They Don’t Need Feminism

tumblr_nln0nl8vWW1syitgfo1_1280I recently found myself on tumblr browsing womenagainstfeminism.tumblr.com/. Women posted pictures of themselves with statements about why they don’t need feminism. The reasons are far ranging, but some are common.

  • They don’t want double standards for men and women and they believe feminism does that. Women rape and abuse people too.
  • They like being wives and mothers and they don’t see how staying home makes them oppressed.
  • They can vote and play video games – why else would they need feminism?tumblr_neclm61qdM1syitgfo1_1280
  • They don’t like watching feminists insult and disparage men. Men are cool. (my interpretation). They like their brothers, fathers, sons, and boyfriends who have done a lot for them. They don’t want to think of them as potential abusers.
  • They don’t believe in rape culture or the patriarchy and the wage gap thing is false.
  • They are strong, capable women, who do what they like. They don’t need the help. Try Afghanistan.
  • They are egalitarian. Men and women are different and have different roles in life. Things work better that way.

tumblr_nq0zvrG4QH1syitgfo1_1280The idea is that feminism has become obsolete in the west. Women women the right to vote. Women can do the same jobs as men and no one is paying them less for it. I don’t know enough about what feminism does to weigh on the issue, but I can appreciate the sentiments. tumblr_npcxcle08Y1syitgfo1_1280

As with any survey of public opinion, there are hits and misses. A bad personal experience with feminism is no reason to reject it. Nor does it pay to be uninformed about about the wage gap and rape culture – even if they are myths.

The Myth of Religion

I  just read a review of the book The Myth of Religious Violence by William Cavanaugh. The book eloquently puts into words the reason I have decided to delete the word ‘religion’ from my vocabulary. To be explicit, the use of the word is arbitrary, deceptive and offensive. It is ambiguous in its definition. The word isn’t something with a definition to which you can then put examples. It is something to which examples are put without definition because defining it is problematic. Try to produce a definition of religion that works without problems and you’ll meet with little success. Merriam Webster defines it as “an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods”. This definition is fine as long as you have a working definition of ‘god’, but it means that Buddhism, which is non-theistic, is not a religion. This is certainly not the way ‘religion’ is used in public. A cursory study of Buddhism would reveal that it is definitely a religion as the word is commonly used. This is also a problem with the Oxford Dictionary’s definition of religion as “the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods”. Defining a religions using practices rather than beliefs results in a definition that makes Capitalism, Communism, and Patriotism religions.

Given the arbitrary nature of religious classification then, making statements about the nature of religion smacks of dishonesty and encourages deception. What does it mean to say that religion causes violence when ‘nonreligious’ ideologies like Communism and Imperialism are equally guilty? Why should Christianity be banned from the public sphere when Capitalism is not? Why should ‘religious’ people be forced to keep their beliefs to themselves when every other ideology enjoys expression in public life and government? It is unjustified marginalization masquerading as reasoned demands. A word so badly defined it useful mostly for oppressing those on its wrong side. So, to hell with the notion of “separation of church and state”.

You can see that I’m quite passionate about this topic. I never respond well to being hurt or unjustly marginalized whether it’s by being forbidden from building churches or being told not express my beliefs in public. If other people can promote policies based on their philosophical views, I should be able to.

Frank Schaeffer Admits Madness – Or Something Like That

I am reluctant to review this post because I suspect Frank Schaeffer knows what he says to be nonsense, but says it anyway. How else could he say with a straight face that he’s an ‘atheist who believes in God’? But I’m doing this for myself. This is the first post I’ve been interested and motivated enough to write in a long time. Let’s get to it, then.

All the public debates between celebrity atheists and evangelical pastors are as meaningless as literary awards and Oscar night

Strangely, I don’t think any of the above are meaningless. Square Circles are meaningless. Literary awards might be boring or pointless, but they certainly mean something. At least he doesn’t say debates between educated atheists and Christian Apologists are meaningless. Peter Millican isn’t a celebrity and Frank Turek isn’t a pastor (as far as I know). So we should be good to go there.

