I just re-watched the wonderful TED talk by Larry Brilliant wherein he talks about the case for pessimism and optimism. His story about how more than 30 countries of the world, people of all races and genders and religions, came together under the World Health Organization to eradicate smallpox, one of the horrors of history, is truly inspiring. It amazes me that people treat sports stars as heroes, yet don’t even know about this, one of the greatest accomplishments of humanity.
Much of the video is devoted to the situation in Bangladesh, particularly the part laying out the case for pessimism. It seems that Bangladesh has a very pressing problem. According to Larry Brilliant, even if we stopped all CO2 emissions right now, we are “baked in” to a situation that will see sea levels rise twenty to thirty inches, and possibly ten times that much. With the added snow pack melt coming down from the Himalayas, uninterrupted by the trees that are no longer on the deforested land, and the rising ocean, Bangladesh is going to be under water. There will be an estimated hundred million refugees fleeing into China and India.
So Bangladesh has problems. Big serious problems. One might expect demonstrations and protests in Bangladesh, and that’s what we’re seeing.
I would never have predicted what the protests are about. Are you ready for this. One hundred thousand protesters took to the streets to demand…. oh, this is serious business… the death penalty for the atheist bloggers who have been arrested by the police. They want strict enforcement of their anti-blasphemy laws. The most pressing thing on their mind is that their god has been insulted by people who say their god doesn’t exist.
It’s enough to swing my needle sharply toward pessimism.
Meet Kayla Bourque. This lovely young woman is a fan of serial killers, slasher movies, and sadistic sex. You can check out her self-portrait on this website where she goes by the name of MurderErotica.
Ms. Bourque hit the news recently after she tortured and eviscerated the family dog while videotaping the event and providing live narration. She had previously disemboweled and dismembered her cat back in Prince George where she spent her childhood, and she revealed this, one imagines gleefully, to a classmate at Simon Fraser University where she was a criminology student. The classmate, not as enthusiastic about cruelty to animals as was Kayla, went to the police and the subsequent police investigation uncovered the video of Kayla’s fun with the family dog. That lead to her arrest and incarceration for six months.
I imagine the investigating authorities, and those who examined Kayla’s brain box and the evidence on video, were horrified. The problem is, there is no legal reason to hold her in custody. She was not, technically speaking, crazy. So they reluctantly released her, with as many restrictions as they could find excuses to impose, 46 conditions in total, including that she is to keep a strict curfew and have no contact with birds, animals, children, the elderly, knives, colleges, universities or (most dangerous at risk of all) the Internet. They also put out a warning to the general public, featuring her picture and a description of her crimes, with the information that she is dangerous and “a high risk to re-offend”.
When that picture and warning hit FaceBook, it went viral. Much swooning and hand wringing ensued, not to mention violent fantasies of giving Kayla Bourque the same treatment she had given the family pets. Many were the calls for her continued incarceration.
A very few of the FaceBook comments were calmly rational and simply questioned how such a person could come to be the way she is. But many were threatening violence, or fantasizing violence enacted on Kayla, while at the same time calling for Kayla to be incarcerated because she has violent fantasies. Irony is wasted on some people.
Anyway, Kayla Bourque is out on the street, at least during daylight hours. Monsters walk among us, and they can be very hard to recognize as monsters.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, a man who has never hurt any living creature as far as we know is also facing criminal charges and legal sanctions.
Remy Couture is a special effects and makeup artist. But Remy Couture’s work is simply too realistic. So realistic, in fact, that pathologists were supposedly unable to be certain that no actual homicide had taken place. He’s been charged with corrupting morals. Corrupting morals? Do you ever get the feeling that the authorities have a lot of nerve charging an artist with that “crime” in today’s world, a world in which the president of the United States kills civilians in far away countries with drones flown by video game pilots in Arizona?
The very term, “corrupting morals”, harkens back to the days when everybody seemed to be so very sure about what was moral and what wasn’t, and most of the time got it wrong. It brings to mind the burning of witches.
The article I linked to doesn’t say what punishment Couture faces if found guilty. But the mere fact that he’s gone to trial should be enough to freak out any fan of realism in cinema or art.
I can understand the need for a public warning on the release into society of somebody like Kayla Bourque. The fact that she has acted on her fantasies in the past must surely indicate that she would like to take her fantasy life out into the real world. It would be irresponsible of the authorities to refrain from warning the general public, no matter what the social consequences for Ms. Bourque. The violent fantasies she inspires in the FaceBook commenters are less excusable. Perhaps, like Remy’s art, that is her real crime.
