Pro life vs. proliferate

Conservative is, I think, a misleading moniker. It evokes – at least in me – the image of someone who wants to preserve the world, who – at least in principle – places a high value on life. And indeed, many self-described conservatives won’t tire of telling everyone that they want to preserve life, that they are pro life. Of course, when they say pro life, they really mean pro human life – they seldom are vegetarians.

Well, no, actually they mean pro unborn human life. Unborn only – because most conservatives don’t give a damn what happens to the baby once it is born (at least until, as George Carlin pointed out, the baby has grown old enough to become a soldier).

So it seems that few conservatives really have an interest in preserving life. Indeed, to my eyes the opposite is true: a conservative mindset destroys life.

Christian/Jewish conservatives like to point to Genesis 1:28

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.”

That is their main reason for being pro life. As a result, fundamental believers breed like rabbits. With similarly devastating effect. We already have filled the earth and subdued it. It’s a fact that the single, most effective way to preserve life on Earth is for humans to breed less. Neither reducing carbon emissions nor cleaner energy will save the planet. Only spawning fewer children will. But that is what conservatives are vehemently opposed to. They say they want to preserve life? They don’t. They destroy our habitat by mindlessly keeping their old traditions and way of life.

Conservatives aren’ big on preserving life. They are big on preserving their lifestyle.

Eternally Stupid

FOX “News” Channel have their own priest. Since it’s currently time in the US to get the next presidential circus race started, Father Jonathan Morris weighed in on the important question of what quality a presidential candidate must have. One of these qualities, at least according to the priest, is fear of eternal consequences in order to be trustworthy:

[Faith is] a belief in God; a belief that there are eternal consequences for your actions. And I think that a leader that doesn’t have that — a set of core beliefs that help him to make justice an important part of his life and his decisions because he knows that there are eternal consequences — well, it’s somebody that it’s hard to trust.

We should remember that like most TV personnel, it’s Morris’ job to look good, not provide intelligent theological points. We should also disregard the point that although Morris doesn’t mention a specific faith, he obviously means a faith with only a single god; and one that also sports eternal hell. He therefore accidentally excludes all faithful Jews (no Hell), Hindu (multiple Gods), Buddhists and Jainist (neither Gods nor Hell) from his list of trustworthy people. So what was probably meant as a minor attack on atheists turns out to be a disparaging comment against anyone who is not a faithful Christian nor Muslim.

But, probably quite unintentionally, Morris makes an interesting point. What should we think of a person whose decisions are influenced by irrational fears rather than sound ethics?

Put another way: do you really want your government to be lead by a person who

  • spends time contemplating the next life while there is so much left to do in this?
  • might wish to hasten the end of this world in order to enter paradise – while having everything needed to bring about Armageddon?
  • makes decisions based on a millennia old code of conduct that condones slavery, genocide and misogyny and eschews any conflicting modern ethics?
  • may fear that he’ll be punished for being nice to gays?

These questions boil down to this: do you really prefer a leader whose actions are guided by an irrational fear of an invisible dictator in the sky over someone who decides important questions by looking at facts and weighing them according to rigid, ethical principles?

Unfortunately, too many US americans answer that questions with yes.

This is going to be one frightening presidential race.

Human Farce

The Tories in the UK are proposing a new Bill to end the ability of the European Human Rights Court (ECHR) to oversee England’s legislation. On the surface, it even has the semblance of reason: removing oversight, the Tories argue, will make sure that foreign criminals and terrorists lose their right to stay in the UK.

Is this a wise course of action? No. Hell, no!

Repealing higher authority on Human Rights issues opens the door to the same totalitarian government that was rampant in Europe not 100 years ago, and still is in those European states that are not signatories of the ECHR act. Because it’s not only the rights of terrorists that are being repealed – it’s everyone’s rights that are being encroached upon. It used to be that the need of many outweighs the need of a few. Now this principle is stood on its head: the need to get rid of a few, it is argued, outweighs the need of all to protect their human rights. This is a very, very dangerous idea.

Similar to the PATRIOT act in the US, legislation already passed in the UK gives authorities rights to seize and imprison you under trumped-up charges. A brief example: David Miranda, partner to the Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwalt who broke the NSA Snowden case, was held at London Heathrow under terrorism charges, was denied access to lawyers, and all his electronic devices where confiscated. Yet Miranda never was a terrorist suspect. Demonstrably, this was an attempt to get at Greenwalt for exposing the NSA Scandal. This is a direct violation of European Human rights, but already legal in the UK under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act (people stopped under schedule 7 have no automatic right to legal advice and it is a criminal offence to refuse to co-operate with questioning. Critics say that among other things, this curtails the right to remain silent). Do you really want to remove the last vestiges of oversight that prevent security forces from running roughshod over your loved ones in order to get to you?

