Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What do I mean by "Religious Harm"?

I have written a lot about how harmful I feel religions can be.  I have published examples of what forms that can take here, about any number of religions, including Christianity, Islam and Buddhism.  I intend to do a bit of reading up on other religions, too, as time permits.

But I figured I'd lay a bit of groundwork so you know what I am doing here, and what my goal is.

Above all, my goal on this blog is to illustrate my viewpoints on religion and things that are impacted by it.  I am NOT here specifically to convert anyone, as I know that the chances that anyone would read one of my posts, see that proverbial lightbulb turn on over their head and suddenly understand it all and just drop their faith like a worn pair of socks is slim to none.   That's not how people lose their faith.

People lose their faith over a million things, and usually it isn't a single thing that is the cause.  They usually go through a process of education which sometimes culminates in a realization of faith being lost.  That realization may be a long time coming and a gradual thing, or it may be a sudden "ding!" of eye-opening comprehension.  Some people may undergo a traumatic incident which causes them to leave their church, which then opens the way to a period of education and study which then, in the end, validates that decision after the fact.

Either way, it is a process, not a sudden event.

My purpose is to be part of that process, part of that education.

A part of my technique is publishing the harm that religion can do, both to individuals and society.  This isn't easy.  Oh, finding incidents that illustrate my points is easy, yes.  But then tying those incidents to an underlying reason for why religion is the harmful cause of that incident is what is hard.  Not because it's a stretch, or because the tie isn't there, but using the right words to show you, my readers, WHY the religious attitudes or rules or traditions are harmful, and in ways that outweigh any possible good.

That last is important.  Religion is, on the surface, all about "love", or at least that's what we are told today.  Modern Christianity, Buddhism and liberal parts of Islam emphasize the getting along with people parts of their rules and gloss over the less salubrious parts of either doctrine or traditional practice.

But all of them have the dark side.  With some, the dark side is part of the doctrine, some, like Buddhism, have developed harmful traditions and cultural practices that (like India's caste system, some Muslims countries' female genital mutilation practice and Christianity's patriarchalism) are very harmful, both at the individual level and at the cultural level.

It is very difficult to point these things out to people invested in those religions, because those things are excused by traditions that they "protect" sacred things, like the family or one's practice of morality.

These dark practices and traditions ARE harmful.  Yes, they are often said to protect good things, like morality.  But when examined closely, one can see that the things they protect are often carefully crafted facades hiding often harmful control measures.

Often, the harm is direct and openly on display, but the adherents often ignore the implications, because they are so indoctrinated in the excuses, they never see the real harm.  Of course, they do when it's ANOTHER religion on display...

The problem with these excuses is that they are tacked on, added onto the fabric of the religious doctrine, because the naked purpose of the harmful act used to be pure protection of the religion and its power, and nobody needed to clean it up for public consumption.  In the remote past when the religions were young and in total power, everything was out in the open.  No excuses were offered, unless the one being "punished" was wealthy or influential, when they then needed some thin veneer of civility.  If the victim was poor, nobody cared.

Take "honor killings", for instance.  Supposedly, this was because the women violated the "honor" of the family or more correctly, the man of the house.  In truth, she was his property, and had, by having illicit sex, made him look a fool for not being able to control her.  The fix was for her to die, as an example to others of what would happen if THEY did the same thing.

"Honor" was the thin veneer, and it is even thinner today.

On a less remote issue, Christianity can have harmful consequences too.  Many people believe the bible, if not literally, then fairly well as a guide to god's word.  An obvious example is regarding homosexuality.  Two passages in the Old Testament denigrate it, and one calls for death to practitioners of it.

Now, many students of theology have spent probably millions of words debating this and its significance and its meaning.  There are many nuances of homosexuality, including the fact that females can be homosexual too, but the bible doesn't mention that.  It's only about men.  Cultural norms over the centuries have changed how people see it and how it is defined.  In biblical times, for men to have love affairs in the pastoral sense (without sex) was often the norm, and Greeks even took it to a sexual level, even while they were married and had sex with their wives too.

But today, we see homosexuality as a sexual orientation.  A lifestyle.  And those two verses have been generalized to mean that any man on man or woman on woman attraction is homosexual, thus wrong and in the eyes of some extremists, worth killing over, even if they can't prove sexual union has occurred.

I can't pretend to understand what the original cultural reasons were for the writers of the old testament to put those verses into the law they were writing, but the implications today are sometimes deadly.  And what purpose do those passages serve today?  Mankind is rapidly moving back to a time when homosexuality is no longer seen as a bad thing.  Unusual in the US, perhaps, but less and less a bad thing.  To cling to this "traditional" reading and meaning (when numerous passages in the same books of the Old Testament outline laws we studiously ignore) is harmful to the extreme.

The tendency of the extremist Christian fundamentalists to cling to this is harming even them selves, as it illustrates an attitude about others many Americans see as not just harmful, but distasteful as well.  This is resulting in many christians leaving their churches.  Many of them join the masses of unchurched apathetics, some actively become atheist.

My purpose is to show you what harm it does.  to lay it bare and illustrate that harm, and where it comes from.

A lot of you dismiss these illustrations with expressions of horror, but giving the excuse that, well, MY church doesn't believe that way, so it's not so bad.


But you believe in and support the same scriptures.  You believe in and deify the same god, the same son of that god.  Your bible has the same verses in it theirs does, its just that you ignore the parts he doesn't.  Your belief that the book you both worship is sacred supports his belief that the parts HE uses to excuse his harmful acts are as sacred as the ones YOU follow.  Even as you deny that HIS acts can possibly be Christian HE is telling the world that YOU aren't Christian enough, because you don't believe the way he does.

And so it goes, round and round, in the meantime, he can still excuse his acts, and because it is HIS version of YOUR religion, somehow, nobody ever gets around to doing anything to stop it.  Nobody questions it, because it is a RELIGIOUS belief, thus unquestionable.

Somehow, I hope that sooner or later, some of this will seep into the brains of my readers, and perhaps you will see that it is the very unquestionable status of religion that makes it more harmful than other ideologies.  Because it has no reality check, it cannot be compared to reality, so it is not verifiable.  One has to take it on "faith".

No matter how much good it may do otherwise, the very fact that it cannot be held to a standard of verifiable truth makes it so harmful that it not worth keeping around.  It just hurts too many people and often does it by hurting entire cultures at a time.

Like Smokey the Bear says about forest fires, "Only You" can prevent religions from harming mankind!  One person at a time.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Are God's rules really eternal?

One of the most interesting things claimed by many theists these days isn't new.  I was watching Turner Classic Movies the other day, and they aired an old short film I can't remember the name of, in which the narrator used the constant phrase, "sin in the heart of man".  The theme was the same you hear today, that America's morals are off track, and sin is why.

Well, at least once, he noted that, "God's rules are eternal", as he denigrated the thought that modern morals have changed.

Oh, really?

So, if that is true, can I still go to New Orleans and buy a slave off of the old slave block right there on the docks, fresh from Africa?  Or, if I prefer, can I sneak off I to Canada and enslave one of our northern neighbors?  They are, after all, not American, and the bible says we can enslave our neighbors.  Of course, according to the bible, I can't hold a Hebrew for longer than seven years.  Then again, I can argue that since I am not Hebrew, that restriction doesn't apply to me, right?

Or, if I prefer, I can sell one of my daughters (I do still have one unmarried daughter) into sexual slavery.  She's a redhead, so she may be able to pay off all my debts at once, wouldn't you think?  I mean, it says so, right there in Deuteronomy, so it must true if God's rules are eternal, and redheads are still considered exotic!

