The Legacy Of Religion

Arlington National Cemetery (Photo by Tim1965 / Wikimedia Commons.)

I heard a story this morning about a woman on death row in Pakistan because she allegedly defamed the Prophet Muhammad. It is against Pakistan’s blasphemy law, a crime that doesn’t have a requisite death sentence, but almost always gets one.

In a legal, not very veiled way, the blasphemy law has fostered dispensation of personal vengeance since it requires no proof–just someone’s word–to arrest a person, and the whole affair will probably end in his or her death. The accused await trial in prison, which might come only after months of delays, destroying their businesses and the reputation of their families in the meantime. This ad hominem revenge is not just used against those of minority religions either. There are Muslims sitting on death row, because someone claimed that they criticized their own Prophet.

The people who are rightfully against this law, the ones who have publicly denounced it, have found themselves in prison or have disappeared in suspiciously Orwellian ways. It is 2014 and there is no such thing as freedom of speech, at least, not in Pakistan where the Prophet is concerned.

This is what religion has given us; a legacy of death, terror, tyranny, and sectarian vigilantism.

The vast majority of Muslims–in fact, all faiths–are peaceful, law-abiding citizens who want the right to practice their faith in peace and privacy. Most faiths don’t want adherents going around killing in their name. Most Muslims don’t want people killing in the name of the Prophet Muhammad, yet it happens all the same. It is not all, or even the many, but the few who are ruining it for everyone.

It is not just Muslims. It’s Jews in Israel lobbing bombs at Palestine. It’s Christians in the United States killing doctors because they don’t agree with the abortion services they provide. It’s Christians warring with Muslims, and sect against sect all over the world.

We have homosexuality punishable by death in Uganda. We have over fifty years of conflict between Israel and Palestine. We have the self-appointed Islamist State caliphate irrationally claiming religious authority over all Muslims across the world while butchering infidels, including Muslims. We have reproductive freedom stripped away from women in the United States. We have bombings and war and terrorist attacks around the world.

This is the legacy of religion.

And today, in America, we remember that, thirteen years ago, 19 people killed over 3,000 in New York City and Washington, D.C., including more than 400 police officers and firefighters in the most devastating attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor during World War II.

This is what religion has given us. There is no end to it. The list goes on and on and on. It’s got to stop.

There’s not one major religion in the modern world that strictly advocates murder. There just isn’t. Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Atheist… we are all people. We are all Homo sapiens derived from the same organic matter, sharing one tiny planet inside a universe that’s so big, we can’t even see the whole thing.

No matter what you believe, find a way to live together and leave each other alone to practice (or not practice) whatever religion you choose in peace and privacy. What your neighbor believes is none of your concern. On a biological level, he is no different from you. Find a way, because until you do, the human race will not evolve.

Homo sapiens–the species of every person on earth–literally means “wise man” in Latin. Let’s live up to the name. Stop the killing. Stop the hate.

In remembrance of the countless victims of sectarian violence, war and terrorist attacks around the world, regardless of race, gender or religion.

Arlington National Cemetery (Photo by Tim1965 / Wikimedia Commons.)
Arlington National Cemetery (Photo by Tim1965 / Wikimedia Commons.)

 

This Is Why I Have A Problem With Fundamentalists

Image from theguardian.com

This morning, I heard about Uganda. Have you heard about Uganda? Their Parliament just passed what could only be described as tyrannical anti-gay legislation.

Basically, the Ugandan government wants to make it completely illegal to be gay. Well, being gay is already illegal, but if this bill is signed into law, repeated homosexual acts between consenting adults in Uganda can get you a life sentence in prison.

When it was introduced in 2009, the bill was nicknamed the “Kill The Gays Bill” because it called for death sentences. In essence, Uganda wanted to legally kill gay people for being gay. The death sentence provision has since been removed. Instead, they’ll just lock them up and throw away the key. How generous.

Not only that, but if your friends, neighbors and coworkers don’t narc to the authorities that you are gay, they will also be prosecuted. “The Anti-Homosexuality Bill, it’s actual name, makes it a crime to ‘promote’ homosexuality, which could mean simply offering HIV counseling”[1] and “prescribes a seven-year jail term for a person who ‘conducts a marriage ceremony’ for same-sex couples. [It also makes it a crime to rent] an apartment to an LGBT person, punishable by five years in prison.” [2]

Jessica Stern, executive director of the The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission in New York, said “If you’re perceived to be LGBT, no one’s going to rent to you, for fear of their own criminal responsibility. So if this law is enacted in its current form, it’s basically a homelessness sentence for LGBT Ugandans.”[1]

It was passed unanimously by the parliament with no one voicing an objection. This awful piece of discriminatory, hateful legislation has yet to be signed into law by the Ugandan President. Yoweri Museveni was careful to neither publicly support nor condemn the bill. He has 30 days to sign it.

Wow, that’s absolutely monstrous, you might say, if your soul isn’t made of pure molten evil, but what does that have to do with the title of this post?

Allow me to explain. American evangelical bigots helped write The Kill Bill along with Ugandan bigots. Specifically, these evangelical bigots: “The Anti-Homosexuality Bill’s sponsor, is the secretary of the Ugandan branch of The Family, the secretive American evangelical organization whose members include Sens. James Inhofe, Jim DeMint, and Tom Coburn. Martin Sempa, a Pentecostal preacher who has championed the bill, was a protege of Rick Warren and, during the Bush administration, a recipient of at least $90,000 of American aid earmarked for abstinence promotion. Another major anti-gay activist, Stephen Langa, the head of Uganda’s Family Life Network, is an affiliate of the Phoenix-based group Disciple Nations Alliance.” [3]

“Uganda is a predominantly Christian country with a significant (about 12%) Muslim minority. According to the National Census of October 2002, Christians of all denominations made up 85.1% of Uganda’s population.”[4]

It wasn’t always that way. Let’s go back in time to figure out how all of that happened since it doesn’t make a lick of rational sense that American evangelicals would be writing odious anti-gay legislation in Uganda and get it passed through Parliament. We need a history lesson to see the big picture here.

