the atheist to use his imagined superiority to vanguish her belief in Jesus put me in mind of a documentary about the life of Bill Nye. In one cringe-worthy incident, Ken Ham was giving Nye a tour of Ham's creationist theme park in Kentucky when Nye inexplicably tried to persuade a little girl (of six or so) to study up on evolution. In the minds of creationist Christians he surely assumed the unflattering role of the atheist in the joke, the same role for which Jesus thought drowning was too good. The downside of being a member of a despised minority is that your detractors are eager for any excuse to justify hating you all the more--and encouraging others to do likewise. 

Do you regard this joke as innocent humor?


*Although 78% of American atheists are white (http://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/religious-family/atheist/), women atheists outnumber men atheists in the under-65 category: http://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/religious-family/atheist/gender-composition/.

Why not just kill cats?


I can think of three understandable reasons for being angry at cats: cats pee and poop in flower beds; cats leave tracks on cars; cats decimate wildlife. While it's true that cat owners bear all of the responsibility for these problems, it's their cats who are vulnerable to retaliation, and I consider it probable that people who dump cats' mutilated remains in their owner's yards (see last post) are trying to send a message to everyone who has outdoor cats. 

When I moved into this creek-side neighborhood 28 years ago, it contained an abundance of squirrels, raccoons, nutria, songbirds, opossums, non-poisonous snakes, and waterfowl. Roughly ten years ago, multiple neighbors got multiple outdoor cats (one neighbor had eleven), and I watched in horror as those cats decimated the wildlife. Thanks to irresponsible cat owners, the birds that lay their eggs in the high grass across the street are all gone as are the non-migratory waterfowl (dead migratory birds being replenished by new arrivals). I went from finding several garter snakes and king snakes a year in my yard to only seeing one in the past eight years. Even the nutria, opossums, and raccoons have been hard hit, presumably because cats target their young.

I got cat shit on my hands so often while working in my flower beds (buried cat shit blends in nicely with dirt clods) that I finally took to wearing plastic gloves. Then there were cat tracks on my car and the trauma experienced by my own cats every time they see outdoor cats in their yard. People who have outdoor cats claim that I should take all this in stride. Their arguments take six forms: (1) It's inhumane to keep cats indoors*; (2) I really need to lighten-up about cat shit in my flower beds and cat tracks on my car; (3) Cats are natural predators, so it's only natural that the local wildlife be decimated by a superabundance of recreational killers; (4) Cats only "cull" old and weak birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals; (5) Numerous studies and my own abundant observations notwithstanding, cats are such sorry hunters that they rarely kill anything; (6) Finally, there are those whose poor self-image cause them to take pride in their cats' hunting prowess.

If I had previously disliked cats or was indifferent to them, what I have witnessed in this neighborhood would have turned me into a bonafide cat hater. But is killing cats the solution? Surely, a dead cat can't harm wildlife or poop in flower beds, but would the benefits of killing cats outweigh the downsides? Unless it's done on a large scale (as by the government in Australia**), I can think of several reasons why it wouldn't, and I'm going to devote the rest of this post to arguments I might offer someone who was thinking of becoming a cat killer due to legitimate concerns regarding the damage done by outdoor cats:

(1) There being so many ways to bring good into the world, is one that brings death to cats, grief to their owners, outrage to the community, and stress to yourself, worthy of your time and talent?
(2) Would you want your child to follow your example?
(3) How much would you worry about being caught, and if caught would the satisfaction of having killed however many cats justify the resultant hatred, job loss, criminal prosecution, and abandonment by friends? 
(4) Studies show that many cats seldom if ever hunt, and still others are too old to hunt (cats begin to decline, mentally and physically, at age seven), which means that the bulk of the killing being done by a limited number of cats. How, then, would you know which cats to target? 
 (5) There's a saying that goes: Behave as if your actions were to become universal law. If you wouldn't approve of all of the world's people using unilateral violence to solve problems, would not your use of violence suggest egotism and arrogance?
(6) Would you be saddened by the need to erect a lifelong wall of secrecy between yourself and others, a wall consisting of the times you hid in the shrubbery on dark nights slaughtering cats? Or would you boast of your killings to everyone you trusted, only who could you trust, not just today, but next year when you and they had an argument? 
(7) When you caress a loved one, would the memory of the terror and death that your hands inflicted put a distance between you? 
(8) What would you do if an innocent person was openly accused, possibly assaulted, and had his property vandalized?
(9) If people came to surmise that an environmentalist was responsible for the killings, how would you feel about their resultant hatred of all environmentalists and their possible targeting of a specific environmentalist? 
(10) How many cats do you plan on killing--one, three, a hundred, as many as possible every weekend for years--possibly branching out from your neighborhood to other neighborhoods and even to other towns? 
(11) When you die, would your unknowing loved ones wrongly praise you as having been a man whose life was a blessing to all who knew him, who loved children and animals, and who devoted himself to making the world safer and kinder for all its inhabitants?

