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Solo’s Skepticism

December 29, 2015 2 comments

“Kid, I’ve flown from one side of this galaxy to the other, and I’ve seen a lot of strange stuff, but I’ve never seen *anything* to make me believe that there’s one all-powerful Force controlling everything. ‘Cause no mystical energy field controls *my* destiny. It’s all a lot of simple tricks and nonsense.”–Han Solo

Han eventually gets convinced, but that’s because he sees it. He’s not shown a book describing some stories that happened thousands of years ago and then told that’s the unerrant word of the Jedi. A person who can literally move things with his mind is with him. Luke, in front of him, starts to gain what that universe calls “force sensitivity,” he has concrete evidence and by then end of that one movie he begins to, well maybe not believe, but at least to consider the possibility.

It’s the perfect allegory for religious non-belief. Although we do have to separate out the major plot hole in the saga in which no one has any kind of memory from events of their childhood. Han doesn’t believe in the Force not because he doesn’t want to believe in it, but rather that in all of his travels he’s never seen it.

All any atheist should be asking for, is proof. Actual proof, not ‘god is in the sunset” or “god is in the smile of a baby” but something that defies explanation from the natural world. We must remember that the existence of god would be supernatural: above or beyond nature. I’ve mentioned this in detail before when I defended Thomas from the “doubting Thomas” story. Han is being asked to believe that there is an invisible, undetectable, force…that underlies the entire galaxy. He’s told this by a young kid who dreams of a better life than being some farmer in a backwater planet on the outer rim of the galaxy. He’s never been anywhere else, and as far as he knows, he is an insignificant member of an indifferent universe.

Of course he wants to believe that there is more to it. Luke’s faith makes as much sense as Han’s disbelief. Luke is a dreamer while Han is the cynical realist. Is this difference important? Of that, I’m not sure. The cynic in me wants to claim that the dreamer needs to stop being unrealistic at some point, but on the other hand being optimistic about your place in the world is motivating and probably better for your outlook. However, that’s a discussion for a different time. What changes for the two of them? The “Crazy Old Wizard” who can really prove the claims that they are making.

Luke believes right away, because this hermit that everyone knows about (again, another plot hole but never mind that) can really do the things the ancient religion claims it should be able to do. Kenobi scares off the raiders, shows Luke a lightsabre, then uses his powers to sneak by a couple of stormtroopers who were looking for them. He’s got all the evidence he needs to start believing. It could be that all of these powers are the tricks that Han was referring to. Yet, they are at least within the sphere of the Jedi religion.

I get asked what it would take for me to believe and some kind of hard concrete proof is my reply. Would Kenobi’s tricks be enough? Maybe, I might need him to float something to really tip me over the edge, but I would at least begin to think that the ancient religion had something going for it. If you really consider what the religion was claiming Kenobi’s display was kind of weak for the guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy. Yet his ability to do anything remotely close to those fantastic claims far outstrips the claims of our religions in this galaxy. Our religions make a great number of claims about the external world and if they aren’t in the far distant past they never pan out in the present. I’ve never known a Scientologist (or heard a report about one) that can do any of the claims of that religion, same with the Mormons, the Snake Handlers (who end up quite sick and dying from their belief), the faith healers, or anyone else with a religion that allegedly endows the faithful with the power to command nature.

It’s why Han’s doubt ebbs away. Sure he gets the information second hand from Luke (the only first hand experience he has is when Vader pulls his blaster from his hand in Empire Strikes Back), but it’s only a once removed source. While we would legally qualify that as hearsay, it’s substantially better than basing it off of millennia old books that have been filtered through translations, dead languages, and political strife.

I’ll take Han’s skepticism any day. Show me the proof of what you are claiming. Stop claiming that there is a purposeful shroud which hides the being from us. If faith gives us powers then show me the powers of the faithful. I’m not being unreasonable, I don’t even need to resort to arguments about teapots.

It doesn’t matter whether or not Han’s initial skepticism was right in the end. We know, that he was blind to the world around him as was everyone else in that universe save Kenobi, Vader, and Yoda; what is important was that when the evidence was shown he began to believe. By the end of the series he knew because he saw what was happening. He didn’t need the blind faith of young Luke because he had the knowledge that it was real. The important point is that while atheists might be accused of being cynical that in the end incontrovertible evidence will change our minds, it’s just that no one has brought that kind of belief to us yet.