Christian Fundamentalist missionaries first arrived in Uganda (then called Buganda–where did the B go?) in 1877, which was nearly a century later than the rest of the continent as far as busybody missionary tinkering in Africa goes. Yet, by the turn of the century, Uganda was one of the most successful conversion missions in all of Africa.

Islam already had a foothold in the region by the time Christian missionaries arrived. The ruler of Uganda was smitten with Islam. He learned some Arabic and led some prayers. This all changed when Egypt decided it wanted to consolidate parts of the Nile river, including Uganda, into an Egyptian Empire. The Ungandan ruler, Kabaka (king) Muteesa said nuh uh.

Kabaka Muteesa. When He says "nuh uh," you listen. Image from wiki.
Kabaka Muteesa. When he says “nuh uh,” you listen.
Image from wiki.

Instead of learning a valuable lesson on how religion and politics shouldn’t mingle, Muteesa greeted the first busybody Christian missionary, Mr. Henry Morton Stanley with open arms. This is totally the hat and mustache of someone you can trust, right?

Mr. Henry Morton Stanley, 1872/ Image from wiki.
“Nice to meet you. I’m Henry Morton Stanley. Never mind the fact that, in a few years, I’ll be openly advocating a British takeover of Uganda.”
Image from wiki.

Muteesa saw Christianity as a way to counter the Muslim threat from Egypt. Besides, the first-world Christians had some cool technology, or as we like to call it, magic.

Stanley sent a letter back to the church more or less saying, “Man, these Ugandans are swell on Christianity. We must convert them all post-haste.” That turned out to be a bit of an overstatement, but the white man came anyway, and we all know how well it goes when the white man brings the “right way” to the lowly heathens. See Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart or read what happened to the indigenous people of America.

Anyway, things fall apart. The problem was, at the same time Stanley’s Protestant missionaries came from England, some French Catholics arrived, too. The English were all, like, “Uganda is ours, chaps. Be good fellows and scurry off,” while the French were all, like, “No, zees ees ours. Le French az ad our eyes zet on zees plaze pour le while,” which was true. Meanwhile, the Ugandans were all, like, “WTF?”

Muteesa allowed both the French Catholics and the English Protestants to stay so that he could use both of them for whatever they were worth, which at that point, wasn’t much besides keeping Egypt off his back.

Then came a new king, Muteesa’s son, Mwanga II of Buganda in 1884, who happened to be gay. As we all know, things don’t go too well for homosexuals in either Christian faith. So, Mwanga killed some Christians. It turned out to be a political mistake, which led, of course, to killing more Christians.

King Mwanga II Buganda. Image from wiki.
King Mwanga II Buganda. Sup?
Image from wiki.

In 1886, Mwanga massacred a lot of Christians, both Catholic and Protestant. The real cause for the killings was the king’s anger that his Christian pages refused to get down with the gay way. The religious sects–Muslim, Protestant and Catholic–formed some armies like they’ve been known to do throughout all of recorded damn history. Before we invented fire, Muslims, Protestants and Catholics had armies.

At first, Mwanga rooted for these armies as a way to stick it to the man, i.e. the older generation of chiefs, forgetting that he was actually the man, metaphorically and literally. But, by 1888, he realized that maybe having three religious armies roaming around the countryside wasn’t the best idea. He tried to get rid of them, but getting rid of armies isn’t the easiest thing to do and they started a coup. The three armies joined forces to oust him.

Once Mwanga was out, the Muslims, Protestants and Catholics stopped mid-high five and said, “Wait a minute, dude, we’re enemies!” They turned their guns or swords or slingshots or whatever they used for warrin’ in 1888 on each other. The English Protestant missionaries came out top of the heap and that’s how Christianity got a stranglehold in Uganda. Then, years later, along came the American fundamentalists and anti-gay hate legislation. The end.[5]

Except, not the end at all. Several however many years after the gay king, Christianity still has a damned stranglehold on Uganda. Much like Bart Simpson accidentally loosing a frog in Australia and destroying an ecosystem, Christianity has completely uprooted the country. The indigenous belief system is all but gone. The government is ruled by religion. Stupid rules that are not inherent to the region are now in place, such as imprisoning people for life for being gay like Mwanga.

Now, if the current president of Uganda does, in fact, sign this heinous bill into law, countless people will suffer, because foreign aid will dwindle down to a trickle. The entire population of Uganda will suffer, not just the people who are accused of a crime–the same crime, by the way, committed by the very ruler who allowed Christianity to choke the life out of Uganda in the first place.

So, Mr. Yoweri Museveni, Ugandan President, tread lightly. You, sir, are in a bit of a pickle. If you pass the bill, Western countries have threatened to withhold financial aid.[2] If you don’t pass the bill, the Ugandan population will most likely oust you from office since “it is highly popular among Ugandans who say the country has the right to pass laws that protect its children.” (Don’t even get me started on the “think of the children” defense).[2] It’s an internal versus external battle and you are damned if you do, damned if you don’t. I sincerely hope you don’t.

What really infuriates me about this story, besides the gasp-worthy human rights violation, is that this hatred, segregation and discrimination all boils down to religion once again. And not just any religion, but old-fashioned American-style evangelical Christianity.

I am disgusted by Uganda’s politics. I am ashamed to be an American. I am sickened when I see news reports like this one or this one, dangling the term “American” in front of Uganda’s extreme homophobia, that the same word can be used to describe both the root of this vile hate and myself.

To the Fundamentalist Christians responsible for this abominable bill: Stop spreading hate around the world. It’s bad enough that you’ve been doing it in America. Christianity isn’t about hate. You’re doing it wrong and you totally suck at religion.

To the Ugandan government: Stop this nonsense now before anyone else[6] gets hurt. Do not pass this bill.