* If your cat spends much of its time alone, and you don't provide him or her with abundant opportunities for exercise and stimulation, this is true, but then you shouldn't have a cat.
**https://www.smh.com.au/national/war-on-feral-cats-australia-aims-to-cull-2-million-20170214-gucp4o.html

The Murders of Blazer and Spot


Ollie, Scully, Brewsky
A sixteen year old tabby named Blazer was decapitated and dismembered in Portland this week, and a cat named Spot died similarly two months ago. Upon researching these deaths, I found that cats fall into the hands of sadists far more often than even I, pessimist that I am, realized.

Why do I feel more saddened and outraged over the death of a cat in Oregon than I would over a child in Syria? Perhaps it's because I've become hardened by the numerous stories and newscasts I hear about murdered children. Then again, maybe having four cats simply gives me a greater ability to empathize with people whose cats are murdered. Beyond these possibilities, what other factors determine the level of human outrage and grief over the killing of any animal, human or otherwise? Six possibilities come to mind. 

(1) Do we like to eat the animal, or the animal's milk or eggs (because bulls don't give milk and roosters don't lay eggs, they're routinely killed)? (2) Did we perceive the victim as belonging to a group that is inferior or threatening? Such factors are why, other things being equal, white people tend to grieve less for black victims, Christians for atheist victims, and almost everyone for rattlesnakes and grizzly bears. (3) Did we perceive the victim to be like us, and did he or she live near us? If yes, we will take the loss more personally, and we'll worry that the same fate will befall us. (4) How similar to our species was the victim's species? Few people have qualms about killing insects. (5) Was the victim cute? The cuteness factor is why people who couldn't kill a bunny can kill a rat despite the fact that rats are more like humans than are bunnies, in ways both flattering and insulting. (6) Was the victim innocent? Innocence only exists in animals and children, but with one major difference: animals live their entire lives in innocence, while children are soon able to choose evil. My belief that cats are innocentand my own species depravedprobably played a significant role in my reaction.

While I was cuddling with my two-year-old tuxedo girl, Scully, today (Queen of My Heart II, I call her), I said, "My god, I don't know how I could bear it if what happened to Blazer happened to you," and I was very glad that she could neither understand my words nor comprehend evil. If there is any good that comes from this tragedy, perhaps it will be that more people will keep their cats indoors, the world containing an abundance of people who should have never been born.

Bahá’u’lláh, Mother Ann, Lamar Smith, the violent South, FFRF, and the power of the Religous Right




If Bahá’u’lláh, founder of the Bahai, hadn't disrespected homosexuals, his followers wouldn't hold them in contempt. If Mother Ann, founder of the Shakers (for whom we are indebted for the song in the video), had decreed that her followers have ten children, they would have borne ten children; but she instead prescribed celibacy, so her followers renounced their marriages and gave up their children. Religion is premised upon the belief that God speaks to few people, and that He expects the rest of us to take those people's word for what he said. The fact that this has resulted in unimaginable misery for millennia in no way makes the faithful question that it's all according to God's plan. Credo quia absurdum.

If your savior of choice makes moderate demands, and you're not personally fanatical, you might leave the world better for having lived; but if your savior is wicked or psychotic, only luck, and less often, clear thinking, will keep you from murdering nonbelievers; committing suicide in Guyana; mutilating the genitals of little girls; castrating homosexuals; and blowing up the ancient city of Palmya after beheading its 82-year-old defender. Despite such things, most of the world's population holds that religion is good, but that it can be twisted into something bad. But consider the Inquisition. Consider all the wars that religion has endorsed if not declared. You might argue that these things were an aberration, and that today's problems with religion are more of the same, but when was there a time that persecution in the name of God was not the norm? 

I receive a monthly newspaper called Freethought Today that exposes religious oppression and lists hundreds of verifiable accounts of the latest felonies committed by America's clergy. Rape and its conspiratorial cover-ups are the most common, but every other crime you can name also appears. Vulgar and threatening letters directed at the publishers are printed along with essays and news regarding the organization's latest lawsuits on behalf of people who have the guts to speak-out against religion's tax-supported intrusion into their lives. While physical assaults against those who object to the all-out effort by the Religious Right to create an American theocracy are relatively rare, losing friends, losing jobs, receiving death threats, having one's children harassed, finding one's property vandalized, and even having one's pets killed, are not. While most Christians don't take an active part in such things, they don't oppose them either, just as they didn't opposed the murders, bombings, and lynchings of 50-150 years ago.

