Your Religion Is Your Religion, Not Everyone Elses

I’ve been pretty harsh in my views toward superstitious beliefs in general and religion in particular.  You find what I have to say offensive.  Thats fine, because I find things you have to say offensive as well.  There is nothing wrong with being offended. It happens to everyone about something or other at some point.

What I find annoying and sad is when you feel that I am somehow persecuting you by my stance on these issues.  This is just plain wrong.  That you feel persecuted reflects your sense of privilege and superiority because you feel that  you are right because your god tells you so.  It is exactly this self righteous attitude that I despise and rail against.  It isn’t your beliefs I find offensive, but the effects of those beliefs upon everyone else.

I believe that everyone has a right to believe whatever they want to believe; to worship (or not) as they wish.  The one caveat is that your beliefs and your worshiping are yours, not everyone else’s.   Talk about them to others if you (and they) wish,  but don’t preach.   Express your views on morality, but don’t seek to impose your morality upon others.

This also goes for your actions.  If you believe that prayer alone can cure you, great.  Just don’t insist on only using prayer when your child or someone else you love is ill.  If they are receiving medical treatment and you think prayer will help, fine.  But don’t insist that god will save your loved one by prayer alone because plenty of people have died needlessly because prayer was substituted for sound medical treatment.

Also, don’t try to legislate your morality so that it is imposed upon all of us.  The current GOP/Religious Right’s war against women and LGTB’s is a perfect example.  It is religion that causes the party of small government that does not intrude into our private lives to perpatrate the hypocrisy of passing laws that intrude into the most private parts of our lives: reproductive rights and the right to chose who to love and who to commit your life to.

It has often been said that religion cause good people to do terrible things.  History certainly seems to bear this out.   The imposition of Islam upon those that they conquered; the crusades where the Christian did the same to the Muslims and Jews; the hundreds of years of wars and the burning of thousands at the stake over differing versions of Christianity; the thousands of Muslim and Hindus killed in the partitioning of India.

So, feel free to hold your beliefs dear to you.  Worship as you wish.  But, keep these things out of the public sphere where they can do no harm, or infringe upon the rights of the rest of us.

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The American Taliban: For Real

Many writers and bloggers have used the term, “American Taliban”, over the past decade or so as a metaphor for the growing influence of the religious right in politics and the public sphere.  It is meant to highlight those on the right who would like to see everyone live by their religious standards.  It has often been used as hyperbole in order to show the potential dangers of letting religion hijack the political process in this country.  Until now.  It is hyperbole no longer, but a frightening fact.

In Arizona, the state legislature is considering a bill that could require that employees provide proof to their employers that any contraceptives they use are proscribed for medical reasons.

Arizona House Bill 2625, authored by Majority Whip Debbie Lesko, R-Glendale, would permit employers to ask their employees for proof of medical prescription if they seek contraceptives for non-reproductive purposes, such as hormone control or acne treatment.

“I believe we live in America. We don’t live in the Soviet Union,” Lesko said. “So, government should not be telling the organizations or mom and pop employers to do something against their moral beliefs.” *

This is a blatant attempt by the religious right to force their views on everyone else.  Given that this law and other similar ones being passed by state legislatures across the country, this is no longer the propagation of fanatic religious ideology in principle, but in practice.  This is the real American Taliban.

The Taliban in Afganistan forced their version of Islamic Shari’a law, based upon their reading go the Quran, upon the people of that country.  Not only could women not control what happened to their own bodies, they were forbidden to vote, to receive an education, and to even go outside without covering themselves from head to toe in burkas.  Women who were suspected of committing adultery were stoned to death or beheaded.

This is, of course, extreme, but at its core it is no different than the American Taliban who wish to enforce their Christian shari’a law, based on the Bible, upon the rest of us.  Many of the leaders and prominent members of the religious right have stated unequivocally that their goal is nothing less than to turn this country into a Christian nation and replace the U.S. Constitution with the Bible as the guiding document of our laws and government.