The Human Rights are a central pillar of humanity. Are they perfect? No. But we should strive to increase their influence and better them instead of lessening the authoritie’s incentives to adhere to them.

The core of the human rights are

  • the right to live
  • freedom from torture
  • freedom from slavery
  • right to a fair trial
  • freedom of speech
  • freedom of thought, conscience and religion
  • freedom of movement
  • [EU exclusive] freedom of sexual orientation and gender identity

Look at the list above and ask yourself: Who in their right mind would want any less of that? Who would want to curtail everyone’s access to above rights? Do you really think the UK would be better off if they rescinded these rights in order to get rid of a few unsavory characters?

The Daily Express has called the Human Rights ‘madness’, the Daily Mail a ‘farce’. I know that learning from history is something that isn’t en vogue these days. But comparing their comments with what the Völkische Observer wrote in the 1930s gives me an unwelcome deja vu.

The scary people over at Express and Mail have called Torie’s new proposal a ‘triumph’. Well, if that’s what you think it is, here’s another scary phrase you should become comfortable with:

Sieg Heil!

Militant Bullshit

A few weeks ago, there was a commotion downtown. Heavily armed Police swarmed the area close to the main station; roads were blocked, and sirens were blaring.

Onlookers kept their distance to the cordoned-off area and speculated about what was going on. Due to the proximity to the main station, many thought it was a terrorist attack – after all, ISIS had just threatened exactly that. Others supposed a demonstration of some other militant group – Salafists, Separatists, or Fascists – gone awry. Or perhaps some gangsters had robbed one of the many banks located at the Banhofstrasse?

There were a million different theories flying about – many of them laughably wild. I particularly liked the idea that perhaps irate bee farmers let loose a swarm of hornets (Swiss government had just struck down a proposed bill to support ailing bee farmers).

But as exotic and outlandish these theories were, no-one ever voiced a particular notion: that perhaps militant atheists were to blame.

There’s a reason for that. Everyone knows that there is no such thing as a militant atheist, at least not in the true meaning of the word ‘militant’. That is why, after a bomb blast, an attack on a group of people, or some other violent crime, no police resources are diverted to gather evidence against atheists, no security forces are sent out to round up known atheists, and no DA ever thinks about investigating militant atheists.

‘Militant Atheist’ is just a phrase dishonest people use to shift blame, to demonize atheists and to make perpetrators out of victims. It’s one of the few surefire tell-tales to identify a religious demagogue.

Oh – the commotion? A large-scale exercise. So what did they rehearse?

Well, certainly not evacuation procedures for when militant atheists attack.

WarSissi

So UK’s minister of Unreason Faith, Baroness Warsi, has resigned. Now, I always thought of her as a few cards short of a full deck – but that is an occupational requirement for someone working in the faith industry. Now I’m disappointed to see that’s she’s also a sissy.

‘When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping’ my mother used to say. When you think that your team is doing something wrong, you double down, and try to change it for the better. That’s at least what I expect from professionals. Those who can, do. Warsi, as was painfully obvious, can’t.

Never one to face difficult questions, the horrendous situation in Gaza and the difficulties in determining which side has committed less evil has prompted Warsi to take the easy way out.

She won’t be missed. A civilized country needs a Minister of Faith as much as a fish needs a bicycle.

Militant Stupidity

[please note: a slightly redacted (BHA cultivates a somewhat more polite style than I do) version of this article was published on the British Humanist Association’s blog. You can read it here. I’m of course a great fan of BHA, and thank them for the opportunity to write for them]

If you believe what some politicians would tell you, the UK is developing a new problem; a social evil so menacing that it threatens to eclipse ‘Islamophobia’ any day now: Militant Atheism.

There is a certain progression to be observed: first come accusations of ‘special rights’, then we hear dire warnings of a slippery slope that invariably leads to persecution of religion and death camps for believers, run by – you guessed it – militant atheists.

This calls for some explanation – on more than one account: By and large, ‘militant atheists’ are about as threatening as ‘fundamental hippies’. Coining the phrase is demonstrably an attempt to tarnish a term of non-description (‘atheist’) by combining it with a word evocative of conflict, violence, automatic weapons, scimitars, and death: ‘militant’. And yet, this attempt is about as successful in suggesting lethality as the term ‘combat doe’.
The most ‘militant’ of atheists was Christopher Hitchens. He earned that distinction by publicly assailing men of the cloth with remarks as cutting as ‘you are an idiot!’
The world’s second most ‘militant’ atheist would be Professor Richard Dawkins. Soft-spoken and infuriatingly polite, he’s known for book signings where, on occasion, he brings along a sharp pen.

