Overherd April 2011

It is a rather wonderful relationship. I won’t say he doesn’t pray for me, because I think he probably does, but he doesn’t discuss it with me. He agrees that his medical experience does not include anything that could be described as a miracle cure ­— he’s never come across anything.
Christopher Hitchens, on his friend Francis Collins, a Christian scientist who directs the U.S. National Institutes of Health
U.K. Telegraph, 3-25-11

I have a hunch, and it is only a hunch, because opinion polls suggest otherwise, that there are more atheists among social and economic conservatives than Americans realize. The Religious Right has done such a good job of equating secularism with liberalism that some of its own most vociferous adherents don’t realize how many of their supporters worship no God but the God of the market, where no one is his brother’s keeper.
Columnist Susan Jacoby, “Surprise, right-wing atheists do exist”
The Washington Post, 2-24-11

No attempt to apologize to us has ever been made. It wasn’t the parishioners who were being raped in the back of a car by a priest when they were 8 years old. It was me.
Heath Bromley, 35, North Creek, N.Y., on the bishop of Albany’s visit to a church to apologize to parishioners for Fr. Gary Mercure’s pederasty
Albany Times Union, 3-11-11

You lied to me. You jerked me around while you played this game and came to me in tears.
Philadelphia Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes, admonishing accused child rapist Fr. James Brennan for falsely saying he had no money to pay a lawyer and ordering him to reimburse the state $1,350
New York Times, 3-14-11

Let me spell it out for you. Avery, Engelhardt and Shero picked a child and singled him out.
Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes, answering a lawyer’s question about adding criminal conspiracy to charges faced by his client, accused child rapist Bernard Shero, a former Catholic parochial school teacher
Courier Times, 3-27-11

Faith is what you use to oppress, to justify, to judge in the name of God . . . a means to rationalize more evil in this world than anything in history. If there were a devil, faith would be his greatest invention.
Author James Frey, on his novel The Final Testament of the Holy Bible in which the Messiah is a reformed alcoholic who impregnates a prostitute
New York Post, 3-14-11

We pray, Lord, that you help us show reverence to the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ our savior, we pray.
Baptist Pastor Dennis Campbell’s invocation March 14 before the Minnesota Senate
Minnesota Independent, 3-15-11

It makes anyone who doesn’t pray through Jesus Christ, or believe in Jesus Christ — it makes them feel like they don’t belong. It makes me feel like I don’t belong on the Senate floor to which I was duly elected by my constituents. In a government chamber, I and others should not be made to feel that way.
Minnesota state Sen. Ron Latz, who is Jewish, objecting to Rev. Campbell’s prayer
St. Paul Pioneer Press, 3-16-11

Instead of a controversial or nondenominational prayer, why not have words of wisdom read from parts of our state Constitution?
Alice Cowley, Becker, Minn., objecting to “religious leaders who ignite and inflame religious controversy”
St. Cloud Times, 3-18-11

I’ve been known to joke with the leader of the opposition in the past that one day we’ll go head-to-head on our ability to recite sections of the bible by rote.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard, an atheist, on winning prizes as a child at her Baptist church for memorizing religious texts
The Australian, 3-22-11

When Jimmy was 11 and his mother passed away, he began to be molested by his minister. I think that haunted him the rest of his life. In fact, I know it did. We talked about it a lot. During “Giant” [in 1956], we’d stay up nights and talk and talk, and that was one of the things he confessed to me.
Elizabeth Taylor, who in 1997 pledged to keep James Dean’s molestation off the record until she died
MSNBC, 3-25-11

The very real concern is that little Johnny the preacher’s kid is apt to run home and tattle if the teacher suggests, for example, that the story of Adam and Eve is an allegorical variation on common mythology and lore and that maybe the fruit was not really fruit and that maybe the serpent was not really a serpent, but that they represent temptation and sin. Someone somewhere is going to find himself in a raucous special school board meeting with Reverend Holy Roller all up in his face. You see, Reverend Holy Roller does not see the bible as something to study with academic detachment, or to scour for symbolism and narrative inspiration, but as a marching order for him to impose his view of religion.
Columnist John Burnett, “Good luck teaching the bible in school”
Arkansas News, 3-13-11

Either God can do nothing to stop catastrophes like this, or he doesn’t care to, or he doesn’t exist. God is either impotent, evil, or imaginary. Take your pick, and choose wisely. The only sense to make of tragedies like this is that terrible things can happen to perfectly innocent people. This understanding inspires compassion. Religious faith, on the other hand, erodes compassion. Thoughts like, “this might be all part of God’s plan,” or “there are no accidents in life,” or “everyone on some level gets what he or she deserves” — these ideas are not only stupid, they are extraordinarily callous. They are nothing more than a childish refusal to connect with the suffering of other human beings. It is time to grow up and let our hearts break at moments like this.
Neuroscientist and author Sam Harris, on the March 11 earthquake and tsunami
CNN Belief Blog, 3-20-11

The idea that Japan needs prayer seems to be about the single most impotent response that you could have to this crisis.
Michael Dippold, op-ed, “Japan needs aid, not prayer”
The Northern Iowan, 3-24-11

Despite its title, “The Book of Mormon” is less about religion than credulity and the need to believe, as well as the singular American gift for dreaming up great stories and enduring symbols — and then selling them to everybody on the planet.
Theater critic Elisabeth Vincentelli, calling the Trey Parker-Matt Stone Broadway musical “a hit and a hoot”
New York Post, 3-24-11

Oh I can’t wait to read this one. What do I get to do now that I didn’t get to do before, and what about all that begatting in the ol’ timey versions? Yeehaw!
Commenter gigip300, on the Ash Wednesday release of a new translation of the Catholic bible, which substitutes, e.g., “plunder” for “booty,” “burnt offering” for “holocaust” and “virgin with child” for “young woman with child”
The Washington Post, 3-11-11

Man, I sound like a broken record, don’t I? said Benedict, opening to a random page of his new book and pointing out a “crazy” number of references to the Son of God. It’s just Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. Page after page of nothing but Jesus. Who wants to read that?
Story headlined “Pope to ease up on Jesus talk”
The Onion, 3-16-11

Freedom From Religion Foundation