Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Problem, You See, Is…

Ran into a guy I sort of know.

We talked about things.

The conversation eventually turned to Education:


Him: The problem with education in America is that Liberals have taken God out of the schools!

Me: Beg pardon?

Him: We didn’t have gang problems and drug problems and that kind of crap before they took God out of school. Kids used to behave.

Me: The hell you say. Where are you getting this nonsense? Texas history books?

Him: Kids can’t even pray in school any more. Christians I mean.  But if you’re a Muslim, they have to give you a special room and let you pray to Mohammed. But not Christians!

Me: I’m pretty sure Christians can pray to Mohammed if they want to…

Him: Ha ha. Funny. But you know I’m right.

Me: Uh, no, you’re wrong. Christians, and anybody else for that matter, can pray if they like, in or out of school. The school just can’t make them pray. The school can’t advocate any one particular religion. However, by law the school must make allowances for religious beliefs, Christians and everybody else’s.

Him: Then why are they discriminating against Christians?

Me: Oh for fuck’s sake, Christians are the least persecuted religion in America.

Him: We can’t even talk about God in school, but the Muslims can wear those rags on their heads and hide their faces…

Me: And Jews can wear the yarmulke and Christians can wear their crosses. And Goths can wear black and paint their faces.  And people from Wisconsin can wear big foam blocks of cheese on their heads.  And this has what exactly to do with declining test scores and poorly performing schools?

Him: That’s my point! We need to put God back in the schools!

Me: And by God you mean the Christian God?

Him: There is only one God…

Me: Well, he should have behaved better then.

Him: What?

Me: If God didn’t want to get expelled, he should have behaved better.

Him: You’re just being a jerk.

Me: Probably. What exactly do you mean? Put God back in the schools?

Him: Evolution! You can’t even mention alternative theories! Students can get kicked out for even mentioning intelligent design, but they’re supposed to believe people came from monkeys!

Me: Oh bullshit.  In fact, nearly every school district in the country allows students to opt out of class work that conflicts with their religious views.  But just to make sure I’m understanding you correctly, teaching Intelligent Design will get rid of gangs and drug use? Improve test scores?

Him: Yes! It’s about morals.  Evolution says you can do anything you want because there isn’t a higher purpose.  You can just rape and kill if you want to, according to evolution! Drugs? OK. Sex? OK. You can’t even have the Ten Commandments in the schools or the courthouses any more. Liberals have gone crazy with this kind of censorship! This country was founded on the Ten Commandments!

Me: Uh…

Him: It was!

Me: That’s actually incorrect, Jefferson and the Founders referred to a number of texts when writing the Constitution, including the Bible and the Torah and the Koran.

Him: That’s crazy, the Koran wasn’t even written then!

Me: Bawah?

Him: Anyway, whatever, even you have to admit that the Ten Commandants should be taught in school. Don’t kill, don’t steal, obey the law…

Me: Um, I’m pretty sure the Big Ten doesn’t include “obey the law.”  I’m OK with thou shall not kill and thou shall not steal. But I do have a major problem with teaching the rest of it in public school, especially the parts about which God to worship.  And what about that part where it says “Honor your father and mother.”  Hey that’s great for most people, but what about those kids who have parents who abuse them? Say a child molester? What about that bit about no idols or graven images? Does that apply to football mascots?

Him: Don’t be stupid.

Me: Do you even know the Ten Commandments?

Him: Better than you!

Me: Good thing smug hubris wasn’t outlawed uh? Never mind. Look, don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t commit perjury, etcetera are already covered by state and federal laws. Along with things like don’t rape, don’t hit people, don’t blow shit up, don’t break other people’s stuff, and so on along with a lot of other things the Ten Commandments seems to have left out.  In fact, as a guideline for life, the Ten Commandments are pretty damned simplistic, and they are certainly woefully incomplete.

Him: That’s a lie! If you live your life by God’s law like Christians then…

Me: Whoa, stop. I call shenanigans. You said rape, drug use, etcetera. The Ten Commandments do not in any way say a damned thing about “Thou shall not smoke the ganja,” or “Thou shall not force a woman against her will or ply her with roofies and have your way with her without her consent,” or “Thou shall not join the Crips or the Aryan Nation.”  Hell, the Ten Commandments don’t even say to study hard and stay in school.  And God’s law? What law? Where’s this written down?

Him: In the bible! Of course!

Me: Right. Exactly. So according to God’s law I should be able to sell my daughter into slavery?  And in fact slavery is perfectly acceptable, right? In fact, if I’m not mistaken, Jesus mentioned the proper care and feeding of slaves on more than one occasion, right?  How about genocide? God himself killed all the firstborn of Egypt, didn’t he?  And doesn’t the Bible tell me to kill my son if he disrespects me? Should we stone adulterers to death? Burn witches?