I wish we had a legal excuse to keep Kayla Bourque institutionalized for the rest of her life, and I detest the kind of movies, pseudo-snuff films, that Remy Couture is involved in making. You couldn’t pay me to watch them, much less be involved in their production. But the argument that he is influencing others to commit crimes doesn’t work for me. He’s not telling anybody to commit any crime. If you are going to censor him, then we should also censor any reporting of violent crimes, because it’s a known fact that copycats, possibly serial killer fans like Kayla Bourgue, will imitate.
“And if my thought dreams could be seen
They’d probably put my head in a guillotine.”
If we are going to punish people for their fantasies, or for expressing their fantasies, do we start with Stephen King? I’m sure there are many who would like to do that.
Complicated questions. Your thoughts on this would be most welcome.
I have a friend who likes to wind me up by sending me right wing bigotry and religious crap. I never know whether he is sincere or not, because I seldom get an opinion out of him. I keep hoping he’s just pulling my chain for the fun of seeing me spin off in a hot lather. Recently he sent me this picture:
Normally I steer clear of stuff that is being covered by everybody else in the blogosphere and all the good folks on FTB. I mean, why bother. I’m not interested in contributing to the echo chamber. We all know right wing Christians are nut jobs and Christian ideology is defective and yada yada yada… But this time I had to comment.
I wrote back: Thanks for sending me this. Every once in a while somebody asks me why I think Christians are such hateful ignorant dumbfucks. I like to be able to show them some product of the Christian mind that illustrates my opinion, and this T-shirt is perfect. Their God is such a candy ass that we can lock him out of schools, but when we do he sulks and throws a snit and allows somebody to kill little kids. Some wonderful loving all powerful deity you have there folks. Well, thanks a fuck of a lot for loving us, God. Now piss off. I don’t associate with fuckheads like You.
This is great. Thanks again.
P.S. You send me this shit just to wind me up, right? Good one, buddy.
If my friend was sincere in sending me the picture, maybe I have offended him. In that case, sorry but get used to it. I push back now.
The annoying part of this is that this never works on a Christian. The reaction I always get is: Oh that is horrible. That is so stupid. I don’t believe for a moment that not having prayer in schools upsets God so that he allows things like this. No real Christian would think that way.
You see, Christians don’t identify with Christianity. They don’t see themselves in this kind of statement. They pull the “no true Scotsman” argument every time. Yet the t-shirts are on sale, and no doubt are selling well. The subject line on the email my friend sent me was: T-shirt of the day. Great answer.
So somebody thinks it’s a great answer. And before the picture of the T-shirt was this message: Before anything else, above all else, beyond everything else, God loves us. God loves us extravagantly, ridiculously, without limit or condition. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Newtown, Connecticut……such a tradgedy!
This is a sickening amount of hypocrisy with which to precede the image, and the image does not portray a God of love. That God is a fuckhead egomaniac idiot.
And it’s all so obvious, isn’t it. Nobody actually believes this stuff. At least nobody I know will admit to believing it. But a real honest to God presidential candidate said the same thing in the national media, so it’s hard to ignore the sentiment. What a God they want to worship. What a monster asshole god.
So I vent. And then they want to know why I’m angry at God. Fucking retards. How can I be angry at a being that doesn’t exist? I’m not angry at God. I’m angry at the idiots who can create this vision of a deity and tell the world to worship it. The stupidity just burns.
This woman has shown up on my FaceBook page a couple of times now. I don’t think it’s a co-incidence. The Republican propaganda machine is gearing up for 2014. They missed last time, but they will get another crack at that black guy who doesn’t deserve to be in the White House. And their tactics are all too familiar and haven’t changed a bit. Spread fear and misinformation. Get everybody worried.
This happened in Austria. It’s now happening in America. Therefore isn’t it obvious that America is heading for Fascism. Superficially it makes sense, until you stop to examine her logic. Then things fall apart. Unfortunately, far too few people seem to be examining her logic. I think it’s time to deconstruct her account.
Kitty starts by telling us that the Germans didn’t come into Austria with tanks and machine guns. The Austrians voted them in with a huge majority.
Austrians voted in Hitler. Americans just voted in Obama. Therefore Obama will give you Fascism. It’s an inescapable conclusion.
