Pope Dumbass

Many catholics are proud of their pope. Catholicism, they say, has come a long way – from the days when the catholic church ruled in Europe – a period we today justly call the Dark Age – to today. They say that the despotic, terrible organization of blind faith has turned into a kind, loving brotherhood of moderate belief. And when pope Francis stepped up to replace Benedict (who, somewhat disaffectionately, was also known as Gods’ Rottweiler), people thought that finally kinder heads had prevailed.

In the wake of the Charlie Habdo massacre, though, Pope Francis showed that hopes for a better, more humane catholic church are premature. Instead of flat-out denouncing violence as an answer to words, God’s representative on Earth told the world that in his view, violence is a viable response to verbal provocation.

As the AP reports Pope Francis stated:

If my good friend Dr. Gasbarri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch. It’s normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others. […]

There are so many people who speak badly about religions or other religions, who make fun of them, who make a game out of the religions of others. They are provocateurs. And what happens to them is what would happen to Dr. Gasbarri if he says a curse word against my mother. There is a limit.

This is from the guy who runs the organization that used to burn people at the stake, broke them on the rack, or incarcerated them for disagreeing with their faith, let alone ridiculing it. Ask Galileo Galilei how much fun it is to be found guilty of disagreeing with false beliefs (Galileo proved that the earth moves around the sun, and for his discovery was sentenced to life imprisonment by Popes Paul V and Urban VIII). What an ass.

Being a learned man, Francis wouldn’t think twice about ridiculing the Flat-Earth Society. Yet it is a fact that there is more evidence for a flat earth than there is for gods. It’s therefore more likely to be true than religion – but Francis in all honesty wants to force us to treat with dignity an idea that is more ridiculous than a flat earth?

We must be able to ridicule any idea; stupid ideas deserve to be ridiculed. We should ridicule those who, for example, believe that the white race is somehow superior, or that women exist to serve men. Why is the idea that you must worship an invisible being that controls lightning and earthquakes any different? Special pleading for religious ideas has no merit, and is merely a result of undeserved entitlement. If the idea of a particular religion stands on its own, those who ridicule will eventually be proven wrong, and in due course become the object of ridicule themselves. If they don’t – well…

Pope Francis’ mentality of ‘criticize anything except religion’ is dangerously wrong and an unwelcome reminder of the Dark Ages, where narrow-minded bigots killed their critics with impunity.

Je suis Charlie

Yesterday, two (presumably) fanatical islamists, armed with heavy automatic weapons, attacked the french satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. They murdered 12 unarmed artists, and injured many more. If witness reports are correct, the two gunmen yelled, among other things, that they were ‘avenging Mohammed’.

Here’s what I think.

  • I’m deeply saddened and shocked by this senseless, brutal, indefensible and cowardly massacre. My heart goes out to the families and friends of the victims.
  • I wish I could also say that I’m surprised – unfortunately, and everyone agrees on this, it was only a matter of when, not if, religious nuts would bring death to another European capital.
  • It seems that the murderers think that they have the right to kill a couple of humorists for what they (the murderers) interpret as an insult to their religious idol, Mohammed. In other words: these people believe that brutal violence with assault weapons is the correct response to artistic expression with pen and paper. It should be obvious to anyone that these people, and anyone who agrees with that kind of sentiment, must be locked up.
  • If you think Mohammed, a successful war lord in his own time, needs you to avenge him, you seriously overestimate your importance and underestimate his accomplishments.
  • This isn’t the first time something like this has happened. It would behoove the Muslim community to finally rally more than token indignation over this cowardly, barbarous act. After all, Muslims are known to mobilize en masse when someone so much as mishandles a book. Show that you have your priorities straight and agree that people are more important than any book ever written.
  • After such an outpouring of support for the victims of fanatical, intolerant Islamists, the moderate Muslims can then rightfully worry about repercussions. Perhaps, at the same time, abstain from using the word ‘Islamophobia’. At all.
  • We (the west) must finally talk about this blatantly obvious issue. We should no longer ignore the fact that an inordinate, disproportionate share of religiously motivated violence is attributed to Islam – no other religion in the world racks up more victims (be they dead, injured or repressed), most of them Muslims, than Islam. Yet, Islam is not the world’s largest religion. This fact has not escaped the rest of the world, and even though many try to hide how they feel about it, it is creating unease.
  • One of the reasons we don’t talk about the disproportionate amount of violence in the name of Islam is that anyone who voices such sentiments runs the risk of quickly being branded a ‘racist’ or ‘islamophobe’.
  • As a result, only the kind of people that embrace racism and xenophobia openly talk about the obvious problem Islam has with violence: Nazis. French ‘Front National’ exponent le Pen already exploits the murderous attacks, and the impact they have on the French people – to further their own fascist agenda. Do we really need the dimwitted right to fight the religiously fanatic? We should not leave this important discussion only to intolerant irrationals, political arsonists and unethical pompous asses.

