Sunday, October 31, 2010

I may have been wrong about the Tea Party. Mea Culpa??

I've been rethinking my position. Maybe I've been too hard on the Tea Party (AKA Teabaggers).

  • Maybe Sarah Palin IS a great intellect, just taken out of context.

  • Maybe Delaware's O'Donnell is right that masturbation should be a crime and that the 1st amendment doesn't prevent government co-mingling with religion.

  • Maybe Ted Danz the congressional candidate from upstate NY who says a no marriage should be recognized as legal unless it was sanctified by a "RELIGIOUS UNION" has a point.

  • Perhaps Glenn Beck is right, that we need to put God back in our country.

  • Maybe a founder of the Tea Party who says a sitting congressman should be prevented from serving and ousted from his duly elected position because he is a Muslim, has a point.

  • Maybe churches who enjoy tax exemption SHOULD be allowed to promote one party over another from his pulpit and as a spokesman of God.

  • Maybe Jefferson, Madison and Adams really wanted this to be a Jesus following, Christ embracing Christian Nation, and that only through some subterfuge were their personal writings vehemently against both it and the Jesus as resurrected divinity doctrine. Maybe someone expunged all references to God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit from the Constitution.

  • Maybe that other candidate from Delaware was right...that it WAS Hitler who coined the term "Separation of Church and State", and everyone who accepts such a concept "is a Nazi."

  • Perhaps the signs they hold depicting Obama as a terrorist, as Hitler, as an African witch doctor, and in white face really aren't expressions of bigotry and extremism. And maybe that email they circulate and signs they hold declaring him the"Anti-Christ" isn't so far fetched after all.

  • Maybe we do need more prayer in school, and more religious symbols on public property; and less study of Jefferson and the 1st amendment's Establishment Clause's intent in our public school books.
Maybe I was just plain mistaken in believing that the Tea Baggers are largely made up of under educated ditto heads, fringe right wing reactionairies, religious fanatics, hate filled and bigoted racist homophobic white trash. Maybe I was wrong; maybe I owe them an apology. Maybe ... but I fucking doubt it.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

“Will the men of an unspoken religion praying in coach, please put away their prayer rugs and fasten their seat belts for take off.”

Country wide, affiliates of National Public Radio are in a tizzy trying not to lose membership funding during their Fall fund raising efforts. Apparently the fallout from the Juan Williams affair is doing just that.

I was among those who early on voiced their displeasure with NPR's decision to terminate Juan Williams. I emailed NHPR (New Hampshire Public Radio) and told them I was no longer going to be a paying member. The reply from the station’s program director Abby Goldstein, while defining a quasi-arms length relationship between NHPR and NPR, also included a boiler plate statement explaining (aka justifying) NPR's decision to terminate Williams’ employment. Bad decision on her part.

I'm damn tired of this Politically Correct knee-jerk reactionary nonsense. I'm especially tired of pretending that Islam isn't a world wide threat to peace. The words "Muslim terrorist" it seems must now be replaced by "extremist," or "religious extremist," or “religious fanatic” with no other term of specific religious affiliation; as though the word Muslim must be kept out of the equation. One may as well extract the "m" from E=mc2, and say it makes no difference to the formula. It does.

I'm fed up with the hypocrisy of people who likely share the exact same perspective Mr. Williams expressed re: men in Muslim garb at the airport or boarding his flight make him nervous.

  • Are we to deny the reality of the hundreds of terrorist attacks by fanatic Muslims for the sake of political correctness?

  • Are we to pretend that such people boarding our own flight would / should provoke no more concern or angst in us than would the 75 year old white woman in a wheel chair?

  • Is Mr. Williams’ honest statement, and his admission of the admittedly unfortunate feeling it provokes in him, grounds for dismissal? Can verbalizing it instead of keeping it internalized genuinely affect how he analyzes the news for NPR? Has his credibility been undermined by speaking truth?

This isn't about painting every Muslim with the broad brush of terrorist. They are not, and that is not what William's did. It's about using reason born of experience; about discerning a potential risk to one's well being as a result of learned threat. It's a basic instinct, key to human survival, for self preservation.

This isn't about which side of the political spectrum you are on, although the politically correct Far Left say it is and the nutty Far Right want it to be.

