Blog Against Theocracy 2013

Its been a long time dear readers. One of my earliest posts took part in the 2007 blog against theocracy. When I saw there was no organized blog against theocracy this year, I felt called to write. There is a great need to address this topic.

This past week has seen a historic awakening – a cultural awareness of the validity and importance of recognizing gay rights. It is a big moment, but underneath it an even bigger moment waits to be discovered: Religious belief alone is not a valid source of law. If your belief in the unity of all beings or the importance of love for they neighbor drives you to do good work – that is a beautiful blessing. But when your beliefs force those who do not share them to act as if they do: you cross a line. We see this play out in the absurd arguments against gay marriage. We see it in the obsessive drive to control and repress female sexuality. Increasingly though, we see it burrowing into harder to reach places. As America becomes less religious, as America pushes back on church incursions into state, we are going to see religious influence look for other ways to retain (and expand) power.

That is at play in this effort to push Bibles into public schools.

The foundations of knowledge of the ancient world—which informs the understanding of the modern world—are biblical in origin.

A statement like that ignores the prolific writings of ancient Greek, Roman, Egyptian sources. It ignores the musings and discoveries of the Islamic Golden Age. The thoughts of Chinese writers are also missing. It also ignores the more interesting contributions of Christian thinkers like St Augustine and St Anselm. I speak from experience when I say you can understand their wonderful and engaging philosophical musings without having read the bible.

If you really want to expose the underbelly of the effort to bring bibles into the classroom, ask if they think students should study the koran. After all, the koran is foundational to much of modern society (just not in the US). Better yet, see if Roma Downy and Mark Burnett would support including critical views of the bible. Is it to be read as is, without the criticism found in English or History classes? Or do they imagine students free to dissect the many logical errors and contradictions found within? More than likely not, since that would defeat the purpose of their effort, similar in spirit and aim to efforts to install the ten commandments at courthouses.

The highest promise of religious thought is to inspire acts of great compassion and vision. When it is instead used as an aggressive evangelical power grab, its value is demeaned and lessened. The strongest and most vocal ally in the fight against theocracy should always be the religious believer. For religion is worth far more than its current use – as a tool for social control.

Trading Jesus for Caesar

Andrew Sullivan has a provocative thought: That the politicization of Christianity in the US is turning people away from the faith (hat tip Pam).

I think there is a lot of truth to this.  The union of conservative politics and conservative Christianity has created a brand. A very strong brand that is associated with denying women access to health care, and reproductive choices. A brand associated with the Duggars and the Quiverfull movement – aimed at trading away agency and free thought for obedience and servitude. Conservative Christianity is tied tightly to the battle against gay rights. A battle that is losing the cultural war with each passing year. A battle with young casualties for gay youth growing up in caustic religious environments. In Rick Santorum the religious right has a champion who is bold enough to publicly attack pornography and pre-marital sex. This union of church and state – this theocratic movement – has a very strong brand with a very simple message: A return to a time where women were second class citizens, homosexuality was hidden or “treated”, and religion enjoyed unelected power.

That brand is costing believers. It is a trade, as the dominionist army gives up their goal of “saving souls” for Jesus in return for taking from Caesar what is Caesar’s.

So to the religious right I ask: Is it worth it?

Florida: Getting Away With Child Murder

Trayvon Martin was murdered in a shocking act of violence clearly motivated by racial bias, yet it looks like he won’t even get a slap on the wrist.

It appears that George Zimmerman drove up to Trayvon when the 17 year old was returning from a shopping trip with an iced tea and some skittles, got out of his car, attacked the youth, and shot him (emphasis mine):

According to 911 recordings released late Friday by Sanford police, Zimmerman said the person was walking slowly, looked drugged and appeared to be looking at people’s houses. Police would later learn that Trayvon had gone to 7-Eleven during the NBA All Star game halftime to get Skittles and Arizona iced tea.

These a–holes always get away,” Zimmerman complained.

What happened next is unclear, and has already reverberated nationwide. Calls to 911 alerted police to a scuffle and someone crying for help. In one, the chilling howl stopped after the clear, crisp blast of a bullet. Trayvon was lying face down on the ground near a pathway that runs through the townhouse community.

One 911 caller sobbed to the dispatcher over not having helped the young man who wailed.

Zimmerman told police that was him crying for help and that Trayvon started the fight. He claimed self-defense and was not charged

The history of consequence free violence against black people in this community suggests a systemic problem (emphasis mine):

n 2010, police waited seven weeks to arrest a lieutenant’s son who was caught on video sucker-punching a homeless black man.

In 2005, two security guards — one the son of a longtime Sanford police officer and the other a department volunteer — killed a black man they said was trying to run them over. Black leaders complained of a lackluster investigation. The guards ultimately were acquitted.

Police Chief Bill Lee is not helping the situation with his comments (emphasis mine):

“We are taking a beating over this,” said Lee, who defends the investigation. “This is all very unsettling. I’m sure if George Zimmerman had the opportunity to relive Sunday, Feb. 26, he’d probably do things differently. I’m sure Trayvon would, too.”

What the hell could Trayvon have done differently?