As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

_________________

[1] Source: NPR: Uganda Passes Anti-Gay Bill That Includes Life In Prison
[2] Source: NPR: Uganda Passes Tough New Bill Against Homosexuality
[3] Source: “Globalizing the Culture Wars: US Conservatives, African Churches, and Homophobia” report by Political Research Associates
[4]
Source: Wikipedia: Religion in Uganda
[5] My history of religion in Uganda was severely paraphrased from Britannica.com and dacb.com: “A History of Christianity in Uganda” by Kevin Ward, Senior Lecturer in African Religious Studies, University of Leeds.
[6] Source: The Guardian: Ugandan gay rights activist David Kato found murdered

Continued in Part 2.

7 Things I Don’t Understand

Basil Rathbone.
Image from denofgeek.com

Remakes

There are a billion original stories out there, some of them even on this blog, so why do movie studios insist on giving us the same crap over and over?

How many Sherlock Holmes have their been throughout the life of the character? The answer is a lot. Do we need that many Sherlock Holmes? Personally, I think we should have stopped at Basil Rathbone.

Basil Rathbone. Image from denofgeek.com
Basil Rathbone.
Image from denofgeek.com

I’ve written about this one before in Things I Hate Part 1:

Hollywood has always remade movies.  This is nothing new. They’ve done it since time immemorial, but recently, there has been a glut of remade television shows, foreign films, books, comic books, other movies and little else. It seems that it’s all about the almighty dollar and creative thought is dead, or at least, it’s no longer being financed by the studios.

I think the crux of the issue, as I alluded to above, is financing. Why should Hollywood bother taking a risk on making something new and original, when they can just repackage the same crap over and over, and you people will pay to go see it? The box office numbers tell me that you do.

I, for one, vote with my wallet. Not that I see many movies in the theater, but the movies I pay to see are always original. I never pay to see remakes because I want them to stop. I want more originality and creativity in Hollywood. These days, I mostly watch foreign films to find that.

Suburbia

Suburbia as seen in Edward Scissorhands
Suburbia as seen in Edward Scissorhands

I’ve written about this one before in Things I Hate Part 3:

I hate suburbia… all of it… everywhere. The suburbs are supposed to be cleaner, safer, better. I call bullshit. If by better you mean devoid of any sort of culture whatsoever, universally painted in shades of beige, teeming with chain restaurants and chain stores, and full of asswipes whose idea of the high life is having their windows smashed because they ridiculously live on golf course, then, maybe. Personally, I’ll take the grime and noise of the city over your fake cul-de-sacs, your keeping up with the Jones-ism, and your homogenized uniformity any day. Just driving through the suburbs makes my skin crawl. I don’t know how people live there.

I admit that I’m biased on this one. When I was in high school, my parents decided that the neighborhood I lived in all my life wasn’t good enough and moved us out to the suburbs. I hated every second of it. Instead of being ranked by how cool you were in high school, this school was about how rich you were. I went to school with a kid who drove a Ferrari. He was sixteen years old and drove a car that cost about as much as the house I lived in. Do you think he bought that car with his own money at his part-time job? Not likely.

I was not rich. My family was not rich. I had been supporting myself since I was fifteen, so even if my family was rich, it wouldn’t have mattered. I parked my ancient Chevrolet Chevette amid Ferraris, Bentleys, Mercedes and Maseratis. When I was 18 and legally emancipated, I got the fuck out of suburbia and never looked back.

Gated Communities

In suburbia, which I hate, there is an even worse section of suburbia–that of the gated community. I have to drive a mile out of my way each way every day because of one. They’ve managed to somehow gate off a major city street so no one can get through except the rich fucks who live there.

In my mile out of the way drive, I pass many more gated communities. One of them, on a four lane street that everyone has to take because the other gated community has blocked off a major thoroughfare, has its own light. Fortunately, this light only goes red when someone needs to get in or out of the gated community, but every time I get stuck there, it pisses me off.

Countless people on their way to work have to stop for one asshole, and there is always only one asshole. I’ve never seen more than one car going in or out at the same time and I’ve passed this stupid light ten times a week for nearly three years. Four lanes of traffic come to a grinding halt so one rich bitch can go shopping in Beverly Hills.

It’s that sense of entitlement that really pisses me off about the rich. All of us poor people are obviously not as important as that one person going in and out of Richville or Urethra or Gates of the Elite (they always have stupid names).

Even if I was super rich, I can’t imagine living in a gated community. I don’t understand the point. It seems to me a bit like prison. You have your own little secure prison cells called home; common areas like golf courses, clubhouses and pools; and a secure gate around the whole thing so no one can get in or out except at the one bottleneck. It seems claustrophobic to me. The only gated community I would live in is a gate around my property.

How to make bread

The other morning, as I was getting ready for work, I went to make coffee as I have done every morning of my adult life. I put water in the coffeemaker, put coffee in the coffee grinder and hit the grind button. Nothing happened. There was no lovely noise of coffee beans being ground. There was nothing. Now, not having had any coffee yet, I had no real idea how to react to this crisis, and believe me, it was a crisis.

I stood there for more moments than I’d care to admit, pushing a useless button. I had all the necessary ingredients for coffee–coffee, water, heat and beans–except the beans were whole and not ground. I panicked and thought of all sorts of schemes to get the beans from a whole to a ground state including using the pepper mill, food processor and even a meat tenderizer, before I finally gave up and decided to get coffee at Starbucks on the way to work.

Not an appropriate instrument for grinding coffee.
Not an appropriate instrument for grinding coffee.

This got me thinking about all the things I don’t know how to do without electricity. I have an excellent bread recipe, but I don’t know how to make bread without a bag of store-bought flour. I drink coffee every day, but I haven’t a clue how to make it without an electric coffee grinder and coffee pot. I’m willing to bet that not many of you do either.

We have let the modern conveniences of life take away our knowledge of how to do things. Cars all have computers nowadays. Even my coffeepot has a computer chip in it. We have lost so much of our history to electricity. We have replaced knowledge with technology.

I bought a new electric coffee grinder, but now, I’m also keeping my eye out for an old school hand grind number and a coffee pot that brews on the stove. I will not be without coffee again because of a dumb thing like electricity.

