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Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

When Your Body Violates Their Rights

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"Basically people that don't live like I think they should live are violating my rights." - Bishop William E. Lori, paraphrased.

“Religious leaders told a House panel Thursday the Obama administration was violating basic rights to religious freedom with its policies for requiring that employees of religion-affiliated institutions have access to birth control coverage.”

Ladies and gentlemen, but mostly ladies, I give you… the CULTURE WARS.

So President Obama pushed a policy a few weeks ago that would require religious institutions (schools, hospitals, etc, that are linked to a particular religious group, not churches) to offer female employees insurance coverage for contraception. It was an ill-conceived idea in today’s hyper-reactive climate where everyone wants to feel like their rights are being violated by everything, and was immediately met by a firestorm of complaints from religious leaders (note: not the religious masses, who support the effort), on the grounds that it violated their religious freedom.

So naturally, our president who has been said to be at war with religion pressed on undeterred, right? He jammed his ideological agenda right down their throats like the mindless Socialist he is? Is that what he did?

No, he made a compromise, and took all the responsibility out of the religious institutions’ hands, and put the onus on insurance companies to offer preventative care, including birth control, to women. Pretty anti-climactic for a battle in the CULTURE WARS, but at least something got done to protect women’s health and we can all go back to living our lives. Right?

Wrong.

The Republican party, in a gross miscalculation of the American public’s values, decided to keep browbeating the issue, and today held a committee before Congress to talk about the ramifications of this policy, complete with various “witnesses”. Who were these witnesses? Well, every one of them was a religious leader. Every one of them opposed the policy. And every one of them was a man.

Said former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, “The Republican leadership of this Congress thinks its appropriate to have a hearing on women’s health and purposely exclude women from the panel. I may at some point be moved to explain biology to my colleagues.”

"I don't know... I heard something about ovaries and whatnot. I wasn't listening because I assumed it didn't make sense."

Differences between boys and girls aside, what did the Republican-called witnesses have to say to the panel? Bishop William E. Lori, from US Conference of Catholic Bishops, compared the ruling to a law that would force all food providers, including kosher delicatessens, to serve pork. A powerful comparison… if the president were still asking religious institutions to provide the coverage. But, since he’s not, and insurance companies are the ones responsible for the coverage, a more apt comparison would be that all OTHER food providers would be required to allow their customers access to pork, even if those customers sometimes visit kosher delicatessens. Which, as it turns out, happens.

Lori went on, continuing to impress with his ability to dance around the issue at hand without ever actually stepping on it, “Does the fact that large majorities in society, even large majorities within the protesting religious community, reject a particular religious belief make it permissible for the government to weigh in on one side of that dispute?”

When the issue at hand is completely removed from the grounds of any religious institution? Absolutely. Some sects in Islam say women shouldn’t be allowed to drive. Our government disputes that. Some Jewish sects ban women from gathering together to pray on religious holidays, going so far as to call it illegal. Our government disputes that. It has over time become pretty standard practice for the laws of the land, laws for everyone of any religion, to disregard the archaic stance of any one religion.

Remember, nobody is forcing them to do anything against their religion. They’re just requiring that people be given -access- to certain health measures that they don’t even have to take advantage of if they don’t want to. But, nonetheless, there’s more to argue.

“… it is ironic that the religious organizations should have their rights crushed in the name of health care,” said Dr. Craig Mitchell, Baptist minister and head of the ethics department at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Because, to him, allowing women the right to preventative healthcare is crushing religious organizations rights to… what? Crush women’s rights?

Maybe it’s just showing my ignorance as a part of the unwashed masses, but I don’t see how anyone is being hurt by this policy. Women that don’t want to use birth control because of their religious beliefs don’t have to. Religious organizations can continue to rail against birth control in their services, and encourage their followers to stay away from it, as they’ve always done. The new policy does nothing to shift religious beliefs or practices, just makes sure women can have a certain kind of coverage if they want it.

Calling that a violation of religious freedom is confusing your own personal religious freedom with allowing your religion to infringe on the rights of others. Even if that’s what your religion claims you are capable of, I’m afraid the Constitution of the Unites States says otherwise.

"And, I say, won't it be fun to see how badly they misinterpret this one hundreds of years down the line!"

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Written by oobiedoo

February 16, 2012 at 8:23 pm

Land of the Free, Home of the… What Now?

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If the law doesn't fit, you must circumvent.

GOP presidential hopeful (stretching the definition of the word there, based on recent polls) Herman Cain recently joined the chorus on the right denouncing Islam as a whole, using the issue of a community in Tennessee that wants to stop an Islamic group from building a mosque to support their growing congregation. Cain agreed the community had the “right to do that” and “That’s not discriminating based on religion.” (Which begs the question of what -is- considered discrimination based on religion if stopping one particular religion from building their places of worship isn’t it.)

