Crouching in paradise


The Scourge, currently in Paris, thought he was just doing a re-post of an earlier blog for this week’s entry, but a quick look at the New York Times revealed the holy truth to him in all its shimmering, pink-frosted, bouffant glory.

Jan Crouch of the Trinity Broadcasting Network has met her maker.

Crouch and her husband, Paul, founded the network in 1973, and it now claims to be the most-watched Christian television network in the world, providing 24 non-stop hours of shlock music, workaday biblical interpretations and weepy matrons. The Crouches linked holiness with material prosperity and, at least from their perspective, this predatory approach worked out. They enjoyed private jets, his-and-hers mansions in Newport Beach, Calif., and long stays in luxury hotels (a treat for her two Maltese dogs who usually stayed in their own trailer…and we’re not talking park, people).

But alas, all was not well in the Kingdom of Crouch. Jan’s husband Paul paid hush-hush money to a male employee who said he’d had a sexual affair with Paul. Granddaughter Carra Crouch reported being raped by a TBN employee which enraged Jan, who blamed the young lady for the attack. A classy lady, that granny. Another granddaughter filed a suit against TBN saying that the company misused donated funds.

But the money kept rolling in. TBN’s parent company listed just shy of $800 million in assets and received almost $55 million in contributions and grants in 2014. The Scourge can only surmise that the Crouch’s supporters were homeschooled, because anyone with a public education should realize the math was faulty. During the couple’s twice yearly “Praise-a-thons,” they tearily begged for money to keep their programs on the air; meanwhile, their audiences probably struggled to pay the cable bill.

Yet are we to castigate the Crouches alone for their behavior? They just had the American gumption to capitalize on the masses’ stupidity. (The same masses who will vote for Donald Trump, another charlatan with hair that disconcertingly resembles cotton candy.) Shouldn’t we also lay the blame on those who walked into the trap? Some people are victims. Most are stupid.

Any religion that denigrates critical thinking is fertile ground for chicanery, and the sad truth is that sheeple are too god damned lazy to crawl out of their Walmart recliners and expand their intellectual horizons. Do your homework. Check the facts. Ask questions. Everyone wants to believe that there’s a simple answer for life’s difficult quandries, but simple answers are for simpletons – the bread-and-butter of any religious establishment’s coffers.

If praying for money worked, we’d all be rich. Pray for intelligence instead – it will get you a lot farther.

Until next Sunday…the heretic’s day.

In other news of the faithful:

An investigation into the beating death of a Muslim man in India has revealed that he did, indeed, have cow meat in his home…which means, according to one conservative Hindu lawmaker, that any state help the victim’s family received should be taken back. The Scourge urges everyone to take pictures of themselves eating steak and send it to the Bharatiya Janata Party’s e-mail address,

From the pig-ignorant news desk comes Texas House Rep Louie Gohmert (a Republican, if you can believe it) who said on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives that if an asteroid were to hit the earth, the country should be wary of sending same-sex couples into space to colonize another planet, because they don’t have heterosexual relations. The Scourge thinks that along with the gays, Gohmert should definitely be left behind. No need to weaken the gene pool with catastrophic stupidity.

Finally, a Christian rock superstar, Trey Pearson, came out as gay this past week, a decision that could jeopardize his standing with his audiences. After decades of struggle, he’s overcome his childhood indoctrination into a life-phobic Christian denomination and decided to embrace who he is. Here’s to losing our religion!


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More heretic heroes 

The Scourge is still in France this week, so weekly posts will be short and/or a little off the rails of our main theme. Last week was all about James Baldwin. This week features Oscar Wilde, who is buried here. 

This morning, the Scourge scuttled to the bookstore Shakespeare and Co. where He bought more books to lug around the world (Sartre, Baldwin and Seamus Heaney), and they put his prizes in this wonderful bag:

This made the Scourge think of a post He wrote for his previous blog about one year ago, and much of it touches on the Scourge’s themes of religion, hypocrisy and the desperate need for unfettered self-expression in a world of penitential automatons. Check it out:

Wilde Abandon
Until next Sunday…the heretic’s day. 