So it’s not by their actions that militant atheists have gained the ‘militant’ epithet; there is a decided lack of streets overflowing with blood, no posters yelling ‘massacre those who insult atheism’, and to my knowledge no atheist has yet blown up a church on the grounds of advancing atheism.

So, for better understanding, we need to turn to the source. Recently, a number of British exponents have complained about the exploits of militant atheism:

In a highly publicized BBC-produced episode of The Big Questions (and a same-day publication on their web page), Voice For Justice UK speaker Lynda Rose raised awareness about the alarming fact that militant atheism is the reason why Christians are now persecuted in the UK.

A few days later, UK Minister of Faith (an Office I have difficulty mentioning while keeping a straight face – it’s way too Monty Phythonesque; in my mind it’s always the ‘Ministry of Silly Thought’) Baroness Warsi voiced similar sentiments.
Shortly thereafter, UK’s Prime Cameron went on record saying that living in a religious country was easier for people of competing faiths than in a country run by (presumably militant) seculars.
And just a few days after that, former MP Anne Widdecombe – in a strangely preemptive evocation of Godwin’s Law – bemoaned the fact that today Christians have it more difficult to live in the UK than Nazis.

What is going on here? From a rational thinker’s point of view it surely seems as if they left a lot of lead in the pipes that feed the drinking fountains down at Westminster Palace. Let’s take a closer look.

VFJUK’s Lynda Rose complained :

But now, apparently, the newly claimed sexual rights of a minority are being prioritised over all other traditional rights, to the extent that ‘religious’ rights are now being assigned a separate, and seemingly subsidiary, category.

It’s a bit disconcerting that Lynda – who is a lawyer – makes this mistake: there are no ‘rights of a minority’. She was referring to a couple in the UK who had their existing right to sexuality enforced. Lynda not only makes it sound as if a sexual minority (gay people) have special rights; she then asserts that there is something called ‘traditional rights’. First, of course, there are no special rights – everyone has the same rights. Further, no civilized country in the world recognizes ‘traditional rights’: once it is determined that something is unethical (e.g. slavery, or the right to discipline your disobedient wife), it is done away with, all ‘tradition’ be damned. ‘Traditional’ never trumps ‘just’. Most importantly, though, there are no longer religious rights – i.e. special rights attained only through adherence to a particular religion – in the UK. Today it is one law for all. Or it should be, anyway.

What we do see here – and we’ll see this again – is the feeling of entitlement: people are loath to give up privileges that they used to have. Here it is the privilege of imposing one’s own view of sexuality on others, something that Christianity has enjoyed for over two millennia, but now has been curtailed.

We next turn our attention to Minister of Faith, Baroness Warsi. Now, a Minister of Faith can’t be expected to be the sharpest knife in the drawer, so we may need to cut her some slack. Trying to make Sharia Law more acceptable in the UK, Warsi first remarked that

There is no doubt that the word ‘sharia’ carries huge challenges in relation to public relations. If you talk about anything [related to] ‘sharia’, the first vision people get is chopping off of people’s hands, having four wives and all sorts of unusual practices which, in today’s world, are not compatible with the values which we live by.

Above is an astute observation. The word ‘Sharia’ has a bad reputation, just as the words ‘Apartheid’ and ‘Spanish Inquisition’ have. I believe that this is well deserved, on all accounts.

Now, Warsi, for reasons fully understood, complains that acceptance of ill-reputed Sharia law into UK’s courts is impeded by secular fundamentalists :

The most aggressive post I get is [sic] from people who are secular fundamentalists.

Of course atheists are vehemently opposed to these ideas, ideas that would introduce superstition and medieval morals into present-day jurisdiction – but I would submit that vehement opposition is to be expected not only from ‘militant atheists’, but from everyone who can count to eleven without having to remove a sock.

Warsi’s efforts to impose her preferred version of law are frustrated by people who do not share her ideology. She believes that she is entitled to bring Sharia law into UK’s courts, and spots the enemy among what she believes to be militant atheists – those people who publish so many ‘aggressive post[s]’.

Not being outdone by amateurs, David Cameron enters the fray asserting that

it is easier to be Jewish or Muslim in Britain than in a secular country.

The reason? Militant atheists, of course. He goes on to extol the virtues of a religious society – blithely ignoring that each and every social advance during the past two hundred years came at the cost of lives among the humanists, and at the strongest opposition from the Church. Cameron feels he needs to build up a straw man and defend religion for one reason only: because the devout in his constituency are starting to grumble that their privileges are being taken away; that they can no longer tell the fags what to do.