I'm a social liberal, a moderate Independent, and a person with enough honesty to know that to deny the feeling Williams described is either Political Correctness run amok, or gross denial of reality ... AKA stupidity. I won't support any organization that promotes either of those two alternatives; or one that punishes people who reject them.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Close Encounters of the Religious Kind

I was startled when I opened the door and found Kdlgr standing there mouth agape and breathing hard. I hadn’t expected to see him back so soon, but there he was – beady eyed, a viscous slime dripping from his pie hole, his Rastafarian like head tendrils all askew; worked up and on the verge of hysteria.

“Kdlgr, you look terrible, what the heck happened?” I asked. “Hump, dude…I need a drink. Can I come in?” he rasped and clicked through clinched fangs.

I held the door wide; he ducked down and made his way to the living room, his green reptilian scaled eight foot tall frame collapsing hard into the brown leather recliner. I grabbed the bottle of Jack Daniels and poured him a flower vase full, neat, just the way I knew he liked it. He slurped it down. I handed him the bottle. I figured it best to let him finish a second drink before I started to quiz him. He was a frightful mess.

I met Kdlgr in the Fall last year. He had just arrived on Earth and had an unfortunate incident with one of those three-hundred foot tall windmills recently erected the next town over. Four miles, and seven minutes later I had a house guest. He was dripping a nasty looking fluid from a gash in his thorax. Mrs. Hump and I patched him up. He explained that he was a respected social scientist on his planet. His mission was to become familiar with Earth culture. The approach: to blend in, become as inconspicuous as possible, and meet as many humans as he could on a one-on-one basis all the while keeping as low profile as a reptilian giant alien can.

As I had expected that wasn’t working for him.

His eyes were a little glazed now, and his breathing more controlled but still labored. He took another long gulp of Jack and started spilling his guts … figuratively this time.

“Hump, it was horrible.” He croaked.
“Start from the beginning, and slowly.” I replied.
He took a deep breath. “So I was in disguise, you know… the trench coat and fake beard you lent me. Your people hardly gave me a second glance. I made my way down the East Coast; the places Mapquest calls Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey…. Oh, by the way, New Jersey smells like the sphincter of a Galeneese dipdophoil worm.” I nodded in concurrence.
“Anyway, things were fine. I met many intelligent people, gathered much data about your culture, history, scientific advancements and what you call fornicating. Then I made my way to a place called Missishitty.

“Uh, that’s Mississippi.” I corrected him.

“Yes, Mississippi. I came across this white building; walked in and sat among the occupants. They had their eyes closed and were all waving their arms in the air while some guy with white puffy hair urged them on. I couldn’t understand what they were saying. Their language was like a hybrid of Hycatefic and gutter Romelian but made less sense. Next thing you know they were flopping to the floor, falling over each other. I was scared there was a radiation leak in my beaferl pack, it was that bad.”

“Ah! Ok, they are Pentecostals. It’s a Christian religious sect.” I explained, recognizing the bizarre antics.

“Yeah, whatever.” He dismissed my interruption and went on stopping just long enough to finish the third vase of Jack. “I was scared, and got up to leave. But before I could get out they surrounded me making these weird sounds. One of them told me about this god thing; that it created life on your planet in the past 6,000 years; that it made all humans in its image.” He paused – “No offense Hump, but this god must be one ugly motherfucker.” I nodded.

“Anyway. The guy with the white puffy hair and gold chains told me about how this god tortured his own offspring to death and that he did it for ME!!. That freaked me out, but then things started to get really bad, Hump. Next thing you know they ripped off my trench coat, and attempted to take my pressurized suit off. I wasn’t about to show my bindlegh to a bunch of crazed Earthlings. When I tried to stop them, they grabbed me and carried me over to this pool of H2O and were about to throw me in, mumbling something about washing away my sins.”

I winced. Mrs. Hump and I found out the hard way last year when we attempted to wash Kdlgr’s wounds that H2O is to him what sulfuric acid is to human flesh.

“Jesus Christ, then what happened??” I blurted out.
“DON’T USE THAT NAME, IT SCARES THE PDLKT OUT OF ME.” He roared back, almost jumping out of the chair.

