Everybody Needs Somebody…to look down on

Christians in the west have long complained that they are treated poorly because “we” know they couldn’t get away with violent response to art or commentary that is freely expressed and critical of religion and Christianity in particular the way that they perceive that the media and public refrain from expressing criticism of Islam for fear of causing riots or other violence.

It’s pretty disturbing, since this response is basically complaining that Christians would be violent if they felt they could socially and legally get away with violence – because at the fringes, Christians do use violence directed at abortion clinics and medical providers and intimidation tactics against art galleries and companies who advertise in a manner that Christians disapprove of – usually in gay publications or being inclusive of gay people.

Christians act like they are still being fed to the lions instead of being the operators of the Circus Maximus.

The problem is that freedom of religion isn’t balanced or tempered in secular society – while each person has the right to the religion or not of their choice, there is no legal or social requirement that says “as long as you keep it to yourself and not impose it upon other people who are free to make their own choices, without interference from other people.”

People who are religious, if not outright required by the religion to go door to door to testify, do have a compulsion to spread the word about their religion – as if by sheer numbers, can prove their religion right or earn salvation points by bringing others into the fold. Mostly, it’s believers who are convinced of being right that they feel entitled to push their views onto other people, into secular law and the public square.

I often think it’s a poor self-esteem thing, as if by being in the majority or at least a large group, there’s a sense of validation in the belief – and perhaps on some level, believers know how ridiculous, illogical and plain silly much of religion’s stories and claims are – but if everyone pretends that they are real – you don’t feel silly clapping to keep Tinkerbell alive if everyone in the theatre is clapping after all – so if everyone or at least most people will at least act as if the religion is real, then believers don’t have to be so defensive about it all the time.

The difficulty that believers have with the so called New Atheists, isn’t the non-belief that’s been there all along – but rather the new part of the current atheism is the unwillingness to coddle or be sensitive to religious sensibilities.

The complain most uttered is about the lack of tact, respect and civility of the “new” atheists, not the actual content – but the manner of the debate.

And, as new atheists, it does not serve our purpose to grant them their wish for “respect” for their views and opinions, when there’s no merit or validity to them, so a certain base of civility because of being members of a civil society yes, but no consideration or acting as if the claims of religions had merit or validity.

Given that religion in the past and in some countries today treats other and non-believers with brutality, torture and murder – that the worst that new atheism does is be disrespectful and mock them, Christians and other believers should be grateful that new atheists are far more humane and compassionate than believers have demonstrated throughout their history to those deemed heathens, pagans, heretics and witches. The humanist toolbox is logic, reason, mockery, parody and empirical evidence – not genocide, torture, murder and discrimination.

Atheists, unlike religionists, do not recruit. We encourage, we challenge, but we do not recruit – atheism is not something that can be forced or required – people have to be able to let go of religion in their own time, at their own pace if it is to be meaningful and lasting.

Atheists are not angry at deities that we do not believe exists, we aren’t not worshipping to avoid deities because we don’t believe that there’s going to be some awkward meeting, where we suddenly encounter each other and talk about the weather while not making direct eye contact.

We simply are not convinced by the subjective feelings and experiences offered by believers as compelling to them evidence, we do not expect to understand the universe right now and are not daunted by the complexity to throw our hands in the air and say, a god must have done it, we do not find the promise or threat of eternal afterlife any more compelling than behaving so that Santa will bring presents. Although I often wondered why the Easter Bunny didn’t require good behavior for chocolate, somehow, good behavior being a condition of Easter bounty makes more sense than for Christmas presents.

Many believers also seem to have an unexplainable idea that non-believers simply haven’t been properly exposed to the right religion aka theirs – just like a man who tries to convince a lesbian that their particular penis will convert her to heterosexuality. Like I don’t know what makes me wet….

It comes down to who gets to know what’s best for you.

Religion claims to know what’s best and believers subscribe to the religion of their exposure more than choice – most people remain in the religion they were raised in or something close – rarely, people convert to different faiths – but there is a correlation between education and religiousness. The higher the education, the less the religion. Because the more you learn and know, the less you need religion to provide simple explanations for the complexity of the universe and of life.

Believers who are certain – and it’s the certainty that’s the real danger more than the particular beliefs- are at risk of viewing secular society as having failed and to feel entitled, if not required by duty, to do whatever it takes to restore “order” by imposing their religious views on society. If not by the word, then by the sword – as history has demonstrated time and time again.

