Archive

Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

The Irony of the Protest

June 12, 2017 Leave a comment

Not that one. The gay pride parades in various cities over the last few weeks don’t gain much notice to me for the simple reason that I don’t like parades unless I’m in them. Otherwise it’s just a bunch of standing around and waiting.

No, I want to draw attention to the anti-Sharia demonstrations that happened. You know of which I speak, where a few dozen “Real ‘Mericans'” decided to protest against a thing that wasn’t happening, isn’t happening, and is nearly impossible to happen. I think the joke about these protests is that they might as well be protesting against term limits for unicorns.

Let’s play hypothetical here and figure out the steps it would take to get just one Sharia law in place. First you would have to have a city or municipality that has enough of a Muslim population in the US to create the demand for the law. Where is that place?

Our best bet would be Detroit. The city of…Robocop? Or is brotherly love? I forget which. In either case a quick search of the demographic breakdown of Detroit shows that Wayne County in Detroit, with an astonishingly high Jesus denying percentage of 3.5% of the population. That’s pretty small, the “nones” (my people I guess) make up a whopping 54% of the population. We’re more likely to get a statue of Lawrence Krauss in the middle of the county than we are just one Sharia Law on the books, but I suppose the entire area could be Gerrymandered like Austin Texas and maybe that would gain the Islamic population a whole seat on the city council.

Step 2: Now that we have our population we need to get our demand. So what law? Sharia law is just Islamic religious law, and like literally every other religion adherence to the law depends on two main things: the place where you were born and what family you were born into. If we even assume that there are no half-assed Muslims, i.e. the equivalent of those Catholics that only go to church on Christmas, Easter, and whatever family event is occurring (funerals and weddings), there’s still a Sunni/Shia divide that we’d have to assume away for the sake of our experiment. Most Iraqis, which are the sect that immigrated to Detroit in the 80s, are Shia so we’ll just run with that. Not that it really matters because I’m not to up to date on religious laws regarding particular sects of Islam. So let’s just run with a bill that forces women to wear the head scarf in public.

Step 3: Pass the bill. How on Earth could this be done? Unless the group took over every seat on the city council, then the mayor’s office, they would still end up fighting for the law in court. There’s no way that one of the numerous Christian nut jobs like Ken Ham, wouldn’t file a suit against the law before it was passed. There’s no way that the Freedom From religion Foundation or the ACLU wouldn’t file a suit before the law was passed. An executive order couldn’t get this one through.

However, since we’re in the imaginative dream land, let’s assume it was passed. Now it still has to contend with first amendment lawsuits. Now, this would be interesting because all of the Christians who argue for prayer in school love to point out that the “separation of church and state” isn’t in the Constitution so they would have to either admit that the Islamic head scarf law was fine because that’s what the people wanted or they would have to eat crow admitting that it was just a convenience argument for them. Nevertheless, we not only have two hundred years of court cases forming a firm foundation for the excise of religious laws, but also the guy who wrote the Amendment explaining the “separation of church and state” as what he meant. The law wouldn’t make it through the local court.

Unless they took over the local court, in which case it would still be fought at the state level, and there’s no way we can reasonably pretend (or unreasonably) as we have done thus far that the state of Michigan would get an Islamic majority or take over the court system.

Again, we’ve had to assume that this fictional Islamic majority would also want the law.

So what is the protest about? Stoking fear of something that cannot happen in order to make other people feel special. I’ve never read the Man of la Mancha, but I’m told that this is like that. Tilting at windmills, because it’s easy to fight an imaginary enemy than a real one.

I opened this post mentioning the pride parades for a reason. I wonder how many of the people who attended these Anti-Sharia law protests are also on board with LGBT equality. I’m guessing there’s very little overlap between the two on a Venn diagram. I wonder how many of those same people are in board with equal rights between the sexes and think that a woman should maintain autonomy over her own body. Do any of these anti-Sharia people think that there ought to be prayer in schools and that the government should be showing Christmas/Easter displays?