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Tending the fire


This month, the Scourge is in France enjoying the revelatory art, the countryside and, of course, the food (who wouldn’t love a culture that serves a baguette smeared with butter and then camembert as lunch?). Our blogging antihero has been busy tooling around the City of Light and, thus far, hasn’t checked the papers, but he’ll be posting Scourge-related thoughts during his time across the pond.

Last week in Paris, he followed in the footsteps of literary great James Baldwin, which made the Scourge think about the role of heretics not only in the incense-fogged halls of religion but also in the cultural institutions we treat with sacerdotal gravitas. We don’t need an altar to assign religious significance to a place or system. Many people who otherwise call themselves anti-religion worship money, books, politics or science with a level of devotion that would make a Bendectine blush for shame. Those same organizing stuctures of power, whatever they may be, also have their detractors who are punished by the votaries of state/class/race/community with as much fervor as any Inquisition.

I joined Julia Browne’s walking-tour of Baldwin’s Parisian haunts and landmarks, learning about the man, the black culture of Paris and so much more. The Scourge first read Baldwin in college and fell in love with his rousing voice, but it wasn’t until the plane ride to Paris, that he consumed Giovanni’s Room, possibly the most heartbreaking love story he’d ever read.

Baldwin, raised in Harlem, went to Paris like many black artists to escape the crushing racism of America (which he chronicles so perfectly in The Fire Next Time). While in France, he grew to understand himself as an American, a black American and as a gay man, and his first book, Go Tell It On the Mountain, the gateway to his own creativity, was finished in a room above the Parisian Cafe de Flore. He spent the rest of his life in France, but he journeyed back to the United States to give lectures throughout the south and meet with civil rights leaders, lending his insightful and incisive voice to what he later came to call “the latest slave rebellion.”


The FBI dogged the steps of artists who defied American “values,” whether they were Communists (suspected or actual, as in the case of Richard Wright), proponents of equal treatment for blacks, or sexual subversives. The cafés of Paris in St. Germain des Pres where expat intellectuals gathered to discuss their ideas were also seedbeds of surveillance and betrayals, so that a sense of paranoia went hand-in-hand with every friendship and heated debate over existentialist ideas. Baldwin had almost 2,000 pages of material in his FBI file, reportedly much higher than Wright’s.

Through his writing and lectures, Baldwin was a true heretic who defied the  cultural/economic/governmental/educational institutionalized racism and homophobia of the States, not to mention his belief that Christianity contributed to the continuing slave mentality of black Americans. He spoke out against systems of oppression with an eviscerating clarity and candor, refusing to recant because he understood that bowing to a deformed culture, crippling oneself with the inimical “virtues” of a system whose moral compass is spinning wildly out of control means that we, too, are lost in a wilderness with no guiding instrument to find our way home, and in that kind of wasteland, we’re all barbarians.

Until next Sunday…the heretic’s day.

In other news of the faithful:

Switzerland might impose heavy fines on the Muslim family of two teen boys who refused to shake their teacher’s hand. In the land of Heidi, it’s traditional for a student to shake their teacher’s hand at the beginning of the day, but given that the teacher in question was a female, the boys refused (women are evil, sex is evil, blah, blah, blah). Switzerland has decided that “the public interest with respect to equality between men and women and the integration of foreigners significantly outweighs the freedom of religion.” Amen!

In Iran, recent college graduates were arrested and subjected to 99 lashes for drugs rape looting violence …a co-ed party. And we lifted sanctions on this country, right? I guess human rights don’t hold that much economic interest for the United States, after all.





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Forget god. Believe in you.


Today’s New York Times features an in-depth article about the slow march of radical Islam into Europe through the gates of Kosovo. The country’s longstanding form of Islam is considered loosey-goosey by the extremists who set up camp shortly after the devastating Serbian war of the ’90s and began indoctrinating new generations in “Wahhabism,” which is more in line with Sharia law. Not surprisingly, Saudia Arabian “charities” have poured lots of money into the project.