Some of these same people have called for the imprisonment, or even death, of homosexuals, and the complete and total submission of women to men.  They call for the abandonment of  science and reason, the guiding principles of which have made this country the world power it is today.  They would joyfully lead us to become a population of ignorant servants to their god who will quickly fall behind the rest of the world in technology, just as other great civilizations such as Rome, Egypt, and Persia have done after religious dogma replaced education and reason.

If you think I am being alarmist, think again.  Laws have already been passed to force women to submit to humiliating medical examinations in order to get an abortion, to force the teaching of religious dogma in place of science in classrooms, and to force doctors to lie to women about the health of their unborn child.  These laws are real and they are just the beginning, unless we, as voters, put a stop to it.

For you Christian women out there, if you ever felt sorry for the poor women of Afghanistan under the Taliban, or the Ayatollahs in Iran, just look no further than these examples to see what your life could eventually be like if the American Taliban continue to push their fanatical agenda upon the American people.

Wether you believe that this country was found upon Christianity or not,  you can’t deny that it was built upon the idea of religious freedom.  Religious freedom means not just being able to practice your own religion and to live your life as your personal set of morals tell you, it also means freedom from having to bend to others’ particular religious beliefs.  You would never want someone to tell you how you can worship or live your life, but that is exactly what the American Taliban is trying to accomplish.  Unfortunately, alarmingly, they are starting to succeed.

 

http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2012/03/14/arizona-demonstrates-why-the-pill-isnt-just-for-family-planning-isnt-enough-on-its-own/

I Chose Not To Believe

I think that the one of the most compelling reasons that I have chosen not be believe in any supernatural god(s) can best be summed up by the picture below.  Look at it. Think really hard about it.  If you do you will begin to understand what lead me to shed my supersitious beliefs.

poly_atheism_demotivational_by_hull612-d39xom1

By hull612 (Otherwise known as Jon)

Why Are Atheists So Angry

As most of you who read this blog know, I was at the American Atheists Conference in Des Moines, Iowa this weekend.  One of the speakers was Greta Christina, a wonderful blogger, writer, editor, and speaker.  She gave an excellent speech titled, Why Are Atheists So Angry, which I wrote about very briefly about in an earlier post.  I also recorded her speech and posted the videos which you can fine here.

A friend of mine responded on my Facebook wall to my various post about the conference and asked:

“so why are athiest so angry? please just the headlines”

Unfortunately, I can’t give just the headlines because that would never do justice to the question.  I decided to transcribe all the reasons that Greta gave in her speech and publish them here. Please understand that I am not a stenographer, so I may have missed a few words or something here and there, but I think it is pretty accurate overall.

People are so used to whispering around religion that an everyday voice sounds like a shout.

 

I am angry that atheists get pegged for being angry and confrontational simple for existing and being open about who we are.

 

I am angry that according to a recent Gallop pool, only 45% of Americans would vote for an atheist president.

 

I am angry that that is took until 1962 before atheists could serve on juries, testify in court in every state in the country.

 

I am angry that atheists in the U.S. are frequently denied custody of their children in divorce cases strictly because they are atheists.

 

I am angry that the Iranian atheists blogger in Iran who said that they have to blog anonymously or they will be executed.

 

I am angry that that school boards across the country, 80 years after the Scopes trail, have to spend money and resources fighting the drive to teach creationism and ID in schools.  This is money that can be spent on making real improvements for our childrens’ education.

 

I am angry that science teachers in public schools often don’t teach evolution, or only give it a cursory mention even when teaching it is sanctioned nor ever required, because they are afraid of sparking controversy and don’t want to deal with angry fundamentalist parents.

 

I am angry that women are dying of AIDS in Africa and South America because the Catholic Church has taught them that using condoms makes baby Jesus cry.

 

I am angry that preachers tell the women of their flock to submit to their husbands because it is the will of God even when those husbands are beating them to within an inch of their lives.

