In 2012, Pew Research published a project that shook the world to its very core. Against all odds, the poll results seemed to indicate that the “New” Atheist’s attacks on religion were changing the world, lifting the veil from so many of the eyes belonging to the world’s population, causing them to abandon their religious beliefs in overwhelming numbers. Religious leaders and apologists were apoplectic at what they were witnessing. Would religious belief survive the current generation? Would the remaining Gods and gods, desperately clinging to life in this increasingly modern world, enter the seemingly endless lichyard reserved for the dead and forgotten gods and Gods of prior societies? Was their any place for religion in a world where much of their explanatory power has been usurped by actual knowledge. Where morality and ethics are understood to be an essential part of any successful society, and are debated, secularly, in our institutes of higher learning, advancing ours beyond xenophobic nationalistic ideas of ethics that are increasingly obsolete as the world grows smaller everyday. Religion was not going to survive, it was clear. Believers were being persecuted the world over. Christians, especially those of the evangelical variety, became the most discriminated against group in the United States, being denied job for their faith, and facing prison time for their religious beliefs.
Actually, the project released in 2012 by Pew Research showed that approximately 84% of the world’s population were religiously affiliated, including a whopping 31.5% slice of the pie going to Christians, with the Muslim (23.2) and Hindu (15) religions snatching up the next largest slices. The 227 million-ish North American Christians are just a drop in the bucket, with Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Europe each claim well over 500 million followers of Christ. In the United States, some 78.3% of its population claims membership in the zombie-savior-army. With the exception of a few congressional districts, either especially enlightened or strangely populated , a relationship with Jesus is a de facto requirement to win an election for public office, US Constitution be damned. The United States continues to grant religions freedom from taxes, no matter how outlandish the mansion of the pastor, no matter how many violations of the one concession we ask of them for this status, to not endorse specific political candidates or parties from the pulpit, continue to pile up, continue to be rubbed in the faces of the IRS each Pulpit Freedom Sunday.
But the persecution thing plays better, so fuck it, ya know? It leads to such awesome results as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which leads to things like the Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision, and incredibly insane things like the 50% of white evangelicals who believe themselves to be the most persecuted group in America. We get hit movies starring that guy who played Hercules in the 90’s that portray every non-Evangelical Christian character as a stereotype in the most offensive way possible, and feature an atheistic philosophy professor who, in addition to only lashing out because he is mad at God, runs his class in a way that not only would get him fired immediately from any university, but could only come from the imagination of a mind that never set foot in a college philosophy class, who’s death is celebrated in the climatic scene, since he managed to accept the Savior prior to drawing his last breath. High Five! And while a healthy portion of American Christians lump Muslims in with atheists in the “dangerous” category, liberals like Ben Affleck plays into their hands when he equates religion with race while proclaiming Bill Maher and Sam Harris to be “disgusting” “bigots” for their critiques of Islam, continuing the trend of enshrining religious beliefs not as ideas that can be rationally questioned, but as integral ethnic characteristics beyond questioning. They benefit equally from the condescending “arguments” Reza Aslan lazily spews in defense of Islam whenever he spies a television camera, which can be recycled endlessly for whichever audience that needs its intelligence insulted with only minor changes to deity and location.
It leads to amazing sentences such as this, found today at Salon in a click-bait titled posting, in answer to the textbook strawman question, “Is there anyone who actually believes that religion has been the cause of all the major wars in history? “
Apparently yes, as Armstrong reports having heard versions of this statement from “American commentators and psychiatrists, London tax drivers and Oxford academics.”
The strawman, as in the normal course of events, is then knocked down seconds after being built up.
Yet the claim is so easily refuted by a quick look at the two World Wars — not to mention, say, the Russian Revolution, the American Civil War and the Mongol Invasions of the 13th and 14th century — that you have to wonder if the people making it actually care about its historical accuracy.
This may come as a shock to some of you, but atheists can say some pretty amazingly stupid things. To be honest, I think it is a problem that infects every atheist on the planet; I know that I have said some stupid things over my life, and I can not currently think of an atheistic writer or speaker that hasn’t said at least one thing that I thought was a bit suspect. But you know, we are humans after all, and its not just atheists who have this issue, it is all of humanity.What’s the classic saying? “Nobody’s Perfect.” Of course, there are without a doubt degrees of stupidity. While an atheist who claims that The Twilight Saga was a good series of books/films will draw a raised eyebrow from my direction and cause me to question recommendations they make regarding film and literature in the future, it is not going to go further than that. We all have a right to our own tastes, even if those tastes happen to be bad. I used to listen to K-pop, which automatically disqualifies me from holding someone’s tastes against them. (Assuming that taste isn’t something like child pornography, legal pornography that delights in the misogynistic objectification of women,<as opposed to legitimate fetish pornography that highlights the consent and desire of all participants – pornography is such a fucking complicated subject> snuff films, or similar “tastes” that deserve to be ostracized.) However, the same atheist making the claim that Bella is a strong female role-model for young girls to emulate would draw much more than raised eyebrows from me. A character who allows herself to be completely defined by her man does not a role-model make, and would cause me to wonder whether their judgement was being clouded by the love they had for the books/movies, or if their views on the “proper” role for women in society actually differed that greatly from mine. Which would still be a degree of stupid less than claiming that sexual harassment, objectification, and well, sometimes blatant flat out misogyny, do not exist in the skeptic/atheist community. Which is yet a degree less stupid than thinking there is nothing wrong with having sex with a women whom you have a large power advantage over in some way, when she is drunk enough to require a wheelchair. Some stupid is unforgivable.
