That little problem you have? It’s you.

While we’re in the midst of the current course of conversation (you know what I mean), let’s not forget religion’s long list of crimes in the sex wars either. And speaking of Islam…

Here’s the latest stupid shit from Indonesia: They’re making miniskirts illegal because they “make men do things.”

"...Let's see, need to pick up cat food, put this check in the bank, then see about dinner plans, and...huh? what the... BLGGHAAAH AAAAARRGGG MUST RAAAPEE!"

What religion does under the guise of “morality” is rarely more than flat-out misanthropy. The thinking here is both idiotically misogynist (the old victim-blaming) and misandrist (because mehnz are such weak-willed animals that the mere sight of female thigh-flesh transforms us into rampaging sex-Hulks). And you know, I really get tired of people who are so determined to avoid a little thing called personal responsibility that they’ll trade in both victim-blaming/slut-shaming and the myth of male weakness in the same breath, when what they should be doing is looking in the goddamn mirror and saying, “You know, maybe I’m the asshole.”

Here’s a little PSA.

Miniskirts do not cause rape. Bikinis do not cause rape. Cleavage does not cause rape.

Rapists cause rape.

This has been a public service announcement from a human being with more than single-digit functioning brain cells.

Have a nice day, Indonesians.

Matt Slick defends “honor killing”: a woman’s hymen is worth more than her life

By way of introduction, some of you will remember Matt Dillahunty’s on-air debate with apologist Matt Slick of the CARM website, which was recorded on February 22, 2009. If you missed it, here you go. Keep in mind this is the first of nine parts.

Recently one of our viewers emailed us about a rather alarming article by Slick on the CARM site that stands as an exemplar of just how religion’s confused notions of what constitutes “morality” has led religion to be the foremost enabler of atrocity in history. In brief, when Christians insist that morality itself is impossible without Christianity, and atheists reply by rattling off endless examples both from scripture and real life of the devout behaving badly, the spin machine kicks into gear so fast you can practically see the Higgs boson particles zinging off it in all directions. Justify, justify, justify, is the order of the day.

Here, Slick justifies what may be one of the most appalling crimes there is: the “honor killing” of daughters (yes, it’s always daughters) who are not acceptably virginal in the eyes of their fathers and grooms. In this context, “father” and “groom” is a term interchangeable with “owner.”

Slick begins by quoting a lengthy passage from Deuteronomy in which God’s laws for dealing with an insufficiently chaste bride are detailed. The passage first declares that any groom who is caught trying to weasel out of his marriage by lying that his bride was not a virgin will be fined 100 shekels and then forbidden from ever divorcing his wife as long as he lives (which I imagine is considered the worse punishment). On the other hand, if it turns out that the bride was indeed not a virgin at her nuptials, then the skanky ho is to be taken out and stoned to death.

So let’s review. Man at fault = fined money. Woman at fault = murdered. Yeah, that sounds ever so egalitarian!

To attempt to defend a practice so primitive, inhumane and frankly monstrous, one would, you’d think, have to be not only an idiot, but someone plumbing hitherto unexamined depths of idiocy just to see how far he could go before imploding into something like a black hole of idiocy so dense that nothing, not even light, can escape. Well, folks, we have that intrepid explorer right here. Step right up, Mr. Slick.

When you got nothin’, you got nothin’ to lose, and so Slick leads with his worst punch.

Critics of the Bible must be careful not to impose their present day moral system upon that of an ancient culture found in Scripture and then judge Scripture as though it is inferior to their own subjective morality. The above verses were written 3,000 years ago in a very different culture and location.

Uhhh…yeah. Let’s see, how do I explain this to someone so intellectually impacted?

What is at issue here is the notion of treating a human being as property, denied any sense of personal agency. By slipping in that favorite of all apologetic weasel phrases, “subjective morality,” Slick doubtless believes he’s scored a home run right out of the dugout, when in fact it’s a pop fly. If anyone here is exhibiting “subjective” morality, it’s Slick, making the above quote one of the most awesome irony-meter-melting sentences you’re likely to read from an apologetics source.

Slick appears to accept that our moral precepts are different from those of 3000 years ago. Thus he suggests that while we may be right to be appalled at savage acts of cruelty towards young women in 2011 CE, we have no reason to be appalled by the same acts in 989 BCE. (Yeah, I used a calculator.) I guess time heals all wounds, eh? And yet, Slick gives us no reason why we should suspend our “subjective” morality in this way. Beyond basically saying “This is how they rolled back then,” we are given no valid moral justification (hell, I’d have even taken a mildly coherent one) for why we should think misogynist brutality is A-okay as long as it happened long long ago.

