John Stossel – Separation of Church & State

I have to say, yet again, that I am sick and tired of religionists demanding that their non-evidence based claims be ‘respected’ more than any other non-evidence based stories, just because they call them ‘religion’.

I am sick and tired of non-evidence based beliefs being afforded more privileges under the law than evidence-based claims.

But most of all, I am sick and tired of people demanding limits on my freedom of speech, just because my I will not treat as absolute truth everybody else’s non-evidence based claims!

Advertisements

Reply to ‘POD’ on ‘The Rise of the Christian Taliban?’

Sorry that this has to come as a post:  but, it would appear that due to WordPress’s most excellent latest updates, my response to POD’s comment is too long to post as a comment.

I guess I am just a little bit too verbose…but I hate being misunderstood, so I had to reply in some length.

The original post is here.

The comment by Peter O’Donnel is here.

My reply is below:

Thank you, Peter, for the long and well thought out reply.

Let me take things in order:

It seems to me that Christianity stopped committing atrocities whenever it became separated from actual real, hands-on political power.  I suspect that this will be true of all religions, secular (non-theistic) as well as theistic:  it is the real-world power combined with a firm and unshakable belief that one is not just correct, but ‘absolutely right’ that produces tyranny.

Since this piece focuses on Christians forming what they hope will be a religious terrorist organization, I naturally focused on Christianity.  That, plus Christianity martyred more of my family than any other doctrine – so it’s personal.  Of course Communism and Islam are greater threats now than Christianity has been in the 20th century, but my point was that regardless of which religion it is, it can and will be used by some to usurp power over others.  If we let them.

As for Jesus whispering similar things to people – I understand your belief in this, but there have been many wars between Christian sects all of whom truly and honestly believed to have Jesus’s true message while the other guys were idiots who were wrong.  Just consider the difference between Catholics and Evangelicals on the topic of evolution:  Catholics assert it is the means through which the various species were created by God while Evangelicals claim it is Devil’s teachings…

Solzhenitsyn:  good book, the Gulag Archipelago.  However, Solzhenitsyn himself longed for a totalitarian state himself – he just wanted the tyrant to be the Russian Orthodox Church instead of the Bolsheviks…which is really much the same thing.

As for Buddha:  he was not so much enlightened as cowardly.  He was in the perfect position to alleviate the suffering of the common folk, being a crown prince and all that.  Instead he went and sulked in a cave….and had the nerve to accept food from the poorest of the poor, who thought it was their duty to feed him even if it meant their own children starved.  Yeah, great spiritual enlightening there!

And before you go on about the accomplishments of monks who meditate:  please consider their diet and that their ‘enlightened meditation’ perfectly fits the symptoms of brain damage due to malnutrition.

I would not go looking for spiritual advice there!

As for God being the foundation of morality.  I did not intend to say that since God does not exist, it cannot be the foundation of morality.

I do not know whether god(s) exist or not or how we would define them.  I suppose I am very much an ignostic.  As such, I would need a clear definition, because different people mean different things when they say ‘God’ – and without knowing what they mean, I cannot possibly hold an opinion, much less knowledge, regarding their existence.  (Having said this, I find little to no evidence that supports the existence of Bible-definined deity, and consider monotheism to be the least credible of all the theological positions – but that is not the point here.)

What I was referring to is the continued assertion by Christian apologists that morality is whatever their God defines it to be.  So, if God commands genocide, then genocide is the moral thing to do.  If selling your daughter to her rapist for 40 silver pieces is what God says is the moral thing to do, then that is indeed the ‘moral’ thing to do.

In other words, many Christians argue that without God, there can be no morality.

Because ‘morality’ is obeying anything and everything that God commands.

I hold the diametrically opposite view:  ‘obedience’ to morality dictated from the outside (be it from a parent or God or teapot or whatever else) is exactly that.  Obedience.

And obedience, in my never-humble-opinion, precludes morality.

Morality is making decisions about what is right and wrong, what is good, bad or evil.  Weighing the consequences of one’s actions – then choosing what to do and living with it.  Morality is reasoning from the first principle of self-ownership and deriving the least incorrect course of action therefrom.

Morality is choosing one’s actions and accepting the responsibilities thereof.

Without  this decision making process, without internal locust of decision-making, there is no ‘morality’ – only obedience.

After all, how can you be held responsible for following someone else’s rules?

So, to my way of thinking, ‘obeying the word of God’ is abdicating ‘morality’ in favour of ‘obedience’.