I will watch Real Time with Bill Maher if its on when I’m watching television. If there is something I hear about on the show that I want to see, then I’ll use HBO Go and check it out. It’s not “must-see” television for me, because I honestly don’t watch much television. Not because I’m being pretentious or anything, just because there isn’t much on that interests me enough to watch it over reading, playing a PC game, writing, watching a movie, or playing with my dog as entertainment during my free time. If History, Discovery, National Geographic, Animal Planet, and the Science Channel would cut out the credulous pseudo-reality (all possible meanings intended) programming, then I’d probably watch more television, but it still wouldn’t be that much of a chunk of my free time. Honestly, most of my actual television viewing is of sporting events; Pirates baseball with my mother, Penguins Hockey, and before Ben alledgedrapistberger the Pittsburgh Steelers, before they proved they don’t honestly give a shit about their players beating on women unless the public cares about it and the negative publicity threatens the league, NFL football. The only true “must-see” show I have is Game of Thrones. I watched Constantine this week, and will again next. I think there is other stuff worth watching; I know Hannibal is a good show, I love the clips I watch from The Daily Show so I could watch it more, I rarely watch Mythbusters anymore, I hear The Flash and Arrow are good shows, shall I go on? I loved the first season of The Good Wife, but haven’t seen a full episode after episode five. Removed from whether I watch his show or not, I see no reason to defend Bill Maher when he is attacked. Some of his serious views, such as his opinions on vaccinations, especially those expounded on during the H1N1 flu epidemic were actually indefensible. Many other attacks on him ignore the fact that the man is a comedian who is controversial on purpose. Much of what he says isn’t honest debate or legitimate suggestions, it is jokes. Some are funny, some are not, some are just wrong. None need any defense from me. Richard Dawkins, the specific atheist Laura Miller calls out in the headline for her post about Karen Armstrong’s book “Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence,” , is less likely to draw much defense from me.
How do us atheists escape from the vexing “people say stupid shit because they are people” issue? Because we aren’t claiming divine inspiration for our stupid comments. The Pope may be able to speak for the Catholic Church as a whole, even claiming papal infallibility, but no one has the authority to speak for atheists. Those with the authority to speak for specific groups of atheists hold that power solely from the people being spoken for; chosen because their opinions mirror those of the larger group, replaced or simply ignored when that fact ceases to be true. That’s why creationist attacks on Darwin’s character as a tactic to disprove evolution are so laughable. Charlie could have been a Satanist who sacrificed babies not because it was pleasing to the Dark Lord, but only because Chuck liked the taste of fresh baby and it wouldn’t affect the truth of the theory of evolution one iota. It is the idea that is important. The evidence that confirms it, not our trust in the person making the claim.
Now that being said, our friend Dick Dawkins never exactly said that religion was the cause of all of history’s major wars. In fact,
The closest Armstrong comes to naming an advocate of the “all wars are about religion” line is when she quotes biologist, author and stridently public atheist Richard Dawkins in her chapter on terrorism. “Only religious faith is a strong enough force to motivate such utter madness in otherwise sane and decent people,” Dawkins wrote in “The God Delusion.”
This, my friends, is the definition of a strawman. It will now be my go to example of the technique. It is such a perfect use of the tactic that I almost want to applaud the author.
“The atheists think that all wars were caused by religion. Well they are wrong, and not only are they wrong, but the very notion is idiotic. Silly atheists, they will say anything to hurt poor beleaguered religion.”
“Wait, What? Who said that? I never said that. What atheists are saying that?”
“Lots of them. ‘American commentators and psychiatrists, London tax drivers and Oxford academics.’”
“No, I mean specifically. What commentators and psychiatrists? What cab driver? What Oxford academic? I want names.”
“Well, Richard Dawkins said that ‘Only religious faith is a strong enough force to motivate such utter madness in otherwise sane and decent people.’”
“That is not the same thing. That is not the same thing at all. Who said that all major wars were caused by religion? I want to know so I can call them an idiot and tell them that they do not speak for me.”
“Look over there, squirrel!”
Look. The only atheist I speak for is me. For me the question is not whether religion has been a net positive or negative throughout the history of humanity, it is the role that religion plays on modern day affairs, and its effects on us all today. I’m not interested in who first pioneered the usage of suicide bombings. I don’t care about the role that the church once played for the poorest members of society. I don’t care if female genital mutilation was originally a cultural thing that Mohammed thought was groovy. I know that Islam once kept the flame of inquiry alive, I know that magnificent cultural works were created in the name of Gods or gods, I know that religion played a role in the trust that was required to successfully form actual societies, I know that peoples religious beliefs have inspired them to do great things for the betterment of humanity.
The problem is that I also know about the bad side of religion. The Crusades, the Inquisitions, the witch trials and the like. The horrible things a person is capable of when they honestly believe that God is on their side. The resistance to knowledge that having a sacred belief challenged by science brings. The smug superiority that comes from knowing that you know the mind of God, unlike all the heathens. The absolute certainty that you know how others should live their lives. The ease it allows some of those among us to dehumanize those who believe differently as beings of pure evil.
Perhaps religion is a virus. Perhaps it is a vital adaption method that kept us alive as a species at one point. Perhaps we will never know the true answer to the question.
