Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Camel weighs in on the Maher, Harris, Affleck debate/debacle.



I have been asked by a good friend to give my perspective on the Bill Maher, Ben Affleck, Sam Harris "debate" about Islam that has been hyped allover the media.  I won't belabor it because my views on Islam, so called "Islamophobia",  and fundamentalist Muslim accommodation have been pretty well covered in my books and blog articles.  So here's my position in a nutshell and a half.


Maher has always impressed me as being a world class asshole The week after 911 when he said in (so many words) "... the terrorists weren't cowards, they were brave...it takes guts to fly a plane into a building. Americans are the cowards..." I lost all respect for him and discounted everything else he had to say from then on. His subsequent apology following public outrage meant zero to me.

Sam Harris takes a position that's a little extreme, but I understand it and the reasoning behind it. Liberals are way too accepting of Islam as "just another religion like yours or mine."  It would be like a 12th century Muslim (or Jew) saying "Christianity is a religion just like yours or mine, there are good and bad in them all" while the Pope's Crusaders are slaughtering fellow [Coptic] Christians, Jews, Cathars, and Muslims wholesale across two continents... and later when Jews and "heretics" were being tortured and killed during the Inquisition.  Bullshit to that.

We are now dealing with an Islam where they were dealing with Christianity 900 years ago. The fact that the average Christian peasant who tilled his fields and killed no one wasn't part of the problem doesn't permit us to look back at that era and say "Christianity wasn't so bad. They were being "Christian-phobic'. " 

Now this isn't to say that every Muslim is bent on killing the infidel, or installing sharia  law to replace the Constitution.  But it doesn't have to be every or even most Muslims. If Harris' harsh position helps bring about a realization that we are engaged in a global war with Muslim fundamentalists and that the US could well become like Europe where some countries have 5%, 10%, 17% Muslim populations that are growing exponentially (the US has 0.8% Muslims),  many of whom are demanding very special considerations and accommodations; who see those governments' accommodations as Western weakness; and who are going to fight along side terrorists in Syria and Iraq in significant enough numbers to be a concern  when they "come home" to their adopted country ... then his efforts will have made a difference. If it is ignored then we will be in the mess that Europe has been experiencing and will soon experience to a much greater degree.  

When the time comes that European parliaments pass  laws against criticizing Islam, or drawing pictures of Mohammed then you'll know they have utterly and totally acquiesced to those demands, and surrendered their birthright.  Harris doesn't want that to happen there or here, and activist Islam has every intention of doing precisely that...and more.

If it takes Harris' kind of rhetoric to jog the Far Left - Politically Correct - "Anti-Islamophob" - Head in the Sand-Liberals (AKA The Ben Afflecks of the world ) to move slightly more to the middle and see the handwriting on the wall & potential horror that Muslim fanaticism on our own turf will bring, then I support Harris 99%.

As for the cry of  "racism" against Harris by Affleck, that's just stupidity. Islam is a religion, not a race. But then, to the warm and fuzzy Far Left, that doesn't make much difference.

And that's my position. Like it or hump it. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Gawd’s Wrath Befalls Us & Nobody Seems to Notice. The Hump fills the gap




I’m confused. The nation is beset by fires and drought in the West, flooding in the South West, enterovirus D68 striking children in forty-six states, and a case of Ebola in Dallas TexAss.  And yet I haven’t heard a single multimillionaire televangelist Christian nutter proclaim it a sign of the End Times, or even an indication of their god’s displeasure with America’s permissive sexuality, abortions and gay rights.  What the heck is happening??

My guess is they have missed the boat or are distracted by other matters.  Pat Robertson of late has been busy telling women in their seventy’s who can’t afford to donate to their church to get jobs.   Pastor Steven Anderson of the Faithful Word Baptist Church says gays should be executed per Lev. 20:13.  Pastor John Hagee has been obsessing about a lunar eclipse that fell on the Jewish holiday of Sukkot saying it was an ominous omen and precursor to Armageddon. Pastor James David Manning of Harlem, NY warns African-American women that President Obama was responsible for unleashing white gay men on their husbands. 