They are meaningless because participants lack the objectivity to admit that our beliefs have less to do with facts than with our personal needs and cultural backgrounds.

That’s a strange thing to say. Frank had better be willing to admit that his beliefs are sufficiently based on facts or it will be outrageous to expect us to listen to him. But if he says his beliefs are sufficiently factual and not based on needs and backgrounds, he’ll be engaging in special pleading. He’s damned if he does and if he doesn’t. Perhaps then he should have made that ridiculous statement.

The words we use to label ourselves are just as empty.

What exactly is a “believer?” And for that matter what is an “atheist?” Who is the objective observer to define these terms?

Now, Frank, unless you want to call every single word we use meaningless, you really shouldn’t say that. The fact that no single observer has the right to define any word doesn’t make the word empty. Words are defined by common usage and consensus. To insist on one person’s definition is to tempt us all to beat you to a pulp. It will also invalidate everything you say. “How dare you define those words?! I say ‘cheese’ means to have two legs. What makes your definition any more valid than mine?”

Maybe we need a new category other than theism, atheism or agnosticism that takes paradox and unknowing into account.

Take me, I am an atheist who believes in God.

Why would we need a definition that takes idiocy into account? You pick a word that already has one meaning, give it the exact opposite meaning, and insist we take you seriously? Being an atheist who believes in God is about as paradoxical as a square circle. To allow a definition that takes into account square circles is to tolerate stupidity. I, personally, am strongly against stupidity in any form.

Let me explain.

This I have to see.

I believe that life evolved by natural selection. I believe that evolutionary psychology explains away altruism and debunks love, and that brain chemistry undermines the illusion of free will and personhood.

I also believe that a spiritual reality hovering over, in and through me calls me to love, trust and hear the voice of my creator.

OK, so you’re a materialist. That doesn’t make you an atheist who believes in God, dolt. It makes you a theistic materialist. It’s hard to see why someone would hold such inconsistent views, but there’s no reason to demean yourself by claiming madness. We have ways of helping people like you: reading, college, therapy, etc.

It seems to me that there is an offstage and an onstage quality to my existence. I live onstage, but I sense another crew working offstage. Sometimes I hear their voices “singing” in a way that’s as eerily beautiful as the offstage chorus in an opera.

That’s OK. You know why? Because both onstage and offstage exist! You’re not crazy for thinking there’s something behind it all. The lights, curtains, and sound effects come from somewhere. I promise. Once again, there’s no need to claim madness.

My youngest grandchildren Lucy (5) and Jack (3) are still comfortable with this paradoxical way of seeing reality.

Most grownups don’t have the transparent humility to deal with the fact that unknowing is OK. But Lucy and Jack seem to accept that something may never have happened but can still be true.

*snort*. You seem to be using your poor grandkids to justify illogical views. No, Lucy and Jack probably aren’t as illogical as that, but even if they are, they’re babies. That they believe something contradictory (again, not paradoxical) isn’t a sign that they are somehow more mature than adults. It’s usually a sign that they’re not.

For instance they take Bible stories we read at face value, and yet I see a flicker in their eyes that tells me that they already know the stories are not true in the same way boiling water is true and can be tested—it’s hot!

I’ll take your word for it that the flicker in their eyes say they believe but also don’t believe the Bible stories. Ok, actually, I won’t. They either believe the thing or they don’t. It’s possible they suffer from some form of schizophrenia (God forbid), but it’s easier to believe you’re wrong. And even if you’re not, that’ll just make your grandkids illogical. Like your article.

It’s like that mind-bending discovery from quantum mechanics that tiny objects like electrons can actually be in two places at once and act simultaneously like a particle and a wave.

Well, intelligent people usually don’t believe anything scientists say, especially since said ‘discovery’ is flat out inconceivable and a good portion of the scientific community thinks that it’s sensationalist nonsense. It won’t do to start believing nonsense in the name of science. In any case, there’s a clear difference between flat out impossibilities like something being true and not true at the same time; and things that just don’t make sense.

