Background Probability

The Agnostic Popular Front has moved to its new home at Skeptic Ink, and will henceforth be known as Background Probability. Despite the relocation and rebranding, we will continue to spew the same low-fidelity high-quality bullshit that you've come to expect.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Oklahoma Proclamation for Religious Liberty

WHEREAS, Sally Kern and theocrats of her ilk have proclaimed that morality requires an abandonment of basic religious and civil liberties in favor universal acceptance of a particular ancient mythology; and

WHEREAS, they have abandoned historical scholarship, repeatedly taking the names of the Founding Fathers in vain and attributing to them many words which they had never spoken nor put to parchment; and

WHEREAS, Patrick Henry never claimed that “This great nation was founded not by religionists, but by Christians.”

WHEREAS, John Adams signed into law a treaty, ratified unanimously by the U.S. Senate, stating plainly that the “government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” (1797)

WHEREAS, John Adams repeatedly criticized fundamental Christian doctrines, such as when he referred to the alleged mystery of the Trinity and Atonement as “a convenient cover for absurdity.” (1756)

WHEREAS, Thomas Jefferson also repeatedly criticized Christian doctrines, but wrote approvingly of his own efforts to establish religious freedom as broadly as possible, claiming that the Virginia Bill for religious freedom meant to encompass “within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination.” (1821)

WHEREAS, James Madison never wrote approvingly of the “Ten Commandments of God” as a guide to public policy, but was rather an indefatigable proponent of the separation of church and state and rightly noted that the effect of ecclesiastical establishments are these, “In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the Civil authority; in many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny: in no instance have they been seen the guardians of the liberties of the people.” (1785)

WHEREAS, it is in fact impossible to find in the remarkably voluminous collected works of Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison, a single line unequivocally affirming Jesus to be the incarnation of a deity or the Christ to whom they personally looked for salvation.

NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that all those who sign on to Sally Kern’s proclamation of Christian Nationalism, revising history to suit their theocratic agenda, are perpetuating a blatant fraud and a lie, libelously imputing to the Founders words which never they wrote nor spoke in a shameless affront to the very liberties they defended.

BE IT RESOLVED that the signatories are traitors to liberty, inasmuch as they solemnly declare that all Oklahomans must look to only one religion and one holy text, in violation of both the Federal and State Constitutional guarantees of complete religious liberty and freedom of conscience.

BE IT RESOLVED that those among them solemnly sworn to defend these Constitutions are oath-breakers, who ought never henceforth be trusted with elective office.

BE IT RESOLVED that whatever gods may exist will call these signatories to repentance for their repeated acts of bearing false witness against the Founding Fathers and their oath-breaking attacks upon our religious liberty. May they be given an awakening of righteousness as they repent of this great sin.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

John Ensign, Promise Maker

Alleged ‘Promise Keeper’ John Ensign called for disgraced fellow Senator Larry Craig to step down back in October 2007, reportedly around six weeks before he started having an affair with one of his employees.  Once again, we find that those we speak up loudly in defense of so-called ‘traditional marriage’ are evidently overcompensating for their own personal failure to create a marital union which they themselves consider worthy of honoring.


Thank you, GOP leadership, for time and again so vividly demonstrating that no one should take your empty rhetoric even remotely seriously.  Have fun in the political wilderness!



Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Religious Endorsement versus Religious Liberty

Respecting recent government attempts to endorse Mosaic Law and Christian theology, there are three interrelated questions here and it is easy enough to get them confused. The first is a question of ethics, the second a question of state constitutional law, the third a question of federal constitutional law.

As to the question of ethics, I’ve always thought it hypocritical and indicative of shallow ethical thinking for anyone to claim that official government endorsement of their own religious views is perfectly ethical and should not be seen as a violation of anyone’s right to equal treatment under the law, even though they would think it obviously immoral for the government to erect a massive monument to any other religion. Imagine the hue and cry from the Christians if the government erected a massive homage stone mandating worship of Krishna, Buddha, or Allah (or even Jehovah, if monument indicated any Messiah other than their own). I’ve no doubt, also, that the consistent failure among Christians to see this as an obvious violation of the Golden Rule is little more than self-deception, the fruits of an unexamined life. Those that say they would be content living in a theocracy not of their own making are suffering from a failure of imagination, at best.