The certainty of the beliefs gives the believer the “burden”, the call to duty, of being a martyr to inspire others to follow and to cow the unfaithful into believing – and violence is too often the “go to” action to enforce and force their beliefs on others – especially as their standing in the mainstream community is threatened by social progress – like how they aren’t as able to discriminate against gays anymore – and since they lost the battle against black rights and women’s rights – they are getting anxious that there’s fewer people for them to get away with discriminating against.

By giving credibility and consideration to the mainstream religious sensibilities, we allow the fringe extremes an undeserved social consideration that is a launching point for their violent assaults on secular society.  The controversy that we need to teach, is that while each of us has a right to our beliefs – no matter what those beliefs are – that the beliefs themselves are not owed any respect, credibility, consideration or equal footing that the beliefs do not deserve on their face or by their details.

A believer in a religion is little different than a believer in a broad conspiracy – there’s no evidence for the belief and this is claimed as evidence of the belief – it’s all part of The Plan so that only the True Believers realize and know – what evidence there is, is subjective, interpretive and rarely logical or consistent and heavily relies on convoluted details, assumptions and illogical premises – religious apologists work very hard to smooth out the contradictions between their religion and reality, much to the annoyance of the fundamentalists who find reality rather than the religion, at fault. But the fact of there being apologists speaks volumes of the inadequacy of religion to hold up under scrutiny.

The higher the demand for respect – or rather reverence – the higher the scrutiny the belief or claim should be subjected to; and, the reality is, that some sacred cows are destined to become hamburgers.

 

 

 

 

Freedom of Expression

In secular democratic countries, where the individual is the social unit of consequence – as opposed to theocratic nations where the family or tribe or some group designation is the social unit of consequence – the right to hold and express your views is an important right and entitlement in society.

Individuals do not matter in nations that hold the family or group as supreme, since individuals how fail to adhere to the social norms and expectations are often killed or sanctioned to restore collective honor to the family, to right the diminishment done to the collective by the individual.

One challenge is that the right to express yourself does not require you to do so responsibility or carry any consequences to how your words impact other people’s behaviours – although hate crime legislation tries to address this aspect.

The bigger challenge it would seem for people is that the right to express yourself does not obligate anyone to actually listen to you.

If what ideas you express are fairly mainstream, you are usually one voice in a chorus, and the more your ideas become fringe, your potential audience shrinks as well. Luckily, most people seek out information that confirms what they already believe – which is partly why people on opposite sides of an issue don’t communicate, they genuinely do not comprehend the opposing view because they don’t expose themselves to opposing views – often just enough to get the sound bytes to refute them, but not enough to actually understand what the opposing side is actually saying and meaning.

When you get far enough from the centre, the only people listening to what you say or post are people who are entirely like minded and depending on the fringe, possibility the police or other law enforcement.

So, I would imagine it’s anxious and lonely for people who are extreme fringe and too small in number to attract police notice, which they need to convince themselves of their rightness and of being a dangerous game changer ideologist.

I think that as there is no way to commit the perfect crime, since you’d go mad by never getting any credit for it – because to be perfect, you’d need to carry it off alone and leave no clues – we do many things to gain little more than bragging rights, so the perfect crime could only be carried out by an egoless person, for the sake of the crime itself, rather than achieving the perfect crime.

This thinking informs extremist thinkers – who know they stand apart from society, who must elevate themselves to a grand status – of being the only right or clear thinker, the only one capable to understand or even see What’s Really Going On That They Don’t Want You To Know.

To be heard, to gain followers but more, to be opposed, for being opposed is what gives conspiracy and extreme ideology meaning – it’s proof of being right! They Are Stopping You From Telling the Truth, the Real Truth, About Them. And no one but you, the ideologist/conspiracy theorist can handle the truth.

Except, that it’s not really the truth and it’s because the extremist can’t handle that the world is not that complex, convoluted, but not that complex, and that they are not the Lone Truth Handler who must enlighten others because the truth is out there and dangerous.

The extremist is a true believer – not skeptical but often cynical – the difference being that a skeptic doubts the claims while the cynic doubts the claimant. No lack of evidence nor evidence to the contrary will shake their belief – indeed, the lack of and contrary evidence is just more proof for the elaborate conspiracy, it’s all just part of the plan.