Maybe my grandchildren will embrace quantum theory, and won’t look for ways to make the irrational rational by hiding behind words like “mystery” in order to sustain their faith in science or God.

If quantum theory is irrational, so is any scientist who believes it. In that case, they should be fired before they completely undermine the entire operation. Once again: “I can’t conceive it” does not necessarily equal “it’s irrational”.

Or maybe they’ll embrace apophatic theology, the theology of not knowing.

And know that they don’t know? Possibly.

Atheists in the Bible Belt: A survival guide

But it’s not the easiest thing to do.

Our brains are not highly evolved enough to reconcile our hunger for both absolute certainty and transcendent, inexplicable experiences.

Yes, they are. I do it all the time. Watch: I do not know what makes scientists think particles can be in two places at once, but I am certain they’re not all lying.

Nor can I reconcile these ideas: “I know that the only thing that exists is this material universe,” and “I know that my redeemer liveth.”

Because that’s not just inexplicable. It’s impossible for P and not-P to be true in the same way at the same time. Irrational. Nonsense. I’m tired of telling you that there’s a difference between being unable to understand something and the thing’s being impossible.

Depending on the day you ask me, both statements seem true. And I don’t think I’m alone in that.

Yeah, well, sometimes it seems to me that everybody else is nuts, but I’m slightly certain that’s not true.

Behold, the six types of atheists

We’re all in the closet, so to speak. We barely come out to ourselves and never completely to others. I have met people who claim a label –evangelical or atheist – until you get to know them well enough.

So, you want another name for people who believe something, but are inconsistent in their actions? How about ‘Inconsistent’?

Then, things get more complicated.

Many of us, even the devout, have many more questions than answers about God and religion.

In other words, people just like me: atheists who pray and eloquent preachers who secretly harbor doubts.

Kind of like scientists who believe in quantum mechanics, but don’t understand it?

I believe that we’re all of at least two minds. We play a role and define that role as “me” because labels and membership in a tribe make the world feel a little safer.

When I was raising my children, I pretended to be grownup daddy. But alone with my thoughts, I was still just me. I’m older now, and some younger people may think I know something.

I do: I know how much I can never know.

In other words, you were not a grown up daddy, but you pretended to be. You weren’t of two minds. You were pretending to be other than you were. If you learned nothing in more than 18 years, well, accept my sympathy.

Many Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Christians inherited their faith because of where they were born. If you are an atheist, you hold those beliefs because of a book or two you read, or who your parents were and the century in which you were born.

Don’t insult us. Perhaps you think yourself stupid, but some of us cried and prayed and studied for years and got where we are by the sweat of our brows. Some of us saw our parents believing things that we figured out were false – by thinking – and chose differently. Some of us have read more than one or two books, spent years studying our beliefs – in school and out of it. We don’t subscribe to the idiotic kind of faith you seem to have in everything.

Don’t delude yourself: There are no ultimate reasons for anything, just circumstances.

I can understand you not having any reason for writing this nonsensical piece, but I assure you that the rest of the world is different.

If you want to be sure you have “the truth” about yourself and our universe, then prepare to go mad. Or prepare to turn off your brain and cling to some form or other of fundamentalism, whether religious or secular.

You will always be more than one person. You will always embody contradiction.

You—like some sort of quantum mechanicals physics experiment—will always be in two places at once.

We’re in agreement, then. You think you know the truth about why you believe what you believe. You must be mad. We sympathize.

Homosexuality and the Idea of Love

Representing the famous balcony scene from rom...
Representing the famous balcony scene from romeo and juliet. 1884 painting by Jose Oscar Garcia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you would permit a barely- nineteen year old to speak about such deep things, I would like to say a little bit about love.  Love is one of those things that become clearer with experience. From the outside looking it, it seems to be the most puzzling and ridiculous madness ever to take hold of mankind. Think of the idea of Romeo drinking poison when he learned that Juliet was dead. What madness! What good could come of it? But it’s like watching a man shout in delight at having tasted a wondrous meal, and wondering what has possessed him to such nonsense. Once you have tasted it for yourself, it makes perfect sense. (Or so I think it should be. Having tasted it for myself, I would contend that it makes absolutely no sense).