Uh, no. There is no causal relationship between winning a popular vote and leading the country into fascism. That’s the implication that Kitty plants, right at the top of her spiel, and it’s only the first of many misleading implications. I find the timing suspicious. It’s like Kitty has been waiting in the wings, just waiting and ready to spin our relief if and when Obama got popular support. Sorry. My relief is not reduced. I don’t think Obama is perfect, but compared to the alternatives the Republicans offered up, America made a damn good choice. But let’s go on. What did those nasty Nazis do when they got into power?
“After the election, German officials were appointed, and like a miracle, we suddenly had law and order. Three or four weeks later, everyone was employed. The government made sure that a lot of work was created through the Public Work Service.”
Again, yikes. Isn’t Obama all for getting people back to work with public works projects and the like? You know, like all those projects that built highways under Ike or facilities in national parks under the New Deal. Those somehow didn’t lead to fascism, but what is happening now sure as hell will. Because… Because Obama.
What next? You might be able to guess by simply thinking about something the Republicans are dead against. That’s it. Equality for women.
“Hitler decided we should have equal rights for women. Before this, it was a custom that married Austrian women did not work outside the home. An able-bodied husband would be looked down on if he couldn’t support his family. Many women in the teaching profession were elated that they could retain the jobs they previously had been required to give up for marriage.”
Ah hah. Wouldn’t you know it? Get those women out of the kitchen and into the work force and you are only one short step from the jack boot and the concentration camp. I’d like to point out that having a baby for Hitler is not exactly a part of humanist philosophy. Hitler didn’t offer women equality. He exploited women for their labour. But something is still missing here. What on earth could it be?
“Then we lost religious education for kids. Our education was nationalized. I attended a very good public school.. The population was predominantly Catholic, so we had religion in our schools. The day we elected Hitler (March 13, 1938), I walked into my schoolroom to find the crucifix replaced by Hitler’s picture hanging next to a Nazi flag. Our teacher, a very devout woman, stood up and told the class we wouldn’t pray or have religion anymore. Instead, we sang ‘Deutschland, Deutschland, Uber Alles,’ and had physical education.”
Oh my Gawd. That was it? Get rid of prayers in school and state sponsored religious education and you are on the slippery slope to fascism. I should have been able to guess. I mean, we all know that the Catholic church was a major force against Hitler. Why they even infiltrated the Hitler Youth so that they could undermine his godless teachings. And the Pope of the day did everything in his power to mitigate the horrors of the Holocaust. Uh… wait. That’s not exactly how it happened, no matter what our “witness to history” might tell you. Remember Gott Mit Ens on the belt buckles? Remember the Catholic church explicitly endorsing Hitler. I’m sorry but you can’t rewrite history to claim that atheists caused the Holocaust and the Catholic church was a fearless opponent of Hitler and staunch defender of freedom. That’s just not true. The problem wasn’t in taking down the crucifix, it was in putting up the portrait of Hitler and the Nazi flags.
She goes on to talk about the horrors that the Nazis perpetrated. The militarizing of the youth. Euthanasia. But one other statement she makes jumps out at me: ““When I go back to Austria to visit my family and friends, most of these women are emotional cripples because they just were not equipped to handle the horrors of combat.” Ah yes, you see. Men are much tougher than woman. Men can handle seeing their buddy’s head blown off in front of their eyes. Men can deal with the horrors of war without any emotional crippling effects, because… well, men. But women are much more delicate. Women do not belong in the armed services, much less in actually combat. Oh the horrors.
Another thing that those nasty Nazis did: They set up twenty-four hour child care. That’s right. Can you imagine being able to work the night shift even if you are a woman? “You could take your children ages four weeks old to school age and leave them there around-the-clock, seven days a week, under the total care of the government.” That’s just not right.
By now you should be ready for this one. The Nazis set up universal health care. Free. For anybody who needed it. But that was not a good thing. Far from it. “The problem was, since it was free, the people were going to the doctors for everything. When the good doctor arrived at his office at 8 a.m., 40 people were already waiting and, at the same time, the hospitals were full. If you needed elective surgery, you had to wait a year or two for your turn. There was no money for research as it was poured into socialized medicine. Research at the medical schools literally stopped, so the best doctors left Austria and emigrated to other countries.” Wow. That sounds just like Canada,eh. Who’da thought that universal health care, which is currently available in just about every developed country except America, would be a harbinger of fascism?