Because doing the right thing for the wrong reason does not make you ‘moral’….it makes you, at best,  ‘accidentally right’.  Because you did not make the choice as to what the moral course of action would be – you simply obeyed the what somebody else decided is the moral course of action.

Sorry to go into this in so much detail, but as I did not make my position clear in the original post, I want to make sure to be more clear in my reply.

To recap:  I am not saying that morality cannot come from God since God does not exist:  I am saying that obeying somebody else’s rules about what is or is not moral is not morality itself, it is simply obedience because the locust of decision-making about what is or is not moral is external to one-self.  And I am perfectly aware that many religious people consider ‘morality’ to be ‘obeying God’s commands’ because they believe they are owned by God (in one manner or another).  I acknowledge their belief, but disagree with them.  Obedience is not ‘morality’ – or every puppy would be the most ‘moral’ creature in the world!

Which brings me to Mother effing Theresa.

Just this past weekend, I had a huge fight with a self-defined Christian apologist about Mother effing Theresa!

He had driven her around Montreal for a week and thought the sun shone from her behind!

Of course, being a fact-focused person, I know better than to buy in to the hollow propaganda about this profoundly evil person, who fetishized the suffering of others and maximized it in order to bring about her own salvation.  Her clinics did not differentiate between curable and incurable patients and used unsterilized needles for all…as well as denying even child-patients life-saving medical care and all painkillers….’cause, suffering would bring them closer to Jesus!

If the evil bitch Agnes (self-called Mother Theresa, which in itself should be a hint as she was NOT a mother and it is deeply immoral of her to usurp that noble title) is your example of the good things Jesus whispers to people, then you confirm my suspicion that all religions are, at their core, evil incarnate.  And that to get good people to commit evil deeds, all you need is religion….

Jesus himself:  perhaps we can leave discussion of the Nazarene and his teachings for another day…

As for giving God a chance:  I rather like Thor…and Tyr…and Hospodin and Baba Maja.  Have you given them a chance?

C0nc0rdance: Individuality by Robert Ingersoll

Remember, I am posting this before setting off on my holidays:  it may refer to the 4th of July, but, in my never-humble-opinion, this piece is timeless!!!

 

Freedom From Religion Foundation sues South Carolina School District

When I was in high school, we started every morning by the playing of ‘Oh Canada’, our national anthem.

Being a recent immigrant, I found this daily exercise of overt of tribalism to be weird in the extreme and did not, at first, understand why it would come about at all…

Over time, I began to understand the impulse that drove the playing of the national anthem 1st thing every morning:  it ‘clicked’ for me a bit after we got a new principal.

Our old principal would ask us to ‘stand for ‘Oh Canada’ and a few moments of silent prayer or meditation’.  When our new principal took over, the ritual was retained in exactly the same form, except that the ‘or meditation’ was dropped.

Now, I was being told to stand for the national anthem and prayer!!!

Of course, I complained:  not about the anthem, but about the dropping of ‘or meditation’.  I complained to several teachers; each one of them told me that it’s OK for me not to pray, because since it is a ‘silent prayer’, nobody will know that I am not praying.  I tried to be calm as I explained that that was hardly the point – and that behaving immoraly because I can get away with it is not a good lesson for them to be teaching me anyway.  The point was that by removing the ‘or meditation’ bit, they were denying the very existence of non-theists and that that was rather insulting and probably illegal.

It was then that it ‘clicked’ for me why it was that the morning was started with the national anthem:  the theists who ran the system could not imagine starting their day without a ritualistic appeal to authority.  Since they could not openly pray out loud in the secular school, they replaced the ritualistic appeal to a divine authority by an equally ritualistic appeal to the secular authority…

In other words, the playing of ‘Oh Canada’ was not really an expression of patriotism but rather a substitute for ritualistic prayer…

Which is a very round-about way to introduce the following story:

‘The Freedom From Religion Foundation and one of its South Carolina members filed a lawsuit today in U.S. District Court in Columbia, S.C., against School District Five of Lexington and Richland Counties over a district policy that sanctions graduation prayer. Plaintiff Matthew Nielson graduated with his Irmo High School classmates today.

Nielson, 18, and state-church watchdog FFRF allege the district’s written policy violates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The plaintiffs, represented by South Carolina counsel Aaron Kozloski, ask the court to declare the district’s policy null and void.

Despite the decades, religionists are still imposing their fetishes onto kids!

In related news:

 

Asperger Syndrome and ‘religious belief’

Here, I would very much like to ask Aspies who consider themselves to be ‘theists’ (who believe in one or more deities) to describe the mechanics of their ‘belief’ as best as possible.  (Of course, I would like all Aspies to describe their mechanics of ‘belief’ – but theist ones in particular, because I suspect that Aspie theists are quite rare.)