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December 21, 2015 2 comments

Last week got me thinking about mass murder. The bible contains a lot of it, indeed it even recommends it. There is one place that contains a reference to particularly horrific mass murder but the difference is that this unerring word of god actually portrays it as a bad thing: the slaughter of innocents. The story is that upon hearing that the savior was born in Bethlehem, the king of the Jews: Herod; ordered his soldiers to kill every male child (just like Moses did) under the age of 2 because it’s better to be safe than sorry. Jesus and company escape to Egypt, apparently they had a place to stay and everything, then years later they went home where everything was just as they left it. Growing up I never really thought about the story too much.

Think about the evil men in history, Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin, Hirohito, and yes, even Hussein, perhaps Assad, Ghadafi; they all committed great crimes against humanity. However have any of them every specifically ordered attacks against children, not even children, babies? Not only that, but exclusively babies. They have their share of that blood on their hands but it was never that specific. Hitler’s campaign surely killed many children, but he got the adults as well. Somehow what Herod did was worse because he only attacked kids. Yet…Herod isn’t as famous as the rest of them. He’s famous among Christians, but among Jews he’s famous for a different reason.

Years later, I was out of grad school working for a cable company and watching HBO’s Rome. This was during the latest rise of the Christian fundamentalist movement as they supported Bush in just about everything he did, even the stuff that was anti-Christian, and in one of the episodes up popped the Jewish king Herod. The troubling fact for me as religious zealotry certainly did more to push me against religion than anything else, was that I still bought the story. Here, was Herod, only this Herod had a nickname…he was called Herod “The Great.” I thought that odd, how could someone called the great be responsible for mass infanticide later? I did some digging and what I found was uniquely coincidental with all of the bible literalism that I was seeing around me socially.

First off, the Herod of the bible ought to be called “Herod II” as he is “The Great’s” son. The first Herod is famous because he expanded the holy temple. That explained one thing, but it raised a new problem. One that I still find strange and point out to literalists. By trade, I’m not a historian, I’m a philosopher, but there’s a lot of history in philosophy and while I know very little of Jewish history outside of biblical stories, I do know a bit about Roman history. This is because my favorite philosopher, the correct one, is the Italian Niccolo Machiavelli and he borrows a good deal of his examples from historians of antiquity, which I then read. So I’ve read people like Livy, Herodotus (I know he’s Greek but I read that damn book cover to cover so I’m going to brag about it when I get the chance), and the Roman Jewish chronicler Josephus. In the Roman historians guess how many times the massacre of the infants is mentioned?…I’ll give you a second.

Times up. The answer: 0. How about the Roman census that required everyone in the Roman Empire to travel back to the lands of their fathers? That would also be mentioned zero times. Just so we’re clear, I’m not talking about the conducting of a census, the ancient world had that. I’m talking about the ridiculous requirement that Joseph would have to travel to his ancestral home in order to be counted. Think about the logistics of that for a second, then think about how pointless it is, even for…as is claimed by Josephus that this census was being done for tax purposes. If Joseph lived in Galilee would good would it be to have him counted in Bethlehem? That’s just a practical concern, there are more important concerns for that story. The omission of the existence of Jesus by the ancient histories isn’t noteworthy, if you think about it they would have to be fans of him already to mention it, otherwise he’s just another guy claiming divine origin…like a whole lot of other people. But the omission of these two events is conspicuous.

Let’s just deal with the census for right now. I worked for the US census in 2010, and most people didn’t like that I just wanted the number of people in their house (which was the bare minimum of information the Constitution mandates that they give), If we had required that people travelled to the land of their ancestor’s birth, there would have been an uprising. Plus the further trouble is that if you take the genealogy of Joseph* (either of the two different ones, Matthew 1:1-17 and Luke 3:23-38) at what point is Joseph supposed to stop? Let’s say instead of going back to the city of David, he goes back to the city of Boaz. It’s a case of changing facts to fit a prophecy, otherwise there wouldn’t be two genealogies and four stories.

Anyways, let’s assume the contrary. Augustus makes the requirement and Joseph travels with his pregnant wife to Bethlehem alone, because Joseph apparently had no siblings. All of the inns are taken, and they have to stay in a barn (although “manger” is such a nicer word for it). Ok, let’s accept that. Obviously this is how they survived the slaughter of the innocents, because none of Herod’s soldiers decided to question where people were staying as obviously Joseph and Mary were the only two people who couldn’t find a place to stay. This is all–at least possible.