As to the question of state law, it is essentially where to draw the line between free expression of private faith and the government creating policies which have the effect of endorsing an official religion. In Oklahoma, that line could not be any clearer, as a matter of state constitutional law. Since both Commandments monuments would clearly and unequivocally make indirect use of “public money or property . . . for the use, benefit, or support of [a] system of religion” there is really very little to argue about here.

As to the federal question, one must look to the interpretations which the federal courts have put upon the Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment. I’ve no time to go into detail right now, but suffice to say that the 10th Circuit issued a fine opinion in this case, and I’ll be surprised if SCOTUS grants cert (unless of course a sister circuit has by then created a split between the circuits).

In summary, Oklahoma’s monuments to ancient Hebrew religious dicta fail all three tests: the Golden Rule, the Oklahoma Constitution, and the Federal Constitution. It is time for the government (at every level) to move on to solving problems instead of creating them by introducing religious divisions into the discourse.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Christians taking action

Here follows a relatively brief and concise history of the direct-action tip of the Christian right-wing movement to end abortion in America.

1993 – Dr. David Gunn murdered on March 10th by Michael Griffin, the first pro-life assassin. A few months later, Oklahoma City plays host to the direct action wing of the anti-abortion movement at a national conference sponsored by Rescue America. On June 18th, the publisher of Life Advocate magazine, Andrew Burnett, told the attendees that he used to believe that Dr. Gunn’s death “shouldn’t have happened” but now believes that “People should be willing to take a life to defend another.” He went on, “You're willing to shoot someone to defend your daughter. We shouldn't be horrified if someone does something to defend a life. We should be willing to defend the life of another person if it means damage to property or injury to someone else.” Burnett also said, “I’m not sure that we can really say that ‘Abortion is Murder,’ and at the same time react in horror when a person who is about to murder someone else is not able to do that anymore because of whatever means was necessary to stop that person.” Later that summer, Rev. Paul Hill circulates a statement that the use of lethal force against doctors is “justifiable provided it was carried out for the purpose of defending the lives of unborn children” which is signed by the publishers of both Life Advocate and Prayer and Action newsletters.

1994 - Paul Hill and John Salvi murder health care workers at abortion clinics in Florida and Massasschusettesss. Both men cite to Scripture and faith as among their primary motivations, but Salvi takes it a step further, claiming that "he is part of a special group of individuals which he refers to as an apostleship that exists within the community and that will lead the Catholic people out of their current state."

1996 – Prayer and Action publishes instructions on how to bomb buildings. On April 17th, Scott Roeder is charged with criminal use of explosives on account of the bomb parts found in his car. He is later given a suspended sentence and paroled on the condition that he “not associate with persons or groups advocating violence and disregard or disrespect of laws of Kansas or involved in manufacturing of bombs.”

Late 1990’s – Life Advocate and Prayer and Action newsletters continue to “publish articles debating the use of violence” and “function as sort of an underground press for those attracted in some way to the justifiable homicide view.” Many articles provide arguments favoring the use of lethal force.

1998 - James Kopp and Eric Rudolph murder health care workers in order to stop abortion.

2009 - After a long hiatus in anti-abortion terrorism, Scott Roeder murders Dr. George Tiller in Wichita, KS.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Martyrs to Freedom

Army Pvt. William Long and Dr. George Tiller both fought for freedom, although in quite different ways. Both men deliberately exposed themselves to significant personal risks on account of their determination to defend deeply-held American values (such as self-determination and other inalienable personal liberties) and both were ruthlessly assassinated by anti-American zealots, presumably on account of a bizarre fusion of twisted religious and political ideals. The assassins in both cases acted with the hope of instilling fear in those who support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the freedoms which our legal system recognizes as due to all human beings.

There are all too many zealots in this world (most especially those who take the scriptures of the three Abrahamic faiths seriously and literally) who believe that women ought to be subjugated to men, made to cover themselves in public, and relegated primarily to the domestic roles of broodmare and caretaker. American soldiers have fought against these religious fanatics in various places and times, while American doctors have labored are home to preserve the self-determination of women who choose not to spend their lives solely in the pursuit of maternal happiness.