Also, that same book tells us that shellfish are forbidden, eating animals with cloven hooves is also forbidden, and our modern practice of wearing mixed fabrics is too.

I could go on, but the point is made.  Today, in modern First World countries, none of these restrictions are followed, nor do we think about them at all.  Even First World churches pay no mind to these rules, even though Jesus himself told slaves to obey their masters, as did Paul.  No preacher today anywhere in the industrialized west would stand up in front of a modern congregation and advocate enslaving citizens of a neighboring country, nor selling young women off to pay their fathers' debts.

Yes, these "rules" are still written in the scriptures.  No, churches today do not put those verses on their reading lists for weekly bible studies, and the reason is obvious - religions must adhere to the current moral standards of the society in which it exists, or (lacking the force of government persuasion) people will stop going.

So the bottom line here is, no, the rules of God are NOT eternal, but are as subject to change as are the standards of any society which will naturally change with time and circumstances.  They must or the religion will die.

There is, of course, one exception to this, and I referred to it above.  If the religion is a State sponsored religion and the force and power of the State are behind rules which require attendance and adherence to the rules, then, obviously, whatever rules the leaders of that religion wish can then be enforced, and this will have the effect of artificially enforcing standards the population may not otherwise have wished to obey.  It may or may not have the effect of causing people to actually believe in those standards.  If they are far enough divorced from the general moral standards seen in use by the secular society prior to the beginning of that enforcement, they will breed resentment and resistance.  Eventually, even if not so far removed, if they seem to enforce rules that most of the population come to see as overly restrictive and protecting an upper privileged class, they can go so far as breed revolution.

My point here is that we know from history that the moral standards of societies do change.  Old practices such as slavery, dietary rules and other more mundane things such as fabric uses will be forced to change as the circumstances of the society change.  Economics, standards of education, and technical advancements can profoundly affect how societies manage themselves and how people's relationships in families, business and government work.

Religions that try to hold on to old, outmoded rules in ways that no longer make sense will, unless people are forced to stay, lose members.  Even if forced to stay, eventually, social pressures will eventually either force changes or those changes will be forced through violent means.  (Pay attention, this happened, in THIS country.  We forced a violent change to the rules, by forcing the state to divest itself of its religious connections.  We did this by violently divorcing ourselves from that old State and developing a new State!)

In the end, the lesson we learn is that nothing is eternal.  If there were a god which created us, loved us and wanted the best for us, he/she would use his/her superior knowledge to shepherd us into a better understanding of how to manage ourselves and better our lives.  This would not happen by enforcing rules that no longer meet the needs and requirements of a society which has outgrown the faults of a past age where violence was the norm.

Instead, we find churches that seek to use those old, outmoded rules to continue to force us to adhere to old social rules which make no sense and prevent us from growing and expanding human knowledge.  Rules which force us into past patterns of behavior which do not fit a modern, digital age in which knowledge and information is at one's fingertips.  Rules which seek to denigrate women, control our lives and support old established organizations which cannot change without being afraid of losing control.

Control which brings them YOUR money, YOUR support, thus supporting their secular, worldly power which in turn supports the lifestyles of the leaders.  The WEALTHY lifestyles. As we've seen over and over.

Thus, we see movements like Dominionism, which again seek to bring the old theocratic ways of the past to the present.  The rules which forced people to obey the old ways, the old patterns which bring power and wealth to those who control those rules.

Don't fall for it.  America is under attack from several directions, but the commonality is one of bringing control of this society to those who control the wealth.  Religion has ALWAYS been the means of control for those in power, and democracy put a rapid stop to much of that control.

You, the people, have the power to maintain your own control, the means to stop the power grab under way by the wealthy, by the cynical, godless men who would use your superstition to control you, like they did your grandfathers and great-grandfathers before you.

Only YOU can decide not to go along.  But you must see through their attempts to cloud your mind with superstition, with the old enticing rules which can seem so comforting, because they allow you to just drift through life without having to decide anything.  

But that is the way to slavery.  That is the way to letting someone else do your thinking for you.

Yes, cutting lose is hard.  It means you have to think, to actually take your life into your own hands and decide FOR YOURSELF who you want to be and what is important to YOU.  

The first step is letting go of the old comfortable rules and realizing that they no longer have any relevance to the modern world.  That they are the means to controlling you, not freeing you.

Remember, when they tell you to surrender to Christ, they are really telling you to surrender to the earthly leaders of the Christian religion.  Do you REALLY think those wealthy men have YOUR best interests at heart?


Saturday, July 27, 2013

To All My Christian Friends and Family.

Yesterday, there just wasn't anything that leapt out and grabbed me, so I posted a bunch of cool pictures.  It was a nice break.  I hope you enjoyed it!

Today, however, I am angry.  It isn't often I get this angry, so if I get a bit testy and even offensive, please understand my emotional state.

First, understand something.  I was born and educated in Texas.  In spite of its proud tradition of individualism, it is one of the more patriotic States in the union.  Yes, in spite of our obnoxious boasts about having been the only State in the union which was its own independent country (which, damn it, IS true...), we are also very proud of having willingly given up that independence in order to join the US.  Yes, and we also obnoxiously believe you guys got the better end of the deal, having obtained our beautiful State and our unswerving loyalty!  Ahem, sorry, got the better of me...

Part of that was a firm education in what this country was founded to mean:  religious freedom.

Read that again.  RELIGIOUS FREEDOM.

That was NOT a lesson in Christian majority privilege, it was taught to every school child that the US was founded for the purpose of allowing Americans the right to their own brand of religion.  This crap about the US being a "christian nation" is a modern FICTION, and numerous quotes from the Founding Fathers proves that they also meant people of other religions besides Christianity, as well as Atheists too.

It is, in short, a tactic of modern fundamentalists to twist the conversation to assume something that isn't true.

What set me off?

This story, in Addicting Info, which talks about a story out of Tennessee.  It is a perfect illustration of what Christians, and not just fundies, will do once they get the political power to shut down the opposition, even if they have to do it illegally and ignore the basic rules of the game.

It is, in fact, an illustration of HOW they will ignore the basic rules and run roughshod over anybody who gets in their way.

"“This is people standing up for what they believe in,” said Steve McDonald, pastor of the Calvary Baptist Church. “We have a right to the democratic process and majority rule.”"
Yeah, and his message is that majority rule means that they can then manipulate the democratic process to ignore fairness and the basic Constitutional rules that are supposed to govern this country.

And this isn't even about anything really IMPORTANT.  This is just symbolism.  Just how bad would it get when they really get serious about something?

Really?  Since when is forcing your beliefs down everybody else's throat ok?

Why am I this angry?

Because these idiots have been spouting this shit for years now, and NONE of the people in this country who count themselves as Christian have yet to stand up and shout the bastards down.

I mean that.  When was the last time a man such as that Baptist minister, after having stood up and spouted such obviously unAmerican bullshit, got his ass handed to him by his congregation?

When was the last time someone like Pat Robertson, who spews such bullshit on a regular basis, lost viewers?

When was the last time that a man like that was admonished by the OTHER ministers in his town and told he was wrong?

Never, that's when.  Not only never, but the other good Christians in that town stood by and actually cheered and supported them as they willingly spent PUBLIC MONEY to violate the Constitution.

So, I will say this again:  What is wrong with you people?  Don't you know a violation of the Constitution when you see one?  Don't you see a violation of the very democratic process itself occurring, or is it ok because the guys doing it believe the same stuff you do?

THAT'S whey I am angry, because so many of you stand up on Facebook and tell me that these people are not being Christian and are acting unAmerican, but you never DO anything about it.  I don't see many stories about this being posted by the Christians I know.  They get posted either by me or other atheistic pages or groups, with little comment or support, mostly.

