Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

A respectful (ever deeper) descent into rationalism

August 26, 2010

I am continually surprised at how otherwise intelligent, socially aware people have such a limited knowledge of religious discourse and its impact throughout history and upon contemporary society. When probed, most people fall back upon relativist clichés, muttering ‘people can believe what they want’ and ‘I don’t judge people, and they shouldn’t judge other people, and we all should treat each other with respect’. While these are of course ‘nice’ opinions (what the callous might call cowardly), would either of these responses be an acceptable retort when involved in political discourse, or discussing the role of violence within social activism or the inequalities plaguing war-torn Africa? They would fall short of convincing anyone that power, manipulation and suffering are removed from ideology. Without referring to specific over-arching political ideology, it must be understood that it is imperative for us to care about peoples’ beliefs, as they shape how we see the world, and are the basis of all our actions.

The deplorable missive that religion and politics should never be discussed at the dinner table has been hijacked by the religious right, and indeed by mainstream religion, culminating in a culture where even slight criticism of religion is regarded as outright aggression. The likely cause of this taboo against criticising religious beliefs has to do with the need for us to back up our strong opinions in today’s world. Thus questioning someone’s faith is viewed as a personal affront due to the embarrassing situation that occurs in our society, quite rightly, when one cannot lend credence to their beliefs.  Imagine you confronted your boss resolutely demanding not only a promotion, but that it would be an unbelievable slight against your character to ask for evidence to support this demand. While it is easy to dismiss this analogy, although perhaps not until after envisioning the quick dismissal you would receive, it is only on reflection that we realise we have come to think that unlike all our other discourse it is in bad taste to talk critically of religion. I do not propose unfair slandering of religion, no more than any other subject receives when in passionate debate. However, when religion starts impeding upon the public sphere and politicians speak openly of faith, Hell and war, a radical change of consciousness must be evoked within us all.

In the Herald Sun on December 18th, 2009, Tony Abbot professed his wish for mandatory Bible studies in Australian public schools, arguing that ‘I think it would be impossible to have a good general education without at least some serious familiarity with the Bible and with the teachings of Christianity’. Whatever political freedoms this sort of ‘education’ would impede upon, his words offer a much more serious threat than is perhaps initially clear to the casual reader. His argument rests upon two flawed assumptions that, unfortunately, are not immediately clear to one raised in a country such as Australia.  Both assumptions are concerned with the foundation of an ethical standard, the first assuming that those without Christian beliefs are ill-disposed towards ‘goodness’, and the other that Christianity is inherently ‘good’.

The first of these assumptions is not only discriminatory to those without faith, but also those of different faiths, and with such a multicultural and diverse population that Australia consists of, for a government to not only endorse but to also oblige children be subjected to religious indoctrination is almost an unfathomable concept, an abuse of power and an unwelcome intervention into spheres of personal life that governments should never have a say in. He has used his generalisation to create a false dichotomy on which he bases his argument, and by espousing views laced with assumptions that religiosity is the only path to morality, Tony Abbot not only advertises his ignorance and offends a great many rational-minded people, but also adds fuel to a dangerous undercurrent in society. We have so far been able to defend ourselves against the religious fanaticism that has afflicted the United States, not only threats from outside its borders such as the attacks of 9/11, incited by promises of martyrdom and Holy authority, but also domestic issues, such as violence perpetrated against doctors who administer abortions.

An incident that demonstrates not only how the first assumption dominates firmly in the minds of many in the Western world but will also segue into the second assumption is that of the murder of two employees of a medical clinic in Massachusetts in 1994. Rev. Paul Jennings Hill murdered Dr. John Britton and James Barrett for their part in administering abortions, motivated by his faith. This event is an indictment of the supposed lack of morals evident in the community of non-believers and non-Christians by those who consider the Bible to be the infallible word of God, while revealing the insidious flaw prevalent in the ‘Christianity is inherently good’ argument. In the name of religion much evil is done, which many religious people agree upon (often conceding only the Crusades).

They sidestep the most important part of the issue. In most cases, and indeed especially in the case of Rev. Paul Jennings Hill, his actions were done not in the name of religion but explicitly due to his religion. In his defense, he quotes the passage Genesis 9:6 ‘whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man’ (King James version). As the Bible also condemns abortion, it is merely a rational step that the murder of ‘murderers’ is, in fact, Holy mandate. It is on these occasions that the ‘holy’ portend that good is in fact evil, and to combat this they must do evil in the name of good. While there are arguments that these parts of the Bible are not meant for literal ascription and are merely analogous stories, that acts of violence perpetrated by the religiously inspired are abhorrent to moderate Christians.

