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Fearmongering Bigotry?

I just got an email about a new commercial being aired by the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) concerning a “storm” that’s brewing in this country. What is the storm? Same-sex marriage, of course. The commercial is just filled with nonsense, but attempts to convey a sense of dread about how same-sex marriage is taking over the country and taking away the rights of our citizens.

Some quotes:

“Some who advocate for same-sex marriage have taken the issue far beyond same-sex couples.”

“They want to bring the issue into my life.”

“My freedom will be taken away.”

“I’m a California doctor who must choose between my faith and my job.”

“I’m part of a New Jersey church group punished by the government because we can’t support same-sex marriage.”

“Those advocates want to change the way I live.”

It goes on, but then turns brighter by saying that a “rainbow coalition” (oh, the irony!) is “coming together in love to protect marriage.” Then it invites viewers to visit the website and join them (the bigotry there is even more prominent, enhanced by the vehement denials of bigotry).

At the bottom of the video, there’s s line of text stating “The stories these actors are telling are based on real incidents.” No detail is provided, however, so we don’t know what happened to the woman who says, “My freedom will be taken away” or how the New Jersey church group was “punished by the government.”

Regardless of each story’s details, the one common thread is that all of them are born of religion-based bigotry. Sadly, in a country where about a third of the people see evolution as false, it’s not all that surprising. Religious belief removes the motivation for scientific inquiry and curiousity in the same way that it accentuates and validates bigotry and intolerance. Any time a claim is made of “absolute truth,” you can be somewhat sure that “truth” is nowhere to be found. Any time a claim is made of “objective morality,” you can be somewhat sure that “morality” is the last thing you’ll find.

The same-sex marriage opponents are the worker bees of religious dogma. If the ancient holy book claims that same-sex marriage is wrong, then same-sex marriage must be the evil storm of Satan trying to overtake and destroy this nation “under God.” Oh… and no shellfish.

Maybe they’d better form a rainbow coalition.


Hypocrisy? I think so.

Sarah PalinToday I saw a video of an interview with Sarah Palin about gay marriage. The interview was The Christian Broadcasting Network in October of 2008, so it’s nothing particularly current. However, I think it highlights something that is all too common, not just regarding the gay marriage debate, but religious issues in general.

Here’s what Palin says during the interview.

In my own state, I have voted […] to ammend our  constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman. I wish on a federal level that’s where we would go because I don’t support gay marriage. Ummm… I’m… You know I’m not gonna be up here judging individuals, sitting in a seat of judgement, telling them what they can and cannot do, should and should not do, but I certainly can express my own opinion here and take action that I believe would be best for traditional marriage […]

I want to be clear on something here. I 100% support her right to have and voice an opinion that is contrary to mine or anyone else’s. I would never want to squelch free speech on any issue.

What I have a problem with, in this particular case, is the blatant hypocrisy. She says that she supports a constitutional ammendment on a state and federal level that would ban gay marriage by defining it as between one man and one woman. Then she says that she’s not “gonna be up here judging individuals” or “telling them what they can and cannot do, should and should not do.” That’s in complete contradiction with her first statement.

So which is it? Only Palin knows for sure, but I can speculate based on information from other statements she’s made. She does want to tell people what they can and cannot do. She is judging people. Not only that, but she’s doing it based on teachings from her religious holy book. If you listen to the entire interview, she goes on to say the following.

[…] speaking up for traditional marriage… that… that… instrument that it’s the foundation of our society is that strong family and that’s based on that traditional definition of marriage.

Putting aside her mid-sentence shift of meaning, she started out saying that “traditional marriage” is the “foundation of our society.” At least it is today. Tomorrow, our foundation might be the Ten Commandments. Perhaps later it could be Christian values or the right to life or a good work ethic. It seems that the foundation of our society can shift and morph and become whatever it needs to be to support the argument at hand, whether that argument is about gay marriage, religion in schools, abortion, political prayers, or other religiously-motivated topics du jour.

The all-too-common refrain, however, closely mimics Palin’s statements. You’re free to do what you want and believe what you want… as long as it goes along with biblical teachings. Nobody will judge you or tell you what to do… as long as what you’re doing is acceptable according to the bible.

I guess I won’t be having scallops for dinner. (Leviticus11:11-12)

This is encouraging.

Here’s a short video of President Obama speaking about science and once again putting it at the top of our agenda as a nation. It’s so nice to hear a president speak about the importance of science with what seems to be at least some modicum of understanding of the scientific process and what it means.

Here are a few bits from the video.

Today more than ever before, science holds the key to our survival as a planet and our security and prosperity as a nation. It’s time we once again put science at the top of our agenda and worked to restore America’s place as the world leader in science and technology.

That was a great start, but what really got to me was this next quote.

Because the truth is that promoting science isn’t just about providing resources. It’s about protecting free and open inquiry. It’s about ensuring that facts and evidence are never twisted or obscured by politics or ideology. It’s about listening to what our scientists have to say even when it’s inconvenient… especially when it’s inconvenient. Because the highest purpose of science is the search for knowledge, truth, and a greater undrestanding of the world around us.

