Brother Tayler’s Sunday Sermon in Salon, and lagniappe

June 2, 2015 • 11:00 am

I trust that many of you are following Atlantic correspondent Jeffrey Tayler’s continuing series of antitheist articles in Salon, which appear every Sunday. The latest involves the Chief Justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court, the odious and hyperreligious Roy Moore. We’ve encountered this clown before (see here and here, for instance), a man who once installed a stone monument to the Ten Commandments in the court lobby. (It was deemed a violation of the First Amendment and was removed, as was Moore himself from the Court, though he was subsequently reelected by Alabama’s benighted voters.)

Moore also gained more recent infamy by defying a federal court order mandating that his state issue licenses for gay marriage. The matter is still in limbo, with the licenses suspended pending a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Tayler’s piece, “As dangerous as Thomas and Scalia: Meet the right-wing religious zealout who’d rather follow the Bible than the law,” takes as its starting point Moore’s repeated claim that the law of the Bible is above the law of his state and country, a view instantiated in this statement Moore made to CNN:

“Our rights contained in the Bill of Rights do not come from the Constitution, they come from God.”

Moore also made this completely garbled statement before the conservative Family Research Council last week, a statement that Tayer translates as “doing what the Bible says makes you happy.” Have a gander at this—from a state Supreme Court Chief Justice (granted, it’s Alabama)!

“It’s laws of God, for He is so intimately connected, so inseparably interwoven the laws of eternal justice with the happiness of each individual that the latter cannot be obtained but by observing the former, and if the formerly be punctually abated it cannot help but induce the latter. You can’t help but be happy if you follow God’s law and if you follow God’s law, you can’t help but be happy. We need to learn our law.”

Then Tayler takes Moore apart simply by recounting the “laws” mandated by God in the Old Testament. Many of these odious, genocidal, and misogynistic dictates we already know, but it’s worth reviewing them. At the end, Tayler takes up the question about why Moore gets any respect at all, and emits a peroration worthy of Mencken (my emphasis):

So how is it that Chief Justice Moore suffers no opprobrium for saying that you “can’t help but be happy if you follow God’s law?”

Because we commit a sort of secular sin of omission and let him, either out of mistaken notions of politesse or the erroneous belief that criticizing religion as ideology equates with insulting someone personally. This has to stop. Every time we encounter faith-deranged individuals spouting supernatural nonsensicalities, we should request explanations and evidence. We might also cite the above-noted biblical passages and ask how they possibly square with modern life in a developed country. If they say those parts don’t apply nowadays, ask them which verses in the Bible permit them to so pick and choose. By steady, patient questioning, you will expose faith for what it is: finely crafted garbage.

We should not suffer evangelical fools gladly or allow them to determine the boundaries of discourse. We should take to heart the key maxim of British philosopher and mathematician William K. Clifford: “It is wrong, always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.” We should point out that we have no problem with privately held religious beliefs, but we will protest and object to any attempt to impose such beliefs or restrictions deriving thereof on us or others.

Resist. You have a world of hard-won rights and secular sanity to preserve, and everything to lose.


By the way, I’ve just finished Tayler’s short e-book, Topless Jihadis: Inside FEMEN, the World’s Most Provocative Activist Group (you can read a free precis in the Atlantic here), and I recommend it highly. You may be familiar with FEMEN as the group of largely Ukrainian women who stage loud and public “incidents”, usually involving the baring of breasts. What you may not know is the courage and deeply-considered ideology of these women, and their profound resistance to religion on grounds of its misogyny and homophobia. (“Fuck your morals” is one of their mottos.) Although FEMEN is in bad odor among many Western feminists simply because of the breast-baring, which of course garners attention, if you share that opinion you may well change your mind after reading Tayler’s book.

This is Inna Shevchenko, the head of FEMEN. She’s demonstrating topless and is wearing the characteristic floral crown taken from Ukrainian folk dress.


A sympathetic artist portrayed Inna as “Marianne,” the symbol of the French revolution, and submitted the design in a competition for a French postage stamp. The stamp won, and after it was adopted the artist revealed the model. Many French people were incensed. Inna’s response?

“FEMEN is on French stamp. Now all homophobes, extremists, fascists will have to lick my ass when they want to send a letter.”