It is time, indeed, PAST time, for the moderate Christians in the US to stand up and put these fundamentalist bullies back in their place.  Take your conservative party back, throw the bums out and stop swallowing their bullshit.

Because, if you don't, once they take power, they will lump YOU in with ME.  Because you won't be conservative enough, you will end up being given the same choice I will.  Either worship in a fundie church or take the consequences.

Then you can see how it feels to be religiously oppressed.  Like atheists really are, not the fake oppression they like to whine about.

So, in the final analysis, what I mean to say is this.  If you don't have the will to stand up and MAKE THIS STOP, then you agree with it.

Really, that IS what it means.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Photography Friday!

I figured that enough depressing stuff is happening, and I didn't want to talk about anything serious or depressing, so today is Picture Day!  Photography Friday!

 I like to take pictures of nature, like flowers...

 budding flowers...

 flowers in the sun...

 The Moon!


 Food at restaurants....

 BIG flowers!

 Orion, my dog...

 Redbud flowers!

 Pan, caged...

 More Redbud flowers...

 Food from home!

Something I copied from Facebook...

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Work doesn't have to be work.

Cyberdaughter from Tampa posted an interesting article on Facebook, entitled, "10 Little Habits that Steal Your Happiness".

It is a nifty little article, which doesn't go into a lot of boring details, but keeps it sweet and simple.  I'd tell you that everything talked about there is good to know.

I'd say a bit more about Number 3, "Working for nothing more than a paycheck".  In over 40 years of working at several different jobs at several different employers, some private, some government, just about the worst thing I've seen people do is to stick with a job they hate.  I had one for a while, and I got away as quickly as I could find a way.  My current job is one that I love to do and frankly, were I retired, I could do it for free!  (Just don't tell my boss!)

Forget the article's advice about, "When you design a lifestyle in which your work is something you suffer through daily strictly to pay your bills, you end up spending your entire life wishing you had someone else’s."  That's wishy washy.  Weak sauce, limp dishwater.

Instead, look at it this way, the fastest way to ruin your entire life, every relationship you've got and poison your professional reputation forever is to take a job, find out you hate it, and stay.  I've seen people who have stayed in such jobs for a decade or more, and they often see their marriages ruined, families alienated, friends run off, and to make things worse, their job performance is often so bad and their professional relationships so tainted that they couldn't move to another employer if their lives depended on it.  They remain only because they keep their performance just good enough to not get fired.  They end up hating their jobs, their boss, their coworkers, the people they ride the bus with and often the folks they see in the same restaurant every day at lunch!

To talk with such folks is poison to the rest of us.  They are cynical, unpleasant, and often have little good to say about anyone, and you end up walking away wondering what they will say about you to the next unfortunate soul who stops by and gets caught by that same rant.

My advice to you is that if you find out that you've taken a job you hate, GET OUT IMMEDIATELY.  Don't wait until your budget is so dependent on the salary that you can't afford to move.  That is suicide, and will doom you to a life of despair and unhappiness.  Go back to the last few companies that  you applied to and try again.  If you have to spend a few weeks out of a job, unless you are about to get thrown out of your living space, go ahead and quit.

Believe me, finding a job you either like a lot or just simply love is worth real, cold hard cash.  You will be happier, healthier and your professional reputation will reflect the improvement in your circumstances.  Your family will appreciate it, your marriage will not suffer (unless you turn out to be a workaholic, but that's a whole 'nuther conversation) and your health will be better and stay that way far longer.  You'll probably live longer, too, since stress is a proven killer.

But again, a word of warning, do pay attention to the folks who say not to allow your job to define who you are.  Even if you love it, IT IS JUST A JOB.  It is a means to an end, to get the money that allows you to live decently, provide for a family and have at least a reasonably pleasant lifestyle.  Letting it define you is a recipe for disaster, mentally, if your company has to downsize and you end up getting laid off.  Don't let your job get intwined with your ego!

But, if you happen to find one you love, that's a bonus worth holding on to, and something to work hard to find.  Believe me, you won't regret the extra time and trouble you had to go to in order to find it.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Dominionism - a list of quotes.

Today, for those who have a problem with understanding which public figures are into the Dominionist movement, I've got  a site for you.

It's called Quotes from the The American Taliban, and the quotes you will find there are not only eye-opening, but go back over 50 years!

A sampling:

David Barton (Wallbuilders)
"There should be absolutely no 'Separation of Church and State' in America."

David Trosch
"Sodomy is a graver sin than murder. – Unless there is life there can be no murder."

Fob James (Governor of Alabama)
"Behind this judicial wall of separation there is a tyranny of lies that will fall... I say to you, my friends, let it fall!"

If these kinds of attitudes don't make you sit back and wonder about where the speakers are coming from, you've got a problem.  These people are not patriotic Americans, they are enemies of democracy, enemies of the Constitution, and proponents of throwing society back hundreds of years.

They should be thrown out of public life and shamed into obscurity.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Something else that never stops.

A lot of my writing here has been to show how crazy the right wing can get.  Most of that has been about politicians, but the occasional right wing fundie preacher shows up, too.

Today, a special one, because this one is about the large undercurrent of religious hubris that finds its way into the mailboxes - both real and virtual - of those the right wing decides to hate.

First, I take you to Kingston, Canada.  Some enterprising right wingers have decided that targeting the gay ladies there is the way to go!
Addressed to "Lesbian bitches," the letter demands that the recipients leave the city as soon as possible or face all manner of harassment (read the full letter here).
It is signed, "In the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ, our savior"

Second, is an email sent to Mikey Weinstein, of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), as posted to his website, along with responses by some of Mikey's followers.

Dear Military Religious Freedom Foundation, 
Mikey Wienstien is an enemy to American people. I will die for Jesus Christ and fight for Jesus Christ. I fought for this country for freedom. Not for people like Mikey to steal it. Mikey will fall like the coward him and his family is. If he thinks he’s gonna win then he will soon be crushed like the Nazi regime he supports. He is the same as a child rapist or adolf Hitler. You will never take god from us. This country was founded on it. Watch as you fail. 
(name withheld)
 Don't you just love those lovin' Christians?  The MRFF gets lots of these, every day.  Many prominent atheists do, too.  In fact, anybody these clowns don't like are liable to get targeted like this.

I classify this under both Religious Harm and Just Plain Crazy.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

More Religious Harm - Buddhism, It's Your Turn!

More than once, I've been told, after making the point that religion is harmful regardless of what it teaches, that Buddhism is a religion of peace, and its teachings do not lead to violence.  Well, I beg to differ, at least as to the violence that is possible - regardless of what it teaches.

Oh, you want links?  Why didn't you say so?

This story comes from a web site called Colombo Telegraph, and the story is entitled, "Full Text Of The Banned Time Story – “The Face Of Buddhist Terror” ".  The story is in part about this man:

His name is simply Wirathu, and he is an influential Buddhist monk in Mandalay, the second largest city in Burma.  Apparently, the government of Burma has banned the printing of this story in Time magazine, probably to avoid the bad press.

(I guess they've never heard of the Streisand Affect.  But, I digress.)