Him: That’s in the Old Testament!

Me: hmmmm?

Him: You people always bring that stuff up. That was in the Old Testament, Jesus changed all of that. That’s why the Jews are cursed! Because they don’t accept Jesus and the New Testament! You have to read what Jesus said, and God’s covenant with Man through Jesus’ sacrifice!

Me: So, there was no slavery in the New Testament?

Him: Look…

Me: Also, aren’t the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament?

Him: You’re an asshole. I’m not talking to you anymore.

Me: So I guess a blowjob in the parking lot is completely out of the question?  Oh, c’mon don’t go…


  1. Heh.

    Glad to see you're back on form after the hiatus. (Although, the spelling nazi in me would politely point out "rufees" (or "roofies") and "Crips" are probably what you were aiming for.)

  2. I actually typed "rupies" not rufies.

    Rupies, maybe she's Indian, maybe I was talking about Indian prostitution, did you ever think of that? Huh? No, you did not.

    And The Cripes are a small gang of spelling challenged street hoodlums operating out of Queans, Knew York.


    OK. You got me. I fixed it.

  3. I love that I'm part of a group that can't get sixty people to agree on a public option but we're able to achieve a far-ranging conspiracy to remove God and Jesus from the schools and turn everyone into a Muslim or something. Yay, liberals! And here I thought we were a bunch of ineffectual twits!


  4. Heh--I thought maybe the "rupees" for sex thing was a reference to prostitution. So it sort of made sense for some reason.

  5. It takes two intelligent people to have a discussion. Unfortunately, you were the only one present.

    He sounded like a republican on a Sunday talk show.

  6. Like a bad actor, Him doesn't know what to say when fed lines not in his script.

    Him ain't too big on history, either. Must have learned it from Texas textbooks.

  7. Those other things were covered in the five Commandants Moses dropped.

  8. Heh. My people I bring you these fifteen...oops [SMASH!]...ten, ten commandments!

    I love that movie.

    But seriously, the Ten Commandments look like something a child would put together. As a basis for law? Seriously? Come on.

  9. Sounds good. Let me know when you have it, I'll pass it over to the NAACP and the ACLU - don't they handle discrimination issues?

  10. But seriously, the Ten Commandments look like something a child would put together. As a basis for law? Seriously? Come on.

    Believe it or not, I'll disagree with that, sort of: the Ten Commandments are a great basis for law--if you live in a Bronze Age, ethnically homogeneous, tribal theocracy. In one sense, I'm damning them with faint praise by saying that--I mean, such a society is pretty fucking primitive, it's right there in the description ("Bronze Age," natch), but I also mean that as a sincere... well, "praise" might be the wrong word, but maybe you see what I'm trying to say: it's a good foundational, functional document for such a society as it picks its way through the desert and eventually settles down to the task of eking out what eventually, however briefly, becomes a very successful expansionist military regional power and is a strong enough foundation to help hold together that former military state's culture for generations--indeed, for millennia--after the complete and utter collapse of the actual state.

    But, you know, context: the United States isn't a Bronze Age, ethnically homogeneous tribe and never, ever, ever has been, has it? And laws that might be good for binding a Bronze Age tribe not only might be useless for a contemporary heterogeneous nation but might even be negative. Laws are a kind of technology, and like technology, shouldn't be utilized past their utility; relying on ancient laws that are past their usefulness is like trying to say that your flint-and-steel was good enough for your ancient ancestors, to hell with these newfangled "matches" or "lighters," or that if a herbal poultice was good enough for them, it's good enough for you and who needs these "antibiotics"?

    So I'm not going to say the Ten Commandments are "childish." Then again, "childish" may be more complimentary, in a weird and ironic way, than what I do say--"archaic and obsolete."

  11. And when you ask them which version of the Ten Commandments they always look at you funny. They're listed twice, and the two lists don't agree with each other.

    gicrolys: If you suffer from this unspecified and difficult to euphemistically discuss in a television commercial condition, ask your doctor if gicrolys is right for you.

  12. I also seem to remember the Bible, or at least the King James version preferring monarchies. King of kings, and all that, ya know. I seem to forget which of the 10 was about a three part government, separation of powers, and checks and balances.

    Plus, considering their God is supposedly great, all powerful, all seeing, all being, how could people "kick him out of school" in the first place?

    extri - special semi-latinate spell that invokes the reader to "read all about it", but only when it's invoked twice in a row.