I figure it’s just a matter of time before one or more of these soothsayers of buffoonery come around and get with the program and start noticing that at least one of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Pestilence, was running rampant.  But I’m not going to wait around for them, I’m going to beat them to the punch.  So here it is:

”Woe be unto you, TexAss!!  Ebola, a creation of the Almighty who creates all life all evil (Isaiah 45:7), has descended upon thee!  He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible plague upon thy land.  REPENT!  For thou hath offended His sensibilities with your religious fanaticism, right wing-open carry idiocy, and general foolishness from the statehouse to thy School board.”

”O, California… verily shalt thy suffer drought and fire.  The wails of the thirst afflicted and displaced will be as a lullaby unto the Lord thy God; for as thou hast failed to convict OJ Simpson.”

”Ye, South West- thou hast felt the sting of flooding as the Lord thy God unleashed tropical Rainstorm Odile upon thee!  Thy roads and bridges and cars and houses awash, and not one Ark to save thee. Verily thou did suffer this affliction for your salsa and tortilla chip affectation,  and…and….and  other South Western kinda stuff that is an abomination unto the Lord!”

”As for the rest of the country that is as a den of iniquity unto the Lord, he hath cursed thy children with fevers, and respiratory infections, and paralysis of unknown cause ...ye, even to the most innocent … because…well…because God loves the little children of the world.”
 

There.  That should do until  genuine religious nutters jump on the band wagon. It shouldn’t be too much longer. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Enigma of the Atheist/ Freethinker Republican: Hump ‘Splains It All.



I struggle with this every year as election time comes around, trying my hardest to understand how an atheist can be Republican. In the face of the latest avalanche of venom and idiocy spewing and blocking votes from the GOP I am in even more of a quandary.

Now, don’t misunderstand; I fully comprehend that atheist simply means one who has no belief in God or gods.  Period.  It doesn’t speak to political positions, or even imply a high regard for ethics.  It doesn’t define ones perspective towards gay rights, or women, or war, or conspiracy theories, or dishonesty, or fiscal issues. It has little or no bearing on ones prejudices, or perspective on race, or jingoistic nationalism.  An atheist can hold any number of differing view points on these and other issues. 

But I have typically credited atheists with a higher intellect than religionists.  By my experience they more often than not use reason and logic to form their opinions and perspectives.  They tend to be less knee jerk reactionary, if only because their inquiring minds want all the details, the objective data, before formulating a position.  In short: I expect atheists to think on a higher plane than your typical religionist, and the mass of drooling, FOX viewing, Limbaugh and Hannity worshiping, “Christian Nation” endorsing, Creationism promoting, science denying, GOP faithful.





Alas, I have been deceiving myself. Atheists do not, by that label, lay claim to reasoned judgment, or even simple humanity.  


How can a freethinker cast their vote for a party that would take away women’s reproductive rights, because her womb is declared a sacred and holy place that must be filled with a fetus at all costs, lest God be angered; or who can cast their vote for a party that votes down the Violence Against Women Act; or that defeats an Equal Pay for Equal Work Law; or blocks a Veterans Benefits Bill, or whose “Number One Priority” for the first four years of this nation’s worst economic condition since the depression was to “make this [‘nigra, Muslim, commie’ ] president a one term president”, let the nation’s unemployment, foreclosures, and financial woes be damned.


How does a person of reason justify to themselves voting for a party that sues a sitting president for doing the business of running a nation in the face of a congress whose only objective for six years was, and still is,  to stymie progress, and defeat anything the president proposes... even if they themselves once endorsed it?  Or a party whose obsessive hate requires a laser like focus on a terrorist attack that killed four Americans in Africa, when previous GOP presidents had embassies blown up and destroyed killing scores of embassy employees and US citizens with not even a hint of a need for an all encompassing months long investigation to place blame on the administration? 