I do know that the only opposition to marriage equality now comes from religious beliefs. I know that there are women, not in the middle east, but in middle America, who because of an accident of birth will exist only as a brood mare and helpmeet for her husband, chosen for her by her father, with no hope of escaping the situation. I know that somewhere in the nation, a 12 year old girl is being married to a man with multiple wives under the cover of religion, no matter what real desires are being fulfilled. I know that while women are shamed for their sexuality for multiple reasons, religion plays a large role in the shaming, as it also does with homosexual sexuality. I know that no matter what other factors helped to create them, ISIS is using Islam as justification for both beheading their enemies and the taking of sex slaves, in their quest to create an Islamic state. I know that no matter the identity or purpose of the first suicide bombers, modern suicide bombers from the lone vest wearer in Jerusalem to the hijackers on 9/11 claim to be seeking martyrdom in the name of Allah. I know that any newspaper who publishes cartoons depicting the prophet risk a very real violent response. I know that any author who questions the faith could face jihad. I know that women can not drive in Saudi Arabia, but I am sure it is 100% due to cultural reasons, not religion. I know the same must be true for the burka and veil. I know that secular opponents to abortion do not blow up clinics, nor do they shoot doctors who perform abortions.
If you are a die hard cultural relativist, I see no need to argue with you. We won’t get anywhere. Some things, including treating any fellow human as property, is wrong. I do not care if FGM is a sacred cultural tradition going back thousands of years, or if some of the victims of the act are willing victims of the act. Mutilating humans is wrong. I do not care if Christian Scientists honestly believe their child will rot in Hell if a doctor treats them, letting the kid die of a treatable disease in order to protect their soul is wrong. Rape is wrong. Murder is wrong. Denying a person an education because of what is between their legs is wrong. Somethings are wrong. Not because a god told us, not because God told us, not because a book told us, but because we rationally know it to be true.
Islam is not a problem because every Muslim is a suicide bomber in training waiting with baited breath to declare a proper Jihad on your ass at the drop of a hat, intent on spreading Islam with fire and blood over the entire planet. Christianity is not a problem because every Christian is a science denying loony stockpiling guns as they wait for the Rapture, plotting on which abortion clinic to shoot up while trying to decide which man he is going to
sell give his daughter to as a wife. They are both problems because they contain some shockingly bad ideas, ideas which are increasingly becoming immune from debate thanks to their status as coming from a religion. Meanwhile, there are millions of moderate believers willing to stand up and deny those beliefs, even when that denial explicitly contradicts their own holy scripture, while insulating the larger concept of belief in a perfectly good sky daddy from actual consideration. Perhaps the vast majority of Muslims do not believe the more radical parts of the scripture. The problem is in the evidence we have of what laws are established in states that tie themselves to Islam. Do we really believe Christianity would be benign if granted official standing and actual power in United States government?
I personally love studying religions. I love the Bible, I love studying the history of the book, I love researching and learning the beliefs of other cultures. It fascinates me. I want to know why it started, how it changed, the ways it stayed with us as a species. I know it had a stunning effect on the history of our species and our planet. Perhaps that effect was even mostly positive, or at least enough to tip the scales throughout history. But now, as we live through either, depending on who you ask and their own biases, the death knell of fundamentalism or the resurgence of fundamentalism, it is time for us to realize and confront the fact that no matter the past results, religion is currently doing more harm than good to our society, and with religiously defended climate change denialism, to the planet itself. The scale has tipped.
Religion is the problem.
I remember seeing this a few days ago and skipping over it, but it popped back up in an article I was reading today, so enjoy. (Or I could claim that it appearing in two separate articles means it is, in fact, a sign from the Most Holy Lord. But, you know, standards.) Realize that I am not claiming this is in anyway a policy advocated by other Republicans, the national or South Carolina GOP, other Republicans from South Carolina, other members of his household, his family pets, insects living in his house, spiders living in his garage, or any actual snakes in his grass. Other than Joffrey Baratheon, I can’t think of one other person who would sponsor the solution to Ebola put forth by former executive director of the South Carolina GOP, Todd Kincannon. Maybe Dick Cheney, but I think he would have enough sense to keep his agreement to himself. Joff would be pretty down with it, but he got poisoned by his own in-laws. (Oops, spoiler for those not caught up.)
Ladies, Gentlemen, Small Furry Creatures, other humans who do not want to be called “ladies” or “gentlemen” and should feel free to insert their own chosen word; marvel at the brilliant plan, reported at Wonkette and many other locations, to contain the Ebola outbreak championed by Todd Kincannon, the former executive director of the South Carolina GOP, who I remind you is proudly, fiercely, undeniably, and outspokenly, pro-life.
So to recap: If you happen to be a fetus, Todd Kincannon has got your back. If you are one of those two nurses in Texas who caught Ebola trying to save Thomas Eric Duncan? Not so much.
Everyone, not just Democrats and progressives, everyone on every possible side should point and laugh at this man.
But first, they should say “wait….what?!?”
So I was scanning the posts at Salon, trying not to click on any of their ridiculous click-bait postings while trying not to miss anything that was actually interesting, and I saw a headline that caught my eye. Richard Dawkins: Religion isn’t the problem in the Middle East. Now while I feel that much of Dawkin’s earlier writing, including The God Delusion and The Greatest Show on Earth are incredible books that just about everyone with an interest in either religion or evolutionary biology, respectively, should read, I am also of the opinion that Prof. Dawkins has a habit of opening his mouth and allowing incredibly stupid things to come out of it. (As an aside, it always cracks me up when a creationist tries to argue me out of my acceptance of evolution by attacking Darwin. My answer to anything similar to “Did you know that Darwin …….” is usually “Yes, but did you know Dawkins is a sexist creep? Know how much of the evidence for evolution either of those statements refutes?” Sorry, I don’t accept evolution because some authority told me to.) So aware of the vomit that seemingly routinely escapes the mouth of Prof Dawkins, I clicked on the link fully expecting to see him saying some form of the headline. After all, the article was subtitled “The new atheist reluctantly concedes Islam can’t be blamed for the actions of terrorist organizations like ISIS.” So let’s see him make this reluctant concession, shall we?
