Thursday, April 17, 2014

Nevada is not the new Concord or Lexington.

Everybody's talking about that rancher in Nevada, whose name I will not repeat, just to avoid giving him any more notoriety.

The guys I want to talk about are the militia nuts who came from other States to support him, and the political theories they are espousing in that support.

Now, these militia folk are real big on the Second Amendment.  They've gotten some support from SCOTUS in their contention that an individual has a right to bear arms for his or her own purposes, which were outlined as protection, hunting or recreation.  I've read that ruling, and a remarkable omission I've noticed is any mention of armed insurrection against the United States Government!  I'd guess that the Supreme Court Justices are kinda opposed to a group of angry, armed citizens bursting into their courtroom disturbing the proceedings.  I mean, a guy stood up - unarmed, I might add - and disrupted things a while back and got whacked with time served for contempt of court.  Plus banned from the court grounds for a period of time, like 90 days or something.  I'd bet adding guns to that mix might increase your chances of a longer jail time somewhere like Ft. Leavenworth in sunny Kansas, instead of a local jail in D.C.!!

In short, those milita nuts are, as usual, getting things mixed up.

Our founding documents include two very famous items - the Declaration of Independance and the Constitution of the United States of America.  (I'm gonna give the Articles of Confederation a pass here, since we dumped that one as unworkable after fewer than a dozen years.  So much for States' Rights.)

The militias like to expound on our Second Amendment rights, which they claim give us the right to defend ourselves against an unjust and oppressive government.  They use our Revolution as proof that not only is that why the Founders guaranteed us the right to bear arms, but why success is possible, if not a forgone conclusion.

But, hold yer horses a moment, pardner!  Her puttin' the cart waaaay before the horse here.

The Constitution came later.  First, came the Declaration of Independance.  It was a document that outlined the intent and goal of our revolution and our reasons for revolting against what we acknowledged as the rightful ruler of the America's colonies - the British Crown.  It noted, among other things, our repeated attempts to correct what we saw as intolerable obstructions of our freedoms as British subjects, resulting in our resolve to simply renounce our allegiance to the Crown and set up our own government.

It was a declaration of our intent to revolt and overturn the rightful governing entity of The Colonies, the colonial governors appointed by the British Monarch, King George.

What modern Second Amendment supporters ignore is expressed in that famous cry by a man the British hung for his disloyalty to the Crown, "Give me Liberty, or give me death!"  What he got was death.  They hung his ass about two minutes after he said that.

Which illustrates one thing about that Declaration we rarely note today - one may have the RIGHT to make revolution against an oppressive government - that right does not guarantee you freedom from the consequences of that revolutionary activity.

Another famous quote, this one by a survivor of the Revolution, Ben Franklin, is where he noted the wisdom of "hanging together, lest we hang separately!"  Meaning that our Founders were VERY aware of the consequences of their actions!

Bringing us to Nevada.

The "militia" groups coming to the defense of a man who is in defiance of the law legally promulgated by the Congress and signed by a famous Republican President are very vocal about how they are so bravely defending our freedoms (while one of their members suggests using women and children as shields) but forget conveniently that such actions do have consequences.

Fortunately for them, in this case, the government agency acting (again, legally in this case) to enforce court orders the mooching rancher lost was wise enough to defuse the situation instead of trying to arrest people it had every right to move against.

The next time, it may not be so lenient.

Taking up arms against your government may be your right, but the Constitution you so vociferously seem to worship also gives your government the right to shoot your silly ass for doing it!

You are not patriots, you are insurrectionists, and insurrectionists are fighting a government I spent over forty years supporting, defending and working for.  You do not have my respect, nor do you have my support.

You are defending a man who is a member of the top probably 2% of the wealthy of this country, and you are defending him for breaking the law and literally stealing from your government.  His interests are not yours, nor does he give a shit about you.  He will sit comfortably in his living room, watching your sorry asses get shot off on TV, while he and his lawyer disassociate themselves from you so they don't get legally involved with your ill-advised insurrection.

That is, if the government isn't so lenient on your undeserving butt the next time.

The more likely event will be that the BLM will wait till this blows over, and quietly round up his cattle the next time without the media attention and without prior notice, while waiting to jail his ass when he tries to stop them himself.

Thereby saving you from yourself.

Insurrection ain't pretty.  Revolutions are expensive, and require that a very substantial percentage of the population support you.  A majority of the American people do not support the modern milita movement, they are considered crazy gun nuts.

Most of us support the government blowing their silly butts away the next time.  It's a shame they don't understand that Americans do NOT admire men who use women and children as human shields.

Instead, we despise them, and consider them to be the cowards they are.  Believe me, there will never be a USS Bundy like there was a USS Lexington.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Two income families should be terrified of the Republican Party!

Why would I say that?  Why, when a fair percentage of those families are themselves supporters of the Republican Party?

I say it because the result of the Republicans' War on Women ongoing as we speak will inevitably result in the loss of women's rights.

All of them.

I kid you not.  Currently, Republicans are rapidly destroying the Supreme Court-assured rights to abortion.  While the Government sits by and does nothing.

They are talking about destroying your rights to contraception.  They are talking about destroying your rights to employer provided health care insurance.

They are fighting, tooth and nail, the push to ensure the rights of women to equal pay for equal work.

It is a small step from that to forcing women to stay home and from there to destroying your rights to even owning property.

Back to the eighteenth century, when a women could not own property, could not vote, could not (except for certain highly restricted jobs) work outside of the home, even if alone and single with no family.  You were forced to be the ward of either family members who were male or a ward of the state, who could take your property and force you to live anywhere, even on the streets.

All of this with no regard for any children she may be responsible for, male or female.

Have you ever seen Charles Dickens's "A Christmas Carol"?  Remember the abject poverty depicted there?  Just about any story of the country of England from the advent of the Industrial revolution until early in the 20th century will show some aspect of that country's poverty-stricken lower classes.

People living on the streets with no shelter, no income, rags for clothing, living in a city and country in which there were few of any soup kitchens, or free shelters, or health care of any kind.

Pretty much like many American cities of today, in fact, with the major difference that there does exist, until now, some forms of government provided assistance intended to keep families off the streets.  At least until the Republicans get themselves elected to a majority of the Senate to match their control of the House and put a Republican puppet of the Oligarchs in the White House.

At which time any assistance programs will cease to exist, public education will no longer be provided, consumer protection of any kind will be gutted if not destroyed, and any control by the government of any activity taken by Corporations will either cease to be effective, or will be ended altogether.

It won't take long before women will be prevented from working at all, and families that depend on their income will find themselves on the streets in very short order, their property taken, their ability to work completely destroyed.

Don't ask what that will do to single women, married lesbian couples or even widows.

I know this paints a terrifying picture, and a lot of folks will take one look and exclaim, "That can't happen here!"

But it can.  I never thought that a woman would be brought up on murder charges for having a miscarriage, but it has happened.  I never thought that a woman who simply fired a warning shot (in a "Stand Your Ground State!) would get tried for attempted murder and threatened with 60 years in prison, but that trial is ongoing as we speak.

How far could we be from complete destruction of every progressive advance in civilized legal rights this country has seen since 1776?  It isn't as far as you'd think, should Republicans win control of our government.

