#CrusaderWager Is A Sucker’s Bet

Posted in Uncategorized on February 18, 2015 by David 2

(The following is the Brutally Honest column for the week of 2/16/15 by David 2.  This article is re-posted with permission.)

#CrusaderWager Is A Sucker’s Bet
– by David 2

So Atlanta’s newer overpaid talking head has a challenge for people who don’t follow in lock-step with the conservative/neo-conservative script about Islam and violence.

Michael Graham is supposedly “sick and tired” about hearing people say that extremism itself is wrong and that it’s not just limited to Islamic extremism. He doesn’t want to hear that retort anymore. He doesn’t want to hear the truth. He only wants to regurgitate the same fascistic script about how “only Islam” has a problem with violence and how “only Islam” has radical extremists that want to do harm to America. Never mind the Christian extremists that have done harm in the recent past. Never mind the Coptic Christians in Egypt that give as good as they get in terms of extremist outrage. Never mind the conflicts between Hindus and Muslims in the border areas between Pakistan and India. Never mind any of that… it’s “only Islam” that matters in his mind. “Only Islam”.

Of course, Mister Graham is slick. He’s quick to quantify his “only Islam” assertion to events after 9/11. “Only Islam” in the Twenty-first Century. “Only Islam” in recent years. “Only Islam” in 2015. Never mind anything that happened before 9/11 that would stain any other religious beliefs, especially Christianity. “Only Islam” matters in his mind, and “only Islam” is what he pompously believes should be the only thing up for discussion. “Only Islam”.

Or as the late-great George Orwell would put it “We’ve always been at war with Middle Eastasia.”

So Mister Graham has this challenge called “#CrusaderWager”. Yes, it’s a “hashtag”… because, you know, propaganda has to be hip and current for it to be effective. It’s not just about regurgitation. Why do you think it’s called “TWIT-ter”?

Here’s the deal, should you agree to the mission: you agree to put aside $1 for every instance of Islamic violence in 2015. Meanwhile, Mister Graham would put aside $100 for every instance of violence carried out by any other religion in 2015. The “winner” is the person who has to set aside less money in 2015. If you win, Mister Graham donates his pot to the charity of your choice. If he wins, you have to give your pot to the Salvation Army. (After all, where do you think the “Crusader” part of the “wager” comes from?)

Mister Graham thinks that this will shut his critics up. And, believe me, there is a part of me that would love to take him up on that challenge simply on the thought that if I would win, he’d have to give his hundreds to the Freedom from Religion Foundation.

There’s just one problem with this “masterpiece” of a “wager”.

There’s no chance in hell that you could ever prevail.

And it’s not because he’s “right”. It’s because he knows something that the vast majority doesn’t.

Have you ever heard the media describe someone as a “Christian Terrorist”?

Go ahead and think about it. Go back to all of the acts of terror in the 90’s here in the US done by non-Muslims. All of the shootings and bombings, including the Olympic Park bombing of 1996. Have any of those been declared acts of “Christian terrorism”?

Think about the Anthrax threats of 2001 committed by people like Clayton Lee Waggoner. Even though President George W. Bush himself said that “anyone who sends Anthrax is a terrorist, and anyone who sends an Anthrax threat in the mail is a terrorist”, has anyone in the media or the federal government consider Waggoner to be a “Christian Terrorist”? No, of course not!

Shoot up a women’s clinic, and you’re considered an “Anti-Abortion Protestor” or a “Pro-Life Extremist”, not a “Christian Terrorist”. Even if you got your “marching orders” from a self-appointed Christian minister with a degree from “Ordained-dot-God” and said “Praise Jesus” as you pulled the trigger and then quoted scripture as you left, the media will never, ever, ever, ever declare you to be a “Christian Terrorist”.

Consider this: two men walk into two separate workplaces and commit the same horrific acts. One man says “Praise Jesus” as he does his bloody deeds, while the other says “Allah Akbar”. Would these both count as acts of terrorism?

No, they wouldn’t. Because while the “Allah Akbar” murderer would be instantly branded a terrorist, the “Praise Jesus” murderer would be written off as a “lone nut-case”.

How about the parent that quotes Scripture to justify killing their child versus one that quotes the Quran? Again, the Quran-quoting “honor killing” parent would count as part of that religious violence, while the Bible-quoting parent would again be declared a “lone nut-case”.

That doesn’t really help out in the “wager”, does it?

And that, I believe, is the point.

Let’s get brutally honest here… I firmly believe that the so-called “#CrusaderWager” is a sucker’s bet. Despite having a seemingly huge radio of 100-to-1 in your favor, there is no real way that you can prevail against Mister Graham’s assertion simply because there is this ongoing double-standard that negates violence committed by Christians and other religions and highlights those committed by Muslims.

