June 26, 2003
Dysfunctional Americana 12: Las Vegas, Nevada

The Las Vegas office of the Daily Racing Form is next door to the Christian Dominion Center.

April 23, 2003. Copyright © 2003 Michael T. Doughney

Posted by Mike Doughney at 01:16 AM
June 25, 2003
I really hate being right about this stuff

Mike and Lauren wrote in January 2001:

Deconstructing John Ashcroft
... Ashcroft said under oath [during his confirmation hearings], "Injustice in America against any individual must not stand. No ifs, ands or buts, period." And later, "Well, I don't believe it's appropriate to have a test based on one's religion for a job." Both of these statements contradict his involvement in creating legislation which would create a privileged class of employers that would be allowed to discriminate at will against those who they might think were unsuitable for employment solely on the basis of religious belief. He even went as far as to give a specific example of a firing of one person justified by this kind of policy, which he has used to support consideration of an employee's religious beliefs as a prerequisite to employment.

Washington Post staff writers report today:

Bush Backs Religious Charities On Hiring
President Bush called on Congress yesterday to make it easier for federally funded religious groups to base their hiring decisions on a job candidate's religion and sexual orientation.

Posted by Mike Doughney at 02:01 AM
June 24, 2003
Images from the roadtrip 11: Las Vegas Strip

Hey, while I'm thinking of it, let's hear it for the folks at the Borgata! The announcement that Gideon's Bibles wouldn't be found at the new Atlantic City casino (opening July 3) was made within a few days of these images.

The video loop on the sign in front of Caesar's Palace on the Las Vegas Strip announces "One Nation Under God" every few minutes. April 23, 2003. Image copyright © 2003 Michael T. Doughney.

Posted by Mike Doughney at 12:21 PM
Images from the roadtrip 10: Eastern Arizona

A John Birch Society billboard, near Holbrook, Arizona along I-40.

A billboard in Eastern Arizona, sponsored by the John Birch Society, says "Get U.S. Out of the United Nations." April 16, 2003. Image copyright © 2003 Michael T. Doughney.

Posted by Mike Doughney at 11:55 AM
June 23, 2003
Images from the roadtrip 9: Grants, New Mexico

St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church, Grants, New Mexico. The Knights of Columbus seem to have this habit of placing various forms of monuments to the "unborn" at some churches, way out in front of some prominent feature of the church, much like this. In a way it looks like an insult to the church of some kind, as if the Knights needed to make their presence known at a church they thought was insufficiently "pro-life."

A monument to the "unborn" placed by the Knights of Columbus is installed prominently in front of a Catholic church in Grants, New Mexico. April 15, 2003. Image copyright © 2003 Michael T. Doughney.

Posted by Mike Doughney at 12:09 PM
Images from the roadtrip 8: Glorieta, New Mexico

More flags, this time in front of a Southern Baptist convention center not far from Santa Fe. The U.S. flag is correctly placed according to the Flag Code.

American, state and Christian flags at the entrance to Glorieta, a Southern Baptist conference center in New Mexico. April 15, 2003. Images Copyright © 2003 Michael T. Doughney

Posted by Mike Doughney at 12:02 PM
And now, a few words from Amy Vanderbilt

If we know nothing of our neighbor's beliefs or background we may unwittingly offend him. If we have only a vague idea of his religious customs and taboos we may seem discourteous by our failure to respect them in our contact with him.

Courtesy is a superficial name for actions that can have a very important place in the character building of a human being. Both children and adults should know about the often unthinking cruelty inherent in intolerance of other religions than their own. And how intolerance often stems from our primitive suspicion of anything that is different or not a part of our own experience.

Many educators believe that one way to help children and adults toward better relations with their fellow man is to give them some knowledge of others' beliefs and customs as a purely educational activity, not with the idea of disturbing their own religious affiliations. There are important differences and similarities between denominations, between the belief of the Roman Catholic and that of the Jew - and among Jews themselves - between what the Quaker believes and what guides the Buddhist or the Greek Catholic. If we think less of the differences and inform ourselves of the similarities I believe we will have a warmer, more understanding attitude toward our neighbors.

