The Rev. Ron Stief, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, is executive director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. Photo courtesy of Rev. Ron Stief

Ending our nation's addiction to torture (COMMENTARY)

December 10, 2014

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(RNS) The sickening details of the CIA’s immoral torture program have been laid bare with the release Tuesday (Dec. 9) of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report. The report describes deeply disturbing acts of torture and confirms that it produced no meaningful intelligence that could not have been obtained through other means.

It is difficult to read the report and not conclude that both morality and common sense demand that we take every step necessary to prevent the U.S. torture program from ever being reactivated.

Joe Tougas, US Navy veteran and anti-torture activist undergoes a waterboarding demonstration on the UC Berkeley campus.

Joe Tougas, U.S. Navy veteran and anti-torture activist, undergoes a waterboarding demonstration on the UC Berkeley campus.

The CIA’s use of waterboarding had already been widely reported. But it doesn’t make it any easier to read official reports of a detainee who was waterboarded to the point that he was convulsing and vomiting, where even the torturers asked central CIA officials to stop his repetitive waterboarding.

Detainees were forced to suffer ice water “baths,” while others were told that they would be killed in order to cover up what had been done to them. In one instance, the CIA imprisoned a mentally challenged relative of a detainee and taped his crying in an attempt to force the detainee to provide information. Still others endured sleep deprivation sessions of up to 180 hours, often while chained to a wall in a standing position.

And it was all for naught. The report clearly spells out that the CIA’s torture program was not effective. As Sen. John McCain, a torture survivor himself, reminded us all on the Senate floor, torture often results in fabricated information and generally fails to produce actionable intelligence, if only because torture produces a situation of confusion and desperation.

The report also shows that the CIA assigned many inexperienced and unqualified officers to run the torture program. According to the chief of one of the CIA’s black sites, this casualness resulted in “the production of mediocre or, I dare say, useless intelligence ... ”

But more importantly, it led to the wanton disregard for human rights, dignity and life. Torture runs contrary to the teachings of all religions, violates the basic principles of our Constitution and international law and is wrong in any and all circumstances.

So why did the nation allow torture to happen, and where do we go from here?

Faith leaders and others who helped the nation and families suffering from grief and fear after the 9/11 attacks remember well those touch-and-go moments. While our government was coming to terms with the attack and planning a response, faith leaders were holding the hands of those questioning our common humanity, wondering whether a safe future was possible and even asking how a just God could have allowed the attacks.

And then, top U.S. leadership, all the way to President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, decided to do the unthinkable: The U.S. would torture detainees in the war on terror.

Yet internationally recognized principles of human rights, such as the Convention Against Torture, dictate that even in times of war (declared or undeclared), no nation can abandon the requirements of conscience or the treaties, laws and rules of engagement that govern the treatment of prisoners and the conduct of war. Otherwise, human society is little more than eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth anarchy, where no one ever wins -- not for very long, anyway.

It is especially important that in times of national tragedy, leaders understand their responsibility to ensure that, whether out of anger, or fear, or even out of a justified desire for self-defense, a people and its policies do not abandon the very values that have shaped national identity.

Now what? Congress should act now to ensure that our country never goes down the road of moral bankruptcy again and pass legislation that creates one humane standard for all intelligence-gathering interrogations, including requiring that the International Committee of the Red Cross be provided access to all detainees. Congress should also permanently bar the CIA from detaining people.

These are all reasonable steps and are current practice after President Obama’s 2009 executive order ending the torture program. At the moment, though, none of these is required by law. Congress can change that, and in doing so, can ensure that the CIA’s torture program is never restarted.

The Rev. Ron Stief, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, is executive director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. Photo courtesy of Rev. Ron Stief

The Rev. Ron Stief is executive director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. Photo courtesy of Rev. Ron Stief

 This image is available for web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

It won’t be easy to end our nation’s addiction to torture. For many in our country, including people of faith, and certainly for those in the back rooms of the entertainment industry, torture sells as an antidote to fear. But it doesn’t work. It’s time to permanently stop torturing -- whether in a secret prison in Poland or the solitary confinement wing of a public prison in California -- in the name of U.S. citizens.

(The Rev. Ron Stief is executive director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.)



  1. “Torture runs contrary to the teachings of all religions”

    Crucifixion is torture and in Christianity torture
    is explicitly Yahweh’s brilliant means to an end.
    If you are going to make a claim please be coherent.
    Christianity endorses and validates torture, as its prime directive. Absolutely.

    “it violates the basic principles of our Constitution and international law and is wrong in any and all circumstances.”
    Yes – because it is Inhumane. Not because of but IN SPITE OF the claim that a God decided torturing his son would be the most lovely and brilliant effective Salvation program.

    “So why did the nation allow torture to happen…?”

    The better question is why are Right Wing CHRISTIANS always the most boldly and reliably the most fascistic?

    Faith leaders ..who helped..families suffering from grief and fear after the 9/11 attacks remember…questioning our common humanity…asking how a just God could have allowed the attacks.

    Come on! We need to grow up.
    There very likely is no ‘Just’ God. In fact, no god of any kind.
    The Golden Rule should suffice – it is a moral code that needs no gods and if people paid attention to the needs of humans instead of the supposed needs Invisible Sky Kings we might make some progress!