36 thoughts on “Brother Tayler’s Sunday Sermon in Salon, and lagniappe

  1. Wonderful. And the response by Inna made be crow out loud in delight.
    But do they still have lickable stamps over there? Ours are pre-sticky, and I now see that as a missed opportunity re any stamp of anyone seen as controversial by anybody.

      1. Oops. Someone else’s ass, I mean. [can’t … seem … to … reach … that … far /gives up]

  2. “FEMEN is on French stamp. Now all homophobes, extremists, fascists will have to lick my ass when they want to send a letter.”

  3. The judge from Alabama should be your first argument to conclude that voting for judges in this country is very stupid. It also shows correctly that the public gets what they ask for.

    1. It’s a practice I’ve never understood. Surely such a job, as with so many other elected offices, would be better going to the most qualified candidate rather than the most popular? If it was introduced as a way of avoiding corruption – well … that surely hasn’t worked.

  4. That last quote about the stamp reminds me of my grandmother. She despised Franklin Roosevelt, who she knew had stolen his four elections as president. (Nobody she knew had ever voted for him!)

    For a time the standard 6-cent postage stamp (when 6 cents would send a letter) featured FDR. She wouldn’t use it. When our small town post office was out of commemorative stamps she could use as alternatives, she would drive to the next town to buy them, explaining that she refused to lick FDR’s backside.

    I didn’t always agree with my grandmother, but I do admire her.

    1. Sounds like an interesting woman, and one of wrong values. 🙂

      Bet grandma was a big fan of Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge — that, like Archie Bunker, she thought “Mister, we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again…”

      Or maybe you’d have to go all the way back to the madness of King George III to find someone to her liking? Did she use to wish Giuseppe Zangara had been a better shot?

  5. I’m not a fan of FEMEN – while many of the Western feminist dislike of that group come down to a dislike of a group of “conventionally attractive” women getting naked for attention, there’s more to it than that. Basically, the underlying ideas and tactics of that group are a hot mess, and more often than not, they resemble a feminist version of PETA – lots of high-profile attention-seeking tactics, less thought given to how their actions influence real outcomes.

    One example of really problematic short-term thinking on their part – teaming up with a far-right anti-immigrant group in Ukraine in a protest against the Turkish government.

    Also, what might surprise some people is that in spite of their “sexy” image, they’re actually anti-sex work and prohibitionist in the extreme. In one action a couple years ago against a French strip club, they went as far as assaulting one of the strippers. To my way of thinking, that’s not even remotely OK, or a “regrettable” part of an otherwise legitimate protest.

    The above also explains in large part why they pretty much don’t connect with contemporary Western feminism. The old-school unreconstructed anti-porn feminists don’t like the fact that their “self-objectifying” image, while the newer more sex-positive wing don’t like their anti-sex work stance. And the incoherence of their politics I think turns anybody who’s looked at them closely, or at least, those of us who prefer some substance behind style.

    1. Rather simplistic analysis. Since when do we get to decide how other people choose to protest?
      “Sorry, Mrs. Parks, sitting at the front of the bus is a rather aggressive and incoherent message. After all, what you want isn’t really about buses, is it?”

      1. Well, considering your response has no connection with anything I actually just said, I really don’t think you’re in a position to call it “simplistic”.

        If you go back and actually read through my post, you’ll see that I’m critiquing FEMEN for having some rather poorly thought out and, in my estimation, sometimes reactionary ideas, and some not particularly well-thought out protest tactics beyond “LOOK AT ME!” The latter point in particular has been a long standing criticism of PETA for some time now, and I think FEMEN is liable to the same critique.

        The “how they protest” is not the issue, at least for me. I have no problem with nudity or spectacle per se, providing there’s some actual thought behind it. Pussy Riots protests in Russia, which if anything were more disruptive, would be a prime example.

        1. I’m not surprised you think my response has nothing to do with your comment. I’ve spent my entire life watching people on the allegedly progressive side attempting to make us all do things their way.