Conspiracy theories do not substantially differ from religion, except that religion tends to attract a wider audience, who then act as a social averaging, a leveling of behaviours and social norms to smooth out the lone extremists and keep people in the fold.

Except that many religions are not particular mainstream, they are doomsday cults, validating extremist small groups and often the group seeks to impose their religious norms on the population by force or block voting if they can attract enough people.

Charles Manson gained a following of a handful of people and sent them to murder wealthy people to start a civil ethnic war, which strategy repeated itself in Norway, only Anders Behring Breivik didn’t bother with followers, he just tapped into the right wing extremism generally in Europe and accessible on the internet – rather than connect with an actual social movement or begin one – that, after all, takes effort and draws police attention too soon.

Jim Jones took nearly a thousand with him and the Heaven’s Gate group had just over 20 members. Cults have mass murdered and suicide or selected targets to kill to achieve their poligious ends and attempt to gain power and status in society that has rejected them and their ideology as meaningful members – otherwise, they wouldn’t be fringe extremists.

But the solution is not that all views are equally valid, because they are not – most people do not hold extreme views because they are not valid, logical, rational, fair and balanced, extremist views are discriminatory, bigoted and distasteful more often than not.

The solution is education – to teach children to think critically, logically and equitably.

The solution is not shunting extremism to the fringe, but to focus attention upon it, why it’s wrong, but also to determine what attracts people to such views. Often it’s lack of economic opportunity – when people are able to participate in society, have autonomy and freedoms – and understand that everyone is entitled to the same access to opportunities, to the same rights and freedoms – people are more willing to include rather than exclude when they understand that there’s no limit to rights, they won’t run out before the line of people waiting for their share.

It seems what people most need to learn and understand is how big and small their sphere of influence is.

Gays being able to serve in the military does not deprived heterosexuals of being able to serve, anymore than black people getting to serve took anything away from white people serving.

That gays even want to serve in the military should speak volumes about how much we have in common with our fellow citizens – we want the rights and the responsibilities of citizenship.

Gays being able to marry does not diminish or prevent heterosexuals from marrying any more than interracial marriage diminished or made marriage unattractive to same ethnic couples.

It improves society to be inclusive of all members of the society.

It made little sense to me, growing up in Canada, where I could rely on rights and freedoms and have them all unavailable when I came out as a lesbian in 1992. I was legally fired from two jobs and almost not permitted to rent housing. Legally. I had lost my rights and didn’t get them all back until 2003 when gay marriage became law – for most of my adult life, living in Canada, I have not been able to enjoy the same rights and freedoms and legal protection from discrimination as other Canadians.

But gays and atheists – the two most reviled minority groups – have not turned to violence to claim our place in our secular societies. We use the courts, we educate and do outreach, hold conferences, we live as if and wait for the day that we too have all the rights and social standing as other people – for the day when being gay or being atheist is just another bit of information rather than the basis for determining how people treat you or react to you.

It is religion combined with extreme views that attempts to assert itself through violence or by justifying discrimination against those the religion doesn’t like – which is not only anyone outside of the given religion, but generally targets specific segments of society – like gays or atheists, ethnic groups or members of rival (aka closely related) religions. Religion is the basis and justification for excluding people as being equal to everyone else.

When religion says a particular group is immoral and beneath consideration, bigotry follows and if the religion gains sufficient social standing, systemic discrimination and even violence  in the form of hate crime often follows.

The most dangerous aspect of religion is the veneer of divinity – any person can claim a deity told them thus and so – and if they can make their story compelling enough, gather followers and form a new religion.

One person believing something without basis is delusional, but a large enough group, and it becomes religion, and large enough and over enough time, a mainstream and established religion with the expectation and history of being above reproach and unquestioned in authority and power and influence.

If we are to have a society – and society is global, no country stands alone, we are one planet, interconnected, what happens in one country can no longer be deemed an internal matter when we are connected by land, air and water – pollution and radiation travels, people migrate or flee and natural disasters know no such imaginary things as borders.

We need to be in a reality and evidence based world and not allow delusional or magical thinking to be pervasive or to continue to divide us and prevent everyone from sharing in the wealth of resources, equitable participation, rights and freedoms – because rights and freedoms are clearly not self evidence or inalienable when only a portion of the world enjoys them, when the rights and freedoms you have are dependent on where you live.

