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Not so glad to be home, but stupid news is everywhere

Hi All, got back from my trip to the UK and Lithuania a couple of days ago. I really did not want to come home. Unfortunately, both Mr. writerdd and I have to work, so here we are. I was welcomed home by this lovely news story from the Denver Post, a reminder of one of the things I don’t love about the US: the prevalence of fundamentalist nut-jobs and their constant attacks on science and reason.

University of Colorado police are investigating a series of threatening messages and documents e-mailed to and slipped under the door of evolutionary biology labs on the Boulder campus.

The messages included the name of a religious-themed group and addressed the debate between evolution and creationism, CU police Cmdr. Brad Wiesley said. Wiesley would not identify the group named because police are still investigating.

“There were no overt threats to anybody specifically by name,” Wiesley said. “It basically said anybody who doesn’t believe in our religious belief is wrong and should be taken care of.”

The first threat was e-mailed to the labs – part of CU’s ecology and evolutionary biology department housed in the Ramaley Biology building – on Friday. Wiesley said Monday that morning staff members found envelopes with the threatening documents slipped under the lab doors.

Wiesley said police will have increased patrols in and around CU science buildings.

“What’s written on paper is what’s written on paper,” Wiesley said. “One of the question marks here is who wrote it and who delivered it.”

That’s not to say that the Europeans don’t have their own religious bullshit lurking in the corners and sometimes coming out of the darkness to try to spread ignorant nonsense. While I was in London, I read this bit about Anglican bishops, who have apparently been taking lessons in etiquette from Pat Robertson:

The floods that have devastated swathes of the country are God’s judgment on the immorality and greed of modern society, according to senior Church of England bishops.

The Bishop said pro-gay laws were to blame for the floods

One diocesan bishop has even claimed that laws that have undermined marriage, including the introduction of pro-gay legislation, have provoked God to act by sending the storms that have left thousands of people homeless.

While those who have been affected by the storms are innocent victims, the bishops argue controversially that the flooding is a result of Western civilisation’s decision to ignore biblical teaching.

The Rt Rev Graham Dow, Bishop of Carlisle, argued that the floods are not just a result of a lack of respect for the planet, but also a judgment on society’s moral decadence.

“This is a strong and definite judgment because the world has been arrogant in going its own way,” he said. “We are reaping the consequences of our moral degradation, as well as the environmental damage that we have caused.”

The bishop, who is a leading evangelical, said that people should heed the stories of the Bible, which described the downfall of the Roman empire as a result of its immorality.

“We are in serious moral trouble because every type of lifestyle is now regarded as legitimate,” he said.

I don’t speak Lithuanian well enough to have any similar nonsense to report from that country, which is Roman Catholic by a huge majority. I went to a national folk-music festival during my visit to Vilnius, and I am fairly certain that at least some of the songs performed were religious in nature, but it’s too hard to pick up the lyrics from a 5,000 member choir singing in pouring rain, so I’m just guessing.

Unfotunately, the idea of atheism and the Soviet occupation are so tightly tied together in the recent history and national consciousness of the Lithuanian people, with the Catholic church standing in as a strong force toward independence and national identity, that no real change in the religious landscape will probably occur for at least a generation. (The ties between Lithuanian heritage and Roman Catholicism are very strong in the U.S. as well, where the recent closure of a Lithuanian church in New York caused a huge outcry in the Lithuanian-speaking community. The Knights of Lithuania, an organization to which several of my family members have belonged, has the dual mission to preserve Lithuanian culture and to promote the importance of Roman Catholicism.)

The young people, who don’t have a strong memory of Soviet oppression, seem to be less religious than the older folks (I saw many working and hanging out in cafes on Sunday morning), but many are also returning to an updated version of Lithuanian paganism (my personal bias finds this type of religion less disturbing than patriarchal-authoritarian-fundamentalist faith).