I was six years old when a black World War II veteran and Civil Rights worker named Lamar Smith was lynched in broad daylight near the main entrance to my Mississippi courthouse. When questioned by police, the scores of bystanders presaged the oft repeated words of Sgt. Schultz on Hogan's Heroes: "I saw nothING! I heard nothING! I know nothING! nothING!" It was as though all of those "good Christians" (a term with which Christians like to favor themselves despite their Savior's insistence that only God is good) of my childhood took the position that, "Christ died for us, so we don't have to risk a goddamn thing for nobody." 

The oppression continues today in yearly outrages against all manner of Americans, including those who dare to complain when their local teachers, coaches, principals, mayors, policemen, aldermen, and postal workers, use their offices to promote the Christian religion. It might be a $75,000 taxpayer funded mural inside a church in Asheville, North Carolina; $1.4-million to remodel a Presbyterian church in Morristown, New Jersey; Latin crosses on Alpine, Texas, police cruisers; or the many places in which school principals allow clergy to approach individual students while they're eating to ask if they're "saved." All of these things violate the law; all of these things are skyrocketing under Donald Trump's hamstrung Department of Justice; and all of these things are done by people who claim that they alone can live with integrity because they alone have the Holy Spirit to guide them.

For the whole of the Civil Rights era, I attended church three times a week without hearing a single preacher in a single sermon criticize the burnings, beatings, bombings, and murders that were happening in my state. "How can you be so sure?" one might ask, "Maybe you just forgot." I can be sure because to hear any white person, much less a preacher from a pulpit, criticize the criminals or express sympathy for the victims would have been as memorable as a train wreck. 

While it's true that a prominent area insurance agent named Albert Heffner Jr. (whose daughter was Miss Mississippi) tried to reign in the violence; he was forced out of his community within days and out of the entire state of Mississippi within weeks, without a single local preacher taking his side. Yet, it was the Christian South that saw itself as leading the nation in fealty to Christ. As the preachers put it, we Southerners loved our Lord Jesus "without any variance or shadow of turning."

Another reason I know whereof I speak, is that I took my religion far more seriously than I wish I had, and this enabled me to remember other sermons. One common topic concerned the claim that Noah's son, Ham, became the father of "the negro race" when God cursed him and his progeny with black skin and servitude because he didn't look away when he saw his naked father passed-out drunk. Then there was the egregious rationalization that was preached from pulpits and printed in Jimmy Ward's front page editorials of the Jackson Daily News: Our niggers were happy until Communist inspired outside agitators like Dr. Martin Luther Coon, Jr. came in and stirred 'em up. The fact that Dr. Martin Luther Coon, Jr. was also a Southerner was ignored.

But I speak of olden times, olden as in fifty years. So what say you? 1,950 years of cruelty and oppression followed by fifty years of relative pacificity, and I should trust that Christians won't "gird up their loins" (another popular sermon phrase) for continued mayhem? Before Trump, I tried to do just that because life is more pleasant when I think well of others. I even continued trying to do it after the Christian vote put Trump into office, my assumption being that once America's Christians had ample opportunity to see Trump in action, they would realize their mistake. There was no mistake. They knew exactly what kind of man they were electing. You might say that popular Christianity isn't really the force for evil that I make it out to be, but if this should prove to be true, it won't be for a lack of trying...

Although legal (mostly extralegal) religion-based oppression has increased under Trump, the American public as a whole has been becoming less religious for decades, and the trend is accelerating. So what gives? What gives is that the religious right is composed of voters who wouldn't vote for the Holy Trinity if the Holy Trinity favored gun control, gay rights, abortion, and various other "hot button" issues. But let a candidate oppose such things, and America's preachers will demand that their flocks vote for that candidate or be sent to hell for all eternity by a thoroughly pissed-off Republican deity. This narrow focus combined with gerrymandering and, of late, help from Russia gives the religious right a strength disproportionate to its numbers, yet as day follows night, as their numbers decrease, their political strength will necessarily. 

Other factors that work against the religious right are its advancing age, the growth of minorities, and the absolute fury that millions of Americans feel based upon their perception that our Republican-led Christianized government isn't only failing to solve problems; it is the cause of many problems and the exacebator of others. A few examples: school shootings; unwinnable wars; global warming; the elimination of consumer protections; the approaching insolvency of Social Security; looming national bankruptcy; the unwillingness to stand up a president who is doing his utmost to deconstruct our democracy; and even something so obvious and so simple as paying the bills and approving a budget. 