The wise parent, I feel, teaches his child that no matter what people's beliefs are, all who follow religion are seeking the same thing, the strength to be good. Or what in their religion teaches them is good and worthy in their day-to-day communion with their fellow men.

Our country may be predominantly Protestant, but the lives of all our minorities are intimately connected with our own, many in very subtle ways. If our Italian tradesmen shut their shops to celebrate the Feast of St. Anthony, we may be affected. For that day at least we must find other places to shop, just as on Yom Kippur much business throughout the country slows down or stops or is in some way affected - through the absence of personnel or the closing of some key business houses. If every fourth or fifth person we meet on St. Patrick's Day is wearing the green, we are conscious of the Irish-descended among us, of their predominantly Catholic adherence.

Every community has its minorities. A Methodist is in the minority in an Irish or Italian neighborhood. A white man is in the minority in the Chinatowns or in the Harlems of America. The key to comfortable community life is courtesy - true courtesy that respects the rights and feelings of all. Courtesy and friendly knowledge about your neighbor help prevent tensions. As America grows we'll need, more and more, to use courtesy in our community life.

excerpted from pages 243-244 of:
Amy Vanderbilt's Complete Book of Etiquette: A Guide to Gracious Living (1954)

Posted by Mike Doughney at 02:51 AM
Images from the roadtrip 7: Eastern New Mexico

Somewhere along New Mexico Route 104 between Tucumcari and Las Vegas.

April 14, 2003. Image Copyright © 2003 Michael T. Doughney

Posted by Mike Doughney at 12:52 AM
June 22, 2003
"Who knows what people REALLY believe?"

From the evolutionary psychology list at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/evolutionary-psychology/message/25791

Herbert Gintis wrote:

> Sometimes I wonder what "true believers" REALLY believe... Who knows what people REALLY believe?

I'd rephrase the question: What are they actually doing that demonstrates what they really believe?

In any one church or religious organization are people standing side by side who may actually believe two completely different things. One is there because they actually believe in metaphysical "truth." The other is there for any number of social or ethnic reasons having nothing to do with metaphysical "truth;" they're just there because it feels good to be there or it's what they've always done, or for any number of personal reasons. All these individuals may privately believe different things or some combination of these examples, in fact, some of them may, privately, deny outright that any such metaphysical "truth" exists or can even exist.

In such organizations there is no mechanism for people to recognize, among themselves, that they don't believe different things, because the profession of belief in a "truth" is the one thing (a greatly ritualized thing) that holds the organization together, and profession of doubt or difference is taboo as well as the utterance of the kinds of questions that might lead there. So if you don't believe, and profess that you don't, you're not there.

Thus what individuals believe in these groups is, in a sense, unimportant. But what they've demonstrated is that inconsistency is okay, that privately believing one thing and publicly professing another is just to be expected. Perhaps this is why hypocrisy is a common feature of such groups, because far from being taboo, this understated hypocrisy is a basic value or shared secret among them; and in their insistence that various other groups be placed "back in the closet" they show that they believe that this expectation must be universalized to all people. Even the notion of private space becomes hard to find in this milieu.

All of this may be simply academic and has no immediate downside, until you wake up one day and find out that some religious organization has decided to target YOU because of something that they believe and that they think you've transgressed, which often has a very tenuous connection to the reality of the situation, if any. At that point it isn't time to "debate" what the nature of "truth" is, but to look instead at what such organizations actually are doing, which again demonstrates what they really believe or what they're actually setting out to do. In fact I think it's essential that such controversies be effectively taken out of the realm of any assumption of metaphysical justification if any headway is to be made against such movements; such an assumption simply gives religious groups and their leaders an undeserved level of privilege and immunity from scrutiny.