Moreover, is there a statute of limitations (maybe in the fine print at the bottom of the decalogue tablets) for this kind of thing? Is there a cutoff period where my “subjective” morality just becomes straight-up morality and it’s okay for me to call an atrocity an atrocity? Can I just look at American slavery and say, “Well, I must must be careful not to impose my present day moral system on the culture of 160 years ago.” Or is it too soon?

Let us briefly consider what is involved in stoning someone to death.

Matt Frauenfelder at Boing Boing (too many Matts in this piece, I must say) has helpfully provided us with an illustrated guide. This graphic shows how they do it in the Muslim world, which is the only contemporary culture I know of still goat-fucking barbaric enough to pull this crap. The details might have been different when the ancient Jews did it, but I suspect the results were the same: a dead girl.

First the victim is partially buried standing up, because it’s no fun if the stonee is running around frantically for her life. You might miss and hit your mom or something. Then, the actual process of killing the victim can take anywhere from 20 minutes to a couple of hours, depending on, I don’t know, whether the victim’s skull is especially thick, or whether the stones are nice and hard or soft and crumbly, or maybe it’s just a matter of how goddamned sadistic the killers are feeling that day.

Imagine being in the pit. You can see nothing, but you hear the deafening roar of the crowd’s bloodlust. Your pulse is hammering, and you have probably already shit yourself in blind terror. Then, after what seems like an agonizing eternity, the first rock clips you. Maybe it hurts like a bastard, but wasn’t hard enough to kill you. (In Islamist countries, there is in fact a law that the rocks used cannot be so heavy and large as to kill with the first blow. Not nice spoiling everyone’s fun.) But after the explosion of pain, you start feeling light-headed, dizzy. A few more blows, and you go into shock. Your vital signs plunge, your whole body begins to feel cold, and if you haven’t shit yourself already, now you do. You slip out of consciousness. If you’re lucky, you’ll die very soon after this.

I suspect this is as terrifying and brutal a way to die 3000 years ago as it is today. I see no reason to think a young girl experiencing the above back in the distant past would have felt any less horror, agony and despair than her modern-day counterpart. So why is Slick telling me that it’s okay to be appalled by modern-day stonings, but that I’m out of line for being appalled by 3000-year-old stonings? Is there some “moral absolute” at play that I’m just not Christian enough to get here?

Anyway, let your imagination run with all this as you continue to read Slick’s apologia. Remember the above is what he’s defending.

Sexual purity was very highly valued, unlike today, and when a man would marry a woman, her virginity was critical. In ancient times a dowry was paid to the father of the bride and the rightful expectation was that the bride would be a virgin.

So there, you see? She’s his property, so that makes it okay. And notice the snide aside about “sexual purity [being] highly valued, unlike today.” Yeah, because we all know a woman’s hymen is of more value to her male owner than her fucking life. There’s your religious “morality,” gang.

When you’re in a hole, stop digging, unless you’re a Christian apologist. Slick goes on yet some more, reiterating that really, it’s just all about teh mehnz.

In the culture of the time it was the father who was charged with the covering, care, and well-being of his daughter. Her sexual purity was representative of the father’s ability to raise her according to the laws God. Therefore, in that culture, a man’s reputation, as well as the family’s reputation in the community, could be adversely affected by the fornication of his daughter. If his daughter had been promised to a man to be married, and a dowry had been paid, there was every expectation from the bridegroom that she would be a virgin. If the contrary was discovered after the marriage, then the implication is that there had been a deception in which the father could be implicated, or it would mean that he was unaware of her sin and this would bring great shame to the family and the community, not to mention it being a display of outright rebellion against God’s law. In this case, to insure the integrity of the family, and to remove the evil of adulterous/fornication from the community, stoning was advocated.

Again with the “in that culture” business. Here is why Matt Slick is a moral imbecile: S.F.W. if this activity was the norm “in that culture”; does Slick think it’s right or wrong to do this to another human being, period? Especially — especially — for reasons as pitifully selfish and banal as your own “shame.” Slick steadfastly avoids passing any moral judgment upon the killing, while telling “critics of the Bible” they are in no position to pass a moral judgment either, which is itself a moral judgment. Somehow, you can’t condemn death by stoning (if it’s ancient and Biblical, that is, because something tells me Slick would flip-flop in a picosecond when presented with the spectacle of modern-day Islamist stonings), but you can condemn those who’d condemn it, on the ground that they are somehow applying “subjective” moral standards.

