Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Jesus Tried to Steal My Holiday: A Memorial Day Dilemma

Memorial Day weekend is always a mixed bag for me.  On the one hand my son’s and their better halves come up to the Camel Ranch for festive BBQ, shooting, bon fires, dog play, day trips, and medicinal alcoholic consumption.  It’s a highpoint for Mrs. Hump and me.  

At the same time Memorial Day has a somber overtone for those of us veterans who lost brothers in arms in combat.  Their faces and the memories never fade, nor should they.  Remembrance of their personal sacrifice, their young lives lost, will always be with me. I will never allow myself to forget because it’s all I can offer them.

On Monday morning at 9:00 a.m. the American Legion hosts the annual Memorial Day event.  The high school band plays some patriotic numbers. The ROTC cadets parade the colors. The Cub Scouts place flags on the graves of veterans in the small cemetery, which dates back to the Revolutionary War. An address is given by one of the few remaining vets of The Greatest Generation.  Although I tendered my resignation from the American Legion years ago because of the national headquarters equating the Christian cross with patriotism (as I discussed in The Atheist Camel Chronicles), I am always asked by the handful of our remaining Legionnaires to help raise the flag and lower it to half mast in the town square as the anthem is played. I’m happy to do it.   That's me in the tan shirt.

When taps is finally played, with the dual muffled trumpet echoing some where off in the distance I snap to salute the deceased with the rest of the vets. I have to fight back a tear.  It brings it all home...those young faces, some of whom never had their first shave, whose names are on that wall in Washington that I can still not bring myself to visit.

After the ceremonies are completed the entire town is invited to partake in refreshments in our 18th century town hall. It’s a Norman Rockwell Memorial Day observance that is repeated throughout small New England towns.  A staple of Americana that will be repeated every year varying nary a hair as tradition never should.

I feel as though I did my duty to those memories. I’m both grieved and yet renewed. Perhaps it’s cathartic. Nothing more need be said except for one detail which, even as I type this, causes me angst.

It’s traditional that the designated Legion “chaplain,” one of the guys who volunteers for the role, reads the basic-by-the-handbook-non-denominational-prayer;  a simple and inoffensive blend of canned mumbo jumbo and respect for our fallen comrades.  This year however a genuine Christian pastor was invited to give the benediction. In the three or four minutes she stood before that microphone she invoked the name Jesus three times. I was stunned.  “Jesus our Savior,”  “Jesus who sacrificed as our soldiers had sacrificed.” “Jesus whose presence is with us, as the memory of...”   Shit! 

In shock I glanced around at the assemblage. I could detect no particular discomfort among my fellow town’s folk.  And why would I?  My educated assessment is there isn’t a Jew, Hindu, Muslim, Wiccan or openly atheist much less anti-theist among them.  These are folks who were raised to believe in a god, a Christian one, albeit Christian-Lite is the preferred flavor here.  If they still retain their childhood indoctrination and believe in a god, or if they don’t even give it a second thought, they do so quietly and don’t wear it on their sleeve. New Englanders are nothing if not the pragmatic; mind yer own business; keep your beliefs to yourself types. This isn’t the South.

Given this, I could only describe the preacher invoking Jesus at an otherwise secular public gathering as a breach of New England etiquette. More importantly it was a thoughtless, insensitive, and wholly inappropriate display of the Christian Majority/Might Makes Right/ “Christian Nation” mentality. “Don’t buy into the Jesus myth?  Tough shit!” I’d have been less offended if someone had peed on my shoe.

If this had been a local governmental sanctioned event I’d write a scathing letter to the selectmen and the newspaper. But it wasn’t.  If I was a dues paying member of the American Legion I could voice my objection and dismay to the post commander. But I’m not.  I could demonstrate my ire by not attending next year’s event, and explaining why I won’t be there to raise the flag. But then, I’d be denying myself a secular ritual that holds deep meaning, and I won’t let them take it from me.

For the first time I am at a loss as to how to handle this.  I have 363 days to contemplate what I’ll do if this religious provocation threatens to sully my next Memorial Day.  I welcome suggestions.      