I mean, look at Louisiana - which has advanced a bill to make the Bible the STATE BOOK.

In complete defiance of the Constitution, as written.

Do you think for a moment that they would pay any attention to the rest of that document once they win control?

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Take the dare.

I have a question I've asked Christians online for a number of years now.  I'm going to pose it to you, my gentle readers, again, below.  But first, a bit of background.

There are, according to Wikipedia, over 41,000 different denominations of Christianity.

Considering that the one original source of all we know about that religion is a single compilation of documents (The Bible), one could say that this number is pretty incredible, since the Bible is supposed to be the Word of God.  You'd think the Creator Of All There Is could at least provide an single easily discerned set of instructions for what he wants us to know about him and how he expects us to behave, wouldn't you?

I think, when the Catholic Church got its chance at fame and fortune upon its selection by Constantine as the one and only State Religion for the Roman Empire, that was probably the general idea.  The way they started off eliminating everything that smacked of "pagan" religions (the former State Religions worshiping Zeus & Company), you'd think they seemed a bit serious about that!

But as such things usually are, it wasn't quite that simple.

There were churches in Alexandria, Egypt that didn't answer to the infant church's call, as well as in Eastern Europe, Turkey and other parts east.  As the nascent RCC compiled documents in readiness for canonization into what would become the bible, these other churches were doing the same thing.

The result was, essentially, more than one version of the bible.  Some had more books, some had fewer, and no two had the same list.

The result was a miss-mash of belief and theology that has never been resolved to this day.

Some denominations hold that salvation is by the Grace of God.  Others by Good Works.  Others hold out for a combination, and at least one major group insists on Predestination.

All from what is supposed to be ONE book.  Or, more correctly, one compilation of documents.

The Bible was supposed to be the one place to go to standardize Christian belief.  All doctrine and theology stems from that compilation - supposedly.  Originally, the bible, as canonized, was printed in Latin.  Priests were taught Latin, and it was also used as a message cypher.  It was, at one time, illegal and against church law to translate it to any local languages.  The Mass was spoken in Latin.

Priests were there to interpret the Scripture for their flocks, to tell them what it meant, and what they were to believe.  It was all very authoritarian, for a number of centuries.

Thus was born Theology, to settle, within the church, just what that message was to be, so the myriads of priests would have a standard message so things wouldn't get mixed up.  Of course, as such things do, it became a major career within the church, as after a few hundred years, all of the stuff written got so voluminous it took decades to learn it all and become an expert in church theology.

Talk about job security!

Of course, the Reformation came along, and Protestantism flourished, as did Theology.  Lots and lots of churchmen had to flesh out the NEW theology, and a lack of authority from Rome meant that people were free (within bounds for a while) to think up their OWN interpretation of the Bible's message.

Now, in the United States, we have the Constitution, which guarantees every person the right to worship as he/she wishes.  Which is why we now have over 41,000 different flavors of just Christianity alone.  Every Tom, Dick, and Harriett can start his/her own church based on what their interpretation of just a single verse of the bible might be.

Confusing, huh?

So, let's keep it simple.  Let's toss out eighteen hundred years of Theology and start over.

YOU are the guy responsible for sorting out the many and varied documents used at one time or another by all the churches within your sect's area of authority into some form of a compilation in order to standardize the teachings and doctrine of your church.  So your priests can have a simple, easily articulated message for a simple, uneducated flock all over Europe.

The documents you have are all over two hundred and fifty years old.  Nobody alive has ever spoken to or read anything by a witness to Christ's life or death.  With a few exceptions, most of the documents you've got were written by different authors, at different times, often as far apart as two hundred years in time, and geographically diverse as well.  Different audiences, different goals, different attitudes about Christ and his message.  None of them are known to you, although a few do claim to be written by a named author.  Most are not notated for authorship.

All of them are claimed by the churches who use them to be authentically authored by early church fathers, and have a reputation for being the documents that informed and helped found those churches.  So, politically, you cannot ignore many of them.  Others are considered sacred by your own group, so your bosses insist on the inclusion of quite a few.

What do you do?  You examine the documents and for many, you've got to punt - they contain stuff intolerable to your group.   So out they go.

Others may have contradictory stuff in them, but you cannot ignore the people who support them, so in they go.

In the end, you have your compilation.  Nobody's happy with it, but it satisfies enough so that when the Council sits in judgement of your work, it is accepted, canonized, and made the Holy Writ of the church of God.

Fast forward over a thousand years.

NOW you are one of a group of people who have rebelled against the RCC, and now your job is to examine that book and differentiate your group from the RCC.

Here's the question;

By what criteria do you decide?  

What do you accept as authentically the word of God and what can you safely ignore?  There has to be some measure by which you will examine that compilation of documents, verse by verse, and make a decision as to which verses are a good guide to your flocks and which are not.

How do you know?

Good Works?  Grace of God?  Predestination?

Do you accept the long ending of Mark from which the Snake Handlers of Appalachia get their inspiration?  Or is it something that can be safely ignored?

Will your denomination focus on Jesus' loving message of helping the poor, or will you instead focus on the verses that intreat you to be God's Warriors?  Will you hate the Gays, or just overlook that unfortunate couple of passages, since they are in the Old Testament?

How.  Do.  You.  Know?

Think about that.  This is important if you subscribe to the doctrine that people have souls that are immortal.  Upon your decision will rest the fate of not only every member of your flock (as well as yourself and your family) but every member of your flock for centuries to come!  Your decision will impact where their souls will go - to heaven or hell?

This is not an easy decision.  At one time or another, over 41,000 people have gone through that same process and made their decisions, resulting in at least that many denominations with often quite different interpretations of the Bible, which by now has as many translations as Carter has little liver pills.

Additionally, now that the Internet is here, and millions of people are now simply looking at that same book and just walking away, you are no longer bound by a doctrinally authoritarian religious order which can burn you at the stake for being a heretic.

You can, in short, read that book and make up your own mind what is right and what is not.

So, here's the same question to you.

How do YOU know?  Today, right now.  What is it, to you that makes one verse doctrinal and another one not?  IS it an abomination to be gay?  Has God already made up his mind who is going to heaven and who isn't? (Predetermination.)  Or do you have to be of Good Works to make it into heaven?  Or maybe just by the Grace of God you'll get to go?

How.  Do.  You.  Know?

Have you even read the whole bible?  I don't mean the parts your church leaders would have you read, but ALL of it?  You'll have to, if you mean to be an informed Christian.  and don't cheat.  Put away the study guides that tell you what stuff means.

Figure it out for yourself.  Pretend you are the guys deciding what goes in and what doesn't.  Decide on your own criteria, and not some mumbo-jumbo theology stuff coming out of some guidebook.

This is YOUR soul, if such exists, and it is your responsibility to see that you do your religion right.

Not some theologian's.  He's not the one going to hell if he gets it wrong.

You will.

Unless, of course, you end up seeing through the endless contradictions, mistakes and outright outdated material and decide that none of it makes any sense.  Millions of us already have, and many of us did it by reading the bible.

Take the dare.  After all, even if the bible is right, you still only get one chance down here.

Monday, April 07, 2014

It's enough to make a grownup cry.