So what is the Godly “moral absolute” on this issue then, Mr. Slick? Can young women be treated as chattel by their fathers and husbands, or not? Can they be murdered for making men embarrassed about their pee-pees, or not? If a “morally subjective” approach is the wrong way to think about all this, then clearly a “morally absolute” approach is the right way. So what does the absolute moral lawgiver have to say, Mr. Slick? Is he pissed off that we no longer stone our women to death? If his morals are absolute, shouldn’t this still be common practice today?

I think I’ve said enough. If any article demonstrates better than this one how badly religion can screw up a human being’s fundamental sense of right and wrong, I’ve managed to miss it. Religion, far from providing anything like morality, simply sets a list of arbitrary rules that allow any number of vile acts to be visited upon the helpless, and it is all elaborately justified with feeble rhetoric later. Secular morality may not be perfect either, but it is immeasurably stronger for being rooted in basic human empathy and reason. Not only do I not need a God to tell me that “honor killings” are a horrible evil, but it appears that people who do have a God don’t think it’s all that evil after all. Lord, protect me from your followers!

(That was sarcasm.)

Onward Christian Thugs

This week in Texas, State Senator Dan Patrick proposed a bill to require women seeking abortions to undergo a mandatory sonogram, see the image of the fetus, hear its heartbeat, and hear a mandated description of the fetus by the doctor. The only purpose of such a bill is to coerce women into making a choice that Dan Patrick and his fellow Christian thugs think is the moral one. These sorts of bills have been proposed and many approved all over the country. Fortunately for Texas, some of the most odious parts of this particular bill have been softened in committee, leaving only the doctor-supplied fetal description mandatory.

The number of things wrong with this sort of effort are astonishing. Let’s see if we can list a few of them:

  • A major objection would have to be that these sorts of bills are a transparent (and often successful) attempt to use the government as a tool to further the lawmaker’s Christian beliefs. The supposedly “secular” purpose of the bill is education, but that’s a ruse (but we’ll get to that.) If freedom of religion means anything, it means freedom from religion — freedom from transparent con games.
  • They might also claim that they’re trying to reduce abortions, but that would be framing the issue wrongly. They are trying to create more people who can be coerced into their religion. You never see these Christian groups promote birth control, mandatory waiting periods or mandated doctor intervention for the MEN who are impregnating these women. You do see Christian groups working to remove an honest teaching of the responsibilities of parenthood in high school health classes. Christians feel that they’ve gotten the process this far with their efforts. They have to “close the loop” and get the baby born. See “God’s Little Rabbits” for more about their success.
  • They (and we all) know there is no God to whom they can pray to make more human beings. Only a moron would believe such a thing, right Dan? Matt. 7:7, Matt. 17:20, Matt. 21:21, Mark 11:24, John 14:12-14, Matt. 18:18 all have Jesus claiming that prayer works all the time. Gen. 1:26 (and others) has God creating humans. Christians don’t believe that stuff. Christians know they have to co-opt as many uteruses as they can (there’s plenty of sperm to go around — just make masturbation taboo).
  • Dan and his fellow Christians know that God and the church have failed to enforce their edicts on their flock. The absolutely must use the real power of the government to achieve their end.
  • After the baby is born, they lose interest. Christians know that the evolution-engineered motherhood hormones will kick in. While Christians want to have the power to make these decisions, they never step up to the plate when it comes to the responsibility for the child. If they ever did, you’d see Christian organizations make deals with women where the deep-pocketed Christian group would fund the child through college in exchange for the mother bringing the child to term. Christians instead use coercion and thuggery, which are their time honored tools.
  • Christians claim to care about poverty, but efforts like this have the effect of creating poverty. Again, the marketing doesn’t match the actual behavior. Their only “solution” here is to encourage single mothers to get married. “Family values” apparently means the creation of families by coercion. No wonder the divorce rates of evangelicals and fundamentalists is higher than that of atheists.
  • Christians like Dan don’t think the mother has the intellectual capacity to make the moral decision to keep the child, but they seem to think that she is perfectly capable of raising it. Ironically, the women seeking abortion are the ones that know their limitations. I’ll trust a woman’s decision about her abilities over Dan Patrick any day of the eternity.
  • There is often some claim of the “sanctity of life”, but Christianity is a religion that teaches our bodies are little more than soul traps whose natural use is to release the soul so that it can go meet the Christian god. The god of the Bible is a murderous thug who has also commanded the murder of children and the unborn. The “sanctity of life” is a complete fabrication incompatible with Christian dogma.
  • Dan Patrick is not a doctor, nor are any of the law makers (that I know of) creating laws like this. They have no business interfering with medical procedures.
  • Dan and his ilk clearly don’t believe in the golden rule, such as stated in Matt. 7:12. If they did, they would welcome others to insert themselves in their own medical treatments. I would encourage those of you who do believe in the golden rule to make Christians aware of this fact. If you can find someone who advocates Christian interference in medical practices, teach them a practical lesson in Jesus’ moral teachings.
  • Supposedly, women seeking abortions need education. I have yet to see a bill mandating education about the cost and responsibility of raising a child or the risk of child birth. There are no bills forcing women to see pictures of women who died in child birth. There’s no education about the emotional risks of postpartum depression and the risk of the mother harming the child or herself. The “education” that Christians propose is one-sided.
  • Christian efforts to slow abortion have failed. According to this article, countries with strong religious belief have higher rates of abortion. We might make more progress taxing religions and using those funds to support unwanted children.
  • Finally, I don’t see anything resembling compassion in Dan Patrick’s bill or other efforts by Christians to prevent abortion. These people clearly care more about their invisible friends (their concepts of god) than the women they seek to manipulate.