 

I am angry thatt the belief in karma and reincarnation gets use as justification for the caste system in India.

 

I am angry that people bon into poverty and despair are taught that it’s their fault, that they must have done something bad in a previous life and that the misery they are born into is their punishment for that.

 

I am angry that people in Africa are being terrorized, driven from their homes, tortured, and killed over accusations of witchcraft; not in the middle ages, not in the 1600s, this is happening now, today, as we speak.

 

I am angry that so many parents and religious leaders terrorize children who:

 

a) have brains that are hard-wired to trust adults and believe what they are told.

b) are very literal minded.

 

are told stories of eternal burring and torture to insure that they will be too frightened to ever question religion.

 

I am angry that children are taught by religions to hate their bodies and their sexuality.

 

I am angry that female children get taught to hate and fear their femaleness, and that queer children get taught to hate and fear their queerness.

 

I am angry that in fundamentalist, Mormon, polygamous cults, girls are raised from birth to believe that they will be tortured and burned in hell if they don’t marry whatever man they are told to marry by their preacher, in most cases when they are teenagers, and in some cases when they are as young as 13, and in some cases younger than that.

 

I am angry that in the non-fundamentalist, non-polygamous entirely mainstream Mormon Church girls are raised from birth to believe that they will be tortured and burned in hell if they don’t marry, have lots of children, and be submissive to their husbands.

 

I am angry that gay kids are raised from birth that they will be tortured and burned in hell if they don’t deny and suppress their sexuality.

 

I am angry that in Salt Lake City, Utah, 40% of all homeless teenagers are gay because they have be kicked out of their house by their Mormon families.  Yeah, let’s hear it for family values.

 

I’m angry about the Muslim girl in the public school, who was told in the public school by her public school, taxpayer paid teacher, in the United States, in the classroom, that the red stripes on Christmas candy canes represented Christ’s blood, that she had to believe in him and be saved by Jesus Christ, or she would be condemned to hell and that if she didn’t there would be no place for her in his classroom.

 

I’m angry at the Sunday school teacher who told comic artist Craig Thompson that he could draw in heaven, and that she said this with the complete conviction of authority when, in fact, she had no basis whatsoever for that assertion.  How did she know that, as she asserted, that you could sing in heaven, but that you couldn’t draw?

 

I am enraged at priests who rape children and tell them that it’s God’s will.

 

I’m angry at the Catholic Church who consciously, deliberately, and repeatedly, for years, acted to protect these priests who raped children, and literally acted to keep it a secret.   I’m angry that they placed the Catholic Church’s reputation as a higher priority that children not being raped.

 

That the Catholic Church is now trying to argue in court that protecting child raping priests from prosecution and the shuffling of them from diocese to diocese so that they could continue raping children in new diocese and keep hidden from view, is constitutionally protected freedom of religion.

 

I’m angry about 9/11.  That after 9/11 happened that people of Middle Eastern decent were attacked and their businesses vandalized, because the were Muslims, or because people assumed that they were Muslims even if they weren’t because they blamed all Muslims for the attacks.

 

I’m angry that Jerry Farwell blamed 9/11 on pagans, abortionists, feminists, gays and lesbians, the ACLU, and People For The American Way.

 

I’m angry that this theology of an angry, wrathful god exacting revenge against pagans and abortionists by sending radical Muslims to blow up buildings secretaries and investment bankers.   I’m angry that this was a theology held by a powerful widely respected religious leader with million of followers.

 

I’m angry that little girls are getting their clitorises cut off because their parents’ religion teaches that it is necessary.

 

I’m angry that many people try to defend religion against the charge of female genital mutilation by saying, “Oh, that’s not what the religion really teaches if you look at the religions text, etc.”  The fact is that Islamic religion, as it is actually widely believed  and practiced; and not just Islam, but other religions in the region as they are actually believed and practiced teach that little girls need to have their clitorises cut off.  And it enrages me that so many people defend the religion and not the children.