There are some famous (or infamous, if you please) names associated with cults in this country.

Charles Manson.  David Koresh.  Jim Jones.  I'm sure I could Google that and come up with a dozen more if I wished.  All of them dangerous, all of them, once exposed, horrified the average citizen with what a cult could make a perfectly normal person do once under the influence of the cult's leader.  They made us wonder why people would put up with the things they were forced to do.  In fact, many of the people once under the influence of a cult would tell you they were seldom actually forced to do anything, but did what they were expected to do voluntarily.

There are studies that explain the psychological reasons why people do those things and fall under the influence of cult leaders.  I'm sure they are mostly done well and are most probably adequately peer reviewed, too.

But I've got another point of view.

You'll notice that most cults are religious in nature - that is, they begin as a group that seems to worship in accordance with an established religion - or at least one that has an attraction to a certain kind of person.  Some are often counter-cultural.

Some are nationalistic.  Take North Korea, for instance.  There, an entire family has been the subject of what has become a religion.

First, a disclaimer.  I am NOT a Sociologist.  I'm not a psychiatrist nor a psychologist.  This is merely my opinion, and not the result of any professional study or theories.

Got it?  Just my not-so-humble opinion.  (Hey, I'm a blogger - we don't DO humble!)

It's religion.

A majority of people across this wide wonderful world we have profess a belief in one religion or another.  Christianity, Islam, Judaism.  Hinduism.  Jainism.  Buddhism.  There are thousands of local versions of these and other, older religions held by indigenous people all over the globe.  I'm sure I missed a hundred other 'minor' religions too.  There's a web site that professes to list as many gods as we can claim to know about, including those historically known but no longer worshipped.  Some eight thousand, the last time I looked.

Every single one has one thing in common with all the others.  They all are included in a theology that includes elements which one can only confirm by dying.  Which, as we all know, is a one way street.  Or, well, MOST of us know that - some folks have a belief that one can go around multiple times.

With, I might add, not much proof.

Which, in the greater scheme of things, makes a belief in the supernatural a perfectly normal state of mind.

Think about that.  No matter what you, personally, believe, there is a very large chunk of humanity that, in your mind, believes in superstitious bunk.  Richard Dawkins has a point he makes about that.  He notes, fairly accurately, I think, that the only difference between a religious believer and an atheist is the belief in just one god.

To those of us who are atheist, the rest of you are delusional, to be moderately nice about it.

To you, WE are the delusional ones, even worse than the other folks who believe in the wrong god.

Which, in the greater scheme of things, means that your belief, and the propensity of every other theist on this Earth, allows the very dangerous cultists to exist under the protective coloration of religion. Since they profess to have actually founded a religion, at least in this country, they are allowed to be protected and can operate with the protection of the law, so long as they do not violate weapons laws or something similar.

Even if they coerce their members to give their possessions to the cult.  Even if they are coerced by the cult to give up even their women to the leader to do with as he wishes.  Even if their daily practices are bizarre and strange and psychotic, as long as they don't stray into illegal territory like child molestation or stockpiling illegal weapons, they will get away with it.

Because, you see, religion is NORMAL.  To believe in a supernatural being, no matter how strange in its demands upon its adherents, no matter how bizarre its rituals, somehow, simply the fact that it is tagged a religion puts it Off Limits to scrutiny or criticism.

Yes, I know, all those others are kooks.  And the ones of your religion who are more extremist or more liberal aren't TRUE members of your religion, are they?

If that's your attitude, Google the phrase "No True Scotsman".  Here, I'll do it for you!

That brings back 4,200,000 results.  Go read some of it, the first is, predictably, Wikipedia.

As a defense that is, frankly, bullshit.  Exactly the same thing can be said about YOU by the other guy, because HE interprets your holy scriptures differently, and in HIS mind, it is YOU that is crazy and reading it all wrong.

To me, you are both crazy.

You are because your belief in a supernatural being (no matter how real to you) allows every other normal human being to engage in the same exercise, with predictably different results that allow them to claim everybody else is the crazy one.

And everybody thinks this is normal.

The truly sad thing is that it IS normal.  To think that over six billion human beings see as normal that one can believe in a non-material, invisible being who can, nevertheless, affect the normal material world, and can, if enough devotion is displayed, be persuaded by the prayers of billions of us to do a trillion contradictory things.

All at once.

This species has a lot of growing up to do.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Whose line is it, anyway? (The streetlight!!)

Ok, ok, this isn't a post about streetlights.  Mostly.  Well, it starts out with a streetlight.

Some of you may remember my youngest Cyberdaughter of Poopsoap fame.  You know, guest post from last year?  Cat - poop - soap?  It was called Passing Through Gethsemane.

Well,  It seems that a while back a streetlight in front of her apartment went out.  Dark, dead.  Every time she left, she groused about the stupid streetlight being out, but figured that somebody else would call.  But as the days passed, it didn't get fixed.  So, she asked a neighbor if he'd called.

Nope, he hadn't.  So, they groused some more and it still didn't get fixed.  So, she asked another neighbor (there were four apartments affected by the darkness) and no, they hadn't called either.

So, finally, she bugged the first neighbor, who agreed to call.  Nothing, it remained dark.  So, she bugged another neighbor, who also agreed to call.

Still nothing.

So, she bugged another one, who called, and lo and behold, the next day, it got fixed.

No, she never called it in herself.  It may have taken three out of the four apartments to call for repairs in order for it to get fixed, but nobody called until they talked to each other and realized that NOBODY had called, and for two weeks, this light remained dark because all four of them thought somebody else would call.

So, that begs the question - whose line is it, anyway?  Whose JOB is it?


It's yours.  It's mine.  It's all of us.  Everybody.

This country is founded - the government is organized - around a Constitution.  That document is an agreement.  An agreement between every citizen of this country about how to organize and empower a government to carry out those functions that we all can agree should be carried out by that entity.  It is provided with an amendment process so that each generation can change aspects of that document that have become dated, or unnecessary or simply unable to meet expectations for the new times and culture in which that generation finds itself.  Or, additions to deal with new conditions or technology that changes our culture and our lives.

Like streetlights.

Our Founders even said that was the intent.  They EXPECTED us to make those changes when we think it is needed.  They expected us to get involved in politics to show our elected legislators how we want this country run.

But that takes organizing.  It takes people who are willing to step up and get involved.  People who will take responsibility.

Like in the streetlight story, somebody has to make the call.  We can't all sit around on our collective asses and wait for somebody else to do it.  We can't, because if we do, the person who does may not have the same ideas as us about how to approach the new problems or may have the intent to change something we thought had already been settled - like women's rights.  Or contraception.

Or even the right to protest.

National polls and studies have shown that the demographics of this country are undergoing a huge change.  America is getting more liberal in its thinking.  The way marriage equality has advanced is a good example of that in action.

But you wouldn't know it by the results of the 2010 mid-term elections.  Republicans turned out in sufficient numbers to gain control of the House and pare down the majority enjoyed by Democrats in the Senate.  Republicans enjoyed massive gains all across the US at the State level, and have been using those gains ever since to wage a literal legislative war on women's rights and the rights of both minorities and women at the ballot box.

They did it because the Democratic base stayed home.  Nobody made the call.  We all assumed somebody else had our backs, and we got absolutely steamrolled by a more organized right wing.