Christians claim to care about “sin”, but overlook the issue of responsibility. Christians seek to try to make their god happy by coercion and manipulation of vulnerable people. The atheists I know, focus on responsibility. How can we educate people so that the understand the consequences of their actions? How can we provide them with tools to mitigate harm? How can we help people who know they are in over their head? Abortion is not a good thing, but why don’t we start using reason, responsibility, and compassion to address the problem?

Notice how misogynist the GOP has gotten lately? Want to do something fun about it?

Abortion rights is not necessarily an atheist issue. But it is a human rights issue. And it’s something the Christian Right has chosen to go to war over with its biggest, nastiest guns. They’re not exactly about playing fair either.

Recently, civilized hominids everywhere were left slack-jawed in disbelief when Republicans tried to redefine rape in order to make it damn near impossible for any actual rape survivor to terminate her pregnancy. They coined the baffling term “forcible rape,” implying they think there’s such a thing as “consensual rape.” Or something. Anyway, it’s obvious no Good Christian Woman would be out drinkin’ in bars and shit. So if some slutty sinful whore gets her drink roofied, it’s obviously her fault for not being pure enough, ain’t it?

Now it’s gotten crazier. As it seems to be GOP policy to constantly try to out-douche one another, Pennsylvania’s Republican Senator Joe Pitts has introduced H.R. 358. This bill would allow hospitals staffed by the kinds of people with a bug up their ass about abortion and a thin grasp of the Hippocratic Oath not only to decline to provide a life-saving abortion to a woman who direly needs one, but even to refuse to facilitate transporting her to a hospital that will. Save her life, that is. So we are presented with the spectacle of a woman dying in agony in a hospital parking lot while the nurses and orderlies on duty calmly watch Oprah and tweet about their weekends. Paradoxically, Pitts calls this the “Protect Life Act.” What a lovely thing Christian family values are.

And remember, these are the same people bleating about less government, less government!

It’s especially boggling when women, in what can only be thought of as Stockholm Syndrome taken to exponential new heights, fall into the right-wing misogyny camp and oppose the very medical procedures designed to help them in the unfortunate and hopefully unlikely event they will need them. Get it straight: no one is a fan of abortion. But to deny that sometimes the procedure is necessary, and moreover, to declare that the life of a woman is automatically worth less than that of a blastula, and that once a woman is gestating, she is automatically deprived of her personhood and her only function is now that of incubator, is nothing less than monstrous. That this is in fact how the Christian Right thinks is enough to make you think nuclear holocaust might be all humanity deserves after all.

But here’s a little something you can do. It’s even fun!

Recently, Lila Rose, a rising star in the (sexist wisecrack coming) right-wing bimbo brigade behind Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann, made a ludicrous attempt to swiftboat Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides a plethora of invaluable health assistance to women everywhere, but which the right chooses to characterize exclusively as Dachau for Babies. Rose’s stunt was butt-stupid, even for a Republican. Like her BFF, convicted criminal James “Doctored ACORN Videos” O’Keefe, Rose tried to punk PP with some video doctoring of her own. Her ingenious plan must be read to be believed.

Over a five day period, visitors to Planned Parenthood health centers in six states said they were seeking information from Planned Parenthood about health services Planned Parenthood could provide to underage girls who were part of a sex trafficking ring…. Men, sometimes accompanied by a woman, have visited at least 11 Planned Parenthood health centers in six states within a one-week time frame. During their visits, they claimed to be involved in sex trafficking of teens, some of whom are in the United States illegally. These men appeared at health centers without appointments and said that they were seeking health services for themselves, but they quickly turned the conversation to the sex ring they said they were managing.

Wait, what?

Yes, you read that right. The plan was to get PP to appear as if they were helping conceal the existence of a child-sex trafficking ring. Rose’s little brainchild was itself aborted, however, when PP did what she hoped they wouldn’t do: report this bullshit to the FBI.