How can a thinking rational person claim allegiance to a party that has some elected officials who claim the Boston marathon bombing was a government hoax, or that a woman can’t become pregnant as a result of rape?  That hold in high esteem members of congress who hold this nation hostage to the threat of government shut downs over and over again; or who elevate  Palins, and Bachmanns, and Santorums, and Huckabees, and Perrys, and Jindals and their ilk as beacons of intellect and pillars of the GOP platform?  Or that endorses and embraces a block of all male Catholic Supreme Court Justices whose allegiance to the Bible clearly takes precedence over the Constitution and a woman’s right to prescription meds; who declare a business capable of holding a religious view that can be imposed upon its employees; and imbuing a business entity with the same rights of freedom of speech as an individual citizen ...except with lots more money with which to speak?



How do they sleep at night, our fellow freethinkers, knowing that they are supporting a party that would see Creationism taught in our public schools, abortion outlawed, school books infused with Christian doctrine, and distorted history forced down kid’s throats?  A party made of those who eschew exploration of stem cells; who deny scientific evidence of global warming and evolution; who would shut down the EPA, and Department of Education while our nation faces critical pollution related health issues and educational deficiencies that makes us far behind much of the industrialized world? A party whose first response to international conflict is beating the war drum ready to send young men and women to die to feed their blood lust, financial investments,  and chicken-hawk mentality; that kowtows to the NRA thus refusing to support even the most benign crime control gun objectives; and that would deny gays full rights because it is condemned by the very doctrine and document we as atheists disdain as cruel and misogynistic gibberish from ancient sand people and 1st century cultists? 


Well, here’s the answer.  Here’s how these GOP freethinkers and atheists sleep at night, how they can ally with the religiously driven, how they can turn their backs on personal freedoms, on women’s issues, on veterans, on civility and social advancement of a nation that lags behind the rest of the free world.   The answer is THEIR FRICKIN TAXES. 


Yup… that’s what it comes down to. The GOP promises them that their taxes will go down. Period. Oh, not through cutting the Department of Defense - oh no they love the Military Industrial Complex too much for that.  Besides, Cheney needs the money.  And certainly not by removing tax credits and corporate welfare they give to Oil Companies, oh no.  No, they will take from the poor to give to the rich, like a psychopathic Robin Hood.  They’ll finance their beloved and all mighty lower taxes on the backs of people on food stamps, on the erosion of public schools in favor of religious school vouchers, by cutting veterans benefits, by cutting social security benefits, by telling the 3 million+ people who have already received health insurance they never before had  “Sorry..go fuck your selves… this isn’t Europe.”

Yep… that’s what it’s about.  Their personal bank account.  Everything else means nothing, let society, gays, women, the poor, the combat vet, the minimum wage workers be damned. Let the gap between the ultra rich and the middle and working classes get larger and larger as the top of the food chain enriches itself while the other 99% remain stagnant or lose real income…waiting for a “trickle down” that has never and will never come.

Oh they’ll say they worry about the national debt - that this wild-eyed Liberal spending is ruining the nation.  But it’s a lie...either knowingly or by self or FOX deception.  The nation’s debt has, for the past 30+ years, ALWAYS been reduced during Democratic administrations versus Republican administrations.
  
In short: atheist / freethinker Republican faithful are in lock step with the industrial robber barons of the 19th century.  Their motto: “Fuck ‘em! I got mine, and I want more!” . That or “Let them eat cake!” a mind set that never has been a very useful long term solution as history will testify.

The GOP platform pretty much boils down to this: “If God had intended people to have healthcare, or control of their own bodies, or full equality regardless of who they love, or children with full bellies, or a genuine education free from lies and delusion He’d have made them rich…or written it down somewhere!”

GOP atheists, you’re known by the friends you keep.  Don’t count me among them lest someone think I respect them too. You’ve thrown in with Christian oppressors and backward think. You’ve made your choice, and it disgusts me. 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

An Open Letter to the 9/11 Families for Peaceful Tmorrows


Dear September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows;

Much to be said for the good intent behind your message. Unthinking violence and hostility towards "the other", regardless of their race, culture, faith or lack thereof is simply unjustified incivility.

But, with that said, no poster, no well meaning meme, no appeal to civility can erase that which we know to be true.  Burying ones head in the sand and declaring justifiable  suspicion toward Muslims "Islamophobia", is simple denial of the thousands of instances of  violence, horror, incivilities and death wrought by Islam, in the name of Islam,  on the West and on their own brethren.