Imagine what would happen if one of the TV stations – never mind a network news program or cable news channel – dared called acts of Christian terrorism for what they are like they do for acts of Muslim terrorism. That station would be besieged by angry phone calls and letters from every church group out there, from every old lady with a crucifix and rosary clutched in their hands, from every C-Street office and political action committee from the Catholic League to the American Family Association, and from every politician owned by C-Street. They would be told in no uncertain terms that the acts of Christian terrorists are “not those of true Christians”, and that “no true Christian would ever support or condone actions of violence”… even when there are biblical passages from both the Old and New Testament that say otherwise. They would be badgered into supporting the lie that “no true Christian” can do what Muslim extremists have done.

This ongoing double-standard is what fuels the continual diatribe by people like Mister Graham in their fallacious assertion that “only Islam” has a problem with violence. It not only conceals the past sins of those of other faiths, it also encourages even more Islamic extremism. We come off as pompous and hypocritical, which only inflame those that know our actual history. “Do as we say, not as we have done,” is the message we give. To borrow from the New Testament, we try to remove the plank from the eyes of our neighbors, while ignoring the whole woodshed that has been long nestled in our own eyes.

Oh there is a chance that Mister Graham could lose, but it’s extremely slight. If the Coptic Christians in Egypt are riled up enough, or if the tift between India and Pakistan heats up again, or if some religious group here in America decides to go nuclear over the film release of “Fifty Shades of Grey”, maybe then they will do enough damage to make Mister Graham lose. But it would take a lot. And it would also take the media identifying these incidents for what they are, which I doubt would happen.

Of course if there are no takers in Mister Graham’s “wager” – and I do hope that is the case – he will use that as his assertion that he is somehow “right”, and his associates and myrmidons will follow suit. “Take the challenge,” they will demand. “Prove him wrong. Put up or shut up.”

They can go to hell and take their rigged games with them. Their terms are not acceptable and they will not prevail in shutting people up who will remind them of the actual truth and of reality. They will only result in having two separate enemies against them instead of “only Islam”.

Hate Crimes and Atheist Murders

Posted in Politics, Religion on February 16, 2015 by RJ Evans

Chapel Hill Murder VictimsFrom contributor Ronald Bruce Meyer

News reports say that just after 5 p.m., on Tuesday, February 10, a 46-year-old white male, upset over improper parking by his neighbors, went to one of their Chapel Hill, NC, apartments and murdered the three people inside. Or, anyway, that’s the way the news media should have reported it. But, journalism being what it is today, never mind the factual narrative: the victims were Muslim, so it must have been a “hate crime.” The suspect described himself in his Facebook profile as a “gun-toting liberal” and an “anti-theist,” who vehemently condemned all forms of religion. And despite neighbors also saying “he hated everyone equally,” but that “He’s argued with a lot of people. Parking was a big issue,” the media went with the “hate crime” angle.

The family and supporters of the victims, not to mention the news media and the FBI, seem to want this triple murder labeled a “hate crime,” because of the religion of its victims—as badly as those who knew the shooter want suppositions about his motivations to be based on his “equal opportunity anger” toward his fellow apartment complex residents for their annoying parking habits.

Because the alleged shooter condemned all religions and claimed membership in an atheist group, pundits are already claiming this is a “wake-up call for atheists” and evidence of a dark side to atheism. Presented most forcefully by staff writer Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig in a Wednesday piece for The New Republic (2/11/15), this charge demands some reply because I have a dog in this fight.

So there you have it: a “hate crime” perpetrated by an atheist. I’m going to grant you the second point and then tell you why the first one troubles me.

Atheists, like me, typically spread their messages via blogging, books, lectures and videos, rather than bullets. But OK, let’s forego the “No True Scotsman” argument—the excuse that religionists use to distance themselves from their co-religionists when they misbehave—and agree, as I do, that the Chapel Hill shooter is a radical, militant atheist. So what? Did his group, “Atheists for Equality,” give him directions to kill Muslims? Did the pope of atheism preach a crusade against Muslims? Do the atheist scriptures contain commands to kill all believers? I’m going out on a limb here, but I think the answer to all these questions is no for atheism: These are actually common characteristics of religions. No popes, no scriptures: The only thing atheists have in common is disbelief in gods.