 

I’m angry about honor killings.

 

I’m angry that in Islamic theocracies, women who have sex outside marriage, women who date outside their religion, women who spend time with male friends, woman who disobey their male relatives are executed.

 

I’m angry that in Islamic theocracies that even women who have been raped and be, and are, exacted for the crime of adultery.  I’m angry that the ones who only get imprisoned and beaten are the ones who get off lucky.

 

I’m angry that in Islamic theocracies, girls as young as nine years old can be married against their will.

 

I’m angry that when a nine year old girl in Brazil was raped, the doctors who preformed an abortion on her and the family who approved the abortion were excommunicated.  And I’m angry that there was no excommunication for the man who raped her.

 

I’m angry that in 13 states in the United States, child care centers operated by religious organizations don’t have to adhere to basic standards of health and safety and don’t even have to be licensed.   I’m angry that children in these child care centers have been harmed and have even died because of poor on nonexistent staff training and grossly unsafe conditions, and that the operators are immune from prosecution.

 

I’m angry that seriously ill children needlessly suffer and die because their parents believe in faith healing and believe that medicine treatment will anger their god.  And I’m angry that in 39 states in the United States these parents are protected from prosecution for child neglect.

 

I’m angry about what happened to Galileo, still.  And that it took until 1992 to apologize for it.

 

I’m angry that what happened to Galileo is, relatively speaking, a walk in the park.  I’m angry that astronomer Giodarno Bruno was burned at the stake for, among other things, advocating that the sun was one star among many.

 

I get angry when advice columnist tell their troubled letter writers to talk to their priest or minister or rabbi where there is absolutely no legal requirement that the religious leader have any professional training in counseling, and that the advice they offer isn’t based on any evidence about what does and doesn’t work in people’s lives, but is based purely on what their religious doctrine tells them God wants.

 

I get angry when religious leaders opportunistically use religion, and people’s trust and faith in religion, to steal, cheat, lie, manipulate the political process, take sexual advantage of their followers and, generally speaking, behave like the scum of the earth.  I get angry when it happens over, and over, and over again.  I get angry at the fact that we open up the newspaper and see the headline, “Religious leader behaves like the scum of the earth.”, that we all shrug and say, “Oh, what, that again?  It must be wednesday.”

 

I get angry when people see this happening and and still say that atheism is bad because without religion, people would have no basis for morality or ethics, they can just do whatever they want.

 

I’m angry that when my dad had a stroke and went into a nursing home, the staff asked my brother on intake, “Is he Baptist or Catholic?”.  And I’m not just angry on behalf of my atheist dad, but I’m angry on behalf of all the Jews and the Buddhists and the Muslims and the Neo-pagans and the Hindus who’s families were almost certainly asked that same question.

 

I get angry when religious believers make arguments against atheism, and make accusations against atheists, without having bothered to talk to any atheists, or read any atheist writing.  I get angry when they trot out the same old “atheism is a nihilistic philosophy with no joy or meaning, and no basis for morality  or ethics, when if they spent 10 minutes in the atheist blogosphere…they would discover countless atheists who experience great joy and meaning in their life, and are intensely concerned with right and wrong.

 

I get angry when believer say that the entire, unimaginable hugeness of the universe was made solely and specifically for human begins, when atheists say that humanity is pretty much an infinitesimal eye-blink in the vastness of time and space, and then they accuse atheists of being arrogant.

 

I get angry when believer argue against atheists by saying that we are intolerant or mean, we’re superior, we’re whinny, and we are, yes, angry, without actually making an argument for why we’re wrong and they’re right.

 

I’m angry that I have to know more about their religion then they do. They say things about the text and tenants of their religion that are flatly untrue and I have to correct them on it.

 

I get angry when believer  consider any criticism of their religion, i.e. pointing out that their religion is a hypothesis about the world that has to stand up on it’s own in the market place of ideas, as insulting and bigoted.