Here’s how it works:

Young clerics get scholarship money to study in Saudia Arabia or elsewhere in the Arab world where keeping women smothered in Saran Warp is considered a holy duty. They get brainwashed. They go back to Kosovo and become imams of new, shiny mosques funded by the same charities. They start spouting off about the necessity of going on “jihad,” covering up their women, or downplaying the previous, more secularized, versions of Islam that had long been part of the area’s religious landscape. They threaten moderate imams who keep the region’s flag in their mosque (because it has a two-headed eagle on it – no graven images are tolerated), or they say unbelievable shit like, “The blood of infidels is the best drink for us Muslims.”

This is what comes from any religious system wherein “god” (read: your own monomaniacal ego) tells you that you’re chosen. If you’re chosen, there must be un-chosen. That’s how the world of duality works.

“Totem, tribal, racial, and aggressively missionizing cults represent only partial solutions of the psychological problem of subduing hate by love…Ego is not annihilated in them; rather, it is enlarged; instead of thinking only of himself, the individual becomes dedicated to the whole of his society. The rest of the world meanwhile (that is to say, by far the greater portion of mankind) is left outside the sphere of his sympathy and protection because [he’s] outside the sphere of the protection of his god. And there takes place, then, that dramatic divorce of the two principles of love and hate which the pages of history so bountifully illustrate. Instead of clearing his own heart the zealot tries to clear the world. The laws of the City of God are applied only to his in-group (tribe, church, nation, class, or what not) while the fire of a perpetual holy war is hurled (with good conscience, and indeed a sense of pious service) against whatever uncircumcised, barbarian, heathen, ‘native,’ or alien people happens to occupy the position of neighbor.”

Joseph Campbell, natch. (The Hero With a Thousand Faces.)

Religious people are rarely interested in the backbreaking and soul-crushing work required of us on a spiritual path. (And to be fair, who can blame them?) We can’t handle our shit, so we heap it on someone else’s head and blame them for the stink.

Literalization of any religious text or story leads to a simpleton’s interpretation of the myth, and ignorance is dangerous.

The Scourge once had a conversation with a lovely Hare Krishna, someone whose lifelong dedication to that particular cult left her with a soft voice and a sweet smile. She knew of the Scourge’s interest in mythology and Joseph Campbell, in particular, yet tried to tell the Scourge, with an almost heartbroken conviction teetering on desperation, that the stories of Krishna are real, real, I tell you! Krishna was born on this earth thousands of years ago in a prison! He split himself into dozens of replicas to dance with the gopis! As a baby, he sucked the life out of a demoness nursemaid sent to kill him! Everything was actually just as it said in the ancient stories!

The Scourge smiled politely (never move too quickly in the presence of fanatics) and said that he wasn’t so concerned whether something was real or not. The reality is irrelevant. What do the stories/what does “god” do for you? That’s where the juice is.

It doesn’t matter if a blue person named Krishna lived thousands of years ago. It matters that the image of Krishna lives inside of us now. (Meister Eckhart – it would be far better for God if Christ were born in our hearts than to a virgin in Bethlehem.) It doesn’t matter that a big, Disney god rescued the baby savior from the prison. It matters that we rescue ourselves from the prisons of our own ignorance. It doesn’t matter that this young cad become many and danced with the village girls under a full moon. It matters that “god” appears to each one of us whenever we cry out to it (and that god is a broad topic – it could be sex, drugs, reading, interior design, money; we’re all gripped by something and that thing is our divinity). It doesn’t matter if a literal demon lady tried to kill the baby Krishna. It matters that we know all our demons will come out to play whenever we radically change our lives.

Literalism is the death of the soul, because the soul is not literal. It works in images, myths, art and the poetry of the world around us. As long as we’re committed to finding the reality of our religions, we’ll miss the wisdom available to each of us right here, right now, in this moment. No candles. No chants. No incense. No prayer. No mystical robes. No special rivers or mountains or Meccas. If you can’t find “god” in the trash heap or the whorehouse, then your divinity is nothing but a cheap folk hero with delusions of grandeur.