Now of course, poor Lila — abetted by her pals in right-wing media, of course — will continue to try to sell this false story, and probably paint herself as some kind of martyr for truth. Wingnuts do that kind of thing. But here’s a fun thing we can all do, as a kind of sweet revenge. It’s a way of letting petty little people like her, and all her anti-choice pals, know that the more they lie, the more they try to tear down women’s right to safe and legal health options through disinformation, the more we will remain committed to the cause of women’s health. And a little thing called truth.

  • Click on this link. It will take you to Planned Parenthood’s “Honorary Giving” donations page.
  • Throw a few bucks their way “in honor of” Lila Rose!
  • Finally, send Lila a friendly, cordial, profane-insult-free email at [email protected], informing her that you have done this, and that her campaign of disgraceful lies has resulted in your increased support for Planned Parenthood. In her name. Don’t be snarky. Don’t cuss her out. Don’t give her any ammo to whine about the evil libral socialist godless heathen scary people who are stalking her. Be so civil it hurts. You could also add that you hope she never finds herself in need of PP’s services, and to keep an eye on her drinks when she goes out.

That should do it. A little bit of the old martial artist, turning your opponent’s attack back upon them, you see. Most satisfying. But then, people like Rose have committed to a life of lies. Committing to truth, as she’ll soon learn, wins in the end.

Coming Out

I recently met a young woman online who is about to go off to college. She is a recent deconvert and made the decision to “out” herself in her home. As is common, the experience was less than stellar for her. And she recently linked me to an article she wrote describing what it’s been like. I loved her story and asked if it would be all right to share it for the benefit of other young people in similar situations. Fortunately she agreed. So, without further delay, Emily’s story:

Things That Must Be Said
With a mere twelve days left before I leave home for college, I’ve finally come to the frustrating, yet incredibly sad realization that I cannot express my beliefs without being attacked by members of my family, and some of my friends. I’ve realized that I cannot simply live without being quietly or not so quietly judged by the people who are meant to be my comforters and supporters. I am normally quiet and passive when it comes to my beliefs because I am afraid of conflict, and I feel outnumbered. But I can no longer sit back and be trampled. I can’t just cater to everyone around me. I have to be confident enough to defend myself to everyone around me, because I can’t pretend to be someone I’m not.

Tonight, as I sat quietly at the dinner table with my mother and younger brother David, my brother suddenly brought it to my mother’s attention that I was overheard talking on the phone about something with which she did not agree. I had been on the phone the day before with a friend of mine who happens to be atheist, and we were discussing our opinions on current world events. This triggered an onslaught of verbal abuse from my mother, who said that ever since I became an atheist, I am now selfish, “troubled”, coldhearted, and that I see the world from twisted perspective. David, at the wise and all-knowing age of fifteen, feels that my atheist friend Jordan is a bad influence on me, and, in a nazi-like manner, he feels that he must inform my mother at all times of any sort of liberal or atheist talk on my part. He informed my mother that my facebook page is filled with atheist propaganda, and at that, my mother flew off the handle, yelling, “Is that true, Emily? Do you really have atheist things all over your facebook?!” Ha, first of all, I don’t think I have ever posted anything particularly “atheist” or abrasive, because, like I said, I fear conflict, and a part of me has always been afraid to stir up trouble, or displease anyone. Until now. Second of all, even if I did have atheist posts all over my profile, is there supposed to be some sort of crime in that? When I told my mother this, her response was, “Well it just doesn’t look good, and that’s not all you are.” Of course that’s not all am. Being an atheist is only a tiny fraction of who I am as a person, and I find it sick and sad that my loved ones are willing to write me off and harshly judge me simply because I’m an atheist. My father, an abnormally quiet and passive man, who seriously never contributes to any conversation, decided tonight would be the night to jump in and tell me that even if I am an atheist, I don’t need to parade it around. Parade it around? I’m pretty sure 90% of people who read this have no idea that I’m an atheist. He said “I have plently of friends who don’t believe, but that doesn’t mean they tell anyone about it.” So apparently my dad feels that its okay if I’m an atheist, as long as I don’t make it known to anyone. My older brother has also attacked me numerous times, in front of guests as well as behind my back, about my choice in atheist friends, because he feels I am “easily manipluated.” Apparently everyone just thinks I’m stupid, when in reality, I’ve given this subject more thought and consideration than any of them combined.

Let me just say that even though my family claims to be catholic, they have not attended mass since I quit going to church a few months ago. I was the one who always encouraged my family to go to church. And when they didn’t, I would go alone. I was the one who believed it all. So if none of these people in my family truly know about or believe in catholicism, why are they so quick to pounce on me for being an atheist?

