It's really tragic that religious groups in this country make it so politically… 1

It's really tragic that religious groups in this country make it so politically suicidal for Americans to come forward and admit that they don't believe in a higher power. As a result we get almost every politician feeling like they have to pander to church-goers just so they don't get shouted down by the radicals on the right.

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The Mid-East

According to Webster’s Dictionary:

Main Entry: Sem·ite
Pronunciation: ‘se-“mIt, especially British ‘sE-“mIt
Function: noun
Etymology: French sémite, from Semitic Shem, from Late Latin, from Greek SEm, from Hebrew ShEm
1 a : a member of any of a number of peoples of ancient southwestern Asia including the Akkadians, Phoenicians, Hebrews, and Arabs b : a descendant of these peoples
2 : a member of a modern people speaking a Semitic language

Based on my father originally being from Jordan, I am a semite and not anti-semitic. I have now and in the past have had friends who are Jewish. I am not prejudiced against anyone. However, having said that it doesn’t mean that I can’t be opposed to the policies of various governments (including the United States, Great Britain, Israel, Syria and Iran as well as many others) regarding the situation in the Middle East. All of these governments have behaved in a consistently stupid way for the last six decades. One look at the misery and suffering of the people on all sides in the Middle East should be all the evidence that someone needs that politics and religion should not ever be mixed. I have not written much recently about the current war in Lebanon because every time I think about it, I find myself getting sad and angry and feeling helpless.

I am still trying to organize my thoughts and figure out how to articulate my feelings. I will be writing more on this in the coming days. But for now I am afraid that the Bush administration will be providing no positive leadership on this conflict. In fact they are providing negative reinforcement by encouraging the Israelis to continue. Bush and his Christian extremist supporters believe that this is all part of the “inevitable” end-times and they want this to happen. Until someone moves into the White House who actually believes in the Constitution this will not change. Unfortunately the Syrians and Hezbollah and Hamas are not doing anything to help the situation either. As long as there have been governments that see themselves as defenders of a faith, whether it be Christianity, Judaism, Islam or any other, they have also been oppressors of the “other”. Governments MUST be secular, in order to for people to be treated fairly, freely and with justice.

Predictions of the obvious

Pat Robertson has been talking about the revelations that god has been giving him again. This time on his 700 club show. Evidently the big guy told him that storms and a possible tsunami will lash American cosatlines this year! It took a revelation from god to figure this out?! Give me a break. This guy is a complete fraud and huckster. Predicting that storms will hit coasts is like predicting that the sun will rise tomorrow. There has never been a year when coasts have not been hit buy storms. Have you ever noticed that arears most likely to get hit by tropical storms and hurricanes are in the southeast US? That also happens to home to the biggest concentration of bible thumpers. Coincidence? or natural selection? you decide. Anyone that sends money to Robertson or any one of the countless other biblical con artists deserves to flush their money down the toilet.

Is Condi a hypocrite or just stupid? 2

In the Washington Post yesterday they had an article about the State Dept’s annual report on religious liberty. In the piece secretary of state Condi Rice is quoted as saying:

“The United States has stood for the values of human decency, of a government that respects the religious freedoms of its people, that respects the individual rights of its people, for its entire history,” she said. “And let me just be very clear. We hold . . . those values today as strongly as we ever have.”

That’s fine as long as we don’t apply those rules to our own government. The shrub administration seems to have no qualms about enforcing religious freedom as long as you choose to believe in a monothiestic religion. If however, you prefer to eschew religion altogether, you are an outcast. When is the last time, you saw an athiest elected to a high political office in the United States? When is the last time you saw an openly athiest judge or cabinet member appointed? There are plenty of people who are athiest or agnostic in this country who are emminently qualified and vastly more moral than most of the people in the executive or legislative branches of our government. Why are they always ignored? Why does someone have to be “god-fearing” to participate in our government? We may not have an officially established religion, (yet!) but we do seem to have an unofficial ban on the non-religious in government. And this “In God We Trust” thing, who is this “WE”?

Proselytizing Atheism?

There is a great post over on SIVACRACY.NET this morning. This is exactly what I believe in and have written about previously

Don’t click this link if you have no sense of humor about religion, e.g. if you don’t find this funny:

“As an atheist you have a number of rights and responsibilities. These include (but are not limited to):

Have no gods.
Don’t worship stuff.
Be polite.
Take a day off once in a while.
Be nice to folks.
Don’t kill people.
Don’t fool around on your significant other.
Don’t steal stuff.
Don’t lie about stuff.
Don’t be greedy.

Remember, theists will condemn you for living by this code because you are doing it of your own free will instead of because you’re afraid that if you don’t a supreme being will set you on fire.

Rescuing Jesus

Alessandro Camon wrote an excellent essay on this week about how the republican party and the religiious right in the United States have hijacked Jesus Christ. Even if you are not a Christian it is truly appalling how shrub and his cronies have abuse and twisted the words in the bible to their own ends.