Don’t let them lie about it: this has nothing to do with freedom. The irony of the protests is that these people want the exact same thing that those who would like Sharia law want: religious theocracy. It’s just they want their religion to be the one in charge and not someone else’s. It’s why they get so upset if a school decides not to serve bacon during Ramadan but see absolutely nothing wrong with the same school serving fish on Fridays during Lent. They have more in common with ISIS than they would ever admit.

Blasphemy Law

May 16, 2017 Leave a comment

The charges have been dropped against Stephen Fry, but that does not mean we shouldn’t be having this discussion. Let’s be frank, this is from a person living in a country that voted Trump into office and I get to look down at another country (thus far…) because that’s how backwards and borderline insane this law is. I can try and make fun of the UK, but that’s some pot-kettle bullshit, but Ireland!? You don’t get a pass. Sure, by popular vote, they legalized gay marriage nationwide in 2015, but we only have to go back 6 short years to find the passage of the blasphemy law.

Not 1009, where it would still be wrong, but it’d be understandable, but 2009. Where everyone is starting to get on board with smart phones, where wifi is pretty much expected, and where the global economic collapse had just started to abate.

My oldest daughter had already been born. Which means that she was born into a world where there were fewer blasphemy laws on the books. That’s not progress, that’s regression. Not to sound ethnocentric, or Eurocentric, or whatever-centric; but this is the kind of law you expect that they have in Saudi Arabia…because they do. Which, if we must find some good in this, it’s that this law is proof of what happens when religion and the state mix. It apparently doesn’t matter what religion is mixing with what state. Ireland is a Republic not a monarchy or a dictatorship. As America’s incompetent president continues to talk randomly about churches and freedom, the Irish example is one that needs more conversation because as innocuous as it turned out to be, it’s still abhorrent that this kind of law exists in the first place. Especially, I must stress, that it was passed in 2009.

This story of the Irish blasphemy law goes back to 1937 and the Constitution of Ireland. The Constitution mandates according to article 40.6.1.i:

This continues with article 44.1:

These articles mandate that the Irish government set up a legal statute prohibiting blasphemy passed in 1937, the law was only applied to Christian religions. Also, it’s important that these articles specifically mention blasphemy as a crime that needs to be outlawed. I haven’t read the entire Irish Constitution (my family isn’t that Irish) but I’m pretty sure that it will lack any mention of other crimes.

Note: It does mention one more, treason (article 39).

So the law, passed in 2009 states that (I’ll omit irrelevant portions):

(a) he or she publishes or utters matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion, and

 

(b) he or she intends, by the publication or utterance of the matter concerned, to cause such outrage.

The only defense the law offers is that if the utterance or publication has serious value that a reasonable observer would judge. This would mean anything in an artistic, political, scientific, literary, or academic value. The crime is punishable with a fine not to exceed 25,000 euros (approximately 27,000 US).

Was Fry in violation of this law? You be the judge, in the interview Fry is asked about his atheism and what he would say if, when he died, he found himself standing in front of the god he denies existing. Fry replied, “Bone cancer in children? What’s that about? How dare you? How dare you create a world to which there is such misery that is not our fault. It’s not right, It’s utterly, utterly evil. Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid God who creates a world that is so full of injustice and pain. That’s what I would say.”

He then goes on to explain that if it were the Greek Pantheon, it would make more sense as those gods didn’t pretend to be all good, all knowing, or the creators of the world. Here’s the entire 2.5 minute exchange. 

I’m not an Irish detective, nor am I a lawyer. However, given that the definition of “blasphemy” is a “grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion…” it seems like a slam dunk. However, his utterance did not correlate to the second half of the statute requiring an outrage of a substantial number of adherents to the relevant religion. So perhaps that’s why the Irish government dropped the case.