What this argument actually establishes is that the act of choosing which parts of the Bible represent a serious moral code and disregarding others as symbolic stories shows we already posses an ethical foundation that we can use to discern what seems acceptable and what deplorable. Our base value systems are formed independently of Holy Scriptures, and allow us to live in a society where life, liberty and equality are highly valued.  It is only after indoctrination that millennia old stories spur humanity into wicked acts based upon supposed absolutes of murder, genocide and martyrdom, justified in ways that very few clear thinking, logical and rationally motivated people would accept.

Quote of the day

May 29, 2010

I may refrain from insulting you. I may refrain from publishing a cartoon of your prophet. But it’s because I fear you. Don’t think for one minute that it’s because I respect you – Richard Dawkins.

May 20th is Everybody Draw Mohamed Day!!

May 16, 2010

Using whatever artistic skills you possess (even if it’s simply a poor grasp of Windows Paint) draw a depiction of the Islamic prophet Mohamed. This is a culmination of the backlash against the violent extremism emanating from not only those who follow the Koran but also those of other or no religion that allow and support this hatred, bigotry and hypocrisy that threatens to enslave the will.

Feel free to post any pictures in the comments section, or any opinions you have regarding this day.

‘They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security’ – Benjamin Franklin.

South Park shows Mohammed in bear suit, ‘warned’ of retaliation

April 21, 2010

So Trey and Matt are at it again, courting controversy as only they can do. The gist of this incident is that RevolutionMuslim.com posted a warning for the show’s creators (apparently), citing ‘We have to warn Matt and Trey that what they are doing is stupid and they will probably wind up like Theo Van Gogh for airing this show. This is not a threat, but a warning of the reality of what will likely happen to them’.

Quite obviously the face of evil.

Wow, how nice of them! Just to help persuade them, they also posted a gory photo of Theo van Gogh (great films, took on Islam’s treatment of women, got dead). But only as a sincere, heartfelt warning, guys!

My particular beef with this incident (be assured, one of many) is the that was used. ‘What they are doing is stupid’. Deliberately setting out to satirise a religion may be offensive, tactless, insensitive, provocative, and insulting (not to mention ballsy, impartial, reasonable, appropriate and hilarious), but it is not stupid. It would be the same as warning people that driving a car is stupid because there is a chance of death. People accept this as a course of nature that death is a part of life.

Perhaps what they should have said to the people who read their site is that it would be stupid for anyone to kill people for making a cartoon. ‘But it’s offensive!’ I hear you say? Simple. Don’t watch it. In a world of diversity, there will always be something to offend you. This is also a fact of life.

But you know what? I am offended. I am offended that people who make a cartoon may have their lives threatened. I am offended that Theo van Gogh was killed for exposing the violence some Muslim women experience. I am offended that there will be otherwise rational, intelligent people that will decry Matt and Trey for being so ‘insensitive’ as to infer that an 1,100 year old man plays dress-ups. I am offended for humanity that in the 21st century this could still be considered a just reason for execution.

It is our turn to be offended, and we MUST let the world hear that rational people will no longer stand idly by while violence and discrimination destroys the greatest parts of our human society.

In the immortal words of George Orwell, ‘if liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear’.

In all its offensive glory.

We have to warn Matt and Trey that what they are doing is stupid and they will probably wind up like Theo Van Gogh for airing this show,” the posting reads. “This is not a threat, but a warning of the reality of what will likely happen to them.”

Dawkins and Hitchens seek to charge Pope

April 12, 2010

That’s right people. Richard Dawkins (The Greatest Show on Earth) and Christopher Hitchens (God is Not Great) have hired a team of lawyers to see if it is possible to charge the Pope for his involvement in the cover-up of child abuse allegations. They are looking at his September visit to Britain as the time for an arrest, confident that his lack of diplomatic immunity (UN doesn’t consider the Pope a proper head of state) will make him susceptible to Man’s Law.

At least no one can accuse them of not thinking outside the square!

Apologies to Darius for my punchline. I’m apparently more plagiarisey than I am witty tonight.

A respectful descent into rationalism.

April 10, 2010

I am continually surprised at how otherwise intelligent, socially aware people have such a limited knowledge of religious discourse and its impact throughout history and indeed upon contemporary society. When probed, the majority of people will start uttering clichés, typically from the dare I say trendy relativist camp that ‘people can believe what they want’ and ‘I don’t judge people and they shouldn’t judge other people and we all should treat each other with respect’. While these are obviously fabulously Utopian expressions, would either of these sorts of responses quench our desire when involved in political discourse, or discussing the role of social activism or the inequalities plaguing war-torn Africa?

What needs to be understood is that it is imperative that we care about other people’s beliefs, as these shape how they see the world, and are the basis of all actions. It is of the utmost importance that we are able to rely on our elected officials (not merely politicians, but those that represent us in the workplace or social situations) ability to act rationally and to work through problems and challenges logically.