 

I get angry when believer accuse atheists of being intolerant for saying things like, “I don’t agree with you”, or “I think you’re mistaken about that”, and “What evidence do you have to support that position?”.

 

I get angry when believers respond to some, or all, of this litany of offenses by saying, “Oh well, that’s not the true faith.”  “Hating queers, rejecting science, and stifling questions of dissent, and cutting off people clitorises and so on, that’s not the true faith.  People who do that, they’re not real Christians, they’re not real Jews, they’re not real Muslims”. As if they had a pipeline to God. As if they had any reason at all to be sure what God wants and they know what true Christianity is, and the billions of others who agree with them have clearly got it wrong.

The God’s Will Fallacy

…during (Timothy) Dwight’s tenure, since he personally delivered more than two hundred sermons to undergraduates on the dangers of religious infidelity. One of his most memorable perorations proclaimed the immorality of smallpox vaccination, introduced by Dr. William Jenner in 1796. An earlier form of inoculation against smallpox had been employed by progressive, educated New Englanders like the Adams family since the 1760s. In a departure from the general eighteenth-century approval of scientific advances—a predilection of many orthodox believers as well as freethinkers—Dwight argued that if God had decided from all eternity that an individual’s fate was to die of smallpox, it was a sin to interfere with the divine plan through a man-made trick like vaccination.”

 

The above quote is from Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism by Susan Jacoby.  It is an excellent example of the inhumanness of a conservative religious mindset.  It is the supernatural version of the Naturalism Fallacy.

 

The Naturalism Fallacy basically assumes that anything that is natural is good and by extension, anything that isn’t natural is bad.  Here we have the supernatural version of that which I shall call the God’s Will Fallacy.  This fallacy assumes that anything that mankind does to change or enhance the human condition is wrong because god made things the way they are and we are flouting the will of god if we try to influence things.

 

This ties back into the Calvinistic principles of Unconditional election and Limited atonement upon which modern conservative Christianity is based.  In a nutshell, Unconditional elections states that those who shall be saved were destined by god from the begging of time to be saved and everyone else was destine to spend eternity in hell.  Limited atonement says that Jesus died only for the sins of the elect.

 

I find these concepts to be grossly arrogant and selfish.  The ideas they promulgate are no different than any other ideology that promotes a select group of people gaining and holding power over everyone else.  We see this in almost every religion.  Christians have their pope, bishops, priests, ministers and pastors. Islam has it’s imams, Hinduism has it’s caste system.  We also see this in secular, mainly political, movements such as kingdoms, dictatorships, oligarchies, and even to a lesser extent, republics.

 

All of these ideologies are about power of the few over the many.  As Baron Acton said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”  His observation, while somewhat pedantic and extreme, has real relevancy.  The quote above illustrates this nicely.  Mr. Dwight’s lack of empathy for the suffering of his fellow human beings is corrupted by the fallacy of “God’s Will”.  When put into practice, millions of lives are adversely affected.

 

This is just one example of the corrupting influence that religion can have on society.  This is why we need a popular movement based on the values of humanism.  Values that put the welfare of all human beings first and foremost.

Coexistence?

A dear friend of mine posted some disturbing videos from Indonesia of people being stoned to death for one religious offense or another on her Facebook profile to highlight the terrible violence that religion continues to inspire. She changed her profile photo to
wpid-174270_830719950_2402185_n-2011-02-13-18-21.jpg

I found what I consider to be a much more accurate version of the Coexist sign above,

wpid-sexist_by_dailyatheist-small-2011-02-13-18-21.png
*by http://dailyatheist.deviantart.com/. Used with permission.

I’m not a graphic artist, but I’m sure if I had the talent I could come up with other signs that contained more “truthiness” that the Coexist one.

Of course, the Coexist message represents something to strive for and as such it serves its purpose well. If religious coexistence was a fact, we wouldn’t need the logo in the first place.