If we act now, we can ensure that the victims of the Charlie Hebdo massacre did not suffer and die in vain. We can make their injuries and deaths count. However, if we don’t act and revert to tip-toeing around the white elephant in the room that is Islam’s problem with religiously motivated violence, we may have missed an opportunity to turn tragedy into something meaningful.

Because these acts of barbarism will happen again and again until we do.

Aisha, Mo & Imran

Imran Ali has tried to defend what is arguably one of the worst facts of the Islamic religion: the consensus among most muslims is that the prophet Mohammed, at age 53, had sex with 9 years old Aisha bint Abi Bakr. There is no reason to doubt this, so trying to defend an immoral act as vile as child rape is rather stupid, perhaps as stupid as William Lane Craig’s completely misguided attempt at defending the Israelite massacre of the Canaanites as narrated in the Bible. Craig’s disgusting defense of genocide now has a counterpart on the Islamic side.

Somewhat predictably, in Resolving Misconceptions Regarding A’isha Bint Abi Bakr’s Age at Marriage, Imran doesn’t employ subtle sophistry. He merely tries to shift blame, misdirect and resort to equivocation:

The issue of A’isha Bint Abi-Bakr, Prophet Muhammad’s youngest wife, has arisen purely due to the fact that she happened to be much younger than him unlike his other wives most of whom were even older than him

No. The issue is not the age difference. The issue is that she was a child when she got married (at age 6) and only 9 years old when Mohammed forced her to have sex with him. No-one would have accused Mohammed of child rape had Aisha been 19 and he 73 (an even greater age difference).

There have been misconceptions and controversy regarding her exact age at the time of her marriage partly because we are dependent on reported information and even with accurate reporting, it is difficult to sustain 100% accuracy all the time regarding the exact time period, and partly because this issue has been misappropriated by the enemies of Islam who have popularized the wrong accounts to defame the Messenger of God.

While it is difficult to establish 100% accuracy, here a mere 80% accuracy is sufficient. Yet, due to the numerous different sources that are in agreement, it is trivial to establish with grater than 90% accuracy that Aisha was 9, at most 10 years old when Mohammed ‘consummated’ his marriage to her. But even if we add a year, she would still have been be a pre-teen.

The generally agreed-upon sources to establish Aisha’s age are Sahih al-Bukhari and the accounts of historian Ibn Sa’d al-Baghdadi. Both accounts are difficult to misappropriate, and the majority of all muslims agree that these sources are accurate:

Sahih al-Bukhari narrates that

the Prophet married her when she was six years old and he consummated his marriage when she was nine years old, and then she remained with him for nine years (i.e., till his death).

and Sa’d al-Baghdadi even quotes Aisha herself:

“The Prophet married me in the month of Shawwal in the tenth year of his prophecy, three years before the Hijra, when I was six years old.”

These dates are specific. They are easy to verify by cross-reference, and few people would ever accuse either author of wanting to slur Islam. It is exceedingly difficult to misappropriation these facts, and few muslims have ever denied these accounts.

Imran even quotes the same source as he continues:

Ibn-e-Sa’d has stated in at-Tabaqat al-Kubra that when Abu Bakr (A’isha’s father) was approached on behalf of the Prophet, he replied that the girl had already been betrothed to Jubair and that he would first have to settle the matter with him. This shows that A’isha must have been approaching maturity at the time.

No. It merely shows that child marriage was common at the time, a fact that is borne out by many independent accounts and records. It does not establish anything about Aisha’s age or sexual maturity. In civilized countries today it may have been an indicator that she was sexually mature. At that time – no. Even today child marriages are a problem in many regions of the world.

Imran then continues with a rather disquieting discourse of questionable veracity on human female biology for the sake of proving that Aisha could have reached sexual maturity, arguing that perhaps no physical damage was done and conveniently ignores any psychological damage that such an act can inflict on children.

After that unpleasantness, he posits:

Aisha married willingly under circumstances that supported that marriage in an age when it was not an unusual thing and at an age when a girl normally reaches puberty

Just how ‘willing’ can a six-years-old girl be? Of course at the time women and girls were treated as property. Of course child rape was not a crime when the sex toy belonged to you. Whether the girl had actually reached puberty or not was no issue either. And by the way: humans reach sexual maturity at 12-15 years of age, not at 9.

The youngest “mothers” of the world (married or unmarried) mostly happen not to be Muslims, but from amongst those who are most critical of A’isha’s young age at marriage, i.e. from the West. […] It shows the degree of moral degradation of the West and the westernized minds that they have no objection about having boyfriends and indulging in illicit sex at an early age but it is not acceptable to marry and have a husband at the same age to perform the same act legally with moral and religious sanction.