          PETA is PETA. We may not all agree with everything they do, and that’s fine, we don’t have to. When I was a child there were politicians labelling Mandela as a terrorist. His bad methods, and all. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve heard gay civil unions were too much, gay marriages were a push too far, too fast. That’s what your ‘critique’ is. You wouldn’t do it the way they do it- hurrah!
          Sorry to be the one to tell you, but you don’t get to decide. We all push in our own ways, and thank goodness for that. If there weren’t brave people pushing one way or another, I doubt we’d be where we are today.

          1. I don’t think Iamcuriousblue was tying to decide who protests what, rather, pointing out that they positions that he doesn’t like and some of us may not like either. Just more food for thought.
            I will look into it, and if they are extremely anti sex work I won’t support them especially if they did assault someone unfairly.

            We can decide who we support or not, surely?

          2. It seems, at a glance, that they have a radical feminist view of patriarchy, not the religious patriarchy we did once discuss, but the non existent one that radical feminists propose.
            I think it is quite valid to criticise their politics without being accused of, by extension thereby, telling Rosa Parks to sit at the back of the bus.

    2. FEMEN sounds like a fictional offshoot of the women of the Rubber Rose Ranch from Tom Robbins’ novel Even Cowgirls Get the Blues and the “Ellen Jamesians” from John Irving’s World According to Garp.

      It would take a major-league ironist to come up with naked protestors beating up strippers for…taking their clothes off?

  6. So how is it that Chief Justice Moore suffers no opprobrium for saying that you “can’t help but be happy if you follow God’s law?”

    In fairness, the legal system (or was it the state government? I’m not sure) did boot him out of office. That’s a pretty strong message of opprobrium for the legal (or medical) communities, since they basically don’t kick anyone out. Its the Alabama voters who put him back in, not his professional peers.

    1. P.S. thanks for keeping the images suitable for work. I have no problem with coverage of FEMEM but, because of my current physical environment, almost had a heart attack as I started to scroll down.

        1. That’s funny but really, work places can proceed on idea that the baseline offense target is a middle aged church going granny.

          You do have to careful.

          1. I got a reprimand for looking at an unsuitable image on the computer at work once (previous job in a small fossil museum). There was nobody else in my office at any relevant time (nor was I looking at porn – during work hours, certainly), but it turns out there was a line of sight through two (not particularly clean) windows, at right angles to each other, between the gallery space and lab, and lab and office. Some farsighted old lady apparently caught a glimpse of the Virgin of Guadalupe and – not incorrectly – identifying it as something of a gynecological nature, ambled off to inform the management.

  7. I should also mention another pet peeve I have with coverage of this group – the routine conflation by the Western media of Pussy Riot and FEMEN. The two groups have no connection with each other, and to the best of my knowledge, have never collaborated. Unlike FEMEN, Pussy Riot actually has some ideas behind their attention-getting actions.

  8. Perhaps the reason Islam is being defended by a surprising coalition of liberals and progressives is that taken literally, Christianity is culturally and legalistically no different than ISIS.
    It’s a matter of shading and emphasis rather than a difference in cultural tradition.

    My on take is that it’s all authoritarian personalities circling the wagons.

  9. Some conservative jurists have interpreted the First Amendment to mean the government can promote religiosity as long it promotes no particular sect or creed. Even by this interpretation, what Roy Moore is doing is totally unconstitutional.

  10. I think I remember an interview about that book about FEMEN on CBC. I recall that the leader of FEMEN for a long time was a man that really controlled the girls and told them what to protest and where.

    1. From what JT writes in his book the influence of Victor Svyatski is over-emphasised by those wishing to “downplay” the impact off FEMEN, characterising as weak and somehow controlled by a Svengali figure.

  11. “…..By steady, patient questioning, you will expose faith for what it is: finely crafted garbage.”

    That entire highlighted paragraph you quoted is poetry. I’ve always said there’s implicit blame for liberals to take regarding the protection of “religious beliefs” – an approach that actually *enables* kooks like Roy Moore.

  12. “You can’t help but be happy if you follow God’s law and if you follow God’s law, you can’t help but be happy.”

    Don’t know about you guys, but there’s always a smile on my face whenever I’m out slaughtering Moabites, Midianites, or the Egyptian firstborn.

  13. I’m thinking Judge Roy Bean Moore needs to spend more time with the Sermon on the Mount, especially the Beatitudes, maybe starting with “Blessed are the meek…”

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