Monday, May 21, 2012

An open letter of non-apology to my GOP Voting Friends and Family

Dear friends of many decades and family,

I do not usually devote my blog to politics per se, but your voiced indignation with my intention to vote, once again, for Obama comes through loud and clear. Yes, I had traditionally voted Republican for virtually my entire life. Yes, I still despise the likes of Bill Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, the late Ted Kennedy, Barbara Boxer, Chuck Schumer, Maxine Waters, and Barney Frank, et al just like you do.

But, I also despise George Bush, Eric Cantor, John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Paul Rand, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, and that imbecilic woman from Alaska that some of you thought would make a wonderful Vice President.  You see, I can see them all for the dangerous extremists that they are, and they disgust me equally.  That you can see the danger of only one side of the equation is what sets us apart; albeit, I know you won’t fully understand that.  Barry Goldwater would have understood it.

No, I’m not a Democrat, nor a Liberal, nor Socialist.  I’m an Independent/Uncommitted voter, a fiscal conservative and a social liberal...thus I say moderate.

I used to be a one issue voter.  I may have even harbored some prejudice against minorities.   I’ve out grown the former, and over come the latter.

Yes, I agree our national debt is out of control; government is too big and getting bigger. Our current expenditures in entitlements (Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, etc.) use up every tax dollar the federal Government takes in, leaving exactly zero dollars to fund the military, or a single government office or worker - hence the national debt growth. And never mind the almost 1 Trillion spent on Bush’s phony war in Iraq. It’s not a new issue, it’s been going on for decades.

 Thus we continue to borrow from the Chinese, selling our future generations down the river and inviting a financial disaster that will make Greece look stable. Yes, it must be stopped and controlled.  I’m not sure how.  I do know cuts should be made, especially to the big ticket items like entitlements and the military. It will be painful. I also know that some US corporations are paying zero tax, and that the 1%-3% of Americans earning multi-millions are paying substantially less of a tax rate than I am. Both of those things need to be fixed as well. Neither the GOP nor Democrats have the proper solution. So it continues.

Yes, gasoline prices are higher than ever.  But the executive branch has next to zero to do with it.  Blame part of it on the loss and non-replacement of petroleum refineries in the US.  But mostly blame China’s and India’s economic growth, growth in their middle class. Automobile sales in China are going through the roof; it is no longer a bicycle dependent society.  Oil prices, like lumber, metals (buy factory ammo lately??), and other commodities are influenced by the growing demand of industrialized nations.  That’s what influences the market price.  You can “Drill baby drill” till your tits fall off and wait till every idiot “abstinence only” teenage daughter has another kid out of wedlock, and that oil will still be sold on the world market to the highest bidder just like any other oil...all incremental 3-5% of it.  Alternate energy sources-natural gas- and investment in technological changes in the private sector is our best long term solution. Fuck oil.

That you find gays “disgusting” and thus endorse their being denied the institution of marriage and full rights of citizenship is inexplicable to me. Maybe we harbored that feeling together, and even the  same feeling about inter-racial marriage many years ago.  Perhaps it’s because we are a product of a less enlightened age. I’ve gotten over it.  I can’t go back to those days.

That you think a woman’s right to choose to give birth or terminate an unwanted pregnancy isn’t her right at all but strictly the business of a male dominated government puzzles me. Or perhaps you don’t think that way, but it’s not your uterus so it isn’t on your radar screen of issues. 

Perhaps you agree that women shouldn’t have total access to contraception, and want to see organizations which support women’s health and contraceptive rights shut down.  Or maybe you don’t support that mindset, but it just doesn’t matter since it doesn’t directly affect you.

You told me that those who can’t afford health care should be allowed to die in the streets as a way of getting medical costs lowered for everyone.  I want to believe you were joking and that you haven’t entirely surrendered your humanity.  That we happily have our health care coverage and are able and willing to absorb the annual rate increases that put it beyond the means of 50% of the nation, isn’t a sound reason to oppose finding ways to cover people. “Let them eat cake.” wasn’t an effective policy for Marie Antoinette or the French aristocracy... history has a way of repeating itself.  We need to learn from it. 

