Monday, July 21, 2014

The Negative Consequences of Believing in Superstition - Part III

This is Part III of a three part series.  (Go read Part II if you've not seen it yet!)

Politics/Law

America is in the middle of a severely dysfunctional period of political and social change.

Over the last hundred years, technology has rocketed us from the horse and buggy days to jet aircraft and rockets to the moon.  From simple telephone tech to cell phones and computers in our pockets.

A hundred years ago, information was limited to those who could read, which for the population of the US as a whole was about 90%.  In 1979, that rate was 0.6%.  The ability of people to distribute information was limited.  For a regional audience, newspapers were the norm, and was limited to what the editors would print.  A wider audience could be reached in book publication, but that was limited to what the major publishing house editors thought would sell.

Accordingly, the public picture of what was normal was limited to what people could read, and that was tightly controlled, even with what was then a fairly free press.  The abnormal was easily ignored and any contradicting speech or dissension was often swept under the rug.

Until women got angry, and began working to change things.  By 1920, the 19th amendment allowed women the right to vote after a long and contentious public debate, including protests outside the White House, often resulting in arrests.

Today, information is everywhere.  The Internet allows instant connection to just about any repository of information that has an online presence.  Many traditional repositories of information, including the Library of Congress, are rapidly digitizing their collections.

The Internet has changed communication as well.  In the early 20th century, overseas telephone calls were expensive and rare, requiring coordination by letter so both parties were available at a coordinated time.  While this got easier with time, even as late as the 1960's, calling overseas often required advance reservations of a time slot, and were still not cheap.

By the 1970-'s, with modern satellite communications systems well under construction, such calls became both cheap and easy compared to just a decade earlier.

The Internet changed all that.  Today, there are multiple methods for connecting to people, even across the globe.  Email, texting, land line calls and even cell phones can be used to connect to people instantaneously.  While the online bulletin boards of the early 90's allowed communications by text, today, with such Internet giants as Facebook and Google, communication with huge numbers of people across wide swaths of the globe are as easy as sending an email, posting to a Facebook page or setting up a web site.  Skype and FaceTime allow instant face to face communication across the globe.

Any of this can be done on a cell phone.

This communication explosion has greatly changed the character of our political discourse.  While Americans slowly and quietly moved away from devout religious observance during the course of the late 20th century, the 21st, with the advent of instant internet communication, has resulted in an explosion of secular movements and groups.  The demographic of "None" as related to religious affiliation is the fastest growing category world-wide, not merely in the US.

Many in the movement attribute this to the Internet and the ability of people of a secular point of view to see - for the first time - that they are not alone and are part of a growing and dynamic community.

The growth of secularism, from the 60's on, resulted in a backlash of religiosity, starting with the Moral Majority, and Ronald Reagan's Presidency.  This backlash has grown in political influence, spurred on by the Republican Party allying itself with the religious right in a bid for increased political influence.  Successfully, I might add.

The Religious Right (RR) has gained influence on a regional and local basis through intense local organizing and political activism.  The resulting political power thus gained has allowed the Republicans control of a substantial majority of State Houses, allowing the RR to bend the political discourse far to the right of center.

A movement known as Dominionism (of which I've written here extensively) has orchestrated much of the successful passage of laws undermining education and science, causing much social controversy and political division, especially in the area of abortion and women's reproductive health.  In many States, there is a virtual dearth of any legal means of abortion, and now the fight is being directed towards a subject everybody thought was won decades ago - contraceptives.

So, today, after decades of successful advancement of women's rights, including the right to vote, the right to divorce, including no fault provisions, the right to contraceptives and abortion, and the right own property (largely won in the 19th century), women's groups are now having to gear up and spend vast amounts of money fighting for the continued existence of rights once thought secure.

Most of this is due to religion.  Patriarchy, biblical proscriptions against women (whether real or not) and a Dominionist movement intent on converting the US from a democracy to a theocracy have all brought the American political scene to a complete and utter standstill.

RR's efforts haven't stopped there.  There is a litany of things they are working on.

abstinence-only education - Instead of medically accurate information and thoughtful conversation about intimacy and childbearing, teens get promise rings and slut shame. 
Opposing protections and rights for children.  Thanks to the influence of biblical Christianity, the U.S. stands alone with Somalia in failing to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.  
Undermining science - The scientific method has also become an existential threat to Bible belief. We know now that the Genesis creation story is myth, neurotransmitters rather than demons cause mental illness, mandrake roots and dove blood don’t improve female fertility or cure skin diseases, and the cognitive structures of the human mind predispose us to certain kinds of religious belief.
Promoting war - George Bush didn’t need to seek input from his earthly father about the invasion, because he asked his Heavenly Father.  Besides, Jesus is coming soon and war in the Middle East is predicted in the Bible.  That makes it not only inevitable, but—in a manner of speaking—desirable.
Abuse of LGBT persons and refusal of equal rights - They've fought equal rights for these folks for decades, and still are, and it would be bad enough if we were simply talking about history. But homophobic American Christians, thwarted at home, have turned to inciting oppression in Uganda and Nigeria where their hatred still finds fertile ground.
Destroying Earth’s web of life and endangering future generations - Climate change denial and refusal of reasonable methods of keeping our air and water clean and unpolluted is based on biblical scripture giving man "Dominion" (there that word is again) over the earth and all its animals, as well as the believed inevitability of the Second Coming, where God will simply create a new and better Earth guarantees that the RR will refuse to assist in doing anything to protect the environment or protect future generations from the consequences of our irresponsibility today.  Add Republicans' devotion to Corporate welfare, and the die is cast.
(Thanks to Valerie Tarico at Salon.com for her ideas and some of her language.)

I guess the greatest harm in general that religion (right wing fundamentalism in particular) does to this country is through its insistence that we support Israel.  The most vile technique they use is to accuse detractors of being anti-Semitic.  Even people who have reasoned and logical arguments against that support are branded with that epithet.

I am not, in principle, opposed to Israel.  I am not even against some form of support for it.

But our foreign policy regarding Israel is held hostage by the RR for religious reasons (because of the Second Coming) and tolerates no deviation from complete and total support.  Regardless of whether American interests are harmed or even devastated by that support, they insist that we continue to support Israel, blindly and without digression.

This has resulted in anger towards the US and much hatred of us by the Muslim world, and has resulted directly in the attacks on the World Trade Center (both of them), and a continued campaign of terrorist activity against American interests.

Our responses to that have been goaded by the RR to the point that our constitutional rights are now under attack at home and US Intelligence has eroded America's reputation for even handedness and high standards of morality to the point of almost nonexistence.  The RR's toleration and indeed, insistence on, classifying water boarding and "advanced interrogation techniques" as acceptable has completely destroyed the ability of this country to hold other countries accountable for similar actions against our own citizens, resulting in the inability of the government to protect American Citizens overseas.

Even if the Progressive movement (such as it is) managed to gain political ascendancy in the next election by some miracle, it would take decades for us to regain our good reputation for being a humane and law abiding nation.  As it is, forget it.

Obviously, this examination of the negative affects of having the population of this country believe in superstitious Bronze Age beliefs is incomplete.  If I tried to classify it all, I'd have to write a series of books.  One wouldn't be enough.

But the short story is a beginning.  If the only negative affects of religious belief were what I have touched upon here, it would be bad enough to justify organizing the secularists of this country to incite political influence and action to combat it.

But it is far, far worse than this.  The struggle to overcome religiosity and its negative affects on this country will continue into the future, and may never be fully complete.  Christianity, Judaism and Islam have been here, collectively, for over three thousand or more years.  That kind of influence doesn't go away overnight; we've been fighting it since the beginning of the Renaissance in the 12th century.

Let's not allow it to make a comeback.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Negative Consequences of Believing in Superstition - Part II

This is Part II of a three part series.  (Go read Part I if you've not seen it yet!)

Sex

The subject of sex in the US is so screwed up, and it is mainly because of religion.  The system of patriarchy discussed above forces men and women into gender based roles.  While the social aspects of patriarchy are bad enough, the affects on sex and human sexuality are even worse.