HateCrimes cartoonNow to the problem of “hate crimes.” The Muslim community in the U.S. has been marginalized and victimized in the past, but by no means more than similar communities in other Western countries: recall the Charlie Hebdo attacks, in which nobody even mentioned “hate crime” because the victims were white. You see, a hate crime is a crime motivated by enmity or animus against a protected class—and white, straight males are never a protected class. This means the U.S. Constitution’s “equal protection of the laws” has been tossed under the bus of political correctness—although it appears North Carolina never got the memo: they have no “hate crimes” statute. I predict that the pressure on law enforcement to declare this triple murder a “hate crime” will be unendurable.

I am troubled by the very concept of “hate crimes” (aka bias crimes) and the enhanced penalties they bring. Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have “hate crimes” laws. Federal law can be used to punish crimes committed on the basis of a person’s race, religion, nation origin or other group membership—and this was expanded in 2009 to include perceived gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and disability. So it seems clear that “hate crimes” laws offer preferred protection to certain groups over others.

This troubles me for several reasons.

Designating a crime a “hate crime,” when it is already a punishable crime, gives the government the power to define protected and unprotected classes. It causes groups to feel persecuted by one another. It perverts the law into protecting groups rather than individuals. It fools people into believing our legislators are being tough on crime, when in fact they are manipulating identity politics. What is worse, it transforms violent crimes into thought crimes.

Michigan Democratic Congressman John Conyers, who was House Judiciary Committee Chairman from 2007 to 2011, put it this way, saying “hate crimes” “constitute an assault not against the victim, but against our communities and against the very foundation of Democracy.” But since it is not the victim but the state that prosecutes, isn’t every crime a crime against the community? And if the standard for justice is the thought or motivation behind the act, isn’t every crime a hate crime?

I know there appears to be this magic bullet that will kill all my arguments against “hate crimes” laws: what about the different degrees of murder? There has always been a difference in punishment between pre-meditated murder and random killing, even if the victim ends up dead in either case. But the traditional levels of culpability are (1) negligent, (2) reckless, (3) knowing and (4) purposeful. These categories describe the level of legal guilt for a crime, not the thought behind the crime.

This is the most troubling consequence of “hate crimes” laws: they trouble the concept of free speech: They lead inevitably to groups applying to have their critics silenced; that is, they lead to “hate speech” laws. This is especially true of certain Christian groups in the U.S. who believe, despite their overwhelming majority, that they are being persecuted when they see their privileged position threatened by equality. How is religious tolerance advanced by making crimes against one religious adherent more serious than crimes against another? And do we really want our government reaching into our minds when meting out punishment? Really? I think Westerners tried that once before: it was called the Dark Ages.

Sure, the punishment should fit the crime, but don’t we Americans trust our own legal system? Sure, the Chapel Hill murderer should be punished for his crime—for his crime, not for his thought. “Hate crimes” laws make us believe, and the news media to report, that our fellow citizens cannot be trusted with freedom of thought.

That’s why I’m having trouble getting my head around how treating one group better than another group can make us all equal. George Orwell warned against making certain words mean their exact opposite in his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949). But he said it explicitly four years earlier in Animal Farm (1945): “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

Consider this: If those three Muslim students had been murdered by other Muslims, would it still have been a “hate crime”?

Murder, Hate Crime, Atheist

Posted in Politics, Religion on February 13, 2015 by RJ Evans

n-MUSLIM-FAMILY-MURDERED-large300Three young people were murdered in Chapel Hill, NC recently.  They were college students and muslim. The killer is openly Atheist and anti-theist. The victims’ families, in their understandable grief, are calling the murders a “hate crime”, a trumped-up, politically correct charge that takes an already heinous crime and attempts to amplify it. In this case, they are trying to turn Atheism and anti-theism into the motivation for the crime.  But, the facts tell a different story.

The Facts

First, the killer is known to have a history of anger issues regarding the parking situation in the complex where he resides. Secondly, someone at the complex called for a meeting to discuss the man’s attitude and demeanor over the parking issue. The killer complained a lot about parking and had many cars towed away. When asked if she thought the murders had anything to do with religion, Samantha Maness, a resident of the complex was quoted on News & Observer as saying he showed “equal opportunity anger”. Third, and not surprisingly, the killer’s Facebook page contains posts critical of religion. But there’s nothing that would indicate a propensity to commit violent acts against religious people. He writes of christianity, “If you plan to be enjoying heaven while multitudes are tortured … then you are as much a sociopath as the god that you worship,” and he describes religion in general as, “the world’s most successful pyramid scam.”

The Fallacies

This case is still unfolding as I write. There will be more to come I’m sure. What is evident right now is that this crime was indeed motivated by hate. It was hatred of people parking where the killer felt they shouldn’t be parking. And, even if this Atheist/anti-theist had been motivated by hate for religion, or religious people, this crime would be no more criminally vile than it is.