Fry’s comments are nothing new. They are not exactly the most eloquent way of putting the old “problem of evil,” but I do like his delivery. His way of making it a personal conversation in which he scolds the maliciously capricious god. Perhaps it has some kind of performance value. Perhaps that is another reason they dropped the case.

Yet none of this matters because the state should have no compelling interest in the crafting these kinds of laws in the first place. I’ve said it more times than I care to link to: there is no harm in blasphemy. There was no harm in the Charlie Hebdo cartoon, the Danish newspaper cartoons, in Piss-Christ, the Last Temptation of Christ, or the Life of Brian. There are literally no sacred cows.

The only thing that these laws seek to protect is the insecurity of the believer, their fear that other people might have seen what they have and rejected it. What else could it be? Words shouldn’t be able to hurt an all powerful being, but somehow nations and people have deluded themselves into thinking the creative being behind the entire Cosmos needs protection from a few air vibrations if they occur in a certain order.

Sure, to repeat the opening point: some people may think that it’s fine because they didn’t prosecute Fry. Even the wording of the law allows so many excuses that it’s nearly unenforceable. Yet that’s not the main issue, it’s that the Irish Constitution felt that this was necessary enough to mention the need for the law in the first place. Of course if they decide to charge him again, article 16 of the defamation law offers Fry the best defense*:

(1) It shall be a defence (to be known and in this Act referred to as the “defence of truth” to a defamation action for the defendant to prove that the statement in respect of which the action was brought is true in all material respects.

 

 

*Though again, I’m not a lawyer, not Irish, and certainly not an Irish Lawyer. Don’t take legal advice from a blog.

A New Gospel

March 27, 2017 Leave a comment

I’ve gotten into a lot of arguments in the last ten years or so concerning the mixture of politics and religion. My consistent position is that politics and religion should not officially mix. I stress “officially” because it would be wrong to prevent a religious person from entering politics, but their should be no official religious position of the government. What irks me is the faux oppression they try and brag about. “I don’t know why people hate us just for worshipping Jesus,” or “They just hate us because our conservative views are just like Jesus.” Or some variation of that theme.

Let’s clear the air, no one hates these people because they are Christian, what I hate is the sheer blatant hypocrisy of the religious right’s position. I mean, they can’t stand up and talk about how the country is going to hell because we’re abandoning religion while they vote, or tell others to vote, in a manner that is completely contradictory to the very words of the book that allegedly instructs their entire life. A frequent rejoinder in the podcast “God Awful Movies” is that the people who are trying to end war, feed everyone, and cure disease are portrayed as the villains (especially in the apocalypse movies) who must be stopped at all costs. Despite the gospels explaining that feeding the sick, ending war (sort of), and curing illness is the duty of the Christians. I’m obviously not a religious person, but if there is a god, I doubt it appreciates the lip service instead of actions.

Issues such as poverty and healthcare the self-proclaimed, most religious, seem to have the position that the poor should starve and the sick die unless they can find a way to help themselves. Refugees and those in dire situations need to be turned away unless we can 100% certify that they are not dangerous. Both of those positions are in absolute stark contrast to the teachings of the bible, and apparently it’s up to an atheist to elucidate this (to be fair I’ve mentioned the various Christian groups that have come out publicly against the immigration bans).

With all that in mind, I’ve decided to undertake the task of rewriting some of the stories so that Christian theocrats, the ultra right, and the oddly named “freedom caucus” can have a biblical basis for their political views. We’re starting with “The Good Samaritan.”