“Religion itself is not responsible for this… It’s also this feeling of political involvement. It’s a feeling that it’s ‘us against them.’ And I think that quite a large number of young Muslims feel kind of beleaguered against the rest of the world.”
Well. It certainly looks like Prof. Dawkins is absolving religion of any blame for ISIS, does it not? The author of the piece certainly trumpets the statement for everything it is worth.
Dawkins’ statement is a huge divergence from the opinions of atheists like Sam Harris and Bill Maher, who continue to claim that religion is the primary motivator for radical terrorist groups like ISIS.
Well, first of all, so what? Atheists aren’t some monolithic group with a pope or priest that dictates our beliefs to us from on high. And if we had a leader like that, it certainly wouldn’t be either Dawkins, Harris, or Maher. Dawkins can have his ideas, Harris and Maher can have theirs, and I will continue to have mine. Weird how that works. Moving on…..
Wait a second. That Dawkins quote I blocked off up there? That isn’t quite the full quote. Here it is in full, with bolding added by me.
“Religion itself is not responsible for this… It’s also this feeling of political involvement. It’s a feeling that it’s ‘us against them.’ And I think that quite a large number of young Muslims feel kind of beleaguered against the rest of the world. And so religion in some sense might be just an excuse, but I do think that a dominant part of the motivation for these young men has to be religion.”
Now while Dan Arel at least included the whole quote, rather than just quote mining and scrapping that last little inconvenient sentence, he may as well of left it out since he wrote his whole article completely fucking ignoring the actual meaning of Dawkin’s answer. Dawkins isn’t saying that religion is innocent, he is saying that along with religion as the “dominant part of the motivation,” other factors, such as a feeling of political involvement and the “us against them” feeling also play a role. Suggesting that he is saying that religion is not to blame after reading that whole quote is dishonest and a form of quote-mining. In this case, rather than leave off the context of the last sentence, the author is just betting on his readers not catching it. Hell, for all I know, maybe the author himself didn’t catch it. Either way, this is not the way progressives should be making arguments. Quote-mining allows you to make anyone say anything you want them to say. Here’s an example. Ever listen to Hardcore History by Dan Carlin? Great podcast, right? I used to love it, until I was listening to the episode “Bubonic Nukes” and Mr. Carlin dropped this bit of bile into the cast around the 38:39 mark.
“And Aids is a good thing.” -Dan Carlin
Bet you never thought of Dan that way, now did you? Probably changes your opinion of him, and may make it less likely for you to support Hardcore History. Of course, I had to quote-mine to get that damning evidence, hoping that the fact that the episode is now not available for free and just general laziness will stop anyone from finding out that the whole quote is:
“And Aids is a good thing to use as a comparison with some of these old plagues, because a plague it certainly is…”- Dan Carlin
Leave quote mining to the creationists. Seriously, we should be above that.
Another way to dishonestly wage an argument? Wave your hands and make uncomfortable evidence disappear! Wow, it’s magic!
One thing that you can count on during any progressive versus progressive debate on Islam is the side making the case that religion is a problem will cite the Pew Research poll of a hell of a lot of Muslims. I’m not going to go into the findings of that poll, since that isn’t what this point is about. Feel free to check it out, I am sure I will be quoting it in the future. Ahmed Benchemsi must have found the poll an annoyance that got in the way of his arguments, because in an article over at Salon (who’d have guessed?) he engages in a bit of magical hand waving to make it disappear . Yep, apparently the Republican poll unskewers during the 2012 cycle have inspired progressives to unskew their own polls.
That would be the case if I trusted the Pew poll. But I don’t. What I am questioning here is not the methodology of the respected research Institute, but rather the genuineness of the answers provided by many of the 38,000 individuals it surveyed.
Okay, fine. Debate the “genuineness” of the answers given, wonder if they were worried that Big Allah was watching them, influencing their answers, try to figure out a way to conduct the poll to get answers that you do not doubt the “genuineness” of, but the simple fact that you do not agree with the results of the poll does not mean you can just choose to ignore it. You are making the argument that poll responders were so worried about who was listening in to their answers, that they defaulted to the most conservative answer.
Imagine you live in a country where Islam is the religion of the State, where criticizing the religion (let alone leaving it) is a criminal offense, where the educational system and the pervasive state media gang up every day to hammer that Islam is the highest moral norm ever—where, hell, even the opposition (mostly made of Islamist groups) does nothing but double down on religious intransigence… And here comes the Pew pollster, a total stranger with a list of disturbing questions pertaining to religion—questions to which the wrong answers can get you in trouble in many ways… Not the best conditions to conduct a credible opinion poll.
In other words, the more the questioned citizens are coerced into religiosity, the more likely they are to pick the safest answers—those consistent with what they were force-fed about religion since they were kids—when a pollster comes around.