I was once very catholic. I graduated from a small, all- girls catholic high school. I attended weekly youth group, and mass. I went on countless retreats and ACTS retreats. I attended many candlelight ceremonies, rosaries, and “see you at the pole”’s. I was a eucharistic minister, I was in the liturgical choir, and attended Catholic HEART workcamp for three consecutive summers. I prayed the rosary in my car on the way to school. I was a group leader for middle school and high school kids. Most of my volunteer work was done through my church. I loved God. I did everything. You cannot say that I was a half baked catholic. And yet, somehow, I changed.

I took a world religions class, I had my first real open minded conversations with many different people about religion, and humanity, and life in general. I read new books, and I watched new videos and debates and documentaries. I spent many hours (and many sleepless nights) agonizing over what it was that I truly believed in. Most importantly, I used my own rationale, and my own original thoughts. And then one day I made a conscious decision to gradually leave my church. And it was very difficult to leave behind many people at church whom I knew loved me and wanted the best for me. But I couldn’t be a part of something I no longer believed in. And for some reason that blows people’s minds. People can’t fathom how or why a person would make such a 180 degree change.

The real problem is, my family can’t figure out why I don’t want to be around them. They don’t understand why I have no respect for them. They want to blame it on the fact that I’m an atheist now, and that it must be because my atheist friend is a bad influence on me, they assume he must be constantly whispering in my ear and telling me to hate my family. The truth is, I have real, personal reasons for disliking them, and being an atheist has nothing to do with it.

I was once told that atheists have “a certain anger in their hearts”. Yes, I am angry. I’m fucking angry that being an atheist is somehow the equivalent to being a monster. I’m angry that something this trivial has to be blown way out of proportion. I’m sick and tired of having people talk about me behind my back, and make judgements about my choice of friends. I’m tired of being told that I’m “troubled” or “easily manipulated,” I’m angry that people think I should be ashamed of myself. As if I am somehow automatically set beneath other people because I am an atheist.

Apart from being angry, I’m simply disappointed in people. I thought I had stronger relationships than this. I thought my loved ones were more open minded than this. I thought people loved and cared more about me than to treat me like some kind of diseased person.

In case you were wondering, I’m not a monster at all. I’m a nineteen year old girl about to go to college. I’m sensitive and I’m shy. I like poetry and french movies. I’m a decent human being who cares about other human beings. And the truth is, even if I pretended otherwise, I would be hurt if anyone decided to cut me out of his or her life just for my religious preferences.

###

For an example of what Emily has been dealing with at home, I will share what some of her siblings offered in the comments section of her article. I can only assume this type of abuse is acceptable in her home, as her siblings seem to hold nothing back.

Her younger brother’s first post read, in full: “All of y’all are fucking retarded.”

Later when I commented, her other brother hurled back this misogynistic abuse defending the other brother: “Hes not stupid, anybody that knows him (Jordan and Emily included) will tell you that. What’s stupid is insulting a 15 year old who you dont even know, you leathery old twat.”

There was much more–and all quite ugly. I’m amazed Emily has come out of this able to think clearly, not reacting herself in an abusive fashion, and still loving and regarding her family despite how religion has torn them, so obviously as her brothers’ demonstrate, apart.

Best of luck, young lady!

Because it’s SCIENCE!

Today is Boobquake, the day when freethinking ladies everywhere prove to the world that science isn’t boring and show misogynist Iranian clerics a thing or two. I mean, I’d be the last to doubt the power of breasts in the course of human events. But actually causing tectonic activity? I’d say that’s due for some myth-busting. So in the spirit of research, I reiterate my support for this endeavor, and the dawning of a new age of global enlightenment it portends. I’m sure the day will rack up some revealing results.

Now, as in all worthy scientific efforts, the results of your research should be made publicly available for peer review. Over at Skepchick, some worthwhile boobular myths are examined, none actually having to do with geological activity, but still. And so far, among our fine AXP family of readers, Jennifer Juniper has documented her data points. I’m sure we’ll enjoy more results as the day goes on, which, even if we don’t have an actual quake, will completely rock the world! So I’ll just let Mike and the Bots from MST3K lead us out in song…and enjoy your experimenting. I certainly will!



Addendum, later in the afternoon: Holy cow, it worked! Well done, ladies!

Boobquake is Coming!

An Iranian cleric has discovered the cause of catastrophic earthquakes, and it’s not plate tectonics after all. Nope, it’s women’s immodesty. According to Hojjat ol-eslam Kazem Sediqi,

“Many women who do not dress modestly lead young men astray and spread adultery in society which increases earthquakes,” he explained.