If each of us don't stand up, register to vote, and actually Go TO THE POLLS and vote, it'll happen again in 2014 and again in 2016.

EVERY vote counts.  Yours, mine, your neighbor's, your grandmother's, as well as the nasty asshole down the street.  There have been Presidential elections in the past which turned on just a few votes in a few precincts in just one or two States.  History, as a result, rested on how just a few Americans voted.

Will Republicans be able to regain control of the Senate and the White House if YOU sit on your ass at home and don't vote?  It could very easily happen.

Check the law in your State.  Make sure that you are properly registered to vote.  Be sure that if your State is one of the Republican dominated ones that enacted laws requiring an ID and (like Texas) require that ID to match the name on your voter registration card, BE SURE that it does.  If it doesn't, take steps to ensure that you have corrected that problem before the election.

Then, on election day, get out there and vote.  Stand in line, and do so for as long as it takes.  Make sure that you follow the rules so that your ballot isn't spoiled or incorrectly filled out and it will count.  In short, be an informed and active citizen who is aware of the issues and is ready to actively participate in the electoral process in your city and State as well as nationally.

Remember, as Robert Heinlein noted through one of his characters, there may not be anyone on the ballot you want to vote FOR, but most assuredly, there will be someone or something you want to vote AGAINST.  If you don't vote, you've got no reason to bitch about the results.

Just get out there and make that vote count.  I damn sure will.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Some page stats

This isn't the highest viewed page by a long shot.  Much of my traffic is fueled by Facebook, but it also comes in from other places too.  Some of it even comes from countries other than the United States!

Here's a graph of the traffic sources over the last week:

United States
Czech Republic
United Kingdom

Hello to my world-wide audience!

I hope you enjoy my posts, and I'd like to invite you to post your comments here on what you read.  Do you agree?  Disagree?  Do you have a different perspective based on the different culture you come from as opposed to the one I live in?

As I have a wife from Germany, I am aware of the different ways other cultures can look at the US.  I'd love to see your comments and views here!  The more the merrier!

And thanks for reading...

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Violence Against Women and Girls.

No matter what you thought of President Jimmy Carter she he was in office, there is little doubt that he is one of the most active Presidents in recent history, having gotten involved in human rights, helping the homeless, various diplomatic ventures at the request of sitting Presidents, and so forth.

His latest venture, and one he recently called his greatest and most important venture in an interview on Public TV today, is all about the prevention of violence against and the advancement of the rights of women worldwide.

He cited some amazing statistics.

Worldwide, over 800,000 women and girls are traded as slaves internationally.
In the US, over 600,000 women and girls are traded as sex slaves.
in this generation, over 60 million female babies have been killed, other in abortions or as born babies, because their parents wanted a boy.  Most of those in either China or India.

There was more, but I got kind of overloaded at that point.

He is promoting a new book of his, just released, entitled, ""A Call To Action", which urges the end of discrimination and abuse against women, calling it the number one challenge in the world today. The book builds on the work of faith leaders and courageous human rights defenders who met last summer at The Carter Center to mobilize faith groups worldwide to commit to advancing women's rights. Religion, they said, should be a force for equality and human dignity not oppression.

Obviously, I disagree with them on that point - while it should, it rarely is, and I think the ones who are implicitly involved in oppressing women aren't likely to join any efforts in bringing their activities to a halt.

There is no doubt he is correct, and this country is one of the worse of the First World industrialized nations in the oppression business.  It is also getting worse, as the Republican Party does everything it can to make it worse.

Go visit the links.  One is to the website of The Carter Center, where the book and the subject it is written about are detailed, and the other is the amazon page where you can buy it, right now.

I fully support his efforts, as I am appalled every single time I read about this subject and remember how hard the Republicans in this country are working to set women's rights back as far as they can.

I will add my own point as well.  You know what is coming, don't you?

While I applaud his efforts to involve religious groups in this, and it is obviously the fastest way to get established groups actively involved, I am somewhat disappointed that he seems to have left out secular movements or simply groups which have no religious affiliations.

Obviously, I believe that religion is the prime mover in the oppression of women. As his page noted briefly, religions do employ specific texts in their holy books to justify such oppression, and the ones who do such are not likely to join his efforts, and will, in fact, do everything they can to resist.  It is valuable for him to try to enlist the more liberal religious groups in his efforts, as they can employ their own theological counterpoints in fighting this terrible scourge, but I see it as a temporary fix.  These efforts will not bear widely recognized fruit until religion worldwide begins to be pushed back and denied the political influence to continue this oppression.

Nevertheless, to have as public and as widely respected (worldwide!) figure as Jimmy Carter get behind this issue and begin to push for progress is impressive indeed, and very, very welcome!

As many people as possible need to get on board with this.  Women everywhere need to begin to push back.  Push against governments, push against churches, push against the politicians who back this backwards agenda of oppressive nonsense.

And don't let up.

I am human, hear me roar!

The photo you are about to see (or probably noticed already) was posted to Facebook this morning.  It sparked the desire in me to reply.

One of the mainstays of the Christian Proselytizer is to prey on the vulnerable.  The weak, the insecure, the ones who are hurting from some times years of failures or defeats in life.  Many times, those who have lost loved ones.

My answer to these apologist pleas:

Of course you stumble through life, you are human.  Life doesn't come with an owner's manual.  All of us are just doing the best we can.  If you look around and try a bit of self help reading, there are plenty of folks who can and do give out some very good advice about how to get ahead.  Go to your library, they're free.

The best advice you'll hear?  Get a plan.  Not someone else's plan, not a plan based on superstition, but one personalized to you and your circumstances.  Don't sit and whine about how you've been victimized, get out there and take action!  Prayer isn't action, it's a self-directed pity party.

Get off your ass and find help.

Professing weakness isn't a strength.  It's is an apologetic argument to pull you into surrendering your hard earned money and time to a community that needs the compiled time and money of others like you so it can keep on pulling in others..... Over and over and over again.

Professing failure is much the same.

Being weak and failing isn't something to be ashamed about, and it isn't a reason to seek imaginary help.  All human beings are, at one point or another, weak and fail.  We all have our strong points, too.  This apologetic argument plays to your weaknesses to pull you in.  What you need to do for yourself is to recognize your strong points and plan around them for a way forward in your life.

Misery loves company, don't fall for the oldest line in the book!

Oh, the sting of pain!  Look, all of us have at one point or another, lost a loved one, or a pet, or a job, or a best friend.  It's called living.  At some point, we'll all lose our parents.  Don't get me wrong, I am not trying to say its easy.  It isn't.  Living is hard.

There's an old joke, it says, you come into this life cold, naked and hungry, then it gets worse!

It isn't a joke, for millions of kids, it is a cold hard fact.  You think you've got it hard?

Millions of kids a year die of starvation, disease and neglect.  Many of them are already orphans when they die - they've already lost their parents to either violence or disease.  That is the reality for many third world countries.  Warfare, violence, starvation, disease, it is all in a day's living.

If you live in this country or another First World country, you've already got it good - automatically!  (With the exception of being one of millions of families living with incomes under the poverty line.  Even then, there are advantages of living here instead of someplace like, say, Somalia. Like a lack of civil war, for instance.)