He went on. “Well, I did the only thing I could think of at the time. I mean, my very essence was at stake. Honest Hump, I couldn’t think of anything else to do.” He stammered, sounding like a guilty kid ready to confess sticking a firecracker up a frog’s ass.

“What?? What did you do Kdlgr?” I cringed, and waited for the shoe to drop.

“The unthinkable, Hump the unthinkable!!! I killed them all and ate their carbon based life forms.” he blurted out.

I fell back into my chair, took a long draught from my Grey Goose martini with three olives, and let out a deep sigh. “Whew, Kdlgr, you scared the shit outta me. For a second there I thought you were going to tell me you converted.”
Talk about close encounters.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

“Please bow & empty your head for Reverend Bugger’s invocation.”

Whether at a graduation ceremony or some solemn public gathering it’s not uncommon for a clergyman to be invited to deliver an invocation to launch the event. Although they may exist, I have yet to hear one that is anything more than the shaman calling upon a magical spirit to bless the assembly, and other wise invoke his/its supernatural guidance.

Invocations sometimes precede governmental sessions. While they are suppose to be generic, the occasional fanatical pulpiteer will thrust his preferred deity’s name into the script in violation of the 1st amendment prohibition on the endorsement of a specific religion by the government. The fact that some of the attendees don’t recognize said deity and find it exclusionary, or even offensive, is lost on the Bible thumper. More likely, the sky pilot couldn’t care less if it irks some, perceiving it as his divinely directed duty to shove his god down peoples’ throats welcome or not.

Of course, if the invocation is delivered by a pagan , AKA non-Abrahamic religionist (which happens about as frequently as Halley’s Comet, albeit, it’s far too often if you ask the followers of the predominant faith), and the deity mentioned happens to be one with four arms and an elephant’s trunk, you can be assured the howls of disgust and the cry of “blasphemy!” would be deafening. This is never perceived as hypocrisy by the offended shepherds and sheep of the one “true” faith.

This sectarian tradition isn’t disappearing any time soon in the US. After all, it would be political suicide for a public official to come out against religious invocations. But this doesn’t mean religionists have to own the right to deliver invocations at public events by default. Atheist activists have the opportunity, indeed the duty, to get onboard the invocation train.

What would an atheist’s invocation sound like? How about an appeal to reason; a wish for respect for attendees’ opposing positions; an imploration for community, civility, compromise, goodwill, empathy and logical discourse? All of those things are grounded in realism and foundational to productive discourse. It’s what the thinking in an advanced society do.

A word of advice: unless your invocation precedes an atheist meeting you’ll want to suppress the urge to blurt out - "Thanks for coming. I have no supernatural horse hockey to feed you as though you are a herd of mindless medieval peasants. I have too much respect for your intellect. So, let's get on with reality and the event." After all, you’ll want to be invited back hopefully before Halley ’s Comet’s next appearance.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Thing behind the curtain & It’s self appointed press secretaries

Leave reality behind for a moment and allow yourself a bizarre flight of fantasy.
Imagine that the President of the United States, arguably the most powerful man on the planet, has never been seen. He never ran for office, and was never elected by official ballot. No one has ever personally met him. He never meets with foreign officials. He never speaks publicly. He never appears in person, in pictures, or on TV, the radio, or the internet. He is said to have written, or at least “inspired” a book to be written, that defines his political positions and vision for the nation; albeit, the original text has never been seen only redacted and reshuffled copies of the original manuscript exist.

And instead of having just one press secretary to interpret his book of policies, issue his edicts, explain his positions, and define his objectives he has thousands upon thousands of self appointed spokesmen-spin doctors speaking on his behalf. Many if not most of their interpretations and explanations are in diametric opposition to some of their fellow spokesmen’s understandings and pronouncements. Each of them accuses the other of being false spokesmen, or “not true press secretaries.”

The result would best be described as chaos. It wouldn’t take long for the American public to become disillusioned and completely dismissive of the nation’s leader and his self-appointed quasi-official mouthpieces. Surely calls for impeachment would follow; people would be on the verge of revolution; the heads of the soothsayer spokesmen would roll in the streets. Shouts of “Mr. President show yourself and speak to us directly! Prove you are who your spin doctors say you are, or which one they say you are if you ‘are’ at all! Resolve the confusion and conflicts among your official un-official professors once and for all!” would ring in every city, town, village and hamlet in the nation.