As noted above, men are forced into a false and totally artificial image of "manhood", that is as false and artificial as the image of "womanhood" the ladies are forced into.  This produces mental and psychological stress and often damage that hurts the individuals, their families and their friends - often their employers as well.

Why?  Why is it damaging?

Several reasons.  (Stick with me - I'll get to LGBT issues in a bit.)

I think the most obvious is in personal confidence.  Body image, and how a person portrays him or herself sexually is extremely important in this country.  Heck, for that matter, in much of the world.  It affects our social standing, our family and how it is viewed by the larger society, and eventually, how and whether we are accepted as marriage potential.

Accordingly, we are obsessed by sex, we are obsessed with youth and the sexual aspects of it.  The secular commercial realm tells us that sex is good, it is natural and wholesome and, well, whoopee!

But...

In American society, sexual beauty and attractiveness is so skewed from the norm that millions of Americans, both men and women, suffer from severe lack of self confidence because they perceive themselves as unattractive, through failing to live up to an artificial and false vision of beauty.  No, this isn't because of religion, it is because of rampant and unregulated capitalism.

Religion, or the so-called "Judeo-Christian" or "Abrahamic" religions, especially in this country, as mentioned above, enforce a patriarchy.  A large part of that system is the second class status of women, and therefore, control over their public behavior.

Christianity especially, enforces a view of sex that restricts sex to the role of procreation within a family context.  This comes, probably, from the role of the family, or the clan, as the center of Roman life.  The individual wasn't important, the family or family group, was.  Loyalty to that group was paramount, and for women, that meant only having sex with their husband, to preserve the purity of the bloodline.  Hence the religious obsession with sex as procreation, looking down on both abortion and contraception.  One because it is an "illegal" rejection of the man's seed, and the other as rejection of a man's control over his woman.

So, religion forces us into this weird, twisted image of sex - the patriarchal picture of gender roles, mixed with the god-smacked rejection of women as full humans, subservient to men, and under their full control.

This results in our social culture allowing this culture of rape.  Men are supposed to be virile, strong and manly, which is supposed to drive women into raptures of sexual frenzy.  Women are supposed to belong to men, which means they owe us sex, and they owe us their love and devotion.  Women who reject this and refuse to go along are subjected to campaigns of hate and vitriol, threats of rape and violence.

If a guy doesn't fit that manly, virile picture, he is a failure, and is ridiculed as such.

So.

For women, you have to fit this image of womanhood that reflects the stay at home mother, homemaker, sexy wife and willing brood cow, while the larger social milieu tells you that you've got to be beautiful, sexy, and available to any guy that pinches your ass.  If you don't, you're a prude, and you'll never find a husband, especially if you are ugly.

In the meantime, religion tells you that if you DO, you are a slut, a sinner and you'll go to hell.

Guys, largely, get a pass on the religion thing because, you know, patriarchy.  Unless, of course, they aren't manly, so they're failures.  Or if they allow their wives to "hen-peck" them, they aren't following the bible, so they'll go to hell then, too.

Double-failures.

Especially if they are rejected by the ladies.  Since this isn't anticipated by the traditional patriarchal framework, guys that see themselves as manly and virile who get rejected by the ladies anyway can't comprehend that rejection.  They get mad and blame their failure on the ladies, who, of course, OWE them sex.  Severe mental pain and emotional confusion are common resulting from this condition, and has been known to generate violent reactions.

Is it any wonder that Americans are so screwed up about sex?  The true wonder is how any of us manage to grow up with normal pictures of reasonable and responsible relationships in time to have families.

But wait, I'm not finished.  Not everybody is a cis-gendered, heterosexual human being.  Some folks are homosexual.  Some folks are trans-gendered, and some are bi-sexual.  There are other categories, but I don't feel qualified to talk about them.

These traditional roles I spoke of above, as screwed up as they are, aren't the whole picture, especially since they ignore our LGBT friends.  That alone is responsible for untold misery,  family fights and estrangements.  Since these folks don't fit the "normal" categories, they have traditionally been either ignored or forced into playing roles they were not comfortable with, and often beaten or killed for refusing.  All of them are condemned by religion, and totally ignored by the patriarchal system unless they rock the boat.

The 21st century's success in this country in advancing marriage equality for homosexual couples is a remarkable story of the LGBT movement's ability to go mainstream, but is still being fought tooth and nail by the religious right.

Demographics tells us that the religious will lose this fight.

But wait!  That's not all, folks!

Let's examine some other issues, like clergy abuse of both children and adults, sexually.

Everybody knows, by now, of the Roman Catholic child abuse scandal.  The RCC has spent millions of dollars in the US alone just to make this go away.  Not much to actually stop the abuse, but surely to make it go away.

One wonders, as one examines the issue and how the RCC hierarchy responded to the scandal at first.   How prevalent IS the abuse of kids by Catholic clergy?  And how long has it been going on?

There are some clues.

First, in Ireland, we've all heard of the "laundry scandal", where unwed mothers and their children were warehoused by the Church (with complicit authority from the Irish government of the day) in homes, and were made literal slaves in big laundries.  Scorned by the Church for their sexual sins, their children were as badly treated as they were.

This broke even bigger a couple of years ago and again recently when news broke (over here) of the discovery of almost 800 graves in a hidden graveyard, with an unknown number of bodies even hidden in an old unused septic tank.  Graves going back over a hundred years.

Also in Ireland, the scandal of a few years ago of stories of child abuse and murder in Irish Catholic monasteries. possibly going back hundreds of years.  Horrific stories of terrible abuse, both corporal and sexual, often combined.

In Europe a number of decades ago, there were archeological discoveries of monasteries and cloisters, built fairly close by one another, with hidden tunnels linking the two.  The most horrific part of the discovery were chambers off that tunnel containing the graves of infants and fetuses, most of whom were probably buried hours after or before birth.

All of this is evidence of a terrible epidemic of sexual malfunction in a religious hierarchy, over a thousand years old, denied sexual release and access due to official greed, excused and justified by religious scripture.

(For those who don't know, the RCC finally outlawed marriage not for religious reasons, but to end the bleeding of "church" property through inheritance to families of clergy, especially to noble families with large estates.  With no marriage allowed, thus no heirs, their property was "inherited" by the Church.)

Don't think that only the RCC is involved, preachers of almost every Protestant denomination regularly are arrested and either fired or also charged for either child abuse or sexually predatory abuse of adults.

It's all over the place.

Not to be outdone, Islam isn't far behind, as you may have noticed in the recent re-emergence of the quote of Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini.
He says: ‘A man can have sexual pleasure from a child as young as a baby. However, he should not penetrate vaginally, but sodomising the child is acceptable. If a man does penetrate and damage the child then, he should be responsible for her subsistence all her life. This girl will not count as one of his four permanent wives and the man will not be eligible to marry the girl’s sister… It is better for a girl to marry at such a time when she would begin menstruation at her husband’s house, rather than her father’s home. Any father marrying his daughter so young will have a permanent place in heaven.’ 
Read more.
Not only is this considered child abuse, but Islam has doubled down on it and authorized it because Mohammed did it.

At least, the Muslims are honest - they'll tell you God wants this to happen.

Talking about child abuse, let's talk about masturbation, something Christianity in most of its forms doesn't like to do.  In many denominations, it is banned and called out for being sinful and of the devil.

But now, scientifically, we know that it is not only a natural urge (even infants play with themselves) but it is known to be actually good for you!  It releases hormones and endorphins that make you healthier and live longer.

Heck, we know, both from scientific study and from statistics that people who have a long term sexual relationship that is happy for both parties not only stay together longer, but also live longer.  Regardless of whether they have kids or not.

So, in summary, religion in this country (and throughout the world) twists sex and sexuality in humans to the point that millions of people are, at best, dysfunctional and at worst, mentally ill and twisted towards pedophilia and sexual predatory practices, even the clergy.

It taints our marriages, our dating practices, and inculcates a culture of rape that regularly threatens the lives and well being of over a half of all women in the United States and probably causes a significant percentage of our divorces.

It directly harms our LGBT friends through violence and intimidation, forcing them into hidden lives and damaging stress by denying them a happy and healthy lifestyle.

And because sex keeps us healthy and can help us live longer, by discouraging sex in most forms and twisting our sexual practices so badly, religion is also killing us.

