A middle-aged man dreaming of the day when he can stop begging for scraps and write for a living.
Monday, January 26, 2015
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Thursday, January 15, 2015
Asked about the attack that killed 12 people at the offices of Charlie Hebdo – targeted because it had printed depictions of the prophet Muhammad – he said: “One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people’s faith, one cannot make fun of faith. “There is a limit. Every religion has its dignity … in freedom of expression there are limits.” He gestured to Alberto Gasparri, who organises papal trips and was standing by his side, and added: “If my good friend Dr Gasparri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch. It’s normal. It’s normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.” Cautioning against provocation he said the right to liberty of expression came with the obligation to speak for “the common good”.It seems no matter how many times I point this out I always end up needing to repeat it again: "Freedom of speech means freedom for those who you despise, and freedom to express the most despicable views." Anything else is simply not free speech. The problem that Pope Francis has here is that his beliefs and his institution has enjoyed a position of privilege for a very long time. Oh, I grant you that they struggled for recognition in the beginning as the Roman Empire wobbled back and forth between Christian and pagan beliefs but eventually the matter was settled by law and sword that Christianity was the official religion and all others were eradicated. In its golden age after the fall of the empire the Catholic Church was still the supreme power in the Western world (and perhaps the entire known world if it hadn't been for those pesky Persians) making kings and their kingdoms dance to their tune. There was a time when even suggesting anything contrary to official church dogma could earn you a visit from an Inquisitor and if you didn't recant quick enough you'd be lucky to get away with your limbs intact, let alone your flesh unburnt.
|We no longer live in a world where the Church can terrorize the average citizen with torture or death with impunity, but that assumption of privilege is still there. Today in the secular world you can criticize art, fashion, news, parenting, politics and just about anything else that we interact with, but woe betide those who dare to criticize religion or religious beliefs! "You cannot make fun of the faith of others." Actually, yes. Yes you can, and you should. There is no idea, no concept, no institution or practice that is so sacred that it should not be held up to scrutiny and criticized. It doesn't matter if your religion is Buddhism, Christianity, Islam or Zoroastrianism, your beliefs are no better than anyone else's and if you think otherwise you are invited to show us how. We've been waiting for that evidence for thousands of years, and I'm not holding out hope that any will be forthcoming in the next few thousand years.|
Monday, January 12, 2015
Wednesday, January 7, 2015
Tuesday, January 6, 2015
I was recently accused of harboring an agenda when I talk to people about atheism. I'm not quite sure where this accusation came from; it seems that outspoken atheists are perceived as being no different from the evangelical missionaries who knock on your door or the street preachers who accost you at intersections as you go about your daily business. And yes, I do speak up about atheism, primarily when someone else brings up the topic first. Ask me a question and I'll answer. Ask me for advice and I'll show you resources that I think will help. But the thing is, I've never heard of atheists going on a door-to-door campaign to preach the good news of no gods, nor have I heard of atheist street preachers shouting their message and harassing people in public.
However, as an atheist I concede to having an agenda: it's called secularism. In a secular state everyone is free to believe or not. There is no coercion one way or another. No one is told what to believe or how to think, because everyone is free to choose their own path. If that weren't true, if I weren't willing to let people cling to god belief then I wouldn't tell them the truth. I'd tell them whatever I thought would get the job done to shatter their faith. On the religious side that's known as lying for Jesus.
I know a lot of religious activists are threatened by secularism so they misrepresent it and fight to remove it from our laws. My old church used to wax eloquent about how secularism and humanism are against God's Will and open the door to Satan's evil. As godless people, atheists become the face of the secular movement, communists who want to take away your freedoms and burn your churches. It is not and has not been true. The military dictatorships that impose communism are not secular because they take away your choice, and that is not a secular agenda.
Personally, my agenda is that I want to see the end of religion but not by force. No one should abandon religion because they have to. The Soviet-model Communists tried that and it doesn't work, as well as being an indefensible violation of human rights. I want to see people abandon religion of their own free will simply because they don't need it any longer. I want to end the inequality and ignorance that breeds the fear religion depends on to bring in followers and keep them. I want critical thinking to be at the core of the education we give our children. My agenda scares them to death because they know what will happen if we succeed. We've seen it happen peacefully in other developed countries. They don't want it to happen here in the US, not without a fight.
That's fine with me. Religious believers brought this fight and I'll finish it; not with guns, knives or fists, but with words, passion and genuine concern for my fellow human beings. They can bring their gods and I'll bring my compassion. Let's see who is left standing.
I'll tell you what you did with atheists for about 1500 years. You outlawed them from the universities or any teaching careers, besmirched their reputations, banned or burned their books or their writings of any kind, drove them into exile, humiliated them, seized their properties, arrested them for blasphemy. You dehumanised them with beatings and exquisite torture, gouged out their eyes, slit their tongues, stretched, crushed, or broke their limbs, tore off their breasts if they were women, crushed their scrotums if they were men, imprisoned them, stabbed them, disembowelled them, hanged them, burnt them alive. And you have nerve enough to complain to me that I laugh at you.
Friday, January 2, 2015
Many Haredi Jewish communities practice strict gender segregation and refrain from touching people of the opposite gender who are not close family members. Haredi publications in Israel generally do not print pictures of women and girls. In 2009, the Israeli newspaper Yated Ne'eman famously doctored a photograph of the Israeli cabinet in order to replace two female ministers with images of men. In the UK, the ultra-Orthadox Jewish community in Stamford Hill, north London, was recently criticised after signs requesting women to walk on a certain side of the street were erected, promoting segregation for a Torah parade.I think it's time for us to draw a line here. You don't like your seat assignment? Okay, let's see what's available. If nothing is available or you don't like the options, tough titties. Sit down and shut up. If you cause a disruption you're off the plane without reimbursement. If your religious convictions make it a problem for you to travel on public transport, it's your responsibility to make alternate arrangements. Airlines like Delta allow you to make special seating arrangements, or purchase extra seats if you don't want company. You can charter your own plane or take a boat if you're headed overseas. You can take the bus or a car if not. In any case, it is not anyone else's responsibility to accommodate your bigotry. No one else should be obligated or inconvenienced by the limitations of your religion.