Egypt’s Potential Liberty – Revolution

Egypt’s revolution is under way.  Reports of police officers removing their uniforms and joining the protesters fills me with hope.  My own country’s interest in Egypt and horrifying human rights record when it comes to respecting foreign powers fills me with dread.  The likelihood of their success depends upon a number of factors.  Outside influence is surely one – from the US, from Israel, from nearby Arab nations who fear their own security might be at risk if the flames of revolution spread (cough, Saudi Arabia, cough).  The reaction of the military is also key.  Will they start executing their own citizens, or will they bow to the will of the people and step aside?

Liberty for Egypt would further destabilize an already unstable region – but so would failure.  In their success the message of self-determination and hope they broadcast to the world could spur advancement for human rights.  Their struggle is not disconnected from the rest of the world – no matter how much their government attempts to cut them off.  It resonates and carries with it elements of frustration at rapidly increasing economic and political distance between the haves and the have nots.  That is a universal frustration.

Fighting Religious Tyranny

Blog Against Theocracy

We need to step up our fight against religious tyranny, for there are surely those fighting as hard as they can on theocracy’s behalf.

The politically dominant expression (and face) of faith in this country is that of conservative Christianity.  And conservative Christians are in battle mode over their perceived right to force their religion on Americans.  Attempts to portray themselves as the victims only makes sense in that they are weakening.    To paraphrase Mike Gronstal’s incredible daughter(via),  they don’t get that they’ve lost.  Maintaining love segregation is a position held by the old and the fearful.  Men and women who clutch onto their bibles tightly in the presence of unbelievers, and who are only comfortable to the extent that they can force their peers to adhere to their own religious laws.

That this flies in the face of the letter and spirit of our constitution means nothing to them.  Theirs is a single-minded pursuit that allows no room for observation of facts or the inclusion of reason.

Fortunately ours is a resistance to religious tyranny that allows no room for pessimism or blindness.  Rather than fight for control, we stand up for freedom.  For all the Christians who wear their faith on their neighbor’s sleeve, there are those who truly embody the noble spirit of love and humility.  And that is why this is a fight that will go to those who value love.

But no fight is sure until the ending bell tolls.  We must engage in the practical optimism of committment and steel ourselves to see this battle through to victory.  And be certain that the anti-love crowd will surely to step up their attacks (mostly by ratcheting up the crazy) in the coming years.  For example, ironically named NationForMarriage (aka NOM NOM NOM) has a video attacking gay marriage by suggesting it is in fact an attack on conservative Christians and their own faith.

Irritating, no?  So how should we respond?

I think there are two immediately clear approaches.  One is satire that cuts close to the bone.  An idea behind NOM’s deliciously innacurate ad is that public schools teaching kids gay marriage is ok is somehow wrong.  We can run a satirical using impact and extension.  The impact ad would go like this:

Teacher: “Everyone, during the last week of parent teacher conferences, we found out Billy’s parents are both men!”

(Flash to a surprised and slightly embarrassed Billy)

“Gay marriage is morally wrong.  His parents are sinners.”

(Billy slinks below his desk)

“Feel free to bully him during recess.”

(Billy gulps and looks at a nearby, larger kid with a mean look on his face).

“Next up, Rachel!  I hear your parents are Jewish, and are therefore going to hell?”

(Cut to the slogan “Church and State: They Belong Together”).

The extension ad would go like this:

Concerned Parent: “Do you want schools teaching your kids about gay marriage?”

Concerned Parent: “Just how many other non Christian ideas might your kids be subjected to?”

Concerned Parent: “Sex before marriage is ok?  The Bible isn’t 100% true?  The world wasn’t created by God?  Not believing in Jesus is ok?”

Concerned Parent: “Where will it end?”

(Cut: “Put the Christ Back in Schoolchrist”)

The other approach to satire is to go for the throat of their interpretation of Christianity itself.  We can start by advocating and adgitating to give liberal and moderate Christians a voice in the national dialogue on faith.  Too often the only people allowed to speak for Christianity in the public square are conservative Christians.  A good next step would be to bring discussion of religion’s rationals and merits into the public square.  This means more discussions not just of whether or not to be religious (and finally including the nonreligious), but internal religious discussions of what it means to be a Christian brought out into mainstream discourse.  When all we have are conservatives controlling what we are allowed to talk about, we’ll get nowhere.  There is so much more to the disccusion of what religion means and what we can get out of it.

