Movie Friday: Crommunist is on vacation

I started my vacation on Tuesday, and since I’m running around Toronto getting into all kinds of adventures, I’m not particularly motivated to launch into a lengthy explanation for this video.

If you can’t see the parallels between this and any religion that you might currently or formerly belong to, then you’re doing it wrong (and by ‘it’ I mean ‘using your brain’).

Also, here is a baby that has learned to do something truly baffling – straddling the line between adorable and horrifying:

It’s not the Holy Spirit, it’s more like “Holy Shit!”

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Free speech vs… The TDSB

Seriously, Toronto? What the fuck are you doing?

Speaking at a Nov. 22 assembly at Northern Secondary School that was supposed to be a celebration of the school’s athletic achievements, Emil Cohen said: “We now have it instilled into us that soccer [at Northern] is synonymous with the word ‘unnecessary.'”

Cohen, 17, said he was upset that students had to take it upon themselves this year to “to do the phys ed department’s job to find a coach” for the school’s team. In past years, the team also had to supply most of its own equipment and was frequently forced to cede use of the school’s field to the football team, he said.

The day after his speech, Cohen was suspended for two days and was barred from all sporting activities at the school.

Back in high school I was a director of the Young Actor’s Company, a school drama production where grade 11+ students directed one-act plays performed by grade 9/10 students. It was an opportunity for older students to get some directing experience, and for younger students to be in a play without having to compete with older, more experienced actors.

The play we did, called Of the Blue, was about a philosopher who is injected with an unknown substance and has to deal with the sudden relevance of his potentially-impending mortality. In one scene, he is arguing with his girlfriend, who says “don’t you think we should wait for the test results to come back before we start… fucking?” The line is delivered in the context of an argument where he basically tells her that she owes him sex because of his distress.

Of course the teachers involved in the production told us (a week before we went on stage) to censor the line. Their suggestion was “doing it” instead of “fucking”. The first night we tried the substitution line and absolutely hated it. I told the person playing the girlfriend to leave the line as-is. Shit hit the fan, and I was told that I wasn’t allowed to be in the school play that year.

Even at the age of 17 I knew that this was a bunch of bullshit. The language we used was not particularly strong – no stronger than you’d encounter walking the halls. It was appropriate in the context of the scene, and we had even warned audience members that the play contained strong language.

The issue was that I had stepped out of bounds and defied the teachers. I had done so in a way that was entirely consistent with the regulations of the school, so they had no grounds for official “on-the-books” punishment, so they had to get their revenge through unofficial means. Luckily, the school play was a total stinker that year, so I kind of dodged a bullet there.

This story is far worse. This kid is not being punished for defying teachers, he’s being punished for lodging a legitimate criticism of his school in an appropriate venue. How can anyone at the TDSB think that this is a legitimate defense of their autocrasy?

“He certainly didn’t comply with his teacher in the process that he was supposed to follow,” he said. “There are pieces in terms of the Education Act around students needing to be able to follow through with expectations and directions of their teachers.”

Student fails to comply with censorship… and is suspended for standing up against an unfair teacher? Something’s rotten at the school board.

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Oklahoma does right thing for wrong reason

I can’t tell you how depressed I was after the last US mid-term elections. I likened it at the time to watching a good friend go back to her alcoholic, abusive ex-boyfriend because the new guy wasn’t enough of a “bad boy”. The Republican party in the United States has completely shed any air of credibility as a party interested in the long-term good of the United States. They’ve completely devolved into politicking, abrogating any responsibility they have to act as leaders, grabbing after power instead by ramping up the fear and hatred of an uneducated populace.

Rome is falling, my friends, and it is doing so to the clamoring approval of the mindless horde.

Luckily (or perhaps tragically, since it prolongs the fall) there is a system of checks and balances present in the United States that places limits on the ability of the people to be the authors of their own destruction:

A US federal judge has stopped Oklahoma putting into effect a constitutional amendment to bar courts from considering Islamic law in judgements. Judge Vicky Miles-Lagrange granted an injunction against the certification of the results of State Question 755.

To provide a bit of background, there was a ballot amendment during the midterm election that was passed, banning the recognition of Sharia law or any international law in Oklahoma courts. Of course there was nobody actually proposing that Sharia law be recognized, and the courts already ignore international law (on jurisdictional grounds), but if you whip people into a xenophobic frenzy, they’ll pass whatever law they want as long as it makes them feel safer.