    “And then, top U.S. leadership….
    [BOLD CHRISTIAN] President George W. Bush
    [BOLD CHRISTIAN] Vice President Dick Cheney
    [BOLD CHRISTIAN] Donald Rumsfeld
    [BOLD CHRISTIAN] Secretary, Rice
    decided to do the unthinkable: The U.S. would torture detainees in the war on terror.”

    Yes. And what stands out?

    in all of this horror from 9/11 to The Bush Torture Chambers
    is RELIGION.

    Religion is the claim that the needs of these despicable, damnable, contemptible Gods are always more important
    than the needs of human beings!

    Remedy? Care about people first.
    Leave these awful Gods in the ancient caves they came from.

    For Peace, Civility and The Separation of Church and State

  2. People tortured Jesus. People beheaded millions of people through the millennia.
    God allowed it, because the alternative is capital punishment for the whole human race. You get to pick which side you want to be on.

  3. Atheist Max : I agree. excellent argument against religion. We must rid ourselves of these foolish theories about gods and demons. I think it is happening faster every day.

  4. Neither God nor his kingdom or heavenly government will ever torture the human race on earth nor torture anyone in a place of fiery torment forever after death.

    They will, however, put an end to all wicked ones, terrible conditions and corrupt human systems so humans can live the real life we were always meant to enjoy to the full.

  5. The report on the activities of the CIA related to torture is encouraging, a sign of responsible government. However, it should be no surprise that torture was widely used by the United States government, given the fact that the nation’s leaders were engaged in an illegal war of aggression. I agree that there should be laws making torture illegal in a situation of interrogation (I can’t believe they don’t already exist), but I don’t for a minute believe that, given a similar administration under similar circumstances, those laws wouldn’t be rescinded or ignored “to protect America.”

  6. I’ve read these rants time and time again. They add nothing to the relevant discourse. I suggest a more rigorous vetting process by the editors.

  7. Fran,

    “They will, however, put an end to all wicked ones…”

    You are including yourself, I assume?
    To God, you are wicked. (Mark, 7:21)

    And what is it all about? A death cult.
    Religion is disgusting.

    For Peace, Decency, Humanity, Culture and the Separation of Church and State.

  8. I think it unlikely that torture will lessen by attacking religion, no matter how salient and perceptive the arguments. Better to go with the Rev. Steif’s words and have believers reexamine their commitment to New Testament love than trying to bludgeon their faith out of them. Sometimes being the smartest kid on the block isn’t enough; sometimes you have to shut up and join forces with the people who are trying to do good, no matter what banner they are flying.

  9. @Frank Hodal,

    “Better to…have believers reexamine their commitment to New Testament love..”

    There is no love in the new testament except that which would qualify as Stockholm Syndrome or what a battered wife feels.

    Nothing so destroys love as the New Testament.
    Shameful to repeat these knee jerk claims with such mindlessness. The desire to be enslaved is not love – it is an assault on every human decency.

    “Bring to me those enemies of mine…execute them in front of me.” – Jesus (Luke 19:27)

    It is time to stop claiming this to be a loving message.
    Jesus is despicable nonsense.

    For Peace, Civility, Humanity and The Separation of Church and State

  10. The worst torture of all would be to read our own Atheist Max’s inane posts — to theists and atheists alike.

    Granted, for those of us who post here, we’re inoculated against the deleterious effects of his mad missives.

    But for Guantanamo detainees and others, it would be a good way of extracting information.

  11. @Frank Hodal,

    “Sometimes being the smartest kid on the block isn’t enough; sometimes you have to shut up and join forces with the people who are trying to do good, no matter what banner they are flying.”

    No matter what banner they are flying??

    Doing ‘good’ is not going to happen if you include religion in your methodology.

    Al Queda believes it is “doing good”
    Hamas believes it is “doing good”
    The KKK believe it is “doing good”
    The Catholic Priests of Rwanda were certain they were “doing good” when they slaughtered 800,000 of their fellow citizens!
    Evangelicals sending 100 million per year to build settlements in Israel believe they are “doing good”.

    “Doing good” will not happen if we employ religion.

    Know your enemy.
    It is usually the religious solution.

    For Peace, Humanity, Civility and The Separation of Church and State

  12. Rev. Stief is from the living fossil, “economic-justice” wing of mainline Protestantism, which believes low-price department stores are the root of all evil, while adhering to a medievalist notion of wealth as static and socialism as the answer to its “maldistribution.”

    He is from the United Church of Christ, of which Rev. Wright is a member. UCC is the radical-left wing of the Democratic party at prayer to the Earth Goddess, so he predictably touts the Senate’s so-called torture report, which is largely a Democrat-only report. But it is so out there, even Democratic former CIA directors have blasted it for its one-sidedness.

  13. The worst torture of all would be to read our own Atheist Max’s inane posts — to theists and atheists alike.

    Granted, for those of us who post here, we’re inoculated against the deleterious effects of his mad missives.

    But for Guantanamo detainees and others, it would be a good way of extracting information.