Saint Ronald Reagan (for he is a saint to conservatives) is best known for saying, "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help." But if the government can't help, who can? Big Oil; Big Pharma; Big Banking? The people whom capitalism rewards the most appear to care the least about what happens tomorrow as long as there's money to be made today, and besides, the government has shown that it will bail them out when their greed pushes the entire country to the brink of bankruptcy. Big Religion (i.e. the religion of the status quo)? One lesson of Roy Moore is that if a candidate will do its bidding and echo its bigotry, the Religious Right will vote for him no matter how many little girls he has twiddled. This leaves us with the NRA whose members keep building bigger, and bigger, and bigger military style arsenals. Why? So they can wage war against the government if it should ever attempt to take away their arsenals or anger them in some other way.

So yes, I think people will wake-up, but I seriously question that they will wake up in time, or if there will ever be the political will to solve many problems, global warming being the most pressing, before it's too late. Ours is simply not a species that takes the long view.

Christ in America


God rewarded this servant with multiple mansions
This post is about the problems caused by American evangelicals, fundamentalists, and conservative Catholics. My knowledge is based upon my childhood in the fundamentalist Church of Christ; my education at an Independent Methodist college and a Southern Baptist college; listening to National Public Radio for hours everyday; reading the monthly newspaper, Freethought Today, cover to cover; paying close attention to the issues that Christian voters care about, and watching the national and local news regularly. Based upon these sources, it seems to me that a large majority of evangelicals, fundamentalists, and conservative Catholics: 

1) Oppose gun control, abortion rights, social welfare programs,  environmentalism, homosexual rights, and Palestinian autonomy

2) Regard science as the gateway to atheism; deny evolution, global warming, the "Big Bang," and the antiquity of the universe; believe that dinosaurs and humans coexisted; think that Biblical "science" should either replace or supplement evidence-based science in public school curricula.

3) Favor harsh prison sentences and capital punishment.

4) Are quick to support military intervention, imprisoning suspected terrorists indefinitely without a trial, and inflicting torture to gain information. Believe that America should stay out of other nation's affairs, thereby giving tacit support to human rights abuses and predatory dictators.

5) Believe that religious employers should have the legal right to deny contraceptive benefits through their insurance plans; that religious pharmacists should have the legal right to refuse to fill prescriptions that violate their personal beliefs; and that religious pastry chefs, florists, and others should have the legal right to refuse orders from atheists, Muslims, homosexuals, and anyone else of whom they disapprove.

6) Believe that America is a Christian nation founded on Christian values; that its prosperity is proof of God's preference; that Christian specific prayers should be a part of government meetings and school functions; that Christian symbols and monuments should be allowed in public parks, public schools, and in and around courthouses, post offices, city halls, and police stations; and that anyone who opposes any of these things is guilty of persecuting Christians.

7) Believe that foreigners who are here illegally should be expelled even if they were brought here as infants, have no ties to the country of their birth, and would be in danger if returned to the country of their birth.

During my coming of age years in the 1950s and '60s, most of America's churches held that attempts to mix religion with politics were unworthy of a people whose kingdom "is not of this world." They subsequently turned their attention to "preaching the gospel" and upholding morality. Now that religion has no part in the lives of a fourth of Americans, and non-Christian religions are on the increase, America's churches are desperate to regain a control that was formerly theirs simply by virtue of the fact that their values mirrored the values of the general public. 

This means that the church's newly found emphasis on transforming America into a conservative Christian theocracy doesn't come from a position of strength but from a desperation to return the nation to an era when white Christian conservatives ruled the nation and, legally or illegally, suppressed all challengers, a time that was like the materialistic 1950s when "In God We Trust" was put on the nation's currency; "under God" was added to the Pledge of Allegiance; and tax breaks were given to "ministers of the gospel." As such, it is doomed to failure, a failure that is being accelerated by the church's willingness to abandon its own ethical teachings in the pursuit of power and wealth. I hold that the dominant face of modern American Christianity is morally, intellectually, and spiritually bankrupt; a purveyor of lies; a perpetrator of war; and an enemy of the poor. 