9/11 is but one example, albeit to Americans and New Yorkers in particular, the most horrible one.  As well meaning as you, the survivor families are,  who suffered so much, it is  a bit presumptuous to think that distrust, suspicion, and yes even hatred of Muslims can be dissolved by your appeal.  It's deeper than you well meaning folks, and that specific horror.  

It goes to US military officer who kills his own in the name of Allah.  To home grown terrorists who found sanctuary in a free nation and who then turned against it by blowing up innocent people attending a foot race in Boston.  To infatuated and easily led would be "martyrs" who leave their adoptive nation to fight along side murders to whom beheading innocents, abusing women, dismembering and torturing those of another sect or religion is considered "Allah's will" and who will one day come home to use their training to spread terror in our homeland. 

From Iraq, to Afghanistan, to Syria, to Nigeria, to Libya, to China, to Russia;  from London, to Boston, to New york City to who knows where next...the curse that is fundamentalist Islam has become a pandemic poised to consume whatever it touches, wherever it can find an opening. If this sounds like it is analogous to a flesh eating bacteria, it's not by accident.

Some European nations  have kowtowed to the demands of their exponentially growing immigrant Muslim citizens.  They pass laws, and give preferences and make allowances for their culture and religious dogma. They did so in an effort to appease and accommodate and are already experiencing the fruits of that through inflamed Islamic fervor. They have opened the door to even more radicalization, more demands for Sharia law.  Accommodation is viewed as weakness by Muslims.  Until the West understands that mindset it will stand like an open wound ready to be infected with a disease for which a cure would be even more unthinkable than the prevention.

They say a person isn't paranoid if in fact there ARE "people out to get" them.  Similarly, one isn't "Islamophobic"  when in fact Islam is out to convert the world and drag it back into the 7th century; or to punish and kill those they cannot subjugate.

So, keep your warm and fuzzy meme.  I do not disdain Islam solely in the name of the victims of 9/11, or you their survivors.  I do so out of a recognition of the reality of the threat of Islam to the world,  and self preservation.
 


Your faithful dromedary,

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Brutality, Savagery, and Stupidity of Religion in Two Nut Shells


When American journalist James Foley was beheaded by a fundamentalist Muslim  terrorist organization, ISIS, and  the horror of it video taped for the world to see,  it exemplified the very worst that religious fervor brings to civilization. 

The moderate apologists of Islam will insist that it was not driven or endorsed by Islam and Islamic doctrine, which is a “religion of peace”, but by “not true Muslims” who have co-opted Islam for a political purpose. The problem of course is that to religious fundamentalist extremists of any flavor politics and religion cannot be separated, they are one in the same.  It is as true now in Islamic theocracies, and among Christian right wing Republicans who’d happily see the USA a theocracy, as it was in the days of the Hebrew King David, the Egyptian pharaohs, and the Holy Roman Empire.  And in those times and places, the political imperative was marked by brutality and savagery that was justified and spurred by religious belief.

This newest horrific and rabid form of Islam is akin to a mutation of an already deadly virus, one for which there is no cure. For a cure, it would take universal acceptance of reason, and rejection of religious delusion and justification, and that is nowhere in sight.

It will become a world wide epidemic spreading fear, violence and death as it attracts and infects new blood from the ranks of moldable “Moderate Muslims” ripe for radicalization.  When and how this will end, how civilization will deal with this throwback to a Dark Age uncivilized abomination, I cannot predict, no one can. I am reasonably certain that it will get worse before it gets better. And I am very certain I will not live long enough to see the final outcome. I wish I could foresee some sage, positive, hopefulness, but the fact is I got nuthin’ to offer in that regard.

So much for the savagery and brutality of religion; now onto the nut shell of stupidity. 

This evening as I listened to the local news I heard a woman from James Foley’s hometown here in New Hampshire say this: “I said the Rosary every day for James while he was captive.  And now I say it for his family.” 

Obviously the complete and utter irrationality of what she said is entirely lost on her.  For over a year she prayed the repetitive and droning Rosary everyday appealing to the Virgin Mary to intercede on her behalf to cajole and convince Jesus/God to save Mr. Foley and deliver him from evil…only to have it fail with such horrible finality.  But never mind… now she’ll do the exact same prayerful appeals to Jesus/God on behalf of the Foley family and hope for a better result... whatever that may be.  Stupidity.    