Here Imran goes completely overboard, deliberately conflating adolescent sex, paedophilia, and puritanical taboos about sex. The issue at hand, Imran, is not young mothers nor teens having sex – but old men having sex with children, i.e. child rape! What a disgraceful attempt at misdirection and shifting the blame. Calling the west ‘morally depraved’ while advocating adults having sex with children is a new low even for religious apologists.

All equivocating aside: it is a fact that 50-plus years old men must not have sex with pre-teens. Just like slavery is and always was evil (and therefore makes the Bible morally unacceptable on this account), so has sex with children always been, and will always be, immoral. The problem isn’t so much that Mohammed’s deed was socially acceptable at the time, it is that in many regions of the world his precedent is used to permit child rape today; it makes raping children socially acceptable today.

Let’s be blunt: these are not misconceptions. Muhammed was 52, and Aisha was 9 (or 10) when he forced himself on her. At the time it was socially acceptable. Today this constitutes child rape. Because Mohammed was 52 and Aisha still a child, the accusation of paedophilia has some merit, even if Mohammed wasn’t in the strictest sense a pedophile: he regularly did have sex with a child.

Imran, who I suspect is equally revolted by child rape, is doing girls everywhere a great disservice when he tries to defend, or at least lessen, the crime of child rape. It’s indefensible, and you are ill advised to try to make it look better or gloss over how damaging it is to its victims.

Imran – Some things in your scripture are simply evil. Accept that. By trying to argue the merits of child rape you make yourself look as immoral and ethically inept as Professor Craig when he defends genocide in the Bible.

Voting Rights

There is a disturbing trend in politicians to try to put ‘new rights’ up for vote: should gay couples be allowed to marry, or should women be allowed to drive cars.

Here’s the problem: true rights are not supposed to be voted on. Once discovered, they must apply instantly, universally. They are there to protect us from those who vote. If all rights could be voted on, democracy would become what has erroneously been attributed to Benjamin Franklin:

Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch

If we allowed the wolves to vote on protection for minorities, they’d vote that down in an instant. Then the’d vote on lunch.

That’s why we must never allow votes on rights. We must simply implement them once we discover they exist.

George Stinney

Last Wednesday was a good day for George Stinney: after a long, protracted battle in court, he was finally cleared of all charges. The charges were serious: first degree murder of two pre-teen girls. But it was now established that Stinney could not have committed the crime. So all is well that ends well, right? Not quite. Stinney already has been executed. He was 14 years old when the state of South Carolina put him on the electric chair.

When people ask me why I’m against capital punishment, this is the second most important point: we can be wrong, but death is permanent. We can never be 100% sure. It is estimated that between 5-8 percent of all US death row inmates are not guilty of the crime they have been sentenced for. In 2012 the USA executed 43 prisoners, thereby killing at least 3 people that are innocent. Whoopsies? I think not.

That point alone should convince us to never execute a prisoner. So what’s the number one reason to abolish capital punishment?

Because we no longer are savages.

Commie Constitution

Everyone’s favorite right-wingnut Rick Santorum, on his way to establish a christian theocracy in the USA, went on record in a conference call with this:

The word ‘separation of church and state’ is not in the U.S. Constitution, but it was in the constitution of the former Soviet Union.

Oh, those godless commie bastards! First, separation of church and state is not one, but five words. But that’s immaterial. In truly Monty Pythonesque manner Rick has proven before that he can’t be trusted to be able to count to three, much less above that exalted number. Five is right out.

Surprisingly, Rick, you are right – to a point: the US Constitution uses the words ‘wall of separation between church and state’ instead – in the First Amendment. For someone who allegedly wants to protect the Constitution, Santorum shows a remarkable lack of knowledge about what’s actually in it.

Well, in that he’s on par with most of his fellow devout Christians who profess to live by the Bible, yet have no idea of what it contains.

Christian Love

Muslims will tell you that their’s is the religion of peace. And Christians state that Christianity is the religion of love. In both cases, we’ll have to take their claims with a few rather large grains of salt.

Since it’s currently no challenge to disprove the ‘peace’ thing, let’s look at Christian ‘love’:

Many devout christians tell me that I have to let Jesus into my heart – by which they mean that I have to believe their preposterous claptrap and behave in their homophobic, misogynic ways. If I believe in Jesus, so they say, I’ll be saved and go to heaven when I die. If I don’t, I’ll go to hell.

Now, let’s look at the endgame. Let’s say you accept Jesus, I don’t. You are now in heaven, I’m in hell. You’ll experience bliss and happiness, I’ll be eternally tortured. Now what does that tell us about your moral standard if you can be happy in heaven, fully knowing that I’m suffering in hell?

Pretty much the same that it tells us about Christianity.