This isn’t like when I ask bible literalists to explain how there are still koala’s and kangaroos in existence when surely the flood ought to have killed them. This whole Bethlehem story is a big deal, it’s central to the religion but it doesn’t make sense. Central also is the escape from danger, every myth has the danger story (refer to: all of them). The reason that they escape is not divine providence it’s because the massacre never happened. There is no way that a historian would miss the event where a king orders the death of every two year old and younger person in an entire town. It’s even more odd when you figure that historians weren’t afraid to label him a paranoid maniac who had no qualms about killing potential rivals–they just failed to point out that one time that he killed a bunch of children to do the same thing. I suppose that’s what happens before the era of peer review. This is the deed that should have made his name an eponym for mass murder, instead we had to come up with one to describe what the Nazis did during the Nuremberg trials.

So no non-Christian historians mention it. Surely there is universal acknowledgement of the even in the bible right? Wrong. Thomas Paine mentions this in “The Age of Enlightenment,” the only gospel to bring up such an atrocious event is that of Matthew. The others either weren’t aware of it, or didn’t think it to be that important. Which of those two is likely? Let’s apply that great weapon against spiritualism–Ockham’s Razor, to the case. The Razor states that if given a dilemma the one that is the simplest example (i.e. that one that doesn’t create more than it explains) is the more likely explanation. So is it more likely that there was a massacre of infants, and only one person decided that it was important enough to record or that it didn’t happen and was created to add drama to an otherwise unremarkable occurrence? Again, this isn’t one of those inane inconsistencies that you hear about from idiots that give “atheist” a bad name. This isn’t like wondering where Job’s second wife came from, this is an essential part of the corner stone story of the Christian religion. Modern interpretations state that it isn’t meant to be taken literally, it’s about meaning. Unfortunately I can derive no meaning from this story aside from the apparent lesson that if the king orders your two year old’s death, run your ass off!

I was never a bible literalist, but there were stories that had to be taken as, well, gospel; and this was one. The more I looked at it the more it seemed to be a fictional account to fulfill Matthew’s interpretation of Hosea 11:1 which allegedly refers to Herod’s seeking to destroy the child even though it plainly reads as a historical text. Matthew seems to have his own agenda regarding prophecy, since again he’s twisting the story to fit the prophecy. Or in some cases just making the prophecy fit the event he wants to talk about since Jer31:15 makes no mention of a messiah at all. It’s more important than just a couple contradictions as the entire religion is predicated on the existence of a prophecy. Yet, all prophecies are vague and ambiguous for precisely this reason.

*Not that either of those matter anyway since Joseph isn’t related to Jesus.

Categories: Uncategorized

Similarities

December 15, 2015 69 comments

Being a Philosopher is hard. You have to read so much, even in subfields you aren’t that interested in, there’s just a lot that you have to know. It’s even difficult to just keep up with your specialization. You can’t just read one book and call it a career. If you want to be a Metaphysician, it’s not just Aristotle’s Metaphysics that will suffice. Even if you want to be an Aristotelian Metaphysician with a concentration in Ancient Greek Philosophy there’s so much more than just that one book that you have to know (and I’m assuming that you the language isn’t an issue), there’s commentary by contemporary Philosophers, other Ancient works that he refers to, and that’s not even getting into the things that are being written about his work now. You really have to keep up on it.

In short, you can’t have just read one book because you are going to have to argue the position you are going to take. You need to know the opposition arguments, and importantly–you need to know the correct opposition arguments. My wife and I were having a discussion once and she gave me an interesting compliment: she said that it is difficult to argue religion with me because I actually know what I am talking about. She said this because for every time someone tries to tell me about how great god X is, I can fire back with some examples of how not so great, and usually pretty awful god X. I can do this not by showing the indifference of the deity to this world, although those are pretty good examples, but by referencing the book that X appears in. In religion you only have to know one book, and most of the religious don’t know that book (this is evident in the Pew Religious knowledge survey, Atheists/Agnostics score better than all of the people claiming religious affiliation). There’s a reason an old friend of mine said that Seminary only produces clerics and heretics: if you honestly read the book you begin to have questions. When you read the apocrypha you get more questions and unless you can create a level of cognitive dissonance between your questions and what are supposed to be the answers you are going to have problems.

