The local C.C. Atheist group posted at their website a report on picketing of the Westboro Baptist Church of the Unholy Rectum er, Rev. Phred Phelps, the guy who actually pickets military burials of Iraqi War vets and dreamed up the slogan, "God Hates Fags." In my readings of the so-called New Atheists, and especially Sam Harris, and in Harris' online debates with the likes of Andrew Sullivan, I debated with myself the conclusion he reached with regard to tolerance. That is, tolerance of mainstream, non-fundamentalist, non-evangelical Christers. Harris treats this so-called normal Christer group as equally and perhaps most assuredly guilty of propagating the God Delusion.

At the time, I didn't quite "grok" Harris' position, but people like Phelps ram it home. The Phelpses of this world are no different from the Robertsons, the Falwells, the Hagees, et al. in the sense that the mainstream religious bigots allow them to blather on about post hoc events like the destruction of New Orleans by Katrina "because of homosexuals" held a Gay Pride parade. Sullivan begged Harris to give the mainstream Christers a break, pointing to charitable works, &c. (as if atheists never contribute to charities). Seems to me, if you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem. Or, to use a word from the A.A., the mainstreamers are the enablers.

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I wouldn't call the Phelps clan mainstream. They're a bunch of attention whores and their schtick is hating gay people. They started off merely picketing the funerals of gay people and when that didn't get them quite enough publicity (people just don't care enough about gay people, you see) they decided to move to funerals of service people. That's when people outside "The Gay Community" began to react. Needless to say it was rather insulting that nobody gave a damn when they were disrupting the funerals of gay people, but resorted to actual legislation when it involved soldiers. But that's nothing new really. We're used to being considered less than human.

Mainstream churches, like the Unitarians or United Church of Christ, tend to focus on self-improvement and doing good works (and these they tend to do without fanfare). They also don't feel it's their place to be telling other people what to do, including their evil twin-the RRRW. The unfortunate consequence of this is that the loud, opinionated, moralizing RRRW appears to be the mouthpiece for all religionists and ends up shoving everybody around. That's what Harris meant, IMO, about mainstream churches' complicity in the whole sordid mess.
I think you misunderstood my post, Buffy. I didn't say or imply that Phelps' church is "mainstream" but that the mainstream churches enable the Phelpses of this world.
As a native Kansas (and now a "Red State Refugee"), I've followed Fred Phelps careers since the sixties and seventies when his schtick was protesting liquor by the drink. Kansas eventually joined the post-prohibition era sometime in the 1980s, about the time that the AIDS epidemic began.

Buffy has nailed it when she calls Phelps an "attention whore." His sole purpose is to draw as much attention to himself as possible.

BTW, Phelps was an attorney before he was disbarred and made a career switch to full-time clergy. And, oh, most members of his flock are family.
Believe it or not, he was a civil rights lawyer, fighting for women's and black's rights. Of his entire litter of children, the ones that haven't disowned him, are mostly lawyers too - so he has an army on call whenever he's taken to court.
Speaking of career switches, has anyone seen the HBO documentary on Ted Haggard (who really looks so), talking about life after his ministries in Colorado. Not only did he get booted out of his own church for having sex with a call boy and using methamphetamine to boot, he couldn't find a job anywhere in neighboring states (it seems the church, O.T. style, forced him into literal exile: he could not set foot in the State of Colorado for a while). He keeps asking why God is so punishing as he resorts to selling health insurance on a commission and other odd jobs. And although he admits he is still attracted to men, the church has allowed him back in Colorado because a reorientation training made him "100% heterosexual" in just three weeks of "counsel."
Guys such as Haggard, Swaggert, Jim Bakker are the biggest phonies in the world, and the deluded Christies will forgive them no matter what "sins" they commit. So, I'm a bit surprised Haggard was ostracized for even a short time. They must have an amazing counseling program in Colorado...LOL! I don't think the Jebus flock will ever come to their senses, but, as someone once said, "hope springs eternal". All this religious crap is so laughable once the veil is lifted...thank god! Oops, did I say that? Just kidding. The god part, I mean.
Hey, Jerry, no need to apologize for backsliding into the god talk; after all, each time you do it, you're breaking one the commandments "God" gave to Mosheh when he went up the mountain and came down to bust up a really great orgy. (Such a party pooper!) I myself have taken up the late filmmaker Luis Buñuel's saying, "Thank God I'm an atheist!"




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