Anyway, this guy, in spite of being a Buddhist monk, is responsible for inciting the local Buddhist population into a frenzy of violence against Muslims.
“Now is not the time for calm,” the monk intones, as he spends 90 minutes describing the many ways in which he detests the minority Muslims in this Buddhist-majority land. “Now is the time to rise up, to make your blood boil.”
Ok, I do get it, that his sermons and incitements to violence are not exactly in sync with the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, who supposedly lived and taught some 2500 years ago. For that matter, the actions of the Roman Catholic Church don't exactly mesh with the teachings of Jesus, either, but for well over 1600 years the RCC has justified torture, arrest, burnings and various other methods of death for a huge variety of offenses against their religion, based on what many Christians today would term twisted translations and interpretations of Old Testament verses.  There are even those who will claim that the violent verses of the Koran were superseded by more peaceful teachings later and thus should not be used to incite violence.

Which illustrates my points (made numerous times in this blog) that ANY religion can be subverted to the nefarious needs of intolerance, bigotry and sectarian chauvinism in the service of pure, unadulterated politics.  Of course, there is no doubt that virtually any ideology or creed can be so subverted for a time.  Mankind is particularly adept at twisting just about anything to serve in the name of its pet hatreds and it is not a surprise that religion can also be so twisted and melded to a cause too.

But, again, religion has a particularly nasty characteristic that simple political ideologies do not.  Religion, being the study and worship of the supernatural, has no reality check.  Since the rewards and punishments of either passing or failing a religious test are gained or suffered AFTER death, there is no way to tell if the claims it makes are true or false.

For political ideologies, there is a simple test - at some point, people will expect it to work.  Its claims of prosperity and well being must at some point be shown to actually come to pass as advertised.  If they do not, people will eventually turn to another ideology or method of governing.  If nothing else, they will compromise and add solutions seen to work elsewhere.

But for the religiously faithful how can one compromise with the devil?  If one's religious truth is revealed to you by a deity, to compromise those truths is to disobey your god.  Thus, political compromise is impossible.  Reality is ignored in favor of scripture, dogma and theology.  There is no test of whether the teachings and dogma of the religion  agree with reality.  Indeed, since the claims of most religions are about life AFTER death, a reality check is impossible.  The claims religions can make are limited solely by man's imagination.

Thus, we get, eventually, the kind of violence this story reports on.  Sectarian violence, killings and discrimination based solely on what supernatural myth you happen to think is true or on your rejection of someone else's superstition.

I guess my whole reason for tilting at this nefarious windmill is that the human race has so many different things we need to fix, and so many other ways to hate one another, why in hell do we need to make up more?

Aren't the ones we already have bad enough?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Hooray for Ireland!

There is a Constitutional Convention in Ireland this year, and they are considering the removal of a clause from the Irish Constitution allowing blasphemy laws.

Dated July 13, 2013, the advocacy group Atheist Ireland has submitted their reasons for removing Irish blasphemy laws from the Atheist constitution.

This is good news, for more reasons than just helping to make Ireland a more tolerant and friendly society.  You see, one of the things that make blasphemy laws in Western countries a bad thing isn't just the Bad Things that can happen because of those laws, it is also because Islamic countries are using the existence of such laws as political fodder to push for International laws against blasphemy.

Religion is always trying its best to use the power of government to protect itself.  This is an international extension of that effort, because it is obvious that even globally, Atheists are the fastest growing demographic in the world, even outstripping the growth of Islam.

Just as obviously, this worries the Imams who have the most to lose in that race.  This is why this news is the best news on the legal front I think we'll hear this year!  Certainly on the international scene.

I commend our Irish brothers and sisters for their wisdom in pushing this agenda.  Our best wishes for a successful conclusion to the effort.

At First, It Looked Good. Now? Not So Much.

A while back, the word went out that the Pope had made some changes in Vatican law that criminalized child abuse.  Yay!!

In the Vatican.  Not everywhere, just the Vatican.  So, not so yay.

Now, the word is out (now that the verbiage of the new laws are now public) that it isn't such good news after all - it seems that simply reporting any sex crimes is now illegal!
According to the new laws, revealing or receiving confidential Vatican information is now punishable by up to two years in prison, while newly defined sex crimes against children carry a sentence of up to twelve years. Because all sex crimes are kept confidential, there is no longer a legal way for Vatican officials to report sex crimes.
Whoa!  All of a sudden, it isn't "yay" at all.  It is rather more in the character of "Boo"!

Of course, there is an explanation of sorts:
“We didn’t mean for this to happen, obviously,” lamented Vatican foreign minister Monsignor Dominique Mamberti. “It’s quite the papal pickle that His Holiness has placed upon our heads. Sex crimes are more illegal than ever, but technically it’s illegal to report them.” Mamberti said that the simultaneous passing of each law is merely a coincidence and insisted that the Church is not trying to protect itself against further embarrassment, but critics outside the Vatican are skeptical.
Skeptical?  Why would we be skeptical?  Could it have anything to do with the fact that almost every case of child abuse we know about was reported OUTSIDE of the Vatican, and thus the new laws won't have any more affect than trying to use a popgun to sink a battleship?  Or that the Church has done everything but commit murder to prevent word of sex crimes of any kind to get out to the public - much less reported to authorities?

Nah.  Couldn't be.  Right?  Right?
As the Holy See moves to clarify the law, Mamberti has warned would-be offenders within Vatican walls that they “are still subject to the most watchful eye of all: the eye of God..."
 Ok, now I know we're in trouble.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Speaking of Racism, Its version will kill the Republican Party

Yesterday, I wrote about racism.  Much of it was pointing at the institutional racism that has resulted from the last forty years of efforts to stifle the most blatant expressions of it.

Today, I turn my attention to another aspect of it and a practical application of how that modern version of institutional racism will probably kill the Republican Party.

The article I will point you to tonight is from The Texas Monthly.  The article was written by Robert Draper, and is entitled, "The Life and Death (and Life?) of the Party".  It is an excellent examination of the prospects of the Democratic Party to change Texas from Red to Blue, or perhaps just Purple.  Personally, I see it as a bit pessimistic, but then, I am not a politician, I'm a blogger.  (sort of)
Dallas County, now mainly composed of minorities, went from red to blue in 2006 and has remained a Democratic stronghold ever since. Nearly 15 percent of the state’s general-election voters reside in Harris County, and a majority of them supported Obama in both 2008 and 2012. And the trend is spreading. 
Now, some stats to back it up.
Demography is the driver of this runaway freight train. The 2010 census found that the state’s population had increased by 4.3 million over the previous decade and that more than 3.3 million of the new inhabitants were minorities. Of these, an astounding 2.8 million were Hispanic, historically a reliable constituency for Democrats. These numbers conveyed a new reality: the Texas political landscape was getting friendlier for Democrats and tougher for Republicans.  
The mentioned demographics don't stop there, many projections show clearly that the US as a whole is set to go majority minority by 2050.  Already, nationwide, the birth numbers are higher in raw numbers for minorities than for whites.

Again and again, the Republican Party has managed to alienate every voting block except white Southern males.  Immigration, abortion rights, contraceptives, food stamps, taxes, the debt "crisis" they manufactured for their own political gain which has hurt almost every low to middle income American, efforts to stifle voting rights through their voter ID laws, elimination of early voting laws creating Election Day lines of up to 8 hours in some States, batshit crazy statements about rape, pregnancy, science, education and religion have created a hostile atmosphere for just about anybody who isn't white, male and living in the old Confederacy.

Or rich, let's not forget the rich.  They're laughing all the way to the bank.  The ones they own, of course.

I've written before about how I see the modern Republican Party as headed towards the brink of destruction.  This article, no matter how pessimistic about the prospects of the Democrats, is just further proof that their train is still headed for the chasm without a bridge.  Geez, just two years ago, not a reporter in the country would have touched that story.  Now it's published by the Texas Monthly.

Let's get behind that train and help push it over the cliff!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Let's Talk Racism.

