Merry Christmas

You know? You can celebrate holidays by doing your own thing right? I never really celebrated christmas becaus I was a Hindu (Duh! Why don’t you guys have a day where you get drunk and throw paint at each other? Why don’t you guys have a festival solely devoted to money? Why don’t you guys have a festival every other week?)

You can celebrate a holiday in way that means something to you. Infact that’s what people do for christmas. Mine goes and volunteers because we never really had a religious obligation. I used to work for the samaritans. Before that, my aunt and me would cook dinner and we would all spend time together. Because the time you spend with loved ones is more important than any god. You don’t need there to be a god to enjoy a holiday.

And that’s something Bill O’Reilley would never ever understand because he thinks that belief in a specific entity allows or prevents you to enjoy a specific day in the year.

To him the meaning of christmas is kowtowing to a mythical being. Not family, not friends, not the people you love. That somehow people are missing out from the spirit of christmas by staying at home with friends and family rather than going to a church. He probably assumes that there is something fundamentally wrong with anyone who doesn’t pray to his format of god on that day. And that is one thing I adore about Hindus in India. Holi is for everyone. Pongal is for everyone. Diwali is for everyone. The party doesn’t stop if you are a christian, or if you are a muslim. The prayer to Lakshmi is incidental to people lighting fireworks and spending time with family and friends which is far more important. My muslim neighbours know I am not very religious but still send around biriyani and sweets on Eid because that’s what being inclusive means.

Tim Tebow is mocked because he mixes faith and his sport a bit too much. While most players are fine with making the sign of the cross as they run onto the pitch or (there are fair few muslim players in football) reciting a short prayer in their heads. Tim Tebow disrupts the game with his worship and so draws ridicule. It also implies that God is more interested in Sport than say… feeding poor people (Then again since mankind made god in his image, Bill probably thinks god hates poor people).

And Jesus was not born into poverty. Jesus was born to a bloody carpenter. A job which at the time would have made Jesus middle class. The entire story boils down to “Mary had contractions while on holiday”.

I wouldn’t class Jesus as the most influential human being on earth. It’s rather insulting to real human beings whose influence changed the way we live our lives. Diamler Benz invented the Motor Car, more people rely on one than on Jesus. Fritz Haber invented artificial fertiliser, guess how many people across the world live due to his invention? The world is a sadder place with the loss of Steve Jobs but we have to remember the world works via Windows not OSX and thus Bill Gates would be more important than Jesus. I would also bring up Gandhi and Nehru whose work inspired billions across the world to freedom from Martin Luther King to Nelson Mandela and Vaclav Havel. Others? Nicholas Tesla? Edison? Newton? Alexis Carrel? Alexander Fleming? Mary Curie? The Rolling Stones? The Beatles? Pele? Maradona? Zidane? Sachin Tendulkar? The man who first saw fire? The man who first saw the wheel? The man who brewed beer? And these are just the good examples! Not every influential person was good. Hitler? Stalin? Mao? George W Bush Jr? Ghenghis Khan?

So no, I can name people more influential than Jesus or Shiva or Allah or any god out there. Because that’s the difference between normal people and Bill. We can see the good in people and we can appreciate the good parts of humanity and revile the bad parts of humanity. We don’t ignore the achievements of real people. And that we as humans need to realise that there were countless people behind these names who worked to achieve their influence on the world. That the reason for for the season is not just axial tilt but also the things that humanity has to offer. 

Pimping Is Easy

I also have a gold keyboard!
And my mouse is encrusted in rhinestone.

A friend of mine has recently decided to start a blog and I quite liked his first post and figured that you guys may too.

D-Michaels makes an excellent point with regards to how a separation of church and state could be applied to corporations to prevent corporate interests from sticking their fingers into every single pie the US has and how we should place legislation to prevent the current shenanigans from ever happening again.

If you enjoy my rants then you will certainly enjoy his diatribe

A weird week

There goes a saying, celebrities die in threes. Over the past two days, two more men who shaped the world passed away. Kim Jong Il was obviously the more famous of the two, but the one that saddened me the most was Vaclav Havel.

Havel is the man who gave us the Prague Spring, and the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia. In my time in Prague everything I read about this man spoke volumes to me, He was an artist who fought for the freedom of his tiny nation on the very front lines eventually helping in the fragmentation of the Soviet Union via peaceful revolution. His humanism and his compassion freed a nation and saw it through some incredibly trying times including a partition. The Czech Republic and indeed the world has lost a great human being who upheld the humanist tradition in the best way possible.

It is a truly sad week for the world as two great men who did a world of good have passed away.