George Zimmerman has no need of going back in time to do things differently.  He apparently killed a child – and from the looks of things – will get away with it.

Standing Up for Women’s Rights

Let’s put this nonsense to bed forever. If the opportunity comes up to stand up for women’s rights – the only moral reaction is to seize that opportunity and fight to win. Failing to do so is not shrewd, playing to the middle, or anything other than weakness.

Digby:

For the sake of victims of domestic violence, VAWA should be reauthorized as soon as possible, but Democrats need to remember that we all know they’re in the midst of a tough election contest, too. Fight the good fight for women, but please, leave the noble posturing at home.

That’s right, it’s a tough election fight and the last thing Democrats need is to look like all they care about is a bunch of whiny bitches. Let’s not lose our heads here. 

Believe me, this is not an uncommon reaction. How do I know this? Because I’ve been watching this go down for my entire adult life. Any time “women’s issues” start to become prominent, a certain kind of liberal male gets very nervous. The stuff I heard during the 1992 “year of the woman” election was enough to curl my hair. And I see no reason to believe anything’s changed. I’ve already seen plenty of evidence that it hasn’t.

This is a noble fight. Advising Democrats to pretend it isn’t kills your credibility.

Assumptions of Believers and Post Death Sports

A very popular post death sport of believers is to foist their beliefs upon atheists – those sexy little blank slates.  In life atheists “have a faith in science!  ZOMG They worship science!” but in death there are secret prayers to assign, desperate conversions to gloat over (Pandagon):

humans have invented thousands and for all we know, millions of deities. Since you have so many to pick from, and you, being a naughty atheists, aren’t beholden to the one you inherited at birth, the field is wide open. Personally, for my secret moments of desperate prayer that I supposedly have, I’m definitely not going to go with the Christian god, who is mainly characterized in the Bible as a patriarchal dick. Seriously, fuck that guy.

This reminds me of debates I used to have with Campus Navigators and such at UMass, where I’d ask “if you start from scratch, how could you know which holy book to believe in?  Each claims to be the truth, none present evidence”. Without having been raised in a faith, there isn’t a compelling reason to join one outside of marriage, convenience, or intense social pressure.

For the believer, the assumption is always “oh an atheist will of course secretly believe in MY god.”  There are better alternatives out there.  Amanda Marcotte has chosen Tefnut – goddess of moisture, born of a holy wank, giver of sticky liquids in our times of need.  A wise choice, and she asks, who would you choose?  I’d like to invite fellow non-traditional-theists (like yours truly) into the fun, since doubtless true believers will speculate over our beliefs when we die – whether it is evangelical family members or celebrity religious nuts if we are lucky enough to grow famous.

I choose Zaltrog the Unbeliever – pictured above (src).  Zaltrog is frankly shocked at epistemic certainty of any kind, and demands contextualist cuddles.

Act Blue Turned Conservadem

I was reading a post on Crooks and Liars about Maddow blasting Conservative Democrats when a familiar name popped up (source TPM):

“Conservadems like Jon Tester and Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman are siding with the Republican senators, who are siding with no voters — not even their own!” Maddow exclaimed, noting a recent CNN poll that found that 63 percent of Republicans favored saving the jobs of teachers and first responders.

That name rang a bell… Oh right here he is, and again here with other “netroots” candidates.  What should we do with outsider candidates we vigorously supported and helped win office, when they turn directly against us once in office?

Help vigorously support their primary opponents.

Jim DeMint Wants to Compete With Skype

Finally a politician with the courage to go up against Skype.  A Republican – Doctor* DeMint – who loves government regulation has come out of the closet in favor of barring Skype users from discussing abortion with medical professionals.  No word yet on if he will allow an exception if you are skyping with your anti-choice priest.  What is clear, now Skype will face competition from SkypeDeMint.  SkypeDeMint – for all your abortion discussing needs.

Via Think Progress:

Now Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), one of the most die-hard anti-choice lawmakers, has jumped on the bandwagon by sneaking a radical anti-abortion amendment onto a completely unrelated piece of legislation. DeMint’s amendment would ban women and their doctors from discussing abortion over the Internet:

Anti-choice Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) just filed an anti-choice amendment to a bill related to agriculture, transportation, housing, and other programs. The DeMint amendment could bar discussion of abortion over the Internet and through videoconferencing, even if a woman’s health is at risk and if this kind of communication with her doctor is her best option to receive care.

Under this amendment, women would need a separate, segregated Internet just for talking about abortion care with their doctors.

Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said DeMint is essentially mandating “an abortion-only version of Skype.” She points out that a woman with high-risk pregnancy talking to her doctor through video conferencing would have to somehow switch to a separate communications system if abortion came up at all. “It is impractical, ridiculous, and, most importantly, bad for women in rural or remote areas who would not be able to discuss the full set of options with their doctor,” Keenan said.

In keeping with the anti-choice strategy of inching towards complete lack of reproductive choice, I wonder what the follow up to this amendment would be if it passes…

PS If you cannot discuss abortion over the internet, I wonder what impact this would have on blogs?

* Jim DeMint received his medical degree in the form of an MBA from Clemson.

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