Until next Sunday…the heretic’s day.

In other news of the faithful:

The Christian Baylor University continues to find itself in hot water with new reports of their cover-ups regarding sexual assault. Football players have been acting deplorably towards young women, and perhaps even worse, are the administrators’ and coaches’ turning of a blind eye towards their star players’ iniquities. Raping women? Now, that’s Christian.

Religious freedom bills and exemptions continue to plague a so-called secular America. Seven Republicans killed a nondiscrimination amendment to a bill that would have protected LGBT people in their places of employment. The amendment was attached to a defense bill which passed and included a religious exemption clause for government contractors whose prissy morality is offended by the gays.

Also in the field of religious exemptions comes Oklahoma’s bill to safeguard good Christian schoolchildren from having to share their bathroom with a trans kid. All those faithful moppets have to do is declare their religious affiliation and then little Sally doesn’t have to share her toilet with little-Sally-in-training.

Finally, the Scourge is calling for submissions! If you come across articles from reputable news sources that contain a religious angle, send them by filling out the contact form. If the Scourge ever makes it big, you’ll get a T-shirt or coffee mug or desktop doodad as a thank you.

(The above photo is of Idriz Billali, an imam who’s received death threats for trying to curb radical craziness in Kosovo. Photo by Andrew Testa for the New York Times.)

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Convert me not


There’s nothing like a deathbed conversion to warm the saccharine cockles of a Christian heart, and according to a new book by author by Larry X. Taunton, the greatest heretic in recent memory might have come perilously close to recanting his atheistic views.

Taunton has just released The Faith of Christopher Hitchens: The Restless Soul of the World’s Most Notorious Atheist. Taunton spent a number of hours in cars with Hitchens on their way to debates together, and it was during these marathon rides that Taunton (an evangelical writer) gleaned some sense of a “seeker” behind the writer’s vituperative persona. Christian media has jumped all over the book in praise and worship, hailing it as an encouraging tool for evangelists while disingenuously lamenting the loss of Hitchens’ soul (“fewer things are sadder than the death of a defiant atheist” – Really?).

Granted, it would make a great, albeit hackneyed, yarn. Hitchens, who wrote God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, suffered a terribly ironic blow when, after his skewering work on religious hokum was published in 2009, he was diagnosed with and eventually died of esophageal cancer. During his decline, he continued to write personally revealing columns for Vanity Fair, but never did he express doubt about his atheism in public or, it turns out, in private. After his death, Christians took to social media in a frenzy of Schadenfreude, crowing about the degraded state of his soul and other assorted twaddle.

As with all believers, be they Christian, Muslim or Hindu (more on them below), denying the presence of god is a personal affront to their clay-footed deities. So when one of the wicked insults god and then gets struck down by disease, it’s time for a victory lap! To hell with Christian charity! It’s far better to be right than holy!

Because what would it mean if the faithful flock had been wrong all these years, if a Hitchens or a pervert or an apostate weren’t punished for their blasphemy? How could the believer justify the self-denial that’s been slowly devouring them? If they ever stopped to consider that their entire existence was based on the petty cruelties of a god who sounds a lot like an abusive relative, they’d come to the striking (and, likely, debilitating) conclusion that all the failures and miseries of their life grew not from the mysterious workings of god, but their own cowardice to change their circumstances.

In many ways, atheism is the kinder philosophy. It offers its adherents a terrifying, but ultimately honest lifestyle choice – personal responsibility. Instead of blaming their karma, their god, the ancestors or some new age nonsense, atheists have to put on their adult panties and own up to their own choices, be they wise or foolish, kind or cruel. As the Scourge’s mother-in-law likes to say, “I’ve got bad news, and I’ve got good news. The bad news is you’re the problem. The good news is you’re also the solution.”