Rather than take on the pointless task of trying to understand love then, I think more will come from classifying it from experience. In a basic sense, love has 3 levels.

1. The love I have for my siblings is love in the most basic sense of the word. I would do a lot for them. I don’t want to see them hurt. I want them to get good birthday presents. Seeing them happy makes me happy. They make me insanely angry sometimes, but before the week’s end I won’t even remember their offense. Anyone who hurts them would mistake me for a wounded tiger – it makes me that furious.

2. At the second level, we have the kind of love I have for my friends. Not only do I love them the way I love my siblings, but I love to spend time with them doing nothing and everything. Being with them is fun, relaxing and pleasurable whether we’re telling stories or just doing nothing.

3. The third level I’ll show by way of illustration, I had a dear friend in high school; dear is the strongest sense of the world. I can’t remember what it was that we had in common, I just knew that I loved her. but as it was I simply cared about her and loved to spend time with her – even if we were doing nothing at all. I looked forward to seeing her when I got back from classes. We hugged (which was not as common there as it is in the US).  We talked about nothing and everything and even though I haven’t seen her in three years, I still love and miss her. That love was – and still is – as passionate as any instance of erotic love that I have known.

You would notice I left something out: desire. My friend (who I will call Deborah for brevity’s sake) and I never spent time gazing lovingly into each other’s eyes and we most certainly never contemplated sexual relations of any kind. The love between David and Jonathan was not have been the kind between Romeo and Juliet, but it was every bit as passionate. Deborah and I have never spent any time telling each other how beautiful our eyes her, but I love her with every bit of my heart. Sexual desire does not add quality to a relationship. It only changes the type of relationship.

And that leads me to my argument: That love – erotic, platonic or agape – are all the same at the core. They all vary in passion. Friendships can be passionate or muted. Erotic love can be the kind between Romeo and Juliet, or the kind between old Mr. and Mrs. Peterson, who sit on their back porch every evening watching birds. Even love between siblings can be the “I’ll jump into lava if it pleases you” kind or the “I love you but I’ll fight with you over a piece of candy” type. But Romeo and Juliet did not love each other more than David and Jonathan. They would have died for each other. So love, whether erotic or not, can be very passionate.

A young gay couple rub noses'.
A young gay couple rub noses’. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So Why the Hullabaloo?

Love is one important factor in the homosexuality debate. A painfully rhythm-less song I recently heard on the radio had a woman singing: “I can’t change, even if I tried, even if I wanted to. My love, my love, my love, she keeps me warm”. (By the way, if you know the singer, tell her not to quit the day job. And to stop singing before she puts that poor radio station out of business). But sexual desire, as I have argued is a wholly separate thing from love. It can exist with love and it can exist without love – as you would know if you’ve ever caught someone drooling over you in public. But homosexual relationships aren’t a matter of love. I love lots of people of the same gender and I love them very strongly. It is about sex and sexual desire, and those are not defining qualities of love. No one ever suggested to the man who went in to a prostitute that he ‘loved’ her, even if she was the most beautiful thing on this side of the galaxy.

The idea, then, that erotic love between two people is a game-changer is akin to the man who thinks his wife’s soup is the best on the planet; akin to Romeo’s belief that suicide was a good response to Juliet’s death. It’s the thinking of a fool in love.

Mommy, he called me ‘Ploopy’ (Or freedom of expression in the US)

Caution: The post below is a fairly restrained attempt at anger management. I won’t rub your back if it upsets you.

Sign of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, ...
Sign of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

Once I was a child, and I thought that people should be reasonable. Now that I’m older, I no longer expect them to be. I expect them to read reality in accordance with their wishes and beliefs. One interesting instance of such is in reading – The Torah, The Quran, the United States constitution. Some people have wants so strong that the only comprehension ability they possess is the ability to make whatever they read mean what they want it to.