Are you mad yet?

(Come back tomorrow for Part III)



Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Negative Consequences of Believing in Superstition - Part I.

I was perusing Ophelia Benson's Facebook page Saturday morning and ran across a post she put up Friday about the post on Dave Muscato's wall regarding Jaclyn Glenn's Youtube video slamming feminism and how she is disappointed - no, outraged - that AA is supporting Glenn's anti-feminism.

One of the comments (which I can't find to quote, dang it) made a comment about the negative consequences of believing in superstition.  It rang a bell with me, so here we are!

There are numerous negative things religion brings to society which many religious folks either overlook or are brainwashed into thinking they are good, mainly because they believe it's good because they're told it is, but have never actually examined the issues to see what the reality is.

But today, we're going to look at a few things.

As I see it, there are at lease three major areas in which religion (believing in a superstition) brings negative consequences to society.

  1. Patriarchy (Part I)
  2. Sex (Part II)
  3. Politics/Law (Part III)


Of course, these aren't the only things at issue, but each of these are major, affecting broad areas of society.  So, let's take them one at a time.

(This is going to be a long post, so I will post in installments.  This is the first, the others will follow tomorrow and Monday.)

Patriarchy

Patriarchy is defined as:
1.  social organization marked by the supremacy of the father in the clan or family, the legal dependence of wives and children, and the reckoning of descent and inheritance in the male line; broadly :  control by men of a disproportionately large share of power
2.  a society or institution organized according to the principles or practices of patriarchy
This sounds very clinical, and almost reasonable, doesn't it?  But what are the consequences of these things?

In the modern context of our present day political scene, the relevant part of that is about the legal dependance of women and children, though we will see other consequences of it as well.

In today's western society, especially the US, the practice of patriarchy is at least partially based on religion.  In the Republicans' "War on Women", it IS based on biblical strictures requiring men to be the head of the household, and women being denied the right to be "in charge of" men.

In other words, they are relegated to second class citizens.

Now, in the larger US society, in the last hundred or so years, we've managed to back some of that off.  Women can now own property in their own names, vote, drive cars, work outside the home (and in fact, at jobs traditionally reserved for men), and can marry (or not) according to their own wishes.

But, I am going to back things up a bit and note some negative consequences of allowing the Fundies to begin denying women those rights, as they seem to want to do - which will highlight some ways in which we have failed to progress into a more modern way of thinking about women.

First of all, think about the term "dependance" in that definition above.  Legal dependance, especially. What does that entail?  Briefly, it means a woman (or a child) has no legal rights of her own.  She has to have a male guardian who has the right to "care" for her, as a legal responsibility.

That has two consequences.  The most obvious is that she has no rights of her own.  He can pretty much force her to obey his every wish, and she has no legal recourse, unless he is neglecting her welfare.  She is, in fact, virtually his property.  In many countries, this is in fact, the case.

But wait, there's another side to it.  HE is obligated to care for her.  That means he is responsible, legally, to feed her, clothe her and provide her with shelter.  This isn't something he has a choice in, it becomes his legal obligation, for which he is liable if he fails.

What if he can't?  What if his resources aren't up to the task?  Sure, he can neglect her to her detriment, but that leaves him vulnerable to accusations of neglect which may, if his society cares, cost him.

Either way, this kind of situation isn't exactly fair to either one.  Worse for the lady, since she is the one losing rights, but if she is prevented by the social or legal rules to not be able to work, the whole family suffers.  In fact, the entire society suffers.

This is actually the worst part of the patriarchal system.  The entire society, from the individual, to the family, to the potential employer, to the city, State and the entire country, everybody suffers, both socially and economically.  To stop half of the population from working is to cut your potential GDP in half, at the very least.  Even if you only go halfway and allow women to work, but restrict them to certain jobs (and, equally, restrict men to certain jobs) you are still preventing people from working in their best way and potentially most skilled career.  The potential of people working at their best level and in a skill that they are best suited for is huge, and the frustration (for both men and women) in being prevented from doing that is as huge as the potential.  The cost of such false restrictions based on arbitrary and unnatural reasoning is perhaps not as bad as a complete ban on women working, but it is a non trivial figure.

Society suffers in other ways.  Women are, actually, as smart as men, and as capable of doing anything men can, save perhaps (on average) some jobs or tasks requiring major body strength.  (...and even there, some women exceed that standard and do quite well in those circumstances, as on the other hand, some guys fail!) In the US, after over a century of women working, there is plenty of evidence that many aspects of society are better off with the participation of women.  Corporations find that women make better organizers, deal better with adversity and are better at mediating conflict.  In politics, women (when allowed to work independently) are often better at compromise and negotiations than men.

As costs have risen in recent decades, women have been forced into the workplace, bringing in much needed resources and allowing single women to raise children alone under better economic conditions than once was allowed.

I could go on, but it is obvious from these examples (which are only a few examples of many) that were women forced back into the home, the economy of the US would take a hit that would guarantee our immediate slide into third world status.  Poverty would become, instead of merely commonplace, rampant and virtually the norm.  The middle class would be destroyed, and those in poverty would be devastated completely.

Notice that I haven't even touched on the health care aspects of women's rights, and the devastation the American family would suffer were women no longer allowed to control their reproductive rights.  In fact, the proposed restrictions on contraceptives would be devastating to not only women, but to the entire country, as it would push us back into a time where women were not capable of stopping pregnancy.  (This does, of course, include the prohibitions against abortion.)  The social consequences of this would be to push many women out of the workforce, and reinstate the social pressures against allowing women to work, with the consequences noted in the previous paragraphs.

I haven't addressed the other side of the issue, which is the damage to men a patriarchal system can and does do.

This system not only imposes restrictions on women, but imposes strict (depending on the time period and the culture involved) roles for the two different genders.  (Note here, the refusal of this system to even acknowledge the existence of the LGBT folks!)  This framework of strict roles is restrictive and limiting for both men and women.  Men may have a larger menu of choices, but they are no less prevented from crossing that line than women are.

Some women are great corporate managers.  Some are great politicians.  Some aren't.  Many men just suck at those roles, and choose to do other things, including these days, staying home to take care of the kids.  Numerous articles have been written by guys who have done this, and it is liberating for them to be able to do so.  As it is liberating for women to be able to be corporate managers.

Some guys are fantastic secretaries, or office managers, or nurses.  Men can be social workers, cooks, day care workers, pole dancers and strippers.  And they can be good at it.

Patriarchy would prevent them from doing all this, as those are not "traditional" men's jobs.

Men are forced into a false and totally artificial image of "manhood", that is as false and artificial as the image of "womanhood" the ladies are forced into.  This produces mental and psychological stress and often damage that hurts the individuals, their families and their friends - often their employers as well.

It also forces men into this culture of rape we all know so well, but I'll deal with that in the "sex" topic.

In short, patriarchy is not a system that is supportive of society, but is damaging and harmful to a society that hopes to progress into a modern, peaceful, and productive society which accords equal rights for all citizens.

In short, it is un-American, in accordance with the ideals declared by us in the Declaration of Independence.

Some of the last points I raised also apply in the next section.

Come back tomorrow for Part II!

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Aaghhh! Demons!

Ah, but which is the demon?

Is it a malicious evil being out of medieval church belief or is it the exorcist himself - or maybe just the belief?

According to this ABC News article, exorcism is widely believed in the US.  In Africa, demonic possession is so much a part of the social fabric, you are probably a bit strange if you don't believe in it!

But for my purposes today, the focus will be on the Catholic Church.  It seems the Pope has accepted the rite of exorcism and a group of priests who practice it as an integral part of Catholic Dogma.


Pope Francis is said by some to have performed an exorcism on this young boy.

Obviously, that means that the Catholic Church really, truly believes in the existence of demons.
This is not good, folks. This is medieval stuff, superstition.

By now, we should be so far beyond this, it should be laughable.  We live in the 21st century.  We fly in aircraft that hold 500 people at a time from one side of the planet to the other.  We have cured diseases that killed people for centuries, and delved into the very DNA that makes us human.  We've flown to the moon and gazed through the eyes of our robots at the furthest reaches of our solar system.

Even in the US, people really, truly believe in demons.  Look at this Catholic forum on exorcism.