I’m sorry. I really am. The author has much more experience with this part of the world than I do, but I still have to call shenanigans. First off, I trust the people who run Pew not to design a poll and polling practices that would immediately call all results into question. Second, you do not get to dismiss a poll with a hand waving “yeah, but they didn’t really mean it when they gave those answers” unless you are packing evidence. How is this any different than the guy from unskewed polls? Seriously. A poll is released. Person A disagrees with the finding. Person A then decides the methodology of the poll is skewed, thus rendering the poll irrelevant. Poll defeated. Until you show me a different poll, of similar comprehensiveness, that shows a different result, or until you come up with evidence that the results of the poll are wrong because of any of the reasons you cited, the poll carries more weight with me than your anecdotal opinion. (Say it with me, boys and girls! The plural of anecdote is not data.)
If the religious opinions of Muslims are questionable, then so is their adherence to religion in the first place. I’m not saying that no citizen from Morocco to Indonesia genuinely adheres to Islam. I’m just stating the obvious: no one knows how many really do—and no one will ever know until people are free to form and state their religious opinions freely. This has an important implication: all of the mainstream Western debate about what 1.6 billion Muslims think is built on the false premise that… there are 1.6 billion Muslims in the first place.
I have no doubt that there are non-believers hiding as Muslims in Middle Eastern countries. And while what the author says is technically true, that we don’t know how many of the professing Muslims actually are Muslims, if he seriously thinks the amount of Middle Easterners who would come out as non-believers (or hell, as Christians, Jews, any other religion) if they felt safe doing so would actually be enough to really make a difference, then he is definitely more optimistic than I am. Now both of us, the author and I, are talking out our ass now. Neither of us have any idea how many professing Muslims actually are secretly non-Muslims. But judging from the amount of Americans who remain in the faith community they were raised in, or gravitate to another sect of the family religion, in a nation where they are supposedly completely free to do so, I am willing to wager the author a fairly significant amount that the number would fall somewhere between “zero” and “not enough to make a fucking difference.”
At some point in Maher’s show, Sam Harris mentioned the “hundreds of millions of Muslims who are nominal Muslims who don’t take their faith seriously.” What an oxymoronic marvel this phrase is. If these people don’t take Islam seriously, why call them Muslims, “nominal” or not?
Oh come on. Are you just being dense on purpose now? You know exactly what he meant. America is full of “nominal” Christians, who call themselves Christians, believe in Jesus, and may even go to Church, yet ignore any facet of the faith that they don’t personally agree with, would never think of telling someone of another faith that they were going to burn in Hell, and think the religious right is batshit insane. I have no reason to doubt majority Muslim nations experience the same phenomenon. Why call them Muslims? Because no matter how serious they believe, they consider themselves Muslims. They believe in Allah and the faith, it just doesn’t control their lives. I’d have no problem with these “moderates” of both faiths, if not for the cover they provide the more extreme fundamentalist members of their faiths. But that is an argument for a different time.
This is not just a semantical point. It’s a paradigmal one. If you define people as irremediably Muslims, then the only choice you believe they have is either being a good or a bad Muslim, an extremist or a “moderate” (whatever that means).
Honestly. “Whatever that means?” Like the idea of a moderate member of a religious faith is that hard to understand?
Western opinion makers must realize that the 1.6 billion people they flatly call “Muslims” hold in fact an incredibly wide array of spiritual convictions, including atheism and agnosticism—and arguably not in small proportions. It’s not just about faith; it’s also about lifestyle. Just ask whoever is familiar with the realities of the Middle East about the prevalence of alcohol consumption, non-marital sex and other not so Islamic social practices. You’d be amazed.
Once again, I have no doubt that some of the 1.6 billion lumped together as “Muslims” are in fact, not Muslims. The author just seems to think that number is way higher than I do. One of us is wrong. I don’t think it is me. As for lifestyle, no, I really wouldn’t be amazed. Some people are fundamentalists of any faith. In America, there are definitely Christians who believe drinking alcohol, dancing, dating, pre-marital hand holding, reading Harry Potter novels, and recycling are of the Devil himself, and would never think to take part in any such activity. Yet strangely enough, there are also Christians who do all of the above. Why would I believe the Muslim world would be any different?
What does amaze me is the prevalence of honor killings in Islamic areas. And female genital mutilation. But go on, argue how even though Muhammad was totes coolio with FGM in the Qur’an, it is a cultural issue, not a religious one. I’m sure you have a similar argument about honor killings.
The west, America especially, has spent decades fucking over the Middle East. Even if Islam didn’t exist, Middle Easterners would have sufficient reason to hate Americans. In the name of our own interests, we have done whatever the fuck we wanted, including shutting down elected governments to install right wing friendly dictators. You want to throw a Blame America party, I’ll blow up some balloons.
The Middle East needs education. It needs progress, technology, science; a renaissance to return to the glory it once had. Once, Islam was the shining star of science, keeping the flame of knowledge alive. Perhaps that form of Islam could return, but I think it goes without saying that it isn’t the dominant form of today. When a nation forbids women from driving, you can not tell me that is not a religious law. When extremists shoot little girls because they are going to school, you are not going to be able to convince me that Islam is not a problem.
As I said earlier, religion is the problem, not just Islam. Anyone who doesn’t believe America has Christians just as extreme as any Muslim in Afghanistan is living in an ignorant bliss I wish I could join. America’s Bill of Rights keeps the government, in theory, from endorsing any religion, leaving the extremists to grasp for power that the moderate majority so far has prevented them from obtaining. Rather than install puppet governments friendly to the US, we would have been better off just allowing the whole Middle East to democratically elect their own government, even if it was openly hostile to our interests, as long as the nation first installed a Bill of Rights ensuring a secular state.