Luke 10:25|And, Behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? (26) He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? (27) And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord they God with all they heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all they mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.” (28) And he said unto him, “Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.” (29) But he, realizing that he hadn’t read the law because there was a lot of it, and the answer he gave isn’t actually in there, sought clarification, “And who is my neighbor?” (30) And Jesus answering said, “A certain man went from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stole his raiment, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. (31) And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him he thought, “meh, that’s probably someone else’s problem and I have these scrolls to pass out to all of the farmers so that they become aware of the crime of planting two different crops in the same fields.” (32) Likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side thinking, “I will tell the first Legion I see, but for now I must protest those natural philosophers who are claiming that rabbits don’t chew their cuds.” (33) But a certain Samaritan as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him he thought, “This person is in great need of care, probably due to a vicious assault. I should help that person.” (34) As he was getting ready to help, another Samaritan approached and lo, he did ask, “What are you doing?” (35) The man did answer, “helping this man who was attacked.” (36) The second man did answer in reply, “You know not what you do, for this man could be a robber himself, he could be a murderer, or beggar. Do you know this man, of where he is from, or wherefore he ends up lying in this road?” (37) “I do not, he is to me as you are.” (38) “Then must needs, leave him be. For these questions we know the answer not, and the risk be too great if we bring him to our hearth. No, better to leave him to help himself, rather than he learn to live on the charity of others.” (39)  Jesus finished asking, “Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbor unto him that fell among the thieves?” (40) And he said, “All save one, the first thus because his errand was to spread the law, the second as to dispute teaching contrary to the law, and the fourth thus for making sure that the injured person was no threat.” (41) Teacher, the lawyer replied, “what about the third?” (42) “The third only invites calamity unto his house. For is it not written in the law that one should take care with those in whom thy charity lies?” (43) Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. (44) And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. (45) Martha, was busy with the serving, and came to him, and said, “Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore that she help me.” (46) And Jesus answered and said unto her, “No.”

 

The Outrage Machine

March 20, 2017 Leave a comment

Is it just me or do people want to be outraged at something? Not real things, not things that actually matter or things that are true. In some way I get it, it’s easier to just read a headline and repost. It’s much easier than reading an article and finding out what actually happened, or reading a few articles on the same subject because then, and only then, will the reader actually understand what is going on. It’s closely related to what is now the slander of being called an “elitist” in reference to someone who knows things. If you have an education, if you understand things, that is now apparently a bad thing. Why? Because anyone can be stupid, but being smart, being versed in a subject is hard. It takes work, while having mere emotional reactions armed with a few contrite phrases (“political reasons,” “fake news,” “elitist”) doesn’t take any work.

Last month (February 2017) a Pennsylvania school board agreed to remove a monument of the ten commandments from Valley Junior-Senior High School. A lawsuit was originally filed in 2012, but due to some technical issues had to make it’s way through the circuits. The school district settled and is going to have to reimburse legal fees to the FFRF (Freedom From Religion Foundation) to the tune of 40,000 dollars. In a settlement this is a normal practice. The defendant agreed with the plaintiff and in any lawsuit where money is changing hands the agreement usually confers some recompense to the winner of the case. The school’s insurance company is going to pay the money, not the school. I’m not sure how exactly this translates into tax dollars, but it’s fact that must be stated.

Understanding this type of issue is a complicated endeavor. One must first understand why the lawsuit was brought in the first place. Unlike most of the sites that I checked, it was not to line the pockets of the FFRF, who received the 40K of the 163k settlement. An amount, which they claimed was not a full reimbursement and which we have no reason to think that a five year settlement going through three different courts was going to cost less than 40k. I note it also because in Pennsylvania, a law is being offered in response, that would ban legal fees from being a part of settlement amounts. Or at least legislation is being drafted, which is a terrible idea: because it means that if I sue for negligence because of something objectively negligent against McDonalds, they can bury me with lawyers knowing that I won’t be able financially to fight them even if they know they are wrong. Again, I don’t know how much it costs to hire a lawyer to put on one of these lawsuits, so I’ll just have to take their word for it. Just as I don’t know how much it costs to move a statue.