I understand you’re mostly believers and thus don’t understand or fear the implications of the religious right’s drive toward infusing religious doctrine into our school science classes; or don’t care that they would have their ancient religious scripture be the basis for laws and government policy, or the driver behind military action; or are fine with having it forced on soldiers who prefer not to have a religion or are of another religion. You likely don’t know there is a constitutional amendment prohibiting those things. Or you don’t care about quasi-theocracy in government ... since it's your flavor of theism.

You lived through the reality, but some how you still believe the recession started when Obama took office, selectively forgetting it started eight months prior. Yes, it’s the worst financial crisis for America since the Great Depression; it’s no picnic for Europe either.  The good news is your Stock Market investments have recovered almost to pre-recession levels, unemployment slowly but persistently continues to decline, and the GDP is inching upward.  Not fast enough for you, you say.   To which “greatest recession since 1929” do you compare that "not fast enough" growth rate?

Sorry you see regulation of the financial industry an impediment to growth; and don’t recognize its absence / weakness as one major reason for the recession and enforcing it a way to prevent another.

You’re angry over Obama bailing out the auto industry and saving those million jobs and keeping the nation’s largest manufacturing concern from collapse.  It was just plain wrong you say...  in spite of their now seeing double digit/record profits which will end up costing the US tax payers exactly nothing. But let’s condemn the bail out  based on....  oh, I dunno - socialism?

To those of you who - as non-Jewish as you are- are concerned over Obama’s not encouraging Israel to initiate a war with Iran with a preemptive attack, instead trying to find a way to influence Iran without igniting another middle east war: Do you even know why your unswerving support for Israel is so intense, and why your acceptance of war as a first response is so prevalent, especially since you never had any love for Jews your whole life or served in the military yourself?  Think about it.

I imagine, that some of you still think Obama is foreign born, and/or a Muslim, and/or the anti-Christ, who is waging a war on religion and is part of a socialist plot to enslave the nation in Marxist doctrine.  There’s noting anyone can say or do to convince you otherwise, so I’ll simply ignore it.

No, I’m not a one issue voter. I care about more than just my taxes and my guns. Perhaps I have a broader perspective because I tend to read broadly, and not just the financial pages or NRA newsletters. I also get my news from many varied sources, not just FOX or knee-jerk neanderthal conservative radio personalities. This tends to impact on ones thinking. Thus,  I can’t vote for legitimizing the inequality of people; or the subjugation of women; or for a war mentality; or for a let them eat cake perspective; or for deception about oil prices; or for religious dogma in government or imposed on people; or for big business over civility and humanity and how we treat the least among us; or for your 401k investments at the expense of  everything else; or for the right of domestic violence perpetrators to carry concealed; or for Mitt Romney’s off shore holdings and 15% tax rate. 

Yes, I will vote for the “Kenyan negro,” again.

Yes, I’ve changed. My hairstyle changed my tastes in food and beverages have changed, the way I perceive humanity, government, the world as a whole has evolved.  I’ve matured, my perspective has expanded. But my love and respect for you has not changed, that never will. 

No, I don’t want your rebuttal.  I’m sure you can stridently defend your position to your satisfaction. I’m just clearing the air, just trying to give you an understanding of who I am, albeit, I’m still me.  

In four years I’ll again reject kneejerk narrow dogma and rely on my reason, my humanity and my intellect to evaluate the positions of the presidential candidates and make my choice.  I invite you to do likewise.

Monday, May 14, 2012

“Thank God for Genocide, Slavery, Torture, War and Discrimination” - Christians tell us

African-American pastor Earl Carter in his book No Apology Necessary argues that white people need not apologize to people of African descent because:
(1) God instituted slavery due to Africans' pagan idolatry and
(2) importation to the New World eventually resulted in the Christianization of African slaves.  http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2000/may22/29.80.html

I’m not sure exactly what title to bestow upon Reverend Carter. Uncle Tom doesn’t seem adequate.  Religious fanatic falls flat.  Treacherous deluded apologist for slavery, white supremacy, forced religious conversion and genocide probably comes close.