Free and open inquiry? Evidence not twisted or obscured by politics or ideology? Listening to what scientists have to say? Searching for truth?… via science?! Why, Mr. President!… that’s almost blasphemous!

Seriously, though, I think it’s refreshing to hear. It’s a direct hit against the wave of anti-intellectualism that’s been threatening to poison this country for quite some time. It’s definitely a direct hit against the Bush policies of the past eight years. If only President Obama’s stated goals for science can be achieved, I think it’ll make a huge difference in the success of our nation.

I’d like to add one more, if I may. I’d like to see science promoted in our educational system without the chains of dogma attached to it. Let students learn about the scientific method and about scientific theories without the undertow of religion dragging them down. Teach them what science is and what science does… and what it doesn’t do.

But don’t corrupt it. Don’t water it down and cheapen it by introducing artificially manufactured doubt. Don’t try to pass off superstition and unsupported proclamations as science. Don’t try to skew the evidence or make up evidence where none exists. It only confuses the issue and is educationally unproductive… and counterproductive.

Science comes with its own healthy allotment of doubt and skepticism by its very nature. It’s part of the process. It’s how theories are formed. Let the evidence mitigate the doubt. Let the facts assuage the skepticism. Teach students how to develop their own critical thinking skills so they can determine the validity of existing scientific theories… and create new ones.

Here’s hoping.

Tony Blair at the National Prayer Breakfast

During the National Prayer Breakfast, which itself causes some consternation among atheists, former Prime Minister Tony Blair gave a speech stating that “restoring religious faith to its rightful place” is crucial to our world’s future.

There’s a clip on YouTube of part of his speech. I listened to it today and was saddened. While his speech was definitely appropriate for the venue, it highlighted some things that many atheists (and some non-atheists) feel are huge barriers to civil, benevolent behavior and scientific progress in our world.

I believe restoring religious faith to its rightful place as the guide to our world and its future is itself of the essence.

The 21st century will be poorer in spirit, meaner in ambition, less disciplined in conscience, if it is not under the guardianship of faith in God.

I beg to differ. I think recent history has demonstrated, rather vividly, just the opposite. From the atrocities in Iraq (before and after the U.S. invasion) to the situation between Israelis and Palestinians to the oppression in Saudi Arabia to the sexual indiscretions of Catholic priests, religious faith has undeniably demonstrated its function as a catalyst for mean-spirited ambition, inexcusable behavior, subjugation of human rights, and horrid acts of violence.


Looking in the Mirror

The now (in)famous London bus ads which read “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” are about to work their way onto the Toronto Transit System in Canada. As with similar ads in other places, the ads are drawing kudos and complaints from interested parties.

One such complaint came to my attention today via an article on globeandmail.com. It seems that Dr. Charles McVety, president of the Canada Family Action Coalition and the Canada Christian College in Toronto, is claiming that the ads are “attack ads.”

This bit from the article is what really caught my attention (emphasis mine)…

“These ads are not saying what the atheists believe, they are attacking what other people believe,” [McVety] said. “And if you look at the dictionary definition for … bigot, that’s exactly what it is, to be intolerant of someone else’s belief system.”

First, I’d like to point out that the ads specifically do say what atheists believe… there’s probably no God. That’s pretty straightforward and unambiguous.

The major point, however, is McVety’s statement about bigotry. This man, who is complaining about an atheist statement by calling it an attack, whose group, the Canada Family Action Coalition, fought against the legalization of same-sex marriage,  and who is a “prominent evangelical leader” according to the article, has the audacity to accuse someone else of bigotry? His statement is a bald-faced example of classic hypocrisy.

Sadly, however, it’s not an uncommon example of hypocrisy. It’s all too common. Fundamentalists who make accusations of bigotry need to first look in the mirror before opening their mouths.

Swearing on the Bible

Steve Wells over at Dwindling in Unbelief has a great post about Obama’s second round swearing in.

During “Take Two” of the Oath of Office, there was no Bible used for the ceremony. “So help me God” was still tacked on the end, despite the words’ glaring absence in the Constitution, but the lack of a Bible was a step in the right direction.

As Steve puts it…

The Bible, of course, is worse than useless when it comes to consistent advice on morality. But the New Testament (to avoid confusion, ignore the Old Testament on this one) is pretty clear about one thing: Christians shouldn’t swear. Not to God and not on the Bible or on anything else.

He then quotes Matthew 5:34-37

34 But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

…and James 5:12

12 Above all, my brothers, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your “Yes” be yes, and your “No,” no, or you will be condemned.

…to back up his argument. That seems pretty clear to me. Not only shouldn’t the Bible be used (according to the Bible itself), but the swearing in shouldn’t happen at all! Evidently, it’s a pretty UN-Christian thing to do.