The removal of the monument is not about money, it’s about not allowing a public institution to endorse a particular religion. Despite what the theocrats want you to think: there’s no way that a ten commandments statue isn’t a religious statue. They like to claim that the laws of the US were founded on the Ten Commandments, which is patently false. The first four are purely religious. The fifth, while not religious is not a legally enforceable item (honor your parents). Rules 6 & 8, are the legally punishable (Murder and Stealing respectively), 7 only matters within a specific type of legal situation (divorce proceedings). Nine is trickier because there’s some debate over what it actually means. If it means the common thing: thou shalt not lie, then it’s not a legal issue. However if it is a prohibition against bearing false witness in legal matters, then that’s the legal issue of perjury. The final commandment, it is just a prohibition on thought crime and not legally actionable either. In all we only have two commandments that could be said to be legally inspiring with two more that could be considered “sort of…but…”

It’s difficult to understand that while the phrase “separation of church and state” does not appear in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights, it’s part of our system. The Bill of Rights specifically prohibits the state from endorsing or prohibiting any particular religion, and placing a religious statue in a school does that. Jefferson explained the purpose of the amendment as being just that. The legal result is that you have an all or nothing situation: either you have to allow all of the religions or none of them. Why? Because we don’t want the government getting into the situation of deciding which religions are true and which are not. This is especially important when you consider historical context in which Catholics and Puritans in the 18th century would not have considered themselves members of the same religion. Some Evangelical Christians don’t consider Catholics and Mormons to be Christians now, but imagine how it must have been two hundred years ago. Wisely they decided that it was not the business of the state to make these kinds of adjudications (Scientology and Raeliens included).

Yet, that’s not the issue getting thrown around the internet. It’s all about how this settlement, the court, and the lawsuit; are all about persecuting Christians. Why? Because it’s easier to sell the outrage without really having to understand the issue. Nothing will get a news story spread around faster than a headline which conveys the message that Christians are continuing to be persecuted in a country where it is a) not happening and b) where the religion makes up a strong majority (when you put all of the denominations under the same banner). The headline “School board settles Constitutional violation law suit” isn’t going to get the same travel.

Interestingly some more digging unearthed the reason for the statue in the first place: as a promotion for the movie “The Ten Commandments.” So if we think about, a monument to a religion wasn’t removed a film advertisement was.

 

Wizard Battle!!!!!

March 14, 2017 Leave a comment

So Donald Trump is president. That much we know, and I promise this post isn’t about him. This also has a lot of people riled up, not just people that voted for Hillary Clinton, or wanted Bernie Sanders, or even those actual Republicans who are now in the unenviable position of not knowing what exactly they are supposed to do. His supporters are also riled up, wondering why people who don’t support him have the gall to not support him. They ironically think that questioning the president is wrong somehow, or that opposing his positions and proposals is treason. Lots of people are riled up, witches included.

Yes I said witches, but if that term is offensive include also wizards, warlocks, mages, bards (+9 level only). A group, or a coven, began passing around a document with the material components of the spell, the invocation, and a bunch of explanations of what kind of spell it is (binding). The purpose of this is to harangue the presidency from a spiritual side, which is probably overkill at this point–but then again maybe it’s working (it’s not, it’s really not).

I never got into this aspect of religion. I’ve both heard and read other atheists journey toward unbelief and they follow a certain 4 step pattern: raised religious, began to question, angry rejection, adoption of a different religion, realization that too was bunk. Step three is where we sometimes drop for a bit. I went the Eastern route: Taoism (or Daosim); but I personally know some of those who parked in Wiccanism, the Occult, or whatever we are supposed to call it. Part of the appeal is that the rules are different. For me, one of the appeals of Daoism was that there were no ceremonies, with the Occult religions it’s the exact opposite.

