Wednesday, September 19, 2007
by Wayne Besen
The Washington Post had a fascinating series last weekend discussing the rise of a movement representing "nonbelievers." The trend is worldwide, but is also taking root in America, one of the most religious western nations. As radical fundamentalism has spiraled out of control, many people are standing up and loudly declaring that there is simply too much God permeating our society.
According to the Post, the Atheist Alliance International's membership has almost doubled in the past year to 5,200. Its membership is mushrooming to the point where its national convention in Crystal City later this month has a 500-person waiting list.
The article also points out that five books promoting atheism have hit the bestseller lists in the past two years, outpacing even The Pope's latest book on Jesus. That is enough to make even an atheist scream "holy cow."
Additionally, the Post states that the Council for Secular Humanism's budget has climbed to $8 million, a 40 percent rise in two years. The group now has a think tank in Washington to promote the humanist principles of "science, reason and secularism." This movement of nonbelievers has formed American Atheists in Washington, which administers the Godless Americans PAC.
The surge in political atheism is clearly a reaction to the utter obnoxiousness of today's fundamentalists. No matter what the religion, these fanatics have made it clear that they have a God-given right to rule the earth and subjugate anyone who does not sing from the same hymn sheet.
The Middle East, of course, is the manifestation of such sectarian madness. The Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad thinks God wants his country to have a nuclear bomb. This may lead to George W. Bush, who has his own messiah complex, to bomb Tehran. In Saudi Arabia, the government lops off peoples' heads if they are deemed to have pissed off Allah (homosexuals make the list). In Iraq, it seems everyone is tuned into the God channel and speaks on his behalf. In Israel, meanwhile, ultra-orthodox Jews believe that God has given the "chosen people" all of the land from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River. But, Palestinian fanatics swear that Allah intends for Muslims to eradicate Israel. With so much God, peace doesn't stand a prayer.
Either some of these people who are hearing God's voice are delusional, or God is a diabolical troublemaker. Is He whispering it the ears of radical Jews, "hey, you're the chosen people, keep every inch of the land," and then turning around and telling Palestinian Jihadis, "you know this is Muslim territory, now go out and blow yourself up for it." And when the big fight God instigated is about to break out, does he call his bookie to place bets?
This week, our homegrown fundamentalists took center stage with two creepy events in Florida, an important swing state. On Tuesday, they hosted the "Values Voter Presidential Debate," where lunatics were allowed 24-hour leave from the asylum to ask presidential also-rans their plans to bring our nation back to the Stone Age. I was fully expecting an impassioned argument to break out on whether the moderator's title should be changed to "agitator," because the proper term sounded too much like "moderate."
I suggest that in the next election cycle, the Democratic National Committee sponsor this debate, so all Americans can watch self-righteous buffoons turn the Republican candidates in to puritanical cartoons. The only thing worse than the political pandering, was watching the loopy activists act so demanding.
It was also quite clear to me that these activists did not look like happy people. Each one was more dour than the next, hardly advertisements for the joys of fundamentalism. They seemed unusually grumpy, which was odd, because the majority of Republican presidential candidates were playing their tune on issues like evolution, so as not to offend their senseless sensibilities.
The candidates weren't much better. While they all sucked up to the overblown legend of Ronald Reagan, they looked more like the Grim Reaper than The Gipper. Maybe they were afraid to laugh because they would reveal fangs? The only one that exuded humor was former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who often seems more suited to a gig on Comedy Central, than to playing a central role in the presidential primaries.
The second event is the Family Impact Summit, a three-day hate-a-palooza in a Tampa suburb where a throng of right wing ideologues will mix with "ex-gay" leaders to plot how to take control of America. To counter the event, Equality Florida will hold a press conference and a rally outside the church where the Summit is being held. (I will participate)
While the fundamentalists fulminate in Tampa, the Post article mentioned one statistic that should worry them. While six percent of people over sixty have no faith in God, one in four adults ages 18-22 have no such faith. I believe this number will only grow as long as "Crazies for Christ" whose main value is vindictiveness represent"God's people."