Huh. Who knew my girls were so dangerous. I have to admit that when I first heard about this, my initial response was to keep them under wraps. I just didn’t want to be responsible for all that human suffering. Since then, Jen McCreight over at Blag Hag has convinced me that an experiment is necessary to test this new theory. The experiment must, of course, be photographed.

Boobquake 2010 will take place on April 26th. On that date, you are encouraged to show as much or as little cleavage as you have. If you prefer not to show cleavage, Mr. Sediqi warns that tight-fitting clothing will piss off Allah as well. He issues the following admonishment:

“What can we do to avoid being buried under the rubble? There is no other solution but to take refuge in religion and to adapt our lives to Islam’s moral codes,” he said.

Let’s give this a fair test, shall we? I say we all get out there and rock the planet on April 26th. I should also point out that women going shirtless is technically not illegal in Austin – but feel free to engage in your preferred brand of immodesty and unrepentant degeneracy that day.

Oh, one last thing – science requires that observations be repeatable, so we might have to do this again next year. Just sayin’.

A Blasphemy Against Humanity

The Austin American-Statesman yesterday ran a New York Times editorial by Nicholas D. Kristof. It began:

“Karachi, Pakistan–Afterward, they comforted each other with the blasphemy: ‘It was God’s will.’”

So, how could I not be intrigued, especially because most Christians I know have a vague notion of god as all-powerful, all-knowing, and the creator of all things, that would make the phrase “it was god’s will” a logically inescapable conclusion and necessary description of any event occurring in this universe. I had the feeling that whatever Kristof would describe would be absolutely within the realm of this “god’s will”–according to the model of god most believers seem to put forward. But I wanted to see for myself, so I read on.

Not surprisingly, I was correct. The story is about the family politics of a pregnant woman’s husband–and the politics of many women’s families in this region. The $3.75 ride to a hospital was considered far too extravagant when the time came for the baby to arrive. Lest your sympathies get the better of you, one aunt said that if the family had known the child was going to be a boy (which it was), they’d have paid far more for the cab fare. It was less a question of poverty than one of concern. No the family is not well off, but their logic was that it was silly to waste money on a hospital.

While the article was more about a misogynistic society (which I feel sure a fundamentalist religion based on the great “He” doesn’t help), I kept looking for the “blasphemy” in the statement about god’s will. After the child dies (the mother lives), the mother is devastated, and the father says, “It is God’s will. There is nothing we can do.”

I agree with Kristof’s call of “bullshit” on this one. But where is the blasphemy if I were to call myself a believer? As a nonbeliever, I want to call this one blasphemy against humanity, if there can be such a thing. Certainly it was our will for this child to die–humanity’s will. It could have been avoided by human intervention. It was not necessary in a purely human world without gods. But the child died. And humans are responsible. To say that what humans do and allow–whether good or bad–has anything to do with gods is a blasphemy against our own species. But it’s no blasphemy against god. If god is what people claim god is in many cases, it’s a reality–a truth–to call any event “god’s will.”

Did god create everything–a universe where we cannot escape cause and effect? If so, this child’s death was written into the “stars” (if you will) the moment the singularity popped, or the moment he spoke it all here 6,000 years ago. If he didn’t create it, he’s off the hook. If he did, he killed this child as surely as the child’s own family.

Does god know everything? Did he know what he was doing? Does he understand the universe or not? If he built it and had so little understanding of what he was doing, he’s off the hook in much the same way a mentally challenged person might be off the hook for a double-homocide. He still caused the harm; he’s just too irresponsible to be held accountable for what he caused. If god built it and understood it–this god has no excuse. He actually produced the universe in such a way that this child would die, and either did not care, or meant it to be so.

Does god have the power to alter anything in this universe or impact human events? If god was aware of this child’s plight, and was able to intervene, but did not, then he’s just as guilty as the family members (ironically it was the men in the family) who felt the hospital was the best place for this mother, but did nothing to enforce their preference. If there is a god who is aware, cares at all, and can help, who does not, then this child’s death was as much that god’s choice as the family’s.

Is it blasphemy to say god is not the creator? God is retarded–as gods go? Or that god lacks the power (is too castrated) to intervene in our lives?

Does our society truly embrace a god that keeps players safe at sporting events, but can’t be expected to help a woman in difficult labor to be healthy and well and have a live baby in the end? It sure looks that way.

When I say “god did not create the universe,” or “there is no god that is all powerful and gives a care,” or “there is no god that knows everything”–or “there is no god,” I’m sure to be lambasted by Christians everywhere for my arrogance and, well, blasphemy. They may not call it “blasphemy” much in these times, but that’s what it is and why it offends so many believers to say such things.