This peculiar mentality isn’t unique to Rev. Carter.  On the same link you’ll find reference to a Native American Christian who stood before 40,000 Christian “Promise Keepers” in 1996 and dismissed the abuse of the white man, the stealing of Indian land, the broken treaties and the government sponsored genocide of tribe after tribe because without the White Man’s invasion the Indian would never have found Jesus.  The crowd responded with an enthusiastic  “Amen!”  Is there such a thing as being an "Uncle Tonto"?

If you’re like me you find this mind boggling.  To rational people genocide and slavery are arguably the most heinous of all crimes against humanity for which there can be no justification.  But to the most religiously afflicted it’s all good, all justifiable, a price worth paying to be indoctrinated into one of the greatest frauds and delusions ever to be perpetrated on Mankind. 

Admittedly, these examples are aberrations and not representative of African-American and Native American Christian wider perspective.  But, if the very ancestors of those peoples who were enslaved and almost exterminated can be so invested in religious devotion that they can devalue freedom and life itself in favor of superstitious nonsense ... worse... can be thankful for it, what other acts of incivility, injustice, intolerance can be perpetrated against humanity that likewise can be justified in the name of Jesus?

Christian justification of segregation and vehement opposition to inter-racial marriage was (and still is) based on God’s intentional separation of the races.

Some Christians invoked the Bible, and Paul’s admonishment in 1Timothy against giving women a voice in the Church, to justify opposition to women’s suffrage. One of
Rick Santorum’s aides said last year that it would be against God’s will for a woman to be president.

George Bush invoked the Biblical demons Gog and Magog, and told the French Prime Minister that they would be confronted and defeated in his war on Iraq.

A 2009 Pew Forum survey showed there is a high correlation between frequent church attendance and support for torture. http://www.abpnews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=4052&Itemid=9
While support for the death penalty in the US is 62% nationally, Christian Evangelicals favor it by 74%.  60% of all Christians who support capital punishment cite the Bible as the reason. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2008/march/6.20.html  The percentage of evangelicals citing the bible will be much higher.

Today of course it’s the good church going bible banging Christian’s who most stridently oppose equal rights for gays, and rally en masse against gay marriage in defense of “Christian Values,” as though marriage was somehow invented by the Bible and the property of Christians. 

I know there are Christians out there to whom these facts and the attitudes of their brethren are an embarrassment. But the fact is undeniable, the more intense ones attachment to religion, be it Xtianity or Islam or Hinduism, the greater the potential for acceptance of incivility, injustice, and horror.  For when men’s most base instincts are enflamed to hatred, anger, injustice and vengeance what greater justification can there be than it is the will of the highest power in the universe, as documented in their god’s own scripture.

Yes, Christians, thank Jesus and the Bible for slavery and genocide. Justify your wars and torture and discrimination with your holy book of fables.  It’s the tortured and executed Prince of Peace’s will.  You sick bastards.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

If Atheists are un-American what do they call Christian Traitors?

During World War II the axis powers, Germany, Italy and Japan, broadcast radio propaganda to US troops, even to the US mainland. The idea was to undermine the morale of the Allies and instill anti-war feelings on the home front.  It wasn’t very successful.  In fact, it was a laughable endeavor. 

The most famous of these radio personalities were Iva Ikuko Toguri D'Aquino (pictured above right), who broadcast for Japan and came to be known as “Tokyo Rose”; Mildred Elizabeth Gillars, her German counterpart, referred to by Allied troops as “Axis Sally”(above left); and   Rita Luisa Zucca, the Italian propagandist, also called “Axis Sally” (you’d have thought they could have found another name, like “Fascist Fatima”)

These women shared four fundamental similarities.  All three were US citizens, raised in the US by immigrant parents; all abandoned their homeland to live among the enemies of the US and offer them their services.  All three were tried for treason after the war, convicted and did varied time in prison. But of particular interest to me -all three were Christians.