  13. Was looking for something else entirely but happened upon this Peanuts strip:


  14. I think you've been borrowing my acquaintances. Can't call them a friend because apparently we're not friends anymore. On account of how I totally failed to understand how his faith-based agenda is the answer to all of our problems past, present and future. Nothing quite like the clear sight of the unsighted.

    cotoss - the joint TeaBagger/Republican solution.

  15. Nick from the O.C.March 15, 2010 at 2:10 AM

    Just wanted to say that I think Eric makes a good point. The Ten Commandments were good for the time. My problem is that Eric makes a couple of errors along the way.

    I did a bit of research, nothing to make me any kind of historian. But I confirmed a few suspicions raised Eric's words.

    For example, consider the following: But, you know, context: the United States isn't a Bronze Age, ethnically homogeneous tribe and never, ever, ever has been, has it?

    First of all, I think the Isreali exodus from Egypt would be placed chronologically in the Iron Age, and not the Bronze Age, though the demarcation between the two is not necessarily a sharp one. Maybe it's just a nit on my part.

    Second, about that ethnically homogenous thing? Two words: thirteen tribes. Plus there were the conquered peoples who were affiliated with the tribes and became part of the Temple infrastructure. According to what I read, the tribes weren't united until about 1050 BCE, long after Moses had frisbeed the tablets to the chosen people. There was a loose confederation, yes, but each tribe seems to have its own land and its own leadership.

    Later on there were strict rules regarding intermarriage between the tribes, in order to manage and ensure tribal identification.

    Anyway, good point Eric. Sorry for the pedanticism.

    alluntr = when playing indoor golf, the balls are frequently lost. Usually they are located under the sofa, when the wife tells the husband that they're alluntr there.

  16. Nick, the Bronze Age comment was based on fact-checking myself with Wikipedia, specifically this section on the historicity of Moses: "Although there have been various attempts at placing Moses in a historical context of the Late Bronze Age or the Bronze Age collapse, his historicity cannot be established."

    As for the homo/heterogeneity of the Twelve Tribes, it's a fair point, though I think in this context the Tribes were homogeneous enough, at least in comparison to the United States or even some European countries; the Twelve Tribes at least were bound by religion, language culture and blood to a larger degree than has ever existed in the U.S. (and which was wiped out for certain in the various waves of forced and voluntary immigration during the 19th and 20th Centuries). Nonetheless, I may have overstated the point, and thanks for the clarification.

  17. Butter my ass and call me a biscuit, I actually agree with Eric this time, for the most part.

  18. Nick from the O.C.March 15, 2010 at 3:13 PM


    I'll give you the Bronze Age. Best I can find is that believers believe that Moses received the tablets circa 1440 BCE. Historians historiate that the Bronze Age "collapsed" (resulting in a mini-Dark Age) circa 1200/1150 BCE. A difference of 250 - 300 years doesn't seem so large when viewed through a 3,500 year-old lens, does it? But you are definitely inside the official parameters and I've got to acknowledge it.

    But it was 13 tribes. Seriously. The tribe of Joseph contained two tribes: Ephraim and Manassen. It must be true because Wikipedia says so.

    (Note that the tribe of Manassen was located just south of Washington D.C. off Route 66. David fought the battle of Bull Run there during the Judah/Israel Civil War.)

    spubmi = act of borrowing beer money from a "friend" in a pub or bar

  19. Enh, I keep getting the Old Testament confused with Battlestar Galactica. Ark Of The Covenant, Lords Of Kobol, whatevah.


    More seriously, Nick, if the Bronze Age ended in 1200 BCE (the earlier of the two estimates you mention), a 1440 Moses (if there was one) would have lived more than two centuries before the end of the Bronze Age. If a historical Exodus occurred around 1250, however, it would be right around the edge of the end of the Bronze Age and around the beginning of the Iron Age in the Middle East. So I'll grant it's a close call.

    O'course, maybe I could save myself some trouble by saying that the Ten Commandments are decent foundational laws for an Iron Age culture, too, which is also relatively primitive, or just have said "primitive tribal culture." Whether we're properly talking Iron or Bronze, we're still talking about a people living in the Second or First millennium BCE and several centuries before the traditional founding of Rome. In that context, the Ten Commandments offer a little under a dozen basic rules to live by that keep the peace and identify who members of the tribe/nation are by a creed. They're not good rules for a more sophisticated society, but they didn't have to be when they were first promulgated.

  20. (Arrgh--all dates in the last comment are BCE. I hope that's clear from context, apologize if it's not.)

  21. I'm feeling a bit simplistic and am not going to engage Eric and Nick on the Bronze/Iron Age conundrum (I studied Ancient Near Eastern Archaeology back in my personal Stone Age). You can't imagine the hair-pulling fights that archaeologists get into over bizarrely ridiculous stuff. Or maybe you can...