The likely cause of this is the taboo against criticising religious beliefs, something viewed as a personal affront due to the embarrassing situation that occurs in our society (and quite rightly) when one cannot lend credence to their beliefs.  Imagine you confronted your boss resolutely demanding not only a promotion, but that it would be an unbelievable slight against your character to ask for evidence to support this demand. While it may be easy to dismiss this analogy, it is only on reflection that we realise that it is because we have been conditioned to accept that unlike all other discourses, it is in bad taste to talk critically of religion.

I do not propose unfair slandering of religion, no more than any other subject receives when in heated debate. But it is incredibly difficult to have a respectful debate when at the slightest hint of rain one person grabs their ball and bat and goes home.

All hail the new flesh!

April 10, 2010

As I have been incredibly busy of late I haven’t had a chance to upload any more blogs, so in the interest of keeping this site active and possibly increasing the audience base I would like to offer an opportunity for any questions regarding or ‘perfect proof’ of religion to be posted and I will respond as best I can. I cannot do this without some sense of ego as I wish not to only win some converts but also keep my teeth sharp, as it were. Any topic is welcome, from substantiation of miracles and Biblical scripture to evolution. Just keep it intelligible people, and no large copy-and-pastes – make sure you understand the arguments.

Christian Morality Threatens Us All

February 20, 2010

In the Herald Sun on December 18th, 2009, Tony Abbot professed his view for mandatory Bible studies in Australian public schools, arguing that ‘I think it would be impossible to have a good general education without at least some serious familiarity with the Bible and with the teachings of Christianity’. Whatever political freedoms this sort of ‘education’ would impede upon, his words offer a much more serious threat than is perhaps initially evident to the casual reader. His argument rests upon two erroneous assumptions that, most unfortunately, may not be immediately clear to one raised in a country such as Australia.  Both assumptions are concerned with the foundation of an ethical standard, the first assuming that those without Christian beliefs are ill-disposed towards ‘goodness’, and the other that Christianity is inherently ‘good’.

The first of these assumptions is not only discriminatory to those without faith, but also those of different faiths, and with such a multicultural and diverse population that Australia is comprised of, for a government to not only endorse but to also oblige children to be subjected to religious indoctrination is almost an unfathomable concept, an abuse of power and an unwelcome intervention into spheres of personal life that governments should never have a say in. He has used his generalisation to create a false dichotomy on which he bases his argument, and by espousing views laced with assumptions that religiosity is the only path to morality, he not only advertises his ignorance and offends a great many rational-minded people, but also adds fuel to a dangerous undercurrent in society. We have so far been able to defend ourselves against the religious fanaticism that has afflicted the United States, not only threats from outside its borders such as the attacks of 9/11, incited by promises of martyrdom and Holy authority, but also domestic issues, such as violence perpetrated against doctors who administer abortions.

An incident that demonstrates not only how the first assumption is lodged firmly in the minds of many in the Western world but will also provide a segue into the second assumption is that of the murder of two employees of a medical clinic in Massachusetts in 1994. Dr. John Britton and James Barrett were murdered by Rev. Paul Jennings Hill due to their part in administering abortions and the opposition that he sustained to this action through his faith. This event is an indictment of the supposed lack of morals evident in the community of non-believers and non-Christians by those who consider the Bible to be the infallible word of God, while revealing the insidious flaw evident in the ‘Christianity is inherently good’ argument. While many religious people can agree that evil things have been done in the name of religion, they sidestep the most important part of the issue. In most cases, and indeed especially in the case of Rev. Paul Jennings Hill, his actions were done not in the name of religion but explicitly due to his religion. In his defense, he quotes the passage Genesis 9:6 ‘Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man’. As the Bible also condemns abortion, it is merely a rational step that the murder of ‘murderers’ is, in fact, Holy mandate. Some may say that these parts of the Bible are not to be taken seriously and are merely analogous stories, and that acts of violence perpetrated by the religiously-inspired are abhorrent to moderate Christians. What this argument establishes is that by having the ability to take some parts of the Bible as a serious moral code and to disregard others as symbolic stories means that we already posses an ethical foundation that we can use to discern what seems acceptable and what deplorable. Our base value systems are formed independently of Holy scriptures, and allow us to live in a society where life, liberty and equality are highly valued.  It is only after indoctrination that millennia old stories spur humanity into wicked acts based upon supposed absolutes regarding murder, genocide and martyrdom, justified in ways that very few clear thinking, logical and rationally motivated people would accept.

I would like to end this piece with a quote from Professor Steven Weinberg, which I believe captures the overall tone. He said ‘Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion’.