We need to stop allowing extremist views to be validated by moderate ones – we need to draw a line and say, this far is okay, but after that, you’re going to need to seriously talk with someone about your inability to work and play well with other people.

We will never be rid of extremists, but we can stop coddling the similar and mainstream related sensibilities and make a clear stand.

And, we must hold religions accountable for the harm they have and continue to cause – from direct harm such as the Vatican sex crimes against the children in all countries where they have their corporate offices and operations to the theocratic nations were women are held as barely second class, just above the children, but below the family dog in terms of value and participation.

People are entitled to hold extremist views, but there is no obligation for us to act as if they are valid views. All things are not equal and should not be considered as such.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The religious martyr east-west divide

If you aren’t prepared to die for what you believe in, you don’t deserve to live

In the mid 1980’s on a school field trip from Chilliwack, a rural community, to Vancouver, the comparative Big City, I saw those words were hand lettered in white on the back of a denim jacket worn by a punk rocker.

Most of the other teens – the school was primarily cliques of head bangers and goody two show kids – on the field trip, made ooo and ahhh cat calls in complete non-comprehension and likely more to do with the fact of the young man being a punk rocker than the sentiment on his back.  I sat frozen, looking at the words and absorbing them very deeply. When you’re a teenager, everything feels epic, life and death, but you don’t really have a sense of what those concepts really mean. Or what if anything, you believe in, never mind what would be worth dying for. Dying was for old people; except….. my favorite movie at that time, was TAPS, starring Tim Hutton and pre-Ridgemont High Sean Penn and introducing Tom Cruise as three military students who lead a student revolt against the closure of their school – to disastrous and predictable conclusion of romanticizing the death of youths for a cause greater than oneself.

This idea of martyrdom continues to hold sway, people who die for religion are made into saints, religions demand sacrifice of supporters and promise eternal afterlife rewards for those who die in service or at least, when taking out the enemies of religion.

In American, religious zealots are less willing to die themselves but are often fairly open to taking out those who they see as betrayers or enemies – shooting abortion doctors right inside their own community church if need be. The American zealots tend to prefer to live to kill more another day, but when they do end up dying, it’s more likely suicide by cop during a shooting event than taking their own life. Suicide being a sin for which you burn in hell, and apparently this is not balanced against the good of protecting the unborn by the murder of a medical doctor.

As if forcing a police officer into killing you is somehow different than doing it yourself….. might as well take up extreme sports as the avoid hell loophole to suicide and not traumatize another person.

Whereas, Islamic zealots are more the hands on martyrs, strapping on a bomb belt and detonating in the crowd – even though sometimes, they only manage to take out themselves – we have to give them kudos for being fully committed in a way that makes North American Zealots look like they are phoning it in.

Not that there’s anything remotely admirable about being a martyr or, for that matter a criminal. The admiration in American culture for the gunslingers, mobsters, gangsters, outlaw bikers and gangstas is on the same wavelength as admiration for saints and martyrs. They are all the same spectrum of rule breaking outsider who’s become romanticized in pulp fiction, movies and video games.

They are an archetype that fulfills the fantasy of rule breaking freedom, being the law unto yourself, to be the power or to be the one fighting the power. The reality is far short of the fantasy.

Criminals are no different than businessmen, they are in it for the prestige and the cash, the power and influence, one through force and the other through cunning. Their respective criminality and anti-social behavior is only limited by the scope of their reach – and businessmen have a far greater reach than criminals – organized or otherwise – as businessmen who put stockholders above employees, customers, financial institutions and the environment do far more damage to society than the most violent of criminals can hope to.

Criminals, be they in legitimate or underground business, are related to the zealot martyrs, in that they often feel entitled by a higher call or by some quirk of birth or force of personality, to be above or beyond the rules that apply to mortal and lesser men. To be rule makers unto themselves.

Hmmm, putting it that way – the dictator/politicians, criminal/business, outlaws and zealots are really the same spectrum of anti-social disorders. Especially with the recent revelation that many if not most American Republicans believe that they are called by god to run for office and that dictators assure their populaces that they are themselves divine – but never in a fun campy way, always the creepy religious way.

To some degree, the mentality of “live fast, die young” explains the willingness of criminals to accept life as brutal and short, to live and die in service of the gang or larger community, is no different than a person who is a religious martyr, who either dies as part of an assault on their religious foes or in self-sacrifice in self-immolation as a form of protest.