There are individuals, who I believe populate the leadership of at least some religious groups, that I would call atheistic Christians; that is, these are people who view Christianity mechanically as a means to an end, of gaining power, political influence, or simply as a means of making a living. Any method may be adopted to support the cause, thus, in one instance that I'm familiar with, it's not surprising to find Christian marketers consciously applying a theory of metaphor that holds that there can be no such thing as absolute truth, to sell a system of absolute truth to Christian teenagers. In this framework "God" is simply shorthand for a particular set of values, that holds that the world can be simplistically divided into good and evil, that they and their organizations are by definition on the "good" side, and that they must actively militate against "evil" wherever it is found. Since "God" must exist, they're then on a perpetual make-work program of figuring out what new and novel "evils" must be acted against. No metaphysical "truth" need enter in here, in fact, the primary activity instead becomes the manufacture of enormous numbers of mundane details about how some group or subset of individuals must be viewed as "evil."

Mike Doughney

Posted by Mike Doughney at 01:28 PM
"Could we have been at war with someone who wasn't fighting back?"

Three months after I wrote that the prevailing American assumptions about Saddam Hussein may be wrong, and that he may have been setting up an elaborate ruse, Maureen Dowd in today's New York Times presents an argument that is strikingly similar to my own. Too bad it takes three months, a few billion dollars and thousands of dead before the topic can even be broached in the national press.

Also today:

Report Cast Doubt on Iraq-Al Qaeda Connection in the Washington Post

Posted by Mike Doughney at 01:22 PM
June 21, 2003
Images from the roadtrip 6: Glenrio, Texas

A ghost town off Exit 0 of Interstate 40, at the Texas - New Mexico border. At one time Route 66 was this town's main street; the old route today turns into a dirt road as you cross into New Mexico.

This last image is of an abandoned hotel and restaurant at the next I-40 interchange, in New Mexico.

April 14, 2003. Images copyright © 2003 Michael T. Doughney

Posted by Mike Doughney at 09:27 PM
June 16, 2003
Images from the roadtrip 5: Near Amarillo, Texas

The Cadillac Ranch.

The Cadillac Ranch, near Amarillo, Texas. April 14, 2003. Images copyright © 2003 Michael T. Doughney

Posted by Mike Doughney at 10:03 AM
Images from the roadtrip 4: Near Midwest City, Oklahoma

Anti-abortion billboard placed above hotel billboards along Interstate 40 near Midwest City, Oklahoma. April 13, 2003. Image copyright © 2003 Michael T. Doughney

Posted by Mike Doughney at 09:49 AM
June 14, 2003
Images from the roadtrip 3: Fort Smith, Arkansas

On our long trips across the country, we usually prefer to stay at major brand-name hotels for the simple reason that, no matter where we go, we seldom if ever encounter any unpleasant surprises during our stay.

But at the Hampton Inn in Fort Smith, Arkansas, this consistency is shattered by the Bible and an evangelical tract being left out on the night table before my arrival, just inches away from where I'll be spending the night. Once again, evangelicals demonstrate their habit of intruding into private spaces where they don't belong.

At the Hampton Inn in Fort Smith, Arkansas, hotel guests may find that an unwanted and unnecessary item has been left for them by hotel employees: this Bible and evangelical tract, left out on the night table where they're in plain view of arriving guests. April 12, 2003. Images copyright © 2003 Michael T. Doughney

Posted by Mike Doughney at 06:04 PM
June 13, 2003
Just another "godless heathen..."

From the Teen Mania message board. The questioner quotes and refers to the contents of my signature file on that board.


What do you mean by: "Just another "godless heathen" named Mike. Never gonna bow, nothin' to confess. Now what?"? It just seemed strange.

Let's just say that some people would use exactly those two words, "godless heathen," to describe me, not being a Christian and having no intention of ever joining the faith, so to speak.