Monday, September 10, 2007
by Wayne Besen
It was the oddest event in my fifteen-year activism career.
I had ventured to Orlando, Florida last summer to attend the National Education Association's annual meeting. Crashing the conference was the so-called "Ex-Gay Educators Caucus," a sham organization run primarily by anti-gay lobbyists
, who are attempting to get the viewpoints of "former homosexuals" into public schools. To counter their presence, I staged a press conference outside the huge convention center.
Following the media event, I unassumingly straggled into the gargantuan showroom where there were booths as far as the eye could see, representing numerous causes and products. Eventually, I spotted the ex-gay booth, staffed by a man who ran a Focus on the Family offshoot, ex-lesbian Janet Boynes and a woman who claimed to represent Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX). I slowly walked up to the booth and began peering at the group's literature.
Over the years, I have visited anti-gay booths or conferences dozens of times. In almost every case, we engaged in light banter, shook hands and politely agreed to disagree. They regularly come to our events and we, in turn, visit theirs â€“ and there is an unspoken rule that the opposition will be treated courteously, if only because you don't want to be harassed when in "enemy territory."
This time it was different.
I asked one of the volunteers if any of the people in the Ex-Gay Educators Caucus were actually ex-gay educators. As far as I could tell, the contingent consisted of only one teacher's assistant with the rest being right wing lobbyists with a political agenda. One older woman, who identified herself as the PFOX representative, became belligerent and accused me of starting trouble. Sensing I was not welcome, I turned around to exit, but was confronted by "ex-gay" Ohio lobbyist Greg Quinlan
, who bumped my chest and got in my face. I sternly warned him to back off and let me leave in peace.
I turned to walk away, but was unexpectedly met by the police. Both Quinlan and the PFOX representative turned the situation around and began whining that they were victims and that I had tried to pick a fight. I was in complete shock, in that I had been totally set up. Fortunately, the cops let me go and that was, for the most part, the end of the situation.
Having lived through this surreal experience, it came as no surprise when PFOX recently outright faked a hate crime at the Arlington County Fair in Virginia. The unthinkable started on Aug. 28, after PFOX sent out a press release with the headline, "Gays Assault Ex-Gays At County Fair." According to the release:
"As happens every year, gay activists disrupted our booth activities. They screamed obscenities, threw our materials from the exhibit table to the ground, insisted we recognize their same-sex 'spouses,' demanded that PFOX leave, and hit a PFOX volunteer because he is ex-gay."
The website Ex-Gay Watch investigated the claims and found that a slight disagreement occurred between a woman and a male PFOX representative (much like what happened to me in Orlando.) However, Ex-Gay Watch's David Roberts contacted Jackie Abrams, Vice Chair of the Arlington County Fair. Abrams said that no physical altercation occurred, police were never called and no one was ejected from the fairgrounds, as PFOX had claimed.
"I was in radio contact with the other board members during the Fair, and definitely would have known if the police had been summoned. It did not happen," Abrams said.
Jay Fisette, a member of the Arlington County Board, backed this version of events.
"The alleged incident is a fiction," said Fissette. "It makes for a good story, and possibly helps some with fundraising, but remains untrue. Both the Arlington County Police and the County Fair Board state they have no awareness or record of such an incident. Having spent quite a bit of time at the County Fair myself, I'm not sure the PFOX booth received much attention at all over that weekend."
Indeed, PFOX used the bogus story to solicit funds telling members that, "...our brochures and flyers cost money to print. We also have to pay for exhibit fees and travel. If you would like to help with costs, please make a tax deductible donation."
Predictably, The Big Lie was repeated by Focus on the Family who will further any fib if it fosters their faith. Unless PFOX Executive Director Regina Griggs comes up with an explanation to justify what appears to be a sickening act of deceit, she ought to resign in disgrace. While her reprehensible organization never had much credibility to begin with, its remaining thread of respectability vanished the day PFOX cried wolf over a fabricated hate crime.