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?

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.

Herman Cain’s Whining Point by Point

Herman Cain caught some well deserved flak for telling the Occupy Wall Street movement to “stop whining”.  He attempted to defend his statement during a debate (TPM via Digby):

“I still stand by my statement and here’s why. They might be frustrated with Wall Street and the bankers,” Cain continued, “but they’re directing that anger at the wrong place. Wall Street didn’t put in failed economic policies. Wall Street didn’t spend a trillion dollars that didn’t do any good. Wall Street isn’t going around the country trying to sell another $450 billion.”

Point by point:

Wall Street didn’t put in failed economic policies.

Compliant Democrats and Republicans acting at the behest of and in the interests of Wall Street did.  The phrase puppet-masters is often overused.  Here it perfectly describes the situation.

Wall Street didn’t spend a trillion dollars that didn’t do any good.

Wall Street was what that trillion dollars BOUGHT.  We the people paid for their criminal acts, their failure, their greed, with our dollars.  This is like blaming your neighbor for spending $600 to repair the window you broke.

Wall Street isn’t going around the country trying to sell another $450 billion.

While it is true Wall Street isn’t traveling around trying to sell anything – it is because they do not need to.  They have politicians to do that for them.  On top of that sales effort is a larger one, to keep Americans stuck in a socio-economic system where the vast majority of us have no meaningful say in what goes on.  Where money talks, money votes, and money rules.  Wall Street may not be going around the country themselves, but they are trying to sell a lot more than a $450 billion stimulus.

Wall Street is trying to sell off our economic future to indulge their economic present.

Herman Cain is just another stock Republican candidate from Wall Street Inc.

 

Fun With Rhetoric, Communism and the Far Right

Its been far too long since we’ve checked in with SPLC’s Hate Watch, and there’s a wealth of new stories (quite the uptick in insane sovereign citizen stories).  But today I want to talk about an extraordinary piece of ultra conservative insanity.

Anti-Muslim crazy from SPLC (emphasis mine):

Frank Gaffney, an anti-Muslim activist who in April told conservatives that “Shariah is communism with a God,” has called on Congress in a Washington Times column to bring back the McCarthy-era House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC). This time around, the infamous panel’s job will be to root out the Islamist operatives who, he claims, are well on their way to replacing America’s democracy with a Shariah-based caliphate.

This is brilliant.  Why?  Because it combines two feared and hated subjects, makes no sense, and is short memorable and catchy.  One could surely stretch the imagination to find similarities, just as easily as one could claim Jesus was a Communist on account of his well known views on the wealthy.  But that doesn’t end any real credibility to it, which works in Gaffney’s favor.  The more insane and clearly untrue the slogan, the more the increasingly schizoid right seems to embrace their loony leaders.  They seem to get just as much pleasure from seeing the left bang their heads against the wall in frustration as they do in having yet another “reason” to hate on their favorite targets.

Why not hit back with more of the same?  Can you come up with any good ones?  Off the top of my head, here’s two:

  1. Conservatism is Corporate Communism.
  2. The Religious Right is Shariah with Jesus.

What do you think?  Most important of all, will it piss off the far right?

Cisco Helps China Censor

Cisco Helping China Monitor its Citizens isn’t so much new as a stark reminder of the nature of corporations.  Corporations are by definition sociopathic, which makes me feel all warm and fuzzy about the amount of power they command in today’s society.  Boycott Cisco if you like, not that it would do anything.

American Politics: How Doomed Are We?

What we’ve got going for us in the ol’ US of A:

  • Massive corruption across all branches of government, with conflicts of interest between politicians, judges, and corporations.
  • Politicians who regularly fail to represent their constituents, with laws being passed a majority (sometimes a vast majority) of Americans oppose.
  • An electoral system that keeps people away from the polls, is designed in some cases to shift who gets elected (gerrymandering), and is based on an arcane set of rules rather than direct voting (electoral college, for one).
  • An electoral system driven by financial power, and creating an increasing barrier to entry for potential politicians, as well as allowing more influence for corporations and the wealthy, and less for ordinary citizens.
  • A population who is either disengaged and aren’t paying attention, or largely misinformed (sometimes by choice).
  • A media that is either slanted to the point of propaganda (Fox), or an integral part of the status quo and corporate power (nearly everyone else “mainstream”), and increasingly distrusted.
  • A weak and vulnerable economy operating on the same foundation and assumptions that caused a recent recession.
  • A military that is stretched past its breaking point, with compromised ability to respond to a direct threat.
  • Police who are able to, with increasing regularity, get away with committing crimes against the people they are supposed to protect (from assault with tasers, to rape, to murder).
  • A legal system that is tilted in the favor of corporations and the wealthy.
  • An increasingly sharp divide between economic classes with decreasing upwards mobility.
  • A marked increase in racist and xenophobic speech, crimes, and laws.
  • An increase in laws restricting citizen rights.
  • An increase in laws expanding corporate rights.
  • Sharply increasing political and cultural polarization.

So, how doomed are we?

Selective and Brutal Enforcement

Some thoughts about my last post…  I’ve been on subways where NYPD officers ignore people breaking the law in a number of ways.  They’ve done nothing.  Which leads to a situation of selective, yet brutal, enforcement of laws.

What does that do to citizens, knowing that the police might beat you and arrest you for something you’ve previously seen an officer walk by like it was no big deal?

At the Mercy of the Church

Franklin Graham’s assertion that the government needs to leave the care of the jobless and the needy to the Church asks us to cede the care of all Americans to religious authority.  This brings us to an appropriate topic for this Blog Against Theocracy 2011  post: Charity vs Social Justice and how it feeds into the power hungry tendencies of organized religion.

