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.

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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.

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.

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.

Huckabee – Jesus in Every Home

If Huckabee does end up running again – in 2012 or 2016 – remember this guy is going to use his position of power to push Christianity into our legal system, into our policy, and onto our citizens.  He consistently “jokes” about forcing Christianity on citizens in the same way Bush used to joke about wanting to be a dictator.

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.