I’ve written about “hate crimes” before. And so has my good friend and blog contributor, Ronald Bruce Meyer (aka John Mill). “Hate Crime” is a fallacy. It’s a wave of the politically correct magic wand, creating a mind crime out of forethought to elevate the real crime to monumental status. It’s about trying to establish preferential treatment for a particular group in the eyes of the law, and/or an effort to silence criticism of that group. In this case, the victims happen to be muslim. But, even though muslims have been discriminated against in this country to one degree or another… To call this a “hate crime” is simply pandering to the politically correct. It’s murder. Plain and simple. Good people (by all accounts) were murdered by a guy who just happens to be Atheist/anti-theist, and whose real problem is anger management. Consider this… What group of people are best suited for media medallions and special treatment in the eyes of the law in order to soothe the cries of persecution by criticism, or to clear the conscience of those who feel perpetually guilty for everything: “Hate Crime” against muslims or “Hate Crime” against people who illegally park? Which one gets your attention? What reads better? What sells television and radio ad time better?

Silence!

In light of this terrible tragedy, the talk has inevitably turned to freedom of speech and the right to express ideas and opinions. In this case, it’s an opportunity for the religious to try to suppress and/or silence non-believers. The religious have always taken the position that criticism, mockery, satire, or anything that shows their religion in a less-than-flattering light, should be off-limits. Now, a murderer, who happens to be Atheist/anti-theist and is extremely critical of religion, has become religion’s poster-child for what they think a non-believer is. Immoral. Murderous. Evil. They will put anyone who criticizes them on parade, and point straight to this heinous crime and say. “See! I told you they were evil!” But, they really need to be careful about that. Their hypocrisy will always reveal their lies.

Passing The Buck

I’ve written about crimes committed by christians and muslims on this blog in the past. The one thing I have repeatedly stressed is that both religions make use of an unwritten, but tried and true, excuse for crimes committed by the faithful in their gods’ name. “They’re really not a true ________________”   Fill in the blank with christian or muslim and all is forgotten. It’s an excuse that absolves the particular religion from all manner of crimes and atrocities, even though a lot of these crimes and atrocities are written directives in their holy books. They are quick to pass the buck. Interestingly, a christian or muslim is probably reading this right now and is frothing at the mouth, waiting for me to use their excuse for this atrocious crime. Well, the buck stops with… The killer who happens to be a non-believer. Unlike christianity or islam, Atheism doesn’t have a holy book with directives to commit murder. Atheism doesn’t have a supreme deity. And when someone who happens to be a non-believer commits a crime they, and they alone, are responsible for their actions and must bear the consequences. Atheism has nothing to apologize for when it comes to these murders. Atheism is simply a lack of belief.

So where’s my moral compass on this tragedy? If you don’t already know by now…

Equality In Death

Posted in Politics, Religion, Science on February 10, 2015 by RJ Evans

2263909-death_skull_bones_image_31001“Now, don’t hang on, nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky. It slips away, and all your money won’t another minute buy…” Dust In The Wind – Kansas (1977)

The song played on the Craig car stereo system I’d installed in my 1969 Chevy Malibu. In between the rattles of everything loose, the rusted body panels threatening to abandon the vehicle, and the drone of my straight-through Thrush mufflers, my 16-year-old mind listened intensely to each and every verse. There weren’t many. But, they spoke to me. Somehow, I understood. It’s only in death that everything and everyone are finally equal.

There are too many people throughout the world that think they, or their particular tribe, are better than everyone else. Most are subtle in their self-righteousness, while others are outright belligerent and even violent. When it comes to race, politics, religion, or any other tribal mentality, deluded notions of superiority always weasel their way into the dialogue, dividing humanity and creating a cavern of festering bigotry. From generation to generation, the cavern is replenished with ideological dung, and those who tend to this pile of composted bigotry take great pride in their accomplishment. The true master, of course, of this composting process is religion.

Anatomy of Equality

Take a moment and Google up a human anatomy chart. Notice that there are no separate charts for Negro, Caucasian, Spanish, Asian, Middle Eastern, etc. There are no separate charts for Republican, Tea Party, Independent, Democrat, Socialist, etc. There are no separate charts for christians, muslims, jews, buddhists, etc. There’s just one chart for everyone. On that chart you will find muscles, bones, blood vessels, nerves, kidney, liver, lungs, heart, a brain… The human body is composed of pieces and parts that are the same from human to human. Now Google up photos of people that have died violently in car accidents, airplane crashes, war… Even though the method of the violent death may differ from situation to situation, the visual results are no different from the road kill you see on the highway. Animals are made up of biological pieces and parts just like humans. Because humans are animals. Humans are biological and subject to the laws of nature. Our level of so-called “intelligence”, touted to be superior to other animals, doesn’t disqualify us from the reality of death.