But you know what?  It really isn't that bad.  There are billions of people on this planet, and the vast majority of them will live their lives in good health, find a mate, have kids and live what is to them a decent existence according to their culture's values of what a decent life should be.

The pessimism exhibited in the Christian Apologist's attempts to hook you and pull you in (fishers of men, right?) is misplaced.

Human beings are strong!  We live through and survive starvation, warfare, personal violence, the death of loved ones and often, institutionalized discrimination and oppression.  Humans get raped, beaten, stabbed, and attacked in an amazing variety of ways, yet still come out swinging.  We endure disease, injury, heartache, political oppression, personal insult and oppression, yet still, somehow, we  continue to live our lives and often prosper.

Every human has the ability to be strong.  We all are born with the strength to grow, learn, and be a positive influence in the society in which we live.  The trick is in how we respond to those indignities and travails that we are exposed to.

You can either allow yourself to be cowed and held down, or you can stand back up, look misfortune in the eye, and spit therein, with feeling!  You don't need outside help, you just need to look inside yourself - we are all born with that strength, we just have to find it.

Facebook is often rife with postings about sick kids, vets who have lost limbs, and others who have had misfortune visit them with disasterous results.  But they are still alive!  They persevere, struggle and push forwards.

How?  By dipping into that internal reservoir of strength all humans possess.  God doesn't grow limbs back.  Prayer doesn't work that way.  As a matter of fact, scientific studies have shown it has no affect at all on the recovery rates of people who are ill or injured.

What does?  Human interactions, human support.  If you've no family or friends, your doctor can help you find a support group.  Many hospitals have access to such groups, or you can google for groups in your area. 

The most important thing I can tell you is that in situations where one needs some support, the first action that has to happen is for YOU to reach out.  It takes YOU to make the first move, and to follow through.  Nobody is going to do it for you.

The most important person in your life is you.  Just you.  You have to get to know yourself, what you want, what your weaknesses are and what your strengths are.  What makes you happy?  What doesn't?  Find those things and make a plan.

Take that plan and DO IT!!  If things don't work out, find out what went wrong and make changes, then act on the changes.  Make friends, network yourself into groups that have interests similar to yours.

Most importantly, REACH OUT!  Nobody is going to knock on your door first, unless they want something from you!

This is the essence of humanism.  In order for the world to work, it takes people, networked into a tightly woven web of family, professional contacts, friends, neighbors, social contacts, and acquaintances.  All of us have to agree to do the best we can to foster those contacts in the best, friendliest and most productive ways possible, with the mutual value of working towards the greater good of society as a whole.

The first step is for the individual, you and I, individually and together, to make the first move and to do our best to make it work.

No gods needed.  Just people, working together for the common good, and helping each other in our own quest for the best each of us can be.  

We don't do that by encouraging each other to profess and exclaim our weaknesses.  That's apologetics, and it is an insidious part of an age old plan to draw in the weak and the insecure.

You're human, you don't need to be weak.  You are strong, let the universe hear you roar!

Friday, March 21, 2014

We are better than this.

Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps died the other day.

Since the word he was near death came out a few days before that, numerous posts on Facebook were published, some excoriating him, and others taking a more measured approach.  I saw one taking a very reasonable approach, refusing to say anything bad about him, and merely expressing sympathy for his family.

Needless to say, the comments were mixed, but largely tilted towards expressing a real hatred for the man.  Some bordered on the truly extreme end of the spectrum, even going so far as to use some very regrettable language.  There were a few echoing the more reasonable approach, though.

Come on, folks, aren't we better than that?  We are supposed to be skeptical, reasonable, and open to a better moral compass, informed by that which is better for the larger social group.  Hatred, people, is not better for the welfare of the larger social group.  It is corrosive and lowers the level of discourse, and truly puts us on the same level with the hatred the man founded and expressed publicly.

Is that how we wish to be seen?  Really?

Yes, eventually, his hatred came back and bit him on the ass, as he got tossed out by his own people, ironically, for trying to dial back the enthusiasm his own followers brought to his teachings!  There is, I think, a lesson there for anybody who tries to use hatred and the darker side of human emotions for building an empire.

But is that a reason for us to lower ourselves to his level?  I would argue not.  Our own problem in becoming more accepted by the general American population is to rebrand ourselves from the unfortunate nastiness formerly stuck to us by Christian churches in the past.

That will not be helped by images of atheists expressing hatred for people like him in the same terms (or worse) than Phelps himself used against his self-assigned enemies.  That, my friends, is counter-productive, as it perfectly illustrates us as exactly what theists have tried to paint us as in the past.

We really don't want to reinforce that image.

Much better is an expression of sympathy for his surviving family, no matter what they personally may think of him.  

Let history be the real judge.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

If Humans Aren't Unique.

There is a growing body of evidence to the affect that there are other species of mammal on this earth who may exhibit similar levels of intelligence to humans.  In fact, there are some biologists who investigate life which survives in extreme environments now advancing the thought that intelligence may not always exhibit the same characteristics as ours - that we may not recognize a similarly intelligent species when we see one simply because we won't be able to communicate with it.

Humans have this peculiar trait - we seem to only think someone is as smart as we are if we can talk to them.  Witness someone talking to a foreigner whose voice gets louder and louder as they try to make themselves understood - as if sheer volume helps.  And that's trying to talk to another human!

So, imagine how much harder it is for us to understand that another species is as smart as us if the methods of communication for us and the other species are not compatible - we use sound waves vs. another species using body movement or skin color.

They probably think we are as stupid as we think they are!

Fascinating subject - there is good evidence that dolphins, various species of hominids, elephants, some birds and even whales may also be as intelligent as humans.  We just all have quite different methods of communicating.

This, of course, blows the religious attitude that humans are special - that only humans have souls that are capable of surviving into an afterlife - right outta the water.  What is there to say, if those other species really are as smart as we are, that we are so special that only we can go to heaven?

That others are intelligent as well tells us that no, humans are not the top of the intelligence pyramid, no we are not special, and are, in fact, as the environmentalists have been telling us for decades, just a  small part of an ecology we are rapidly stripping of its ability to keep us alive.

To me, this is a double whammy perfectly illustrating the terrible harm that comes from vast numbers of people believing in superstition.

On one side, the religious belief that we are special and god made this world for us because we are made "in his image" harms us because people will do anything to go to this special place we call heaven.  They see the world through god-colored glasses to justify hurting others to prevent those others from jeopardizing their own chances of going to heaven.

The other side of that whammy is that they see the world as being ours to rape and pillage of everything of value, because not only did god give us "dominion" over the world, but that one day, he'll just come back and fix whatever we screwed up.

Both are short-sighted, both are harmful in numerous ways, and both are blown completely away by the knowledge that we are not the only intelligent species on this planet.

Because, if we are not so special, and there are others as smart as we are, that means that our traditional place at the top is wrong, unethical, and morally bankrupt.  It means that we must, at the very least, take the welfare of all those other intelligent species into account as we use the resources this planet gives us.

At most, it means that we must take the welfare of ALL life on this planet into account.