While I fully support efforts for peoples of all faith to coexist, my feelings, as I said in my response to one of the videos, is that to coexist we must see each other as fellow humans, not as believers and unbelievers and until we can throw off all vestiges of religions, that can never happen. As long as people allow religion to guide how they live their lives, the violence and hatred will continue. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, but we need to be realistic about just how insidious the influence of religion really is and how very difficult it will be to change that.

Have I Read The Bible, Hell Yes! That’s Why I’m an Atheist!

A childhood friend on FB responded to my post, The Bible is the Literal Word of God; Except When Its Not. Here is what he said:

“have you read the Bible? or are you simply regurgitating ignorance from others? I have offered answers, yet I have not been taken up on this. Again, it is very irresponsible to propagate unsubstantiated opinions. Why this venom towards Christians and the Bible? If you wish to be an athiest be one, that is your right. Why the all out war on the belief of others. What is freethinking? Oh just freedom to think apart from responsibility and accountablity? Freedom from any form of religious thinking? Maybe free thinking should be folks who examine an issue and think for themselves. Not simply robots who cannot originate a though for themselves. Freethinking is a misnomer”


Yes, I’ve read the bible, cover to cover, at least twice, and many parts of it, the New Testament especially, many, many times over the years. It was this almost continual reading of the bible that made me see more and more contradictions that I just couldn’t rationalize away. Then I studied the history of the writing of the New Testament, how there were originally hundreds of gospels and competing camps of bishops supporting one version of the theology against the others. I learned about the political machinations that took place to arrive at the New Testament we have now. It was, totally and completely, cover to cover, created to fulfill political agendas of the most powerful bishops and the rulers who backed them.

Why do I have such venom toward the bible and the people who misuse it (I refuse to lump all Christians into one group as this would be irresponsible)? Ask Madeline Neumann, a 12-year-old girl whose parents, based on their religion, allowed her to die of diabetic ketoacidosis rather than save her life by allowing physicians to administer insulin and fluids. They thought prayer would save her. It didn’t. Ask the thousands of people who have been killed over the last 2000 years for their refusal to follow the prevailing version of Christianity. Ask the irresponsible ministers and political leaders who wish to brand homosexuals as immoral, second-class citizens. Ask the 156,000,000 women who’s reproductive organs are held hostage by a religiously motivated white, male, privileged class of cretins.

I wage an all out war on anything that conspires to take rights away from people. That includes holier-than-thou Christians, militant, closed minded Muslims, Zionistic Jews willing to steal and kill to get their land, white supremacists who wish to overthrow the U.S Government, wide-eyed, white, privileged Greenpeace and PETA people who would rater see millions starve and die of disease than allow GM foods and medicines tested on animals be developed that could save countless lives.

Christianity is my main focus because, almost without exception, all of the people in this country right now who would seek to take rights away from others self-identify as Christians and claim that their sense of morality comes from their religion. If things change and the largest group of privileged people in power become Muslims or Hindus or Wiccans, I’ll fight them just as loudly and forcefully.

I don’t claim to be able to tell people how to live their lives. As long as no one is being harmed, taken advantage of, or being forced either by law or by custom to kowtow to some group’s beliefs, then I say let people believe whatever they like. You can believe in God and Jesus, you can believe that Homosexuals will go to hell, but keep that belief within your churches and homes, don’t force it on others.

I don’t go door to door trying to get people not to believe in God. I don’t support any law that would outlaw any kind of religion or religious belief. I don’t lobby for my personal beliefs to be the law of the land, but don’t try to tell me that Christians aren’t doing that every day, in every town and state in the country. When the Christian majority (and yes, you are well over a 70% majority) tries to tell the rest of us what we can do and say and believe and think, then yes, I will fight for my rights and the rights of everyone else who are forced to listen to people tell us we are less American and less patriotic than they are because we don’t believe in their god. This country was founded on religious freedom (freedom for and from religion) and freedom of conscience, not on Christianity or any other religion. Yes, I will fight for that kicking and screaming, every fucking step of the way.

