Defending the rights of theists does not equal agreeing with their beliefs

Some of you seemed surprised that I defended Park51, more infamously known as the “Ground Zero Mosque,” after my visit there. You commented that Islam, on average, is more violent and oppressive of women. You were shocked that I saw the latter first hand – by being told I’d be segregated at dinner and must dress modestly – and yet I still supported Park51. It seemed ironic to you that someone who’s 15 minutes of fame is based on contesting the standards of modest dress would be okay with all of this. You claimed that defending Muslims’ right to freedom of religion implicitly agrees with their beliefs.

For those of you who are surprised, you don’t know me very well.

What makes inalienable rights like freedom of speech and religion work is when they’re truly inalienable. Once you start making judgement calls on who really gets to say something or what you’re allowed to believe, everyone is in trouble. It doesn’t matter if something is offensive or stupid. I will defend the freedom of speech of conservatives, Neo-Nazis, and misogynists as much as it may personally pain me to do so. And I may be an atheist, but if Muslims, Mormons, or Jehova’s Witnesses are having their religious freedom taken away, I’ll be the first to defend them.

Why? It’s simple. Who gets to make the judgment calls on what’s offensive or inappropriate?What happens when one of my beliefs is being censored because popular vote deems it too controversial? Just imagine if atheism was put up to a vote in the United States. Would we still be able to have atheist books or organizations? Hopefully you see why freedom of speech and religion need to be so adamantly defended.

But again, defense does not automatically equal agreement. Nor does defense automatically equal respect. Muslims can build their community centers and mosques, but I’ll still vocally say that their beliefs are wrong. Allah almost certainly does not exist. Islam is, on average, more violent than other current religions – it’s like getting in a time machine and seeing Christianity in the middle ages. Islam is one of the most oppressive religions toward women, and hijabs and burkas are tools of that oppression.

But Muslims should be able to build mosques and wear burkas if they want, because censorship is never the answer. If we want to defend the rights of some minorities, we must defend the rights of all minorities. And if you’re truly concerned with making Islam more progressive or having more Muslims become less religious, taking away their rights isn’t exactly the best way to open up communication.

Trust me, as an atheist, I’d be very happy to see fewer mosques, churches, and temples springing up around the country… If it was because less people feel the need for organized religion and superstitious thinking, not because we fearmongered them out of organizing.

My visit to the “Ground Zero Mosque”

I’ve been doing a lot of sight seeing in New York, and one of the places I stopped by is Ground Zero. I felt compelled to visit it, like it was some sort of patriotic duty as an American. There’s really not much to see, especially since all of the area is surrounded by a fence advertising the 9/11 memorial that’s going to be built where the two towers used to stand. It is pretty amazing how large the area is, and how it’s still pretty much just a large hole filled with cranes – I thought it would be more far along after 9 years.
While I was in the area, I decided to stop by the controversial “Ground Zero Mosque.” I use quotes because 1. It’s not a mosque, it’s a Muslim community center that will include (amongst many other things) an area for prayer, and 2. It’s not exactly near Ground Zero. We had to walk a couple blocks to get there, and then down a quiet side street. It by no means feels like it’s on top of Ground Zero.
We recognized the building because there were people with signs outside. I was ready for some anti-Muslim xenophobic protests, but I was pleasantly surprised:

All of the people there were supporters of Park51 and had signs about freedom of religion. I was definitely pleasantly surprised. There were some chalkings as well:The guy with the goatee let us know that friends were welcome to dinner at 8pm, regardless if they were Muslim or not. Though he did say women would eat in a separate room, and after a quick glance at my outfit, confirmed that I was modestly dressed enough to come. We already had plans, but it was a nice offer.

It was great to know other people haven’t gone totally insane in this country. I may be an atheist, but I totally support freedom of religion. Even if Park51 was nothing more than a mosque, and even if it was right next to Ground Zero, I would still defend their right to build it there. 9/11 may have been caused by Muslim religious extremists, but it wasn’t representative of all Muslims. We have to remember that people of all religious beliefs, including Muslims, died in 9/11, either as victims who were in the towers or responders who were trying to save lives.

Living in “special” states

From formspring.me: What do you do to cope living in a state as backwards as Indiana? I live in KY and am about at my wits end!

Escape. Did I mention I’m super excited to be moving to Seattle in a couple weeks?