Despite all this, America's Christians believe that they are unique among all the peoples of the earth in their faithfulness to the teachings of Jesus Christ, no matter that their smugness, materialism, unprincipled pursuit of earthly dominance, and loathing of such "not nice" people as gays, atheists, and Muslims, are in contradiction to Jesus' message of love, humility, simplicity, peacefulness, and the renunciation of worldly power. I offer the following to support my contention:

1) While the public in general, and younger Americans in particular, are moving ever more in the direction of tolerance and inclusion, the church is openly embracing bigotry. For example, the Christians of the state of Alabama were so outraged a federal requirement that sexual orientation not be taken into account when issuing marriage licenses, that their lawmakers are working to end the issuance of marriage licenses altogether. Because Alabamians commonly hold that the Bible is a static record "of God's unchanging word," they can cite chapter and verse to prove that God wants them to go much further than putting an end to gay marriage; he wants them to criminalize homosexual relationships if not to actually execute homosexuals. Unfortunately for them, federal law makes these things impossible.

2) "...by their fruits you will know them." Matthew 7:20

America's evangelicals, fundamentalists, and conservative Catholics, have traded their belief that, if you do good and trust in God, God will make things right, for a world view that they formerly condemned as the hallmark of "Godless Communism." I refer Machiavelli's statement that, "The end justifies the means." The resultant pragmatism is what made it possible for Christians to support one politician who boasted of sexually assaulting women and another who raped children, and it is what is still inspiring America's Christians to protect clergymen who are accused of molestation. I could cite almost endless other instances of the church: violating the law to proselytize inside public schools; diverting public monies for its private use; petitioning for the installation or retention of religious monuments in publicly owned parks and buildings by claiming that such monuments have no religious significance; and supporting notoriously corrupt and otherwise unqualified politicians as long as those politicians favor right-wing religion.

(3) "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." James 1:27

In what part of the New Testament did Jesus embrace politics, and where did he encourage patriotism? Why, then, is the rallying cry of millions of Christians "America First," and why did the church go from visiting widows and orphans to deporting them; from respecting peacemakers to extolling violence; from helping drug addicts to imprisoning them? Liberals are made to feel unwelcome in most of America's churches because if there is one thing of which America's Christians are certain, one thing that their preachers tell them from the pulpit (in violation of a federal law that prohibits them from endorsing candidates), it is that God wants his people to vote Republican, and if Jesus prefers Republicans, then liberalism is clearly a sin. 

(4) It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." Mark 10:25

The heroes of the church are no longer the Kings, Bonhoeffers, and Schweitzers, with their emphasis on courage and sacrifice; nor is it the humble pastor of my childhood who turned down a raise so the money could be spent on what he regarded as higher things. The heroes of the modern church are rich politicians like Donald Trump, and rich preachers like Joel Osteen who lives in a tax exempt 17,000 square-foot mansion, and earns $55-million a year telling his16,800 person audience that they can be rich like him if they please God by giving generously to the church. So far as I'm aware, our modern era marks the first time that amassing wealth was officially endorsed by the church itself as proof of God's favor, the implication being that the poor have only themselves to blame and therefore don't deserve help.

(5) "Jesus answered, 'My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom.'" John 18:36

While American religion tries to hide its unbridled lust for power beneath a veneer of piety, the effect is like that of a cat who hides beneath a chair with his tail sticking out. When religion wants to effect political change, it goes all out to pass discriminatory laws, but when it wants things to stay as they are, it offers prayers. Consider some typical responses from Christian politicians following the Parkland, Florida, school shooting:

"When we say 'thoughts and prayers,' it's frowned upon. And I take real offense at that because thoughts and prayers are the only thing that's gonna stop the evil." Florida state senator Kelli Stargel

"I think of those kids who went back to school today after than horrific shooting, and they need something more. They need a belief in God and Jesus Christ."
Former U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz 

"And if there's ever a time to return prayer to the classroom, now's the time." U.S. Congressional candidate Steve Lonegan

American Christianity is a world turned on its head, but at least in the case of praying for an end to mass murder, it can't be positively proven that prayer is the complete failure that it appears to be. Potholes are another matter, but this didn't stop Jackson, Mississippi, mayor, Tony Yarber from tweeting: "Yes....I believe we can pray potholes away. Moses prayed and a sea opened up."

Is it not disingenuous to claim that banning guns won't save lives, but that banning abortion will; that social programs for the poor won't assuage poverty, but tax breaks for the wealthy will; that a commitment to helping disadvantaged youth won't prevent crime, but a commitment to building more and bigger prisons will; that any number of prayers by any number of people for any number of years can repair a single pothole or accomplish anything else of value, anything at all?
 
A people can be forgiven for having tried but failed, but how is one to forgive a people who pretend that good is evil and that evil is good? I know I cannot. 

"For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness." 
Matthew 23: 27-28