  14. In other words, if Atheist Max’s family were wiped out by terrorists, and Atheist Max caught a person who absolutely knew when and where the next terrorist attack was coming against innocent civilians but wasn’t going to talk, Atheist Max would be against waterboarding him.

    Sure……and we all were born yesterday.

  15. So Max hates Israel, too (assuming he even knows what it is and isn’t parroting yet another hate site). What a surprise.

  16. John LeMond, what did you expect us to do after being attacked on 9/11? Thank the terrorists and beg for a second attack on innocent airline passengers and office workers?

  17. Maybe we instead should “rid ourselves of foolish theories” about the earth and the planets and the myriads of galaxies simply springing into being by themselves.

    That sounds like the ultimate leap of faith into the irrational.

    But on the other hand, we could use a good chuckle now and then, so let’s at least keep such views of chuckleheads around, along with the opinions of the Flat Earth Society.

  18. That’s like saying “beliefs are disgusting.” Some are and some aren’t.

    What’s really disgusting is 150 million human beings killed under officially atheist regimes.

    Apply atheism fully and unflinchingly to politics and the result is the worst genocides of history — from the mass starvation of the Ukrainians to the killing fields of Mao and Pol Pot.

  19. @Jack,

    Take notes.
    Being against Israeli settlements is not to be anti-Israel.

    Majority of Israelis are against the expansion of settlements
    as are counterproductive to the long term prospects of democracy in Israel.

  20. Jack,

    I’m honored that you find my arguments
    so dangerous to your way of thinking
    that you must argue in favor of torture.

    But of course you are wrong.

    1. Torture fails as a method to extract information.
    2. Torture fails as a policy.

    3. Countries which torture always fail to win populations.
    4. Torture is reciprocated – our soldiers can now expect to receive the same torture the US has meted out.

    Using me as a straw man won’t fix the failure of your argument.

    9/11 and the Iraq War were faith-based programs.
    And faith always leads to disaster.

  21. @Jack,

    “That’s like saying ‘beliefs are disgusting.'”

    Yes. Exactly.
    If you have no evidence that a belief is true, it is dangerous and shameful to believe it.

    Religion, including the Agrarian Religious Cults of Pol Pot, Mao, Stalin and others – are unfounded, unsupportable Fascist regimes.

    It is better to admit there is no evidence than to pretend something is true. If you need someone to tell you that, you need more attention than I can provide.

  22. @Jack,

    Your defense of Christianity reveals so much that is wrong with Christianity.

    Your argument:
    Follow Jesus and “Love your neighbor” except
    when you feel you should follow God and, “Torture your neighbor.”

    When I was a Christian I called this a mysterious, built in Hypocrisy cause by human failures.

    As an Atheist I recognize it as delusional.
    There is a third category. Obstinate.

    As a Christian, you have relieved yourself of the responsibility of your own decisions and actions by claiming the command to ‘love’ or ‘torture’ were put there by a God – and not you. Yet you give yourself credit for choosing the ‘right’ option.

    Then, after making your own decision to torture, you delude yourself that the decision was God’s idea.

    At least the Atheist knows the decision ‘to love’ or ‘to torture’ is already inherently his own. The Christian (or Muslim) is kidding himself, pretending that it is all coming from a god – when it was in his own hands all the time.

    For Peace, Personal Responsibility and The Separation of Church and State

  23. Nice try, Max, but why did you mention anything about Israel in the same breath with the KKK, al Qaeda, Hamas, and Rwandan genocide?

    You lefties just can’t help yourselves, can you?

  24. Max, if any loved one in your family — a son or daughter, a wife or mother –were in imminent danger of being killed by terrorists, and the person who knew when and where the attack would come was standing right in front of you, and if you already had evidence that this person had already tortured, enslaved, and murdered other innocents, but now refuses to talk, you would not oppose waterboarding him if that were the only way to get the information needed to save the lives of your family.

    To suggest otherwise is to strain credulity….

  25. @Jack,

    “what did you expect us to do after being attacked on 9/11?”

    1. Treat it as an international Terrorist matter not an act of war.
    2. Focus on seizing or destroying Bin Laden and the rest of Al Queda and break it away from its supporters.
    3. Respond positively to fully embrace the international community’s strong desire to assist with all of their energy in all of those efforts.

    Instead Bush/Cheney made war on the world.

    With their stupid Christian Born-Again nonsense as the motivator, they set out on a faith-based crusade to dismantle dictatorships with confidence that Jesus (a mythic ghost) would fully support the project in the long run.

    Result? All of our enemies are stronger than they were before Bush:

    ISIS, Al Queda, The Taliban, Iranian Mullahs, Pakistan, Assad and Saudi Arabia to name a few.

    America has lost two wars since 2001
    Strengthened our enemies,
    Alienated and WEAKENED our Allies,
    Nurtured a nationalistic warmongering media (Fox News)
    Destroyed our own freedoms (Patriot Act, Citizen’s United, Hobby Lobby). Wrecked women’s rights
    And created A POLICE STATE in most of our cities which resemble Fallujah more than anything Norman Rockwell would paint!

    We have put everything in America at profound risk
    by following Christian garbage as a national policy
    instead of applying rational, practical, productive discussions.