Gay choice

There are some (usually religious homophobes) who maintain that ‘homosexuality is a choice’. Anyone who has ever tried that knows that it’s really not. Your sexual orientation is about as much a choice as your ‘decision’ to breathe. Those to whom sexual orientation is a choice are usually either bisexual (lucky bastards!) or sadly repressed homosexuals who are afraid to live their true self.

But let us, for the sake of discussion, imagine sexual orientation was a choice. Now what?

Well, homophobes do not really say ‘homosexuality is a choice’ – they say ‘homosexuality is immoral, and if you choose to be attracted to your own sex, you are being immoral’.

But would choosing to be gay really be immoral? Why exactly? Are you telling me that loving someone is immoral? What exactly is immoral about loving someone? Wait – are you saying that another person’s attributes decide the morality of what I do? Does that even make sense?

Let’s face it: saying that loving someone of your own sex is immoral really only tells us one thing: you mustn’t be asked for moral advice.

Nuclear Blasphemy

There is this recurring pipe dream many liberals have (and this did include me) that most muslims are peaceful people (which is true) and that only a tiny minority harbors dangerous ideas. People who say differently are often denounced as bigots, racist (really?) or ‘Islamophobes’. Now, there doubtlessly are people who deserve to be denounced for irrational hatred of Islam or religion. Others have unfairly been accused of being anti-Islam for merely pointing out a provable fact.

While I agree that the majority of muslims are peaceful, it is also a provable fact that the absolute majority of muslims today harbor dangerous ideas: that blasphemy and apostasy are punishable offenses. This is definitely not something that only a few lost causes believe: a few days ago, the Lahore Supreme Court confirmed the death penalty for Asia Bibi, the woman whose only crime is an alleged unkind word about Allah. She is to be put to death because of something she said – and the majority of her country agrees that this is justified. The same is true for most (perhaps even all) muslim dominated countries; it would be foolish to argue otherwise, as that fact was established via polls multiple times over the past three years. So while most of these muslims are indeed peaceful and loving people, a dangerous flaw in their ideology will prevent them from stopping grave injustice. That is the indisputable result when a majority harbors dangerous ideas, and Asia Bibi will pay the ultimate price.

Now, you may think that this is tragic on an individual level, but should have no significant consequences for the world. Until you realize that the same country that sentences a woman to die for uttering a word, also has an arsenal of nuclear weapons.

What do you think will happen if this nation felt that another country has insulted their god? Do you really think that in this case suddenly the majority will realize that blasphemy is not an offense punishable by death? Phrased drastically:

Do you really want someone who thinks insulting his imaginary fried is a capital offense have their hands on a nuclear trigger ?

Of course above question is much too simplistic, as there are (hopefully) more checks in place that control the release of nuclear weapons. I don’t think that Pakistan is on the verge to nuke another country.

But people should not be punished for pointing out the truth, even if that truth does not meet what we wish was true: that only a few bad apples spoil the batch. Currently, a substantial portion of the muslim society is tainted by ideas that can cause immense suffering. This doesn’t mean that it makes people behave immoral, but it can – and does – prevent them from becoming more ethical. Being ethical means to never intentionally harm someone and to prevent people from making others suffer. It’s the latter part that is more important – because it’s what makes us a society. If prevent harm to others is somehow subverted, the whole society suffers, dragging their ethical standard down. If your religion or some other ideology stays your hand while a human is made to suffer – because they are gay, blaspheme, changed their religion or have a different skin color – you and the society you live in is ethically deeply flawed.

I should be able to point out this basic fact without being branded as an immoral, irrational bigot.

Or be put to death for blasphemy.

Cat-callers go apeshit

It all started with a video: a woman walking down some New York streets, being the target of a lot of cat-calls. Even if parts of the video are fake (as was accused, but not proven), it definitely made an impression. To many men, the number of cat-calls was surprisingly high; most women say that it feels about right. Even if parts of the movie were staged, it points to an actual issue. So silly me thought that the issue was clear cut: the video shows that there are a lot of men who say things like ‘hey babe’ to a strange women, believing they are doing her a favor, while women think this behavior is bordering on harassment. Condensed into the short movie, the point, I thought, was crystal clear. I thought.

Enter Steven Santagati, who considers himself god’s gift to womankind. In a discussion on CNN, Steven went on to give new meaning to the term mansplainin’: not only did he explain to the two women on CNN what they really want, he also advised them that their best course of action to counter every-day harassment would be to carry a gun, and blow away the cat-callers.

Now, contrasting the original video to the sentiments of a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal, who explains the world as perceived by a single-digit IQ brain, I thought this was a slam-dunk – one of those rare cases where everyone agrees.

Reading the comments on YouTube (a bad idea even on a good day), I found further proof against evolution: if you think humanity has evolved from monkeys, you are dead wrong. We are still apes.

Then again, using a gun to get rid of cat-callers is a surprisingly Darwinian approach to this problem.