But then… then the stupid sets in:

“Plaintiff has sufficiently set forth a personal stake in this action by alleging that he lives in Oklahoma, is a Muslim, that the amendment conveys an official government message of disapproval and hostility toward his religious beliefs, that sends a clear message he is an outsider, not a full member of the political community, thereby chilling his access to the government and forcing him to curtail his political and religious activities,” she explained.

That’s the shakiest possible grounds for a legal decision I’ve ever heard. Basically because the law would hurt people’s feelings, it’s therefore invalid? I’m not a soothsayer, but I can certainly see this ruling (if it isn’t kicked on appeal) being used as precedent to protect some crybaby Christian group saying that failing to teach Creationism in schools “conveys an official government message of disapproval and hostility” towards their belief in a 10,000 year-old planet.

The real reason this law should be off the books? Because it’s stupid. It’s an entirely redundant law that solves exactly zero problems. The inclusion of any religious law would violate the US Constitution (and likely the Oklahoma state constitution), and would not survive a court challenge. There is absolutely no need to pass a law specifically against Sharia law.

Seriously, America… dump the Republicans. They only end up hurting you in the end.

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Oregon mosque burned in arson

In my mind, Oregon is known for two things: hipster Mecca (formerly known as Portland), and being the place you get to only after your entire family dies of dysentery. Well, I guess now it’s known for three things:

A fire at an Islamic centre in the western US state of Oregon was started intentionally, US police say. They say the blaze gutted one room of the Salman Alfarisi Islamic Center in Corvallis. No-one was injured. The centre had been attended by Somali-born teenager Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, who was held on Friday for plotting to detonate a bomb at a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in nearby Portland.

I’d like to be able to pretend that I can understand the desire for retribution after someone tries to kill you, but I don’t. Partially because nobody has ever tried to kill me, but also partially because I’m not a fucking lunatic. If the KKK had a chapter headquarters in my neighbourhood, or the Hell’s Angels had a club down the street, while I might feel threatened, there’s no circumstance under which I would burn the place to the ground.

Ah, but of course this is a religious thing, so all bets are off. The perverse reality of such an attack is that it will further disenfranchise and polarize the Muslim community in Oregon (all 9 members) and make them even less likely to see themselves as part of the community.

I’m not saying that people should just roll over and give up when they’ve been attacked, but unless your plan is to kill everyone who disagrees with you, your options for reducing the risk of being attacked are somewhat limited. Burning down a community access point may not be the best choice.

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Heh. Heheheh.

The style of this blog is (what I hope is) high-minded polemic. I stake out a position, and explain why I hold it using news items, other blogs, and/or a painstaking step-by-step analysis of the logic behind the position. One of the techniques I most like to use is to state a counterargument to my position, and then explain why it is false. Regular readers of this site will probably know what I’m talking about – new people should probably just poke around the archives.

However, there has always been a soft spot in my heart for satire. I get a giddy thrill in my naughty parts whenever I see someone skillfully lampoon the folly of others by exaggerating the position and/or claims of those others. I have occasionally dabbled in satire, but I don’t really have a talent for it.

So when I find something like this, I have to share it:

Jesus was white. Yes, He was born in the Middle East, but His father was not Middle Eastern, He was God. God is NOT Middle Eastern. When was the last time you saw a painting of God with a Turban wrapped around His head? Never? Exactly.

Humans are visual creatures. Without a powerful sense of smell, touch, hearing or taste, we are reliant mostly on our eyes for information. As a result, we tend to give more credence to the appearance of visual stimuli than information from our other senses. In essence, the way things look is of primary importance to us when evaluating them.

There is a phenomenon known as the “halo effect” wherein we assume that good-looking people are more moral and deserving than ugly people. It explains why our television and movie stars are hotties, why the villains in books and movies are generally unattractive (unless they are temptresses or royalty), and why the pretty girls in high school are the popular ones (although that one is a bit more complicated than just appearance).

God is white. God has always been white. Every depiction, every description and every painting I have seen of God has been white. God impregnated Mary, NOT Joseph. Therefor (sic), Jesus is white. That is what drew people to Him in the first place. A white skinned man in the Middle East 2000 years ago was surely a miracle and Jesus was and is a miracle worker.