    For Peace, Civility and The Separation of Church and State

  26. Max, some of the worst mass torturers in the history of the planet were (and are) self-proclaimed atheists, so don’t be ridiculous.

    Maybe you should read what some of these devils did to people during and after the Russian Revolution. There is no torture you can possibly think of that they didn’t commit. And they absolutely did it in the name of atheism. They said so. And they specifically targeted priests, nuns, ministers, and their children. They raped, butchered, disemboweled, beheaded, hanged, crucified……

    And that was just the start. The entire 20th century was a veritable orgy of mass torture for self-proclaimed atheist leaders and their vile minions and regimes. Some of the greatest human rights activists of the century have attested to that.

    Dostoevski, writing before any of this happened, spoke of it all grimly and prophetically:

    Without God, everything is permitted.

  27. @Max

    So much for a host of brilliant scientists, philosophers, jurists, and others of the past few centuries, most of who believed strongly in God and the Bible and many of whom wrote books summarizing the evidence in favor of same.

    So much for Simon Greenleaf, a founder of Harvard Law School, whose work on rules of legal evidence is cited to this day, and who wrote an equally powerful work on the reliability of eyewitness testimony in the New Testament.

    But rather than study it for yourself, you’d rather curl up in your little cocoon and hide from any challenge to your shaky foundation of emotion-laden biases.

  28. Jack,

    You approve of torture? Fine. Just don’t claim Piety.
    Don’t call it wise. Don’t call it HUMBLE and I’m fine.

    Like you, I’m fine with killing enemies.
    But unlike you, I’m not a phony – a hypocrite who pretends he must love them while he kills them!

    Whatta transparent joke is Christianity.

  29. @Jack,

    I cannot fathom your problem with genocide, rape or slavery.

    “Enslave them” – Yahweh
    “Kill them all” – Yahweh
    “Wipe them out” – Yahweh
    “Rape their wives in daylight” – Yahweh

    “Execute them” – Jesus (Luke 19:27)

    Why do you have a problem with mass murder? What problem, exactly are you finding with your God and his commands?

  30. 1. What are you talking about? The bipartisan 9/11 Commission said we were already at war even before 9/11, as war had long been declared on and prosecuted against us, but refused to admit it until the war came home to us.

    Do you know anything about the Commission Report or do you even care to know? Do you even know who was on the Commission?

    2. Bin Laden has been dead for over two years and by your own admission, radical Islamist terrorism and its movements remain and have even grown. You’re refuting your own argument.

    3. We have been engaged fully with our international partners since 9/11 in intel and info-sharing and in other security measures. How do you think we disrupted the 2006 plot to blow up transatlantic airliners over US cities? (I’m assuming you even know what plot that is.)

    And why do you think there have been no attacks of a 9/11 scale on our country since 9/11? Luck? Positive thinking? Hear-no-evil-see-no-evil denial of reality, Max style?

    The rest of your post is the usual radical-left gibberish, which you share with the writer of the article we’re all commenting on.

    It’s based on believing that if we’re fighting tyrants and terrorists and then suddenly withdraw and let them win, the fault is with the fight instead of the withdrawal.

    That is crazy talk. You really have to check your brain at the door to maintain such transparent nonsense.

  31. @Jack,


    The only God anyone believes in is the God in their own heads! And each of those brilliant people had a different idea of what God was – so what?

    Of course people can write beautifully about those gods – they are perfect – IN THEIR IMAGINATIONS.

    Have you never read the beautiful stories of Athena or Aphrodite? Have you missed Homer’s Illiad in your studies? Have you never read the stories of Hercules?

    Don’t you know the most brilliant and wisest being who ever lived was Gandalf in the Tolkein Trilogy?!

    Imagining a perfect god and writing a bunch of stuff about it is not the same as EVIDENCE!

  32. So in other words, Max, you have no problem with the undeniable link between modern genocide and modern atheistic regimes.

    We are talking about flesh-and-blood human beings, Max, not stick figures.

    150 million of them.



    Gulags and killing fields and labor camps and re-education camps.

    Re-education for what, Max?

    Re-education from what, Max?

    Deal with it, Max.

  33. Wrong, Max. The vast majority of them were writing about the historical, legal, textual, and/or archeological evidence for a very specific belief in the truth of the Gospel story — the concrete claims about Jesus and what happened to Him.

  34. The worst way to respond after 9/11:

    Declare it a “War on Terror”
    Define the ‘war’ so vaguely that it is seen in the Middle East as
    A War Against Islam as a Born Again Christian Crusade.

    America acted like a Theocracy
    and it suffers from all the miserable consequences
    and failures typical of a Theocracy.

  35. “they were writing….concrete claims about Jesus and what happened to Him”

    There are no concrete claims about Jesus which survive examination.
    Gullible people believe anything.

    As I said, it is all in the imagination. Even now you can see the Pope making up religion as he goes! It is plain view.
    Yesterday he said pets go to heaven!
    Transparently man-made wish-thinking nonsense. Anything to make people feel good!