Atheists are often questioned about their ability to make ethical decisions without the guidance of a religious tradition, as if the only reason to perform acts of compassion is to win the favor of a bitchy über-parent. In fact, people who act without the lure of karmic brownie points or a paradisiacal salvation are perhaps the only truly good people around. The rest are just hagglers in the marketplace.

The Scourge himself is not an atheist. But nor does he believe in religion. He suspects the gods are real, but also views them as psychological principles. He thinks all myths are “true,” in that they reflect our inner landscapes. He knows that icons are made of wood, plaster or marble, yet are also imbued with the metaphorical, imagistic language so favored by the subconscious depths of the psyche. He has no faith, but (to paraphrase Joseph Campbell) leans on his experience to illumine his understanding.

Perhaps most importantly, he doesn’t think he’s “right,” because right or wrong is completely subjective and therefore devoid of validity. One person’s right is another’s wrong. What one touts as good, another decries as evil. What one cleric hallows, another curses. Therefore, it’s all trash and nonsense. Morality is a figment concocted by sheep lacking the courage to live an unapologetic life.

Tribal cannibalism is a sacred feast whereby the eaters imbibe the power and history of the eaten (Catholicism adopted the same idea). Hindu vegetarians refuse meat because of the sacredness they see in cows and other upper life forms (fuck the plants, though). Sex is the gateway to death for some, while millions throughout time have used it ritually to fertilize the earth in spring. Right/Wrong. Sacred/Profane. Good/Evil. God/Devil. Each an opportunistic label employed for political use by a priest class which, even if not always materially rich, lives in the luxury of power.

Who benefits from keeping people in their place? Why is it that governments from Pakistan to the United States cleave so closely to their churches? How do we ignore the connections between poverty, a debased education system, conservative “values” and religious traditions which tout the sanctity of humility? The meek don’t inherit the earth. They inherit fear. Trepidation. Anxiety. Servitude. Rape. Mutilation. Torture. Slavery. Genocide. And with an abased “yes, sir, may I have another,” they tout scriptural excuses for their own undoing fed to them by the very people doing it.

In the words of Hitchens from God Is Not Great, “…religion has caused innumerable people not just to conduct themselves no better than others, but to award themselves permission to behave in ways that would make a brothel-keeper or an ethnic-cleanser raise an eyebrow.”

Until next Sunday…the heretic’s day.

In other news of the faithful:

The Indian subcontinent is on the Scourge’s shit-list this week. Donald Trump has some international fans to be found in the members of the right-wing Hindu Sena group. They recently took to a park in New Dehli along with statues of Shiva and Hanuman underneath a banner that said “Because he is hope for humanity against Islamic terror.” Chanting mantras around a ritual fire, they asked for the gods’ help in delivering the presidency to Trump. Another reason to be an atheist.




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Playing defense


This week, both the Washington Post and Al Jazeera reported on arrests made in a Pakistan “honor killing” case. Seventeen year-old Ambreen Riasat helped her friend elope with a secret boyfriend, and when village elders found out about it, they drugged Riasat, strangled her, strapped her into a van and set it on fire. Thirteen men were arrested in the case, as was the girl’s mother who cooperated with the tribal elders and allegedly handed her daughter over to these sacks of shit.

According to Al Jazeera, nearly 1,000 women were killed last year in murders that were predicated by “alleged adultery, illicit sexual behavior or…women defying their family in the name of love.” The Post reports that between 2004 and 2015 almost 9,000 girls and women were killed in similar circumstances.

Honor killings are not new, nor are they specifically related to Islam. In an Inter Press Service interview with Rana Husseini, author of the book Murder in the Name of Honor, the interviewer says, “You mentioned in a PBS interview that honour [sic] killings are not a religious issue but a cultural one.”

Husseini replies, “Unfortunately, a lot of people think these murders are related to Islam. These crimes happen in all religions. I have reported stories of women killed by family members in Jordan who were Christian. In Italy, there are men who kill their family members in the name of honor. It happens in the Hindi faith, too.”