Which means that we are in for a major re-assessment of how we must live as a species, on this planet and among our fellow travelers on this beautiful blue-green ball we call home.  I've never thought of myself as an environmentalist.  But, I AM a rationalist, and one of my prime directives is that my world-view must change as new information comes to light.

Maybe being an environmentalist isn't such a bad thing to be after all.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Old Testament Insanity

One of the main reasons a lot of Atheists eventually see Christianity as an untenable belief is that there are so many ways to interpret Scripture; eventually, you have to realize that a sane, loving god would really and truly want to spare his children the obvious insanity of interfaith warfare over those details he has failed to sufficiently make clear.

But, really, with over 30,000 different denominations claiming to know what god intended us to read out of that literary mess, the one thing truly missing is clarity.

Nevertheless, there are plenty of religious folks ready, willing, and able to tell the rest of us they DO know the truth, and are also willing to tell us that not only are WE going to hell but in accordance with Old Testament strictures covering the Hebrews' covenant with god, we're going to drag the rest of the country down with us!

Of course, I fail to see how a covenant somebody ELSE made could possibly condemn a country not even imagined by the writers of that covenant, but then, who am I?  Not a theologian, that's for sure!

But I guess that Susanne Atanus, of Niles, Ill., thinks that she is.

Her opinion is that God dictates weather patterns and that tornadoes, autism and dementia are God's punishments for marriage equality and abortion access.  Given the facts that tornadoes are seen all over the world, that both autism and dementia both have been around for quite a long time, and that all three also predate Roe vs. Wade don't seem to faze her computations of divine retribution at all.

But she's not alone, there are plenty of both Republican politicians and Evangelical church leaders who are more than happy to inform the rest of us that if we continue to reject god, he is going to reject this country.

As I noted, above, this is very similar to Old Testament stories about god visiting his wrath on Hebrews who rejected him in spite of his covenant with the Hebrew people, and how the rejection of him by only a few Hebrews was enough for him to punish the entire Hebrew nation.  I know, I know, they'll tell you how god destroyed entire gentile nations for rejecting him, but that's kind of different.

There is a difference between god destroying a foreign, gentile nation that both rejected him and threatened the Hebrews and his punishing the Hebrews for only a fraction of that nation going rogue. One is not punishment, but essentially doing in the Hebrews' enemies.  The other is punishment for breaking what was essentially a contract.

These religious nut bags would have you believe that this country used to be a christian one, and somehow, that constitutes some kind of a covenant with god like the Hebrews had.  Come on, I'm certainly not a theologian, but even I know that's bullshit.  Even if we concede for the sake of argument their claim of a christian founding for the US, that does not constitute a covenant with god. The Hebrews had that because they were his chosen people;  Christians certainly were not god's chosen people, and Jesus never mentioned a covenant.

So, why do these nutbags make such ridiculous claims?

Because their position is the Dominionist position.  That god gave them orders to take Dominion over mankind and that provides the the excuse for them to enforce god's law in doing so.

Somehow, they fail to explain how both they AND the Muslims could possibly have the same marching orders... someone has gotten things mixed up, obviously.

More proof that Dominionists are simply fascists wrapped in the American flag and carrying a christian cross.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Be careful what you ask for.

I posted a quote I got from an email discussion in another venue this evening on Facebook, but I eventually couldn't let it go - I've got to talk about it here and expand it a bit.
"If we give the government the ability to tell us we can't have abortions, we are also giving them the power to tell us when we will have abortions and that opens up more doors that I care to open."
I know that Republicans have, in these last couple of years, lost their ability to discern such simple things as irony or hypocrisy, but for a political party whose defining principle has been a distrust of big government and a desire to see as little interference in private lives as possible, this obsession with abortion over the last several decades has been painful to watch.  It indicates that they almost never have been able to see those faults.

The standard counter that the pro choice crowd uses is that anti-abortion laws violate the integrity of a woman's right to decide the fate of her own body and how she will obtain the health care she decides she needs according to her doctor's advice.  How she will determine the course of her life, without being trapped by the desires and beliefs of others.

I fully endorse that argument.

But it ignores something Republicans themselves have ignored for over forty years.  A subject that otherwise is near and dear to the heart of every Republican - the subject of governmental power and its ability to overpower the rights of the citizens of this country.  Republicans have always felt the need to restrain that power - to keep the government out of our lives and to prevent it from interfering with our personal decisions.

Unless, of course, it is intended to control something else that Republicans feel the need to restrain.

Women.  Women and their unfettered power over themselves, which threatens the traditional power structures of Conservative principles.

Ok, so let's do a short thought experiment.  Suppose for a moment that Republicans win.  (Shudder)  They outlaw abortion in all 50 States and US territories.

Hooray for the Party!  (Hoots and whistles, guns going off into the air, etc.)

Now, let's look carefully at this for a minute.  What have they done?  Yeah, yeah, violated the rights of every woman in America, I know, but what else?  What power have they given the government?  When you restrain the rights of citizens, you allow the government more power.

The argument against abortion hinges on the supposed rights of the fetus to live - that it is human and has a right to life, hence the self-imposed name of the anti-abortion movement.  That principle raises the rights of the fetus to be superior to that of the mother who sustains its life.  She becomes, in the words of the pro-choice movement, a human incubator.

In this case, you give the government the power to place the life of that fetus above that of the mother.  You give the government the power to weigh those two lives and to make a decision on which is more important.

For now, the folks who are against abortion would be happy.  They control the conversation for now, and feel that abortion will be a thing of the past.  The women who may die as a result aren't important, they are just women.


Let's take a trip through time.  It's twenty years down the road.  Republicans have managed to contain abortion completely.  There hasn't been a legal one in decades.  But another worry has increasingly gotten their attention.

In spite of their efforts to restrain the voting rights of minorities, to cut back on programs that "encourage" the dependance of the poor on the government, they have refused to acknowledge that their outlawing of contraceptives has resulted in a massive increase in the numbers of poor minorities.

Things are getting out of hand.

As a last ditch effort to restrain that growth, Congress outlaws minorities from having more than one child and mandates an enforced abortion policy for all minority women who have already borne a single child.

Or, they enforce a one-child policy on people who make less than $100,000 per year.

Or on all Catholics.

Or on all non-evangelical Christians and non-Christians.

Or perhaps just on Hispanics.  Or just blacks.

You get the point.   Once that can of worms has been opened, and the government has that power, HOW they exercise it becomes a measure of what the power elite determine is in THEIR best interests.

Not yours.

Do you get it now?  In Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court ruled that women have the right to abortion.  That the government cannot make the decision for them as to which life - theirs or the fetus' - is more important.  SCOTUS said that the decision belongs to the individual woman.

Not the government.  That is a restraint on governmental power.  That decision protects us all from allowing the government from making the decision as to who may have an abortion or who may not - or who MUST.

Or who is exempt.

How much do you want to bet on who gets the exemptions and who doesn't?

Heads the rich win, tales the rest of us lose.

It's Photo Phriday!

Ok, just for grins, here are some of the many photos I've taken over the years... I thought that as close to spring as it is, most of you are probably as tired of Winter as I am!  (Unless you are south of the equator, of course!)

Monday, March 10, 2014

Once is an accident, twice could be coincidence, three times is probably deliberate...