    But it isn’t true. And it is never benign to knowingly spread lies!

    for Peace, Honesty and The Separation of Church and State

  36. Max, give it up….you don’t know what you’re talking about concerning America’s response to 9/11.

    The very fact that it was called a “war on terror” refutes your insinuation that we promoted it as a war against Islam.

    In fact, America was criticized by many people precisely because it called it a war on terror rather than a war against Islam.

    The vagueness was due precisely to the desire to avoid that.

  37. I said Evangelicals sent 100 million dollars to pay for Israeli settlements.
    That is a bad thing!
    Why? Because it is bad for Israel.

    Why? Because the settlements are a defacto Apartheid policy. They make the survival of Israel as a democracy impossible and that in turn will force Israel to either surrender its protectorate status for Jews which would be very unfortunate – or it would become a Jewish Theocracy eradicating the possibility of full citizenship to its Palestinians.

    If you had the slightest ability to look beyond religion you would see Humanitarian solutions are always far superior to the Religious solutions.

    for Peace, Decency and The Separation of Church and State

  38. What any particular person would do in a situation is not an argument for a national policy. Threats should be dealt with in any way deemed MOST EFFECTIVE by the evidence.

    Emotional reactions to dangerous situations should be beneath the dignity and responsibility of American policy.

  39. Sorry, Max, but the officially and self-consciously atheistic regimes of “Pol Pot, Mao, Stalin and others” were (1) altogether real… deny them is akin to Holocaust denial (2) not Fascist (although equally bad) but Communist.

    You need to stop denying reality, Max, when it comes to the ugly connection between modern atheistic regimes and modern genocide. It is as concrete as the computer screen you’re now viewing. It is one of the darkest chapters of history and if you care about humanity, you dare not run from it or lie about it as you are doing.

    Think about it this way, Max: What good are your beliefs if they require you to lie to everyone on this board when it comes to genocide? What good are they if they crumple in the face of historical fact? What good are they if they force you into nonsensical arguments that atheistic regimes are theistic regimes? Even you know how ridiculous that sounds to any thinking person.

    The bottom line is that you have just hit a brick wall of reality and it’s time to deal with the implications.

  40. Jack,

    Why do you have a problem with genocide?
    Your God commands it constantly.

    Are you selling God?
    or are you selling peace?

    Which is it?

    For Peace, Civility and Separation of Church and State

  41. The author is from the churches that DON’T have most of their members thinking that torture is morally acceptable. These are the churches that do follow God; any one who supports torture is not following God and is in fact a false prophet.

    Do you support torture, Jack?

  42. @Jack,

    “..self-consciously atheistic regimes..”


    When Yahweh says, “There shall be no Gods before me”
    according to you that is an Atheistic regime!! LOL!

    So Stalin says, “There shall be no gods except for me” and you think I’m going to believe this to be Atheistic too?

    Sorry. You don’t know religion when you see it.

  43. Jack,

    My problem is calling it a WAR at all!

    War on Terror is just as stupid as War on Islam.

    Within a few months of the invasion into Afghanistan Al Queda was about to be slaughtered ….We were about to be victorious.

    But INSTEAD,
    Bush/Cheney/Rice/Rumsfeld with their Christian Crusade Blinders decided to invade Iraq instead and blunder into a Holy War.
    They added Occupation to the strategy just to make sure we could be called Christian Crusaders.

    It was stupid. And everyone knows it now.
    Except for people who reject reality.

  44. Jack, that is a really insulting post. You should try to take it back.

  45. Max,

    Yes, the meek ones will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5; Psalm 37:10,11,29). Those deserving of death (and not forever torment) will receive it.

  46. @ AM. “Sorry. You don’t know religion when you see it”.

    Speak from any spiritual perspective as a believer and you may have a point; but your position is just the blather of failure as an ex-believer. Look at yourself in the mirror and say… Sorry. You don’t know religion when you see it. That is the truth AM!

  47. @Art,

    YAHWEH: (GOD) – “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3)
    “My law is perfect and sacred. My power beyond nature (Miracles of Yahweh). Obey or be condemned (Hell)”.

    STALIN: (Czar – a religious title) “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
    My power is above nature (Miracles of Lysenko)
    My law is perfect and sacred (Communism).
    Obey or be condemned (Execution/Siberian Gulag)

    US Constitution (Anti-Religious)
    Government of the people, by the people and for the people.
    Each person has the right to pursue happiness as they see fit, as long as it does not infringe on the rights of someone else to do the same.

    “All Totalitarianism is fundamentally religious” – George Orwell

    You don’t appear to know religion when you see it.

    For Separation of Church and State

  48. Max, quit dodging the issue. The issue is not your opinion on settlements. The issue is your lumping settlement supporters with the KKK, Hamas, al Qaeda and religious supporters of the Rwandan genocide. That is a sickening tactic regularly employed by enemies of Israel.

  49. The question is what you would do, Max…..and unless you were a fanatical ideologue who cares more about an abstract idea than the lives of fellow human beings closest to you, it is very clear what you would support were you in that situation.