Cain went on to differentiate Islam from other religions, saying that it’s the only religion that comes with a set of laws, showcasing that he apparently has never read a Bible, Torah, or any other holy book for that matter, since they all come with laws; the other religions just ignore them more readily. On that point, he made the rather cryptic assertion that “there’s an aspect of them building that mosque that doesn’t get talked about, and the people in the community know what it is, and they’re talking about it.” Am the only one that gets Lovecraftian images of evil cults and human sacrifice out of that? Are the people in Tennessee the only ones aware that this portends the coming of The Great Old Ones, and they’re just trying to convince the doubtful world that could actually help them if we only believed? No, actually, he’s just keeping up with the boneheaded (and much more boring) argument that muslims are trying to secretly install Sharia Law in the United States. And this mosque in a Tennessee community I’m not even going to bother naming, because you’ve never heard of it, was apparently a key cog in that diabolical wheel.

So, let’s recap:

– Stopping a particular religion from building their places of worship solely because of what religion they practice is, in fact, not discriminating based on religion. (Please see the definition of “discriminate” and try again.)

– Islam is different from other religions because they actually take the backwards laws their religion preaches seriously, rather than sweeping them under the rug to sell their religion as a great place for peace and hugs. (Which is a massive generalization, since I’m sure plenty of followers of Islam ignore that shit just as well as any christian.)

– And finally, Dreaming Cthulhu is woken in his sleeping city, R’lyeh, and will soon be upon us. The luckiest among us will be the first to die. Ia! Ia! (Wgah’nagl fhtagn!)

Now, I feel like telling a little story to make my point here. It’s a little bedtime story I remember as a kid, and it might have a little bearing on this story. Let’s see if you guys remember it too, and can pick out the really subtle way it tells us about this issue:
Once, a long, long time ago, in a country far, far away, there was a great big empire that new it was a great big empire and wanted everyone else to know it too, so they went around planting flags in everybody’s back yards and called it their’s. Now, most people didn’t really like having their backyard taken by a great big empire, but what were they going to do about it? They were small and not so great, so they just had to follow along.

But one thing this great big empire couldn’t control was what the people in it thought. No matter how hard it tried, no matter how badly it punished people when it found out they were thinking these things it didn’t want them to think, people kept right on thinking them. Because that’s the way the human spirit is: if some outside force wants to control it, to hold it down, it becomes that much more devoted to its own freedom.

So, eventually, the king of this great big empire got tired of punishing those people whose minds he couldn’t control, and he sent them away, to a faraway land where he would only barely ever have to deal with them. But when all of those people were together, so far from the king’s eyes, they were able to think all kinds of other thoughts he wouldn’t want them to think. And they were able to plan things, and organize things, and pretty soon they decided they were greater than they’d believed all along, and that maybe the great big empire they’d been held down by wasn’t too big to stand against afterall.

In the end, they rose up and fought against the king’s army, and they won, and they made a home for themselves. And the people who started it all vowed their new home would be a place where people would be free, where they could believe whatever they wanted to believe, and that nobody would try to stop them from believing that, because the most basic freedom anyone can have is the freedom to think what you want to think. And they knew that if one group of people thought one thing, and the people in charge didn’t mind it, but another group that believed something different was fought against, then that would mean the people in charge were really favoring one belief over another, and that was just the same thing that the king had done to them.

It’s a nice little story, isn’t it? A real crowd pleaser.

It was Thomas Jefferson that first wrote of the separation of church and state, so that the laws of religion would never dictate the laws of the land, and that the state would not interfere with the free practice of religion. Herman Cain bastardized that belief as his defense for standing against the people of one religion, and completely inverted it. Sharia Law among the people that go to a particular mosque has no effect on the country at large. It would be the same as banning a Catholic church’s construction because they have ten rules people are supposed to follow. Until those rules find their way into the law of the land, there is no basis to cite the separation of church and state in your opposition. In fact, it is Herman Cain’s belief that the state has every right to intercede in this religious matter, where no laws of land have been broken.

In this instance, it is Herman Cain and the people that support his twisted belief that stand against the words of Thomas Jefferson and the Constitution of the United States. Last I heard, the star spangled banner waved over the land of the free and the home of the brave, not for the cowardice of men who would limit the freedom of people based solely on a belief that has been perverted by a few.

And, just because I’ve always wanted to say it: If you don’t like it, you can get out!