Sex Acts Shouldn’t be a Moral Issue

Sex is one of the most basic activities that we as humans engage in. Next to quest for water, food, and shelter, sex is the most compelling force that drives our actions and emotions. That may sound crass to some, but sexual desire takes many forms such as our longing for romance, companionship, affection, and love of other caring adults.

Here I define sex as responsible, consensual, non-coercive sexual and social relations between adults that takes place in private. This definition applies no matter if the adults involved be straight, gay, bi-sexual, transsexual, transgender, or polyamorous; monogamous or non-monogamous. No sexual act, as long as it is agreed to by all involved, is prohibited and all such sexual acts are considered morally neutral.

I say in the title of this entry that sex acts shouldn’t be a moral issue, but our sexual freedom is and should be. Just as access to shelter, water, and food are moral issues, in that no one can justly keep these things from us, so too is sexual freedom a moral issue. No one has the right to keep us from engaging in responsible, non-coercive and consensual sexual relationships with other adults, or dictate how those relationships must, or must not, be expressed.

There are many people who would try to deny the right of sexual freedom to others based strictly on their own, almost exclusively, religiously motivated beliefs. These people try to make a moral issue out of social and sexual relationships and activities that they have no compelling interest in. How are they harmed or affected by what transpires in petto between responsible and consenting adults? The reality, of course, is that they are not harmed in any way, and any effect the imagined sexual activities of others may have on them is their own issue to deal with, not a matter for public discussion and government interference.

I find it interesting that the same people who attempt to legislate sexual morality are often the same people who cry the loudest about the government interfering with their rights to own firearms, their access to health care, or trying to take away their precious social security and Medicare (where are government programs created by the federal government and which no one has an intrinsic right to).

These same people don’t want to be told by the government how to live their lives and yet they have no problems trying to get that same government to tell others what sexual acts they can and can’t engage in.

The right to practice sexual freedom, as I’ve defined it here, is an intrinsic right that no one except the parties involved have any compelling interest in or standing on. The kinds of relationships that responsible, consenting adults enter into, the sexual acts they engage in, and the various orientations and numbers of people involved in those relationships are sacrosanct as long as they are engaged in openly, honestly and without any coercion.

Ignorance is Strength

I was thinking about something I read lately about how some preachers are telling their congregations that if it is a choice between science and the Bible, the Bible has to be right. They explicitly teach putting faith over the evidence of not just science, but their very senses.

This thought had been rattling around in my mind for a few days when I happened upon a picture that someone had created based on the slogans of Ingsoc from George Orwell’s 1984. They were:

War is Peace

Hate is Love

Ignorance is Strength

It was the last one that really hit me like a bolt between the eyes and actually gave me a shock. This is exactly what these preachers, ministers, priests and imams are teaching the flocks: Ignorance is strength. It is the same kind of dangerous ignorance that is taught in Winston Smith’s dystopian world; not just the ignorance of the unknowing, but willful ignorance in the face of facts and even your own senses.
How different is what these religious leaders teach from what the Party of Ingsoc taught in 1984?

It is said that if you repeat a lie enough people will believe it. If you keep telling people that God will heal them, that he will fulfill all their needs, that if you ask it will be given unto you, people will stop relying on themselves to make decisions and put their faith instead in nothing but superstition. What is the difference between believing that carrying a rabbit’s foot or four leaf clover will bring you luck and that an invisible entity will answer your prayers? How does one have anymore more validity than the other? The truth is that they don’t because neither has any validity what-so-ever.

Children die because their parents choose to pray for them rather then get them qualified medical help. Albinos in Africa are killed because it is believed that their body parts have magical powers. Women are killed in other parts of Africa because someone believes they are witches. All of these terrible things are the consequences of superstition and magical thinking.

When we allow ourselves to believe that there is strength in ignorance, that learning and education is somehow dangerous because it is a sign of “elitism”, we put ourselves at the mercy of superstition and fear, and lives are destroyed because of it.