Europe was the seat of Christianity for centuries. The church controlled the vast majority of wealth during this time, and commissioned artists to create religious images (violating the second commandment, but whatever). During the classical period, it was common practice to depict famous figures with the faces of relatives or friends of the artist (sometimes enemies too). So of course, we end up with white Jesus, white Mary, white God, and so forth.

This wasn’t really a problem at the time. Art was not meant to depict reality – realism wasn’t to come into vogue for many years to come. However, it did leave us with a lasting impression that weds whiteness to godly virtue. Jesus, if he existed, didn’t look anything like the brown-haired bearded dude that is our popular depiction.

Of course while we can laugh at this all-too-accurate depiction of the inverted logic of the religious, it’s not a completely innocuous joke. It is in fact a manifestation of a real cognitive blindspot that we have simmering in the back of our minds – that white skin is associated with virtue, and all other skin colours are deviations thereof. Adam and Eve would have been black (of course they didn’t exist, but humanity is African), but they’re depicted white – the implication is that dark skin is a change from the “default” white, when the inverse is in fact true.

Okay, enough heavy-handedness… this shit is just funny:

Now look at Heaven. Heaven is mostly made of feathery white clouds with rays of light shooting through them, which according to most Christians I know, would make the inhabitants white. Also, white is amazingly proficient at reflecting light, which is very important when living in Heaven because it’s much closer to the sun than living on the Earth. This white skin prevents you from getting cancer in Heaven and I’m sure stops many other diseases in their tracks.

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Two faces of India

You’ll undoubtedly have noticed by this time that the majority of these posts are taken from the news. I assume that you can read the newspaper yourself, I just try to pick out the juiciest nuggets and comment on them. Most of the pieces I write revolve around a single news item, which I use to demonstrate some underlying point.  However, I am aware that presenting a single story might give you a mistaken impression, particularly when I comment of goings-on in other countries.

So I thought today I’d contrast two stories coming out of India. First, the bad:

Hindu hardline opposition parties have often raised questions about Italian-born Sonia Gandhi’s faith. They have questioned Mrs Gandhi’s right to rule a country where a vast majority of the population is Hindu.

We are somewhat spoiled here in Canada, living in a country where public discussion of religion is considered rude. Our politicians don’t (by and large) trumpet their religion, and while the word “God” is in our national anthem, we don’t really spend much time or energy on trying to keep religion out of the public square.

India is quite another story, where tribalism and religious differences are intractably linked, and deep suspicions and hatred between groups go back generations. Religion is, to the person on the street, very important. Regular readers may remember the story of the Indian and Pakistani tennis players whose partnership flies in the face of religious schism. It is the same within India.

Luckily, the court has struck down this request for religious identification, so this story isn’t all bad. The fact that it made it that far gives cause for pause, because the only reason it isn’t happening here is because nobody cares… yet.

The next story, though, is all good:

About 2,000 people have joined a gay pride parade in the Indian capital, Delhi, the first such event since homosexuality was legalised last year. Organisers said gay people were demonstrating that they have a place in society, and that the parade was a celebration of being different.

I am so weary of hearing straight people get all hot and bothered over Pride events. “Why do you need to go out and flaunt it? We don’t have straight pride parades!” Mmm, just bask in the privilege denial. The whole point of a Pride parade is to counteract the stigma of shame that has been attached to homosexuality for generations – a stigma that found its way into laws and is still tearing the United States apart.

Here in Canada where gay people have (nearly) equal rights (anyone who feels the need to make the tired and brainless assertion that they have more rights because you’re not allowed to discriminate against them, you’re really overestimating my willingness to listen to stupid arguments), Pride parades might seem redundant. However, we don’t live in a bubble, and our society’s public willingness to allow gay people the freedom to celebrate their identity sends a message to the rest of the world, including India.

The message that is sent by India to the rest of the world is that maybe, just maybe, they’re starting to shake off the crushing yoke of religion and becoming a modern, secular democracy.

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‘Tis the season… to shove it in their faces!

Cross-posted from Canadian Atheist, in direct (and repeated) violation of the unofficial policy prohibiting such things.

This one will brief, since Hemant over at Friendly Atheist has already given us all the relevant information:

The Atheism subReddit has taken up the cause to raise $42,000 for Doctors without Borders — the amount is an homage to Douglas Adams.

