Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Repeal the 1st Amendment's "Freedom of Religion" Provision?

Catholic Magazine has called for the repeal of the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution, the one that guarantees the right to own guns. Seems times have changed from when the founding fathers penned that amendment thus it is obsolete and has outlived its usefulness. They never foresaw semi-auto firearms (or bolt , lever, or pump action firearms for that matter), nor the scale of poverty, drug epidemic, social inequity, cultural decline, and erosion in mental health facilities that has lead to the horrific criminal use of guns by some 1% of the population.

As long as the Church has thrown its weight behind revamping our Constitution why stop there? Let’s repeal the 1st amendment’s implied "freedom of religion." Let's outlaw all religious practice.

After all, when it comes to pain, anguish and counter productivity it's hard to find anything as abusive to children, detrimental to scientific and social advancement, and more of a contributing factor to the suppression of freedom for women, gays and freethinkers than religion, especially Christianity, especially Catholics. Islam runs a close second, along with Orthodox Judaism in the US.

Our Founding Fathers could never have foreseen what free religious practice would wrought on our nation: The sexual molestations by clergy and the institutionalized cover ups by their churches; the virulent attempts by fundamentalists to tear down the Wall of Separation, and to install a Christian theocracy; the amassing of church wealth and its use to influence government, the legislative process, and promote a divine agenda that would impede the freedom of “the others”; the invoking of religious babble to obstruct medical advancement, and truncate some peoples’ right to the “pursuit of happiness,” because their definition of happiness is offensive to the religionists’ god.

The Founding Fathers never contemplated the rise of 19th and 20th century money making mega-cults like the Mormons or Scientology that pander to the gullible and use their immense wealth and power to persecute, harass, and delude; or televangelists who spew lies and suck the money from the pockets of those who are most susceptible and can least afford it.

The Founding Fathers never anticipated the likes of Fred Phelps’ Westboro Baptist nutters, never expected such virulent hate to be heaped upon those we should console and protect in their most vulnerable state.

Yes, religious freedom has outlived its usefulness. Repeal the tax exempt status for these purveyors of ignorance, superstition and abuse. Disband their organizations, and ban its practices. To borrow from a well worn platitude from the anti-gun folks: “Let’s get religion off our streets. If it saves only one mind it would be well worth it.”

(Note: of course this was just a thought exercise. In truth I respect the Constitution way too much to actually endorse repeal of any of the amendments or freedom guarentees…regardless of how some percentage of our citizens misuse or abuse those rights.)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Touch a turban, break your mother’s back? A short rant on religious entitlement.

It’s not like me to jump ugly on Sikhs. I’ve never seen one try and force their religion on me, influence government policy, or attempt to dumb down our schools. I’m the same way with any other religion or cult that minds it’s own delusion and leaves the rest of us alone.

However, I was treated to a whining blog post by a Sikh gentleman who was bemoaning having had his turban “touched and prodded” by TSA personnel at an airport security check. Seems they normally allow him to touch and prod his own turban, and then check his hands for “residue” to ensure no explosives are hidden in that headdress. Not this time. I guess someone at the TSA finally figured out that a pistol, a knife, or razor blade, Mace, or a Taser doesn’t leave a residue. Eureka!!

Seems the gentleman considered their touching his turban a “humiliation” and “degrading” and just one more insult and abomination heaped upon the Sikhs on the heals of that hideous Sikh temple massacre a few months back by some redneck nutter.

I’m sympathetic to their plight. Americans are not exactly a breed of rocket scientists, and to too many Americans, mostly Christians, turban = Muslim = enemy = legitimate target of opportunity.

But let’s not confuse airport security measures with mass murder and wholesale persecution. Wearing the mantle of victim because you had your hat inspected doesn’t fly with me. I figure they must have gotten over the ceremonial dagger in the belt prohibition by now, since it didn't come up as another unjust discriminatory rule.

I don’t give a fiddlers damn if your 15th century Indian culture/religion/cult/tradition requires you to wear a head wrapping that you imbue with some special mystical or marvelous and sacred meaning. It means jack squat to me if I’m on an airplane with you. No, a Sikh may have never caused a terrorist attack. But if a terrorist finds out that by dressing as a Sikh they can bypass the system, then we have handed them a tool of subterfuge and potential destruction… and we won’t have done the Sikh community any favors with the fallout that would follow.