The American Christian right has hijacked Jesus Christ. It has made him into a brand, a logo, a bumper sticker. It celebrates his suffering on the cross, but largely neglects what he had to say. It prefers an Old Testament God, a “Jealous God, visiting the sins of the fathers upon the children.” It elevates success to proof of God’s favor, and washes its hands of responsibility for the poor. It combines a self-righteous vision of Americans as the chosen people with shrill intimations of imminent apocalypse, to justify indifference to the rest of the world and to the planet itself. It sticks to the letter of the Bible with arbitrary selectiveness, so that it can endorse creationism and condemn homosexuality while acknowledging that (contrary to Old Testament wisdom) the earth is in fact round, and slavery is not OK. (If you are not a salon premium subscriber you will need to watch a few ads first before reading the article, but it is worth it.)

For the record I am not a christian although I was raised catholic. I used to consider myself an agnostic. I hate absolutism and don’t like the idea of denying anything that I cannot disprove. However particularly since the rise to power of shrub I have come to see myself as an athiest. I believe that even if there were a god, if she/he/it didn’t do some thing about about these people purporting to be acting in god’s name, this amorphous being wouldn’t be something worth worshipping anyway. I believe people are responsible for for their own behavior. If they want a better world they have to work for it and not rely on a god or false prophets to deliver it for them. I believe you only have the life that you are living now, and once that is over your time is up. Make the best of the life you have, and don’t count on some eternal paradise.

If there is a heaven, and you live the kind of life preached by jesus in the bible, you will get their. If there isn’t, living that kind of life will make the world a better place anyway. God and jesus aren’t necessary for people to live a good life and take care of each other. But living a good life and taking care of each other and our planet is necessary if our species is to survive beyond the near future. This planet has been around a lot longer than humans. Many species have risen and died off over the last 4.5 billion years. Many more will come and go in the future. But if our little group wants to be around a little longer we need to stop the people that are twisting and abusing the words in a book written by many men over many years over 2000 years ago. They are abusing these words for their own perverse ends and we must take responsibility for stopping them and making this world a better place for future generations.

New study shows religion is bad for society 1

A new study published in the Journal of Religion and Society shows that religion is not necessary for a moral, healthy society. In fact, all the evidence seems to point to a direct relationship between how religious a society is and rates of violent crime, abortion, early mortality, std rates and teen pregnancy. People in developed countries that are more secular have less crime, live longer and have fewer societal ill in general. Maybe when people people realize that they are responsible for the well being of their society, rather than some amorphous god with a “grand plan” they start to behave in a way that is better for the health of the society as a whole. They do things to make the lives of their citizens better, like make sure that they have health care, and conserve natural resources.

The United States is by far the most religious developed country in the world, and we have the shortest lifespan, highest violent crime rates, worst health care (while spending far and away the most on it), and the biggest debt. We have 5% of the population and use 25% of the worlds energy resources. And we have 58 million people that voted for the dimbulb George W Bush. If that last item isn’t enough to convince you that religion is bad for society that you are beyond help anyway. As I have said before, defining standards of behavior (which is what morals are) is just common sense in order for groups of people to live together. Actually all species that live in social groups have standards of behavior. This is how they survive. Just look at packs of dogs, lions or chimps. They all have social rules, obviously not the same as human rules, but rules nonetheless.

American society has some great features, most notably our constitution and bill of rights. The ideas expressed in these documents are what make the US special. They were created by people that recognized that religion must be kept separate from the state in order to thrive. We must get back to the ideals of Jefferson and Adams. We must get away from religion.

Morals and Religion 1

I was listening to a podcast of Radio Open Source (Christopher Lydon’s new public radio show) today where they were talking about intelligent design and evolution. While listening to this I remembered something that I have thought about on numerous occasions before. One of the arguments I keep hearing from religious “conservatives” about morals is that you can’t have morals without some higher being to tell you how you should live and behave. One of the guests on the show was Kenneth Miller and he discussed how the creationists (let’s forget the euphamisms and call them what they are) believe that something must have created us or why would we even exist.

My belief is that in order for societies to survive and prosper, some basic rules of behavior must be established. Whenever you put a group of people together they eventually have to define some rules or the group breaks down. This does not just apply to humans, every animal species that lives in groups has standards of behavior. There are typically leaders in any group, whether they are dogs, gorillas, bees or any other social animals. All the other members of the group follow certain behavioral standards. This is done for greater benefit of the group and the species. The same thing applies to human societies. They establish rules, based on common sense and experience to preserve the group. Rules like the ten commandments (whichever 10 you happpen to follow, which vary depending on which christian, muslim or jewish sect you follow) can ultimately be filtered down to 2 main ones. Don’t kill and don’t take what doesn’t belong to you. These are pretty easy to figure out for any group that wants to thrive.

Considering how many “god-fearing” people that claim to follow these rules don’t seem to have a problem with capital punishment or killing infidels or heritecs, I don’t put much stock in anyone saying you must have a god to have morals. I believe morals are something that comes from common sense and the need to survive. I am a good moral human and I don’t believe in god.

I will probably follow up on this idea later, but it is late right now and I need to get ready for bed.