More frighteningly, though, Cameron concludes his speech with this:

Greater confidence in our Christianity can also inspire a stronger belief that we can get out there and actually change people’s lives, and improve both the spiritual, physical, and moral state of our country, and even the world.

I guess it does take a pesky militant atheist to point out that if you replace ‘Christianity’ with ‘Islam’, Cameron would be saying exactly what the Taliban and Boko Haram are saying: they, too, believe that by stronger adherence to belief, that by following scripture more closely, this world will become a better place. The Taliban in particular are quite explicit about this; they state that their intent is to improve this world by changing the way people behave: by making them stronger believers.
Changing people’s lives based on faith is a terrible idea. Ask any woman in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia. When we talk about ‘improvements’ based on religion, we almost always talk about restrictions: no gay marriages, no abortions, no women’s education, no blaspheming, no work on the holy day, etc. The more confidence people have in their religion, the more likely they are to impose their religious ideology on others. Ironically, there is only one group who can’t do that: (militant) atheists – who, by definition, don’t have a religion.

Ann Widdecombe’s rant takes the cake, though :

Christians now have quite a lot of problems, whether it’s that you can’t display even very discreet small symbols of your faith at work, that you can’t say ‘God bless you’, you can’t offer to pray for somebody, if it’s an even bigger stance on conscience that you’re taking, some of the equality laws can actually bring you to the attention of the police themselves.
So I think it is a very difficult country now, unlike when I was growing up, in which to be a Christian, an active Christian at any rate.

As a former MP, Ann has unfortunately developed a distinct habit of being economical with the truth. She did so when during the ‘Intelligence Squared’ debate she claimed that everyone who joined the Waffen-SS had to sign away their religion. The exact opposite is a documented fact; people who joined the SS had to sign a paper stating that they were ‘gottgläubig’ – believers in God – and affirmed that they were not atheists.

Widdecombe does it again here when she claims people can no longer wear religiously-themed jewelry, say endearing well-wishes, or promise piety to other people.
In reality Ann is angry at another fact: she has lost the privilege of an automatic religious bonus. People now openly scoff when someone offers prayer as ‘help’, and do not look impressed when someone openly wears a crucifix, crescent, or Star of David. Her importance and status as an openly devout believer have diminished – which is what irks her. In short, she’s angry that she’s become unpopular, and wants to assign blame.

That, in short, is what ‘militant atheism’ is all about: a scapegoat for one’s own misgivings and shortcomings, a scapegoat for the perceived injustice of privileges revoked, a scapegoat for being called upon one’s own moral failings.
Well, at least the believers are staying true to form – if there ever was an Abrahamic ritual it’s the scapegoat.

Is it really that simple? Are politicians really trying to shift the blame from them to a minority? After all, much of what was said is monumentally stupid. Wouldn’t the political elite be more careful to avoid putting their foot into their collective mouth? Obviously, no. The reason for that, though, can be explained:

As we know, any sufficiently advanced stupidity is virtually indistinguishable from religion. That is what is tripping up politicians: they are increasingly coming down on the wrong side when they try to decide: ‘Is this still stupid or already religion?’

And then they do something ‘militantly’ stupid.

Not even a smidgen

You can’t make this stuff up. Ever since former US Vice President Candidate Sarah Palin wrote ‘Good Tidings and Great Joy’, the debate was if her IQ read-out was high enough to qualify as a decent earthquake; mixing her fundamental gun-toting beliefs with equally fundamental Christianity caused some unease among the faithful and gave rise to legitimate questions with regards to her skills of reason.

Two days ago, at the NRA’s national annual convention, Palin said

Enemies, who would utterly annihilate America, they who’d obviously have information on plots, to carry out jihad. [sorry, that’s the transcript – CF] Oh, but you can’t offend them, can’t make them feel uncomfortable – not even a smidgen.

Well, if I were in charge, they would know that waterboarding is how we’d baptize terrorists.

To their credit – and unlike the crowd at the convention – some Christians in the US weren’t too amused. After all, waterboarding is torture, and linking torture to the one ritual that defines Christianity does go against the grain of those who purport to believe in a religion of love.

Well, I guess the incident settles one issue: that of Palin’s intelligence. There is none.

Not even a smidgen

Come on, Cameron!

In a boneheaded speech to narrow-minded believers, UK Prime minister Cameron had the following to say:

“Many people tell me it is easier to be Jewish or Muslim in Britain than in a secular country precisely because the tolerance that Christianity demands of our society provides greater space for other religious faiths, too.”

