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”

Free Speech – Extreme Toxicity to Fundamentalism

Posted in Politics, Religion on January 8, 2015 by RJ Evans

charliehebdotoonlamourcover.0.0.pngTwo gunmen shot and killed 12 people, several of which were cartoonists for the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo.  Hebdo is an unabashed critic of islamic extremism, and the religion’s prophet, muhammad. Their cartoons reflect a scathing comical view of the religion. Not surprisingly, the more extreme followers of islam put a price on their head. Now,  12 people are dead, and freedom of speech is once again challenged by religious fundamentalism.

Whatever They Have To Do

It doesn’t matter what religion is criticized, religious fundamentalists will always feel compelled by their skyfairy to say and do whatever they deem necessary to force their religious beliefs onto the populace. Whether it’s simply pushing legislation that projects their religious world view onto others, or committing violent acts in the name of their deity to establish the deity’s alleged authority, fundamentalists are a force to be reckoned with. Turning a blind eye to the reality is nothing short of stupid. Because, the strategy of fundamentalism is to target the one thing more toxic to religion than any other… Freedom of Speech.

Free speech is potentially lethal to religion because it exposes it to all manner of critique, and has the potential to reveal the serious flaws of god belief. Ironically, religion likes to use freedom of speech to condemn freedom of speech. Take for example “Religious Freedom” laws. These laws have been passed in many States here in the United States, and have little to do with religious freedom. These fundamentalist christian laws are nothing more than a backdoor attempt to protect fundamentalism from criticism and scrutiny. Additionally, these laws are extremely beneficial to further the christian fundamentalist goal of dominating the political and societal landscape, forcing their worldview onto the general populace. And interestingly enough, even though the First Amendment already protects ALL religions, the “Religious Freedom” laws are designed to protect the tenets of christianity exclusively, without a care for any other religion, or non-belief. Essentially, legalized religious bigotry.

Case In Point

In response to the murders in France by islamic extremists, Senator Lindsey Graham (R – S.C.) decided he’d take advantage of the situation for “christian” America and exercise his god given right to free speech. Graham was quoted in a HuffPo article as saying:

“It’s not an attack on our homeland, but it’s definitely an attack on our way of life, there’s a perfect storm brewing to have this country hit again.”

“Our way of life doesn’t fit into their scheme of how the world should be. If you stopped talking about radical Islam, if you never did a cartoon again, that’s not enough. What people need to get is they can’t be accommodated. They can’t be negotiated with. They have to be eventually destroyed.”

Note that Graham ended his statement with “They have to be eventually destroyed.” Now, let’s take Graham’s words and plug in just one obvious word…

Our way of life (Christianity) doesn’t fit into their scheme of how the world should be. If you stopped talking about radical Islam, if you never did a cartoon again, that’s not enough. What people need to get is they can’t be accommodated. They can’t be negotiated with. They have to be eventually destroyed.

Certainly I’m no fan of islam any more than I’m a fan of christianity, or any religion for that matter. But, Graham is publicly declaring a religious war. Christianity vs islam. Plain and simple. So, what happens to islam in the United States? What happens to any religion other than christianity in the U.S.? What happens when christianity declares war on religions that “don’t fit into their scheme”? It’s already happening. And, it’s truly tragic.

The Tragic Comedy

There are an infinite number of things that make people laugh. And, there are just as many things that offend people. But, comedy and satire are fast becoming casualties in the “I’m offended” charade parade. Whether offense is taken by the political/social Right or Left, the curtain is quickly being drawn down on the humor of humanity. Both sides want political correctness. The Left wants a homogenous society where no one is ever offended. The Right wants a society where they won’t be offended, but where their enemies are offended. Either way, freedom of speech is being sucked into a tragic comedy where both sides have clearly established a position that freedom of speech, or lack thereof, is somehow exclusive to them. In either case, freedom of speech will likely become the victim in this tragic comedy. And, all because both sides of this farce have bought into the stupidity of being offended.

Clearly, scene one of this comic tragedy is well underway. Being offended nowadays seems to be considered chic. Someone, somewhere, is being offended as I type this. And more than likely they are expressing their offense on social media and demanding some form of verbal atonement, cash reparation, or maybe even a law, to relieve them of their insensible offense taken. Their friends are rushing to their aid for a moment of online malaise, and life suddenly has a moment of new meaning.  Meanwhile, 12 people were murdered yesterday for offending someone, and somewhere in the world more people are being slaughtered because folks have been led to believe in skyfairies, and the magical, mystical, delusional right to NOT be offended. I’d laugh. But this tragic comedy is no longer funny.

The Right to NOT Be Offended?