Western secular zealots are less self-sacrificing than their eastern counterparts generally, again, preferring to not be caught or to be killed by police or by the state after a media saturated trial. The most horrifying fate for the western murderous zealot would be to be caught and endure life in obscurity and prison; without even a made for TV movie to explain their crusade.

Perhaps if we could understand the nuance between a zealot willing to self-sacrifice and one who is only willing to sacrifice others, we could identify the thought process that allows a person to sacrifice life in the name of ideology.

The willingness to die for causes has traditionally been thought linked to the degree of economic participation and freedoms one had in their respective society.

For bigoted reasons, the 9/11 hijackers changed this idea – suicide bombers where thought of as disaffected, disengaged young men – but the 9/11 hijackers were middle aged, married and many with children and professional career credentials. Most of them were engineers by training and trade. The increase in female suicide bombers also flies in the face of convention.

I say for bigoted reasons, because Timothy McVeigh was middle class and employed and he looked and could have been anyone. Homespun terrorists hit too close to home to analyze perhaps, much easier to hand wring and wonder about the truth when we don’t have to examine ourselves too closely.

People are something in between herd and pack animals – we like just enough structure to provide a consistent and stable framework, but we also like our individuality and some freedom from restrictive social roles (gender or socio-economic). Collectively, anyway, some people reveal in anarchy and others rejoice in rigidity. To each their own comfort level, but most of us in the middle spectrum like these two extremes in some balance or variability – it maintains our illusion of not only freedom, but free will.

Aside: Here’s a terrible thought, what if the only true expression of free will is choosing to die?

It all comes down to what do you value, or, as the punk rocker wrote, what you believe in.

Do you believe in yourself or do you only credit you with value when you are in service or attached to something bigger?

I think that if you are not enough to assign value to, you have no option but to glom onto something bigger, be it religion, politics, sub-culture, anti-culture or social movement. But, by casting yourself in a supporting role, you become vulnerable to exploitation by people who have no problem with their own self worth and often will fall prey to people with the opposite problem – those who value themselves as better than everyone else.

Leaders of movements have dupes, pawns, toadies, hangers on, minions and disaffected fanatics to do the sacrificing.

It’s never the leaders of any movement who self-immolate or strap on a bomb belt – when the leaders of a movement die, it’s usually a result of either their own over-indulgence with drugs/alcohol or in a doomsday cult mass murder/suicide when the legal authorities come knocking and blaring music and blazing gunfire.

It doesn’t matter how much education or professional accreditation or career accomplishments or families one has, without self-worth, there can be no value or worth inherent in these accomplishments and connections. Without valuing yourself, you have no value to transfer or put into accomplishments or connections; and instead, seek external validation to convey worth and value to your person.

It seems to me, that in addition to fluoride to compensate for the state of dental hygiene, that the government may wish to add anti-depressants to the water. Except that governments of any kind prefer a compliant and only marginally disaffected population who feels bad enough to console themselves through shopping therapy, but not bad enough to get out and vote or revolt.

We find meaning and purpose when we are connected to other people, to the community and we can economically participate and contribute to the world. But this cannot be our only source of value – we have to value ourselves in order for other people to value our contributions and to value ourselves.

Individuals are the basic part that make up the larger blocks of family, friends, colleagues (packs), demographic groups (herds), and segments of society (hives). We are the parts that form the sum, and must in turn, be enhanced as a part by the resultant sum. It is not enough that we contribute, but our contribution must be honored and recognized uniquely.

By us being a part and merely feeding the machine without recognition and enhancement, without that feedback  balance, it is little wonder then, that maladaptive and anti-social behaviours emerge, and eventually, bites the hand that has stopped feeding them.

God’s Toadies

Religious believers are a curious bunch who spend a lot of energy propping up their beliefs with word games, fallacious logic and outright cognitive dissonance in their rejection of reality.

 

Believers assert that prayer works and that all prayers are answered, but sometimes (imagine sad face here), sometimes the answer is no.

 

So a god who is capable of poofing the universe into existence and requires no cause for itself, is going to consistently respond with a “no” to the prayers of starving children, cancer ridden children, amputees and paraplegics?  This all powerful god is going to say “no” to abducted children being tortured and raped for years or just for a while before they are murdered and left in a shallow grave? “No” to the altar boys?