First, a caveat:  I am a white, Anglo-Saxon male, although I am not religious, so I guess the WASP thing is out.  But I say this to state unequivocally that I am well aware that I am not experienced in being on the receiving end of racial bigotry.  So, I am not trying to tell anyone that I know the true state of racism from the standpoint or perspective of a minority who does.

Ok?  Good.

I do think that I've got a pretty fair idea of how racism works, though, because I grew up in Texas in the 1950s and 60s, and am VERY familiar with how whites in the South view blacks and hispanics.  So, while I can't exactly talk about the receiving end, I CAN talk about the folks that dish it out.  Been there, actually did that at one time.

And am very ashamed of myself for it.

After having lived in Maryland for the last 26 years, my experience has been enough to turn my views on people of ethnic backgrounds other than whites completely around.  I have worked alongside them, lived next door to them, shopped among them, stood in line at the bank behind and in front of them, sat at the DMV next to them while we all waited the same exorbitantly long periods of time for our driver's licenses and paid the same high fees for the same pieces of plastic.  Long enough to be uncomfortable using the word "them" in the last sentence, wishing there was a better way to express it without using a word that sets us apart.

I've witnessed young people grow up alongside each other from a very young age who were surprised and shocked to learn that their friends were somehow different - in a way they'd never even imagined.  So I know that racism is taught, and somehow, growing up as human beings without the divisions of skin color is natural and can be perfectly normal.

So, what is all this about?

How I view modern racism as having changed, morphing into something that is very different - but no less nasty, perverted and bigoted, while being totally ignored.  In spite of being so in your face, you have to be blind not to see it.

You see, whites eventually noted that the blatant, ugly racism of the 50s was pretty bad.  Stressful, if you will.  It gave us a bad name, and for many, made us feel a bit dirty.  So, we went along with the program and did away with the personal racism, at least in person and face to face.  We passed laws that made the blatant personal racism much harder to pursue and in many cases, illegal.  In short, we made "some" progress.  Federal programs of one kind or another made things seem to be just humming along, equalizing the numbers a bit.

At least, that's what the media would have you believe.

But, if I am to believe the minorities I've known, under the surface, it is still there.  A thousand little ways, it is still there.

But, the really BIG ways are even worse.  I am talking about the institutional racism, the built-in racism that pervades the justice system even worse than it used to.  The institutional racism that pervades the media, the Corporate world and even worse, the voting system.

A very interesting article the other day noted that in the District of Columbia, they graduate over 2800 high school students a year.

They also arrest twice that number for minor drug possession!  Over 80% of that number are black.  It is well documented that drug use across racial lines is about equal, so there are a lot of whites not being arrested.  The incarceration levels between the races are equally (!!!) bad.

Note too, the efforts in State after State to limit the ability of minorities to vote.  While in the Corporate world, hiring practices have made the raw numbers of minorities look better, as one get higher in the pay grades, the numbers of minorities (including women) get lower and lower.

In education, schools in minority black areas still don't get the public funding that those in white areas do, although in some States, there have been efforts to level the playing field.

Look at the Trayvon Martin case.  A teenager gets killed, walking unarmed, by a man who is carrying a gun (against the rules of the Watch group he is "working for") and who gets blamed for his death?   He does, not the adult who pulled the trigger after ignoring the directions of 911 authorities to stay in his car.  In case after case, blacks get the shaft, in State after State, the percentages of blacks is higher in raw numbers of those incarcerated, of those serving longer sentences and of those on death row.

In at least one State, the Governor did recognize this as an issue and used it as an excuse to suspend the death penalty pending corrective measures.  We'll see how long it takes for those "corrective measures" to be made!  I suspect that the reasons for the suspension are less over racial disparity in sentencing than on simple opposition to the death penalty.  In the meantime, a higher number of blacks in that State now are in prison for life, lengthening the average length of sentences for blacks in that State.

My point is that in spite of our efforts to reduce racism and the apparent successes we have made in many areas, much of those efforts have done little but direct the expression of that bigotry into other areas, many of which are difficult to legislate away.

Take the justice system, for instance.  All along the chain of officials from the cop on the beat to the supervising officers and the Public Prosecutor's Office, we have people fulfilling functions that to most of us are esoteric, enforcing laws according to rules that have become so complicated that it is impossible to legislate any kind of equality between races.  Each position is responsible for making decisions about cases where they must take into account individual situations, circumstances and differing laws where they can, even must, use their individual discretion and experience in making those decisions.  Discretion which allows them to express their individual racism without blame, without oversight, allowing them to blame it on "the system".

This attitude is pervasive throughout American life, and all public institutions, whether private or governmental.

Unless you are white, you are behind the eight ball from the git-go, as we say down South.

Well, I've got news for all you folks out there who are instrumental in supporting these racist attitudes and institutions:

By the 2050's, you won't be part of the majority any longer.  Whites will be just one of many minority groups, and there just won't be a "majority" race.  Are you willing to bet on how long it will take a coalition of other ethnic groups to end your segregationist ways?  Or whether they will decide to treat you better or worse than you have treated them?

This country has a long way to go before we meet the Supreme Court's rather cavalier proclamation that racism is over.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

One more thing the US is behind on.

I have been a science fiction fan since I was twelve and I picked up a copy of Robert Heinlein's book, "Have Space Suit, Will Travel".  These days, I waffle between sci-fi and fantasy, but sci-fi was my first love.

A recurring theme in sci-fi is the issue of non-human intelligence.  Robert Heinlein had at least one book, which I can't remember the name of, that dealt with this issue head on, using the literary tool of a trial to show how the legal system might handle the idea of a chimpanzee having enhanced intelligence equal to a human.

Enter the humble dolphin.  People have been fascinated with these beautiful creatures for centuries, and we interact with them constantly along America's coastlines.  Stories abound where they have saved lives, made friends and interact with humans in very intelligent yet somewhat alien way.

It is that alienness that keeps them from being recognized as fully sentient.  Science has shown a very high level of intelligence in them, and some even say they are one of only a couple of species other than humans who recognize themselves in a mirror - a critical test of intelligence.

Yet, we still hesitate to declare them fully sentient - is it because of the profits gained by the big aquariums which draw huge crowds and millions of dollars in profits by using captive dolphins to attract the crowds?  They ARE popular!

Well, chalk up one more way the US is behind the international community in a rather new field:  sentient rights.

Yes, you heard it right, sentient rights.  NOT human rights, but sentient rights!  Defined as the rights of sentient beings of whatever species based on their individual rights as sentient, thinking and aware beings.

We humans have an atrocious record of violating the individual rights of other species, based on our perceived place at the top of the food chain.  Actually, it is based on, in the West for sure, our religious beliefs that we were given, by god, dominion over the other animals.  Dominion is an interesting word, and given the modern umbrella group that called itself Dominionists, it has traditionally meant, in English, that one who has dominion, has control over and can rule over, those over whom he has been given dominion.  It confers god-given rights, powers of life and death, in particular.

It seems that India has passed a law banning "any person / persons, organizations, government agencies, private or public enterprises that involves import, capture of cetacean species to establish for commercial entertainment, private or public exhibition and interaction purposes whatsoever.

Costa Rica, Hungary, and Chile are the other three countries that also ban that captivity, and it is interesting to note that while only one of those is in Europe, all of them but India are or used to be heavily Catholic countries.  India, of course, isn't, and has a heavily buddhist influence, which at least makes some sense.

So much for Dominionism, at least over animals.  Now all we have to do is prevent them from establishing their "dominion" over Americans.