Though seriously, I sympathize. Sometimes it can be a little maddening living somewhere that’s the antithesis of your political, religious, and moral views. I think one way to stay sane is to find the other rare individuals who are suffering with you. I did it by starting my own atheist student group – maybe you could find something similar, or start your own.

Other than that…I’m not sure what to say. The internet is certainly your friend – a virtual community is better than none at all.

If you’re living somewhere that tends to drive you crazy, how do you stay sane?

I get weird emails from Sigmund Freud

At least, that’s what it seems like. From formspring.me:

Is it possible for me to measure the testosterone level in your blood?

Uh, it is indeed possible. Now, is it probable that I’ll let some random person collect blood samples from me? Not exactly.

Would you allow us to compare your testosterone level in your blood with other women periodically? I’d like to find out how much testosterone explains the affinity to math and science.

Maybe if you were an actual laboratory doing a study for a university.

Would you admit that you have Electra Complex?

No, because Freudian analysis is bullshit.

Can I talk to your subconscious? I’d like to talk about sexual symbols in one of your paintings in the Deviantart.

I’m intrigued, but my subconscious is currently too weirded out to agree, sorry.

Can I talk to your subconscious about your semi-hidden forbidden desire for Snape-like people (cold, calculating, precise, sarcastic, and bitter) in your life?

My subconscious is amused that you think its desire for Snape is semi-hidden. And that it actually translates to the type of people I hang out with or date.

Hmm, I think I rather have questions from the dude with a bear romance problems

I’ve made a horrible mistake

I helped my dad set up a blog. It was sort of inevitable, really. One, he’s retired – what else does he have to do? And two, he’s opinionated – I know it’s hard to believe, but McCreights tend to be. What more do you need to blog? At least he’s better with computers than most 64 year olds.

Knowing his interests, it’ll probably mostly be about politics, with a touch of sports and a dash of religion. And he’s calling it If I Were King, based on the phrase that prefaces most of his advice on how to fix the world. Imagine if Shit My Dad Says was now dictator. It’s amusing and a tad bit scary, no? He’s already fixed church, men’s ugly feet, congressional term limits, Tiger Woods, instant reply, and competitive eating.

I think one of the main reason he started it was to have a place where he could publicly poke fun at Teabaggers. And have a place where people actually listen, which is not necessarily true at the dinner table with me and my mom.

So go check it out and say hello! Be gentle, he’s not used to this whole blogging thing. But don’t be too nice – I don’t want this to go to his head or something. I’m not sure if the internet is big enough for two McCreight bloggers…

Living in sin causes wildfires?

This is the newest example of Specific Religious Rule That’s Not Particularly Morally Wrong Causes Deadly Natural Disaster:

A Russian tycoon has told 6,000 workers at his private dairy company that they’ll be fired if they’ve ever had an abortion, or if those who are “living in sin” don’t get married within two months.

Vasily Boiko, who officially changed his name to Boiko-Veliky, which means “Boiko the Great,” has set a deadline of October 14 — a Russian Orthodox Church holiday — for any of his unmarried employees who live with a partner to get married, or get fired.

“We have about 6,000 employees, most of whom are Orthodox, and I expect them to be faithful and to repent,” Boiko told Reuters last week. His order came in an internal memo to workers at Russkoye Moloko, which means “Russian milk” and whose products are sold in many Russian supermarkets.

Boiko told Ekho Moskvy radio that a woman who’s had an abortion “can no longer be an employee of our company … We don’t want to work with killers,” according to Reuters.

The ultimatum also comes amid Russia’s worst drought and wildfires on record, in which suffocating heat and smog have doubled the normal summertime death rate in Moscow. More than 2,000 homes have been destroyed by fires, and a third of Russia’s wheat crop has succumbed to the drought. The government has banned grain exports for the rest of the year, and promised subsidies to farmers and agriculture businesses like Boiko’s.

The tycoon blames Russia’s extreme weather this summer on what he called a lack of ample religious faith. “Such an extreme situation is punishment for the Russian people’s sins,” he told daily newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, according to The Daily Telegraph. “I need to take extreme measures including looking at the way my employees treat God.”

It’s a shame that these employees are going to get fired. How does he even know who’s had an abortion or is living with their unmarried partner? Spy cameras? And why does it seem like so many Christians just can’t grasp that concept of leaving the judging to God?

Shackingupinferno? Hm, doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. Not to mention if we did a boobquake every time someone said something superstitious like this, we’d have a “holiday” every single day.