James Foley was himself a devout Catholic.  He wrote a piece about his captivity in Libya in 2011. Here is an extract:
”If nothing else, prayer was the glue that enabled my freedom, an inner freedom first and later the miracle of being released during a war in which the regime had no real incentive to free us. It didn’t make sense, but faith did.” 
I imagine James Foley was praying all during his captivity in Iraq. Alas, his god, AKA the odds, didn’t favor him this time.  If prayer and belief gave him courage and strength during that time, and as he was about to die, then it played the only good role the lie and delusion of prayer and religion can deliver. And I’m hopeful for his sake that it did.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Why I hate the South: with apologies to my freethinking Southern friends and readers ...again.


Well, it's happened again.  My unabashed disdain for the South, its religiosity, and backward social culture has gotten people's panties in a wad. I was taken to task by an Austin, TX freethinker for "delighting" in denigrating the region in general and TexASS in particular.  My reply follows.  If I have touched on this subject before, my apologies...but it's elephants that never forget, not camels.

"Every state in the nation has, or has had, its embarrassments- but Southern states seem to make stupidity and obscenity a point of cultural pride. And I recognize that every Southern state  has its strongholds of reason. Austin is one of a handful in TexASS. Hell, I'm sure there are some civilized niches in Somalia and Nigeria as well.

I do not 'delight' in badmouthing the South. It pains me that it is what it is. I've had this discussion with many southern atheists, and I'm on record (about 100 times) as declaring my respect and admiration for freethinkers who survive, keep their sanity, and prosper in the Bible Belt, in spite of their being surrounded by religious nuts, right wing fanatics, and the grossly undereducated with 19th century mindsets.

But I don't make up the FBI, or Pew Survey, or US dept of HE&W, or any of the stats from esteemed organizations which I oft quote that prove the South to be the veritable 3rd world segment of our nation...never mind the fact that a disproportionate number of people in the south are on gov't assistance, and yet those states invariably vote GOP.

Look I'm not inflexible, I'm prepared to revise my position when reason starts to prevail in the South. When Governors do not openly promote Christianity / or do photo ops manning machine guns at the border (Perry), or conduct exorcisms (Jindal), or declare God's wrath is upon the nation for its sins (Huckabee) just to mention three of the most outrageous examples; when its school boards stop trying to promote Creationism as science and influence other states school books accordingly; when citizens stop parading in the streets, restaurants and stores with loaded AKs and AR-15s.

When public school athletic teams stop praising Jesus on the field; when having the highest execution rate in the nation isn't a point of pride; when the investment in education meets the other regions and the calculated average IQ of the South rises to meet them as well; when laws aren't passed forbidding a doctor (on pain of losing their license) from asking their patients about guns in the home (FL). 


When their judges stop insisting Ten Commandment monuments are their right on government property (Alabama) ; when it stops spawning the nation's most grotesque televangelist charlatans and born again haters (i.e. Hagee,  Robertson, Osteen, Falwell,  et al); when it stops passing laws to prohibit reasonable access to abortions and  prohibiting gay marriage; when poverty is considered a challenge to be fixed and not an imposition; when the crime rates, and unemployment rate, and standard of living indices improve, THEN I'll be the first one to welcome the South into modernity.Until then, screw the South. Fuck TexASS. To Hell with the Alamo. Long live Santa Anna ."

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Annual Jehovah’s Witness Visit: Hump bets his atheism, finds no taker



A car sets off the driveway alarm on this beautiful Sunday afternoon.   I pop out to greet a minivan loaded with six middle aged folks dressed in suits and dresses.  Only the leader of the pack ventured forth: a forty-something, short stocky guy in a pinstripe suit, dark blue shirt, and floral tie. With a tie bar. 

“Lemme guess…don’t tell me.”  I implored, ”JW’s right?”
”Yes, how did you know?”
”Because the Mormons usually wear short sleeve white shirts, black ties and no jackets…and only travel in twos or threes.  You seem to have the whole congregation with you.”  He smiled broadly.