The second part comes from having received a considerable amount of... I'll be nice and just call it language, both in person and online, from a number of Christians as a response to either my physical or online presence as something of a critic of what they might be doing. Such individuals will spend considerable time and/or space babbling some contradictory nonsense about not trying to convert me at the same time they're engaging me in a transaction whose only possible purpose IS to convert me, then finish it off with a one-liner from the Bible:

EVERY knee will bow and EVERY tongue will confess that HE is LORD.

As far as I'm concerned there's only one acceptable answer to that: "No." I would have thought my way of putting it would have been obvious enough, but I think others have also raised the same question, to which I ask, what's so strange about it? I'd think it was a response you'd easily understand, and I'd also think you'd have heard that Biblical quote, to which I'm referring, more than a few times by now.

Posted by Mike Doughney at 08:39 PM
Images from the roadtrip 2: Beebe, Arkansas

First Baptist Church, Beebe, Arkansas. Note that the U.S. flag is incorrectly flown versus the Christian flag (the white flag with a blue field). Correct positioning of the U.S. flag is always on its own right (the viewer's left). Churches that incorrectly fly flags in this way are making a clear statement of Christian supremacism, through the improper physical placement of Christian and national symbols.

Flags, and how they are placed relative to each other, were a recurring theme during this roadtrip.

At the First Baptist Church of Beebe, Arkansas, the American flag is incorrectly flown, with the Christian flag on its own right. Churches that do this are making a statement of Christian supremacism, through the improper physical placement of Christian and national symbols. April 12, 2003. Images copyright © 2003 Michael T. Doughney.

Posted by Mike Doughney at 03:33 PM
It's just a road number, damnit

Yet another example of how the superstitiously insane are in control...

The End of the Road for 'Devil's Highway'

Posted by Mike Doughney at 06:16 AM
June 11, 2003
Dispatches from the christo-fascist heartland, part two

The Toledo Blade quotes the local sheriff,
who (like many) obviously doesn't have the slightest clue about who he's dealing with.

"These people are religious people and don't want to cause me or anyone else trouble," Sheriff Kermit Howard said.

Perhaps the sheriff should be treated to a short introduction to what these "religious people" who "don't want to cause... trouble" sound like when they're going full steam in front of their own people.

Posted by Mike Doughney at 04:06 AM
Images from the roadtrip 1: Saluda, NC

This entry begins a series of photos from our seven week roadtrip across the U.S. in April and May, 2003.

"Godncountry" - a word we coined to describe this mixing of religious and national symbols. The visual elimination of any presumed "separation" between church and state. There's even another small cross on top of the flagpole.

At several locations in and around Saluda, North Carolina, large lettered wooden crosses topped with American flags can be found along the roads. April 10, 2003. Images copyright © 2003 Michael T. Doughney

Posted by Mike Doughney at 12:46 AM
June 09, 2003
Dispatches from the christo-fascist heartland

District To Remove 10 Commandments Monday

Having announced an exact date and time, what happens next is obvious:

Crowd Gathers, 10 Commandments Remain Standing

And as usual, local police forces are unable to cope with an act of war:

Ten Commandments Protesters Released From Custody

Posted by Mike Doughney at 09:34 PM
2 1/2 months later: still no WMD

It's morbidly fascinating, to watch the kind of discussion that's finally surfacing here and there, two and a half months after my essay raising the question of what happens if those alleged Iraqi weapons never really existed.

Missing Weapons Of Mass Destruction:
Is Lying About The Reason For War An Impeachable Offense?
By JOHN W. DEAN (Findlaw.com)

Weapons of mass stupidity
The marriage of television and propaganda may well have been the funeral of reason
By HAL CROWTHER (Durham Independent)

Also of interest:

Is America Becoming Fascist?
The similarities between American fascism and particularly the National Socialist precedent, both historical and theoretical, are remarkable. Fascism is home, it is here to stay, and it better be countered with all the intellectual resources at our disposal.
by Anis Shivani

Posted by Mike Doughney at 12:17 AM