Written by oobiedoo

July 18, 2011 at 7:30 pm

The Beliefs of a Non-Believer

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“An Atheist loves himself and his fellow man instead of a god. An Atheist knows that heaven is something for which we should work now – here on earth – for all men together to enjoy. An Atheist thinks that he can get no help through prayer but that he must find in himself the inner conviction and strength to meet life, to grapple with it, to subdue, and enjoy it. An Atheist thinks that only in a knowledge of himself and a knowledge of his fellow man can he find the understanding that will help to a life of fulfillment. Therefore, he seeks to know himself and his fellow man rather than to know a god. An Atheist knows that a hospital should be built instead of a church. An Atheist knows that a deed must be done instead of a prayer said. An Atheist strives for involvement in life and not escape into death. He wants disease conquered, poverty vanquished, war eliminated. He wants man to understand and love man. He wants an ethical way of life. He knows that we cannot rely on a god nor channel action into prayer nor hope for an end to troubles in the hereafter. He knows that we are our brother’s keeper and keepers of our lives; that we are responsible persons, that the job is here and the time is now.” – Madalyn O’Hair.

I am an atheist, a non-believer. To those more prone to angry terminology, I’m a heretic, a blasphemer. Those terms come not from ordinary people of faith, but from people who use their faith as a means to differentiate themselves from others, to hold themselves in higher regard than others because of their faith. Much in the same way some noted atheists often use their lack of faith  to believe that they are somehow better than the average faithful, who to them are merely delusional, misguided creatures. People are people, and no matter what they believe there are going to be those who are reasonable, and understanding of those that disagree with them, and there are going to be those that think of people that believe something else as somehow lesser beings. The average person of faith and the average atheist are both generally reasonable people, but the public perception of each is tinted by the divisive attitudes of people like Jerry Falwell and the Congressional Prayer Caucus, or Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins.

Faith is not something I often choose to talk about. I have none, and a great many people seem disturbed by that thought, so I mostly avoid it. But, lately I feel my own personal responsibility to clear the air on what being a non-believer means to me.

Religious institutions often try to paint non-believers as lacking in morals at worst, or just sad, pointless beings who think there is no meaning to life but themselves. While I can’t speak for the majority of non-believers, for myself nothing could be further from the truth.

I believe there is all the more meaning in life because of my lack of faith. I don’t believe there is any afterlife waiting for me to treat this life as little more than the entrance-exam. This is the only life I have, and it’s up to me to make the most of it, for myself, for those around me, for the future of the world in general. While people struggle with the immortal question of the purpose of life, I have a pretty good handle on the purpose of mine. I can’t imagine a greater purpose in life than to give just a little effort toward leaving this world better off for the next generation than it was when we came around.

The accusation that non-believers are lacking in morals too is absurd. It’s based in the belief that the Ten Commandments, or whatever any particular religion calls its basis of rules, were passed down from some divine being, and must be adhered to lest you provoke God’s wrath, and that anyone that doesn’t believe that has no fear of breaking those laws and thus nothing to lose by doing so. I find that belief insulting, and frankly, alarming. It suggests in the castigator a desire to do those awful things, that is only quelled by their belief that God will punish them for it.

I don’t have any desire to steal from someone, or to murder them, not because I fear repercussion from a God, or from police, but because the idea of bringing any kind of pain or suffering on someone else turns my stomach. I don’t do good things in the hope of getting a pat on the back come Judgement Day. I do good because it is right, and I stray from ill because to make someone suffer is unthinkable to me. The idea that a person must believe in a God to think that way is foolish.

I hold no animosity toward the vast majority of believers. I very much enjoy talking to my friends of faith about their faith and how they came to it, what it means to them. But those that would use their faith to cast a scornful eye on those that are different from them, in ideology or anything else, I have no patience for. To say more people have been killed in the name of God than anything else would be an understatement.

So, with that in mind, I ask that my readers of faith understand how much it insults me to read a letter several Republican members of Congress wrote to the President of the United States, chastising him for (get this) using “E Pluribus Unum” (English: Out of many, one) as our national motto, rather than “In God we trust” in a speech in India. Let me reiterate: they are angry because the president would rather quote our old motto, one of unity that perfectly encapsulates what the United States of America stands for to much of the world, with all its different types of people coming together for the common goal of their country, rather than the newer one that suggests people should mostly be united in their love for God rather than each other.