I haven’t found a current law in the United States that explicitly states that a person has a RIGHT to NOT be offended. I’ve looked everywhere. It’s nowhere to be found. Nothing in the Constitution. And, you won’t find any either if you research it. Why? Because, much like skyfairies, it doesn’t exist. The reason it doesn’t exist is because of the First Amendment. Nobody has a RIGHT to NOT be offended. If you don’t like it, tough. If it bothers you, tough. You made the decision to be offended. You took possession of the words, images, or sounds and massaged them just enough to manufacture your offense. Ultimately, it is you who bear the responsibility for your offense.

2d0be3c5ef6377f6b962c9361b975b9b_viewToxic Muck

Religion has always thrived in the muck of self-righteousness. And it is self-righteousness that makes freedom of speech offensive and toxic to the muck of religion. 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… In the end, criticizing all of it is the cure. No Idea is sacred. Religion should NEVER be given a pass. Religious ideas are ideas and nothing more. And all ideas, religious or otherwise, need to be questioned, criticized, lampooned, made fun of, and raked through the muck to ensure that bad ideas never shackle humanity to absurdity or even worse. The free market of ideas is an open and tough playing field. If someone wants to play here, they damn well better be prepared for the game. 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?

Pig in a Blanket – Hate Crime?

Posted in Politics, Religion, Science on December 28, 2014 by RJ Evans

pig_in_a_blanketNow that christmas has come and gone, and the deluded have paid homage to the birth of their mythical sky-brat, our thoughts turn to the new year a-head. Unless you’re the douchebag who thought it would be funny to steal the sky-brat from a nativity scene at the Sacred Hearts Church near Boston, MA, and replace it with a pigs head wrapped in a plastic blanket. Of course, this is a tasteless act and is magnified by theft of private property and vandalism. Putting aside the tasteless portion of the story, theft and vandalism are illegal acts punishable by law, and the douchebag who committed these crimes should be prosecuted for those crimes.  But, there’s a rather serious twist to this story that’s prompted me to write about – what would otherwise be – an insignificant moment in the annals of douchebag history. Why? Because there’s more than one douchebag.

Enter Haverhill, MA police Detective Robert Pistone. Douchebag number 2. Pistone is apparently an investigator in the Pig in a Blanket douchebaggery and has decided to call in the FBI. According to Pistone, “If our investigation leads us to think this person was motivated by prejudice towards a religion, it will be treated as a hate crime.” Notice the “…motivated by prejudice towards a religion…”? I certainly did. No mention of theft or vandalism. Just “prejudice towards a religion” and “hate crime”. The real crime is ignored, snuffed out, left to suffocate under the heaping pile of dung dumped on it by douchebag number 2. Now, it’s not a long reach to assume that Pistone is a christian. It can also be assumed that the town of Haverhill, MA is predominantly christian. Add to this the fact that the crimes took place around christmas time… Hate crime? The shrill, annoying cries of persecution are ringing in my ears!

I don’t recall the last time a christian warrior – a vandal of Atheist billboards or an abortion doctor killer – faced a hate crime designation. I don’t remember the last time a Facebook keyboard warrior for christ – with a penchant for threatening muslims, Atheists, non-christians, gays, liberals, and women, with hell fire and damnation, or even death threats – faced a hate crime designation. Hmmm… Could it be that the real motivation for Pistone’s hate crime tome is nothing more than a way to elevate the real crimes of theft and vandalism to something far more beneficial to the christian persecution complex?  Of course! It’s christmas time! The real crimes wouldn’t make headlines of the local news rag, let alone CNN!

Speaking of CNN and hate crimes… Neil deGrasse Tyson needs to watch his back. You can bet that someone, somewhere, is trumping up charges against him for this tweet…

“On this day long ago, a child was born who, by age 30, would transform the world. Happy Birthday Isaac Newton b. Dec 25, 1642”

Posted on christmas day, Tyson’s tweet was retweeted more than 62,000 times. Many christians were offended of course. No mention by Tyson of their precious sky-brat. Then, to add faux insult to their perceived persecution and spurious injury, Neil tweeted…

“Merry Christmas to all. A Pagan holiday (BC) becomes a Religious holiday (AD). Which then becomes a Shopping holiday (USA).”

Oh! What horrors hath Satan spewed forth from the filthy fingers of the black bastion of cosmic lies!!!! HATE CRIME! HATE CRIME!! Off with Neil’s head! In the name of Jesus Christ!!!!