Animal abuse

Anyone who says animals don’t have souls has no idea what a soul is or hasn’t spent any time around animals. I don’t necessarily believe in a soul as a discrete entity that lives within ourselves and turns into a ghost when our bodies decay. I do believe in personalities, and let me tell you, animals have them.

I do not understand how you could take an innocent puppy and turn him into a killer for the sake of entertainment and profits. I don’t understand bullfighting, cock fighting or dog fighting. I don’t understand how anyone could starve, neglect, beat or otherwise mistreat an animal. Anyone who could hurt an animal doesn’t have a soul. I’m perfectly alright with not understanding how to abuse an animal.

Violence in the name of religion

To be honest, I don’t understand religions, but most of them seem pretty peaceful to me. They’re about respecting a higher power than yourself. They foster a sense of community and good deeds. Even the most heinous of organized religions has a charitable arm.

So, why is it that so many people, now and for thousands of years, are killed in the name of religion? How can you take the word of Jesus, who by all accounts, was a rather likeable fellow, and turn that into protesting funerals holding signs that say GOD HATES FAGS?

How could a prophet whose name is always followed by “peace be upon him” be turned into a reason for so muck killing? What about peace upon the rest of us?

Most wars, skirmishes, military actions, rebellions, improvised explosive devices and hate crimes can be directly or indirectly traced back to the perpetrator’s religious beliefs. I don’t care what you believe, but please, stop killing each other in the name of religion.

Bigotry

I suppose, in some ways, bigotry goes hand in hand with religious violence. In other ways, it doesn’t. I will never understand hating someone because of their religion, sexual preference, skin color or other beliefs. I admit that I’m biased against some people for their beliefs. I wrote a letter to my neighbor in that vein not too long ago.

But, we’re not talking about bias here. We’re all biased for or against those who see the world the same or differently than we do. It’s an evolutionary trait. We all judge people on first impressions. It’s what humans do.

We are talking about hate. Hating someone you’ve never met because they are in a same-sex union, hating someone because they don’t worship the same god as you, hating someone because their skin color is different from yours… these are things I will never understand. Honestly, I hope I never do.

I would like to know how to make bread from absolute scratch though. I suppose I’ll need some chickens and a cow.

The Nuts & Bolts Of My Atheism

constitution

I’m an atheist. Did you know that? Does it matter? I have some links on my sidebar, but that’s as much promotion as I’ve ever done.

Let’s get this straight up front, I would never try to convince anyone that atheism is right, because I don’t have any proof that it is. I do not proselytize. I won’t talk you out of religion, call it stupid or laugh at it. I’ve stood up for Muslims in several posts about terrorism. I respect your views, whatever they are. I don’t talk about atheism, because there’s not much point. I don’t want to start an argument. I don’t want to offend anyone. I would rather discuss our similarities than our differences. Everyone has their own beliefs and that’s cool.

I am talking about it today because I read Rarasaur’s post Testimony Of A Theist. In it, she wrote a list of “things that atheists could do without:”

  • Blessing their sneezes
  • Telling them that God has a plan (or variations thereof)
  • Telling them that their dead loved ones are with angels
  • Calling them agnostic
  • Requiring them to pledge their allegiance to their country “under God”
  • The Religious Assumption (“Everyone is religious in some way or the other.”)
  • Requiring them to sing along to religious songs or take religious breaks
  • Assuming that they don’t know scripture
  • Assuming that their morals are more flexible than those of religious people
  • The expression “A lack of faith”

I would like to address the things on Rara’s list, because not everyone’s experience is the same. My views are different than yours, even if we believe the same things.


Blessing their sneezes

I say “bless you” when someone sneezes, though I usually drop the “god” part. Sometimes, I say “gesundheit” because it means “health” in German. I wrote a post about that here. Blessing sneezes is just part of polite society.

I also say, “thank god,” because what else are you supposed to say? Thank nothing? There’s no good replacement for it. And on the other end, I also use the word “hell.” There’s no succinct substitute for the concept of hell either.

And while we’re at it, I don’t capitalize the word “god” because that makes it a proper noun like a name. Since I don’t believe in god, I don’t capitalize it. God is a concept to me, not an entity. It is a concept like photosynthesis or hell; I’ve never seen either in person, but I understand the concept.

I hope using those words doesn’t offend any theists out there, but they’re such a part of lexicon that there’s really no easy substitute for them.

Telling them that God has a plan (or variations thereof)

You’re welcome to tell me anything you like, but that doesn’t mean I’ll agree. Telling me that god has a plan for me is like telling a Buddhist that the Christian god has a plan for them. It doesn’t make any sense because their beliefs are different.

Telling them that their dead loved ones are with angels

Again, telling me that my loved ones are with angels is like telling a Buddhist that. It’s a nice sentiment, and if it makes you feel better to say it, it won’t offend me.

Calling them agnostic

I used to be agnostic. I always said that if a god came down with a thunderbolt and provable data that it was, in fact, a god, I’d believe. And that is still true. If there were tangible proof of the existence of god–not faith, but proof–I would believe. The older I get though, the harder it is to keep the faith that some proof might appear. I’ve lost faith in the idea that god could potentially be a provable entity, so I’ve migrated from agnostic to atheist.

I call myself atheist, non-theist, non-believer, irreligious. Any of those, even agnostic, are fine, but I prefer you call me Goldfish. As my grandmother used to say, “I don’t care what you call me, just don’t call me late for dinner.” Wise words.

Requiring them to pledge their allegiance to their country “under God”

If “under god” was always in the United States Pledge Of Allegiance, it wouldn’t bother me, but that’s not the case. It was only added in 1954 in response to the “red scare,” a.k.a. communism. It hasn’t even been there 60 years.

The same goes for adding “in god we trust” to money. It was only added in 1957.

No "In God We Trust" on the left.

It wasn’t there originally and it doesn’t belong there now. The United States has a firm wall between church and state, via the First Amendment to the Constitution. Adding god to money and the Pledge of Allegiance violates the law.

The Religious Assumption (“Everyone is religious in some way or the other.”)