But I'm not laughing, because in Africa, they still BURN witches. Exorcisms are, literally, torture sessions where priests torture children, in the guise of driving out demons.  Beatings, burnings, cutting.  (Not Catholics, by the way, from what I saw.)

This is evil, incarnate. I don't care how reasonable Pope Francis seems to you, this drives that right out of the conversation.  The belief in demons is superstition.  It is worse than believing in ghosts, it assigns the designation of evil to invisible yet supposedly powerful beings in order to prevent human beings from looking into the true reasons why people do bad things, and as in the exorcisms in Africa, give people an excuse to torture innocent children which hides the actions of malicious adults who would be the true perpetrators.

I suppose the RCC doesn't condone torture as a way to exorcise demons.  Not any more, I'd hope, at least not physically.  But to have the most powerful and pervasive Christian Denomination in the world tell the entire planet that it believes, as part of its dogma, that demonic possession is real and can be "cured" by a ceremonial ritual gives the others an excuse to continue to practice the worst of the rituals that DO involve torture.

Until now, my picture of the Catholic Church as an organization that condones some evil was limited to the child abuse scandal.  That the Church itself, as dogma, didn't condone the abuse, but that it was condoned by the priests and higher ecclesiastical ranks as individuals - a kind of invisible, good-ole-boy network from the remote past that would be hard for the "good" priests to root out.

Not any more.  This is rot of the highest order, straight from the top, condoning and actually teaching superstitious dogma as fact.  In your face, institutionalized evil incarnate.

For me, the Pope just stripped his friendly face completely away and exposed the ugly underside of religion.

Raw, unadulterated superstition.

#childabuse, #cruelty, #mentalhealth, #HarmfromReligion, #Religion, #RomanCatholicChurch,

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Concrete Angels Never Make it to Heaven.

For the first time in a while, I took a walk around the block this evening.  It was hot, and I'd changed into shorts.  I like to wear my headphones, too, when I'm going to be alone in a quiet space for a while, to listen to my music library.  It is an eclectic collection, ranging from country to celtic to classic and way back to the rock & roll of my youth. (Ha!  I had you there with all the c's, didn't I?)

When I set the iPhone music app to "songs", it bounces around and I never know what song will pop up next, or even which genre!  Kinda nice sometime.

I was about halfway around the block when one of my favorites came on, Concrete Angel by Martina McBride.  It's the story of a child, a girl, and how she is abused physically by apparently a parent or guardian, which results in her death.  Hence the "concrete angel" part, describing both her outer defensive facade in life and the statue on her gravestone in death.

The verses describe the story, which is literally legion around the world, and is not unique, so I won't bother to quote any of it here.  What I want to talk about is the refrain.

Through the wind and the rain she stands hard as a stone

In a world that she can't rise above

But her dreams give her wings and she flies to a place

Where she's loved 
concrete angel

Now, Martina McBride is a wonderful singer and performer, and her recording of this song is truly magnificent.  She is really one of my favorite country performers.  She is a devout Christian, apparently, and she makes no apologies for it.  Her music reflects that belief, which I do admire.  (The reflection of the belief, not the belief, folks.  I'm not re-converting!)

I also admire her use of her music and her public platform as such to stand against both child abuse and violence against women.  She deserves full and complete recognition and credit for doing that - many people wouldn't have the guts.

So, don't take this as any criticism against her personally.  It isn't.

This is something I noticed in the past week or so, but it really didn't hit me until now, listening to that song - the refrain, specifically.

There has been another spate of men being caught molesting children recently.  Some ministers, some not.  This is not a screed against religious guilt in child abuse.  Not today.  I want to mention that what I noticed is that we focus primarily on the abuser.

The stories always tell us about the abuser who commits these horrid crimes, but we quickly turn the page (so to speak) and shake our heads, thankful that another one is getting removed from where he (or she) won't hurt any more kids.  That IS true.  We ARE glad of that.

But what about the kids?

This country is supposed to have one of the best health care systems in the world (it really doesn't, by the way) but one thing we lack is a competent and easily accessed mental health system.  The system we have is expensive and is usually covered by health insurance only minimally, if that.

We know, from research, that children who have been molested sexually have a fairly high number of victims who turn into perpetrators.  And those who do have a fairly high rate of recidivism if not treated immediately after their victimization by competent mental health professionals who deal professionally and often with these victims.

As a country, we fail miserably to care for the victims of crime in general, but especially those victimized by pedophiles.  One reason, of course, is that it is a difficult crime to detect, and is often not reported or prosecuted properly.  Another, I think is embarrassment.

But, I have different idea why not.

Look at the refrain of the song.

But her dreams give her wings and she flies to a place

Where she's loved 

It is often difficult to interpret someone else's poetry - and poetry set to music is what a song is.  It is often imbued with double meanings, and this one is no different.

Obviously, it speaks of her dreams in life - dreams of having a loving family or at least someone who cares and won't abuse her.  We do "fly" in our dreams, don't we?

But there is another meaning here, and the song's title reflects it.  Angels fly, too.  And they fly to heaven, where they will, in the modern sense of the Christian afterlife, be loved.  So, according to this song, even though abused and eventually beaten to death (Look at the video of the song, and that is heavily implied), she flies to heaven and is there loved as she never was in life.  The video implies that she will be joined with other abused kids there, where they apparently form a self-help group.

As an atheist, my attitude is different.

Having no faith in an afterlife, and having the belief that once dead, we simply cease to exist as living entities, I think this gives a false and deceptive picture of a happy ending where in life, sadly, there isn't one.

Every single child who is killed by an abusive adult will never grow up.  He/she will never know the pleasure of getting out from under the cruel control of that abusive adult, and experience the ability to control their own life.  This false picture of a happy ending gives us cover.

It gives us the cover to ignore how badly we fail to protect children from abuse and how badly we fail to provide the healing treatment needed by the survivors.  It gives us the false impression that even if we have failed (as God says we do every day) He will step in and take care of these kids in our place.

Forever, right?  So, hey, it might have been bad for them on earth, but they're in God's arms now, right?  Happy?  Loved?

Not so fast.

From my perspective and the perspective of every atheist on the planet, there is no heaven, no loving arms of god, there is only...death.  A life cut short, and not cut short by accident, but cut short in cruelty, in violence, in raw, unadulterated anger.  A loss for all of us, for all the decades of productive adulthood cut short and thrown away, like trash.

How can I convey the horror, the sheer terrible loss of just one single child, and the decades of life lost?  How can we, even with a false sense of relief over an imagined happy ending, ignore the cruelty of that child's death?  However temporary one might see this mortal coil to be, while here, it is very real, and we feel, deeply and at our deepest levels, every emotion, every physical cut or bruise or broken bone.

It should cut us to the center of our being, that failure to protect.  The failure of care, of healing for the survivors.

For some, it does, and those folks do all they can to help.

But for others, we see the false ending, the happiness of "heaven", and imagine that there is a god who has our backs.  And we sit back and turn the page or click on the next story.

Religion hurts.  It provides, every day and in a thousand ways, the excuses for us to sit back and keep on being comfortable in our faith that this deity, this "father" figure, will make it all right.

Well, I hope from now on, you'll see those concrete angels and remember.

Thanks, Martina, for a beautiful song, and for using your platform to speak of human cruelty and the need to fight it.

#childabuse  #cruelty  #mentalhealth  #healthcare  #martinamcbride  #concreteangel  #harmfromreligion  #violence  #violenceagainstwomen


Monday, June 30, 2014

Another Dominionist Nail.

I had to work today to remain calm after the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby.

I've written long and hard about the Dominionist movement trying to convert this country to a theocracy.  I know it sounds like some crazy conspiracy theorist ranting against chem trails.

But please consider for a moment.  The religious attitude about contraception displayed by the plaintiffs is a very small minority of Christian far right wing groups.

Witness the article written by Jack Jenkins over at ThinkProgress.  Go on over there and read it, I'll wait.

Ok, done?  Good.  I think I waited for even the slow readers to get back, if not, just let me know.

It is plain to see that the majority of religious Americans do not agree with Hobby Lobby.  Certainly the majority of religious institutions representing religious Americans don't.