With all due respect to Husseini, an incredible women’s rights advocate and journalist, she too easily sidesteps religion’s role not only in honor killings but in the creation of culture. What behaviors a deity sanctions or proscribes are foundational to how people in a society respond to one another.

Religions grow out of a community’s need. We can debate the merits of those needs, but on a purely mathematical level, a faith is an extension of what a culture desires (or, more accurately, what those at the head of the culture’s pecking order want).

In European Neolithic populations, we can see the spiritual significance placed on the hunt – cave paintings at Lascaux and Chauvet demonstrate this. They needed to kill animals to survive, and there was a sense of awe and reverence around this essential topic.

Egypt’s seminal (pun intended) myth regarding the yearly flooding of the Nile grew out of the necessity for water in an arid landscape. Hence, we have the story of Osiris and Isis, reenacted yearly during the Abydos passion play, a powerful reminder of the forces to which humans are bound.

A Mayan cosmic goddess is sacrificed and from her broken body grows the world tree. Priests of that culture did the same to humans, feeding the tree with human sacrifices as a way to keep the cosmic order in tact.

The inhabitants of the Greek empire, especially the women, participated in the frenzied rites of Dionysus as a way to release the terrible social pressures they faced in a regimented, patriarchal culture.

Judaism developed a war god for a war tribe intent on conquering other lands.

This is all based on the needs of the people involved; therefore, religion is intimately tied to culture. How a god or set of deities interacts with their chosen people has a direct bearing on what a community will tolerate. The Sumerian mega-goddess Inanna was known to be a patron of hierodules; therefore, the entire role of women and sexuality in that culture was vastly different from a society adhering to a myth where a woman causes a man to be cast out of paradise.

We must look to the root myths of any culture if we’re to truly understand a people, and we can not gloss over those religious stories when trying to suss out the myriad factors contributing to savagery. We can’t turn a blind eye to the connection of a vicious patriarchal god to a vicious patriarchal culture. We can’t pretend that the myths of Judaism/Christianity/Islam don’t indulge the worst in human behavior, despite those same religions’ exhortations to heal the world. (P.S. A world ruled by a jealous god is a sick one.)

Religions work on two different levels – the individual and the political. The individual’s relationship to a set of divine powers is based on that person’s experience, both as a member of a community and as an individual within that community. Francis of Assisi was both deeply involved in the happenings of his Medieval world and transformed by a personal revelation of what god was to his eyes. After further encounters with his god and gaining followers, he eventually became secondary to the political workings of the Franciscan bureaucracy, which continues to this day. (Just look at the gorgeous and obscenely un-Franciscan cathedral dedicated to the humble saint in his hometown.)

Carl Jung said, “Religion is a defense against a religious experience.”

And truly, this is why the Scourge…well…scourges the endless news stories where faithful followers engage in barbarism because they’re following a defense instead of an experience. Anyone who truly lives what could be called a “religious experience” – whether that occurred in a house of worship, hiking a mountain range, having orgiastic sex, creating music – knows that it is a self-shattering occurrence, and that’s terrifying to the status quo so highly valued by hierarchical cultures. To contain whatever radical revelations we have, we organize it, slap rules on it and stuff it into a limited frame of reference called mundane reality. Then we worship the frame instead of the art inside it.

And then we kill women, or queers, or brown people, because god promised us a promotion if we played by the company handbook.

Until next Sunday…the heretic’s day.

In other news of the faithful:

Archaeologists in Syria are starting to get a better sense of the devastation wrought by ISIL on the pre-Muslim artifacts in the area. That’s what jealous gods encourage in their followers.

The same Alabama chief justice who brought you a Cecil B. Demille-worthy statue of the Ten Commandments ordered that state probate judges had to deny same-sex couples filing for a marriage application. He’s been suspended from the bench and faces a hearing. As with Kim Davis, if you can’t do your job, get another one.