And then there was government interference in everyday life. “Free enterprise was essentially abolished. We had a planning agency specially designed for farmers. The agents would go to the farms, count the live-stock, and then tell the farmers what to produce, and how to produce it.” I don’t know much about government farm programs, but it seems to me they have been set up to help farmers, or what passes for farmers these days, mega-farm conglomerates. Let’s ask the senators from the corn belt whether they want to eliminate farm subsidies, shall we?
And finally, once the state was in control of everything from the shape of your restaurant tables to the products you wanted to buy, once free enterprise was completely dead, the final blow to freedom came down. You guessed it. “Next came gun registration. People were getting injured by guns. Hitler said that the real way to catch criminals (we still had a few) was by matching serial numbers on guns. Most citizens were law abiding and dutifully marched to the police station to register their firearms. Not long afterwards, the police said that it was best for everyone to turn in their guns. The authorities already knew who had them, so it was futile not to comply voluntarily. No more freedom of speech. Anyone who said something against the government was taken away. We knew many people who were arrested, not only Jews, but also priests and ministers who spoke up.”
Whew. Well, we’ve all been warned. What is it that we have to watch for if we are to guard against fascism and preserve our freedoms? What are the warning signs? Let’s review the list.
giving a huge majority to a popular government. (Too late for this one, America)
Kicking God out of our schools. (Check. Uh… no. There are still religious schools. We just don’t like the state giving preferential treatment to any one religion.)
Public works programs that put people to work.
Letting women into the military, especially in combat roles.
Women in the work force.
Government subsidized day care
Universal health care
Giving people the right to die with dignity. Talk of euthanasia. (It’s a slippery slope for grandma, you know.)
Government interference in farming and other production.
Quite the list. My problem is that there are many countries in this world that do all these things already, have a healthier population than America, a better educated population than America, a population where people don’t live in fear for their lives, yet they don’t seem to be in any other way reminiscent of Hitler’s Austria.
There is no causal relationship between the things on Kitty’s list of warning signs and fascism.
It’s taken me a while to say it, but Kitty’s warning is total bullshit. Once you think about it.
Okay, maybe there are things to worry about. Corporations being declared people. Corporations having undue control of the government. Drones killing civilians in countries where there is no war. An out of control military and the military-industrial-congressional complex. Concentration of media in corporate hands. Wire tapping and invasion of privacy with the Internet. The whole war on drugs and homeland security. Privatization of prisons so that corporations have a vested interest in the amount of crime. But Public works programs? Universal health care? Affordable day care? Women in industry or the military? Gun control for fuck sake? Give your head a shake, Kitty.
Happy Blasphemy Day, everybody. Curse a non-existing entity of your choice, but do it loudly and publicly. Laws against blasphemy are totally retarded. My choice for today is Thor. He’s a total dickhead, what with that stupid hammer and all. I mean, get with the twenty-first century, dude. Go steal yourself an AK47 or something. I hear there are a few available in Pakistan.
PZ posted this short list of why it’s important to blaspheme on this day. I’m too busy to come up with my own list, but why do that when PZ has done the heavy lifting for me.
I usually try not to comment on stuff that’s being thoroughly covered by the Freethought bloggers. So I’ve had nothing to say about Elevatorgate. But this issue just won’t go away. Now Ophelia Benson has withdrawn from TAM because of death threats. Some idiot commenting on Greta Christina’s Facebook page said he’d need proof before he’d believe her. Greta told him to go fuck himself. Naomi Gutierrez defended the idiot, and dissed Greta for reacting to him. And the whole exciting skeptic/atheist community seems to be bitching at each other and forming contentious factions. Must be time for me to comment.
First of all, let me say that Richard Dawkins is a major hero of mine. I’ve read all his books. I think the man is brilliant, and has given the whole atheist movement considerable visibility and credibility. It breaks my heart to see him being pig headed and stupid, but there you go. He was wrong. He should have apologized. He should have apologized and meant it.