As a part of this effort we need to make an effort to give the 15% of Americans who have no religious affiliation a very public political voice.  This means more elected officials, more voices in the media, and inclusion in discussions of faith’s role in public life.  It means aggressively revealing and debating public officials who treat unbelievers as social deviants.  We need to start including the non religious in inter religious efforts to promote understanding.  For example, a local interfaith dialogue between Christians, Muslims and Jews needs to include Humanists!  We need to get those who do not believe in God, or in Scriptures, or just in organized Religion into the light so religious Americans can realize “hey, they aren’t that scary after all”.  We need to make clear that the 15% with no affiliation are not all atheists, but include Americans who believe in God but don’t adhere to holy books (like myself), and Americans who believe in Scripture don’t take kindly to organized religion.  Each of these groups needs to be seen and heard.  We need to give the non religious the voice we are so adamantly denied.

To sum up, we have every reason to feel optimistic, but now is the time to step strongly forward.  We should use sharp humor as our primary weapon, and work to change the rhetorical landscape to include more traditionally excluded voices (liberal and moderate Christians, the non religious, etc).

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(blog against theocracy logo author)

Theocrats: Don’t Tread on Me

I’ve got a post over at Revolutionary Act on Republicans, Gay Marriage, Palin, and Theocracy.  You are all warmly encouraged to drop by and share your voice.

Amy Goodman Arrested: RNC Police State Follow Up

My very politically astute friend Jeff sent me this (it isn’t hard to see why):

That’s Amy Goodman of Democracy Now being arrested on obviously bullshit charges.  I think Jeff’s reaction captures my own in better words:

On Democracy Now today (Monday morning), Amy Goodman reported that 2 Democracy Now producers (along with a slew of other independent news people) were arrested in St. Paul in advance of the RNC convention.  Pretty shocking news, but almost not expected ….

But now I just got an email/video of AMY GOODMAN ARRESTED TODAY (Monday) at 5 PM – it’s REALLY fucked up.

I somewhat dismissed it as just going a little over the line when the cops at the DNC arrested the ABC news guy, and a bunch of protestors – but this is crazy.  This is a level of suppression (although not punishment, as I’m sure she’ll be released in a day) that could be compared to China.  What the fuck is going on!?

In light of police in riot gear armed with semi-automatic weapons raiding houses of RNC political enemies, this is looking even more sinister than it would out of context.

The Police at the Republican National Convention are straight up suppressing the political opposition.

This was an unlawful arrest.  As was the needlessly violent arrest of two Democracy Now producers:

Goodman, who was released after being charged with a misdemeanor, said that Salazar had been hurt in the face, while Kouddous had been thrown up against a wall and hurt his elbow.

“Nicole told me that as they moved in on three sides, she asked them ‘How do I get away from this?’ and they jumped on her.”

Inaction and silence says more than a thousand speeches.

“One of the police kept shouting at me ‘Shut up, shut up,” she said. “It was extremely threatening.”

It says “shut the fuck up and keep in your place, or you are next.”

If we do not respond to this sharply it will be repeated and it will encourage even further abuses.  When the police violently arrest members of the press at will, and invade our homes armed to the teeth to arrest and confiscate at will, we are not in any sense of the word free.  We are citizens on probation in a police state.

There is Nothing Less American Than Censorship

Something to remember when John McCain has people arrested at his rallies for opposing political messages:

A 61-year-old librarian was ejected from an ostensibly public McCain campaign event at the Denver Center of Performing Arts in Denver, CO on June 7 because she was brandishing a deadly memetic weapon: a hand-lettered sign that read “McCain=Bush.”

Carol Kreck was standing outside the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, on city property. Ms. Kreck objected that she was standing on city property. She was lead away by a police office and ticketed for trespassing.

As a country we put more value in our flag than in the freedom it represents.  What a way to spit on the bravery of the first Americans who fought and won liberty (NYTimes via Tom Tomorrow, emphasis mine):

“People go ape when they see it,” said Jim Alexander, a retired Coast Guard commander who runs Superflag, the company that basically invented the industry and once held the world record for the largest flag, which temporarily hung on the Hoover Dam. It was 255 by 505 feet and has been surpassed by a flag in Israel that measures 2,165 by 330 feet. “It’s a feeling. It’s a feeling that takes over a whole stadium. If anyone in the stands opened their mouth and objected, there would be hell to pay.”

That’s the attitude of McCain’s vision for America given voice.  That’s just one more reason we need to unite and fight.

Atheism is Not a Religion

This particular falsehood crops up, often, in debates surrounding religion and its intrusion into the affairs of state.  Let’s get this straight.  Atheism is the belief that there is no God.  That’s it.  A single belief.

A religion is a system of beliefs grounded in faith.  It contains traditions and instructions on how best to live.

Atheism is often claimed as being religious or faith based in an effort to make arguments grounded in religion seem sound.  There’s a very obvious ulterior motive at play.

Steph’s Blog, home to some of the more interesting posts out there, has unfortunately provided a very good example of the fallacious reasoning that pegs atheism out to be a religion:

Atheism is an irrational faith based belief system because unlike agnosticism, atheism asserts that God doesn’t exist, that belief can’t be proved by evidence or rational argument, it’s a leap of faith. It’s the logical equivalent of Dawkins saying that he has never experienced the female orgasm so it doesn’t exist.