Who gets to say what is blasphemy in the world of believers? To many, It’s blasphemy to claim god doesn’t have his finger on the pulse of the whole universe, as Kristof implies. But to Kristof, when one injustice occurs, it’s blasphemy to say god had any knowledge or power to alter events. What sort of ineffectual god does Kristof imagine, I wonder? I have to think he imagines something, because he brought up the “god’s will” phrase twice in a small article, and called it a blasphemy both times; and the story itself had precious little to do with gods, and everything to do with humans and human society.

I wish he would have clarified it was only a blasphemy to humanity, and could not possible be a blasphemy for any god model that would matter in this universe. I wish Kristof would have explained what he means by “god.” But he did neither, unfortunately. But I think, disappointed as it makes me, he meant it in the same ludicrous apologetic way we hear it used all the time: With god all things are possible, but, somehow, helping an infant, unable to help itself, was way too much to ask–way beyond god’s scope.

It’s called having your cake and eating it, too. And it’s logically impossible. But try telling that to someone who’s been sufficiently indoctrinated. If that is really what Kristof meant, he’s as guilty as holding to irrational, unhelpful beliefs as the culture he’s writing to criticize. Like many Christians, he would be promoting that it’s OK to devote some part of one’s worldview to a logically inconsistent, impossible god who helps us not at all–and credit that god with all things good while blaming humans for all things evil. And that sort of hosed up religious belief is a part of the foundation that ultimately killed this child of a Muslim world, isn’t it?

Perhaps instead of writing about gods and blasphemies, he should have “kept it real” and just said, “People could have helped this child. People did not. Dragging god into this as a ‘will’ or a victim of ‘blasphemy,’ helps us not at all. It adds nothing to this equation that can only possibly examine what people can do, what they did/did not do, and what other people could have/might have done to impact the reasons for these poor choices and tragic outcomes.” And if I can add, reasons like holding to irrational beliefs about women and gods that led to this child’s death.

I’m not sure how much impact a writer like Kristof can have in cutting the rope of irrationality that holds these people to unhealthy decisions, while he’s involved in actually braiding more of that same rope. It’s not reasonable to condemn real-world injustices that are the result of a god model I personally support.

I can’t know that Kristof doesn’t have some minority deistic ideology. But I can know that many people reading what he wrote–and he would know this as well–are interpreting it as, “That’s right, my loving creator-of-all-things, all knowing, all powerful god would never allow something like this; how dare anyone blame this evil on god.” It would escape them that the fact that this event actually occurred should be evidence that, if their god model exists, it would and did allow such an event–and therefore becomes logically inconsistent and, tah-dah, nonexistent. But I will almost guarantee you that hundreds of
thousands read his column, held this model of god, and condemned this “blasphemy” in like manner. They want their cake, but they want to eat it, too. And that’s impossible. And the scariest part is that no matter how much you try to explain that eating the cake will result in the cake being gone, they will insist that you are the one who simply does not get it.

To some, unfortunately not so small degree, it truly is a mad world.

Have we mentioned lately that Islamic culture is evil?

Well then, let’s take up the slack, shall we? From Saudi Arabia, that oasis of egalitarian, progressive civilization at its apex [/snark], comes word that a court has ruled that the 8-year-old child bride of a 47-year old man, married off to him by her father as a way of paying off the father’s debts to the man, will not be able to have the marriage annulled. But hey, at least the court is doing its best to let everyone know how fair they’re being about all this. After all, they’ve gotten the groom to agree not to consummate the marriage until the girl reaches puberty, which means, lucky thing, that she’s got until about age 11 or 12 before she gets raped. And once she hits puberty, she’ll be allowed to file for divorce with the court. I’m sure they’ll just as fair to her then as they’re being now!

There are human rights organizations, apparently, even within Saudi Arabia, who are vehemently opposed to these arranged child marriages. How these organizations manage to exist without being regularly raided and their members dragged into the street and shot (oh, I forgot, “beheaded” is more Saudi style) is a question for another time. All we need to remember now is how this is just another indicator of how sick a society can get when fundamentalist religion — especially one as barbaric and misogynist as Islam — runs the show, and how, even a full decade into the 21st century, there are still victims of pre-medieval injustices living and suffering around the world today.

It would be nice if the US were willing to take a principled stand on this sort of thing. But you see, a little bit of oil is enough to lubricate a conscience rusty with such built-up gunk as “integrity” and “principle”. And Saudi Arabia has much more than a little bit of oil to go around. Let’s see, they force pre-pubescent kids into marriage, their radicalized young men crash planes into our buildings…but they’ll always be our “allies”. As long as the pumps are going.