Tokyo Rose was a Methodist. Rita Zucca and Mildred Gillars were both Catholics.  Rita was even educated in a convent. But then, the vast majority of the Third Reich and Italian Fascists were good Christians as well.

There are many other famous US Xtian traitors, also Muslims, Jews, and probably atheists - although in my research I couldn’t find any specific designation of atheist among the top ten American traitors.

Given the infamous record of Jesus worshiping home grown turn coats, you’d think that flag waving self righteous Christians would be more circumspect before they branded fellow Americans as un-American just because we don’t buy into supernatural foolishness.

No doubt right wing flag pin wearing “Love it or Leave it” shouting fundie Xtians will protest and say their traitor brethren in Christ weren’t “true Christians.”  But since Jesus wasn’t an American, and cared only if they accepted him as their Lard and Slaver, he wouldn’t have given a fiddler’s damn about their politics.  It’s just common sense.  But then again, common sense doesn’t compute with fundies.

Bottom line: professing belief in resurrected man-gods, going to religious schools, wearing a cross around ones neck or planting crosses on public land doesn’t make one a patriot or “true American.” It just makes one a religionist as prone to selling out one’s homeland as anyone.  History is proof of that.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Camel’s Top 10 List of Stupid Christian Statements

Fanatical commitment to a specific mindset or agenda has a tendency to breed some really irrational thinking. This is true for just about any extremist position.  I don’t care how much you hated Bush Lite, he didn’t conspire to blow up the World Trade towers on 9/11.   And no, Jethro, aliens didn’t travel a few hundred light years in order to exercise their artistic skills in cousin Daryl’s wheat fields.

People have the right, of course, to believe and say what they like. But when invention, falsehood, myth, and ignorance are repeated often enough it can become accepted as popular fact and firmly ensconced in the fabric of society and this can be dangerous. When overwhelming evidence and unassailable documentation is dismissed out of hand, with no superior or even marginal objective evidence or documentation to refute it, relying instead on “this is what we believe” - it can have [quality of] life threatening implications for some or all of us.  

When it comes to all out stupid statements the hard core Christians are at the apex of the scale. The more Xtian they are the more stupid are the things they believe and say.  This doesn’t mean all Xtians say stupid things, only those who allow their religion to intrude so far into the realm of reality that it permits religio-think to supplant the objectively reasoned and factual ... intentionally or unknowingly.  

With this in mind, here is my list of the top 10 most stupid things Christians say:

10. Atheists are un-American and Communists
9.   Hitler was an atheist
8.   Einstein was a believer
7.   Atheism is responsible for more deaths than is Christianity.
6.   Catholicism has always promoted scientific discovery and learning.
5.   Thomas Jefferson and the Founding Fathers were Christians;
4.   The USA is a Xtian Nation founded on the Ten Commandments.
3.   Evolutionary theory is a lie (and / or “evolution is just a theory”).
2.  “Separation of Church and State” is an invention of atheists because
       those words  aren’t in  the Constitution.
                        ...and the number 1 most moronic statement by Xtians:
      Homosexuality is a choice.

I won’t bother to provide the refutation to this laundry list of stupid.  We all know, or can readily access, the objective evidence that puts them to shame.  And the list is certainly not all inclusive as I’m sure you could add your own examples.
While I have long given up trying to debate fundies on their devotion to the supernatural as an exercise in the absurd, I hate to allow this kind of blatant garbage to go unchallenged. I’ll refrain from time consuming discussions, as I have tennis elbow in my pearl casting arm and it is inflamed easily with these swine. I will at least try to give them a few documented quotes and a link to source material which refutes their foolishness with objective evidence.

Why bother?  Because to simply ignore it would be to surrender the high ground of truth and reality to the most vapid and unschooled among us, permitting their stupidity to promulgate unfettered.  Their kind of stupidity is virtually criminal, and the last thing I’ll ever want to be accused of is being an accessory to the fact.

It may not do any good at the moment, but it occasionally segways into a blasphemy laced dressing down; the next best thing to a visit from a Mormon for this old camel.