This is a friendly competition with the members of the Christianity subReddit, who are donating to the World Vision Clean Water Fund. Much like with Kiva, we’re crushing them with our generosity :) (I should’ve pointed out that this is hardly a fair fight because the Atheism subReddit outnumbers the Christian subReddit by a longshot. There’s waaaaay more of us. So the “competition” is all in good fun. Still, Christians are more than welcome to try to beat us :) )

As I write this, the atheists have already raised $30,000. The Christians have raised a little over $10,000.

Let’s help the atheists reach their goal (and, as a bonus, give more than the Christians).

If you’re in the U.K., you can give here.

If you’re in America (or elsewhere), you can give here.

I just gave $10. What are you donating?

Personally I think this is an awesome idea. Despite being at odds with a large segment of the atheist community with my stance toward religion, I think this is the kind of collaboration and friendly rivalry that the “accommodationists” are talking about most of the time. I’m happy to channel some of my vitriol (and one night out’s worth of cash – I donated $50) into a cause that sees real and positive results for someone else on the planet.

So atheists, put down your deep-fried baby sandwiches, click on the link, and cough up whatever dough you can spare to finally destroy Christianity once and for all! Or, get a poor kid some medicine. Whatever lifts your luggage. Christians, you can donate here.

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I find the defendant… not guilty

Last Monday’s “think piece” made reference to the title of a book called “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together at the Cafeteria?” What followed in my post was a discussion of some of the sociological and psychological factors that can influence people in a minority group to seek each other out. If you clicked through to the customer reviews, you were treated to gems like this:

The author must have wrote this book for black people and liberals ONLY !!!!!! Only then could a positive review of this book be possible! More of that ‘blame whitey’ baloney that is just ‘not sticking’ anymore. It’s like something Jesse Jackson would write: PATHETIC.

Or this sharp insight:

I found Tatum’s book to be laughable at best. She deliberately shows her hatred towards whites with her over the top view of what racism is (a system of advantage based on race). I find her definition to be a joke. She provides no substantial evidence to support any of her claims about white people having this ultimate advantage in society and how everything has been essentially spoon fed to whites.

There is a tendency for white people to feel ‘blamed’ or ‘guilty’ for racism, which I suppose is a regrettable side-effect of being a member of a majority group. When the story casts your team as the bad guys, it’s hard not to feel personally attacked whenever someone talks about the team. As a man, it’s tough to deal with the reality of male privilege because it’s always “my fault” whenever we talk about women’s role in history. It’s certainly tempting for me to slip into feeling blamed, or feeling like the only weapon that feminists have in their arsenal is just to blame men for all of the problems of the world.

However, this kind of reaction is seated firmly in assuming it’s still about me. Framing the entire feminist movement as “just blaming men” keeps the spotlight on us and puts us (as men) back at the centre of attention. Feminism isn’t about “blaming” anybody, it’s about identifying real inequalities, and the factors and psychology that perpetuate those inequalities. As with any inequality, there will be a group (or groups) that occupies an exalted position and one that holds an inferior one. However, when the exalted group stubbornly ignores the reasons why they occupy that position and explain the inequality away by assuming that the differences are due to the work ethic or genetic makeup or some kind of factor intrinsic to that group, it’s often necessary to point out the flaws in that line of reasoning.

In exactly the same way, when anti-racists wish to point out the inequalities between racial groups, it becomes inevitable that they (we) identify who is on top and point out some of the reasons why. Otherwise, we slip back into the too-convenient “explanations” that put the blame on the victim and completely absolve anyone else of any responsibility. You might hear, for example, someone talk about how affirmative action programs simply make racism worse by making white people resent minorities, or saying that if people just took “personal responsibility” for their attitudes then the problems would disappear. The problem with those excuses is that they make solving race issues everyone else’s problem, removing any need for the speaker to speak up, participate, or sacrifice anything.

The idea that the goal of anti-racism is to make white people feel guilty for the sins of their ancestors is flawed for two reasons. The first is that these aren’t problems that are the domain of mythical ancestors – we still find them happening today. We may not have the same state support for them, but there is still a real economic, social and political gap between people of colour (PoCs) and whites in North America. Doing nothing will not make the problem go away – it will simply allow it to continue in perpetuity. Active steps must be taken to address and ameliorate the problem, which is a problem for all of us.