The Afghani child who was photographed wearing a homemade soccer jersey saluting his favorite soccer player Lionel Messi (and then got an actual, autographed one sent to him) gained a lot of attention internationally and, unfortunately, at home. The Taliban threatened the boy’s family for not having the child studying the Koran instead of soccer and now the family fled their country to avoid further persecution. If there’s any just god in the universe (and the Scourge is dubious), this kid will hopefully become a star soccer player.

Christians ranted at Target shoppers this week, because the company instituted a policy whereby transgender people could use the bathroom they feel is appropriate. “Preachers” and other nuts went into Target stores in various locales around the U.S. and shouted about the apocalypse, wickedness and the need to “repent” (which, if you watch the video, is not an easy word to pronounce if one is missing his front teeth).

And finally, seats at a Pennsyltucky church were going at a premium. Two men got into an altercation over who was sitting where. A fist fight ensued and ended with one man pulling out a gun (in church, mind you) and killing the other. Those who live by the gun will die by the gun.

(Above photo: Aqeel Ahmed/AP)







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The war on Christianity (and others)


It was only a matter of time before the Mormons became the subject of a post. After all, the Scourge lives in Phoenix, perilously close to the Mormon Mecca, Salt Like City. Just the other night, two smiling youths knocked on his door (one of them black…didn’t anyone tell him this is white people’s foolishness?) and complimented the Scourge’s art collection before asking to share the message of Jesus Christ. How he wished for a Mapplethorpe photo on his wall.

All this comes on the heels of a not-so-shocking story in the New York times where young women at Brigham Young University are disinclined to report rape, because the circumstances surrounding sexual assault can go against the university’s “Honor Code,” a document each attendee must sign before stepping foot on campus. The Honor Code delineates certain behavioral expectations the university has of its students, professors and staff, including the standard faith-based nonsense condemning sex, homosexuality and having a mind of one’s own.

Several women from BYU told the New York Times not only of their rapes, but subsequent investigations into their behavior by a university ethics committee who hope to discover whether or not the rape victim violated the honor code by drinking alcohol, taking drugs or having consensual sex before marriage. (Because girls who get raped clearly have loose morals. Otherwise, they wouldn’t provoke such behavior in men, right?)

Madi Barney waited for four days after being raped to report it to the authorities, because she was terrified of being expelled from BYU. The police report made it into the crabbed hands of university officials (after the man charged with raping her gave it to a Utah county sheriff’s deputy who then passed it on to the college), and once the Honor Code committee found out about the rape, the college opened an investigation into her behavior.

BYU’s general counsel e-mailed Barney’s lawyer and said that while the college hadn’t sought out the police report it was still “under an obligation to itself and to its students to investigate credible reports of Honor Code violation.”

Polish up the Star Chamber! It’s time for a trial!

More latter-day news comes from the Advocate. The LGBT publication reported on the staggering number of homeless young people in Utah and, subsequently, the high numbers of LGBT homeless youths, clocked at 42% of the homeless population. Many of these kids are kicked out by parents, who, like good Christians, are following church rules. Given their sheltered upbringing, Mormon youth fare particularly poorly on the streets and often end up in sex trafficking rings.

Some particularly savvy Scourge readers might recall how the higher-ups in Utah’s government and church (tomayto, tomahto) agreed on an LGBT anti-discrimination bill in the past couple of years, a surprise turn that had even hardened critics nodding their heads appreciatively. But let’s not get it twisted, people: the bill had significant clauses whereby religiously affiliated non-profits, including schools and even hospitals, were exempt from legal action should they engage in LGBT discrimination. (Oh, and the same went for discrimination towards women. Homophobia and misogyny go hand-in-hand. A message missed by Carly Fiorina who’s decided to play Queen of the Damned to Ted Cruz’s Lucifer.)

In November of 2015, the Mormon church sent out a secret edict to church leadership in 30,000 congregations worldwide saying that children raised in same-sex households were not to be blessed, baptized or ordained, and they were not to serve as missionaries (a clear win in the Scourge’s book, but still). Also, church members in same-sex relationships were apostates and subject to excommunication (good riddance to your unflattering underwear).