Religion wants us to believe that we can be disqualified from death, that the biological aspect of human existence is merely a container for our essence/soul/spirit. That’s why it pushes an afterlife. This afterlife is a form of immortality that requires the total separation of brain activity from the rest of the body’s biological functions. This is a feat of mental gymnastics that only religion is capable of performing effectively, with 10’s across the board. And, this belief is so destructive in nature that it is literally responsible for the premature deaths of hundreds of millions of people throughout human history. This deluded mindset also breeds a hostile tribal mentality that discourages living life to its fullest under threat of everlasting torment and pain, and the condemnation of anyone who attempts to separate themselves from the religious dogma.

Body/Mind – Death Doesn’t Care

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard religious folks talk about their existence in terms of separate body/mind. They insist that who they are is separate from what they are. They refer to this thing as separate from the physical processes of the body, and claim it to be their “soul” or “spirit”. There has been a great deal of debate on this subject, both in science and religion. But, it doesn’t take a scientist or a preacher to render a logical conclusion. You are you because of biological processes taking place in your brain, which is a part of your body and cannot exist without it. Period. Those processes are affected by everything your brain absorbs through your five senses and the nutrition required to power it. Input/Processing/Output. What you eat, the pills you take, the liquids you drink, the air you breathe, the things you see, hear, touch and smell… They all play a part in making you you. You can argue all you want that consciousness is extremely complicated (I’m certain it is), or that a deity bestowed it upon you (a bunch of bullshit in the face of what science has learned so far), but if you take a reasoned and practical look at the subject, you can’t ignore this fact: You can’t remember anything before you were born, and you can’t because you didn’t exist. And what is death? Non-existence.

We’ve all been non-existent. So, for all practical purposes we’ve been dead before. I’ve already heard the standard retort for death many times, “Well… You don’t know and I don’t know. I guess we’ll find out when we get there.” This declaration is nothing more than a spiritual placebo for the person who makes it. The fact is that everyone knows what death has in store for them. Non-existence. And, it’s our future of non-existence that pushes many ordinary human beings to manufacture all sorts of delusions in an effort to belay their fears of it. In the end (literally), death doesn’t care.

Nothing?

A former friend of mine (his choice) once argued that he couldn’t imagine living in nothing. Of course, he was assuming that he would be aware of what nothing was and that he could somehow experience it. I found this very amusing. Living in nothing? Really?! When there is truly nothing, there’s nothing to experience nothing with. For a lot of people this might seem really confusing. Let me give you an easy example. Do you remember the last time you slept through the night so soundly that when you woke up it was as if you’d just gone to bed even though many hours had passed? You didn’t remember dreaming, or anything about what transpired while you were asleep. Welcome to a simple form of nothing. Your brain gave you nothing. You weren’t aware of anything. Sure, your brain was still doing its thing, but your conscious mind was nothing. Shut down. Zip. Nada. No memories, no recollection of anything. Nothing. Any input from your senses was highly filtered or discarded. A form of nothing manifested through a lack of memories.

Nothing is many times regarded as a concept that can be experienced. But, this is false. Our brain requires reference points. Past and present. If we don’t have memory, our experience is only relative to the very moment we receive input from the senses. The brain must have data input and memory capacity in order to provide an experience.  If you can’t recall something – as far as your brain is concerned – nothing happened. And if nothing happened, then you don’t have an experience to reference. So, you get up, turn on the television or radio, or make a phone call… You have to find out what happened while you were in nothing, so you have something to take the place of nothing.

Now that you’ve had a chance to rattle your brain with something about nothing…

Equality In Death

Death is inevitable. How we die is irrelevant. How we live is important and is something that must be addressed. We must ask ourselves some hard questions. We are supposed to be “intelligent” biological beings. But what does it say about our so-called “intelligence” when we only find equality in death? Why do we waste our very limited and precious time separating ourselves from one another over dogmas that we won’t remember and won’t have any effect on us when we’re dead? We won’t exist. We won’t know we’re non-existent. There will be no you or me. There will be nothing. Our politics, our religions, our colors, our tribes will be irrelevant because we will be irrelevant.  Wouldn’t it be better for us as living beings to do something about finding equality while we are alive, and enjoying it because we can experience it?

Equality in death, just so many particles of dust in the wind.