Observe:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. This obviously means:

1. High school cheerleaders should not be able display banners with Bible verses on them at school sporting events. This obviously doesn’t consist of congress making a law respecting a religion, but the little girls’ banners violate the separation of church and state – which if you peer closely at the constitution, is absolutely prohibited. The supreme court also said in 2000 that there shouldn’t be prayer at the start of high

Forbidding the girls from putting up their banners, however does not violate the free exercise clause because bla dida doodoo la la boo. Oh, and the Supreme court said so.

“I’ve never heard of this kind of school problem, this kind of a violation at a public school where students would be expected to run through Bible verses to play football,” said the foundation’s president, Annie Laurie Gaylor. “It’s a new and creative way to work religion into our public schools.”

Gosh. Those cheerleaders, bringing their religion into school grounds when the all knowing Supreme court has forbidden it. Why can’t they just say their prayers at home?

The Newseum's Five (5) freedoms guaranteed by ...
The Newseum’s Five (5) freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment to the US Constitution. 1. Freedom of Religion 2. Freedom of Speech …

2. Teachers shouldn’t be allowed to talk to other teachers about religion while on school grounds. This doesn’t consist of congress making a law respecting a religion, but it might make the kids feel bad if they don’t like the religion being discussed. And we can’t say anything that kids don’t like. They might cry.

And forbidding teachers from talking about their religion at their work place does not violate the free exercise clause. ‘Cause the supreme court said so. And the supreme court is always right, even if our tiny brains say that the constitution says otherwise.

3. High school graduates should not be allowed to lead their fellow graduates in prayer at the ceremony. Although no one is being forced to participate in it, being in the presence of people who are praying is just  complete cruelty. It’s ‘bullying’. What if some of the kids take ill with malaria because of it? What if they die? Yes, this prohibits the free exercise of religion, but it’s for an important cause.

One of the protesting students, Bradley Chester, reportedly told WKYT that his atheist beliefs ought to prevent the rest of the community from praying at the public-school graduation.

“This is a place for school, not a church,” Chester told the local CBS-affiliate. “I feel like I’m graduating from Lincoln County High, not Lincoln County church.”

Translation: “I don’t want to hear it. Please make them not say it. Boo hoo. I have the right to not have people say stuff I don’t like. I want my mommy!”

Freedom From Religion Foundation Logo
The people who have a big problem with your freedom to express your beliefs.

I don’t really care about the US constitution. Shocking, I know, but I also don’t care about the Omani constitution’s prohibition of proselytizing. My philosophy on rules has always been straightforward. They exist to protect us and maintain order. Some of them are stupid, but they are to be obeyed anyway for a long list of reasons. But if I think a rule is full of crap (and I don’t mean pointless like stopping at a traffic light when no one else is there), I mentally tell it and all its supporters to go cry in a towel.

Because in the end, the fact that the government or the courts or the constitution declare that slavery is great and Judaism is evil and having cereal for breakfast is an obligation, doesn’t make it so. It just makes them wrong. In the end, atheists who cry their eyes out because the people around them are praying and the sound upsets them should be given bottles and diapers. People who can’t stand to hear the person beside them talking about their religion because it offends them should go cry in a corner (or maybe jump off a bridge – whatever helps). And people who want the law to tell other people to shut up because they don’t like what they say are intolerant bigots and should wear a sign that says ‘Your freedom upsets me. Punch me’.

The Fast the Lord has Chosen

This week we remember our Lord’s death with sorrow, joy, contrite hearts, and acts of penitence and devotion. Yet, as we do that, it is wise to remember that God is not pleased merely by how many fasts you keep and how many hour you pray. Remember that Christ’s work on earth was to preach the good news to the poor, free prisoners, heal the blind, set the downtrodden free and proclaim the Kingdom of God to all who will listen. (Luke 4: 18, 19). And that he has called us to the same and like faithful servants, we hear his call.