The problem is religion.
I have no desire to enter into a debate over whether religion has been a net positive or negative over the history of our species. Too much evidence on both sides of the issue is suspect simply because of the lack of an alternative. Sure, much of history’s great works of art, symphonies, architectural wonders and so on were created by religious men who may have had a religious inspiration. But it is dishonest to chalk that up as a positive contribution of religion. For the greater part of human history, religion was the default. Our understanding of the world had not progressed to the point where we could offer explanations without resorting to supernatural influence. Kings ruled by divine right. Religious leaders had power that rivaled, if not surpassed, the power of the “secular” ruler. Expressing disbelief in God, belief in a different God, or in many cases just the questioning of a certain facet of the status quo could get one branded a heretic and punished in all sorts of delightfully diabolical ways. The reason the religious side comes out ahead when adding up and comparing religious artists with non-religious artists is, quite simply, there were very very few, if any, openly non-religious artists. It’s similar to looking at the same statistics, and deciding that women have no artistic talent because all the classic greats were men, without stopping to consider the limitations placed on women by society. We can learn much from history. Unfortunately for those of us who are science minded, history doesn’t break down into nice little random, controlled, double blind trials.
The debate I want pertains to now. Humans living in a modern society with the knowledge gained through history and the scientific method. And let me be clear what I mean when I say that religion is the problem. I do not mean belief in a higher power, a supreme being, or even God. I do not mean the belief that our “souls” or some part of our individuality, lives on in some form, either in an afterlife, reincarnation, or some other method. I am mostly talking about revealed religion. I am talking about “we are right, you are wrong and hell bound” religion. While I have no belief in a God of any type, those that do, the “spiritual but not religious” crowd, the “I believe in something” crew, and the encouraging “its all the same God, she just chose different forms for different cultures” gang, get no side eyed glares from me. My problem, humanity’s problem, is when it becomes “My God is the ONLY God, and all those who do not follow Him are wrong.” This is when religion becomes a problem. When you believe that your God is not only real, but the only God, then everyone else who doesn’t share your beliefs becomes wrong; potential converts that need to be saved, servants of the evil one who need to be eradicated, or the combination of the two where their refusal to convert then turns them into the targets of eradication. This is what starts Crusades. This is where Inquisitions are born. This is how Jihad begins. This is what fires up the ovens. While religion can have definite positive effects for in group members, with the community that comes from attending and belonging to a faith community, it also has definite negative effects, serving to “otherize” the out group members in a much more severe way than many. Instead of just being from a different country/town/city/state, instead of just having a different skin pigmentation, now the out grouper is also a heathen, a threat to the morality of everyone.
Rather than try to hold peoples attention for a 20,000 word blog “manifesto” on the subject, I’ve decided to instead write a series of posts dealing with the issue, breaking it down into small, blog sized pieces. For organizational purposes, I have a new category over on the right hand side of the page, “Religion is the Problem.” While these posts will be cropping up in the normal ramblings of Foster Disbelief, I will also stick them all in that category for easy reference.
Can someone please explain the new “Bold” advertising campaign for the Toyota Camry? For those who avoid TV, here are links to the two I’m talking about:
From watching these ads, the message seems to be that people who buy Camry’s are overtaken by the desire to do really stupid things. In the B.B. King commercial, the Camry owner buys a storage locker at auction. Now I’m not going to tell you that Storage Wars is fake, but I will simply mention that if you believe “reality” television is actually “reality” then perhaps you need to take your bullshit detector in for a tune up. Buying storage lockers at auction is possibly profitable, but a highly risky business choice. Happening on an actual B.B. King guitar in an auction locker is pretty much akin to winning the lottery. Is that the next commercial? “Bold” Camry owner buys Powerball ticket. Hits the jackpot. Drives away.
The Bride Breakout commercial is worse. In this one, the “Bold” Camry owner crashes a wedding to express his undying love for the bride to be. Of course, being a commercial, the bride is actually thankful, running off with her “true love” the Camry own…sorry, the “Bold” Camry owner, with an actual car chase between the Camry and the car decorated for the soon to be married couple. While the car chase is ended by two adorable dogs, the commercial still raises several questions. First off, why is the runaway bride being chased after? Was she taking part in a shotgun wedding? Was this one of those mandatory “Gay” marriages the religious right is always warning us about? Second, why was this bride still going through with the wedding if she was that willing to skip out on it? Death do us part, indeed. Next, how long did they plan this breakout in order to train those dogs to cut off the pursuing cars? Perhaps most importantly, has this ever worked in the modern history of marriage? This is a plot device for a bad rom-com. Actually carrying out this plan is much more likely to cost the “Bold” Camry owner the friendship of the bride to be, and possible a restraining order. Seriously, you show up on her wedding day and in front of all her friends and family, decide to cause a scene by interrupting the ceremony to pledge your undying love to the person about to get fucking married to someone else? But what does the “Bold” Camry owner care? Obviously her friendship wasn’t enough for him. She must have, ick, “friend zoned” him, and she was just waiting for that grand romantic/psychotic gesture to drop her panties for him, since we all know those silly women folk never know what they want. *headdesk*
Camry. The car for reckless idiots.
I’ve been working on a pretty in depth post on Islam, the Bill Maher/Ben Affleck kerfluffle, and the competing beliefs that cause liberals and progressives to be so divided on this topic. I wanted to have it out today, but as it nears 7pm EST, I’ve decided to stop for the night rather than rushing to get it posted.