So here’s the bottom line: a Nun’s habit, a pope’s hat, an orthodox Jew’s prayer shawl, a Muslim’s burqua, or a Sikh’s turban isn’t an automatic entitlement that makes you special. Your religious affectations and bizarre garb doesn’t give you a pass. It’s not a shield from the law. It won’t grant you consideration or treatment that normal people don’t enjoy. This is the 21st century, not 15th century India, 7th century Iraq, or 12th century Italy.

Until my Flying Spaghetti Monster Hat (Marinara Be Upon Him) is afforded the same respect and special treatment at an airport security check point that you expect for your outdated cultural or religious garb, you have a choice: quit whining, stop playing the victim card, submit to what the rest of us submit to and fly -
or book a camel caravan.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Why I despise Catholicism and those who keep it alive

In the wake of the Pope’s resignation the internet has been a buzz. Most of the commentaries are decrying the trespasses of the Church under and before Benedict’s reign, and those who defend their Catholic connection, if not the Church itself. The following particularly caught my eye:

”I am Catholic and I share your fury over the abuses that have happened and the cover ups. I choose not to throw the baby out with the bath water. All TRUE Catholics abhor these crimes as much as you...

For me, my church is about shared worship as a community, the service to fellow man we provide--our ministry to Haiti and Appalachia, sheltering local homeless, food drives for our food banks, counseling for the grieving and less fortunate, etc. For me, my church is not represented by its worst actors.”

I responded:
So, you pick and choose what you like and don't like about the Catholic Church, then put it on a mental scale and it always comes out in favor of Catholicism. Got it.

Charitable works can be, and are, done by many without the belief in dead man-god bodies coming to life in your Sunday cracker & wine snack. Charity can and is done without telling ignorant 3rd world sheep that condoms spread AIDS. In fact, that is the antithesis of charity.

Charity and community doesn’t need institutionalized abuse of children, where the hierarchy maintains a code of silence. It doesn't have to be invested in the oppression of women, or male fixation with women's genitalia or reproductive rights; or at the expense of condemning people for who they love and with whom they are simply seeking happiness.
The list of atrocities and misdeeds of the Church far out weighs the old "but look at all the charitable works" bromide that Catholic lay people love to use to justify supporting, and thus encouraging, the grotesque behavior of a defunct body of misogynist shaman. No, it seems you’re in way deeper than your appreciation of charity and community.

You can't make peace with or thank your god thing without some multi-billion dollar cabal telling you it has to be done thru the auspices of THEIR hierarchy?

You need a man in a black suit and backward collar as a go between to hear your "sins" and forgive you? Really? A guy who may have just diddled a kid, or hid the acts of his fellow priests from authorities? A human who is no closer to, or more worthy of, your god’s grace than are you?

You need to pretend a cracker and some wine actually become the living tissues of a human body when you cannibalistically eat them- with cells, DNA and bodily fluids; or that incense purifies the air and is pleasing to your god; or that the body parts of centuries old dead people deserve to be revered and possess mystical powers; that demons are more real than mental illness and must be exorcised by medieval ritual gibberish; or that the organization's accumulation of vast wealth & treasure often derived from governments who enslaved and murdered, is necessary to dress Church officers in gold and silk costumes, provide them with an opulent palatial dwelling, chauffer driven cars, and butlers?

You can overlook the fact that not a single Nazi war criminal, or single priest child molester, or a single Bishop or Cardinal who covered up abuse has been excommunicated, while a nun hospital administrator was excommunicated for saving the life of a mother whose fetus was going to die in the labor room with or without the abortion she approved … all because of these "charitable works" and the community it offers? Seriously?

If you were a member of a fraternal organization like the Elks, and if their hierarchy did these things- knowingly - would you still proudly call yourself an Elk, still pay the dues, still identify with them, and still participate in the activities because of their charitable good deeds and the community it offers? I think not. But when it comes to your religion, the pathetic deep seated delusion and addiction to absurd rituals and rites cloaked in magic and superstition your inability or unwillingness to extricate yourself from the mystery cult is stronger than your personal ethics, common sense, and sense of morality.