One can argue the differences between one religion and any other: but one thing they all have in common is that you aren’t supposed to ask the divine for revenge or to harm another. In the Catholic tradition, it’s a sin and god doesn’t grant those kinds of requests. Most of the religions of the world have a similar prohibition. Sure one can ask for strength to defeat one’s enemies, but not direct interference. My theory on this is two fold: the first is to make forbidden that kind of desire, a legitimate concern for the well being of others. The person shouldn’t have the kind of anger/hate in them that would cause them to need the very underpinning of the world to go against a particular individual. The second is not because of what will happen if it does work but rather what will happen when it does not. It brings out into the light the fact that prayers/spells don’t work, that saying the right combination of words in a particular order has no bearing on the outside world. Whether you are saying it with a large group of people on a Sunday morning, or by yourself in front of four bowls holding representatives of the elements (how is a feather representative of air? It’s not part of air, it’s just a thing that moved through it at one time).

From the atheist perspective it’s pretty silly and not worth taking any more serious than I have given it. Except of course unless you do…

The information about the spell/curse from the witches of the world came from the BBC, and I just followed the link to the original source. The BBC, among other news agencies, just covered  as a puff piece. A “look at this silliness” kind of story. However other groups are taking this as absolutely serious. Most notable conservative Christians who think witchcraft is a real thing. Why shouldn’t they? The bible treats it as real. Just scrolling through a couple of forums discussing this subject is both amusing and depressing. People on these forums are genuinely concerned that the curse will work. So what’s the answer to a magic spell? More magic of course.

In what has to be the least interesting magic battle since the end of the first Harry Potter movie (when we already knew there were going to be a bunch of movies and the series of books that followed the story) the fundamentalists are encouraging their zealots to counter pray against the spells. The last link is a facebook group for people opposing the curse and to join in for the counter spell.

In this corner we have a small group of people all reading the same poem in front of a series of bowls, a pinch of Sulphur, and a picture of the president…and in this corner we have a larger group of people all hoping they fail. The confrontation on the pinnacle of Orthanc this is not. Witchcraft isn’t a thing, which is problematic because when the spell, even if the spell was to sow chaos in the administration, doesn’t work the prayer warriors are going to count it as a victory. If events of the world coincide with what the spell was supposed to do (i.e. sow chaos in the administration) then the witches will count that as a win. However, there’s no winners here because the spirit world cannot interact with the material world. For one, immaterial cannot influence material, and two, there’s no such thing as the spirit world to begin with. The gods, or whatever, are beyond the cares of our fickle lives and experiences so why, to ask the Epicurean question, would they care? How does saying a thing move them to action.

For the prayer people, why do you give credence to these people? Your god’s plan cannot be so tenuous that a bunch of people you would regard as “losers” or “worshippers of a false religion” can say the right combination to upset it. If so, why is that your god? To the witches, you don’t need spells, you need action. Townhalls are erupting with people who are going to do a great deal more to influence this administration than your talking. Maybe you should cast a “I’m going to vote this time” spell and see if that works.

 

Unless…

January 31, 2017 Leave a comment

I’ve started a hashtag, though I don’t know if it’s used before as I rarely check the things myself. The hashtag is: #ivereadyourbook,  and I use it to point the flagrant hypocrisy of the religious right in my country. I’ve mentioned this numerous times before, I was not always an atheist but was raised Catholic. More than just that, I was a true believer up until I started having serious doubts sometime in late high school (11th or 12th grade). One thing about Catholic school is that they make you read the bible, and I took it on myself when I was bored to read more of it than necessary. Ironic I know, but if you actually plow through that book you get a much better idea of what’s in it than you would if you only paid attention during your weekly service. For example you get the idea that the story of Noah is about five paragraphs long (it spans only three chapters in Genesis, and while that seems long, the myth greatly outweighs it). You also get a bare conception of the contradictions the book has internally, man cannot see god or else he’ll die (Ex. 33:20)except the many times that this occurs and he doesn’t (e.g. Job 42:5, Amos 7:7, Ex. 4:5, 6:3, Ez 20:35, the list goes on) . The many different times god loses (for instance he can’t defeat chariots of iron Judges 1:19), or the simply overwhelming number of laws and rules that are utterly pedantic and senseless.