 

Is god too busy saying “yes” to sports teams? “Yes” to companies that produce the tools of war, “yes” to young and able bodied men and women to enter the field of battle only to be removed in whole or in parts in body bags?

 

Yet believers ask that us non-believers accept that their god is good and kind and loving and always answers prayers and then don’t bother to downplay that failing to accept and worship – and correctly, mind you, the correct kind that the particular believer does, not how believers of the 38,000 other versions of Christianity and let’s not mention other religions at all worship – failure to worship means eternal hell and torment.

 

At this juncture, it is difficult to discern if the believer’s face is damp with tears of despair over your hell fate or drool of anticipation, since, after all, heaven is an exclusive club and it’s not fun having eternal bliss unless others are not merely denied said bliss, but are actively tortured.

 

I do wonder though, given the exquisiteness of that very fine line between pleasure and pain, that heaven and hell couldn’t been seen as one and the same – after a time, bliss would become mind boggling boring, torturous even and after a time, pain levels off and becomes manageable, in order to understand either, you have to switch between them; you can’t really identify a thing in isolation of all other factors, pleasure and pain are best understood in conjunction or alternating, and eventually, they are indistinguishable.

 

So, the Abrahamic god is either non-existent, in which case, the world is as we expect it to be and prayers are meaningless.

 

Or the Abrahamic god exists but is callous, disinterest at best or cruel, vainglorious and evil at worst, in which case, prayers are ignored or answered no, and again, the world is as we expect it to be but prayers to such a deity are pointless.

 

Or the Abrahamic god exists but is a confused, demented, absent minded, in which case, most prayers are ignored or answered no and the handful that are answered with a yes are of such small impact with such a low bar for attainment, as to be meaningless – because winning a sports game versus thousands of children dying from malnutrition every day – that’s a god who can’t prioritize or is – well – makes sense if god’s a cat god and we’re just it’s playthings.

 

In any event, the Abrahamic god of Judaism, Islam and Christianity is a jealous, insecure, violent and cruel – and nothing worth worshipping.

 

So that the believers of Islam and Christianity continue to spread the word by the sword and threats of damnation and violence is not surprising, given their role model. Jews, being confident in their being the chosen ones, aren’t interested in recruiting; to be chosen, you have to be born to it.

 

Which probably explains why Christians and Islamists bicker so much, killing each other and shouting, “Hey god, look at me, I dispatched an infidel/heathen, pick me pick me.”

 

Christians and Islamic people are the toadies to god’s bully.

 

As such, they are carrying out the spreading of the word with the sword in countries where they can openly get away with it, and by terrorists actions in countries where they cannot openly operate – such as shooting abortion doctors, bombing abortion clinics, suicide bombing in public areas and checkpoints.

 

I guess they have to go out with a bang to announce their arrive to their god, who must be quite deaf by now from all the sword clashing, weapon firing and bombs detonating in praise of god.

 

Not all believers are willing to suicide their way to martyrdom and some are even squeamish about shooting doctors, so they take out their violent tendencies with a veneer of civilized conduct – and head out to the voting booth to vote against equal rights for gays and lesbians,  contribute to campaigns that uphold Christian values and ignore that abstinence seems to only speed the deflowering of virgins and increase the number of pregnant teenagers, as well as support the continued spread of AIDs and other sexually transmitted diseases, basically ensuring that woman in other nations will never achieve any measure of personal sovereignty and control over her own reproduction.

 

And the squeamish believers pray. They pray for the people they don’t like to be smitten, smote, smoted? smotten? punished – and nothing happens to these people that they have identified to their god as deserving of punishment.

 

How dare those gays and lesbians just go ahead and form families, be all university educated and make more money than decent god-fearing people. And those angry at god atheists and smug humanists and damn free thinkers, educated elite smug bastards deserve a comeuppance – but, the uppance doesn’t come.

 

Does the believer accept their prayer was answered with a no? Hell no. They set about to activity punish people now on earth – whether they think they are softening us up for hell, or just like regular toadies, want to feel like they are the big bully – so they kick at the non-believers and/or the perverts to give a taste of what’s to come, to make themselves feel the glory and power of god working through them and they sally forth and smite away.

 

Voting against equal rights, burning crosses on lawns, shooting abortion doctors, dragging people for miles behind their pick up trucks, suicide bombing, gay bashing, protesting and threatening abortion clinic staff and clients, performing exorcisms to pray away the gay, to threaten, abuse and attack both physically and psychologically – and to declare victory over the dead bodies of teens and young adults who have committed suicide than face a life and a world that they would have to share with these god toadies turned representative bullies on earth.