Why?

I have as yet to meet one…

I do know many Aspies, most of whom have been raised in theist homes when they were children.  Yet, when I have discussed this whole topic of religion and belief, it has become clear to me that not one of them ‘believes’ in deities in the sense that neurotypicals who ‘believe’ do.  The closest to ‘belief’ these people have come is to choose to live as if this whole ‘God proposition’ were true in much the same way that people can accept that something ‘is true’ in the ‘universe of Star Trek’ and can then extrapolate ‘new ideas’ within that pre-defined frame.  Within these parameters, this is true…

But, of course, this does not really relate to reality…

I am not sure if I am explaining this in a way that non-Aspies will understand.

What I am trying to describe is akin to saying:  not that I agree with this, but let’s accept this to be true for the sake of this discussion…  I suspect that the Aspies who live as theists follow some version of this reasoning, which I understand is different from the ‘belief’ that most neurotypicals experienc.

Yes, I do understand that I am skirting the whole debate ‘what constitutes belief’  – but I hope that rather than focusing on the greater debate here, people will comment (so we can explore this discussion) on the difference between ‘religious belief’ as experienced by Aspies and non-Aspies.

Why do I think this is a topic worthy of discussion?

For the sake of the children, of course…  Let me explain.

I know that I am incapable of ‘belief’ in the traditional sense – at best, I view validity of ideas based on probabilities.  Even the ideas I hold as my ‘core views’, the ones I consider define me as me, even those ideas I cannot rate at 100% probability.

I have been this way from as far back as I can remember.  I could never understand why other children would behave as if things were ‘definite’ or ‘certain’, how they could be so sure of, well, anything…  They, on the other hand, thought that my constant qualifications of my position on anything meant I was setting things up so I could lie, or some other display of dishonesty…which, of course, was the exact opposite of what I was trying to do.  I have since learned, in most social interactions, to censor out the vast majority of the uncertainties and qualifications – yet my speech still contains much more of these than displayed in majority of neurotypicals’ conversations.

Back to ‘the children’:  I know many families where two non-Aspies have Aspie children, but I do not know of a single family where two Aspie parents would have any non-Aspie children, which is why the focus of this discussion is on Aspie children in non-Aspie households.

If I am correct in my observation that Aspies are physically incapable of ‘neurotypical belief’, what happens when theist parents are raising Aspie children?

What happens when Aspie children are sent to be educated in religious schools?

The demands made on Aspie children to ‘believe’ (in the neurotypical manner) in deities may be something these children are simply not physically capable of!

Of course, in theism, failure to ‘believe’ in just the right manner is interpreted as ‘sin’ and ‘heresy’ – a very bad thing.  Children who fail to ‘believe’ are considered defiant and disobedient, to be punished and broken until they ‘believe’.

I have observed a number of Aspie children in these situations.  In some Aspie children I have observed, this demand to ‘believe’ in a way they were physically incapable of had led to serious internal turmoil and led them to believe they were inherently bad people.  In others, it led to further withdrawal from social interactions, and in two cases I am aware of it led to serious childhood depression.  (Granted – other factors were there, but this was a big complication…)

So, we are talking about very serious effects here.

Last summer, an Aspie friend of my son joined us for our holidays:  it was his first time away from his family and his parents were thrilled that he got an opportunity to spend a week ‘with his own kind’ – in an all-Aspie household.  I think he had enjoyed himself, but there was one incident I was not certain of how to handle.

We holidayed up north, where the nature is pristine and light pollution is very low at night.  As we were going through a meteor shower, we spent one clear evening lying on our backs on the beach and watching the deep, velvety night sky bejeweled by millions of stars.  We saw some spectacular ‘shooting stars’ when our young (13) Aspie friend got quite upset:  he explained that watching the vastness of the universe in the night-time sky made him finally realize that there probably is no afterlife…

This inability to ‘believe’ – in spite of a desire to – is unpleasant in itself.  Adding to it parental and societal disapproval for ‘not believing’ – that can cause definite damage to a young person’s ability to grow up healthy and to their maximum potential.

Obviously, even though I probably know more Aspies than an average person does, my sample size is insufficient for anything more than ‘a hunch’…which is why I would welcome comments that might help us explore this issue together.

Thunderf00t: debunking the ‘Kalam Cosmological Argument’

Pat Condell: ‘The great Jesus swindle’ + long-winded commentary

There are several things Pat Condell raises which are worthy of further discussion…where to start?