The Lost Horseman

It is said that a man does not truly die until his name fades from the lips of those who still live.
Christopher Hitchens passed away from pneumonia that arose as a result of his oesophageal cancer.
We remember Hitchens as the wolverine of atheism. Completely unapologetic, completely tough and utterly willing to fight against entities of spirituality and faith the majority of atheists wouldn’t dream of touching. It was Hitchens who took on Mother Theresa, pointing out that despite the millions her charity received (and the exchange rate which means that back then you could do a lot with a dollar in India) her Home for the Dying was still a grim pit of suffering while her sisters built more convents and more private schools and that her attitudes towards contraception was entirely laughable. It was Hitchens who pointed out that Gandhian philosophy’s Luddite nature that was so impressive in creating a credible defence against the British Raj would also doom India to be forever a village economy. Even if we ignore Hitch’s atheism, we can safely say that he brought a healthy dose of reality to figures we automatically deify and reminded us that at their core, people are people. They are filled with little flaws and foibles and mistakes, and that we should bear that in mind. He also made us realise how truly great some of these achievements were. Say what you want about Mother Theresa’s faith but the woman was willing to work in TB wards and with Lepers at a time when most people would have run screaming from such diseases. Say what you want about Martin Luther King’s faith but the man fought for black freedom. Say what you want about Gandhi’s Hinduism but the man put himself on the line too. The fact that these people did these acts, out of pure human ability rather than the powers of the divine is a testament to what humans can achieve.

People say that atheism doesn’t deal with grief and death in a productive way.  We are all different; we all want different things from grief. Some of us are happy to think that our personality and memories live on as a soul in some paradise. To me that is false comfort. It is the equivalent of telling a child that a dead dog has gone off to live on a farm. Some of us are happy that we have a life well lived (a luxury most of us cannot enjoy). I feel that what would please me most in life is that Hitchens lived his life well and enjoyed it. Lest we forget that sometimes life is its own reward.

There is life after death, just not in the way we think about it. We don’t persist but our body does. The elements and compounds that make up our intelligent reaction do not falter and will not falter till the very heat death of our universe. To me the line that gives me most peace is from The Amber Spyglass.

“Even if it means oblivion, friends, I’ll welcome it, because it won’t be nothing. We will be alive again in a thousand blades of grass, and a million leaves; we will be falling in the raindrops and blowing in the fresh breeze; we’ll be glittering in the dew under the stars and the moon out there in the physical world, which is our true home and always was”

Our mortality is almost guaranteed, our life is however ours to live. We can chose to do what we wish with it. Hitch lived his to make us think, to make us question ourselves and to make us grow as people because we question our own beliefs.

You don’t have to agree with what other atheists say. We are a group of people bound by the ability to not agree with anyone and that includes each other. The writings of major atheists are equally subject to honest critique, they aren’t gospel. I and Hitchens sorely differ on our attitudes to the war on terror and the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact his support for the Iraq and Afghan wars is counter to what I consider as a sane solution. I understand Islam sucks but no religion accepts change at the barrel of a gun, least of all Islam. That tarring the entirety of Islam with the Wahabbist brush or the Iranian theocratic brush threatens to harm our own movement as it is intellectually bankrupt. It’s the reason I don’t like the work of Pat Condell, who treats muslims as a single entity and who simplifies the issues facing muslims without realising underlying issues.

Hitchen’s misogyny was also well known and quite honestly? I don’t think the cigarettes, cigars and heavy boozing did him any favours. One can squarely point a finger at the cigars (a known causative of throat and oesophageal cancer).

But that’s the point. Hitchens is not immune to criticism on points that he was wrong on.  Nor would he have wanted to be immune to such criticism. His entire message was that no man should be free of criticism if it is honest and true (otherwise it’s just slander).

Hitchens doesn’t just live on as the molecules that make up our word. A man is more than just the molecules he is made up of. Hitchens lives on his writing. I don’t think we should treat his writings as a bible, but we should certainly keep reading and critiquing his works for many of us grew as atheists because of them and atheists to come can learn from his work.  It can inspire us to leave works of our own. The world is all we have and it is our responsibility to do what we can. To leave the world slightly better for our children and those who come after us. To leave them stories of real people and real achievements rather than the tired rules and morality of those who came before us. We need to build on that.

“That is why we need our full lives; we wouldn’t be able to build it. No one could if they put themselves first. We have to be all those difficult things like cheerful and kind curious and patient and we’ve got to study and think and work hard, all of us, in all our different worlds and then we’ll build… The Republic of Heaven”

The world has lost a marvellous human being.

Age of Kali/Rights of the Silent Majority – Clothes don’t Rape. People do.