 

We Believe in Free Speech

Posted in Politics, Religion on January 17, 2015 by RJ Evans

From contributor Ronald Bruce Meyer

economist-coverartNo, Really: All Evidence to the Contrary

Years ago, when I was teaching public speaking to community college students, I started an impromptu debate on the topic of free speech. It was easy to get a student to take the “pro” side; nobody was willing to argue the “con,” so I did. What I said was, “Freedom of speech is the freedom to lie; to defame; to libel; to slander; to vilify; to offend; to blaspheme. My free speech allows me to make you uncomfortable. Do you really want to allow that?”

Like many Americans who hold dear their First Amendment, I was horrified at the events of last Wednesday in Paris. On 7 January 2015, two gunmen opened fire inside the offices of the satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo, killing twelve, including staff cartoonists Charb (Stéphane Charbonnier), Cabu, Honoré, Tignous and Wolinski, and wounding another eleven. That the gunmen were French Muslims seemed somehow relevant to the news media—although, the day before, the religion of the bomber at the Colorado NAACP headquarters was never mentioned in news reports—and also that during the attack, they shouted “Allahu akbar” (الله أكبر “God is great” in Arabic) and “the Prophet is avenged”—making clear their motive, if not their political constituency. To a female visitor at Charlie Hebdo, one of the two brothers said, “I’m not killing you because you are a woman and we don’t kill women but you have to convert to Islam, read the Qu’ran and wear a veil”—demonstrating, perhaps, that adherents of patriarchal religions, even when they have a political point to make, when it comes to subjugating women, just can’t help themselves.

(To avoid making celebrities of sociopaths, I withhold the attackers’ names and photographs, demonstrating one of the duties that accompanies free speech rights which is often remiss in the sensation-seeking mainstream news.)

Now, if you cannot recall the last time a bearded, yarmulke-wearing Jewish group shot up a publication espousing the “blood libel” or reprinting the The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, or the massive Catholic violence a generation ago, following the display of Andres Serrano’s “Piss Christ” image, you could be forgiven: nothing of the kind ever happened. And the mainstream media would not label it terrorism, anyway, just as the word was missing in the description of the Colorado attack. (See my note below)

A massive protest in Paris last Sunday, attended by many world leaders—except for the leaders of one country with an actual First Amendment—numbered over a million. The slogan “Je Suis Charlie” (“I Am Charlie”) entered the popular imagination, along with the image of a pencil. French President François Hollande, like most politicians showing no fear in expressing the obvious, described the worst terrorist attack on French soil in half a century as one “of the most extreme barbarity.” Free speech rights was on everyone’s mind, everyone’s lips. Support for Charlie Hebdo, which lampoons all religions, not just Islam, seemed to be strong by Sunday.

But is it deep? More to the point, was this support for free speech rights, one of the foundational principles of modern liberal democracies, for which centuries of conflicts have been fought and oceans of blood have been spilled—was it sincere or just for show? One wonders.

One wonders when, as Jonathan Turley pointed out in a Washington Post op-ed the day after the attack, “France’s true free-speech threat is from the government. It’s not terrorists but the nation’s restrictive laws on speech.” Turley went on, “Indeed, if the French want to memorialize those killed at Charlie Hebdo, they could start by rescinding their laws criminalizing speech that insults, defames or incites hatred, discrimination or violence on the basis of religion, race, ethnicity, nationality, disability, sex or sexual orientation. These laws have been used to harass the satirical newspaper and threaten its staff for years.”

Indeed, you will find among the world leaders who stood arm in arm in support of Charlie Hebdo (in what was later revealed to be a staged photo), and others of the so-called liberal West, to be full of the same hypocrisy: Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says, “There are far too many countries where news and content providers constantly face a very special and formidable form of censorship, one exercised in the name of religion or even God.” In the bastions of free speech it is still possible to run afoul of the law for “defamation of religion” in France, Great Britain, Spain, Russia (remember Pussy Riot?), Ukraine and India. Italy and Greece still have a blasphemy law on the books. In Germany and Turkey it is still possible to get arrested for defamation of religion and blasphemy. Palestine showed up at the rally, but in Israel’s neighbor you can not only get arrested for defamation of religion and blasphemy, but also for apostasy. In Jordan, any of those crimes can bring a death sentence.

In Israel, there is no penalty for free speech when it comes to religion—so long as you are not Palestinian. The same goes for the USA—so long as you are not exposing government corruption.

all-is-forgivenThe Heckler’s Veto
I have a friend who never tires of reminding me, “Hypocrisy always reveals the lie.” And so in the cradle of Western freedoms, even in the country of Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, if you offend god, you have offended the law. And if you make a joke at the expense of the creator of the universe, the law laughs last. It is as if god, who is marketed as all-powerful, is too weak to defend himself. “We can definitely talk about hypocrisy here,” said the campaign coordinator for La Quadrature du Net, a Paris-based Internet rights group. Adrienne Charmet goes on, “In the past days, we have seen a lot of people condemned for putting out words, no matter how condemnable those words, and receiving sentences that seem quite exaggerated. … this crackdown on freedom of speech is a betrayal of last Sunday’s march.” As the French may say, Quelle ironique!