But, hooray for India, and a BIG high five!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

One horror - two lessons

Today's post is about a particularly disturbing thing that has come to my attention.  Via Ophelia Benson's blog Butterflies and Wheels at FreeThought Blogs, there comes a revelation from Ireland that the Catholic Church, in partnership with the government of Ireland, between the years of  1960 and 1975 as over 25,000 children passed through Irish Catholic orphanages, allowed pharmaceutical companies such as GlaxoSmithKline to proceed with vaccine trials on those children without their knowledge or consent.

Now, this kind of thing is disturbing enough, that a sovereign nation's government could allow any kind of human trials to take place without industry standard consent, but for these trials to take place without public knowledge or proper oversight is astonishing.

This reveals two very disturbing problems.  First is that this is a clear case of the conflation of Church and State producing a situation where the public health and welfare has been not only ignored, but abused.  By BOTH church and state.  This alliance between the two was so taken for granted by the two most powerful organizations in Ireland that nobody saw a requirement to adhere to either law or commercial health or medical standards for patient consent.

If this alone doesn't disturb you, your moral compass isn't just broken, it's shattered.

The next issue is that this illustrates perfectly the fact that religion, as it gains power and influence, allows for such moral outrages as this, creating immense damage and harm to the people it is supposed to care about.  But being both too big for its britches and conflated with the secular power, it allows itself to ignore its responsibilities and to become a law unto itself.

Now, if all this just fine with you, then you won't care that the radical right wing of Christianity in the US is trying to create just such a theocracy for itself.  So, then you can just go on and ignore this.

But if you do care and don't want this to happen in this country, then please pay attention to politics and help vote the Conservatives out of office.  Your children and theirs depend on your actions today to protect their future interests!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Was Jesus Real - does it matter or not?

This morning, a member of an email group I belong to posted his (so far) reactions to reading Richard Carrier's book, "Proving History".  Out of that email of his, he made this statement:
"Frankly I don't consider the question about whether Jesus actually existed as a person to be interesting. It is obvious that the mythic stories that have evolved since his possible existence are so totally unrelated to anything that is real that it does not matter."
My reaction was pretty much this:
Then why do so many Christians defend it so staunchly? 
One certainly can argue (as you seem to be doing) that it doesn't matter whether the religion is based on myth or fact, but the Bible (which many Christians hold as factual) makes real claims as to the truth of his birth, ministry, death and resurrection.  These are the basic foundations upon which Christianity rests.  Even the Protestant Reformation took away these basic beliefs from the RCC when they split off, and many Protestant churches even today still use the Nicene Creed as the basis for their theology - reciting this creed virtually every week, in some cases. 
Taking the RCC as an example, given its position as the founding sect of the religion, huge numbers of Catholics are even today at the cusp of leaving the church.  Huge numbers already have.  I personally know at least a half dozen who have and there are any number of ex-Catholics in both our Rockville Discussion Group and WASH itself.  If at some point in the next few years, Carrier's idea of using Bayes Theorem in examining the issue of Jesus' historicity is accepted and that results in a significant number of independent biblical scholars coming around to the mythicist position, this could eventually have an interesting catalytic effect on many people who now sit on the fence.  For one who is looking at doubts as to the truth of their religion of birth, this kind of scholarly examination could prove the difference between staying on or leaving the faith. 
After all, if the Bible is mythical about the "facts" surrounding Jesus, why would you believe the even older "facts" relating to god?  I think to many, it may matter very much.  It all comes down to the issue of credibility.  Even emotional issues can turn on the problem of whether someone seems credible or not.  As Christianity, at least the fundamentalist sects, lose credibility, their numbers will drop.   The less credible they seem, the faster that process will play out.  Look at how much credibility they are losing today, just on the basis of their leaders' public statements.  The more they open their mouths, the more they push people away.   
If scholars begin an earnest and more wide spread examination of Jesus' historicity and the mythicist position gains credibility, that process will accelerate.
 In regards to the RCC, I often concentrate on it because it is the founding sect for Christianity, and it does still regard the Gospel stories about Jesus as true, in large part.  Certainly the miracles are still taught as true.

Virgin birth?  Check.
Wise men?  Check.
Nazareth?  Check.
Shepherds?  Check.
Singing choirs of angels?  Check.
Literal ministry on earth?  Check.
All the little details of the crucifixion?  Check.  (Even the contradictory ones)
Resurrection?  Check.

All of these details are pretty much required of all Catholics to believe - if you want to be a good Catholic.  Yeah, yeah, I know, there are degrees of belief, and a lot of priests, when pinned down in private, will allow for some slippage into allegory on some of the more outrageous miracles or contradictions.

As noted, many Protestant groups took these things with them when they broke off from the RCC, and still claim them today.  A lot of the more liberal ones have slipped on the contradictions and allow for a lot more allegory.  As a matter of fact, information collected in 2009 shows that only 55% of Christians actually believe in the sinless divinity of Jesus!

So, yes, this is hardly a universally held set of beliefs.  A lot of Americans don't really believe in miracles, so the importance of the question of whether Jesus was real or not isn't an earthshaking matter to many people.

But Carrier's idea has merit, and has even been suggested by earlier scholars, so the more rigorous his work is shown to be, the better the chances it has of being accepted by the critical biblical scholars of the field.  Should the techniques he demonstrates be even partially successful in convincing a wider number of scholars that the mythicists' positions have merit, the implications for how people view the bible and its credibility are potentially huge.

A big part of this is social media.  It won't take long for the reactions to Carrier's upcoming book which will actually use Bayes Theorem to examine the issue of Jesus' historicity to hit the social media.  Twitter, Facebook, and all the rest will light up with news, discussions, arguments and who knows how much anger and invective over the different opinions.  A lot of the scholarly reactions will make their way online and be passed around from place to place, and undoubtedly, the reactions of scholars that end up agreeing with Carrier will get a whale of a lot of attention.

And that social media will spread the word, and a lot of the credibility of the fundies will slip even more than it already is, based on their wild and crazy grandstanding of late.

Will that spell the end of Christian influence in the US?  No, unfortunately.  It will increase the speed of the death spiral Christianity has created for itself, though.

Will the recent backlash of fundamentalist anger and claims of "oppression" and "persecution" slow the decline?  Will the Republican partial return to power slow it also?

I don't think so.  Both the Republicans and the leaders of the fundamentalist groups have been filling the airwaves with such crazy and ignorant claims about women, health care, rape and contraception, and their attempts to regulate these things in very oppressive and dictatorial manners has alienated almost every voting block except white southern males, which is likely to actually accelerate the process should the voters manage to overcome Republican gerrymandering.

Like it or not, the fate of both the Republican Party and Christianity itself in the US are intertwined, and if the bible is shown to be lacking in credibility for its claims of the very basic foundations of the religion, the recent shenanigans of the Republicans combined with widespread doubts of Americans regarding their religion are likely to combine to shake the foundations of both groups.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Robertson - AGAIN. Will this man never go away?

Pat does it again.
“For some reason now,” continued Robertson, “the Supreme Court has said homosexuality is now a constitutional right and this decision that was handed down recently by the majority glorifies this activity and talks about the civil rights and all this, well the Bible didn’t talk about civil rights it talked about this was an offense against God and it was an offense against the land and the land would vomit you out.” Robertson continued. “Which is going to take precedence, the Supreme Court of the United States or the holy word of God?”
What will it take for these people to STOP this insane twisting of history and legalities and to understand that their brand of religious rules do not come ahead of and overrule the Constitution?  

You see, THIS is why I have repeatedly told you that religion is harmful.  Because it lets people like this insane monster say such harmful and crazy things that are so obviously untrue in ways that convince millions that they are.