    So you are a hypocrite for criticizing those who saved other people’s lives by making tough but hardly impossible decisions. To forgo waterboarding of terrorists even if it can save countless human lives is a repulsive position of fanatics who put ideology ahead of real people. That is precisely why I am convinced that most decent human beings, if their families or loved ones were involved, would let the government do the right thing and ensure the saving of lives. And that includes you, Max. You would support it….because only a monster would put abstractions ahead of real people whose lives hang in the balance.

  50. I could ask you exactly the same question, Max.

    If there is no God, then who are we to tell a country and culture how to behave?

    Isn’t that “judgmental?”

    If there is no God, then no matter how we feel inside about human rights and human dignity, what are we to say to tyrants who say, “Butt out, it’s none of your business how we run our countries.”

    If there is no God, then there are no absolutes that say there is an objective right and wrong that every country and culture in history must obey.

    There is no wiggling out of this, Max.

    As I said, there are plenty of atheists who stand for human rights and plenty of theist who don’t.

    But as a philosophy, atheism is like a defenseless child against tyrants and other abusers of people. It has absolutely nothing to contribute in the fight against badness of any kind in the world.

  51. So in other words, Max, if an atheist behaves, that’s proof that atheism is fine, but if an atheist slaughters tens of millions of people, he can’t really be an atheist.

    That’s exactly the same argument you critique when theists make it about theism.

  52. Max, try being honest for once. You’ve made a series of woefully ill-informed and logically incoherent comments about 9/11 and its aftermath that go far beyond the legitimate question of whether going into Iraq was justified. Just reread your own posts above. You are literally all over the map.

  53. Ben F, you’re avoiding the point – -which is that the United Church of Christ is probably the most radicalized of the mainline churches in America. It is no coincidence that Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s former pastor, the one who said “G-d-m America” and that on 9/11, “America’s chickens came home to roost,” is a UCC pastor. There is a powerful anti-America bias there, and all that goes with it, including a reflexive hatred for American institutions, including its intelligence agencies.

    In the latter part of the Cold War, groups like the UCC were supporting every position of the Soviet Union against both America and Western Europe. They refused to stand up against the Soviet bloc’s horrifying treatment of human rights dissidents, from the Jewish refusniks to evangelical and Pentecostal religious prisoners.

    This was one or two steps away from treason, so yes, it is very relevant that a UCC pastor chooses to support a one-sided critique of an American intelligence agency struggling to deal with a dangerous post-9/11 world and trying to do its job of preventing another 9/11 attack.

  54. @Jack,

    Senator John McCain – a victim of torture – put it best:
    “Under no circumstances should torture ever be employed”

    You are such a phony.
    You claim Jesus is your god – yet you know how stupid and immoral Jesus is when he says “forgive your enemies” – YOU KNOW it is immoral garbage! And YOU KNOW Jesus contradicts such nonsense later in Luke!

    Yet you dare me to think for myself? When have I NOT?

    If there is evidence a crime has already been committed such enemies would never be tortured! Because like Al Queda, they would have been executed long before they ever got the chance.

  55. @Jack,

    Fascist Agrarian Cults have NOTHING to do with Atheism.

    Atheism is not a guarantee of bad behavior.
    Religion is.

  56. @Jack,

    “…your lumping settlement supporters with the KKK, Hamas, al Qaeda and religious supporters of the Rwandan genocide.”

    Yes. Exactly!
    Because they are all destructive to Israel’s future.

    I support Israel as a safe protectorate of Jewish people (for humanitarian reasons) as long as it remains a democracy with equal rights for all citizens. The settlements are directly counterproductive in that way – they have already ruined Israel’s ability to remain a protectorate.

    But it would be far better if Islamists, Jews, Christians would simply abandon religion altogether. It won’t happen. But only religion stands in the way of Middle East peace.

    Humanitarians such as myself care about the health and well-being of all people regardless of religion. You are clearly ignorant of the Atheists and Humanist programs all over the world which are trying to save societies from religion.

    Why are you so upset that an Atheist would support Israel?
    How little you know.

    For Peace, Civility and The Separation of Church and State

  57. “You are literally all over the map.”

    You are confused. But that is not because I am confusing.
    It is because your argument is hollow.

    I appeal to other readers to call me out. Notice they are calling you out instead.

  58. @Jack,

    “But as a philosophy, atheism is like a defenseless child against tyrants and other abusers of people. It has absolutely nothing to contribute in the fight against badness of any kind in the world.”

    You are WRONG.

    This is the right question:


    YOU are unaware apparently that The Good Samaritan was very likely an ATHEIST?

    You would be ENSLAVED, IN JAIL, SICK or DEAD
    without the power of Atheism to protect you EVERY DAY – don’t forget it!


    FIRST – Why are Atheists so good?

    Less than HALF of each Religious dollar goes to anything useful.
    Talk about waste!

    While Religion wastes billions of dollars building houses of superstition and holy books full of hatreds against other religions and loathing of humanity ….

    These ATHEIST organizations
    are saving the world:

    Doctors Without Borders,
    The Foundation Beyond Belief
    Newman’s Own
    Goodwill Industries,
    Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,
    Warren Buffet Foundation,
    Oxfam International,
    Rotary International,
    American Red Cross,
    SEED foundation, United Children’s Fund,
    Sierra Fund, National Campaign to prevent Teen Pregnancy,
    Treatment Action Campaign, Women’s Defense League
    US Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers,
    Plan USA, Tanzanian Children’s Fund
    National Academy of Science,
    The ACLU….etc.