As Isaiah related:

‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?’

“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.
Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
    only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
    and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
    a day acceptable to the Lord?

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? – Isaiah 58: 3 – 9

Egyptian court sentences Christian family to 15 years for converting from Islam

egyptian-coptic-christian-007In latest news, an Egyptian court has sentenced a woman and her children to 15 years in prison for converting from Islam to Christianity.

A criminal court  in the central Egyptian city of Beni Suef  meted out the shocking sentence last week, according to the Arabic-language Egyptian paper Al-Masry Al-Youm. Nadia Mohamed Ali, who was raised a Christian, converted to Islam when she married Mohamed Abdel-Wahhab Mustafa, a Muslim, 23 years ago. He later died, and his widow planned to convert her family back to Christianity in order to obtain an inheritance from her family. She sought the help of others in the registration office to process new identity cards between 2004 and 2006. When the conversion came to light under the new regime, Nadia, her children and even the clerks who processed the identity cards were all sentenced to prison.

Samuel Tadros, a research fellow at Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, said conversions like Nadia’s have been common in the past, but said Egypt’s new Sharia-based constitution “is a real disaster in terms of religion freedom.”

“Now that Sharia law has become an integral part of Egypt’s new constitution, Christians in that country are at greater risk than ever. The cases will increase in the future,” Tadros said. “It will be much harder for people to return to Christianity.”

President Mohamed Morsi, who was elected last June and succeeded the secular reign of Hosni Mubarak, who is now in prison, pushed the new constitution through last year.

The most interesting fact about this story is that those hearing it probably think it is something tragic, but rare. In truth, these are daily occurrences in North Africa, Southern Asia and the Middle East. Every Christmas and Easter, churches are burned and Christians are slaughtered. Even in the relatively pecaeful countries, Oman for example, where my parents currently live, simply telling a non-Christian about Christianity (proselytizing) is illegal. Thankfully, you’re not likely to be charged with anything unless someone turns you in. Non-islamic religious gatherings are not permitted in homes, but only in locations specifically set aside by the government. You can’t distribute non-islamic religious literature to people outside your religious group. In fact, the basic philosophy is: you can practice your religion as long as you keep it to yourself and do nothing that the government does not like. (Where have I heard something similar?). Blasphemy, which could be anything from saying Allah is not God to accusing Muhammad of having sex with a nine year old girl is forbidden.

You’re probably picturing some sort of hellhole, right? No, Oman is a quiet, beautiful and safe place. Safe, that is, for those who do as they are told. If you believe the citizens, the Sultan (King) is the best thing since Netflix. Some people occasionally make mistakes – over the summer, a number of people were arrested for insulting the Sultan but it’s nothing like Saudi Arabia where Christians were arrested for ‘plotting to celebrate Christmas‘. At least that’s what I think. I don’t really know what would happen if my parents were to put a Christmas display in their yard in December. I doubt they want to find out.

2011prayermap
Map of Countries Hostile to Christians or in which Christianity is restricted

The most painful part of this is not the silence in the mainstream media. It’s the fact that every church burning, mass slaughter, execution, imprisonment is greeted with the insistence that those are just the ‘radical Muslims’. The whole bloody Muslim world is like that! I often think that there are only two types of Muslims in the world: those who persecute others and those who with their money, silence, ignorance, or self delusion, support the persecution.

I write that in anger and honesty. It is immoral to see evil around you and do nothing to stop it. In a moral society, the strong fight for the weak. But it is not so on earth. Atheists get their whiskers in a bunch because high school cheerleaders have Bible verses on their banners. ‘Christians’ live as if the most important things in their lives is the latest news about Kim Kardashian. Muslims respond with fury that someone is terrified that the heavily bearded Arabic speaking man is going to behead them – the Islamophobes. And the cries of those Buddhists, Christians, and atheists oppressed in communist, atheist and Muslim regimes are met with crickets.

 

http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/ keeps a list of reported Islamic attacks. Their count for the last week is 209 dead bodies and 358 critically injured.