So, why is this being touted as a win for "religious freedom"?  Because the guys loudly proclaiming victory are representatives of that Dominionist movement.  It is a tactic used by movements in the past whose goal is to overturn the established political order - loudly proclaim your goals to be in tune with the majority, even if your actions betray a very different path.  This tactic worked for Communists in Europe in establishing big Socialist parties, and it definitely worked for the National Socialists (the Nazis) in Germany.  It confuses the issue, because people in general are very forgiving and assume that what people say in public - especially in the press - is what they really mean.

Most people require pretty substantial proof to show that a group's public statements hide a sinister or publicly unpopular position.  These folks are taking advantage of that.  They know you are, basically, fair.

They have no such scruples.

Please note that many of the things the right wing is fighting for are laws which disadvantage women.

Note that this is, in a small way, an extension of the fight against contraception.  A fight liberals thought we'd won decades ago.  Remember the constitutional amendment they tried to put to the vote in Georgia (or maybe it was Mississippi) in 2012?  The one proclaiming that "personhood" begins at conception?  Yeah, it sounded harmless enough, until you realize that many of our contraceptives work by preventing a fertilized egg from implanting in the wall of the womb.  Meaning, of course, that the amendment would have made 90% of the contraceptives American women use illegal!

In one fell swoop.

Notice that the proponents of that amendment never said squat about that.  They tried to focus the argument on abortion, carefully avoiding the unpopular part of the consequences of approving that amendment.  Yeah, that's another way they work.  Sneak this stuff in when you're looking the other way!

Notice a pattern here?  A progression?

Most of this stuff is about the reproductive rights of women.  On the surface, that is.

But think about it.   When a women gets pregnant, it doesn't just become an inconvenience for a time.  It changes her LIFE.  Having a child doesn't just tie up 9 months until the kid pops out.  The pregnancy itself is a hazard to your life.  It gets worse when institutions like Planned Parenthood (which is devoted to women's health services exclusively) are defunded and forced to close, because then people whose careers are devoted to knowing what to do for a women who is in a distressed state of pregnancy are no longer available.  When certain procedures which can save your life are not performed in 90% of American hospitals because they are related to abortion procedures.

Not to mention the labor itself, in which not insignificant numbers of women die each year as a result of.

Then, of course, assuming you and the child survive the pregnancy and the labor of childbirth, there's the next ... oh, something like the next 30 years of your life, raising and nurturing that child, since these days kids aren't always on their own until they're in their thirties.

No, pregnancy is not a simple thing, and for all of these reasons, some women don't want to get pregnant.  Heck, some guys, even husbands, don't want to be fathers!  Some couples just aren't suited to be parents, and for the sake of the kids, they shouldn't be forced to be.

But if these right wingers have their way, they'll force that on us.  All of us.

Where will it stop?  Will they be satisfied to just keep you ladies barefoot and pregnant?  Think so?  Might they someday begin talking about the scanty and immodest clothing women wear?  Do ya think they might some day force you to wear - skirts?  Or worse yet - dresses?

Heck, if they can force you to get pregnant, isn't it reasonable that they might force you to stay at home with that child?  Be dependent on some guy for your upkeep?  Maybe they'd prefer that if that man dies, you just get tossed out on the street, since you won't be able to get a job.

Is that what you'd want for your future?  Or for your kids?  To have our society forced back into 19th century thinking where women have no rights, no personhood?

Because if we let them do it, that's where they're going.

As a male, I object.  I didn't marry my wife to be a servant.  I don't want my daughters to be servants. I want my kids to be full, productive citizens, with all of the rights and responsibilities men do.  I want to see our society to grow into a progressive, caring, forward looking society.

One where all people have the same rights, the same benefits before the law and the same opportunities to make their way in the world as they see fit.  A good education, healthcare, and employment prospects.

If we leave the country to the tender mercies of the Dominionists, we'll never see that.

If you agree with me, vote.  Tell your friends to vote.  I don't care where you live - VOTE!  Even if you live in rural Alabama, or Georgia, or even Mississippi, where rednecks think they rule the roost.  If enough people who object to this progression towards theocracy get out there and vote, we can show them different!

Throw out the seditionists who want to put preachers in power!  Throw out the republicans-in-name-only who are really Tea Partiers and religious extremists.

This November is more important than you think.  It may be a mid-term election, which are usually not that important - but then so was 2010, and that one gave the House to Republicans!  Let's take it back.

VOTE!  and vote Democratic this November!

#Dominionism  #Religion  #SupremeCourt  #politics  #harmfromreligion

Monday, June 09, 2014

Correction to the Irish Mother and Child Home story

I was drawn to a story this morning posted in the Irish Times regarding the horrific tale of the almost 800 infant/child skeletons found in the septic tank at a Mother and Child Home (as they are known in Ireland - actually homes for unwed mothers and "illegitimate" children) by a researcher doing genealogy a while back.

It seems that many of the stories which have been spread from the original article misinterpreted some of the facts.  The linked to article sets us straight.  Most of the infants and children buried at the Tuam home were buried in a cemetery within the grounds of the home, not IN the septic tank.  According to an interview of one of the boys who originally found the tank and it's occupants, there were no more than perhaps twenty bodies within the tank itself.

There are a couple of  implications of this correction, but rest assured, lessening of the fault of the Roman Catholic Church in the existence and the terrible conditions in these homes is not one of them!

It does lessen the horror somewhat to know that most of the children who died there were at least accorded some modicum of decency in death, if not in life.  It increases the chances that conditions in most of the other homes may be found to be no worse and perhaps even a bit better.

On the other hand, the environment inculcated by the Church allowed an atmosphere to develop which allowed at least one and perhaps a small cabal of abusers to cause these children - as few as five or as many as twenty - to be disposed of in a septic tank sewerage and apart from the normal burial procedures at that one home.  What abuse and neglect caused these deaths, we may never know, but still, the fault lies with the Institution which allowed the abuse to occur and continue as long as it did.

There is no doubt that any story is at once too simple and also often incorrectly reported at first glance.  This one is not an exception.  I am sure that even in these institutions of callousness and indifference, there were individuals who did their best to mitigate the cruelty and intolerance showed by the institution and its rules towards a badly mistreated underclass.  Even amidst the horrors of the Holocaust, there were stories of the occasional kindness by even the worst of the criminals who staffed the camps.  It is and has always been possible for good people to be trapped by circumstances in a terrible place and time where their ability to mitigate the damage is limited to individual kindnesses on an occasional basis. I am sure, once the story of these homes is finally told, we will hear of people who were kind, even heroic in their attempts to fight the indifference and the horrors they were faced with in an institution whose purpose was the denigration and enslavement of an underclass of officially detested women and their children.  People will, after all, be people, and even in terrible circumstances, the basic goodness of mankind will often show itself.

But let's make no mistake.  The basic reasons these homes existed was to warehouse and make disappear the detritus of a society which considered them to be a sinful and evil mistake.  A society which was outlined in my post on my Facebook page yesterday describing the social institutions built by the Roman Catholic Church within Irish society in the first half of the twentieth century.

There is and can be no lessening of the fault and the guilt of that institution by the revelation of this article that some have misinterpreted the story of the children's' burials in the Tuam Home.  This story must be and more than likely will be investigated and eventually told in all of its horror, frightful detail and the occasional lighthearted story of heroism or courage in the face of adversity.

It will be at once more complex and nuanced than we have seen at first glance, and yet, we must not lose sight of the basic lesson we should take away from it.

The entire edifice of Irish society which enabled these homes to exist - which in fact required them to be built - is the result of the Roman Catholic Church and the teachings and dogma of that institution resulting from the interpretation of Christian Scripture by the Church Hierarchy of the day.  Teachings and interpretations which continue virtually unchanged to this very day and age, and which would, if that institution had its way, require the very same kinds of homes to continue to exist into the future.

Interpretations which could, at any time, be re-examined and reinterpreted to end that terrible intolerance.  If the teachings and dogma of that bygone age continue, it is by the willing and intentional decisions made by current Church Fathers (read: Pope and Cardinals) to continue the horror.

They have a choice, and it seems they've already made it.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

American Democracy 101

After the post about Gitmo, I got to thinking.  (I know, that's dangerous, but I like to live on the edge!)