 

Because clearly, when god answers a prayer for something good with silence, it means no, but when god answers a prayer for retribution and destruction with silence, it means sally forth and do it in my name.

 

This is supposed to be compelling evidence of god’s love – that god’s people will deny us equal rights, attack us on every front, and revel in our hurts and deaths. Perhaps this is an insight into what kind of place heaven and hell is – for it is here and now – for believers, getting to do what they want to who, without fear of consequences is heaven – and what they want is to make life hell for those of us who do not share their delusion, religion.

 

Now, there are moderate believers who can refrain from violence, but that’s more to their being good people, with a connection to the community, to having lives, families and friends, economic participation – they have something to lose – so they refrain from criminal actions that would make them subject to human law – besides all the hellfire stuff isn’t real to them, they cheery pick an easier going version of religion, one that does not make demands of them, and allows them to just be as they are with a thin veneer of religion to give them hope that they won’t really die.

 

Moderates of a religion are really no different than a person who takes bits and pieces from a range of religions and customizes one for their self. Moderates are not believers in a religion, Moderates are people who have taken bits from and forged their own religion, to suit their needs.

 

Because pure religion has clearly failed to provide framework for guiding and maintaining moral conduct as it is understood today. The Bible was written by people in the bronze age, and these were far more violent times and the violence was not only acceptable, but expected. After the fall of the Roman empire, the middle east was as the wild west – lawless with no comprehensive system of law or justice, it was a period of might makes right. This is not a workable practice in the modern world, which has a system of interrelated laws, not only within each nation, but also governing each nation’s relationships.

 

Science has replaced religion as the framework to understand the world and ourselves.

 

International Secular Law, and the rule of law in Democratic nations has replaces religion as the framework to govern our interactions with each other.

 

Philosophy, Psychiatry and Psychology has replaced religion as a means to understanding ourselves individually.

 

This leaves religion in a very precarious place of being all tarted up and nowhere to go – the gaps are filling, the needs are changing, and religion no longer provides a workable framework for guiding behaviour – how many more riots over cartoons and art displays, how many more children have to step forward to identify their abuser priests, how many more religious leaders have to be exposed as adulterers, embezzlers, or closeted gay adulterers, how much more suicide bombers and inter-religious violence of not being able to get along with even members of the same religion, when sitting on the floor vs sitting on the chairs results in the police being called in to break up the Sheikh service? Recently, the KKK protested the Westborough Church for picketing at Arlington Cemetery – the hate groups are turning on each other!

 

It’s said that it’s a poor operator who blames the tools, but at some point, you have to step back and evaluate – are you using the right tools? Are these tools able to get the job done?

 

Religion does not provide a framework to live a moral life or to work and play well with others.

 

Religion is a tool to control the masses of people to accept their poverty or bad events as their own fault, to bring money into the coffers of the temple and allow the leadership to live an extravagant lifestyle, which given the adultery and embezzlement scandals, even this semi-honestly achieved opulence isn’t ever going to be enough and they soon become as decadent as the money changers that were ousted from the temple, according to the story, anyway.

 

So yes, at some point, the system and not the operator, has to be blamed for allowing the abuses to flourish, because the system has no means to self correct or even enforce itself.

 

Because any religious leader, no matter how many children he raped, or adult women or men he had sex with, no matter how much money he squirreled away, or drugs or debauchery – the get out of hell free card is the quality and public repentance. Repent and be forgiven.

 

Repent does not restore the children’s innocence and the lack of consequences means that the children grow up unable to ever trust authority – repentance is too often, I am sorry I got caught, I am sorry that you got hurt – and few seem to notice that these fall far short of “I am sorry that I did this to you.”

 

It is only in taking responsibility for your harmful actions that you can be forgiven – and forgiveness starts with the person you harmed, not forgiving yourself or thinking your god forgives you after a few ritual words and gestures.

 

The healing cannot being for the victim, until the wrong done them is acknowledged and responsibility/liability for it accepted. No healing is deserved for the victimizer without any healing for the victim, otherwise, the hurt remains and festers.

 

Believers clearly need something other than religion, for it has failed to give them the moral guidance to be able to work and play well, responsibility and fairly with others.