Note the ad-homimen.  Classssy.  Also utterly wrong.

Faith is the acceptance of a belief without the involvement of the usual epistemic suspects: logic or evidence.  Atheism is the result of paying attention to the host of attempts throughout history to prove the existence of God through the use of logic.  It is one conclusion on can reach, and although I do not agree with it, it can hardly be called an “irrational faith based belief system”.  That’s textbook ignorance.

As a faith based belief system, atheism is no more or less valid than any other, including my own: Catholicism. But as a political ideology, atheism has proved a good deal more nihilistic and genocidal than religion has during the 20th Century: Fascism, Nazism and Bolshevism were all secular ideologies, and far more wars have been fought over secular motives, than have ever been fought over religious ones.

This is where Steph steps over the line.  War isn’t a counting game.  Some wars have been fought over who, how and whether people worship.  These wars are an abomination and condemnation of the people pretending to fight in the name of religious principles.  But saying wars fought over land or natural resources are “atheist” wars is searingly idiotic.  Religion has historically had an element of social control associated with its structure and execution.  Thus some governments sought to clamp down on it or exploit it.  The nazis where actually opposed to atheism.  Theirs was a Christian movement (note that they did persecute Christians who did not follow their own particular brand).

But secularism is nothing more than regressive bigotry – it’s a throwback to the religious intolerance of the Nazis and it’s as fundamentalist as any American Evangelical sect. There is no room for compromise in secularism – religion is bad – so must be obliterated from all spheres of public life; children must be force fed an areligious eduction based on the lie that it is rational and desirable to believe that God doesn’t exists; and those who adhere to religious beliefs prohibited and punished from observing the tenets of their faith.

Steph’s attack on secularism is no more sensible than her attack on atheism.  The ideal of a secular government, as opposed to the alternative, a theocratic government, is a government that does not recognize an official state religion.  Perhaps the idea of the government enforcing its rule on a Catholic (Steph is in the UK) isn’t shocking when the Church of England is the dominant religious institution.  But I invite Steph to stretch her imagination and envision living in a country where her religion is significantly different from the dominant religion.

Discussion of religion in school is fine.  Officially teaching one religion to all students as though it were fact is religious bullying.  A secular state does not “prohibit and punish” people for “observing the tenets of their faith”.  It protects the right to practice or not practice as one sees fit, and ensures the government will never force a particular religion onto unwilling citizens.

In a world so warped by religious strife, we need more secular states and values.

I’d like to be extra clear on the point of the secular state.  In a secular state:

  • You are free to practice/worship or not as you wish

In a non secular state (a theocratic state) any of the following could apply:

  • The official state religion is taught in schools
  • Laws are based in the state religion’s scripture
  • You are not allowed to worship freely unless it is in the state approved manner

A secular country is one that understands and upholds freedom.

Pharmacists For Controlling Your Sex Life

The group Pharmacists for Life International wants to control wombs.  They stand against personal freedom in the name of utter nonsense.  As always, the surprise comes when you consider that these folks are allowed to operate at all.  Refusing to sell contraceptives to women is by any practical measure as prejudicial as refusing to serve women.

That said, I got a kick out of this little exchange with Feministing.  So inspired, being a web developer professionally, I took a look at their website.

<Geekiness>

Now as a professional, I immediately dug the animated gifs and the simple yet adventurous with fonts design.  But I thought, could the site possibly be using tables…. oh yes it is!  You can’t make websites using technology at the same historical level as their view of women’s rights, but this is damn close.

</Geekiness>

A little google and whois later, I found this gem.  The webmaster’s site: Kuhar.com.  Its practically candy mountain (The Beak):

A client scanning Dr. Kuhar’s website might question if “Traditional Catholic social princples” not only include rejecting all ideas of family planning and birth control but also spelling and grammar check. Some of the “quality products” American Pro-Life Enterprise sells include “non-sterile” latex gloves for situations requiring “santitary conditions.” APLE also sells thermometers for “arising temperatures” and supplies to make one’s own homemade “yogourt.” Someone seeing Dr. Kuhar’s website might question his intellectual abilities and, subsequently, his staunch defense of an organization life PFLI.

That was posted in 2004.

What’s surprising isn’t that people have ideas like this.  Psychotic people are a fact of life.  What’s insane is that here it is, 2008, and Dr. Kuhar and his bretherin have gone from homemade yogurt and pharmacists refusing to sell contraceptives to pharmacies spreading racism, lies, and more lies all while slamming the Bible in the face of any woman trying to obtain reproductive health products.

Who will be in control of your sex life in 2012?