Absurd you say? Who could imagine such a thing, or allow it to happen? How anyone could give that president or his “ministers of spin” any credibility, much less entrust him or them to guide their lives for even a moment much less a four or eight year term is simply implausible.

And yet the vast majority of Americans, and billions of people around the world, not only endure such a construct, they endorse it, embrace it, couldn’t conceive of existence any other way. Not just for four or eight years, but for their entire lives. Just substitute the word “God” for the title “President,” and “Clergy” for his thousands of press secretary minions and what I described in my hypothetical construct becomes as real and as natural as a priest’s erection at a choirboys’ rehearsal.

One would think (if in deed one can think at all) that when your invisible divine being needs an army of contradicting spokesmen spin doctors all of whom claim to be speaking for it, you can pretty much figure the reclusive and inscrutable divine thing they profess to speak for is either senile and confused, mute and in a coma, or non-existent.

But no. Instead the faithful take sides. They form into competing parties that proclaim THEIRS to be the one true “party of god”; THEIR spokesmen best represents THEIR god’s / gods’ wishes. THEY represent the true invisible silent god, the others worship a false invisible silent god and follow the interpretation of false prophet / not a true believer spokesmen.

Sound crazy? It is. It’s the stuff of fantasy stories like Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, or Gulliver’s Travels. Stories that if they were real places with real people would be a nightmarish existence where fiction is taken as fact, lies accepted as truth, confusion and contradiction perceived as clarity and cohesion, edicts of genocide and violent punishment perceived as just, good and loving.

If forced to live in such a world I would do what I do now - use every opportunity I had to proclaim: “Pay no attention to the thing behind the curtain, it does not exist; and the one speaking in front of the curtain is full of shit.”

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Catholic Church and Fideism

Recently a Catholic reader said this about my dismissal of theists as blind believers, lemmings, and unthinking purveyors of mindless platitudes: “… we Catholics are also against fideism.”
For those not familiar with the term:

fideism –noun
- exclusive reliance in religious matters upon faith, with consequent rejection of appeals to science or philosophy.
- a philosophical view extolling theological faith by making it the ultimate criterion of truth and minimizing the power of reason to know religious truths.

In short when it comes to religious matters fideism implys all you need is faith, reason need not apply.

So, while the Catholic Church has been willing to allow a certain degree of reason to be mixed with it’s blind faith such as finally accepting evolutionary theory (with certain caveats) and ultimately rejecting the geocentric model of the universe-- it is hardly anti-fideist . They may be perceived as more progressive than some other denominations of Christianity, and certainly Islam; but I wouldn’t call anything about Catholicism “reasoned.”

Since the existence of god or the supernatural has never been demonstrated by objective reasoning, in spite of the failed attempts by Aquinas, to continue to maintain that reason can prove god’s existence is plain Catholic self delusion. Reason that is reduced to subjective absurdity, distorted by the infusion of faith (i.e. “the proof of god is all around you.”) is not “reason” anymore so than calling astrology a science or calling a faith healer a medical professional.

Unless and until theistic philosophies / belief systems retain the fundamental precepts of religion that are good and not rooted in supernatural, and abandon those things that are in diametric opposition to reason, then reason will always be the enemy of faith, as Martin Luther said.
What kind of things? For starters things like saying condoms spread AIDS and their use is in opposition to some god’s will; masturbation is a “sin” ; homosexuality is a choice and a “sin”; dead things reanimate; the “trinity” is real; proffering that a man committing suicide repays the trespasses or takes away the imaginary sins of others; that life after death is real; that torture for an eternity for non-belief is genuine; that nonbelievers are immoral at face; that man is here for a greater “purpose” than are any other species of plant or animal life; indeed any belief in the supernatural.

None of those things permit reason to displace the illogic and fantasy necessary to retain ones religious belief or a religion's dogma. All of them reject scientific proofs, objective reasoning, history, zoology, cumulative secular knowledge, advances in morality, prima fascia statistical and observable evidence and common sense.