In the last five years since President Obama was inaugurated, Republicans have been wrong on every single issue they have addressed in both the public eye and in Congress.  They met the day he came into office and agreed to work to make him both a one term President (which failed, miserably) and an unsuccessful one.  (Also a miserable failure.)

In short, and in practice, that means if President Obama is against it, they are for it, and if he is for it, they are against it.  Birthing (pun intended) the joke that all he has to do to rid himself of them is to come out in favor of breathing...

But, as one who has watched this sad soap opera fairly closely, this isn't the first time I've seen and noted that this is such an egregious indication of racial bigotry, it is surprising more people haven't noticed until now.

But I do think some folks may be getting the message.  The President's ratings are going up, ObamaCare is growing in popularity, and more and more folks are noticing that a lot of red States are not playing fair with health care by refusing to extend Medicare, resulting in massive numbers of people lacking insurance in those States.

Healthcare may be the Republican party's undoing.

Just the other day, the Republican dominated House voted for the 50th time to repeal ObamaCare, aka., the ACA.  A bill which will, for the 50th time, die in the Senate.  I hope the Senate has a nice cozy recycling bin for all that wasted paper...

Americans LIKE the ACA.  Millions of people now have affordable insurance for the first time.  Note that term, "affordable".  Not only is it affordable, but the policies have to meet a minimum standard of provided healthcare.

Don't forget the provisions of the ACA requiring the provision of contraceptives, which 98% of American women have used at one time in their lives.  And which Conservatives are madly contesting at every possible turn, filing suit in more than one State trying to overturn on religious grounds.

Win or lose, those lawsuits WILL cause a lot of American women to see the Republicans in a different light.  A much worse light.

Like jobs, healthcare is a subject that hits every American in the paycheck.  There snit a human alive who doesn't, at one point or another, need the attention of a doctor, or at the very least, need the financial assurance that accidental injury will be covered in case of accident.   Even if you are disgustingly healthy and never get sick for a day, you are still subject to the whims of fate and Murphy's Law - accidents do happen.

More and more people are beginning to see the inhumanity of not providing people with affordable health care, especially preventive care.  As Republicans continue to fight the ACA, more people see their efforts as willfully contrary to the welfare of the American people they have sworn (as officeholders) to uphold and protect.  Willfully mean, nasty and just plain ugly.

November can't come soon enough for me, let's get together and throw the bastards out.

Friday, March 07, 2014

It's all about me.

It occurs to me that much of religion is all about me.  No, not me, the Cybernetic Atheist, but the individual 'me' that each of us is primarily concerned with.  

Sure, the Ten Comandments does say to honor your parents, but that's more a control issue than a family thing.  In the Bronze Age Mediterranian, the clan was the important thing.  Not the immediate family, as we know it today.  The clan was headed by a patriarchal figure, always an older male.  Not all of the clan members were necessarily immediate family, many were loosely related, though with some by marriage.

Family was about ownership, not blood.  The male owned his wife and his children, and expected to benefit from the marriages his children produced.

Christianity, like all of the other Mystery religions preceding it, is focused on the fate of the individual, while the Roman and Greek religions were focused on keeping the gods happy and looking anywhere but you and your clan.  There was no code of conduct, the goal was to propitiate the gods.

But Christianity was different.  It focuses on the person, the individual.  The entire purpose of Christ's sacrifice was to take on the sins of each person in the world.  The fate of clans and families wasn't an issue.

It removes our concerns from the national or the community.  It tells us to surrender ourselves and let God take over.  It reassures us that He will provide and protect, and the promise of a return (which, by the way, was supposed to happen during that first generation of Christians, but never did) ensures that one doesn't have to worry about the future.

Thereby removing our concerns from such unimportant issues like pollution, global warming or the alarming rate of animal extinctions.

Somehow, this is supposed to reassure us, as we breathe, eat, and drink polluted air, food, and water chock full of carcinogens and chemicals.

I don't buy it.  Humans evolved to care about the tribe, the community.  We are supposed to gather into family units which work together, live together and provide mutual support, caring and defense.  But our religion teaches us to focus on the next life - for our own selfish benefit.

I know, a lot of Americans cleave to family and clan anyway, as a social culture inherited from the lands our ancestors immigrated from.  But that doesn't stop us from being influenced by that selfishness anyway.

Look at the modern Republican Party.  The newest and loudest ideals it teaches are exactly as selfish as one could wish, teaching that the poor, the downtrodden and the unfortunate are simply parasites to be discarded and scorned.  It takes the selfish themes of religion and magnifies them into a lewd caricature of the actual teachings themselves, twisting and moulding them into something barely recognizable - if not outright contrary to the original.

More proof that evil people will twist anything they can to benefit themselves.  Something religions everywhere are uniquely subject to.

More on that idea later.

Let's look at it another way.

If you haven't read my last post, go back and read it now.   This post is related, so I want it fresh in your mind as you read this.

Got it?  Good, let's get started.

This morning, I read a post over on FreeThought Blogs by Dana Hunter about why she wants to dump Religion.

Good read, huh?

I heartily agree.  My favorite line is where she says, "But without religion, we wouldn’t make our worst ideas, impulses, and mistakes sacred."

I think that is the money quote, right there.

Religion gives us the excuse for being bad while pretending (often even to ourselves) to be good.  That is compounded when we fail to call out those who are doing that when we recognize it.  Remember how I said that if you fail to speak up when you see oppression that you are complicit in the oppression - that you are therefor on the side of the oppressor?  

Yeah, that.

Even the worst of the extremists have to be sensitive to public and peer pressure when their fellow Christians, especially the mainstream religions, stand up and proclaim them to be wrong and acting contrary to God's word.  They might argue theologically, but when the demographics are demonstrated to be going against them - illustrated by a drop in support by those giving money - they will eventually have to back off and take stock of themselves.  Or at least shut up and stop looking like fools.

There are so many problems our society needs to be addressing now that allowing those extremists to distract us by pushing their own agenda is harmful to the country by allowing those unaddressed issues to fester and get worse.  The jobless rate won't fall by itself.  Corporations that see themselves to be above the law won't get reined in and forced to be better citizens without explicit and forceful government action.

And as long as we have religious extremists obstructing every move the government tries to make to address these issues, they get worse, and the extremists get bolder.  They do, after all, claim to have God on their side, right?  See what I mean about religion being harmful?  How we can take the worst possible behavior and make it sacred?  Untouchable?  Something that can't be compromised over?

This is a perfect illustration of my point.

So, what's the solution?  For normal people to get involved.  Stop allowing the extremists to use the name of your religion to push fascist policies that do nothing to solve current economic, financial, and foreign policy problems unrelated to those policies.  Do that by getting involved in politics on the local level and throw out the extremists.

VOTE!!!  Get your family and friends to vote, talk to them, help them to see how damaging the extremists are while they preach fascist political values as if it were real Christian theology.

While they do that, they not only harm the country, but they are giving your religion a bad name and forcing many of your Christian neighbors to want to leave the church because of values they cannot tolerate.  They are contributing to the death of religion in this country.

You may think that it is a bit strange for me to advocate for and predict the eventual end of organized religion while I encourage members of that religion to fight those who are advancing the end of it.  Even as I push for and favor that end myself.