 

A crime is a crime. In every crime, there’s some motivation of hate. Theft? Yep. Someone hates the fact that you have it and they don’t. So they steal it from you. Vandalism? Yep. Someone hates you, it, them, and/or the message in this case. So, they vandalize it. In the end, hate is always the motivation for crime. Unless you really believe that old, worn out, bullshit mob line, “It’s nothing personal, just business” you’ll get it. “Hate Crime” is truly a trumped-up charge to make the bad seem far worse than it is. And it doesn’t matter from which side of the political spectrum the charge is leveled. It’s a self-serving attempt to preemptively silence the opposition, to force them to stop and pay for a bullshit mind crime, instead of paying a legitimate price for any legitimate crime they may have committed.

Speaking of crime… Let me remind you of Detective Robert Pistone’s words, in the context of this blog…

This blog is “motivated by prejudice towards a religion”.

This blog is prejudiced towards religion. How long before the cries of christian persecution turn words on a blog into a crime – turn freedom of thought and expression into a Pig in a Blanket?

 

December 25: Christmas Day (4BCE)

Posted in Politics, Religion, Science on December 25, 2014 by RJ Evans

Isis-Hours Mary-JesusFrom contributor Ronald Bruce Meyer

Luke 2:9-11
9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them [shepherds], and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.

It was on this date, December 25, 4 BCE, “in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” was born. Or perhaps not. The story is told with minor divergences in the Gospels of Luke (c.85-95) and Matthew (c.80-100) — Matthew, the latest of the Synoptics, and based on Luke, adds the most embellishments — but Mark (c.70), the earliest Gospel, is silent on the birth story, and John (c.100-125), the latest Gospel, ignores it.

The story in Luke is fanciful at best: the savior-god’s humble birth in a manger because there was no room at the inn impressed Matthew so little that his version makes the birthplace a house. Tradition — and an apocryphal gospel of Matthew — also says that the birth was in a humble cave. St. Jerome, who lived many years in Palestine, tells of a cave in a grove at Bethlehem which was a temple of Tammuz or Adonis — both of them sun-gods who die and are resurrected. The birth of Mithra was celebrated in an underground temple which was known as a cave.

So this is Christmas: a word that means, literally, the mass celebrated on the traditional birthday of Christ. The word first occurs in 1038, but the mass has been recorded in the Philocalian Calendar, compiled in 354. It wasn’t easy reconciling dates: even the Catholic Encyclopedia has to acknowledge “that there is no month in the year to which respectable authorities have not assigned Christ’s birth.” The date of December 25 was not fixed in both the Eastern and Western churches until about 440.

But Christmas then wasn’t anything like the sentimental Victorian holiday forced on Ebenezer Scrooge in the story by Charles Dickens, to say nothing of the commercialized, secular holiday we know today. In fact, there was important resistance to its adoption in the first place. Origen objected, asserting that in the scriptures sinners alone, not saints, celebrate their birthday.

Christians strain mightily to obscure the plain historical fact that the mid-winter date of Christmas was borrowed from rival religions. Many of these older religions celebrated the birth of their savior-gods at the same time. But “celebrated” is the correct word here because they were all outlawed by Theodosius in 380 when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. But even in triumph, Christianity maintained the date at the Solstice — December 21 or shortly thereafter.

The Egyptian Cult of Isis celebrated the birthday of the sun-god Horus in midwinter, employing a tableau of the divine child in a manger, with the mother Isis beside it. In Alexandria there was the Koreion, or Temple of the Virgin. After praying all night, on December 25th the people would break into rejoicing because the Virgin Korê had “given birth to the Eternal.” This is also confirmed in the Catholic Encyclopedia.

The pagan writer Macrobius (c.430) records that the Roman Saturnalia was a mid-winter tribute to the vegetation-god. The festival included a display of presents, candles, and dolls (the dolls were probably a representation of an earlier tradition of child sacrifice). Roman Emperor Aurelian (270-276) decreed December 25th as “the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun.” When the cult of Mithra was adopted from Persia, their midnight celebration of the birth of the savior-god, accompanied by blazing candles and clouds of incense marked December 25th. In fact, the Mithraic temple was on Vatican Hill, close to the Christian settlement.

Mithra — like Tammuz, Adonis, Apollo and Horus — was a sun-god. So you see, the “reason for the season” is not the son of any god, but the sun up in the sky!

They Sincerely Believe They’re Always Right

Posted in Politics, Religion, Science with tags , , , , , , , , on December 20, 2014 by RJ Evans

cross-GOPIf someone sincerely believes they’re always right, it’s really easy for them to forget just how wrong they are. At least when it comes to a christian. A good friend of mine sent me a link to an article titled “Conservatives Believe Contraception Is Abortion Only When It’s Politically Convenient”. He suggested I pay special attention to the end of the first paragraph:

“…as long as the belief in the falsehood is sincerely held.”