When Christians try to argue apologetics with me I have an arsenal of counter arguments that are taken from their writings. How? I’ve read their damn book from beginning to end…although truthfully I skim over the family tree parts. Penn Jillette was right about it, it’s the best argument against the religion as it shows not a kind and loving god but a merciless and cruel tyrant. It’s the only impression that you can get provided you aren’t just cherry picking the quaint stories that are kid friendly.

All that being said it’s utterly frustrating to me to read my Facebook feed lately. With the event in Paris and California I have numerous individuals that I am “friends” with claiming that Islam is only a religion of violence. One claimed that the only good Muslim is one that is prepared to kill non-Muslims. Now, it’s easy to go through the internet to verify the commands in the Quran which say this, it’s just as easy to go through the Quran and find the verses that say otherwise. Like the Bible it’s full of contradictions that could lead one reading this inerrant word of God to whatever interpretation they want. Yet these Christians claiming that we need to make war on Islam in general seem to forget that their book isn’t that different.

The Bible is bloodier than the Quran, which is to be expected since it’s a bit longer. In fairness the Quran does contain a higher percentage of violence than the Bible. That doesn’t matter though because one line of “kill the unbeliever” in a book that is supposed to be the perfect word of god, is one line too many. For example,  The Baghaavad Gita contains a line by Krishna that tells Arjuna that it doesn’t matter if he kills his enemies since in the end they belong to Krishna anyway. That’s a line from a god to one of its followers and to repeat, it’s one line too many if it’s the basis for a religion, any religion.

All of that being an excessively long preamble, here’s the point. I was inspired by this video last week in which a pair of Dutch men fooled people on the street into thinking passages from the Bible were passages from the Quran. I thought to myself, ‘someone should do that in the United States. Hey, I’m someone.’ Having a small baby I can’t really do the video, but I can post an example online if someone has the want and ability to do it. Which of the following is a passage from the Bible or from the Quran? I’m immensely grateful for the slew of online Bibles, Qurans, and criticisms of both for being so easily searchable. Especially the Skeptics Annotated site.  I’ve left the quotes as is, except when some identifying word (“Allah” or “Moses” or “Jesus”) would give it away.

(note: I’ve left them at the KJV and Pickthall translation of the Quran)

1: “If they keep not aloof from you nor offer you peace nor hold their hands, then take them and kill them wherever ye find them. Against such We have given you clear warrant.”

2: “Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.”

3: “Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron, thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

4: “Those who believe do battle for the cause of XXXXXXXX; and those who disbelieve do battle for the cause of idols. So fight the minions of the devil.”

5: “But of the cities of these people, which XXXXXXXX doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breaths.”

6: “Knowing therefore the terror of XXXXXXXX, we persuade men.”

7: “Will ye not fight a folk who broke their solemn pledges, and purposed to drive out the messenger and did attack you first? What! Fear ye them? Now XXXXXXXX hath more right that ye should fear Him, if ye are believers fight them! XXXXXXXX will chastise them at your hands, and He will lay them low and give you victory over them.”

8: “Think not that I am come to send peace on Earth; I came not to send peace, but a sword.”

The point of this is to show that both books advocate the same thing. They are both as intolerant of outsiders as the other. If a Christian accuses Islam of being an intolerant violent religion they should tend to their own house first, likewise with a Muslim toward Christianity. Saying this kind of thing is the literal definition of hypocrisy.

1: Quran 4:91

2: Bible Numbers 31:17

3: Bible Psalm 2:8-9

4: Quran 4:76

5: Bible Deut 20: 16-17

6: Bible 2 Cor 5:11

7: Quran 9:13-14

8: Bible Matthew 10:34 (This is something Jesus says)

Categories: Uncategorized

Trump and Intolerance

December 8, 2015 5 comments

I explained to my class (I teach a course titled: “Skepticism, Critical Thinking, and Conspiracy Theory) that the reluctance of the new media to call the Colorado Springs attack “Christian Terrorism” was a point that I had made earlier in the semester. I also explained that I don’t like gloating but I think it’s important that they understand that I’m not just some guy who is saying random things with little connection to the outside world. The initial lecture was a paraphrasing of the FBI report by Kenneth Lanning on occult crime. He pointed out that if a scene of a crime contained “occultic symbolism” or a perceived Satanic artifact the crime would be immediately labelled a “Satanic Crime.” However if the scene of a crime contained any kind of Christian imagery, it would never be labelled a “Christian Crime.”