    Atheists spend BILLIONS on saving lives EVERY YEAR!

    SECOND – We Atheists go further to promote education and culture to enhance quality of life.

    Atheists have done more for humanity than any other demographic:

    While religious people prayed for cures – Atheists created medicine.
    While religious people pray for food – Atheists improved agriculture
    While religious people burn witches – Atheists promoted reason.
    While religious people ban condoms – Atheists distribute millions of condoms saving countless lives from AIDS.
    While religious people burn books – Atheists defy religious book bans and develop the internet and social media
    While religion oppresses women and creates poverty – Atheists have emancipated women, liberated gays and lessened poverty.

    While religious people kill over imaginary Gods…
    Atheists create Church/State separation!

    such as that from Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin was the religious freedom you enjoy under the Constitution of the United States ever possible. It still remains the ONLY ATHEISTIC constitution in the world and IT PROTECTS YOUR FREEDOM TO WORSHIP.

    The Scientists working to understand climate change
    are almost entirely Atheist.

    While Christians and Muslims fill the prisons,
    the Atheist population in prison is statistically ZERO.

    What does Religion do?
    It feeds a few thousand poor people while spending billions of dollars apologizing for an invisible God who never shows up to save the 17 MILLION CHILDREN who will starve THIS YEAR ALONE !

    While ATHEISTIC Science does the heavy lifting of saving lives and making this world better….

    Monks, Priests and Imams live in the dark corners and argue against science and work to PREVENT THE TRUTH FROM REACHING MILLIONS OF PEOPLE!


    Ted Williams
    Paul Newman (his charity, ‘Newman’s Own’ has raised $370 Million)
    Oskar Schindler (Shindler’s List)
    Henri Matisse
    The Beatles: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr
    Warren Buffet – Billionaire philanthropist
    Jonas Salk (discoverer of the Polio vaccine)
    Congressman Barney Frank
    Max Von Sydow (played Jesus in Greatest Story Ever Told)
    Dr. Thomas Young (American Revolutionary War Hero and leader of the Boston Tea Party)
    James Randi
    Langston Hughs
    Steven Hawking
    Anton Chekhov
    Jules Feiffer
    Claude Monet
    Dick Cavett
    Alfred Nobel
    Richard Dreyfuss
    Mikhail Gorbachev
    David Niven
    Ted Turner
    Arthur Miller
    Berk Breathed
    Francis Crick
    James Watson
    Alan Alda
    Charlie Parker
    Oliver Sacks
    Camille Paglia
    Dave Barry
    Andy Rooney (60 Minutes)
    Tom Lehrer
    Bradley Manning
    Pat Tillman (Atheist in a foxhole)
    Thomas Edison
    Steven Wozniak
    James Lipton
    David Lynch
    Studs Terkel
    Guillermo del Toro
    Moshe Dyan
    MaMarcel Duchamp
    Clarence Darrow
    Andrew Carnegie
    Francis Crick
    Charles Schultz (creator of Peanuts, Charlie Brown Christmas)
    Jacques Yves Cousteau
    Harlan Ellison
    Bertrand Russell
    Gore Vidal
    Rob Reiner
    Mike Nochols
    Seth MacFalane
    Ani DiFranco
    Mickey Dolenz
    Ingmar Bergman
    Richard Leakey
    Kevin Bacon
    Richard Stauss
    Bill Blass
    Roger Ebert
    Albert Einstein
    Richard Feynman
    Barbara Forrest
    Linus Carl Pauling
    Maurice Sendak
    Helen Keller
    Noam Chomsky
    Mark Shasha
    Paul Kurtz
    David Hume
    Steven Weinberg
    Peter Higgs
    James D. Watson
    Ray Romano
    Scott Joplin
    Marlene Deitrich
    Butterfly McQueen
    Billy Joel
    Steven Pinker
    Sigmund Freud
    Bruce Lee
    Bill Nye
    Susan B. Anthony
    E.O. Wilson
    Alan Turing
    William Shatner
    Marlon Brando
    Noam Chomsky
    Katherine Hepburn
    Helen Mirren
    Andrew Carnegie
    Richard Branson
    Kurt Vonnegut
    Kai Nielson
    Gene Wilder
    Virginia Wolf
    Charlie Chaplin
    Richard Rodgers
    Arthur Schleshinger Jr.
    Frida Kahlo
    Ernest Hemingway
    Carl Sagan
    Robert Wright
    Michael Martin
    Peter Singer
    Jerry Coyne
    Jennifer Michael Hecht
    Golda Meir
    Betty Friedan
    Hannah Ahrendt
    Lisa Randall
    Julia Sweeney
    Paula Poundstone
    Diane Keaton
    Phyllis Diller
    Margot Kidder
    Susan Jacoby
    Sarah Bernhardt
    Cloris Leachmen
    Sarah Silverman
    Emma Thompson
    Lalla Ward
    Amy Alkon
    Victor Stenger
    Martin Amis
    Lauren Bacall
    Philip Roth
    Ian McEwan
    Michael Shermer
    Oscar Wilde
    Frank Zappa
    Mark Zuckerberg
    Jamie Hyneman
    George C Scott
    Andy Rooney
    Ayaan Hirsi Ali
    Daniel Radcliffe
    Penn and Teller
    Arthur Miller
    Barry Manilow
    Kevin Bacon
    Burt Lancaster
    George Orwell
    Steve Jobs
    Mark Twain
    George Carlin
    Rodney Dangerfield
    Adam Savage – Mythbusters
    George Bernard Shaw
    Simon de Beauvoir
    Isaac Asimov
    Thomas Paine
    Gene Roddenberry – creator of Star Trek
    Rod Serling – creator of The Twilight Zone
    John Stossel
    Brian Eno
    Leonard Susskind
    Stephen Jay Gould
    Dan Dennett
    Thomas Mann
    Noel Coward
    Philip Pullman
    Richard Leakey
    A.C. Grayling
    Lawrence Krauss
    Jodie Foster
    Stephen Fry
    Mick Jagger
    Margot Kidder
    Larry King
    Keira Knightley
    Brad Pitt
    Sam Harris
    David Jon Gilmour
    Robin Williams
    Stanley Kubrick
    Neil DeGrasse Tyson
    Richard Feynman
    Buckminster Fuller
    Gene Kelly
    Paul Robeson