You can make all the assumptions about me you’d like. I’m used to people thinking of me erroneously. I honestly do not care one lick what the public thinks of me. I would hope that you’d get to know me before assuming anything though.

This one in private life doesn’t affect me, but it does bother me when it’s the government assuming it, because it is clearly not true.

Requiring them to sing along to religious songs or take religious breaks

Almost everything on this list doesn’t bother me if it’s personal, but it would get my goat if I was required to do that at work or in a public building.

If I’m in a church, I will pretend. I’ve always pretended. A friend of mine’s mother died a couple of years ago and the funeral was held in a Catholic church. I did not go up and take communion, because I think it’s an insult to theists for an atheist to do that in their house, but I stood up when required, I sat down, I sang along with everyone else. When I’m on your turf, I will do everything in my power not to disrespect your beliefs.

Assuming that they don’t know scripture

A lot of irreligious people know the scriptures inside and out. They can quote you a Bible verse in a heartbeat. I am not one of those people. I know the Bible about as well as I know the telephone book. I used to read it in Sunday School as a kid, but all of that knowledge has been lost. I haven’t bothered to re-read it, because I don’t like arguing about religion and it doesn’t pertain to my life. I just don’t quote from it. Simple.

Assuming that their morals are more flexible than those of religious people

I once got drawn into an argument on the internet about religion. I don’t do that anymore because it’s disrespectful and pointless. In this argument, I was told I had no moral compass because I’m irreligious. My morals go about willy-nilly spinning from bad to evil and I couldn’t possibly know right from wrong.

That is a bunch of crap. Atheists have sound ethics and morals just like the religious. I have never committed a crime. I have never even been arrested. Since the age of fifteen, I’ve had a job and paid taxes. I give money and time to charities. Before I was anemic, I donated blood. I hold doors, and say please and thank you. I have manners. I am considerate. I tip well. I live in a neat and tidy house that looks similar to every house on the block. I don’t blast music at all hours. I don’t worship the devil. I don’t go around telling people they’re going to hell. I am an upstanding citizen, yet I don’t have any faith.

The expression “A lack of faith”

I have a lack of faith in religion, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have faith. I have faith in the laws of physics, thermodynamics, gravity. I have faith in science. I believe that science will make the world better. Science cures diseases. Science allowed men to go to the moon and back. Science has given us what little understanding we have of our universe and our own brains. Science rules and I very much believe in it.

I don’t remember ever having any faith to lose. I don’t think I ever believed in god. It’s alright with me if you want to say I have a lack of faith in religion, but a total lack of faith is just not true.


I hope I didn’t offend anyone with this post; that was not my intent. My goal was that maybe we could understand each other a little better. No matter what we believe, we are all humans of earth and we are not that different. Humans should be considerate of each other, no matter what they believe. I believe that adults are ultimately responsible for their own actions, and as such, we are all responsible for making the world a better place.

Big primate Homo sapiens thumbs up!

New & Improved First Amendment Part 2

first_amendment-1

If you could enact one new law, what would it be?

Just one? That’s not fair. There are so many from which to choose. I’ve already written the converse of this question in One Law I’d Abolish, but I suppose this is different. This new law could be anything.

I could enact legislation that requires all people born on a Tuesday to wear pointy hats with ten inch feathers on the first of the month. I could outlaw the phrase OMG in speech and send anyone who utters it aloud to the hoosegow. I could require all people to greet each other with the phrase “Hoopdiddy flarben!! Greeb not, me dainzy prangstens, we smiggen the yingblat at groon.” just because I’d find it funny.

While I do a lot of silly things in the interest of funny, I think I’d like to enact a law that might do the public some good. I’d like to level the playing field. I’d like to see a world, or at least a country, where everyone is free to do as they please within the law.

I’ve already written about how I’d change the First Amendment if I had the chance in the post New & Improved First Amendment.  As a refresher, here’s what the First Amendment looks like now:

Here’s how I changed it:

The government of the United States of America shall not endorse, propagate or even acknowledge a religion, god, or lack thereof. Citizens of the United States have the rights to both freedom of and freedom from religion. The government cannot financially support nor otherwise endorse any religion or god over any other, or lack thereof. Public officials of the government shall not be required nor allowed to divulge their religious beliefs in order to seek a public office or to work in a public capacity of any kind. All religions will be administered solely by the public without government financial support, unless the religious group is willing to provide social services to all comers, even to those of different or no religious beliefs and customs, without judgment and without proselytizing those who seek services. All references to god or religion shall remain outside of the government unless such references are germane to a legal proceeding such as a civil or criminal case. There shall be no endorsement or recognition of a god of any kind on currency, in The Pledge of Allegiance, in public schools or in any other government forum or building. If those rules are followed, the government shall not prohibit the free exercise thereof.

I’d keep the parts of the First Amendment about freedom of assembly, speech, press and redressing grievances, but I’d change “Congress shall make no law” to simply “the government”:

The government shall not abridge freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Then, since Congress has a long and sordid history of tacking fine print conditions onto bills that have nothing at all to do with the legislation at hand, I’d do the same and add the following:

Irrefutably provable hate crimes and child abuse are now punishable by death. Discrimination in the workplace based on racism, gender bias, classism, sexual preference, belief or for any other reason not having to do with job performance will be outlawed, enforced and punishable by lengthy prison terms; all legal fees and associated costs will be paid by the transgressor. The government will operate transparently. If you are a United States citizen, you have a right to know where your tax dollars are going and have a say in the budget. The government shall not control its people; the people shall control the government.

And, just for shits and giggles, I’d add:

Goldfish will be given a bazillion dollars and be bestowed with the title of Queen Ruler Extraordinaire Ad Infinitum. All citizens are required to give one footrub to same.

Powered by Plinky

GUNS

CZ 75B

Yes, I own a couple – the real kind – the kind that go boom.  Guns and I have a sordid history.  When I was a kid, I remember sitting on my pappy’s knee and pulling the trigger on a shotgun as he aimed at some airborne fowl. I didn’t realize at the time that the purpose of all this pomp was, in fact, to kill them. It’s all part of the cycle of life, yadda yadda, but it was a little much for a wee lass of maybe five years old to really comprehend. However, I grew up in Michigan where five year old girls firing shotguns is normal or even expected.