I pointed this out on Tuesday to show that the Planned Parenthood attack still had not been labelled “terrorism” by any official. I also pointed out that it didn’t take less than an hour before the Paris attack had been labelled Islamic terrorism. Then almost to prove my point the San Bernadino shooting occurred and it was immediately labelled Islamic terrorism once one shooter’s name was discovered as being Sayeed. It turns out that the two shooters were both Muslim, and that one said she supported ISIS in a Facebook post. This has given rise to the panic and fear that she was working with them and then instead of having a rational debate about what to do with regard to ISIS, everyone started screaming about immigration (which wouldn’t have stopped anything) and gun control (which wouldn’t have changed anything either).

Then came earlier today in which Republican (and comedy) favorite Donald Trump called for an immediate ban on all Muslims entering the United States. A policy, which again, wouldn’t have helped prevent the latest shooting since the suspects were already in the country. I think I buried the lead there, it’s not that his policy wouldn’t work that’s the problem. I can produce a whole bunch of policies that would do nothing to stop either gun violence or ISIS infiltration, it’s that he’s suggesting banning people from entering the US solely on their religion. He, I wish to remind you, is the number one polling candidate in the Republican party for President of the United States.

As an Atheist situations like this force me to walk a fine line. On the one hand I don’t like Islam. I don’t like it for the same reason that I dislike all of the Abrahamic religions (and indeed all religions in general). Their contribution to human civilization should be regarded as a historical artifact but there is nothing left for religion to teach us. Spiritualism is a dead end, it offers us nothing, and the only thing that we can predict with it is that someone is going to take it too far against their fellow humans.

On the other hand I’m not anti-person, I’m not biased against anyone. I firmly deny guilt by association and if that association is “believes in roughly the same thing as someone else” it’s not applicable. Guilt by association is a fallacy for a reason: it doesn’t stand up to any level of scrutiny except from blatant racists. Sure, I’m anti-ISIS but that is because of what they do not what they believe. If they never put those beliefs into any kind of action, it wouldn’t matter. They’d be just another group of crazy religious nutters spouting off and we could just ignore them.

It’s not easy to say I don’t like religion X, that kind of talk always invites the vitriol of the American political division…from both sides. If I say I don’t like Christianity because of [insert legitimate reason here] I get attacked by Conservatives but if I criticize any other religion I get attacked by Liberals for being racist.

So, while I dislike the religion I will not remain silent while some hate mongers who have nothing going for them exploit fear by attacking an entire group of people who, for the most part, have done nothing wrong. How can I make this kind of distinction? Because I’m a rational human being that possesses a sense of morality. I’ve been roughly saying the same thing for the last three weeks, if you are an American you are far more likely to be killed by a Christian than any other group so why aren’t we calling for a ban on immigration of Christians?

Because, even though it would be representative of crime statistics, it would be equally insane and immoral. We don’t punish a belief for the crime of the believer, and saying that we should do so leads us down the dangerous path of judging which beliefs are valid and which aren’t. I’m not an Islamic scholar, I can’t speak to specifics but I’ll guarantee that for every call to violence and murder of non-believers that are in the Quran I can find at least one corollary in the Bible (probably more in the latter but that’s only because it’s a longer book).

Furthermore, candidate nutcase (as well as any other that propose rules based on religious discrimination like Mike Huckabee) should explain how he intends to implement this policy. Is the plan to just ask? A person seeking to enter the US because they want to escape the murder bombs of the Syrian government will probably answer honestly that they are a Muslim, but an ISIS terrorist seeking to commit crimes would probably lie, and it’s not exactly difficult to pretend to be a Christian. Especially when we consider that both Jesus and Mary figure into Islamic theology (Mary is given more page time in the Quran than the New Testament).

Could we give them a religious test? Maybe that would work, the only trouble is that all of these Christians who support these ideas couldn’t pass as Christians to begin with. It’s been awhile since I’ve been in the inside of a church (other than for funerals and weddings) but I’m pretty sure that Jesus taught to love our enemies and help those in need. Clearly, he couldn’t be the Republican Party’s nomination this year.

 

Colorado Springs

December 1, 2015 1 comment

One disclaimer before we begin: because this happened on Friday, the details of the incident are still coming forth. While the incident looks pretty apparent all of this could change.

I’m going to wear this quote out but I’m going to use it in every one of these situations: as Lucretius stated, “So potent was superstition in persuading men to evil deeds.”