    Abraham Lincoln – “The Bible is not my book, nor Christianity my religion.”
    Thomas Paine
    Thomas Jefferson
    Vincent Van Gogh
    Theo Van Gogh

    Religion is an assault on all of the above!
    Religion must be abandoned – it is breathtakingly useless!

  59. Max, your lumping Israel’s supporters together with vile terrorist groups like al Qaeda, Hamas, as well as the Ku Klux Klan and the Rwandan mass murderers show how you oppose Israel.

    In the same post, you refer to the “apartheid state” canard regarding Israel — yet another favorite tactic of people who hate Israel.

    With friends like you, Israel needs no enemies.

    And your implication that Israel is the obstacle to peace rather than the determination of her enemies to wipe her off the map is quite telling as well.

    If “settlements” were preventing peace, Max, then what was the excuse before Israel even had that land, ie before the 1967 War?


    You say you’re for democracy, but here you are undermining the lone democracy in the Middle East and parroting the arguments of the tyrants and terrorists who want Israel to die.

  60. I completely understand Senator McCain’s position for obvious reasons. He was tortured by the North Vietnamese and so he is very sensitive to any kind of pressure of any type against anyone who has been captured.

    But that doesn’t make him right. That doesn’t make him clear-headed. That doesn’t make his position the best one if the goal is to save innocent human lives.

    You’re the phony, Max. You strut around as though you have a moral high ground, oblivious to the fact that your position necessarily means the sacrifice of countless innocent human beings. And you do it all for the sake of moral vanity —

    For you, feeling good matters more than doing good. So what if more people are doomed to die? If Max goes to bed feeling good, that’s all that matters.

    Max, you are just as out of touch with reality today, in your current atheist pose, as you were for decades in a church, hiding away from the real world — from real people enduring real suffering.

    And your position on this issue reveals this as much as anything.

  61. No, Max, you are wrong…..

    Come out from behind that ridiculous spam and face it like a man.

    This is not some game. This is reality.

  62. Max, look at yourself.

    Reread your own posts.

    Even you can see you’re disconnected from real events, real people, real genocide, real consequences of real beliefs.


    You changed your label from theist to atheist, but you’re still the same Max — denying the brutal facts of reality, this time in service to a fantasy atheism instead of a fantasy theism.

    Yes, you were wrong for decades when you were hiding in the church, but don’t you see? You’re doing exactly the same thing today — hiding in atheism…..

    Same Max — different label.



    Take a good hard look at what you’re saying….

    You have replaced one fantasy for another…..

  63. Max, you are romanticizing atheists in exactly the same way you once romanticized theists…..

    Don’t you see?

    You’re making exactly the same mistake that by your own admission, enabled you to sail through life for nearly a half century, denying the challenges of human suffering to your antiseptic beliefs.

    Your beliefs today are requiring just as many lies, just as much magical thinking, just as many denials of reality, as before.

    Just look at all the contortions you’ve been doing, trying to deny atheism’s role in multiple genocides — not in some bygone era….but in our lifetime……

    You did exactly the same thing with theists when you were on the theistic side.

    You are still living in fantasy land.

    Once you elevated theistic heroes….now you elevate atheistic heroes.

    You were wrong then — and you’re wrong now.

    It’s time to get rid of illusions on all ends…..

    and finally deal with the world as it really is.

    That’s what truth is about. No illusions….no rose-colored glasses……

  64. You’re right, Beth. It was done out of frustration, but you are correct. I take it back and apologize…..Unfortunately, I’ve said worse as well. There is one other post in particular that I have in mind.


  65. The Default:
    God does not exist.

    Do you have evidence to show god is real and not different from a leprechaun?

  66. @Jack,

    After all this, I notice you still have no evidence
    for a god. Which god is the real one, Jack?

    Where is it?

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