In fact, those very same guns were stored in my closet as a child. Half of my closet was filled with a large, sturdy, oak gun safe. One would think that a child’s closet is a strange place to store weaponry, however, I was instilled with a very healthy fear of that gun closet. I was told never, ever under any circumstances to even attempt to open it (not that I could have since it had a big padlock on it).  Most children think there is a monster that lives in their closet, but the monsters in my closet were very much real. They could kill me, you and even airborne fowl.

For over twenty years, I never saw the inside of that gun safe until my mom sold it at a garage sale. It was far less scary than I had imagined as a child. When the creaky, old, wood door finally opened for me, I discovered that, much to my disappointment, the inside of the cabinet looked very much like the outside of it in reverse, only with more places to put things like guns and ammunition. There were no monsters inside it at all.

It was decades later that I actually fired a gun again. Strangely, it wasn’t until I moved to California, one of the most stringent of all states on gun laws. A friend of mine had what could be called a stockpile, or at the very least, a cache of firearms. He took me shooting, and like most first-time shooters, I was nervous as hell. I found it difficult to concentrate on what I was doing. To be frank, I sucked. Shooting guns again wasn’t really anything I had an interest in pursuing, but at least I could say I had done it.

Fast forward a few years and my roommate, a new homeowner, bought a gun or several. I wrote about his motivations in the post The ZA Plan. First, he bought a 12 gauge, pump action shotgun for home protection. It was a reasonable purchase since just that CHA-CHINK, pump action sound would be enough to make most intruders get off my lawn. Then, he bought a 9mm handgun, a .22 rifle, a couple of .223 rifles, a .30-06 (pronounced the fun way: thirty-aught-six), a .308, another shotgun and another 9mm. I forget the order in which they were purchased and I may even be forgetting a couple, but suffice it to say, there is now a stockpile of weaponry in my own house. We have three gun safes. Hm, I thought, perhaps it’s time I figured out how to shoot one of these things for real.

We went to the outdoor range. Once again, I had the jitters. These things can kill you. I started with the .22 rifle.  I picked it up, shot it and, hey, what do you know? It hit what it was supposed to hit. I shot some more until, after a while, I became pretty durn handy with a .22 rifle even at distances of over 100 yards. I worked my way up in calibers until now, I can pretty well shoot anything in his arsenal. I’m still not all that fond of the .30-06 (it’s too much gun for me), but I can shoot the thing with a fair amount of precision.

After I got over the initial, these things can kill you jitters, I thought maybe I’d like to have a gun of my own. I did some research, picked the one I wanted and waited for it to go on sale. It didn’t take very long before the local gun shop – ruthlessly efficient at putting the exact gun you want on sale when you can’t quite afford it – put it on sale.  I purchased a rifle. I am a registered gun owner in the state of California.

Marlin Model 60 .22LR

My rifle is one of the most popular .22 caliber rifles ever. I named it Buck since it looks like a 1950’s TV cowboy gun. It would look very comfortable on the back of a saddle. I know you’re supposed to name things after women, but since I’m a girl, I figure I’m exempt from that rule.

CZ 75B 9mm Luger

Then, just recently, that very same ruthlessly efficient gun store put the 9mm handgun that I’ve had my eye on for a while on sale for the best price I’ve ever seen, the bastards. Unemployment be damned, it was an offer too good to refuse. Besides, I have credit cards. I aced my Handgun Safety Test, got my handgun license and now, I own two guns – a rifle and a semiautomatic pistol. I haven’t named the handgun yet. I’m open to suggestions.

I find guns relaxing.  I have always had a hard time turning off my brain.  It’s the reason that I’m an insomniac.  I’ve never been able to meditate either. Ommmm… No way, no how can I turn my mind off to focus on one thing or whatever it is they want you to do when you meditate. But, when I have a gun in my hand, all of everything just fades into the background. I focus on one thing only – the target in front of me and my ability to shoot it. I breathe, I relax, I concentrate.

I am, by most definitions, a liberal. I am also gun owner. I enjoy exercising my second amendment rights, but I am also for gun restrictions within reason. I’m perfectly comfortable with my name listed in a database as a registered firearm owner. It’s completely reasonable to require a ten-day waiting period to do a background check. If you are convicted of a violent crime, you probably shouldn’t be able to own a gun. Unlike a lot of people who seem to look at me like I’m insane when I tell them I’m both a liberal and a gun owner, I see no conflict of interest.

I don’t buy into the stereotype of what a gun owner should be. I don’t believe in the gun-totin’, god-fearin’, pickup truck drivin’, flag wavin’ stereotype of gun owners in America. That’s not who I am. I am not a fan of the NRA; a right-wing, political machine designed to manipulate the system under the guise of a group for gun hobbyists. There is a myth perpetuated by the right that liberal folks hate guns and want to take them away from everyone else. It is simply not true. Not all gun owners are Republicans, just like not all anti-gun people are liberal.

It bothers me that, in addition to buying gun accessories from one of a multitude of online “sports and outdoors” retailers, I can also buy a T-shirt that says something about Jesus, “If you can read this, the bitch fell off” or “try to take these guns away, Obama” referring, of course, to the wearer’s big, burly, man muscles. How it is that politics, religion and firearms all ended up in bed together in some sort of twisted threesome is beyond me.

It also bothers me that women with guns are mainly portrayed wearing an American flag bikini, awkwardly holding an AK-47 while parking her butt on the hood of a pickup truck or straddling a motorcycle that she obviously doesn’t ride any more than she shoots that AK she’s holding. Women couldn’t possibly have an interest in firearms unless their boyfriend/father/husband makes them, right?

I wouldn’t be caught dead in an American flag bikini, but I do own two firearms. I don’t need your help at the range. I’m not some helpless little girlie-girl who giggles after shooting a gun while my boyfriend stands behind me. I’m not your honey, your baby or your sweetheart. Don’t forget, I’m holding a gun.