Besides the Gitmo thing, and the whole 1% vs the 99% thing and the NSA massively spying on our electronic communications thing (Hi, guys!), and well, all that other shit, there seems to be a pervasive, growing feeling among the American people that we've somehow lost control of our government.

No, I didn't just crawl out from under a rock.  I've been just kind of keeping my cool.

But now, I'm sorta over that.  My point of view is kind of specific, though.

Let's examine for a moment, what the basics of our form of government are.  I'm not a civics teacher, (but I did pay attention, Mr. Green & Col. Morehead!) so please bear with me.

I could go into the Constitution, and that would be theoretically correct, as it is the blueprint for the form our government takes, and governs the powers it has and is restricted from wielding.  It would be pretty instructive for a lot of people, but it would also take a while.

I'm not a patient guy.

So, let's talk about something else.  How about the Declaration of Independence?

That's a favorite of the Tea Party, isn't it?  Particularly the religious right's portion of it.  They love to point at the Preamble and the use of the word "Creator" that you find there.  Yes, it's there, and I won't bore you (again) with the well known point that it is there as a Deist term favored by the Founders who were followers of that particular philosophy.

I'm going to point to another well known but oft neglected phrase which comes later.  Right in the next clause, in fact, immediately after the terms "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" we all know and love:
— That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —
Emphasis mine, of course.  The Founders didn't think it would be necessary to embolden that one.

It is, in fact, in spite of its inclusion in a whole line of famous clauses, the very foundation of American Democracy.

It is the very principle upon which the Founders based their blueprint they called the Constitution of the United States.

Look at that phrase again and let it roll off your tongue.

"...deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,"

That's us, in case you didn't realize it.  The American people.  You, me, Barrack Obama, John Boehner, every single one of the 350 million plus of us.

Not a word about deities, churches, religion or cults.

The People.  We, the People delegate the power to govern ourselves to a government which we have instituted under the Constitution - a document which contains exactly two references to religion. (if you count the First Amendment and not just the original document)  Both are restrictions on its power to affect religion, or to involve it in government activities.

One of the restrictions placed upon the government is to deny the use of a religious test for office.  The other is the famous First Amendment, which restricts the governments ability to pass laws which could govern religion, or in effect, make people obey specific sectarian religious rules, called the Establishment Clause.  It also prevents the government from passing laws which prevent religion from doing its thing. That is the Free Exercise Clause.

Together, they are intended to prevent religion from being a part of our government, either to promote it or to impede it.  The government is to remain neutral.   It cannot be partial, either for or against.

These are not just philosophical or esoteric ideals to be discussed in a classroom.  They are LAW.  A law (the highest law of the land - it says so, right there in the constitution) that trumps all others.

Anyone who would override these things is not a patriotic American.  They are not patriots at all, but are either traitors or seditionists.

You see, the First amendment is a protection for ALL Americans, even the most religious.

Imagine for a moment, the Dominionists win.  The Constitution is overturned, and Christianity becomes the Law of the Land.  ::shudder::

Which version?

The Roman Catholic Church?  The Southern Baptist Convention?  The Presbyterians?  Joel Osteen's group?  How about Billy Graham?  Would he get a say?  How about the Mormons?

Or the church of Scientology?

How are they going to decide?  Even the group known as Dominionists constitute differing versions of fundies.  Do ya think they're going to sit down nice and quietly after the Second American Revolution and just decide who get tossed under the bus like gentlemen?

Somehow, that scenario just doesn't sound exactly right.  Historically, religions don't share power very well.  When the Protestants and Catholics in Germany contended for power, it took thirty years and hundreds of thousands of dead to settle the issue.

Would the RCC take a Protestant takeover of the US sitting down?  Would the mainline Protestant churches accept a fundamentalist takeover gracefully?

The Founders knew what they were doing.  They'd seen what religious power in the hands of governments could do in recent European history.  Many of the previous generation of their families had immigrated to the US under religious pressure.  The strife regarding differing religions was intense even in differing States of the Colonies!

To prevent it from getting worse, their solution was to end it completely.  To keep government totally out of religion, and religion totally out of government.

Sounds about right, wouldn't you say?



America's Greatest Shame.

Gitmo.  Guantanamo Bay.  Also known as GTMO and the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp.  Wikipedia says this about it, in part:
Guantanamo Bay Naval Base (also called Gitmo or GTMO by the U.S. Army, U.S. Marines, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, and U.S. Coast Guard personnel stationed there[1]) is located on 45 square miles (120 km2) of land and water at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, which the United States leased for use as a coaling and naval station in the Cuban–American Treaty of 1903. The base is on the shore of Guantánamo Bay at the southeastern end of Cuba. It is the oldest overseas U.S. Naval Base, and the only U.S. military installation in a country with whom the United States has no diplomatic relations.
It speaks about the Detention Camp thusly:
In the last quarter of the 20th century, the base was used to house Cuban and Haitian refugees intercepted on the high seas. In the early 1990s, it held refugees who fled Haiti after military forces overthrew president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. These refugees were held in a detainment area called Camp Bulkeley until United States district court Judge Sterling Johnson, Jr. declared the camp unconstitutional on 8 June 1993. This decision was later vacated. The last Haitian migrants departed Guantanamo on 1 November 1995. 

The Migrant Operations Center on Guantanamo typically keeps fewer than 30 people interdicted at sea in the Caribbean region. 

Beginning in 2002, a small portion of the base was used to detain several hundred alleged combatants at Camp Delta, Camp Echo, Camp Iguana, and the now-closed Camp X-Ray. The US military has alleged without formal charge that some of these detainees are linked to al-Qaeda or the Taliban. In litigation regarding the availability of fundamental rights to those imprisoned at the base, the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that the detainees "...have been imprisoned in territory over which the United States exercises exclusive jurisdiction and control."[49] Therefore, the detainees have the fundamental right to due process of law under the Fifth Amendment. A district court has since held that the "Geneva Conventions applied to the Taliban detainees, but not to members of Al-Qaeda terrorist organization."[50] 
 My attention has been redirected to this facility due to the fact of five detainees (members of the Taliban, thus POWs and not terrorists) being swapped for an American serviceman held by the Taliban for five years.

I am not going to relate the history of the detentions there.  The Wikipedia article has enough of that.

Instead, I am going to note, again, that this facility is, in my opinion, ill-advised at the very least, and at the most, probably illegal.  Certainly, our detention of Al Qaeda personnel there without charge for numerous years is unConstitutional and most probably a violation of International Law.

It sure as hell is a direct violation of everything this country is supposed to stand for.  Our Constitution is the legal blueprint for our nation's government.  It contains the powers that we, as the grantors of that power, allow our government to have and wield.  It also contains certain restrictions on power that prevent the government from doing certain things to people under its control.

Let's look at that statement again.  There is nothing in the constitution that restricts those guarantees of freedom from government over-reach to only citizens of this country.  It repeatedly uses the term "The People".

The restrictions are to government power, and are meant to prevent the government from taking certain actions against people.  Like, for instance, the fifth Amendment:
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise

infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of
a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval
forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War
or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same
offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be
compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself,
nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process
of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without
just compensation.
emphasis mine.

Both phrases are being repeatedly and constantly violated in the case of the Al Qaeda prisoners in Gitmo.  Only about five of them have been afforded some form of due process, and a couple of dozen more are supposedly due for some form of prosecution, but to date have not been charged.

Some of them have been held for over ten years.  WITHOUT CHARGE.

There is also nothing in the Constitution that (contrary to the thinking of the Bush Administration) says that those protections stop at the border.  The constitution is as much in full force and effect anywhere the United States Government operates on soil International Law says is American controlled.  Which includes the United States Navel Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Moving on from the strict legalities, this shit is just wrong.  For decades after World War II, the US has fought against human rights violations by other countries around the world.  We have excoriated them in the press and at the United Nations.  We have held our heads up high and berated other countries' governments using names of all kinds for violating human rights.

Rights which WE are violating at this very moment in the camps at Gitmo.

Hypocrites.  WE are hypocrites.  Our government is being supremely hypocritical by keeping these men in detention while holding others to a higher standard.