I’m not a biblical scholar, and while I do have a good idea of what’s actually in the book I do have to look the stuff up to find the specific locations. No one, I mean this sincerely, builds a searchable book database like the bible people. If I knew how to build a website I would totally copy their method for Aristotle, Hume, or even Shakespeare (and the last one I can’t believe doesn’t exist as Shakespeare hub.com). This is a tool that works against the believers in the book though, and I don’t think–and research is beginning to back this up–that they even consider this effect. Whenever I find some kind of story in the news that is making the Christian right upset, either because they are against something or because they are enraged that other people are against it, my memory usually clicks telling me ‘I bet that’s in the bible.’

The biggest example is the Christian right’s anger regarding the use government money on the poor–whether it be welfare, unemployment, or healthcare. I should probably caveat this: I’m not speaking about all Christians, there are plenty of them out there that are concerned about the welfare of others. However, there is also a strong group of them–Trump supporters primarily now–who believe that poor people are either too stupid or too lazy to not be poor. That it’s their fault and they should suffer for it, or at the very least these people are arguing that it’s not their fault the person is poor so why should their money be given in the form of taxes to these people. Now this is where my biblical knowledge falters, because I haven’t found the part of the bible where there’s any exceptions to the command “help the poor and suffering.” For example Galatians 2:10 says that we should remember the poor, Luke 14:14 that we should invite those who cannot repay to our meals and feasts, Luke 3:11 Jesus tells his followers that the person with two tunics is to share with him who has none as well as to share their food, at Ezekiel 16:49 the sin of Sodom is declared as the people having plenty but not sharing with those in need, or just in one quote that sums it all up from Jesus himself: “Whatever you do to the least of my brethren you have done unto me (Matt 20:45).”

So I guess my question is, what is the version of the Bible that where the quote is followed by “…unless you feel that they deserve it than woe unto them for their lot”?

Given that immigration is big in the news, I posted the list of the times the bible mentions how to treat immigrants: Lev. 19:10, 33-34, 25:35; Exodus 22:21, 23:9; Deuteronomy 10:19, 24:17-21;  Jeremiah 7:6, 22:3; Zechariah 7:10; also Matthew quoting Jesus at 25:35. In each case the writer of the various books is commanding the believers to treat immigrants with compassion and welcoming. In all the various translations that I have and perused online I can’t find the version that follows any of those quotes with “unless you have reason to fear them in which case you should turn them away.”

As far as I can tell it’s not there.

The point of this is that these people are the ones that claim the moral high ground and at every opportunity they have to express it they fail. They only resort to their book when it comes to denying homosexuals equal rights because of one line in Leviticus, or pretending that the book says something about abortion (it doesn’t even though the practice was alive and well at the time of the events in the Bible). They try to remove science from schools because of Genesis or use the book to try pushing prayer in schools despite Matt 6:5 telling them that prayer should be confined to the home. The issue is that they have not read their book, they are only cherry picking the parts that augment their argument and because it’s the BIBLE no one dares question it. They are the ones that are supposed to know, supposed to be the experts on it, but they can’t have read it. Or if they have they are only using it as a club to beat their position into other people. Then they have the nerve to claim that others aren’t moral because they don’t follow the same book they do.

At best they’re ignorant, at worst they’re liars. However, if they read this post they don’t have the former excuse anymore. I’ve read defenses of this saying that the immigration ban is for our safety, but that’s not what the bible says. So they either have to admit that they only use their religion when it’s convenient and doesn’t conflict with their preset prejudices. In other words they have to admit “my religion should inform public policy unless that policy will help people that I don’t like.”

Symbolism

December 1, 2016 Leave a comment

It gets really hard to not write a political blog these days. I’m hoping that will change in the coming months, perhaps I ought to up my posting to twice a week and make one day specifically about politics. Although I do have a topical defense to work on so that’s probably not the best use of my time. This post will be a nice transition back to religion because I can take two stories and combine them into one post with the same conclusion.