It's the nice people like you, moderate -liberal practicing Catholics, who keep this den of disgust and abuse propped up and functional instead of letting it fade into the obscurity and trash heap of history it so well deserves. You get the church you deserve. Wallow in it.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Hump’s intro to Jewish Fundie Deception: Almost enough to make an ex-Jew anti-Semitic

I don’t know how many times I’ve had to grit my teeth to keep from screaming at my lap top when a Xtian fundamentalist insists that what the words of the Bible say aren’t really what they mean. Usually employed when they are confronted by hideously violent passages, or absurdly foolish scientific concepts, they’ll say the words don’t really mean those things; that I’m taking them out of context; that you have to “read them in the original ancient Greek” to full understand subtle… OH SHUT THE HELL UP!!!

In The Atheist Camel Chronicles I have a chapter devoted to the Christian propensity to lie for the faith. Indeed, lying for the faith was encouraged by a number of the early Church fathers as a way to spread the word and win converts. They figured their god would approve.

I see similar behavior from fundie Muslims who will insist that there are no calls for the death of infidels in the Koran - that those are simply misinterpretations, taken out of context, etc. But in their case, the Koran is so rife with contradictions, and the hadith so befouled with varying agendas by various sects that contradict the Koran itself, that I could actually understand how they could read one passage, and not another, or forget, or only embrace the one their sect endorses. Frankly, it’s not their fault entirely… in the world of scriptures theirs is an utter abortion.

But what I never realized was that intellectual dishonesty, or denial, oh - just call it out right lying to protect the faith isn’t the sole provenance of Christians and Muslims. The fundie / Orthodox Jews seem to have it down to a science.

An Orthodox Jewish woman blogger said that unlike Reformed Jews / modernist Jews, that Orthodoxy requires “strict adherence to Jewish Law.” I commented that I certainly hope the author doesn't ever have to come to the aid of her husband, and accidentally grab the genitals of his attacker as strict Jewish law demands her hand be amputated. (Deut. 25). I also wondered out loud if, on the rare occasions where such a thing happens was the woman’s hand lopped off by a moyle, or the local kosher butcher?

”When men strive together one with another, and the wife of the one draweth near for to deliver her husband out of the hand of him that smiteth him, and putteth forth her hand, and taketh him by the secrets [genitals] : Then thou shalt cut off her hand, thine eye shall not pity her.” Deuteronomy 25: 11-12

In a similar vain, I offered that perhaps the Orthodox Jewish community is dwindling because of all those rude unruly sons they have to stone to death. (Deut. 18).   In response I was treated to this by another Orthodox Jewish reader:

”Wrong. Strict Jewish law decrees that the woman must monetarily compensate the attacker for public humiliation. It does not demand the amputation of her hand. This is figurative language. You are taking the passage literally and not in its inherent meaning which is that of compensation just as an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth refers to reciprocity in the court of law as also a strict interpretation of Jewish law.”

Now, that half-assed lie may work on a dim-witted goy, but I’ve actually read the bible. Shit, I was even Jewish...once.  There are many laws among the 613 in the Tanakh that specify compensation for various trespasses and crimes. If you rape some one’s virgin daughter you need to pay her Dad cash money. But in every one of those cases it specifically denotes financial compensation. No where in the Old Testament is verbiage that directs financial penalty masked in any way, much less masked by alluding to “cutting off her hand and showing no pity.”

Nah… the misogynistic brutal tribe’s law said what it meant, and means what it said: amputation for female scrotum grabbing, even if it is to save your husband.

If we were to accept the revisionist explanation of the obviously ashamed and embarrassed fundie Jewish apologist then we would be compelled to interpret all the harsh Jewish laws differently from how they were written and what they say. Thus directing the stoning to death of unruly children (Deut. 18) wouldn’t mean stoning to death at all. It would mean something akin to “Thou shalt withhold their dessert for the night, and not givith them the use of the family camel for the evening.”

Words of scripture never mean what they say when those words are an embarrassment to, or indictment of, the fundamentalist’s preferred fable … Xtian, Muslim, or Jew. How very convenient, how very transparent, how very Abrahamic.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Lead, Follow, or Shut the Hell Up!