Worse, in the worst tradition of the patriarchal religions (which would be pretty much all religions), and not unlike those who see rape victims as getting what they deserve if they don’t dress or behave precisely as the patriarchs wish, it seems some would lay the blame for the murders at Charlie Hebdo at the feet of the cartoonists themselves. Bill Donohue of the Catholic League declared that the victims brought the attack upon themselves by intentionally insulting Muslims—essentially saying, and not without a wink to the Catholics who long for the day of the auto-da-fé, that you reap what you sow. Though self-serving in the brain of Bill Donohue, who yearns to punish those who insult Catholicism with impunity, and whose sentiment was echoed by Pope Francis himself, his idea is indistinguishable from the heckler’s veto: the legal theory that free speech can be curtailed by the government if reaction to that speech might be violent.

The problem with that theory, and with Donohue’s, and with hate speech laws and laws against defamation of religion, is the same: as The Economist put it three days after the attack (1/10/2015), “Nothing can be done with a pencil or a keyboard that warrants a reprisal with a Kalashnikov”—and nothing can change the fact that speakers, including cartoonists, are exercising natural rights, but that legal and extra-legal attacks on speakers are suppressing those rights. Western democracies take note, because free speech—as the masses on Sunday seemed to say, but their leaders seem not to understand—is the foundation of every other liberty: It is, or should be, Job #1 of any government-of-the-people to protect the people from attacks on ideas, not from the ideas themselves. As I tried to point out to my students so many years ago, nobody has the right to be unoffended by speech: if you have to promise not to make anybody uncomfortable with your words or your drawings, there is no free speech.

And, anyway, how exactly would a politically correct political cartoon look?

* Less Than 2 Percent Of Terrorist Attacks In The E.U. Are Religiously Motivated, writes ThinkProgress.

En Garde! – Defending and Avenging the Indefensible

Posted in Politics, Religion, Science on January 14, 2015 by RJ Evans

sword-of-the-spiritThere’s a movement afoot. It’s been afoot for many feet. Trillions even. Translated to years, thousands. The faithful have been taking defensive positions, even carrying out offensive operations in the quest to defend and avenge their gods. Gods, of course, are touted by the faithful as supernatural, superior, all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful, entities. They are said to be so powerful in fact, that they created everything that has ever, or will ever exist. And, they have the power to destroy all of it, or only a small part, at will. And yet…

En Garde!” A challenge?

Whenever a deity is put under the microscope of reason, logic, or science… Whenever humor is leveled at the god or goddess… The faithful consider these challenges to be a call to arms, a call to defend their all-powerful god. Whether it’s to defend its reputation, name, holy dribble, sacred artifacts… Believers answer a magical call for help. Believers will use all manner of methods to defend their all-powerful being. Some will beg appeal to the love that the deity supposedly represents. Some will condemn the violation based on the deity’s commands in a holy book. Yet others will take it upon themselves to lash out violently. Regardless of how they defend their deity, they all feel compelled to do it, and in the name of their deity. It’s their destiny.

Then there are others, those who also feel called to avenge their all-powerful deity. Avenging the name of their deity, or words used to criticize their deity, or cartoons mocking their deity, or human rights that threaten the commands of their deity, or any other transgression they can concoct… Get even. It’s all about getting even. And, as long as their faith is strong, the deity’s vengeance will be channeled through them and victory will be at hand!

Ahhh… Can you say “Impotent”?

Is it just me, or is there something terribly wrong here? The faithful are talking about, defending, and avenging a being that has infinite abilities right? So, if this being is so damn powerful, why do they need to defend and/or avenge it? One should be able to reasonably conclude that such a being wouldn’t require measly human intervention on its behalf, right? Ahhh… Can you say “Impotent”? Maybe the faithful should pray for some spiritual Viagra so their deity can get its mojo back. Either that, or there’s something more afoot here. And remember, there are trillions of feet translated to thousands of years, all trampling through the shit storm of time and ignorance.

softJust the facts man!