After the text of this document was leaked to the press, the monthly tally of reported suicides among LGBT kids in Utah topped out at 32 – the usual average for a six-month span of time in the state. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – this religion business is bad news for queer people.

For too long, criminals, tyrants, bigots, masochists and murderers have committed atrocities only to turn the other cheek and point a pallid, trembling finger to their sovereign right to do whatever the fuck they want because their religion tells them so.

In the case of the Mormons, this behavior shouldn’t be surprising; it’s been a part of the culture from the get-go. After receiving golden tablets from angels written in an archaic unknown language, Mormon founder Joseph Smith, who was a convicted con man, deciphered said-tablets with the aid of magic stones. Once the tablets were translated and Smith had a new holy book in his hands, the tablets vanished.

How convenient.

After Smith went from carnival charlatan to new world prophet and led a bunch of his followers westward-ho, he was visited by an angel three times and commanded – commanded, I tell you! – to take multiple wives. Smith protested, at first, but then succumbed. After all, god told him to fuck a lot of bitches. Who was he to deny the word of the Almighty?

And there’s the problem, kids. Whenever you believe some invisible force is omnipotent and infallible, you have rich soil for a charismatic kook to plant poisonous seeds. After decades, centuries and even millennia of entrenched madness, institutionalized cruelty is de rigueur in religious hegemonies worldwide. A university can slut-shame a rape victim. A church can blithely proclaim sweeping punishments for people who have sex, especially sex they view as abhorrent. A government colludes with the church or, at the very least, sits idly by while religious mountebanks ignite culture wars over bathrooms, women’s bodies and sexuality. An entire culture chooses to give people a pass for their religious beliefs, because it’s part of the founding charter of a white, straight, male, Christian nation founded by religious extremists.

While kids are killing themselves, women are getting raped and people are living in tent cities and eating tree snails for breakfast, vast swaths of Americans go on protecting freedom of religion, even the so-called liberals who wring their hands over appearing politically sensitive instead of taking up torches and pitchforks against the rabidly arrayed fundamentalist mobs. Open criticism of America’s religious idiocies and their deleterious effects on millions of citiznes is long overdue in public spaces.

Instead, we have timid candidates going to church in antic disposition, showing the groundlings that they’re good Christian soldiers. Consumers gluttonously purchase doodads at big box stores that offer sales!sales!sales! so that religious corporate goons can use their profits to fund blackhearted think tanks. “Don’t talk about politics or religion” is a respected dictum by a populace more concerned with politely rolling over than defiantly standing their ground.

The faithful aren’t staying out of your living rooms, bedrooms, hell, even your bodies, so why on earth are you staying out of their sanctuaries? Playing defense just wears you out. Offense gains you ground. When the Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Catholics, the Hare Krishnas, the Muslims, or anyone seeks to indoctrinate you into their slave morality,  don’t just put out your wrists to be shackled. Do not go gently into a benighted ideology where rape victims are criminals, gays are abominations, women are the devil, thought is wicked and the world is an illusion.

One of the Scourge’s favorite political actions he’s ever seen (albeit far removed through video; he wasn’t of age at the time it occurred) was when gay men struggling against government indifference and religious complicity fought to be seen, heard and helped during the AIDS epidemic. At St. Patrick’s cathedral in New York City, ACT UP members went into the church during mass, lay on the floor as if they were dead and shouted “stop killing us” while good Catholics were trying to devour the body of Christ without actually digesting his message.

We don’t have the luxury of playing patty cake with people who are playing war. Religion is a blight on the human spirit, and it’s time we tear it out.

Until next Sunday…the heretic’s day.

In other news of the faithful:

A rash of Bangladesh killings by Muslim extremists has the country on edge. Recent deaths include a Hindu tailor and two LGBT activists who were hacked to death. Sure, it’s hot as shit in Bangladesh, but it might be time to break out Medieval suits of armor for day wear.

China has created a robot monk to cruise around a Buddhist temple and even answer spiritual questions. Aren’t all monks robots?


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