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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!

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Written by oobiedoo

July 18, 2011 at 7:30 pm

Say WHAT?!? April 14, 2011

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So, today’s crazy-du-jour comes courtesy of the far-right’s ability to manufacture a culture war sort of controversy out of anything, no matter how utterly meaningless it might actually be. First, I’m going to show you a picture. It strikes me as an innocuous little moment between a mother and a son. Then we’re going to examine the hysteria in an article by Dr. Keith Ablow, a psychiatrist writing for Fox News, in which he links this moment to “grotesque” sex change operations and claims it will lead to the complete and utter ruin of society. I kid you not.

This is the demon seed some supposed -people- want to plant into your children’s heads. Beware! BEWARE! *insert Boogeyman creepy fingers here*

So, according to the author of that article, because a little eight-year old boy has his toenails painted pink, that clearly means that this photo was staged as part of an organized effort by J. Crew to break down the walls of gender and forever throw our society into chaos.

I’d like to take this moment to remind you that the author of that claim is a psychiatrist.

Now, let’s insert a little reason that doesn’t even require a degree.

1. The kid is eight. He’s not even thinking about girls or how to impress them, or if maybe boys are better than girls afterall. He’s a little kid who doesn’t think about these things yet, and he happens to like pink.

2. The author writes, “This is a dramatic example of the way that our culture is being encouraged to abandon all trappings of gender identity—homogenizing males and females…”, and goes on to describe the feminization of men, but when it comes to women he only says that they are more openly sexual now than before. Remember, he’s using that as evidence to support his claim that men and women are acting more like each other, so he’s essentially claiming that it’s perfectly normal for a man to want to have sex with anything on legs, but that women should be the demure little naysayer in the matter. I’ve never quite understood how women’s sexuality has always been a more taboo thing than men’s.

3. He also writes, “… it may be fun and games now, Jenna, but at least put some money aside for psychotherapy for the kid—and maybe a little for others who’ll be affected by your “innocent” pleasure.” Okay, folks, this is an important one. For the kid, it’s just a little bit of color on his nails. And anyone else in the world that needs psychotherapy because they just saw a kid with pink toenails really probably needed that psychotherapy a long time ago for entirely different reasons. It’s just a color. Calm down. Take a breath. Have some dip.

4. From the article: “If you have no problem with the J. Crew ad, how about one in which a little boy models a sundress? What could possibly be the problem with that?” This is the classic culture warrior strategy, to take something tiny and utterly meaningless and then link it to something that people would more easily object to. Also:

Oh, the times, they are a-changin!

So, to cap it off, I’d like to end with an unedited section of Dr. Ablow’s article to show how quickly he jumps from something meaningless, to something completely objectionable, using only the power of his own delusion. Writes Ablow:

“If you have no problem with the J. Crew ad, how about one in which a little boy models a sundress? What could possibly be the problem with that?

“Well, how about the fact that encouraging the choosing of gender identity, rather than suggesting our children become comfortable with the ones that they got at birth, can throw our species into real psychological turmoil—not to mention crowding operating rooms with procedures to grotesquely amputate body parts?”

Yes! This is the fundamental argument of the culture warrior, folks. Pink toenails might not strike most people as bad, so you have to very quickly make the link between them and boys wearing dresses! And if people out there still think that might not be so bad (or also have vintage family photographs of young boys wearing what look suspiciously like dresses, and know for a fact those young boys grew up as healthy members of the male populace), then what you should really be afraid of is all those confused young men that are going to be getting their penises lopped off! Brilliant!

It’s toenail polish. On a kid. Who likes pink. And is also eight. He might wind up completely screwed up in the head somewhere down the line, possibly even to an impressive scale like Dr. Ablow and those that are whipped into a frenzy by him and his ilk, but it won’t have anything to do with the existence of a photo in which his toenails are pink.

Dr. Keith Ablow, folks. Disembodied wangs by the truckload won’t be on HIS conscience.

(Bonus, another article by Erin Brown calls the picture “… blatant propaganda celebrating transgendered children.” I wasn’t aware toenail polish meant someone was transgendered, especially when they’re, ya know, eight.)

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.