To suggest that any religion, including Catholicism, promotes reason as equal to or even approaching par with faith is simple self delusion. It’s an attempt to co-opt reason as a way to justify their blind following of myth, to establish Catholicism as a higher order of Christianity versus Protestantism. If Catholics read the bible in its entirety (which the majority do not), and without Catholic apologetic sites to reinterpret and thus smooth its obscene and unreasoned acts in an effort to transform them, make their “context” seem reasoned and palatable -- their reason would overwhelm their faith. Catholicism would dissolve even faster than it is now in the industrialized world.

No, sorry -- saying Catholicism opposes fideism is simply ignoring the facts of what superstitious belief demands of its adherents. The Catholic Church HAS to discredit reason in order to stay viable, just like any other religion, sect, or cult… that they pay reason lip service in their doctrine of pure faith is simply a shell game to get believers to accept they aren’t mindless unthinking zombies. But, they are.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Breaking the “We promote Family Values” Code

Mrs. Hump and I were sipping coffee and watching the morning news when a new car dealership commercial came on. Since car and furniture commercials are all we seem to get here, having a new one to start our day wasn’t a real attention grabber. That is until I heard the dealer proudly announce the fact that their dealership was “built on family values.”

“Family values?” The term is something of an enigma. I’m not privy to what the precise definition is, and I certainly haven’t the vaguest idea of how a business can be “built” on family values. Whatever it’s meaning apparently it is understood only by those to whom the term “family values” is like a secret handshake, a code word, a wink and a nod to some shared doctrine.

Over the past twenty-five years or so, Evangelical fundies / the Ultra-Conservative Christian Right seems to have used the term to identify who is with ‘em and who is agin ‘em. Evidently folks like defrocked Rev. Ted Haggard, soon to be defrocked Bishop Eddie Long, thrice married Newt Gingrich, playboy Rep. Mark Souder (R-Indiana), airport men’s room limbo king Larry Craig (R-Idaho), prescription druggie Rush Limbaugh and the pedophile protecting Pope endorse and promote family values. Meanwhile people like Barney Frank (D-MA), Ellen DeGeneres, President Obama, Christopher Hitchens, and everyone who supports equal rights for gays and a women’s right to choose are intent on devaluing if not destroying family values.

I’m used to seeing the term applied liberally in campaign ads run by Republican candidates. Apparently the passing of the health care bill, the recession, the unemployment rate, illegal aliens, the 911 attacks, hurricanes and floods are all attributable to the erosion of family values. Who knew?

I hear the term drip from the greasy lips of evangelical preachers and post-polygamy Mormons who have no problem crossing the line of church and state separation, and investing church millions trying to overturn laws in states in which they don’t even reside.

From what I can determine the rise of atheism, decline of religiosity, the push toward stem cell research, acceptance of evolutionary theory, inoculating children against polio, the use of birth control, aborting a fetus that was the product of rape or incest, opposition to the war in Iraq, legalization of gay marriage and rampant unrestrained masturbation has contributed to the demise of family values. Is it any wonder Christian families are divorcing in record numbers.

What the family values proponents agenda has to do with your family, my family, my son’s family, my neighbors’ families, or anyone’s family can only be conceived in the fevered minds of religionist nuts. It appears that they perceive any behavior not specifically endorsed by their ancient book of fables as an affront to their families’ very survival. It seems how they raise and discipline their kids; what they watch on the tube or view on the internet; how much time they spend together; what books they read and what fantasy they believe in, is somehow degraded, devalued, negatively impacted by those of us who do not share their politics, religious precepts, sexual practices or concept of what family values means.

I expect the family values hypocrisy mania to remain the war cry of Teabaggers, Christian theocrats and Conservative fear mongers for years to come. That it has now become a business marketing tool however comes as a complete surprise. How long before “Our chickens were raised with Family Values” becomes a KFC motto to get more god fearing Republican whackos to eat their buckets of deep fried fowl?

The next time that car dealership commercial airs, I’m going to catch its name and send them an email. I’ll ask that since their dealership was built on family values they probably don’t want contraceptive using couples, atheists, gay & women’s rights advocates or masturbators as clients lest it undermine their family’s longevity or company’s stability. I‘d hate to make a trip down there for nothing.