The fact that the American People are not demanding an end to those violations means that we ourselves are hypocrites.

Shame on us.

It will take decades of hard work and a perfect record to erase this shame.  The amount of work future generations of Americans will have to do to convince the world that we really are better than that is enormous.

We will likely never live this down.

Close Gitmo, Mr. President.  Close the detention camps.  Either charge the bastards or let them go.  But stop violating the very values our country was founded on.  Defy the Republicans and shame them in front of the entire world.

Our reputation demands it.  Human decency, above all, demands it.



Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Time to come clean, or just clean house.

By now, many of you have seen the latest news from Ireland, about the almost 800 bodies of infants and children found in a septic tank on the grounds of one of Ireland's many "mother and child" homes maintained at government expense by the Catholic Church across Ireland during much of the early 20th century.

What you may not understand is that those kids were tossed in without ceremony, without last rites, unwanted in death as they were unwanted in life.  When the site was discovered by accident in 1975, it was re-covered by a new concrete slab, and Catholic prayers were said over it, quickly, by a priest before it was again forgotten and ignored.

Bad enough that women were enslaved by the church at the expense of the theocratic Irish government of the time, forced to work for little or no money, and had their children ripped from their arms simply because they became pregnant out of wedlock.

Bad enough that Catholic priests have, for a length of time unknown to all, sexually molested the children of even their most devout followers, and covered up the facts through Church approved rules and regulations to prevent public discovery of these sad and outrageous actions.

But to discover that the Church in Ireland, at countless homes scattered throughout that long suffering country, was actually killing these children through willful neglect, is simply beyond the pale of what a civilized world should accept.

Now we find that at least at one such home, the children so callously killed through willful neglect were also shamefully tossed into a septic tank like so much human feces.

Was this a common practice?  Were all such children disposed of so casually?  How widespread was this practice?  Are they almost all in unmarked, unsanctified mass graves?

Now, a UK based media outlet has asked those questions, and is demanding accountability.

While I think it is about time this is finally brought to light, I would take it further.

How many other countries have seen similar such homes and similar conditions?  This cannot be a phenomena unique to Ireland.  This was an intrinsic, imbedded and very authorized practice throughout that country, indicating that the Church Fathers (read:  College of Cardinals) not only approved, but allowed it to occur and made it official and part of the Church bureaucracy.

What part of the enslavement of women and the neglectful death of children was covered by the New Testament?  Where are the words of Christ that allowed and approved of the death of children for the sins of their parents?  Where is the justification in the teachings of Christ for this complete and utter failure of the church to stand up for its dogma and it's teachings?

Not to mention the shameful coverup of its crimes by throwing the bodies into a septic tank.

It is beyond time for the world to stand up and demand that the Roman Catholic Church come clean.  Time for it to admit to its crimes, worldwide, and to take real, measured actions to atone for the crimes of its past, by funding the uplifting of the poor of this world through the sale and liquidation of church wealth and property it has accumulated and hoarded for almost two millennia.

Time for an abject apology and real atonement.  Or it's values mean nothing, and it's teachings are mere window dressing for its real goal - collecting and hoarding wealth.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Republicans vs. Vets. and 21st Century Politics

The last week has not been a good one for the Republican Party and their relationship with Vets.

Starting with the Republican refusal to either extend or fund further veteran's benefits (including the refusal to fund 27 more medical facilities), continuing with their open spat with that idiot Congresscritter the other day, and now, ending with Republicans' open vehemence towards the Administration finalizing an agreement with the Taliban to bring home the last POW from Afghanistan, That Grand Old Party is fast moving in the direction of becoming the Grand Old EX-Party as they continue to shoot themselves in the foot, the knee, the nether regions and now straight into their empty, echoing braincase.

How is it that the party whose very self-identification has always been with the military (who they insist can do no wrong) now has put itself into the position of throwing that very military (and Vets) under the bus as they continue their five year long hissy fit over the election of Barrack Hussein Obama?

Have they no shame?  No values?  No morals?

Obviously not, save the one, overriding value of racial hatred towards blacks.  You know, the value they SAY they don't have, but honor exclusively to the exclusion of all others, including patriotism, humanity and common sense.  The one that has turned them into the Party of NO, refusing to give President Obama even the semblance of victory in the most minor of issues, even issues they have no philosophical problems with.

As has been noted before, their brains have apparently been put on hold for the duration of the current Administration's tenure, which is obvious, considering that their actions have alienated the young, the middle aged, every minority group you could imagine,  half of the electorate in the persons of the ladies of our proud nation, public employees of every stripe, including cops, including...

Oh, hell, just say it, everybody in this country who isn't an old, white, Anglo-Saxen, Protestant male.

Trust me, at some point, they'll even manage to piss them off soon, they've already managed to anger the members of that class who are classified as seniors.

No wonder they want to restrict voting!  If they manage to allow anybody in this country who isn't an old, white, Anglo-Saxen, Protestant male Republican to vote, they'll lose.

Frankly, I am seriously beginning to doubt the sanity of the leaders of the Tea Party Movement.  How can they seriously believe that this kind of public tantrum about something they've honored in the past isn't going to alienate even members of their base?  Vets have been a strong contingent of the GOP for decades, and Republicans have had the country fooled into thinking Liberals hated vets for almost as long as I can remember.

But not any more.  They've managed to eviscerate that image in just a few short weeks.

What else can they stand on?   Unless they wake up and begin actually suggesting actual plans and laws to solve this country's problems, there isn't anything.

Once upon a time, politics in this country revolved around two parties debating policy and laws, vying for the citizens' attention and agreement by the manner of that debate.  Yes, it got rancorous, even nasty at times, but you always had two sides to choose from.  (Sometimes three!)

Now, you've got Democrats with real, honest to goodness plans, laws and policies meant to solve America's problems on one side, and on the other side, you've got "We hate that Nigger!"

(Sorry for the trigger word, but it is literally the ONLY one which applies)

The modern Republican Party is the 21st century equivalent of the KKK and its lynching parties, determined to see that the black guy in the White House is never seen as a successful President.

Their voices get more and more shrill as President Obama's last term gets shorter and shorter.  I am NOT going to ask if it can get any worse.

It can.



Friday, May 30, 2014

Picture Friday!

In honor of spring, which gave us another of its beautiful days again today, I shall post some pretty pics of some of the trees and plants in our yard!









I hope you enjoyed them!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day rant

It was originally my intent to talk briefly about Memorial Day and remembering the people who have died in defense of our liberty.

But I have been increasingly discouraged by the increasingly evident lack of true caring on the part of our government and those who run it for maintaining that liberty and I really don't have the stomach right now for fighting that fight.

What happened?

Seven people died in California this week, victims of our patriarchal society and its misogynistic imbedded hostilities towards women.  There may not seem to be much of a connection, but look at it this way.

Our militaristic, macho-manly oriented society demands that the highest calling a man can aspire to is to be a warrior.  Doesn't matter if you are 4'10 and 110 lbs dripping wet.  Being a warrior is the highest possible calling you can have.

Of course, along with that is the "benefit" that women "love" a man in uniform!  The picture is clear, she'll tear your clothes off, IF those clothes are a uniform.  Because you deserve it!  You are macho, manly and risking your life!

Enter the Men's Rights Advocates.  The guys who maintain that men deserve it all.  Nothing should be denied them, especially love, sex and automatic adoration of the fairer sex.

Our society, from the basic separation of the genders by role and custom, demands certain actions, responses and roles of each sex, and woe be unto the individual who crosses the line.  These basic rules are pressed into the minds of our children from early childhood.  We dress them, give them toys and expect them to stick to the assigned roles, depending on the particular plumbing with which they may be equipped.

The thought that any child may not be hardwired to comply with those arbitrary roles doesn't enter into it.  You will get pounded into the hole you should fit in regardless of your shape.

The perpetrator of the massacre in California IS ultimately responsible for his actions, don't get me wrong.  It is still illegal to kill people for displeasing you, no matter how justified your chosen moral code may slant the facts.  But, it should be illegal for people to be enticed into a cult of moral certitude which denigrates and virtually enslaves half of the population to the point where a member of that cult feels entitled to kill people he imagines have insulted and rejected him in a manner which violates the tenets of the cult's imagined rights and benefits.