With the passing of Thanksgiving we are now into the holiday season. The holiday season means that the same groups of people will be crying and screaming like petulant two year olds about how some underpaid sales clerk working a twelve hour shift listening to customer complaints about how item X is no longer in stock when they need it didn’t say “Merry Christmas.” Or, even more annually, that a bunch of youtube assholes will complain that their favorite coffee chain didn’t put a picture of Jesus on the cup that they will soon throw in the garbage.

Then we have the president elect who recently tweeted like the petulant two year old is demeanor seems to reflect about how an individual who burns the flag should pay a fine and lose their citizenship. This is quite ironic coming from a person who, and his supporters who also share the sentiment, constantly cry about censorship when they find out someone doesn’t want them to speak about their beliefs.

So what’s going on here? Well it seems like the same group of individuals (in which the Venn diagram of support is probably as close to looking like on green circle with some lines of yellow and blue on the borders) need two things: to be completely reminded at all times of a symbol which is, at best, tangentially related to their religion (after all Jeremiah 10:3-4) forbids the cutting of trees and the decking of silver and gold) while also needing the force of law to force people to maintain another symbol so they can be reminded of the freedoms they have in this country. These people need to read some CS Lewis.

Specifically they need to read about Wormwood and the Screwtape letters so that they understand what they are doing when they focus on symbols to the point of obliterating the meaning behind the symbols. It’s probably too much to ask that they read Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation which makes the same point only in the manner of French philosophy so that it’s hidden behind the obtusifications of Continental philosophy. At one point in the letters Wormwood discusses the plan to have the believer concentrate on the symbol of the cross.  This is a theme early on in the book (letter 4) when they discuss whether or not to discourage Patient from prayer. On the one hand preventing any connection from Patient to his god would be helpful, but on the other hand that might make the attempts that much more meaningful. The other strategy is to encourage it, and indeed force it, so that by the end Patient is just repeating, by rote, a series of meaningless sounds that have been utterly evacuated of all meaning.

The same is later applied to the symbol of the cross and it’s the same theme repeated in Simulacra. No one throwing these fits is worried about actual meaning, they are worried about symbols. Sure, they can scream about the “flag code” all they want but until I see them protesting the use of the American flag on bikinis, tee shirts, or anything else that it forbids I’ll be content with calling them hypocrites and/or ignorant. The same with people who don’t see a picture of a tree that supposed to represent the peace and love (original pagan meaning aside) of the times getting so angry about it. The problem here is that both groups are just concerned with imagery and not meaning. A symbol isn’t a symbol without that backing, it’s just a picture. A picture of an evergreen tree is meaningless to everyone but an arborist. The flag doesn’t mean freedom it’s a symbol of it. “Happy holidays” is a greeting usually thrown out there by the weary sales person who is just trying to get through their shift and can still maintain eye contact with customers who are a hair’s breadth away from losing their minds.

Aren’t these people supposed to be celebrating their holiday? Isn’t it supposed to be a time of happiness? Instead they are foaming at the mouth because a paper cup doesn’t have the right arrangement of ink on it, perceiving it, not as it is: a marketing decision but as some kind of attack on their beliefs. No one is attacking those beliefs by not putting a picture on a cup. It’s not possible. If they had a picture of a Christmas tree being set on fire, or a snowman being strangled by a wreath, then they might have a case to be made. Truthfully, I would totally buy those cups though.

The flag is not “freedom.” It represents a country that holds certain freedoms as being unalienable and one of those is the ability to express displeasure and even anger at it. Burning, or otherwise, desecrating–whether you support it or not–is an expression of those freedoms. It’s literally the kind of thing that was fought for and banning it, no matter how popular that might be is against the very nature of that freedom. I feel like I’ve had this conversation so many times this year: unpopular speech even if that speech is held by one person and the entire world disagrees is still protected speech. By trying to pass a law that forbids it, you are protecting not an idea but an image. That’s all. In their words, just suck it up if you see it and move along. Stop whining about offensive images and how they hurt your feelings.