Since tomorrow is Saturday, and my readership is lower on the weekend, I won’t be posting this article until Monday or Tuesday morning no matter when I get it finished. as I want as many eyes as possible to look at it since I’m pouring much more time and effort into it than your average post here. (Maybe not Monday cause of Dead Native American Day.)
That being said, I will have a couple posts this weekend, as a lot of shit is going on. The Supremes put a hold on Wisconsin’s attempt to limit the amount of left leaning voters permitted to cast ballots while a federal judge down in Texas did the same there, Rep. Duncan Hunter, a
lunatic Republican from the insane asylum California is still claiming that “at least” ten ISIS fighters have been stopped at the US/Mexico border, according to the voices in his head a supposed “high level” source (I’m sure the “source” is very “high” The question is “on what?”), and apparently hunting season has been extended on black people. And I haven’t even mentioned the inaction by the Supreme Court that resulted in marriage equality becoming law in 30 states and the District now, or the hilariously apocalyptic response by the Right. ( I love you soooo much, Ted Cruz. So much. I would totally suck you off. I mean, in a totally straight, bro type of way. I’m not saying that you are gay. And me? Well, at the very most I’m slightly heteroflexible. I mean, there was that one guy, back when I was 21 or 22, who was dating my ex, and I totally would have maybe done something with him if he would have asked me to. Possibly. But I wish I was bi, and not being bi wouldn’t stop me from taking one for the team and going down on you like a pornstar, Mr. Cruz. I’d gag for you, and make sure not to scrape you with my teeth, and I’d even swallow. For America. )
And if that isn’t patriotism, I don’t know what is.
Amen. See ya all tomorrows.
Dateline – Sátira, Pennsylvania
The scene outside Persiflage Elementary School, here in the small Pennsylvanian town of Sátira, was a mixture of disbelief and jubilation. Disbelief that their small town was hiding what the Pennsylvania State Police can only call a ticking time bomb; a classic textbook pedophile lurking in the local elementary school. Jubilation that he was apprehended apparently before he could lure any of the school’s innocent children into his web of sexual sin. Yet even though this predator was stopped before he could make local students his prey, the same question is on the minds of all local parents: Is he the only one?
The suspect, a Mr. S. Kit Karikatur, who has lived his whole life in Sátira at the corner of Parodie Avenue and Sarkasmus Street, was arrested during an anxious raid at the school, performed a little after 9:30 am. PA State Trooper Hohn Pasquinade, commander of Barracks L337, took us through the arrest.
“The pervert didn’t know what hit him. We swarmed the school with our SWAT team, assisted by teams from the 5 surrounding counties. Between civil forfeiture laws, drug task force money, and anti-terror funds, we have equipment that surpasses 75% of the world’s militaries. We tossed a few flashbangs into the classroom and stormed in, firing off a few warning shots into the ceiling to let him know we mean business. Would you believe the pedo actually pissed himself? Well, all the students pissed themselves as well, but leave that part out. Just talk about the perv.”
More after the jump, including a picture of the suspect.
I have a confession to make. I feel that some “liberal” causes are, quite honestly, a bridge too far. I put liberal in quotes in that confession because while these ideas almost invariably come from liberals or progressives, I consider them fringe ideas that are not held by the majority of “liberals.” You know, like if I said that banning contraceptives was a conservative cause, I’d put “conservative” in quotes because I realize that it a very extreme belief not held by the majority of con….Okay, bad example. I’ll try again. You know, like if I said that open carry was a conservative cause, I’d put…goddammit. Third try. You know, like if I said that starting a new crusade and wiping Islam off the map was a conservativ….. You know, with the way the GOP politicians rush to give the most conservative members of their base totally not gay rim jobs out of fear of being primaried, I have no fucking clue what is an actual conservative cause, and what is just the lunatic fringe with a megaphone. Deep down my faith in humanity has me convinced that all three of the above beliefs are on the extreme fringe, that the Republican party has a large silent majority that leans more moderate, but every time a moderate member of the GOP gets pasted like Jojen* by a far right wack-a-loon in the primary, this core belief of mine gets shaken just a little bit more. One last try. If I said that wearing a white sheet while singing the praises of Hitler was a conservative cause, I would put “conservative” in quotes, because for once, I am actually sure that is a very extreme belief not held by the majority of conservatives. Finally.
So no, I was not tweeting with the “CancelColbert” hashtag. While I am aware of my white, male, middle class privilege and do what I can to promote equality and call people out for bigotry, I am not going to remove the words “crazy,” “insane,” “insanity,” or “batshit” from my vocabulary because someone suffering from a mental illness thinks the usage of those words is discriminatory. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m a hypocrite. Perhaps I just haven’t faced a compelling argument. All I know is as a person who has been diagnosed as major depressive with social anxiety disorder and ADHD, I am not insulting people suffering with mental illness when I say that Ted Cruz is full of batshit insanity. Language is fluid, and I see major differences between those words and gender/racial/sexuality specific derogatory words. I’m not being “ableist.” Those words have well known and widely accepted definitions separate from referring to people with mental illness. As I said, maybe I’m wrong, but I have yet to hear a convincing argument.
These are the types of “liberal” causes I am talking about. I have to believe that the majority of progressives don’t consider the word “insane” to be off limits, and while many may not think that individual Colbert Report tweet was funny, especially out of context, I haven’t seen many recent liberal boycotts of Stephen.