I chewed on that for several days. As I ground my molars on the sentence, SONY decided to pull their movie “The Interview” after being threatened by hackers with ties to North Korea, and Stephen Colbert bid farewell to his blockbuster show “The Colbert Report”. As I read article after article covering these two events, I came across two articles, in particular, that added a distinctly bitter flavor to the end of the first paragraph that my friend had encouraged me to write about. I’m now spitting it out.

“Death of a President” – Conservative Jong’n

kimjungunUniformSONY pulled “The Interview” from its scheduled x-mas day premier. There’s plenty of blame to go around of course. SONY shares the irresponsibility with movie theater chains and others who are cowering in fear of binary bandits. Of course, this is an issue of freedom of speech in America, and guaranteed by our Constitution. So, it’s not at all unexpected that just about everyone with a voice is dumping a heap of criticism all over the players who ran off the field, like sniveling five-year olds, when the opposing team said “BOO!” However, one particular group of critics attracted my attention.

In an opinion piece, on CNN.com, by Dean Obeidallah – an article that seems to have been conveniently overlooked by CNN’s own plastic political pundits of television glitter – the blatant hypocrisy of conservatives is neatly laid out with regard to their criticism of SONY. In no uncertain terms, the conservative outrage over SONY pulling “The Interview” is nothing short of astounding considering their own fascist rants over the 2006 movie “Death of a President”, and a scene in the movie that depicts George W Bush being killed by a sniper bullet. Not surprisingly, this part of the film revealed the Kim Jong Un fascist mentality in members of the GOP and conservative media pundits. Rep. Peter King (R) of New York, said “Any theater that would show this, any TV station that would show this, is acting irresponsibly. It would be a disgrace for it to be shown anywhere.”  Yes. They’re hypocrites. They sincerely believe they’re always right. Even if it means being totally, blatantly hypocritical and wrong. The ends justify the means. They sincerely believe that their way is the only way, and that there’s absolutely no way that they will ever be wrong as long as they’re sincere. In their warped world view it’s perfectly acceptable to criticize everyone else… but not them because they’re truly sincere.

More Jesus – Sincerely

“…as long as the belief in the falsehood is sincerely held.”

Sincerity of belief is fast becoming a standard of proof when no evidence can be found. In the second article I came across while chewing on this blog piece, I discovered that the quantity of religious strife in the world today apparently isn’t enough for the religious. In fact, the religious want to parlay the end of the “Colbert Report” and Stephen Colbert’s catholic faith into a “Late Night” with jesus. Herb Scribner of Deseret News National Edition asked:

“But will he (Colbert) discuss issues important to believers on his late-night news show? Signs point to yes, especially since the news can be tied to religion (as was the case in 2014, according to Religion News Service). But only time will tell. And let’s not forget that Colbert the character became immortal during the final episode that aired Thursday night.”

The article at Religion News Service gives a long list of religiously themed stories that made the news in 2014. The list is long and quite thorough. To the secular world, it’s a list of what’s wrong with the country and the world, and a reminder of just how dangerous religion is becoming. To sincere believers the stories are the winning lottery numbers in POWERBALL, a Christmas gift from the bastard child himself, wrapped up nicely in a “cross” bow, the pointy arrow aimed squarely at anyone who disagrees with them. They want MORE jesus to counter their manufactured war on christmas, and christianity. It’s never enough. They’re crazy for more jesus.

Mary was a Gall Wasp – I Sincerely Believe That!

How crazy are they? Well, consider this. According to an article on NewsOK.com 79% of Americans believe in the virgin birth of jesus. That’s really crazy considering that christianity is patriarchal and swinging dicks are required for procreation. Remedial sex education classes anyone? Magic hymen? Magic penis? Magic semen? Magic baby? I’m pretty sure Mary was a gall wasp. I sincerely believe that. But, let’s give the sexually ignorant and repressed some credit. At the very least, they sincerely believe in the virgin birth. Even if it’s a falsehood. And god damn it, this is America after all, and stupid is part of our national motto (“In God We Trust”). If someone sincerely believes something, then who are we to EVER call into question their belief? They’re just being sincere and that means they’re always right.

Yes, the religious have opened a new chapter in their war against Separation of Church and State. It’s a war of their sincerity against facts, evidence, and in favor of their sincerity to being insincere (hypocritical) to their own sincere words, when it is necessary to benefit their true heartfelt sincerity. How truly sincere of them to be so damn sincere about being insincere in their sincerity! And I really, really, sincerely believe that.

 

 

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