So if our Constitution requires our President to take an oath of office, which is contrary to what the Christian religion allows, does that mean that our country isn’t a Christian nation?

I love irony.

Attempted Christian-Imposed “Morality”

From Reuters UK: Another example of Christians attempting to force their prudish ideological morality on others.

A group of conservative politicians is making headway towards a ban on topless bathing on some of Australia’s best known beaches.

Christian lawmaker and veteran morals campaigner Reverend Fred Nile has won backing from key politicians in New South Wales state, home to Sydney and its famed ocean beaches, to tighten existing laws covering nude sunbathing.

The move has provoked strong reaction from easy-going sun worshippers.

Penny Tweedie reports.

I particularly like that Reverend Fred Nile claims that a woman who sunbathes topless “demeans herself” and is “taking away her own self respect.”

Isn’t that something you should ask the woman sunbathing? How could he possibly know? Could it be, rather, that he himself somehow finds the issue titillating (pardon the pun) and is afraid it might awaken some inner urges that he feels are not proper given his “Christian” morals? And if so, could it be that he wants to impose restrictions in order to keep others from feeling the same amoral urges that he’s feeling in order to save their souls? It can’t be that he feels God’s creation is appalling, can it?

Politician Dave Clark also feels that children would be offended by seeing a woman’s breasts. He claims that there are people who want to be at the beach, but can’t because they’re concerned about their children “seeing it.” Amazingly, he said it with a straight face, too, which might indicate that he actually believes the nonsense he’s spewing. What child (who is not an evangelistically brainwashed fundamentalist Christian) would be offended by a woman’s breasts? “Taking offense” is a learned behavior.

The article says that topless sunbathing has been common on most beaches since the 1960’s and that nobody really complains about it. Perhaps the only ones complaining are the morally questionable Christians and politicians. Everyone else seems to be having a grand time getting a nice all-over tan.

Christian Bashing?

From the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission comes this list of the top ten instances of Christian bashing in 2008.

Ebonmuse over at Daylight Atheism wrote a nice piece about the absurdity of the whole claim of Christians being persecuted. intelekshual hits on the topic with her (I think) customary acerbic wit.

Christian Oppression?The whole idea of Christians being some sort of persecuted minority is just absurd. The criticisms generally only come when Christians attempt to push their ideology and dogma onto the real minority groups. The blind arrogance of acting as if they are somehow the underdog, as if they have a lock on the “Truth,” as if they’re better than those with different beliefs, as if they deserve pity for withstanding so much persecution… it’s just incredible.

The CADC’s mission statement is this:

The mission of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission (CADC) is to advance religious liberty for Christians by protecting Christians from defamation, discrimination, and bigotry from any and all sources by means of education and selected legal services including litigation, inside the United States and internationally.

“…protecting Christians from defamation, discrimination, and bigotry…”

Who will protect the rest of us from their defamation, discrimination, and bigotry? That remains the much larger issue.

What War on Christmas?

I found an editorial on iReport.com and thought it was a well-written statement about the alleged “War on Christmas” that is much touted by Fox News and many of the religious right.

The writer, Indy609, makes a clear distinction between the “separation of church and state” and a “war on Christmas,” something which seems to confuse a lot of people at Fox News. After giving examples of lawsuits and/or efforts to maintain the First Ammendment Separation, he notes…

None of these is the same as removing all religion from public life, not by the longest stretch of logical maneuvering.

Where are the lawsuits seeking to end Christian broadcasting? Where are the protests seeking to remove Christian-themed holiday music from the mall? Where are the referendums seeking to cover up the road signs in every town showing you the way to the nearest church? Who has sought to stifle candidates expressing their religious preference? When has anyone has advocated shutting down Christian bookstores? Where are the attempts to block the entryways to churches? Where are the ravenous letters opposing faith-based network programming such as “Touched By an Angel” or “Joan of Arcadia”? When one goes walking on any Main Street, America, this month, is Christmas not apparent in every direction?

Wanting to have a nativity display removed from a government building is not a “War on Christmas.” It’s an attempt to maintain freedom of religion. Put the display in any one of the beautiful churches in towns and cities across the entire country… where it belongs.

What’s the point of putting a nativity display (or other religious displays) in a government building when there are obviously more appropriate places for it? The answer? There isn’t a valid point.

Here’s a link to the editorial. http://www.ireport.com/docs/DOC-164454

A Perfect Example

Today, I read a perfect example of how religious dogma transcends all rationality and practicality. The link to the article is at the end, but here’s the synopsis.

A South Carolina Roman Catholic priest has told his parishioners that they should refrain from receiving Holy Communion if they voted for Barack Obama because the Democratic president-elect supports abortion, and supporting him “constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil.”

Evidently, the priest distributed a letter to parishioners telling them that they are “putting their souls at risk if they take Holy Communion before doing penance for their vote.” The article goes on to say “A few church leaders said parishioners risked their immortal soul by voting for candidates who support abortion rights.”

Doing penance for their vote? Risking their immortal soul by voting a certain way?