Simple deduction. The fact is that anyone, any believer, who feels the need to defend and/or avenge their deity is squarely faced with a serious dilemma. If they think they must defend and/or avenge their deity, then they have to explain in clear and no uncertain terms, WHY their deity is incapable of defending and/or avenging itself. You’d be surprised at the most common answer I’ve heard:

He’s too busy running everything”

Yes. You read that right. “…too busy”. Yeah. I always find that one to be extremely amusing. But, I can’t think of a reason to expect anything more or less. Apparently an all-powerful deity is incapable of multitasking, much like human beings. It’s already been shown, scientifically, that humans can’t multi-task. Instead, we change focus for brief periods of time. So, if the deity is “too busy” then it could be fairly easy to conclude that the deity is either IMPOTENT or a human invention? I’d go for the latter of course. The faithful? They can’t deal with either choice. Both leave them soft, defending and avenging the indefensible.

Free Speech – Extreme Toxicity to Fundamentalism (Part 2)

Posted in Politics, Religion, Science on January 14, 2015 by RJ Evans

Tn8QULast week I posted a commentary on the extreme toxicity of free speech to religion in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo killings in France. At the end of that commentary I closed with the following:

So, if you’re one of those folks who’s bitching, moaning and complaining about being offended, and think you have a right to NOT be offended… Ask yourself how far you’d be willing to go to protect that illusion. Really. How far are you willing to go to protect your deluded right to NOT be offended? Two jackass’s decided 12 people was a good start. What about you?

Skydaddy! Skydaddy! They’re picking on us!!!!

Well… Catholic League President, Bill Donohue, has been kind enough to underline the theme of my commentary last week. It seems that Donohue believes the victims of this crime are responsible for their own demise. He said the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists “obscene portrayal of religious figures” is an “abuse of freedom”. Donohue went on to say in his blog post and a follow-up posting:

“Freedom of speech is not an end—it is a means to an end. For Americans, the end is nicely spelled out in the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution… No fair-minded reading of the Preamble suggests that it was written to facilitate the right to intentionally and persistently insult people of faith with scatological commentary.”

In my previous commentary I wrote:

Religion takes itself so seriously that any perceived offense is punishable in some manner. Whether it’s islamic zealots killing twelve, or hundreds and thousands and enslaving women, or christian zealots creating legislative mandates for their biblical worldview, killing abortion providers and enslaving women…

Keep in mind that Donohue is NOT the only U.S. christian to feel this way. There are likely millions who are just as quick to condemn the victims because of just how toxic freedom of speech is to their religion. But, this underscores my point about religion… ALL RELIGIONS… Religion’s worldviews cannot stand up to dissent. Because of that, dissent must be silenced. Leveling a defense of “It’s their fault! They brought it on themselves!” is the equivalent of telling a woman that she brought her rape upon herself for wearing “inappropriate” clothing. It’s also not a short throw from that to, “They didn’t believe in god, so it’s their fault those christian warriors beat them to death. The bible says it has to be done.” Sure. You probably think I’m kidding. I’m not.

The Denial

In a 2011 survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), it was revealed that christian Americans have a double (hypocritical) standard when it comes to religious violence.

From HuffPo: (bold/emphasis added)

83 percent of Americans said that self-proclaimed Christians who commit acts of violence in the name of Christianity are not really Christians, while 48 percent of Americans said that self-proclaimed Muslims who commit acts of violence in the name of Islam are not really Muslims.”

I’ve written about this double standard (hypocrisy) before. When someone commits a crime in the name of christianity, the faithful are very quick to distance the religion from the act in an attempt to insulate it from criticism. Criticism, of course, is free speech, and free speech is extremely toxic to religion. But, denial is always at the forefront for christians. Especially in “christian” America. Depending on the flavor of christianity subscribed to, and the emphasis put on the Old Testament by that particular flavor of belief, the degrees of deniability vary. But, the one sentence that is always at the forefront of every denial is “That’s not christian/ity”.

Diversity, Tolerance, Inclusiveness?

If there’s one potentially positive thing that has come out of the Charlie Hebdo tragedy, it’s this… Religion’s immense flaws are being widely exposed. People now have an opportunity to see religion for what it is. It’s bullshit. The bad? With talk of diversity of religious belief, tolerance and inclusiveness, each and every religion is being forced to either accept a secular world society, reject it through violence and insurrection, or face extinction. In my view, very few will accept a secular world. Inclusiveness is NOT a foundational characteristic of religion. It is an anathema to it. Tolerance is just another fancy word for “fight another day”. Extinction? Not likely. Warriors for gods are a penny a dozen, and faith in those gods is a powerful motivation to lash out in any way believers deem necessary.

When it comes right down to it, the chances of another religious act of terror are quite good. Freedom of speech is religion’s enemy. Just ask Bill Donohue of the Catholic League. Just ask the Pope. Just ask the GOP. Just ask Al-Qaeda. Just ask ISIS. Just ask your local christian fundamentalist. And, you know what they’ll tell you?

“I find your lack of faith disturbing”

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