Two weeks ago we had the Islamic militant group, ISIS, attack various locations in Paris through a coordinated and simultaneous act of terrorism. We know this because ISIS proudly took credit for the action. On Friday, a lone gunman attacked a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado killing three people. Why am I mentioning both incidents in the same paragraph? Because they both have one common underlying motivation: religious zealotry.

Both of these incidents were committed by religious extremists with the goal of pushing an agenda fueled by religion into terrorizing the rest of the world for not agreeing with them. Let’s not dance around the issue, the attack in Colorado was domestic Christian terrorism and pretending that it was anything other than this is not only willful ignorance but also quite dangerous.

The suspect in the case reportedly said, “no more baby parts” when he was arrested. This is in reference to faked video released by the deceptively named “Center for Medical Progress.” The video, in its edited form shows a Planned Parenthood official discussing the exchange of money for aborted fetal remains. The problem with the video is that it purposefully edits out the context of the discussion. Planned Parenthood takes money for the handling fees required in order to transport biological material–a practice that they no longer do, they don’t sell baby parts. Anyone claiming that this shooting is about anything else other than this issue is wrong.

What I really want to discuss is the hypocrisy that has since become painfully apparent. One of the issues that clogged up my facebook feed after the Paris attack were people demanding to know where the multitude of moderate Muslims were denouncing it. Despite the objective reality that many did, they seemed to think that silence is approval, and that every Muslim who said nothing was on the side of ISIS. Fine, let’s pretend that is a reasonable position for the sake of argument. That also means that every single Christian, Pro-Lifer, and Conservative ought to be doing the same thing in light of Friday’s attack and what we know about it thus far. It’s the definition of hypocrisy if you demand a thing of one group that you don’t demand of your own.

Last week I discussed the political fall out of the Paris attack in the United States. Leading GOP candidates for US President have been publicly asking for the most fascist level rules and policies to prevent Muslims from being able to conduct a terrorist attack here. This is curious since this act of Christian terrorism has produced none of the same rhetoric despite the fact that it is far more likely to happen than an attack by a Syrian refugee, of which it should be pointed out that no Syrian refugee was involved in the Paris attack. Where is Trump calling for the monitoring of Christian organizations? Where is Marco Rubio calling for the shutting down of places where Christians meet up to organize?

Opponents of my position will point out several things: first they will say that this lone individual was politically motivated against Planned Parenthood. They will also say that we don’t have all of the facts yet, that the lone individual is not representative of the majority of Christians, that this person obviously had some kind of disconnect with reality: either medically or psychologically or both.

I will reply that all of those things are true. He was probably politically motivated against Planned Parenthood, that seems to be where this story is heading. However, where does the vitriol and anger towards the group come from? It doesn’t come from the objective reality of the situation, it comes from hyperbole that is issued from Christian rhetoric. I’ve been there, I was raised in a Catholic environment and for a very long while was a true believer in it. I’ve never been to the protests but I know the narrative that they push. I was taught to view abortion doctors as monsters and murderers as people who should be perceived as less than human having sold their souls for money by killing the most defenseless of their fellow humans. This verbal mindset comes with the silence that followed attacks on Planned Parenthood, sure some groups will step out to condemn them but most often there is nothing. After Bernard Slepian was murdered in his home by an Anti-abortion extremist I don’t remember a word about it in my church.

Of course most Christians do not want to resort to this kind of violence. If they did, we would surely not be having this kind of discussion; but that’s not my point. My point is that the two largest religions both have violent extremists and if you are going to demand that members of one apologize you have to do both. Especially in the case of Christianity where there is one person who can speak for all of them. I’m not, however, holding my breath that the Pope is going to say anything. As I’ve said, it’s hypocrisy.

This person definitely has a disconnect with reality. Anyone that would go to those extremes does. The same could be said for all religious zealots, but the way in which he’s expressed that disconnect, the mechanism by which he felt compelled to purposefully cause the death of three people is fueled by his religion. The same could easily be said about the disconnect in members of ISIS who want to bring about the Apocalypse, the disconnect makes it easier for them to become violent extremists. Their belief system makes it easier to view other humans as being less than human.

We shouldn’t want to live in a world where violence, no matter the source, is how we institute change: that’s why we have the law. I don’t agree with the pro-lifers but if they want to protest or lobby for a change in the legal system I have no problem with that method. However the extremism that comes from their side is only different in specifics from the extremists they claim to oppose.