The Bangalore Slut Walk was supposed to take place yesterday to highlight the increasing levels of sexual violence and rape. In essence it heralds a new wave of feminism in the old entrenched world of Indian chauvinism.

For most people who are unfamiliar with the goals of these walks, the Slut Walk is an empowerment movement amongst women who are attempting to hammer home a simple point; that a woman is entitled to wear whatever she feels like and that blaming her attire for rape is an argument of rape apologists who are unwilling to realise the failings on the part of the society and culture that protects rape.

And rape is common in India, in fact marital rape is so common that there are no statistics for it. It’s regarded as “acceptable” and normal. There are women who adamantly state that the marriage contract entitles men to sex whenever they feel like without any opinion of the woman and so therefore rape cannot occur. I am sure that no part of the civil or religious ceremony goes “Do you agree to have sex whenever the man feels like it, till death do you part?”. In fact, I am actually considered quite weird for actually asking “Why is it acceptable”.

The Bangalore Slut Walk was broken up by police who used the “For your own safety” argument. The reason? Right wing Hindu religious groups threatened violence should the march take place. And these groups have support from politicians who are often indistinguishable in India from criminal thugs. The message of the walk was simple; Clothes don’t rape people. People do.

The organisers were threatened by far right Hindu extremists from a variety of sources including so-called women’s rights groups who threatened to “beat them with broomsticks”. For instance the Ram Sena (A Hindu  Right wing group that can happily be called Neo Nazi and had a direct influence on me becoming an Atheist) offered the statement of

“I thank the police for taking these people into custody. They are spoiling the culture and are encouraging women to indulge in obscenity.”

It’s okay! It’s an Indian dress! The cleavage
is cultural and not obscene! Unlike jeans.

Indian culture once glorified the burning of women in Sati. Indian culture still encourages the ostracisation of widows (men are of course free to get married). Indian culture treats women as a burden, so much so that gender selective abortion and female infanticide are rife to the point where there are roughly 900 women to every 1000 men.

1 out of 10 potential women either meet their ends as sex selective abortion or infanticide. In some parts of India women are nothing more than sex holes and beasts of burden. A drain on the economy of the family due to the practice of dowry and a source of misery to the point where killing a female child was often seen as necessary.

Frankly? These are parts of Indian culture that should die. I am sure Indian culture would be better off without the sexism. Do you know what spoils culture? Holding onto to things that are blatantly harmful to it until it corrupts the good bits of Indian culture. I don’t see these arseholes complaining about Indian movies whose heroines who could happily be replaced with a dressmaker’s dummy for all the difference they make to the plot. I say that denigrates women because it inculcates the cultural idea that women cannot be strong characters without a “man to tame them”, that a woman can only demonstrate her sexuality around her “one true love”. I don’t see these arseholes complaining about the sexual harassment that is rife within the Indian male population (which is playfully referred to as eve teasing) which is a mix of japanese grope culture and full on sexual harassment. What I do see is people blaming the victims of sexual harassment and rape.

And it’s insulting to both genders. That women somehow are at fault for being amazing and beautiful and all that to men. That Saris and Salwar Kameez are rape armour and that the Purdah stops rape? That men cannot control their gonads around women? That man’s attraction for women is based on how much skin they are showing? I am half surprised that the Ram Sena didn’t come out and say that women would be less likely to be raped if they stayed at home and wore paper bags over their heads rather than work in a man’s world where they would turn good, honest, hardworking young men into slavering rapists with their vaginas. Fuck it! Why not go the whole distance and scar women’s faces so that young men are never enticed by beauty!

Or you could stop encouraging a culture where sexual harassment and rape isn’t a big deal.

The ultimate irony is in arresting some of the protesters and breaking up the march, the Police of Bangalore proved the point they were trying to make. That slut shaming and victim blaming is rife in Indian culture and rather than punishing the perpetrators of crime, the victims are forced to acquiesce to their ridiculous requests.

This is the purdah, an idea
similar to the islamic one of the headscarf
or the burkha 

The correct option would have been to provide protection for these women and men who were willing to march for a better future. To let them march, to make the point that women have an equal role in India and that equality is coming. That the clothes you wear doesn’t change the person you are. The correct option would have been to tell the religious right to “go the hell  away”. The correct option would have been to realise that victim blaming and slut shaming is the defence of the rape apologist.

All the Bangalore police have done is satiated male chauvinists and hindu extremists. It has proven that they are complicit in slut shaming and encourage the notion that it’s the woman’s fault if she is raped due to the location and the clothes she wears. In short, they have proven the need for such events such as the Slut Walk.

Show them some love, their facebook page needs it