But I do love this country, and I see those extremists as damaging to the very fabric of our society.  I do know that the collapse of organized religion will (and is) causing social unrest and confusion.  In times of rapid social change, that is inevitable, however.  I know that.

But we don't have to allow people to make it worse by obstruction and deliberate sabotage, and I would rather see that collapse be easier and take longer by encouraging people to fight those extremists.  Even if their participation is not helpful to my own agenda.

I like to think that my agenda includes making this country a better place, and if that means religion has to stick around longer because we defeat the extremists, then I can live with that.

In the end, what matters is making this world a better place to be, live in and raise our kids in.

That makes the fight worth it.  Will you help?

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

God is love, right? So, what harm does it do to follow him?

I'm going to deal with a subject tonight that might disturb a few folks.  If it does, I apologize ahead of time.

But I think that my reasoning on this subject needs airing.  I've written tons about the harm that comes from religion.  Much of that is regarding the obvious - pedophiles, sexual predators, extremists pushing intolerance and hatred, bronze age punishments for trivial offenses (or none at all), misogyny, patriarchy, and a dozen other things that most reasonable people can understand why I would label them "harmful".

But my overall position is and has always been that ALL religion is harmful, and a lot of folks find it hard to understand why the more genteel and liberal sects would be similarly labeled.

Allow me to try to explain.

Much of liberal Christianity takes the New Testament (and lots of them use only the New Testament) and tosses out the nasty stuff in the old.  Their bible classes only reflect the verses that talk about how Jesus brought love and caring to the world and emphasize the sacrifice of Jesus, without seeming to demand any sacrifice of his followers.  All of them believe Jesus is the son of God and that he resides beside his Father in heaven, and will return someday to bring that love back to us and banish all evil.

Nicely, of course, with little actual bloodshed.

Their belief in the Crucifixion and Resurrection is not all the same, either - some are pretty ok with the story and others kind of skirt around the actual bloody stuff and get right to the Ascension into heaven.  Believe it or not, a significant but small percentage of Christians do not actually believe in the Resurrection!  I'd bet those are most probably in this group.

I tread carefully here.  I do not want to denigrate the beliefs of those who are often allies in the fight for women's rights, gay rights or the Separation of Church and State in such a way as to burn any bridges.

But I want to explain why I think that even the most benign religious beliefs can be harmful.

Again, a disclaimer - I do not believe that the harm that is caused by this end of the Christian spectrum is intentional.  In fact, most of the harm caused by religion isn't intentional at all for most people.  It is difficult to see the forest when your view is blocked by all the pretty trees!

But there IS harm.  For instance, take one example.  Right now, in this country, there is a huge "culture war" going on, between the more extreme elements of Christianity and more liberal elements of the American population.  Every day, the social media explodes with the news of another extremist Republican/Tea Party politician making another profoundly stupid/ignorant/clueless statement.

I hear tons of my liberal friends, many of them Christian, howling in either laughter or derision over these statements.  Good for them!

But rarely do I see a story in the media about a liberal Christian leader standing up and denouncing these people.  I do not see angry Christians lining up in the streets outside of the churches or offices of these ignorant people demanding retractions.

To repeat a photo meme from Facebook, if you do not denounce and oppose oppression when you see it, you are taking the side of the oppressor.  Or, paraphrasing, if you do not denounce the ignorant, intolerant and hateful speech of the extremists, you are silently taking their side!  Even if your sect's teachings directly contravene the statements you hear, if you do not take action against them, your silence is consent and/or agreement, or will be taken as such.

By not fighting against these extremists, you allow them to count you, as a Christian, as a supporter!

That's one.

Looking at the subject as an atheist, I see even liberal Christians as believing in and worshipping in, an imaginary deity.  I know that's hard for Christians to wrap their minds around, but that's how I see it.  I see the Christian god as being as imaginary as say, Thor, or Athena, or any of eight thousand other gods mankind has ever worshipped since history has been getting written down.

That's a lot of gods to not believe in.

But your religion teaches that your god holds you in the palm of his hand, loves you, protects you, guides you, and is an all around great guy.

So you live in a world where you believe that is true.  To me, you wear rose tinted glasses, and you look at things that way.  You live, to me, dangerously.  You live as if this god is going to protect you against all things, especially things you can't see.

But in the real world, or at least the one I live in, there is no protector.  Your life is in YOUR hands, and it is guided only by what you do.  Unless you can attract the protection of a powerful human patron, you are at the mercy of chance and all of the other social and financial forces the rest of us are subject to.

Yes, you may be a miracle baby - the survivor of a plane crash.  But then how many others died that He didn't protect?

You may have survived an automobile crash - but how many Americans died in auto crashes that day who were not saved?  Statistics tell us that a majority of those in those other crashes must have been Christians too.  Why weren't they saved?

I could go on with other examples, but you get my drift.  Sheer chance saves a lot of people, and humans have a great propensity for seeing patterns that aren't there, such as the saving hand of a miracle when sheer chance is all that happened.  We all do it, and we have sayings that tell us we do - "Man, that was lucky!" or "It must have been the hand of fate!"

When things go wrong, we don't blame God, we blame fate - or maybe Murphy... it is called selective bias.  You see what you want to see.  Because you expect God to be watching, he gets the credit for the successes - yet oddly, nobody ever blames him for the failures...

But when you are convinced that your deity is going to watch out for you, you are less wary, less observant.

If you ever watch the Ed Show, or Rachael Maddow, you are familiar with their examples of how the rich have multiplied their income over the last 40 years, mostly at the expanse of the middle or working classes.  I'd bet that if this country wasn't so convinced, on an individual level, that God was watching out for us, more of us might have noticed!  But, God wouldn't let that happen, would he?

We also tend to put our clergy on a pedestal.  We expect great things of them.  We expect a high standard of behavior.  We also tend to ignore behavior that seems to violate those standards, for some reason, and some clergy takes advantage of that.

Most don't, but those high standards don't always treat the clergy kindly, either.  Many of them have issues with either failing to meet those standards, or even thinking they won't.  Many clergy leave the ministry due to these imagined failures, some after long careers and some after short ones.

Many people use the clergy as counsellors.  Most clergy are not trained as such, and often substitute religious stories or anecdotes in lieu of actual therapy.  A lot of people are often harmed by this failure.  Again, probably not intended, but the hurt is real.

I know a lot of this seems kind of picky, I know.  But again, look at this from my standpoint - if someone told you that Thor was watching out for him wouldn't you take the same position?  Shake you head?  Try to get him to see his error?

I am an atheist, yes.  That means that I believe that I am responsible for my own life - for the failures, the successes, for setting my own goals and for doing what it takes to meet those goals.  Because my experience tells me that the better I treat others, the better they will treat me, and if I am honest and act with good will, I will be protected against petty injury, I know that by conducting my life honorably and with integrity, I will have a better chance of success, because others will know that and  tend to be more honorable with me.

These things increase my chances of success.  These things are more likely to assist me in success than if I depend on someone else, whether that someone else is a deity or a mortal.

To me, self reliance is the best standard.  To allow your life to be taken over by another, even just in your mind, is to stop being yourself.  It is to betray all that you CAN be, because you can just let go.

Don't let go, stand on your own two feet.

Be human!