Ah. Many people, eh? Well, many people tell me that it is perfectly normal to kill homosexuals. Assertions, even if made by the majority, do not make facts. The history of Christianity easily belies every word of what Cameron said. It’s secular (humanist-enforced) rules that coerced England to stop persecuting other beliefs. So it’s actually against Christian tradition to be tolerant of other beliefs. Just how shallow is Cameron’s historical education? Doesn’t ‘Edict of Expulsion’ or ‘William Tyndale’ ring a bell? You know, people who don’t know their history and all that…

“People who, instead, advocate some sort of secular neutrality fail to grasp the consequences of that neutrality, or the role that faith can play in helping people to have a moral code. Of course, faith is neither necessary nor sufficient for morality.”

It’s inconceivable that a thinking listener would let that direct contradiction slip by. Indeed, Morality has nothing to do with faith. If you are moral that’s good. If you also happen to have faith, that is coincidence. There is no role that faith has on morals except downgrading it. So it’s Cameron who doesn’t grasp the simple fact that secular neutrality makes it more likely to have a good moral code.

“Many atheists and agnostics live by a moral code – and there are Christians who don’t. But for people who do have a faith, that faith can be a guide or a helpful prod in the right direction – and, whether inspired by faith or not, that direction or moral code matters.”

It would be much better if people just were moral, regardless of their faith. Fact is, though, that more often than not, faith retards morals. All that Cameron is saying is that ‘people can be moral, and they can have faith’. There is no causality between faith and being morals, as Cameron said himself. Why is he still pretending that there is?

“THIRD, greater confidence in our Christianity can also inspire a stronger belief that we can get out there and actually change people’s lives, and improve both the spiritual, physical, and moral state of our country, and even the world.”

No. Goodness, no! Cameron obviously doesn’t realize that if he replaced ‘Christianity’ with ‘Islam’, he’d be saying exactly what the Taliban are saying. Doesn’t he get it that changing people’s lives based on faith is a terrible idea? Ask any woman in Pakistan. Not everyone shares your notion of what constitutes an improvement. And when we talk about ‘improvements’ based on religion, we almost always talk about restrictions: no gay marriages, no abortions, no women’s education, no blaspheming, no work on the holy day, etc. The more confidence you have in your religion, the more likely you are to impose your worldview on others.

It’s a bit frightening that the UK is currently led by a moral lightweight.

Oklahoma Mike and the Temple of Doom

Meet Indiana Jones’ smaller, slower sibling: Dr. Mike Ritze from Oklahoma.

Dr. Mike (R-Broken Arrow, no joke) was instrumental in setting up a privately funded monument depicting the Ten Commandments on the lawn outside Oklahoma’s Capitol building. Quite illegally so, by the way, because the US Constitution strictly forbids this. But it seems that Oklahoma Mike and his fellow legislators thought a little well-intentioned disregard of law was not going to ruffle anyones feathers.

Of course it did.

Enter Satanic Temple, a recognized religion in the US. They want a share of the action, and notified the state’s Capitol Preservation Commission that they intend to donate a monument as well.

Now cue clown shoes and slide whistle as Oklahoma politicians manage to collectively put their feet in their mouths. Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma:

“The New York [Satanic Temple] group is trying to place a monument on the Capitol grounds for religious purposes and will be unsuccessful. The Ten Commandments monument, on the other hand, was put up for historical purposes”

That’s already weapons-grade stupid. But they can do even better:

“This is a faith-based nation and a faith-based state,”

said Rep. Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville. Ho boy, can you be more wrong? Being a political representative in the US you can’t – unless you go nuclear with One nation under god (pledge) or In god we trust (dollar bills).

These clowns really delivered the funny here. And that’s even without the spelling errors on the monument.

It’s not as if the satanists don’t know it. You can see their grin even here, across the pond. Lucien Graeves, Satanic Temple spokesman, managed to get out the following – without bursting into flames of pure Schadenfreude:

“He [Dr. Mike Ritze] is helping a satanic agenda grow more than any of us possibly could.”

And when asked what he’d do to make people less afraid of Satanists, he replied with delightful darkness:

“Some people will be put off by Satanism no matter how it is practiced. […] What we can do, however, is educate people so that they fear us for the right reasons.”

Quite.

Well, Dr. Ritze, didn’t you read the one about the road to hell being paved with good intentions? Looks like this time it is more literal than even the hardiest of the bible belt buckle believers could have imagined.

Or as we say: Karma is a bitch.

Mainly because we don’t believe in her.