Let's get this straight - the Constitution of the United States is the Supreme Law of the Land.  It says so right there, in the Supremacy Clause, in Article VI, Paragraph 2.
2:  This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.
You see?  it's right there, in black and white.  Not only is the Constitution, but any laws passed by Congress under the authority of that Constitution, the SUPREME Law of the land.

Which mean that NO religious laws are authorized, by order of the First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Sorry, Pat, but your religious bullshit is not the law.  You have NO RIGHT to force anyone to adhere to your bullshit rules. Your god doesn't exist, and therefor cannot punish you or anybody else for failing to do what OUR CONSTITUTION says is illegal.

Go suck an egg.

Friday, July 05, 2013

About that "Christian Nation", thing.

The next time someone tells you that the Founders meant for this country to be a "Christian Nation", ask them one question.

"Which Christian Denomination?"

The specific religious affiliations of the Founders is not something that, surprisingly enough, has gotten a lot of attention or research.  There has been some, and at least most of them have been tentatively identified.  Following is a list of the known affiliations.

Church of England
Yeah, I know, Protestant is pretty much a catch-all for most of them, but I assume the authors of the web site I found the list on (Separation of church and state homepage) have some explanation for including it as a separate item on the list.

 It is, according to the site, a work in progress, and is noted to be incomplete.

However, it is a fairly good indication of the diversity of Christian belief in the colonies, especially the leadership.  Which brings me to my point.

The men who founded this country came from a wide variety of backgrounds, education and professions.  They ranged from as far north as Maine and as far south as the Carolinas.  Men who believed in the equality of man and those who gladly enslaved their fellow man.  Many of them were vehemently opposed to the denominations of some of the other men with whom they sat down to craft a  Constitution.

All of them had one overriding commonality:  They opposed British tyranny, and wanted to get out from under the economic thumb of the British East India Company, which enjoyed a vast amount of influence with the Crown.  They also had another commonalty:  They each wanted to keep their churches running and free of official meddling and obstruction.

Since many of them were educated enough to know the recent history of Europe and the state of religious and dictatorial tyranny therein, when they began crafting the Bill of Rights, they put the most important elements of freedom in the very first Amendment.

Freedom of religion
Freedom of the press
Freedom of speech
Freedom of association
Redress of grievances

These are the ones with wide general application, which the Founders obviously felt were the most critical in maintaining the freedom and liberty of the people.

Notice that freedom of religion came first.

Notice that the Constitution which they crafted only mentions religion twice, including the Bill of Rights.  First to disallow a religious test for office, which prevents a person from being kept out of office because of his or her religious affiliation, or put there because of it.

The second was the Amendment which prevents Congress from passing laws respecting the establishment of religion or preventing its free exercise.  Notice that this has two clauses.

The first is the "establishment" clause.  This prevents Congress from favoring one religion over another.  The second is the "Free Exercise" clause.  This guarantees every resident of the US the right to freely exercise his religious activities without government interference.

You see, the words "government interference" are key to understanding this amendment.  The government can interfere by either making you adhere to certain religious rites, or by preventing you from adhering to your own preferred activities.  Of course, over the past 237 years, the Supreme Court has weighed in and provided some guidance, much of it to the effect of clarifying some of the conditions to which these things apply.

For instance, a biggie is prayer in schools.  SCOTUS has noted that school children, by their young age and vulnerability, are particularly susceptible to the ministrations of adults, therefor, they have erected special protections here.

But even so, while a publicly owned and operated school may not lead children to and guide them through a prayer or religious ceremony, the children themselves are fully allowed, as is their right, to pray on their own.

Federal courts have prevented Creationism from being taught in public schools for the same reason.  Because it is a religious teaching, the GOVERNMENT cannot cause it to be taught.  Private schools may teach whatever they wish in this regard, but not GOVERNMENT SCHOOLS.

Christians who wish to push their religion into public venues overseen by government entities are not exercising their freedom, they are encroaching on ours, by causing that government entity to push a particular religious ceremonial on those who may not believe according to that manner of worship.

Again, when someone says that this country is a Christian nation, ask them WHICH Christianity?  Lutheran?  Episcopalian?  Evangelical?  Catholic?  Huguanot?  Westboro Baptist?  Eastern Orthodox? How about the Solid Rock Congregation of God?  Or maybe it should be the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints?

I could go on, there are over 30,000 different Christian denominations around the world.

If you want a Theocracy in the US, WHICH ONE is your choice?

To everybody who doesn't belong to yours, it matters a great deal.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

More Republican Crazy (Can this really continue much further?)

In Virginia, the man who is the GOP candidate for Attorney General wanted to pass a law that will force Virginia women to have to report a miscarriage to the POLICE within 24 hours or face jail time.  I don't know about you, but from what I've heard, that is prime time for all kinds of mental anguish, depression, grief and who knows what else as a result from losing what many women see as a happy thing - having a baby.  Even women who aren't especially glad to be pregnant are subject to mental anguish and such just from the biological effects.

Yet, it is within these first 24 hours that the wannabe Guv wants women to get on the phone and call the cops to report the loss of that potential child, or what they may be thinking of as an impediment to a good future.  Either way, this requirement is a violation of a woman's essential privacy!  There is NO essential State interest in obtaining such private health information, and the State has no right to intrude on her private thoughts and whether or not the child was wanted.

The bill, which was presented for passage in May and did fail, would have carried a fine of up to $2,500 and as much as a year in jail as a Class 1 Misdemeanor.

Why?   What overriding purpose would the State have for requiring women to do this?  Is this just another burdensome, idiotic bureaucratic rule to just harass women, or would there be some hidden, nefarious purpose we don't yet see?

Well  what about this?

In Mississippi, the abortion wars have resulted in criminalization of women for drug use.  Is this just a small step on the way to prosecuting women for miscarriages as attempted abortions?
Earlier this year, Mississippi's neighbor to the east, Alabama, set its own precedent for prosecuting pregnant women for drug use. In January, the Alabama Supreme Court upheld convictions against two women—Amanda Kimbrough and Hope Ankrom—for "chemical endangerment" of a child, under a 2006 law that was written to punish people who expose children—not fetuses—to illegal drugs. Kimbrough gave birth prematurely to a baby boy who died shortly thereafter; she was charged after testing positive for meth. Ankrom gave birth to a healthy baby boy, but she was charged after he was found to have marijuana and cocaine in his system.
Laws that criminalize hurting or killing fetuses are pitched as ways to protect pregnant women from abuse but are often used to prosecute those same women, NAPW says. The group has documented more than 400 cases across the country in which these laws have been used to detain or jail pregnant women. 
 Back during the election, a lawmaker in Mississippi proposed a law that would have required every miscarriage in the State to be investigated to ensure that it wasn't a botched, amateur abortion.

I know that these aren't especially new stories, but they indicate a rising level of craziness on the part of State officials to bring the War on Women to crazier and crazier levels.

Look out, ladies, I don't think it will matter of you are Republican or Democrat - if you have a vagina, you are just a baby production unit to these folks.  And production units don't have rights, unless, of course, they are Corporations.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Why I cannot support the Republican Party.

I thought that it was past time to put this into writing.

A long time ago, and in a place far away - Texas, to be exact, I was, for all functioning purposes, a Republican.  Oh, I called myself an Independent, but I really never voted any other way but Republican.

Eventually, reality intruded, in the form of the abortion fight.  I found myself uncomfortably on the opposite side from what was then my comfort zone.  Hey, a lot of my fellow Texans were too.  That struggle has been quite divisive for quite a while.