Charity is about giving to those in need, Social Justice is about addressing the reason people are in need.  There is a story about a man who comes upon a river, and sees a child drowning.  He dives in, and pulls the child to shore.  As soon as he reaches the shore he see’s two more children drowning.  Upon rescuing them, he see’s three coming down the river.  At some point, we need to ask what is going on upriver.

So how does this connect to Graham’s statements, and the role of the Church?

Charity can exist within the right-wing theocratic dream society, social justice cannot.  Charity allows us to help the visibly suffering temporarily but keeps us from addressing the systemic roots of the problem.  Charity puts the have-nots at the mercy of the haves.  The poor depend on the whims of the rich.  This is precisely what happens in Graham’s ideal world:

If you didn’t have a job, you’d go to your local church and ask the pastor if he know somebody that could hire him. If you were hungry, you went to the local church and told them, “I can’t feed my family.” And the church would help you. And that’s not being done.

Where does that leave atheists?  Where does it leave Jews and Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists?  At the mercy of the Church.

Which is precisely where right wing theocrats want us – at the mercy of wealthy and the ostensibly holy.  Without the equality of a safety net by the people and for the people, help could be tied to church attendance (or come with a heavy evangelical price tag: “You want to eat?  Sit through a lunch hour advertisement for Jesus”).

a hundred years ago, the safety net, the social safety net in the country was provided by the church.

But the government took that. And took it away from the church. And they had more money to give and more programs to give, and pretty soon, the churches just backed off.

For those churches that backed off – it is an indication of their character and commitment to their fellow man (contrary to implication: not all churches backed off providing a safety net).  Our national character must be made of still deeper compassion and wisdom.  Not only must we continue to fight for social justice on an national level, but in our own lives work to address the systemic suffering in our world.  For that we don’t need religious authority – only our own innate sense of right and wrong.

DC Should Suspent Garbage Collection for Congress

Since Congress is going to shut down to appease the Republicans (who will settle for nothing less than complete Democratic obedience) – this means DC will need to cut services:

The city would close Department of Motor Vehicles locations and suspend public works operations like street sweeping, and the city would let a week go by before collecting trash, Gray said. All of D.C.’s libraries would be closed, as would the city’s recreation centers.

Why not cut off trash collection and cleaning for Congress (and all congressional offices) until the budget has been passed?

There Are No Fiscal Conservatives

Quick Hit: We need to kill the term Fiscally Conservative, and replace it with Fiscally Responsible. Because Fiscal Conservatives are never Fiscally Responsible, and its Fiscal Responsibility that we need.  That means not cutting off your source of funding with tax cuts, not cutting off programs that provide social services and ignoring the negative long term economic impact.  It means understanding that when you screw the poor and middle class you destroy the basis of our economy – which thrives on consumption.  It means you don’t put the prejudices of social conservatives ahead of fiscal discipline.  You cut the expensive programs where there’s waste even if its the hard choice politically.  That means cutting the military budget.  It means refraining from entering into new conflicts when we can’t afford the one’s we are still embroiled in.

TSA’s Bigotry Towards Wicca

The TSA – apparently deciding it wasn’t doing enough to earn the active hate of the public – has decided to indulge in a little anti-Wiccan bigotry.  And come on, who hasn’t wanted to spend a lazy Sunday hating on “those witches” and their evil witch powers?  We’re only human for heaven’s sake.  MSNBC via Jesus’ General:

Here’s a situation for all you aspiring managers: If you were the boss at a U.S. government agency and one of your employees complained that she was afraid of a co-worker’s religious practices, what would you do?

Would it change your decision if the religion were Wicca, and the employee feared her co-worker because she thought she might cast a spell on her?

Here’s how the Transportation Security Administration handled it:

It fired the witch.

NICE.  As seems to be the usual luck in prejudiced firings, they took out one of their best employees:

She was in the top 10 percent in Albany at catching weapons on the X-ray machine.

As a patriotic god fearing Christ warrior American, I’d rather fly with a few more deadly weapons on board than know there’s an evil witch parading around the airport – not believing in Jesus.  Turns out the TSA is firmly in my corner there.  Good on them.

Making the Political Personal

crunktastic asks a great question:

Can I feel safe in the softness of your touch if you don’t feel led to question a culture where other men routinely touch other women violently?

Its a great question, and one worth considering beyond gender politics as well.

ps – Note to crunktastic, throwing in a historically inaccurate cheap shot doesn’t bolster your arguments:

In addition to accompanying their men to the polls to monitor their votes, Black women banded together and encouraged each other to withhold sex from any man who voted against the community’s interests. These sisters knew how personal the political was long before white women said it.

Using sex to influence politics has been around as a tool for ages across world cultures.

UPDATE: I totally goofed the ps note due to utterly missing the historical reference!  Oops.  So please disregard the post script above.

Are There ANY POSITIONS Republicans Don’t Hold Hypocritically?

Apparently many of the pundits at Fox and Sarah Palin are union members!  So let’s get this right.  Republicans oppose abortion (except for their own families – unless they are true believers like Palin), oppose government health care (while indulging in it themselves), oppose “illegal” immigrants (while carving exceptions for cleaners and yard workers for themselves), oppose government spending (unless its on their pet projects or military funding), oppose government control of individual liberties (unless its for the sake of a police state), oppose gay rights (but privately many are in fact gay)… The list just goes on.  Is there a single position the Republicans believe in and act in accordance with?