Richard Dawkins says that nobody has explained to him why he should apologize, but this is not true. It’s been explained, and explained very well. He’s just too steeped in white male privilege to be able to understand why he was wrong. So, Richard, on the infinitesimal chance that you will read this, here’s why you were wrong. Rebecca Watson was not making a big deal out of the guy on the elevator, certainly not a big enough deal for you to suggest a contrasting comparison to Middle Eastern victims of abuse. She was simply pointing out that if we want women at conferences, we should think about what kinds of behavior make them uncomfortable, and not do it. Your comment trivialized a very legitimate issue for many women. Your after the fact justification is downright fatuous. “No escape? I am now really puzzled. Here’s how you escape from an elevator. You press any one of the buttons conveniently provided. The elevator will obligingly stop at a floor, the door will open and you will no longer be in a confined space but in a well-lit corridor in a crowded hotel in the centre of Dublin. ”
Richard, it was three in the morning. All a man has to do is reach over and flip a switch and none of those buttons will work anymore. But that is beside the point. Rebecca was just pointing out that the situation made her uncomfortable. That was all. She didn’t deserve to have a man of your standing and reputation publicly call her an idiot. I don’t think you know who you are, Richard, or how much weight your opinion has. On this issue you came down solidly on the wrong side, on the side of jerks who think that any opportunity for a proposition is okay, as long as they are meek and mild about it and will take no for an answer. Well, it isn’t okay in an elevator at three in the morning, and you stepped out of line to legitimize such behavior.
Without making this about myself, because it isn’t, it’s about women, let me see if I can explain vulnerability in a way that you could understand. I’ve felt it only once in my life. Years ago I had a back spasm that left me nearly crippled. I could barely move. I was walking with baby steps, standing carefully very upright, in incredible pain. I came out of a physiotherapist’s office and made my way down to the sidewalk, holding the hand rail. Then I started to make my baby steps way homeward. At that point, an obviously demented and filthy street person confronted me, making animalistic growling noises. I realized that if the man attacked me, I was completely helpless. Normally I would feel no fear at all in such a situation, but that time I was freaking out, trapped in a body that could not protect me. And for the first time I felt what many women must feel. Vulnerable. Defenseless. It is a horrible feeling, Richard. Now, if I were to complain about this some people might tell me that I’m over reacting. After all, nothing happened. The man didn’t touch me. I just felt uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable. But that was enough. Most people would sympathize with my feelings, and allow me to think that the man’s aggression justified some concern. Few would tell me that my situation was nothing compared to, say, what black people feel at a KKK rally.
Many women feel vulnerable. It is in our own best interests, as concerned and caring men, to recognize their feelings and to try to accommodate them. This means don’t make them feel vulnerable. This means don’t proposition them in an elevator at three in the morning unless you’ve been getting unmistakable come fuck me signals all evening. Even then, don’t do it. If she wants further company, let her ask for it.
Richard, you should have thanked Rebecca Watson for bringing this to our attention, and letting us know that we shouldn’t proposition women in elevators at three in the morning. It’s something I could have done, and obviously you could have done, without giving it a moment’s thought. But instead of thanking her, you belittled her and trivialized her feelings. In public. With all the weight of your considerable reputation and authority. That’s why you are wrong, and that’s why you should apologize.
It’s fine to think that Rebecca’s issue is trivial. But don’t say that out loud. A man in your position should have the good sense not to express this thought. You came off as mean spirited, inconsiderate, and lacking empathy. And these are also reasons why you should apologize. Why is this so hard? You were wrong. Just admit it, and let’s all move on. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. But please, Richard, if you finally come to your senses and decide to apologize, please don’t give us all a notpology. Don’t try to justify or explain, you’ve already done that and it only made you look worse. Just admit you were wrong and say you are sorry. Because you were wrong.
As for the recent Ophelia Benson with TAM and death threats situation, please guys, do not even think about suggesting that you need proof before you will believe her. Why the hell would you not believe her? Do not for a minute trivialize her concerns, or the concerns of other women. Most of all, do not tell women to shut up about this issue. We need to hear them. We need to do something when a man makes inappropriate comments, calls women sexist names, or otherwise creates an unpleasant atmosphere for women in the skeptical/atheist movement.
Finally, women, please keep in mind that we have enemies. Before you react harshly to something a man says on the Internet, please try to make sure you aren’t reacting to some right wing Christian sock puppet who would like to see our movement founder in vitriol and strife over bullshit. Do not put this past them. We know that while they have the morals of pond slime and no integrity at all, they are not stupid when it comes to promoting their beliefs, or discrediting ours. Let’s try our best to cool emotions and be nice to each other.
It’s very sad to see what is happening with TAM. James Randi deserves better. We all do. So let’s clean up our act. Publicly and quickly. Please.
I’ve watched that video clip of the American Apache helicopter murdering civilians, two of whom were a journalist and her driver, in Baghdad a couple of times recently. Each time I watch it, it gets worse. There is something that is is such a contrast between the disciplined request “Permission to engage?” and the callous disregard for human life displayed by what I presume to be a very young soldier. No, calling him a soldier insults all soldiers. Soldiers face the enemy, and risk getting killed. This guy is just a technician. He’s sitting back about a quarter of a mile away, with technology doing all his work for him. All he has to do is push the button. I’m not going to call him a soldier. He’s like those drone operators in America, thousands of miles away from any danger, who kill people half way around the world. Somehow America has found a way to filter out humanity and create killers with no conscience who can be trained to hold back until unleashed, but who actively itch to be unleashed and allowed to kill.