Perhaps before I do get into it, I should post this video which underlines just how the ‘personal relationship with Jesus’ appears to work:

Before you think I am picking on Christians, I’d like to point out that I included this video to support Pat Condell’s specific assertion that very different people who truly and honestly believe that they have a personal relationship with God through Jesus get very different information from this Jesus about what He thinks, says and commands.  Yet, they all honestly believe it to be true…

…just like Muhammad truly and honestly believed that he had a personal relationship with God and that God was telling him what is right, what is wrong and what is forbidden. After all, Muhammad did convert to Christianity for a brief period of time in his youth!

So, I would like to bring the discussion back to some of the points Pat Condell had made.

How?

Perhaps by stating that, in my never-humble-opinion, whether god(s) exist is rather irrelevant.

People keep debating, discussing, self-examining and exerting effort and emotional investment towards answering the existence or non-existence of god(s).  Frankly, framing the ‘religion debate’ by ‘this question’ is more than a bit of a red herring – it is a load of dingo’s kidneys!

This is not a proper – meaning constructive – debate to have because it rather completely misses the point that the problem does not lie in spirituality per se.  Sure, just like cultures – not all spiritual beliefs are equal and some are downright destructive to the human psyche.  Their veracity (or lack thereof) does not determine their venemosity, nor their cultural influence!

The archetype (or, perhaps I should call it ‘meme’) of ‘the original sin’ is one of the most toxic, humanity-destructive bits of spiritual belief around – for pretty much the very reasons Pat Condell has stated.

In a sad way, this very ‘spiritual meme’ (for the sake of convenience, I’ll shorthand it to ‘smeme’) is the greatest threat the Western Civilization faces.

Let’s not mince words:  our Western Civilization may have arizen from a predominantly Christian area of the world, but it arose precisly by rejecting the dogmatization of spiritualiy as much as was possible.  Yes, some wounds are too deep to heal – and the ‘original sin’ is one of these.  During a comment-section-discussion with CodeSlinger and Derek, I explored some of these themes, but only tangentially…though at great length, if you are interested in this type of a discussion.

The short version of it is – one of the (several) points I was trying to make was – that ‘modern’, ‘enlightened’ Christians still obey/accept as ‘divine directive’ many of the things that they no longer believe to be ‘true’.  Perhaps literally, perhaps even more deeply.  The fact remains that once the ‘roots’ of where different bits of theology come from become divorced (to a greater or lesser degree) from the underlying dogma, the resulting ‘rules of proper conduct’, the very ‘morality’ dictated by that ‘religion’ becomes separated from its source.

Once this separation occurs (and the deeper it is – for, like most things, its degree is a continuum – the more this holds true), it becomes impossible to trace the ‘morality’, the ‘reason’ why something is ‘good’ or ‘evil’.  The resultant belief that certain actions are ‘good’ or ‘evil’ remains:  just the ability to understand the belief itself becomes lost through the unfamiliarity with (or de-coupling from) the fundamentalist dogma it came from.

In other words, it is no longer recognized as a ‘religious dictum’ and, instead, becomes thought of (erroneously) as a ‘universal value’.

This is true – to a lesser or greater degree – of just about all the ‘moderate faiths’.

What is also true is that parents raise their kids ‘to do what is right‘. This permits these ‘moral directives’ which results from specific ‘smemes’ to be passed down the generations without any reference to the original ‘smemes’!  (All the guilt, none of the bliss!)

The more secularized and non-fundamentalist a society becomes over a number of generations, the deeper the disconnect between the ‘smeme’ and the ‘moral directives’ that result from it grows.  The ‘Great Western Self-Guilting’ is just one of these:  in just about all the populist ‘secular’ movements in The West, from environmentalism to radical feminism to just about everything else, we can trace the self-guilt and ‘self-loathing’ back to the ‘smeme’ of ‘Eve’s original sin’.  Some try to fight it (inventing ‘salvation schemes’, like ‘municipal recycling’ and ‘carbon taxes’ and ‘reverse discrimination/quotas’), others submit to it (villifying everything ‘Western, Christinan, Jewish’ and attempting to befriend anything and anyone with a contempt for ‘Western Civilization),  – but none of them recognize it for what it is:  a ‘moral’ directive, left over from the time of Christianity and deeply rooted in the doctorine of ‘original sin’.

No longer having access to the root of this ‘moral directive’, because we have unshackled it from the fundamentalist dogma it is rooted in, we cannot identify (much less question, confront and defeat) this particular demon of ours…

…which is why it has so much power over us!

OK – I have barely scratched the surface here…but, enough ranting for now.  Let me know what you think!