Ignorance is weakness of the mind and one of the greatest evils that our species faces and can lead to nothing but suffering and darkness.

When Persecution Really Is Just Sour Grapes Over Loss Of Privilege

According to an article in the daily Telegraph in the U.K., Gary McFarlane,, a relationship counsellor, was fired after refusing to work with same-sex couples because he said that it violated his religious beliefs. The funny things is that he had counseled same-sex couples in the past. He challenged his dismissal in court saying that counseling same-sex couples forced him to go against the Bible’s teachings and that his firing was religious discrimination. He said that his treatment was an example of Christians being persecuted in modern Britain.

I think Mr. McFarlane needs to read up on his British history. About 500 years ago, Catholics were being burned at the stake just for being Catholic. Now that is persecution. Getting fired for refusing to do your job isn’t.

He had counseled same-sex couples in the past, but it was only after he qualified as a psychosexual therapist that he felt that his religious beliefs wouldn’t allow him to counsel same-sex couples about sex. He then told his employer this and his fellow counsellors said that his views were homophobic, and he was sacked.

I will give the man the benefit of the doubt and say that he probably wasn’t homophobic given his work with same-sex couples in the past, but still, if his employer requires that their employees treat all couples, regardless of gender make up, then it is their right to terminate the employment of anyone who can’t carry out those duties.

I don’t buy into the idea that you can be trained in a field where you are providing a service to customers and then refuse to provide those services to certain customers because you don’t agree with some aspect of the treatment due your beliefs. We’ve seen this here in the U.S. with pharmacists refusing to provide the morning-after pill or birth control pills to patients. This is just unacceptable

What if a fireman refused to rescue people from an abortion clinic because he was anti-abortion? Or a doctor who refuses to operate on a person because they are Jewish or Black? Society doesn’t stand for these things and there is no reason to expect any different from councilors, pharmacists, or other care providers. If you are going to pursue a career where you have to provide services to people, then you need to be prepared to provide those services to everyone. If your conscience won’t let you do it, then it is time to change careers.

Refusing these services to certain groups of people because your don’t agree with their lifestyle or the particular treatment is bad enough, but to then claim discrimination is beyond the pale. It is an example of a usually privileged class of person who suddenly finds that that privilege is no longer extended to them. To say that getting fired for essentially refusing to do your job is persecution is the hight of arrogance.

A Christian nurse lost her job because she refused to stop wearing a crucifix around her neck. She was told that it posed a health and safety hazard. She claimed religious discrimination. There are plenty of jobs where the wearing of jewelry is forbidden for safety and health reasons and hers was one of them. To claim discrimination is simply wrong and presumptuous.

There was the Christian doctor who was removed from an adoption panel because she wanted to abstain from making decisions about same-sex couples adoptions. This is completely unreasonable. If you can’t do the job as it is intended, then you shouldn’t be allowed to do it at all.

One of these people, after a judgement didn’t go their way, said, “This is a very bad day for Christianity.”

How incredibly arrogant to presume that these decisions are motivated by anti-Christian biases. The real issue is that the dogmatic teachings of Christianity (and other religions like Islam) are no longer relevant or acceptable in today’s society. If religious believers insist on hanging onto their outdated notions of who is good and who isn’t, they will continued to be marginalized in society. This is not persecution, this is simply refusing to allow superstitions and ancient texts to dictate what is right and what is wrong. Morals are something that are agreed upon by a society as a whole, not by fiat by some Pope or elders or, worse, some 2000 – 3000 year old text written by goat herders and religious fanatics.

Christians aren’t being persecuted in the U.K. or the U.S. They need to wake up and look around them. There are countries where people are persecuted for their religious beliefs, but they aren’t being fired from jobs, they are being beaten and killed, or herded into ghettos. These people need to face up to the fact, just as whites in the southern U.S. did 50 years ago, that their days of unquestioned privilege are over.