The language use is also instructive. “Come on. Light ‘em all up.” Not “Kill them in cold blood.” but something that sounds more like setting off a Fourth of July fireworks display.
“We’ve just engaged with all eight individuals.” Is this kind of one sided slaughter really engagement?
And what is his comment when he learns that he’s murdered children? “Serves them right for bringing kids to a battle.” A battle? This was a battle? No, this was not a battle. This was a cold blooded massacre. Does this kid think he’s a glorious fighter for democracy?
So many questions flood my mind when I watch this clip: What kinds of filters does the military put on its training to get rid of people with any sense of humanity or compassion? How do they test their recruits, and find the ones who have no heart, the real killers, the sociopaths?
I imagine this murderer, this heartless, compassion free, monster going back to America. He finds a girlfriend. He gets married. He goes into business. He’s a hero, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan. He gets respect. He’ll probably be very successful. How many people will recognize him as the monster that he is?
Since this clip has been released, and gone viral, will he be able to hide from his past, from what he’s revealed himself to be? Will he laugh it off. Will he strut and wear that T-shirt about loving to kill, loving to hear the wailing of the widows and children? Will he turn to alcohol and drugs? Or will he go to church every Sunday, and make sure the kids go too?
Well, who cares about him? My question is, how do we protect society from rapacious killers when we have an institution that filters them out of the population, trains them, rewards them, and then sends them home to blend in among the good people we see all around us.
If anybody thinks we don’t need Wikileaks, they should watch that video clip a few times. Then think about what we know, what we don’t know, and what we will never discover without organizations like Wikileaks shedding light on behavior that should sicken us all.
A friend of mine, an elderly teacher and full time Mormon, sent me the following Easter greeting:
###############begin email from Mormon friend######################
I always taught my students about the western Christian holiday of “Easter” and while I very briefly explained the spiritual history and culture of this truly special day, I spent most of my time sharing with them the fun traditions of the Easter Bunny, Easter baskets, the Easter bonnet, Peter Cottontail and other secular activities. One year when I opened the classes up to questions, one of my students asked, “Can you celebrate this holiday if you weren’t Christian?”
I explained to him that just as Christmas is a Christian holiday, even non-Christians celebrate the worldly part of Santa Claus, Christmas trees and giving presents. I assured him that the same thing takes place with Easter. Though it is a Christian celebration, even nonreligious people have fun with the Easter bunny, Easter baskets and the dyeing and hiding of Easter eggs.
However, you and I know the true meaning of Easter and we recognize the gift of the atonement that was given to us at that time by the Savior who was willing to suffer, bleed and die that we are given the opportunity to return home to the God who loves us. We can never underestimate the pain and anguish of those hours in Gethsemane, the disgrace of that mockery of a trial, the cruelty of the beatings, that tragic walk along the Via Dolorosa and those horrific hours on the cross. We give profound gratitude for That One Solitary Life who has given our lives meaning and purpose.
May this be a joyful and meaningful Easter to all of you.
C. and B.
####################end email from Mormon friend#######################
The email had a PPT attachment, an emotional song about the crucification called “Via Dolorosa” sung by Sandi Patti with full orchestration, accompanied with Hollywood images. It arrived on the same morning I learned about Alexander Aan who faces five years in prison in Indonesia for declaring himself an atheist on Facebook. I simply had to respond.
The true meaning of Easter is not Christian. It is most decidedly pagan, and predates Christianity by a few years. It was originally a celebration of fertility, of spring and a returning of life to the earth, the day when parents would encourage their children to go out into woods and have sex. Hence the bunnies and eggs. The day itself is named after the goddess Ēostre of Anglo-Saxon paganism, the goddess of fertility.
So of course you can celebrate the holiday if you aren’t Christian. I celebrate it and I’m not a pagan either.
> However, you and I know the true meaning of Easter and we recognize the gift
> of the atonement that was given to us at that time by the Savior who was
> willing to suffer, bleed and die that we are given the opportunity to return
> home to the God who loves us. We can never underestimate the pain and
> anguish of those hours in Gethsemane, the disgrace of that mockery of a
> trial, the cruelty of the beatings, that tragic walk along the Via Dolorosa
> and those horrific hours on the cross. We give profound gratitude for That
> One Solitary Life who has given our lives meaning and purpose.