The second problem is that guilt is a useless emotion. You’ll notice (if you care to look through the archives of this site) that at no point do I suggest that white people should feel guilty, or even imply that guilt is a useful motivator for anything. The kinds of actions that are motivated by guilt tend to be short-term Band-Aid solutions to serious problems. After all, if you can make a lot of noise about how you love everyone, or about how bad you feel that your ancestors did X and Y, then your guilt goes away. Feeling bad doesn’t level the playing field; it simply makes you look for the fastest way to stop feeling guilty.

It is for this reason that you’ll inevitably see the “get over it, black people” or “that was in the past” or “you just hate white people” response whenever someone talks about an inequality, or seeks an apology for a historical injustice. The narrative goes something like this: “I am not responsible for the actions of others, those things happened long ago, therefore I have no responsibility to give up my privilege”. Well, it’s either that or it’s “I feel super-bad for what my ancestors did, but I didn’t do it personally, therefore it’s enough that I don’t specifically discriminate against PoCs”.

Neither of these attitudes are helpful – they are the equivalent of throwing up your arms in surrender and saying “oh well, what can you do?” Anti-racists and those who study issues of racial inequality are offering solutions, but as long as those solutions continue to be branded as “blaming whitey”, we’ll never move white people out of the spotlight, and never see any real progress.

If you do feel guilty about the past deeds of white people then I feel for you. I don’t know what to tell you other than the fact that your guilt is at best irrelevant, and at worst a detriment to making any advances toward closing the gaps. So cut it out 😛

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Movie Friday: Wife-beating etiquette

“Wow,” you’re probably thinking “where exactly is Crommunist going with this?”

Exactly where you think:

Yeah… that just happened.

Apparently, according to this man’s religious convictions, the way that Allah honors the wife is to prescribe the specific way in which her husband is allowed to “discipline” her through physical beatings. Allah also sets out the circumstance under which it’s permissible to do so: if she won’t sleep with him. Thus is the majesty and mercy of Allah displayed – a woman has a choice of whether to be raped or beaten. God surely is great!

I don’t think any of my readers here are Muslim, or if I do have any Muslim readers I doubt they’re particularly devout, so I don’t think there’s much to be gained by expressing my complete disgust for this particular religious tradition; however, there is a larger point to be made. I’m sure someone somewhere looks at this and says “this is how you know Christianity is true – Jesus would have never allowed this.” Despite the fact that Jesus doesn’t say a single word about whether or not it’s permissible to beat your wife (I’d imagine he wouldn’t be cool with it, but we don’t know that for sure – I guess it wasn’t a very important topic to him), this is a completely circular argument:

A. Beating your wife is bad
B. Christianity says that beating your wife is bad
C. Therefore, Christianity is true

Here’s the problem: A is assumed to be true completely independently of the other premises. I happen to agree with A, but that in no way says anything about C. If A is a true premise, there is a way of establishing its truth outside the framework of any religious tradition. The logical way to follow B is to say “C: therefore,  Christianity is right about wife abuse.” If I start my own religion and say that it’s okay to murder penguins for lulz, but also say that the Earth orbits around the sun, does that make my religion true? Of course not – it just means that one specific claim that I have made is based on something we understood already.

Back to these two fucks in the video clip. The only words I can use to describe someone so debased, so twisted and depraved, so…

Y’know what? Let’s let Hollywood take care of the insults, shall we? (OMFG is this ever not safe for work)

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God Damn It (wording intentional)

Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck.

U.S. Senate Republicans have blocked legislation that would have repealed the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and allowed gay troops to be open about their sexual orientation. Democrats failed Thursday to cinch a procedural deal with Republicans in the waning days of the lame-duck session. The 57-40 test vote fell three votes short of the 60 needed to advance. The vote ends months of political wrangling about the bill and makes congressional action on the repeal provision unlikely any time soon. The 1993 law bans gay troops from publicly acknowledging their sexual orientation. A repeal provision was included in a broader defence policy bill and passed last spring in the House.

In what kind of fucking mathematical fucking system is forty larger than fifty-fucking-seven?

Fuck you, United States. Fuck you Senate. Fuck you Republican party. You deserve the shithole your country is becoming.

I will return to my usual level of language tomorrow.