    Jim, I am not going to ask the obvious question ("where do you find these people?"), I am going to ask one that is just as important. "Why did you let that conversation go on as long as you did?

  22. Jim it took me about 30 mins to read this i was laughing so hard, i am all for teaching moral decency but all religeons have pretty much the same moraal code it just like the debate or gay "marriage" people get worked up ove what name the politicians want to slap on it.

  23. I hate to do it, but I am forced to agree (at a certain point) with your acquaintance. You do have to read what Jesus said. While the ten commandments may not be a great basis for a legal system, I submit for consideration the following sayings attributed to Jesus.

    He said "I did not come to change the law" (meaning the law is the law and no one man can change it). He said "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's" (money belongs to the government, and religion belongs outside of the government). He said "I do not condemn you" (mind your own business). He said "let the children come to me" (sheltering your children from the world is the surest way to make maladjusted adults). He said "I did not come for the Jews alone" (everyone is equal).

    No republican alive would ever vote for Jesus. He was inarguably both a pacifist and a communist. He was about forgiveness and keeping religion out of government (that's why the religious folk had him executed).

    I've never met a republican who thinks any of those things are a good idea.

    snogrudl: the name given to the Scandinavian Yeti, a tangential cousin of the Himalayan Yeti.

  24. Hahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahaha! "If God didn’t want to get expelled, he should have behaved better." Hahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahaha!

  25. I've never ended a friendship with a religiously conservative friend, but they've ended their friendships with me when I challenged their group emails/propaganda/opinions with factual information or pointed out that it was they who were actually being disrespectful by sharing while expecting those of us who did not agree to be silent.

    For that very reason, in the last three years I've suddenly been cut off by at least three people with whom I had friendships with for several years, and I'd even helped through personal crises. Two of them had always told me how much they learned from me about compassion, what a good person I am, how much they respected me, and so on. Then, Bam! they ended their friendships with me because I was honest, and I wasn't even cruel or disrespectful. It isn't a surprise, but it is sad and makes me realize there isn't any hope of reasoning with that sort because their thinking is cultist.

    I used to drop my children off at school and watch them walk past huge "prayer circles" the fundies were having in front of the building, on school property. No one interfered in the prayer circles.

    I watched my children and almost everyone else's children do what we'd taught them to do, respond with a polite and respectful, “No, thank you" when they were inappropriately and disrespectfully invited into a religious activity that was not our own, with no regard to our families’ belief systems and boundaries. (BTW, these same community members had no problem picketing our middle and high schools with giant misleading posters of bloody babies and were upset when angry parents challenged them. They actually filed charges against one mother over it and filed complaints with the city and school board.)

    The students had their bible clubs at school. As long as they were student created and run, there was no problem.

    When there was a local crisis for a big church, that church used the schools after hours to hold their services and they did so, for free, for many months. The community considered it the right thing to do; a proper use of our community resource.

    The football coach who taught health and sex education to my children ignored state law about teaching HIV education because he did not want to acknowledge gay people exist. He entirely skipped that curriculum, and he got away with it. By the way, he was an abusive man in is home, his own stepchildren despised him for his bigotries, even his wife had trouble tolerating the racist and homophobic opinions he expressed at home, and he encouraged his football players to harass the nonconformist kids both at school and out of school. A good Christian, eh?

    When I asked one of my adult daughter's friends exactly how she was discriminated against in school (because she'd been telling me the Christians in her school were discriminated against), she couldn't think of a single example. She realized she felt self-conscious about her religious activities in school but that wasn't because of anything anyone did or said to her; it was because she was told on a daily basis that she was targeted for being Christian. Nevertheless, a few months later she was back to repeating the same accusations as if she'd never had the epiphany.

  26. I grew up a religious minority in poor, apple-knocker, Protestant-land. Attending public schools in the 1960s through the mid-1970s, my siblings and I were harassed, persecuted, mocked, argued with, and pushed into compromising our parents' religious beliefs by teachers and a school principal. (I got more than one whoopin' at home for having succumbed.) The only time students picked on us was if teachers started it or sent the message we were an open target. We children were trapped between our parents with their unpopular religion and our educators.

    Hence, my own experience informs me that religion does not belong in public school classrooms or school assemblies so that children can focus on learning by being a united learning community, instead of painful social isolation and fear of their educators.

    As for what's wrong with our educational system? It's actually very simple, almost no one thinks of it, nothing will make much of a positive difference until we address it, and those who do recognize it will not tirelessly fight the status quo to change it or we are outnumbered. The core problem probably won’t be addressed and changed for the better unless some entity stands to make a bunch of money from it and successfully lobbies for it. It has absolutely nothing to do with God or religion.