Atheist Bloggers

091009wallpaperImagine
Image by Derek Job from the OUT Campaign

It’s probably fairly obvious to anyone who glances through this site that I’m an atheist. I feel the need to clarify the word “atheist” because it has so many negative connotations attached to it that, whenever it is said, people automatically draw conclusions and go by their own definition, rather than the dictionary’s. When I say I’m an atheist, what I really mean is that, by Webster’s definition of atheism, I hold a disbelief in the existence of a deity or deities. I’m also an antitheist, meaning that I am opposed to theism and organized religion.

Over there in the right column, there are a couple of tags, such as atheism, separation of church and state, religion and Jebus that attest to the fact that I’ve whinged and moaned about the pervasiveness of religion, and the fact that it’s all up in my government. I’m not a huge fan of religion to begin with, but I especially don’t like religion in my government. There’s this First Amendment thing that’s supposed to protect us from that.

Contrary to popular belief, this country was not founded as a Christian nation. It was founded as a place where people could escape from religious tyranny and were free to practice, or not practice, any religion sans government control and intervention. The First Amendment is supposed to protect all of our beliefs and the right to express them any way we so choose within the law, yet it’s been twisted and bent out of shape. It’s been distorted from a law that protects everyone’s rights to a law that only protects the rights of the majority, which is precisely what the founding fathers of this country were trying to avoid and what they set this country up to escape from in the first place. Our brilliant constitution full of freedom of expression is crumbling, destroying all of our rights in the process.

I digress. That generally happens when I start talking about the First Amendment. The point of this post is not to go on yet another tear about the separation of church and state,  but to introduce a couple of nifty sites I found noodling about on the intertubes called The Atheist Blogroll and The OUT Campaign. I’ve never been much of a joiner, but most atheists aren’t. While I have never hidden my atheist stance, I haven’t promoted it either, but perhaps it’s time to change that. In the spirit of openness, you will now find both of those fine organizations’ links displayed in the right hand column of this blog. Also, I’ve long been a member of American Atheists and the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which do important legal work to uphold the separation of church and state, so I added their links as well.

We are, statistically, very much a minority. In this day and age, when we’re positively dripping with science that disproves most superstition and mythology, or at least sheds a hard light on its flaws, I find it difficult to believe that rationality is a minority stance, but statistics prove otherwise. Reasoning freethinkers barely break double digits in the sum total of the population. Although, I’m sure there are quite a few people who keep their skepticism to themselves and don’t go parading the fact that they don’t have faith.  Never having had any faith myself, I can’t quite understand their point of view, but I suppose if you live in a small farming community in the middle of nowhere USofA, then you might want to blend in as best you can. That might mean hiding your beliefs, or lack thereof, from your peers in much the same way that not all gay people openly admit that they are gay. Religious beliefs are supposed to be private anyway.

The point is, it’s nice to run across people who take a stance and openly discuss their views, unpopular though they may be, and that’s just what The Atheist Blogroll and the OUT Campaign are about. I’m proud to be counted among them. So, cheers to all those who aren’t afraid to become a target for the vocal minority of raving religious lunatics who can’t debate without circular reasoning, begging the question, straw men, “I know you are, but what am I?” type of thinking and the other varieties of fallacious arguments. Cheers to all those bloggers out there who aren’t afraid to stand up and be counted as a freethinking minority. I will be making my way through my fellow atheists’ blogs to see what you all have to say. Good luck and keep up the good work.

Glad That’s Over

300px-Grinch_poster

I hate the holidays. I hate everything from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. I already discussed it to some extent in the post The Spirit of Lazy. I’m a private, mainly antisocial person and I don’t like having obligations to be social. I never know if I’m going to want to be social until the very moment I’m to leave to go somewhere. The holidays give me no choice. I have to put on a happy face and mingle. Whenever I get an invite to an event, I almost always reply “maybe” unless a proper RSVP is required, like a wedding, and “maybe” is not an option. Maybe I will feel like being around people, maybe I’ll be in an awesome mood the day of your shindig, maybe I’ll really want to go to something and get out of the house, but I won’t know until the day actually comes. It’s nothing personal.

I hate Thanksgiving because of all the cooking I’m required to do. I don’t enjoy obligatory cooking any more than I enjoy obligatory socializing. Plus, cooking a Thanksgiving meal is really expensive. To do it right, you’re looking at over $100. However, Thanksgiving is my least hated of the holidays. The real back-stabber is Christmas.

I don’t have kids. I’m not a kid. I don’t wax nostalgic for the days of my childhood when Christmas was the best day of all. I don’t believe in god. I don’t care about Jesus. I don’t celebrate Christmas. Yet, everywhere I go, for a solid month or more, I’m assaulted by it. I can deal with the lights since they’re sort of pretty. I can deal with the attempts at including everyone – everyone being Jews and Christians – even though they totally fail. I can deal with the “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Hanukkah” signs as long as they aren’t on public land, but I won’t go into a whole debate about separation of church and state here. The real problem with Christmas is the music.

I can barely hear out of my right ear. I had meningitis as a baby and the worst side effect I received was a partial loss of hearing in one of my ears. I’m very, very lucky that that’s the worst of it. Besides, I don’t remember any other way of hearing. It’s all I’ve ever known. But, the partial hearing out of my right ear is almost worse than having none. My right ear has a magic, special, backwards power of not being able to hear what’s directly in front of me, i.e. a person with whom I’m having a conversation; instead, my right ear only picks up background noise. I am like a retarded superhero who can hear background noise from miles away, but can’t hear what’s right in front of my face. It’s a very special cross to bear (Jesus reference intended). So, if I’m sitting in a restaurant in the month of December, I can’t hear what the person across the table is saying, but I can hear Bing Crosby yapping about White Christmases for the nth time plain as day, while the person across from me can barely hear it at all.