This line has been inserted because a glitch in the program won’t accept a line feed.
C____, that may be your “meaning of Easter” but claiming that it is the “true meaning” is a bit presumptuous. Yes, Christ had a bad weekend. Not quite as bad as my mother’s recent death from cancer, but pretty bad. I just don’t understand how you could think his time on the cross means anything to anybody else. The whole concept goes right back to the scapegoat, the absurd idea that one can put ones sins onto a goat and chase it out into the desert, ridding you of guilt. If that was the best plan God could come up with, to sacrifice his son to save humanity (in what wasn’t a sacrifice at all because the dude isn’t really dead) then I think the whole story needs some serious critical thought.
I apologize if you find me offensive. I’m a little angry this morning, and I’ve decided to react this way whenever a religious person tells me about their beliefs, because it’s time we atheists push back a bit. As I type this a man in Indonesia is facing five years in jail simply for saying that God doesn’t exist. “Atheism is a violation of Indonesian law under the founding principles of the country. Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, recognizes the right to practice six religions in total: Islam, Protestant, Catholic, Hindu, Buddhism and Confucianism. Atheism is, however, illegal. According to Indonesian criminal law, anyone who tries to stop others believing in a faith could face up to five years in jail for blasphemy.”
I’m sure you feel that you have the absolute truth, that your beliefs are unassailable, and that nobody could fault you for spreading them around. That’s exactly how I feel. So when you tell me your story about why Jesus and God are so wonderful, I feel an absolute obligation to correct your misinformation and give you my point of view on the situation.
C____, I experience you and B____ as truly wonderful people. I know you both have very kind hearts, and only want the best for everybody. Please accept that I feel the same, and recognize that the push back you get from me is just the same as you dish out, just my point of view. I do not dislike you, or even dislike Christianity or Mormonism. I am not a hater. I have love in my heart for my fellow human beings. I just want the same right to spread my beliefs as you enjoy, and I’ve started to assert that right.
That said, have a happy Easter.
############end reply to Mormon friend##################
The PPT my Mormon friend attached ends with some rather extravagant claims for the achievements of Jesus Christ. “Twenty centuries have come and gone and today Jesus Christ is the central figure of the human race, the leader of mankind’s progress.” Oh please. The leader of mankind’s progress? “All the armies that have ever marched, all the navies that have ever sailed, all the parliaments that have ever sat, all the kings that have ever reigned put together have not affected the life of mankind on this earth as much as that one solitary life.”
Give me a break. Give me a fucking break. You can only spread bullshit so thick before it starts to get up your nose.
So Arizona has a bill in the works to “protect people from one-on-one harassment”, according to Rep. Vic Williams, a Tucson Republican who helped sponsor the bill. He sees this as a “bona fide” need. And the solution to one-on-one harassment? Make it illegal to “annoy” or “offend” anybody on line. Sheesh. There goes this site, and most of the other sites I enjoy, plus ninety five percent of the posts on Facebook. This is obviously another example of control freaks looking for an issue to get their names in the news, while not having clue one about how the Internet works or what its values are.
I do see a problem with cyberbullying, stalking, and harassment. But the answer is not to make laws against it. The answer is to teach people how to deal with it. Just about all of our communications systems allow us to block messages we don’t want to read. Or we can just ignore the idiots who are harassing us, which is a fate worse than death for most of them. If you are of a more reactive temperament, you can engage in flame wars and insults back at the bully. On the Internet we can all be ten feet talk and talk like a drunken sailor on leave. And if somebody is really being bothered, we need Internet savvy support people who can administer a cyber spanking to the perpetrator. We don’t need a law making annoying somebody illegal.
For the past few months I’ve been harassed by an elderly troll. He’s been sending out emails in all caps to everybody on his mailing list, calling me a coward and a liar. I know they’ve gone to everybody on his mailing list because the idiot puts his entire list in the CC field instead of the BCC field. I was really enjoying ignoring him, but finally somebody on his mailing list , some friend in his MLM downline, took him to task for being a jerk. That seems to have stopped the harassment. That’s the way you deal with cyber harassment.