I don’t know how I get embroiled in bizarre conversations with people I all too often assume are reasoned by virtue of their professed atheism. I guess I’m just lucky that way.

I was bemoaning the establishment of another “atheist church” as reported in the Huffington post last week, mentioning that it confuses theists by using religious terminology for a patently non-religious concept, thus sets the movement back by reinforcing theist misconception of atheism as a religion. They are easily confused, why make it worse for them?

It drew this response [paraphrased]:

”What atheist movement? Atheism means no belief in God or gods. How can no belief have a movement? It’s like an anti-Loch Ness Monster movement. It’s absurd. I’m an atheist. Period. I don’t have to do anything to be an atheist or to not have belief. And I don’t benefit from the loud mouth anti-theists like you who proclaim an atheist movement. There’s no such thing as an atheist movement and you’re full of crap.”

There was much more including his professing Hitchens wasn’t part of any such movement.

What follows is my reply, revised and extended. Feel free to use it if you meet similarly uninformed, or intellectually dishonest freeloading Uncle Tom atheists who have reaped the benefits of atheist activism and then spit on us.
"Much as religious fundies refuse to accept overwhelming evidence, so too might those calling themselves freethinkers reject fact.

Threatened religionists refer to atheist activists as “The New Atheists,” a pejorative term for those of us who actively defend the rights of non-believers and ensure compliance to the constitution and refuse to kowtow to their majority demands. They seem to have no problem seeing the “atheist movement,” it’s one of the few things they get right.

The FFRF, Secular Student Alliance, Americans for the Separation of Church and State, The Military Religious Freedom Foundation, The Military Association of Agnostics and Freethinkers, American Atheists, and many many more organizations, bloggers and authors are all part of this movement that you deny exists and claim does not benefit you.

But I see the problem. You perceive the atheist movement as a non-sequiter as it implies the active spread of atheism and destruction of religion. As though the gay movement was intended to spread homosexuality and destroy heterosexuality. This speaks to your limited understanding of “movement,” and your even more stunted recognition of its affect on our society in general and you as an atheist.

You seem not to grasp that the atheist movement in the United States is responsible for the elimination of organized prayer in school; for enforcing the separation of church and state in the face of manifold violations across the country and even within our military. It ensures the rights of the few are not trampled by the power and religio-centrism of the many; that atheists are not consigned to 2nd class citizenship, in spite of the Xtian perspective that we are less worthy to hold public office than "a gay or a Muslim" (Pew survey) . If religion continues to decline as a by product of atheist visibility and activism against religiously inspired insults to our intelligence and freedoms, so be it. Call it warranted collateral damage.

Richard Dawkins in an Oct 11, 2011 speech to the Atheist Alliance said this [extract]:
"But of course [Christopher Hitchens] has a special place in our affections here as the leading intellect and scholar of our atheist / secular movement. A formidable adversary to the pretentious, the woolly-minded or the intellectually dishonest, he is a gently encouraging friend to the young, to the diffident, to those tentatively feeling their way into the life of the freethinker and not certain where it will take them." http://atheistallianceamerica.org/
(emphasis mine)

If there is no atheist movement how then do the most outspoken freethinkers proclaim it as such and honor their fellow activists' contributions to it?

Equating the atheist movement to a “Non-Belief in Loch Ness Monster” movement, is patently absurd. Those who believe in "Nessie" represent no threat to our freedoms, seek no advantage, violate no laws, don’t impose their belief on government or in schools, nor obstruct scientific / medical advancement. The atheist movement only exists and succeeds because social inequities, persecutions, or violations of law and rights do exist and are a threat to us and our secular government.

You may continue to rail against the concept of the atheist movement and deny its existence and value. Feel free to enjoy (or bemoan) your right to proclaim your atheism without fear and your future children’s right to not be forced to pray in school, or be singled out and condemned for their non-belief. If you miss the crucifixes on court house walls, nativity scenes on your municipal building’s lawn, the appeals to Jesus at your town hall meetings, or decry the fact that West Point and Air Force academy cadets aren't punished for refusing to attend Christian services and accepting Jesus as their savior … then you have no one to blame except the atheist movement you claim doesn't exist.

But what you can’t do is make it go away or impede its progress; only lead, follow, or shut the hell up."