Was there a point to any of that? Probably not. But it was the best way I could come up with to introduce this story, which you can consider today’s “Wait….What?!?” if you’d like. If you’ve spent any time here at FD, you more than likely have realized that I read Salon quite a bit. To be honest, it is one of my favorite stops on the web, hence the frequent stories that link back to Salon. One story today made me question that, and actually start poking around for a few new progressive sites to call my home. And while I know that is quite an extreme reaction for one story, well….. that’s what a bad taste it left in my mouth.
The story in question? Jon Stewart cursed me out: I dared question a “Daily Show” warm-up comic’s racist jokes. Feel free to go and read the article for yourself, and form your own opinion. I’ll wait.
For those of you who didn’t feel like clicking the link, or clicked then said “I’m not reading all of that,” I will attempt to summarize. In April of 2008, six years ago, the author attended a taping of The Daily Show, looking forward to seeing John Stewart and the show live and in person. Before the show began, a comic came out to warm up the crowd, telling what the author describes as racist and misogynist jokes. I see no reason not to take the author on her word on this; unfortunately racism and misogyny are part of many comics routine, and to be honest, it doesn’t really matter to the story whether the author is accurately describing the content of the jokes.
After the warm-up acts set, Jon Stewart came out on stage to answer a few questions. (Note: The article does not say that he was watching the warm-up act. If I had to guess, I’d wager that Jon was busy prepping prior to the show rather than seeing how the crowd warmer was doing.) The author gets to ask a question, and I will quote her question so no one accuses me of misrepresenting it.
So I raised my hand and asked, “Why does your warm-up comedian use ethnic humor?”
To be fair, the author immediately concedes that she should have phrased the question differently. Believe me, I’ve been there. I’ve had a microphone shoved in my face and then spent the entire drive home thinking of the things I should have said. Unfortunately, we can’t travel back in time and re do those bone headed moves, so what comes out of our mouths is what comes out of our mouths. Now here comes the big Jon Stewart explosion, where he is going to curse out this poor audience member who was just asking a question:
Stewart’s face creased with annoyance. He said, shortly, loudly, glaring at me, “BECAUSE. IT’S. FUCKING. FUNNY.” The audience erupted into wild applause.
Meanwhile, he stared at me with palpable hostility. Once the applause had died down, he added, “Don’t you even watch the show?”
The article goes on. As I said, feel free to click the above link and read it all for yourself. I’m not going any deeper into it.
Look. I have no doubt that the author found the warm up comic’s jokes to be offensive. Judging from the pool of working warm up acts, there’s a good chance the jokes were offensive. But answering her vague question with “because it’s fucking funny” is not cursing someone out. Sorry, it’s not. This whole article is outrage click bait, and I can’t believe Salon posted it. As much as I disagreed with Suey Park over the whole #CancelColbert thing, I have no right to tell her what she is allowed to be offended over. The people who responded to her campaign with misogynist rants, racist ravings, and death threats are the lowest type of subhuman scum. Alison Kinney, the author of the article, has interesting things to say about using comedy as social criticism, but she chose to bury those things under a six year old story of her memories of attending a taping of The Daily Show, which the folks at The Daily Show have no recollection of at all.
Was Stewart’s face really “creased with annoyance?” Did he glare a hole into the author while answering her question? Did he truly stare at her with “palpable hostility?” Who the fuck knows? No, I am not accusing Allison Kinney of lying, not at all. But take a few minutes to research how memory works. After studying the subject a bit, I’m not 100% confident in my memories of last week, let alone an event from six years ago. And at this point, it is impossible to get confirmation or a denial from The Daily Show, because they’ve show six years of shows since then, with six years of questions, and six years of warm up acts.
Let’s see what Salon has to….Sorry, force of habit. Turning to The Daily Banter:
I keep bringing this kind of thing up because, believe it or not, it really does bug me. It bugs me that a website that was once a dependable resource for high-quality debate and analysis from the left now traffics almost exclusively — with very few exceptions — in silly opinion columns aimed at getting readers to make fun of them in the comment section. Seriously, try reading through the feedback Salon gets to some of this stuff sometime. 97-percent of it is outright mockery — and Salon doesn’t care because it means people are clicking. Whereas Buzzfeed aims for the lowest common Millennial denominator by running crap like “25 Signs You’re in a Romantic Relationship with Your Sandwich,” Salon pretends that it’s above that kind of pabulum and that it actually has something meaningful to say. The reality, though, is that Buzzfeed and Salon are exactly the same; they’re two sides of the same coin. Buzzfeed just puts its lowbrow click-bait in the form of harmless lists while Salon turns it into pseudo-intellectual self-importance.
It just published a column about this one person who was offended by this one thing once and who got even more offended that her initial offense wasn’t shown the proper deference. It made this its top story and slapped a headline on it that wasn’t just a lie, it kind of libeled somebody. Salon is now nothing more than Thought Catalog for angry liberals. It’s Thought Catalog for people don’t have any thoughts, just knee-jerk reactions.
If Allison Kinney wants to write another article, this time focusing on her points about social justice, social criticism, and comedy, I will gladly read it. Hell, I will link to it and discuss it here, though I can’t promise I will agree with her every point. But for now, I won’t even pay attention to the second part of her article, because I refuse to reward Salon (and the author if they pay by click) for using a six year old unverifiable memory to get people to click, click, click.
*1 point if you know who or what Jojen is. 3 points if you think that was an amusing reference to what happened on the show. 5 points if you can explain the “Jojen paste” theory from the books off the top of you head.