I watched a TED talk the other night by Rick Falkvinge, the founder of the Swedish Pirate Party, on the subject of controlling the Internet. Falkvinge put the surveillance proposals in a different frame. What would the previous generation, the generation before the Internet, have said if the government made it illegal to send a letter anonymously, gave itself the right to open each and every letter and copy the contents, and put a microphone on every restaurant table. There would have been a huge outcry and protest. But because the Internet is new, and the older generation doesn’t really understand that it is just a communications medium, they think equivalent controls on the Internet communications are just totally okay. They aren’t. We need the right to be anonymous. We need the right to privacy. We need the right to offend and annoy anybody.
Here’s another article that really sums up the battles over control of the Internet. It’s long, but really worth reading. I obviously favor anarchy and chaos when it comes to controlling the Internet. But I do see the need for security. Heavy security, so that hackers can’t access my bank account, steal my identity, or discover my real name and come to kill me. Unfortunately it looks like the controls that various governments are pushing for are not going to protect me. They are going to protect the governments, the establishment, and prevent me from being a part of a global community that is just now starting to take shape.
I often fear that we may someday look back on these past few years as the golden age of the Internet, before it froze us all out. Of course if that happens, we’ll create dark nets and society will simply fracture. And I guess that could be okay too. But the fact is there is an old guard establishment that doesn’t understand the Internet and doesn’t use it very much, if at all. The whiteout on the screen people. But they do see that the Internet is changing the world, and this is making they very nervous. We need to sooth them, educate them, and make sure they don’t do anything stupid that destroys what we love about this new world.
In case you can’t read Arabic, here’s what he said:
“On your birthday, I will say that I have loved the rebel in you, that you’ve always been a source of inspiration to me, and that I do not like the halos of divinity around you. I shall not pray for you,”
“On your birthday, I find you wherever I turn. I will say that I have loved aspects of you, hated others, and could not understand many more,”
“On your birthday, I shall not bow to you. I shall not kiss your hand. Rather, I shall shake it as equals do, and smile at you as you smile at me. I shall speak to you as a friend, no more,”
And that’s it. Most people would think these are pretty mild insults to Islam. Unfortunately people in Saudi Arabia don’t agree. In their view these “insults” should be punishable by death. Yes, that’s right. Death.
Obviously the people of Saudi Arabia, these blood thirsty barbarians, have been raised in some kind of over-protected nursery and have no idea what an insult sounds like. And the worst insult a sailor or dock worker could think up would still not be worthy of the death penalty. Not to us. Not to anybody in the western world. Not to anybody in their right mind.
What is the matter with these people. How can they imagine that hurting their delicate feelings warrant murder. And make no mistake, it is THEIR delicate feelings, not the feelings of their long dead imaginary friend. If they had any faith in their God they’d leave vengeance and retribution up to Him. But of course they don’t have faith in their God. They aren’t thinking about their God. They are thinking about themselves, and the “insult” to their beliefs and culture.
At the best of times I have sympathy for the Muslims. They’ve been fucked over by the western world, the modern world, and even more fucked over by their tyrants and religious leaders. They have suffered and are hurting. Normally I wouldn’t think of insulting them or their beliefs. But when they claim the right to murder somebody for insulting their beliefs, fuck them. If we could only gather them into one spot and exclude the innocents, I’d say nuke ‘em until they glow and shoot ‘em in the dark.
The truly terrifying thing about this affair is that Hamza Kashgari fled his country to Malaysia, on his way to seek asylum in New Zealand, but was arrested by Malaysian authorities at the request of Saudi Arabia. The fact that another country would play along with this madness is the scary part. Of course there are a lot of Muslims in Malaysia, and who knows what story the authorities were given when the request to arrest Kashgari was made. But still…. okay, strike another country off my list of possible tourist destinations. This world gets smaller every day.
I know they’ve got Mecca, which means they are guaranteed millions of Muslim tourists every year. But one has to wonder what the popular sentiment in Saudi Arabia, as expressed by the screams for Kashgari’s blood, is doing to the economy of that country, and what will happen when the oil finally runs out. It’s not going to be pretty, that’s for sure. Not that it’s pretty now.
Update: Hamza Kashgari has been extradited to Saudi Arabia where his tweets carry the death penalty. Think about it. In the year 2012 a young man is under threat of death, not for committing some terrible crime but for saying that Muhammad was merely human. It’s enough to make me turn in my membership card in the human race.
This post doesn’t do justice to the absolute horror and rage I feel at this situation. I’ve censored out the worst of my insults to Mohammad, simply because I don’t think they have any value. But the outrage I feel is…. almost painful.