Right off the bat I give my bona fides: atheist; author of two books on religion; write an atheist / anti-theist blog; been atheist since my teens;  atheist in a foxhole; studied religion as a minor in college; read the KJV and NIV; and dismiss all religion and all gods as a throw back to when men believed the sky was a firmament. 

He began to sweat, and mopped his brow with his free hand. In the other he held copies of their Watch Tower publication, the Bible, and another pamphlet. I offered him and his hoard a cold drink and use of the bathroom.  He declined graciously on their behalf.

”If you read the Bible you know it has all the answers.”  He offered. “I didn’t fully understand God until I read the Bible.”  I explained that having read the bible only reinforced my dismissal of god as fable and myth, and the original writers as misogynistic, blood thirsty, Bronze Age and first century C.E. cultists. He looked perplexed.

”If the bible has all the answers then you should be able to answer this:  Why did god command a woman’s hand be chopped off, and for her to be shown no mercy, for coming to the aid of her husband and grabbing the genitals of her husband’s attacker?”

He had zero idea what I was talking about. 
“Deuteronomy 25, I think. That’s the Old Testament” I offered snarkishly.   “And please, no ‘CONTEXT’ reply, since I’ve yet to hear anyone give me the context in which god comes off looking good, kind, loving and merciful for demanding a ‘hand sandwich’ for a grope.”   

He thumbed feverishly to find the verse.  While he searched  I asked how is it if god has all the answers that there are 30,000 Christian  sects and denominations who perceive the so called answers differently, as well as the questions? Why couldn’t his god been more specific?

And how is it god forgot to out law slavery, and instead established rules for when a master can beat a slave? And why no prohibition against pedophilia?  

He was digging for his glasses now, fumbling with his bible. “Well, we don’t go by the Old Testament anyway…Jesus established a New Covenant replacing the old.”

”Oh, so what’s your position on gay rights and gay marriage?”  I queried.
”Well, we are obviously opposed to it, since it is an abomination to God.”
”But, that’s the OLD Testament, the OLD Covenant”  I reminded him, “Jesus established a New Covenant.  So unless you are keeping Kosher, and stoning your unruly child, are you saying you are cherry picking what parts of the ‘old covenant’ you will keep as god’s law and what parts you’ll disregard?”

This is where he asked me what I meant by “kosher.” I patiently explained about pork, shell fish, and other food sources that the Old Testament prohibits. He nodded as though he had heard of this but had briefly forgotten.

”Well…no, we don’t pick and choose. But being against gay marriage is just common sense be sides, it’s in the New Testament. There are rules against homosexuality there as well.”  

”Ah…but any reference against homosexuality in the New Testament would have been by Paul.  I thought you followed the word of Jehovah, and his son Jesus Christ…not Paul as an intermediary, who never even met Jesus. You’re not Paulists are you?”

”No, no, not at all!  But I’m sure Jesus said something about homosexuality.” he offered feebly.  He started leafing through the Bible again, abandoning the Deuteronomy amputation clause research.  Things were obviously not going according to his plan and script. He was frazzled.

”Tell you what.  If you find where Jesus specifically speaks against homosexuality… against man lying with man, or woman with woman; I’ll become a JW.”

I could have sworn at that instant the guy was having a vision of heaven, or was hearing a heavenly choir, or experiencing religious ecstasy. He positively lit up. He asked for my email and said he’d find and send the chapter and verse to me.  He extended his hand as if he was about to make a deal with the Devil which he figured was at worst a no lose situation. That’s when I hit him with the down side clause:

”Naturally… if you can’t find Jesus’ personal admonishment against homosexuality, you’re going to give up your faith and become an atheist. Right?” He withdrew his hand, with a sheepish smile and quickly opted out of the bet.

As we said our goodbyes, the group asked where the camels were, referring to the Camel Ranch sign at the top of the driveway .  I explained we’re between camels right now…well… except for me. “I’m known as the Atheist Camel. You can find me on Google.”   They smiled and chuckled softly, then drove down the drive way to their next…hopefully less educated … potential convert.