Then fate took a hand, and I was offered the opportunity of a lifetime for a poor fellow from Texas with three kids and a wife to feed - a chance to be able to move (at government expense!) to a suburb of the nation's capital and a chance to obtain higher pay grades than possible under my then current station.  Being a reasonably intelligent man, and a desperate one for a higher salary, I jumped at the chance.

That suburb was Rockville, and it lies to the north of and about twenty miles from DC.  In the state of Maryland, which I initially derisively called the People's Republic of Maryland for its liberal tendencies.  For a variety of reasons, I rarely use that epithet now unless in some form of jest.

Living in a state so close to DC has been an eye-opener.  For one thing, the variety of restaurants is amazing!  One can find food from just about any corner of the globe if you look hard enough, and with an iPhone, that doesn't have to be hard!  But, I digress.

The real eye-opener is the variety of people.  A couple of houses, including the one next door, are rentals, and every so often, one family moves out and another moves in.  Over the last twenty years, many of the renters have been diplomatic families - or at least, diplomatic functionaries not well enough off to afford residences in DC itself.

The experience of living next door to people from other countries IS an eye-opener!  In addition, my wife runs a daycare, and in the course of the twenty plus years here, a large percentage of her clients have been foreigners, too; one family from Bangladesh has become lifelong friends, their daughter becoming as close to us as our own daughters.

Holding on to cherished Conservative ideals is hard under the onslaught of reality.  You know, the kind of reality that shows you that muslims are just people like you and are as horrified at extremist violence as any American is - as a matter of fact, the entire family IS American, certainly in attitude and cultural assimilation.  Their daughter was in fact born here, and while has spent time in her parents' home country, is much more at home here where she grew up.  A recent graduate of GW University, she is currently looking for work while awaiting admission to a law school.  Yeah, American as apple pie.

What I am saying is that I cannot support a political party that sees these people as less than human, and given the color of their skin (which our family never paid attention to), Republicans certainly see as such.  As a matter of fact, Republicans seem to see people with brown skin as "collateral damage" more often than not.

I cannot support a political party that sees its looming demographic loss of voters as such a threat it is willing to cheat, play dirty and lie wholesale to keep itself in power.  As I've said before, if you feel you have to cheat to win, you've already lost.

Republicans will move heaven and earth to convince us that they are "pro-life".  As a matter of fact, they are anything but.  Once you are actually born, they no longer have any use for you, especially if you aren't white!  That is unconscionable to me.  Pro-life means Pro-life, or it should.  If you aren't pro-ALL-life, then you are simply playing stupid semantic games for political advantage.

Which is twice as bad.

Republicans will also move heaven and earth to keep the mountains of money moving into the military budget.  Money which, in much smaller amounts than DOD burns up, could solve forever the hunger problems of the entire Appalachian Mountain range and the rest of the country to boot.

But tanks, aircraft and ships DOD itself will tell you it doesn't need nor want are more important to the Republicans (and to be fair, a lot of Democrats) who don't want to give up the lucrative Federal contracts for their constituents back home.

Many of whom don't work for the contractors, and would rather have their children educated so they can get better jobs and not be hungry.

Education.   The bedrock of what made this country the greatest industrial powerhouse in the world which almost won WWII by the power of its industry alone.  The bedrock of what built us into a country with one of the highest standards of living in the world after that war was won.

A system Republicans are now trying to gut and convert into a system of religious schools, the Christian mirror of the Muslim madrases.  Schools which would be devoted to teaching our children religious dogma at the expense of science and technology, dropping this country in a short time to one of the worst educated countries on the planet.

A political Party that has declared war on women.  War on civil rights.  War on other religions, and before long, secessionist forces will tear this country apart, evan as Republicans rattle our sabers at yet another foreign country on what may very well be trumped up charges.  Again.

Why?  For what reason would they tear the strongest country this planet has ever seen apart?  Political power?  Personal power?  As I noted in my post just the other day, the demographics of the population growth and patterns of birthrates among the different ethnic groups is certain to put the Republicans into a minority position very soon.  Add to that their pattern of alienating almost every single voting block except white Southern males and you have to wonder what the ultimate goals may be.

Or if they are simply tools.  Tools being used by some unseen group with an agenda - an agenda that needs this country to fall from the pinnacle of its power as rapidly as possible, before the Republicans lose the opportunity to do so.

Because from where I sit, the Republican Party is bound and determined to destroy this country, while wrapping themselves in the flag and loudly proclaiming how much they love it.

It is a Party I cannot support, and one I am now ashamed to say I was once a supporter of.

Give me a few days, and I will outline some major failings of the Democrats, lest you think I've lost my rationality.

Monday, July 01, 2013

First Wisconsin, then Michigan, now Texas.

Well, thank you, Senator Wendy Davis!  You have shown that there are enough people in the South, specifically Texas, to draw a crowd when a legislature begins to cross the line!

I am truly beginning to wonder if the Republican Party has truly lost its collective mind.  IS it possible for a political party to just go crazy?  Is it possible for the Republican leadership to go so far that even their base will abandon them?

Geez, it's stupid enough to continue this nutzoid War on Women, potentially alienating half of the electorate.  But to start going after minority groups that are likely to surpass the number of whites by the middle of the century?

The point there is that you don't have to wait that long for the numbers to be able to tell.  The Hispanic voter base already outnumbers Conservatives in raw numbers.  So do the raw number of blacks.  Both groups, while not always a solidly reliable voting block, DO usually vote together on certain issues and for or against certain politicians often enough to be called a loose block.

The continued race towards Theocracy will most certainly keep the Jewish vote solidly Democratic for the most part.  I wonder if the 20% called The Nones can be counted on to begin to vote their interests...

So, who is left?  Who else but the white, male Southern voter?  Virtually every other voter in the US is either under attack, almost under attack, being kept from the polls by arbitrary draconian voter ID laws or just ignored by the Republican Party.

These people are so nuts that they are still talking up the possibility of secession!

Come on, people.  This isn't 1860, the Southern economy isn't based on slavery any longer, and you LOST the secession fight the last time!  Reconstruction was so damn bad parts of the South still haven't recovered, if there was ever any economy there to fight over in the first place.  In short, the fight over States Rights, while not exactly settled Federal Law, is a lot more settled in favor of the Feds than you think it is, I don't care how Conservative the Supreme Court may be.  You just cannot declare a Federal law to be ineffective in your State, it says so right there in the Constitution you supposedly worship so highly!  You might want to read it next time, instead of worshiping it.  You won't look nearly so stupid the next time you open your mouth unless you ignore what you read.

I've said it before in these pages, and I'll say it again.  Democrats, Progressives - wake up!  The Republicans have allied themselves not only with the rich cats, but they've allowed the Dominionists wolves in the door, too!  Believe me, if you aren't the right flavor of Christian, these guys will lump you in with us heathen atheists, just you wait and see!  As for the Catholics, you can be as fundamentalist Catholic as you wish, but if you acknowledge the Pope as the head of your church, eventually, when they no longer need your vote to take over, you'll end up behind barbed wire like the rest of the "unbelievers".

Yeah, sounds alarmist, doesn't it?  It is, yes, but in a very real way, it IS true, IF this country doesn't wake up and begin moving away from the nutcases.  Case after case can be seen today where extremist christians ignore Federal law, ignore the Constitution and flout their privilege however they wish - saying prayers in school, council meetings, teaching creation nonsense in schools, and in some places, actually allowing religious instruction IN PUBLIC SCHOOL.

This is unacceptable, and is INTENDED to show that they can ignore the Constitution whoever they wish.  that they think they are ABOVE the law.

We cannot allow this, we must bring this country back to some semblance of sanity.