They go on to make clear, through their use of quotes by John Adams and Ronald Reagon, that they believe this country will somehow fail if we don’t go around the world professing our love for God, as if to even acknowledge that a sizeable segment of our population doesn’t believe and that it’s not the role of the government to make them is somehow a bad thing, as if to be a person without faith is a moral failing. As a non-believer, I never felt any great slight when members of the US government stood on the steps of the capitol building and sang “God Bless America”, or the litany of speeches from senators, congressmen, and presidents that ends with the same statement, but this group feels it is necessary to get angry simply because the president doesn’t mention God. Not that he doesn’t believe in God, he does, or that he actively campaigns against the teachings of God, he doesn’t, just that he doesn’t feel like he needs to talk about it. With all the things going on in the world today, how is that an issue for anyone?

I don’t do drugs because I believe to do so is a personal weakness. I’ve never cheated on a partner, because I believe to needlessly hurt someone like that is wrong. I don’t steal because I have no desire to have something I didn’t earn or have gifted to me by someone that cares. I don’t resort to violence to solve my problems, because understanding is the only way to truly solve anything, barring when violence is brought upon you. I donate what money I can spare to charities that help those less fortunate than me, and I am not a financially fortunate person. When I am capable of helping a friend or family member in need, I do because I like to. And I don’t believe in God because to do so doesn’t make sense to me, personally.

And yet, it is only that last statement that determines in the eyes of some, Michelle Bachmann, Paul Broun, Louie Gohmert, and the other 39 members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus among them, what sort of person I am.

There once was a day morality was the sole domain of religion. I believe that day is gone. It’s a shame that some are so closed-minded to think so little of people like me for such a trivial reason.

_______________________________________________________

Say WHAT?!?

So I’ve decided to start including a subsection to each piece, with different themes. This weeks subsection, “Say WHAT?!?” focuses on things someone in the media or government said that just defies all reason.

Some people like to do research about an issue before they rail against it. Others like to live on the edge.

And the first ever “Say WHAT?!?” award goes to Mike Huckabee, and it’s a two-fer.

Last month, the Huckster said President Obama likely had anti-British sentiment, which would be bad for a US president to have, because of his upbringing in Kenya, with a Kenyan father and grandfather. The first problem, of course, is that Obama wasn’t brought up in Kenya, and only ever visited the country in his 20’s.

That’s okay, though. Because, according to Huckabee, he only misspoke when he said Kenya, and actually meant Indonesia, where Obama did spend a few years of his childhood, after Kindergarten. That’s understandable. Everyone makes mistakes. I’ll even let it slide that he mentions Kenya multiple times in the interview. We’ll call it a recurring brain fart.

However, to actually believe that he accidentally said Kenya when he meant Indonesia means he also “accidentally” said the president would have anti-British feelings, when he must have actually meant he would have ill-will toward the Dutch, since it was the Dutch that had colonies in Indonesia; the British had them in Kenya. Also, he must have said Obama was raised with his Kenyan father and grandfather by accident, when what he must have actually meant was Obama never even knew his father, and only met the man on a couple of occasions. Unless, of course, he’s just suggesting that things like anti-British sentiment are just passed down through your genes. And, when he suggested the Mau Mau Rebellion, a Kenyan uprising against their British rulers, would have had a major effect on the young Obama, he must have actually meant… Well, he let’s be honest here. He meant the Mau Mau Rebellion, and when faced with his obvious inaccuracies didn’t have the spine to say he was just speaking without knowing the facts, and instead came up with a pathetic, obviously false lie. Because that’s what good leaders do, I guess.

For the second half of Huckabee’s lock on this award, he took a good, hard moral stand against someone whose really had it coming for a long time, if you ask me, and I’m glad someone is finally taking this person to task. So, clearly we’re talking about a whackjob politician, or an irresponsible member of the media, right? Nope. A tyrannical dictator in another country? Not even close. That person?

"No, Mr. Bond... I expect you to -die-!"

Natalie Portman.

That’s right. Natalie Portman, Harvard graduate, Oscar-nominated actress, and activist, is now a bad role-model for women, according to the Huckster. Why? Because she got pregnant without being married, and is apparently sending the message to women that being a single mother is cool, or something, and that’s dangerous because most women don’t have the resources Portman does to take care of a baby themselves.

First, let’s just get the obvious out of the way. Portman is a fantastic role-model for women. If you have a daughter, and she turns out like Natalie Portman, you’re going to be pretty happy, I assure you.

Second, does Huckabee really think that little of young women? What, they’re so caught up in fads and being like celebrities that they’re going to run out and get pregnant because all the cool kids are doing it? Apparently, and I know this comes as a shock to some, women are just as capable of thinking for themselves as men are. Unless, of course, you compare Natalie Portman and Mike Huckabee, in which case the ladies obviously win.

I give you Mike Huckabee, folks, whose mouth has long-since lapped his brain.