The problem with Christmas music is that there’s nothing new there. The last Christmas song to make it into popular rotation was probably that Band Aid song from the 80’s, which is just as inane as the rest of them. For an entire month, wherever I go, I hear songs about drummer boys and one-horse open sleighs. When was the last time anyone you know took a ride in a one-horse open sleigh? If it’s a sleigh, that means it rides on snow. Where there is snow, there is cold, so why in hell would it be an open sleigh? Cover that buggy, dammit.

Then there’s New Year’s Eve – a time when everyone gets drunk and has unrealistic expectations of how awesome that night’s events just have to be. There’s more expectation on NYE than any other night of the year and I hate expectation. NYE is amateur hour just like St. Patrick’s Day. It’s a night when people who don’t normally drink to excess do and all the bars are full of sloppy drunks who want to hug you. At Drunk O’clock, the hour just after all the bars close, it’s not safe to be on the roads. You know what I did this NYE? Nothing. I stayed at home in my comfortable house with my comfortable furnishings playing video games. I didn’t even drink. I woke up without a hangover. It might have been the best New Year’s ever.

So, yeah, I’m glad that’s over and we can all get back to the normal business of conducting our lives and I can go back to hearing musak versions of Sade’s Smooth Operator in the stores.

The Spirit of Lazy

tumblr_m22bmrANss1r5jf7go1_400

tumblr_m22bmrANss1r5jf7go1_400

I’m not a big fan of holidays. They usually mean dealing with insufferable family gatherings, plastering fake smiles on my face, maintaining boring small talk, the old one-upmanship game, e.g., “Well, MY son just won the Nobel Prize; what are YOU doing?”, eating too much and a lot of work in the kitchen. I don’t live anywhere near my family. I haven’t for over fifteen years.

After flying to Michigan in the dead of winter only to experience not one, but two blizzards and subzero temperatures, I told my folks that they could expect never to receive me for the holidays again. I can’t say that I moved several thousand miles away solely to avoid such silly gatherings, but it certainly wasn’t a drawback.

Time was, while everyone was running around the country trying to spend equal time at grandma’s house and Aunt Ethel’s, I would do whatever I wanted. Christmas was my day. My Christmas present to myself was total and utter laziness. The goal was to do as little as possible. I would wake up without an alarm clock, put on my best lounging pajamas, turn on the television to whichever station was running the movie marathon, open a big bag of Doritos and do positively nothing all day. It was glorious. It was a tradition.

When someone would ask me what my plans were for the holidays and I’d tell them I had none, most people took that as a very bad thing. Some even put forth a feeble invitation to join them in their holiday festivities. It got to the point where I’d have to fib and say I was spending the holiday with friends just so that people didn’t feel obligated to invite me because they felt sad that I was alone. They didn’t seem to understand that it was by choice. I’ve always been one of those people who is completely comfortable being on my own. I am perfectly capable of entertaining myself. Put me on a desert island with some books and supplies, and I could stay there forever and be perfectly content.

For years, I upheld my tradition, but a few years after I moved here, my sister followed me to California. She seems to be laboring under the delusion that holidays must be spent with family. I, on the other hand, have no such compunction. I’d much rather spend Christmas with my cat and my remote control.

And it’s not just Christmas; it’s Thanksgiving, too. Now, when the holidays roll around, I have to make pies and cook a turkey, which is precisely what I’ve been trying to avoid all these years. Like the Catholic church did with pagan traditions, she tries to roll my traditions into her own. She wears pajamas and we watch bad movies… together. The whole point of my Christmas tradition was to avoid the together part. It was intended to escape having to see anyone, do anything, and most of all, the whole point was to not have to make fucking pies.

I miss having a whole day to myself. I miss not having to cook and spend time with family. I miss my very own brand of Christmas spirit. I miss my tradition, but what can you do? Family is family and it’s still better than having to get dressed and go to Aunt Ethel’s.

Powered by Plinky

If I Were President

2798189000_49027d55cb_z

2798189000_49027d55cb_z

My first act as President of the United States would be to resign. I have no desire to land in the muck that countless Presidents and career politicians before me have created and I have little respect for those who do.

Can you imagine wanting to take on a job in a failing company where you haven’t been in the black for a thousand years? A good portion of your employees don’t actually have jobs, but you have to pay them anyway. You also have to pay for two wars from which you can’t easily extricate yourself and weapons that you hope you’ll never have to use. Your board of directors are mostly selfish jackasses paid by outside interests who are working against you. No, thank you. I’d rather not take on that job.

However, perhaps I’m being too hasty about this. Perhaps before I tender my resignation, I might want to change a thing or two. I might want to remind people of why it is exactly that this country used to be great. I’d remind them of Abraham Lincoln, arguably the most accomplished President ever, or Franklin Roosevelt who both saw this country through some of the bleakest times in our history. The Civil War and The Great Depression far outweigh this nonsense we’re dealing with now. I’d remind people that we’re all essentially the same and we all have the same goals, i.e., a better life than the previous generation and to live in a place where dreams can actually come true through hard work and perseverance.

I could stop all this nonsense with immigration law. There’s this statue in New York that used to stand for something. On it, it says, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” My grandparents saw it when they came to this country. If it had meant then what it means now, I might not be an American. I’d make that mean something again.

I could tell Proposition 8 in California and all anti-gay marriage laws to shove it, and make all marriage between consenting adults legal. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” and as such, we all have the same inalienable rights.

I might want to etch the first amendment in stone (yes, I realize it’s already etched in stone, but I meant metaphorically). I’d remind people that the reason this country was created in the first place was to escape persecution for holding divergent beliefs. This country was NOT founded as a Christian nation since that would defeat the entire purpose of free speech. This country was founded as a place where everyone has a right to express their views equally, and no one religion, belief, or lack thereof can take precedence over any other. The wall between church and state should stand tall and proud because it protects all of us.

I might want to remind the American public just how fortunate they are to live in a country where freedom is prized above all else. Freedom of speech, assembly, belief, justice and even the freedom to tell the government that we aren’t too keen on what it’s doing. Freedom is not something which should be taken for granted. We all need to fight to keep these rights. As President, I’d remind the people and the government of the people exactly what it means to be American.

Powered by Plinky