Society is as guilty here as he is.  This does not reduce his guilt.  It does not reduce the responsibility he has for his actions.  It spreads that responsibility to others, like a plague which infects any who support and encourage such insanity.

Which, if the truth be known, is all of us who fail to make our displeasure and repugnance known to those who try to perpetuate this attitude.  It is time for us all to drive this ugly patriarchal penchant from out of our society.   Educate your daughters to refuse to knuckle under, and educate your SONS so that they are also outraged by misogyny and hatred towards women.

It is fine and admirable to "fight for women's rights".  To fight for women's rights to health care and reproductive freedom.  To fight for equal pay for equal work.

But it is better and more effective to fight AGAINST patriarchy.  To fight those who hate women and perpetuate the culture of misogyny and rape, subjugation and control.

The other stuff will come automatically if we can defeat the misogynists at the core of the problem.

We need to stop treating the symptoms and start working on the real disease - patriarchy and misogyny.

When we do that, we will end the wars and the need for spending more money on defense than the next ten lower spending countries combined, and the need to add more dead vets to the list of those to remember and memorialize.

I can think of no better way to honor those who have fought for our freedom than by doing OUR part in fighting for that freedom and liberty, right here at home.  For all of us.



Sunday, May 18, 2014

As an atheist, are you a hard core extremist, or are you an accomodationist?

Hey, I'm back!  (Sorry, but I was visiting Grandkids - not much time to write with CyberTwins to keep up with!)

Anyway, I was perusing FaceBook this morning briefly, and ran into an argument about how Atheism should act as a movement.  There were two sides - those who argued that the Extremists were too harsh and intolerant and those who were defending the position, with the argument centered around Dawkins.  As in, Dawkins is either a Grade A Number One Dick, or he's the best thing to come along since sliced bread, at least for the Atheist Movement.

While I agree that Dawkins can be acerbic at times (especially when confronting Theist idiots), but in general, he is pretty British in arguing his positions.  Meaning that he can be very polite while tearing you a new asshole.

But he isn't counted as one of the Four Horsemen of Atheism for nothing.  All four - Dawkins, Denning, Harris and Hitchens (may he long be remembered for his cutting wit...) are known as such because they performed a singular function.  They are responsible for awakening the world to the growing number of atheists in this country (and indeed world-wide) by being, in a word, Assholes.

They served the same function as the Gay Pride movement, namely, attracting media attention to our existence and our growing numbers.

High profile, indeed!  They wrote books, gave interviews, went on TV, established web sites, then blogs and have, in general, made themselves into tremendous pains in the ass for influential theist leaders everywhere.  By telling the world that we are here, we are growing in numbers and influence and will NOT go away.  (and by ripping their theology into very small, very insignificant pieces...but that's another discussion.)

And we've got opinions about religion that are in the process of upsetting the balance of power in, especially, the First World.

As for the argument, there is a contingent that argues that being an asshole and intolerant of the beliefs of theists isn't changing minds.  That it is counter-productive because it turns them off and makes them ultra-defensive.

Of course it does.  So did the in-your-face Gay Pride movement.  They paraded around the country in big cities where they had the numbers to defend themselves and got people talking.  They allowed others like themselves in less gay-populated areas to realize that THEY WERE NOT ALONE!  They made the media pay attention.

As time has gone on, the methods used by the Gay Movement have mellowed.  They do still have Gay Pride parades, but you don't see the radical dressed-up outrageously decked out folks in those parades like you used to.  These days, you can hardly (even if you squint) tell them from the regular folks who also march with them in support!

Which is kinda the point - gays are just like us.  They have lives, loves, jobs, dreams and debts.  Just like straights.

So do atheists.

We, too have lives, loves, jobs, dreams and debts.  Heck, walking down the street, one can hardly tell an atheist from a god-lover these days!  Ahem!  Sorry, I digress...

Which is why the Four Horsemen were and are needed - to wake people up.  To show them that we ARE HERE, and we are NOT going away.  We live alongside you, we are in your schools, your grocery stores, your parks, even in your churches!

And the more people see atheists as normal people, who do not eat babies nor worship Satan, the more they will see that we have common interests - like the Separation of Church and State.

Those who are derisively called "accomodationists" ARE needed.  Yes, it is Ok to be tolerant of others' religious beliefs.  Yes, we need to work with theists to bring together this society to push out the extremists of all kinds so we can learn to live together.  So we can build a country (and a world) that is neutral at the governmental level so everybody can hold and discuss opinions different from others.  So we can have political disagreements and discussions that will not result in violence and hatred.

In short, this is a big world, with a lot of different people in it.  Just as there are as many religious opinions as there are people, there is room in our movement for many differing techniques for approaching the theist audience, depending on who they are, and what interests we may have in common.

Instead of bad-mouthing other atheists who don't approach the subject like you do, try to understand who they are trying to reach, and discuss how to make them more effective in that effort.  Discuss how YOU can be more effective in reaching YOUR audience, too.  Try to see how the different approaches can be used effectively together, instead of accusing each other of being hurtful.

We've got billions of people to reach, and we can't reach them all using just one technique.

Cooperation works better than infighting.


Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Here's where the Christian rubber meets the road.

Haven't heard of this guy before today, but Darell Trigg is running - already - for President in 2016, and he's already got a platform.  A Christian platform!  He's running under the Christian Party, naturally.

His platform is simple, really.  Too simple for the good of this country, in my opinion, but he does throw in some bones for some folks - like a raise in pay for teachers and more money for education - of course, since he plans on the public schools taking over for Sunday School.

The highlights:
1. Separation of Church and State will be changed to the Union of Church and State. God will be asked to be an integral part of the government of the U.S.  The national religion of The United States of America will be the Christian religion.
2.  Public Schools – all schools supported by the U.S. Federal and State tax systems.  The Bible will be a standard required subject in all public schools and universities, for all grades , the same as English and Math.
3.  Homosexuality will not be recognized legally, or in any other manner, by the United States government or any state, city, or county government.
4. Public - Traded Corporations.  The income and other compensation,  received by the managers and officers of public - traded corporations will be limited to $300,000 per year.
5.  The income of coaches of sports teams at universities will be limited to $300,000 per year .
6.  The legal drinking age will be increased to 25 for any alcoholic beverage.  Alcohol will not be allowed on university campuses.
7.   Marriage and the family will be protected by draconian new rules.
8.  The rating system for movies and T.V. shows will be drastically overhauled.  No show or movie will be allowed on T.V. systems or computer systems accessible by homes that contain nudity, strong sexual content, excessive foul language, blasphemy, or any form of homosexuality.
9.  Abortion will only be legal in situations where the child has a small probability of living and the pregnancy is placing the life of the mother in extreme risk.
10.  Industries in the United States ( U.S.)  that have suffered from foreign competition with much lower labor pay rates, lower employee compensation costs, and lower environmental compliance costs will be assisted and protected. Assistance will include financial help in building or refurbishing manufacturing plants and training employees and low capital gains taxes. Protection will include tariffs on imported goods in order to establish a market fair for these U.S. industries. These tariffs will be used to help prevent inflation on these manufactured goods.
11.  The Welfare Department will be overhauled. This overhaul will include training welfare recipients for jobs that match their abilities. The financial responsibilities of caring for children of mothers who are not married will be shared by the father .
12. The insurance and medical system of the U.S. will be overhauled. Employers will be required to provide insurance for their employees. The costs of medical services and pharmaceuticals will be reviewed. These will be offered at a fair price without excessive profit for the providers.
13. Illegal immigration laws will be enforced . Laws will be passed to assist this enforcement.
14. Several laws will be reviewed, including several statute -of-limitations.
15. Marijuana will not be legal  except for medicinal purposes.

 Any bets about how long after the implementation of these measures it takes the economy of the US - and the First World - to simply collapse?

Of course, due to his item # 4 and his limitation of compensation to Corporate officers, there isn't a snowball's chance in hell that this guy will win anything more than public ridicule and laughter.  The Oligarchs won't stand for it.

But this is a clear and open look at the goals and aspirations of the Dominionist movement and what they want to do with this country.

You fail to take them seriously at our mutual peril.