    The core problem does, however, have everything to do with a lack of compassion for children and youth, little understanding of youth development, a cultural intolerance toward boys and anything considered boy-like behaviors in either gender, a dislike and fear of youth (especially young males past the age of 11-12 years), and a poor understanding of human psychology and motivation. Hence, we keep flogging our youth with reforms and attitudes that do not work (just like we do with the “war on drugs.” Go figure!).

    However, I'll save pontificating in more detail for when it is really the topic!

  27. Thor i disagre you do not "have to read what Jesus said" the people of my religeon (druids) never read the words of Jesus and their society was just fine until ceasar attempted to squash them out

    you don't "have" to read the words of any religeous doctrine prophet or leader thats what makes america great and 90% of our laws are common sense and fall under Jims wonderful category of "don't be a dick"

    i'm sorry but i have read the words of Jesus and do not agree with them to the extent most christians would like, i have rejected thier reality and susbstituted my own and i welcome any and everyone out there to do they same when it comes to the case of thier soul chi or demon possesor.

  28. On the same topic as Beemodern:

    I used to be a Christian. Rather, I used to let people call me one. I attended (and graduated from) a Christian high school. When I get rich, I'm going to buy that school and burn it to the ground.

    The extent to which Christians indoctrinate their youth to believe that they are persecuted is absolutely ridiculous. "If you don't go to a Christian college, everyone's going to mock your religion and make you ashamed of your faith," they told us. And we believed it. Why would we not?

    About a year after she graduated, one of the teachers asked my wife to speak to the senior class about her college experience. When they asked her about how horrible the persecution was, she told them that really the only perpetrators of any kind of religious persecution on campus were the Christian organizations.

    Since that moment of truth, no alumni have ever been invited to speak to the students.


    You mis-understand me. I meant that you should read what Jesus said if you want to argue with a Christian nutbag who thinks like Jim's acquaintance. The surest way to put them on the rocks is to quote Jesus.

    And if you don't agree with what Jesus said, you're right about where modern Christians want you to be.

    As I stated in my previous comment, Jesus preached separation of church and state, mind your own business and everyone is equal.

    Modern Christians don't believe in any of that. They want a religiocracy in which anyone who doesn't worship the God of the state has no rights.

    It pretty much boils down to you can agree with Jesus or you can agree (on any given issue) with the religion that claims to worship him. There are probably exceptions, but I can't think of one at the moment.

    If you believe in keeping religion out of government, that's something you have in common with Jesus. If you don't, that's something in common with the religious nutbags who call him their Lord.

    You claim that you "have read the words of Jesus and do not agree with them to the extent most christians would like." I can only assume this means that you agree with many of the teachings of Jesus, as his "followers," in reality, care little for them.

    surfinq: what Germans do at the beach.

  29. It warms my cold flinty heart that we can have this conversation in a civil manner here on Stonekettle Station.

    You people make my day and have given me many things to think about. Thanks.

  30. i perosnally have found it's easier and much better to have this convorsation with members of the military, they typically take an open approach to it and don't get offened if you have a dissenting or differing view, in mass its the civillians that get very uptight about thier religeon (granted we are only 1% of the population) i belive it's be cause we all susbscribe to ideals of honor and courage and loyalty more so than dietyies, tru every servicemeber had thier own faith but we all meet on the common ground of a warrior, civillians crusade for thier religeous belifs because that it what keeps them in mass on the moral straight and narrow not integritty, but thats just my opinion

  31. Nick from the O.C.March 17, 2010 at 2:01 PM

    Just for the record, I don't have a problem with Christianity, or pretty much any other religion really. (I may have a problem with religions that approve of human sacrifice, depending on how good the virgins look.)

    It's organized religion I have a problem with. In other words, I have a problem with the human part of spirituality. Organizational politics, power-grabs, exercising influence over others. I abhor those aspects of religion--any religion.

    Just for the record.

    malla = where-a Italians go shopping-a

  32. You'll love this bit about the Texas Board of Education slamming Thomas Jefferson: http://4quarters10dimes.blogspot.com/2010/03/thoughts-on-late-unpleasantness-in.html

  33. Been there, done that. Was disowned (and later reinstated) over it. Was blamed for the whole incident.

    It bugs me that some peoples values are so frail that they can't be challenged without breaking. Yet, it bugs me more that there's an expectation we'll treat mistaken beliefs daintily. They're asking for permission to ignore you.

    Good on you for still speaking your mind. They can still ignore you, but you've said your piece.


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