Interestingly enough, the University of Vilnius has a religious studies program that is doing research into these trends:

Major research projects are oriented towards studying the cultural, social and psychological reality of faith and religion in society. The main subjects and areas of research are as follows:

changes of religious mentality of society in Lithuania since 1990;
the confrontation between the Church and the totalitarian system and its outcomes;
the role and the place of the Catholic Roman Church in the transition of society from totalitarian to civil one;
new religious movements in Lithuania;
Lithuanian Congregations (history, current problems and research);
religious formation in Lithuania (research includes the manifold diversity of ecclesiastical training and education);
research on the interaction between culture and religion.

Other than waking up at 3am today, I seem to be suffering very little to no jetlag and I hope to have get our reading back on track soon, with interestings selections for August and September.


Donna Druchunas is a freelance technical writer and editor and a knitwear designer. When she's not working, she blogs, studies Lithuanian, reads science and sci-fi books, mouths off on atheist forums, and checks her email every three minutes. (She does that when she's working, too.) Although she loves to chat, she can't keep an IM program open or she'd never get anything else done.

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  1. Thanks bug_girl, you have some interesting links on your post. I also often wonder why the word "terrorist" is never used when talking about these domestic violent crackpots. I think you're partly right that it's because they generally do not have brown skin, but also because they are most often Christians, and we are brainwashed into thinking of those "nice Christian boys and girls" not being able to be the perpetrators of violence and immorality. After all, we see ourselves (speaking for the nation as a whole) as Christian and the good guys, so "we" can't be terrorists, can we?

  2. writerdd said:

    I think you’re partly right that it’s because they generally do not have brown skin, but also because they are most often Christians, and we are brainwashed into thinking of those “nice Christian boys and girls” not being able to be the perpetrators of violence and immorality. After all, we see ourselves (speaking for the nation as a whole) as Christian and the good guys, so “we” can’t be terrorists, can we?

    I agree, somewhat, but I also don't think it NECESSARILY has to do with skin color or even the image of 'nice Christian boys and girls.' I think it has to do with the nature of the war on tehrra, which we try desperately to paint as one that is between America (and the friends of 'Liberty' – don't forget Poland!) vs. The Tehrrists. This necessarily changes the definition of 'terrorist' in a couple of significant ways.

    First, since the US is AT WAR with terrorists, a terrorist must, by definition, be 'one who is not American.' Heck, not that it means much, but I rarely even see Timothy McVeigh called a terrorist these days.

    Second, we've narrowed the scope of 'terrorism' to one particular sort, that which is perpetrated by Muslim fundamentalists. After all, it's not as if the US is making quite as big a show of going against, say, South American drug cartels which use terrorism. Or the Tamil Tigers, who use terrorist tactics INCLUDING suicide bombings, or any of the dozens of other separatist/insurgent/inter-tribal factions of the world. They aren't Muslim extremists, so they aren't 'terrorists' by our definition, and aren't part of our so-called 'global' war.

    Finally, since these Christian terror threats aren't going against the nation as a whole, aren't directed at symbols of the nation, and aren't specifically anti-governmental, the media doesn't even gain much by calling them 'terrorism.' They don't allow for the same kind of fearmongering as Al Qaeda threats, or Chertoff's 'gut feelings,' and don't provoke the general public to fear.

    Yes, sadly, I think the whole thing comes down to marketing. The branding of the 'war on terror' just doesn't extend to such things…it would DILUTE the brand's message! It's almost as if Bush and Co. knew a thing or two about 'framing', which is why I suggest a Global War on Framing to ameliorate the issue :-P

  3. In Germany, we've had a federal secretary of education (of Hessia) argue for Creationism in biology classes, and of course a catholic bishop just had to come to her aid. Hessia already has two schools (one of them religious, one public) teach Creationism.

    The problem may not be as bad as in the US (yet), but the wedge is being aimed at German education, as well.

  4. Some Turkish dude who wrote a book bout young earth creationism (which has lots of pretty pictures in it, and of course, plenty of utterly wrong information) recently sent copies of his book to all geology, biology and history teachers working at major European universities.

    I'm not sure exactly what he was hoping to accomplish by that, but as far as I know, ALL those teachers essentially dumped the book at the bottom of a drawer (or of a trash can), rather than – as the author suggested – include it in their curriculum.

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