The Emerald Isle: Boldly Moving Forward into the 12th Century…

January 6, 2010

Let me preface these remarks by saying that if we were Irish nationals, both Kevvy and I would be criminals. Kevvy for his most recent post, and me for what I am about to write. Once more unto the breach, dear readers!

On January 1st, 2010, a new law came into effect in Ireland – the law is, according to legislators, primarily designed to modernise laws regarding defamation. Goodness knows, given the state of defamation laws in England, that area could use a bit of cleaning up in the Isles, so to speak. This, however, is not what is most troubling about this legislation. Contained within the law are provisions making blasphemy, the disparaging of religious beliefs which might offend practitioners of a given religion, illegal.  Of course, as one would expect, some, like Richard Dawkins, are speaking out against what is perceived to be a return to medieval thinking.

The Irish Constitution already contains provisions against blasphemy, however, Ireland and other countries which have similar laws or edicts have chosen largely to ignore them, given that they are impossible to define or enforce, and constitute an unreasonable restriction on free speech. Modern societies have largely recognized the importance of free speech and the benefits of the unrestricted flow of ideas. What is puzzling is that some commentators cannot even identify whose idea this was, or whether religious leaders of any denomination have pushed to have this law enacted.

Some will recall my post on the efforts of the Organization of the Islamic Conference to pass a United Nations resolution making disparagement of religion an offense around the world – even as a non-binding resolution, it is a terrifying prospect that such resolutions can even be seriously entertained in a global context.  This new law is an unreasonable and unwarranted attack on free speech and should not be tolerated. While we are turning our gaze toward Africa and threatening dire consequences if homosexuality is outlawed in Uganda, this type of petty, superstitious nonsense is actually happening in what is presumed to be the ‘civilized’ West. There are people around the world who are suffering unnecessary misery due to the efforts of supposedly well-meaning christians, and direct conflict between religious ideologies is killing hundreds, if not thousands of people a day in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

Recently, a court in Malaysia decided it was acceptable for non-muslims to use the word ‘allah’, as long as it is not misused. Thousands are up in arms at what is seen as an insult to islam – never mind that the word ‘allah’ means ‘god’ in Arabic, and could conceivably come up in conversation in a respectful way – and this is just one of many instances where the rule of law has come up against the forces who encourage the growth of superstition and the suppression of competing ideas. The suppression of ideas, even ridiculous ones, is dangerous because it is a slippery slope from protecting one set of ideas from another to defining one idea, or ideology, as better or more worthy of promotion by a government.

Unless there are instances of demonstrable harm (such as are inherent in militant religions of any stripe), people should be permitted to share ideas and let the minds of others accept, debate or deny them as they see fit. It is the only way societies can grow and evolve – technology is great, but without ideas to determine its use, technology is just a tool. Moral ideas, divorced from the burden of religious dogma and developed to provide the greatest benefit for the greatest number, are the force that propels us forward as a race.

A restriction on speech is a restriction on thought, and any infringement on the right to think and speak freely is a violation of human rights, and should be regarded as a crime against humanity.


Evangelicals: Growing Pains (In the Ass)

September 22, 2009

Former Growing Pains ‘star’ and current delusional paranoid evangelical xtian Kirk Cameron, has indicated that he plans to distribute to U.S. universities 100,000 copies of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, with a new 50-page foreword, to subvert the 150th anniversary of the publishing of the iconic science text on November 22nd, 2009 – “Darwin Day”.

The following from The Huffington Post:

Cameron explains that this “very special” edition of the “Origin of Species” will include an introduction explaining “Adolf Hitler’s undeniable connection” to the theory of evolution, and highlighting “Darwin’s racism” and “his disdain for women.” Cameron’s edition also exposes the “many hoaxes” of evolutionary theory, while presenting a “balanced view of Creationism.”

From the untalented hack’s own mouth:

A clever response from another YouTube user:

There are no limit to the ways I can object to this, and to how offended this makes me. To suggest that someone has the right to potentially alter the text of a seminal work (as suggested here)  is offensive. There is no requirement to be fair in the discussion of established scientific fact – there are no alternate explanations. What discussion happens in the field of evolutionary science concerns the processes within the general theory, not whether the basic theory is true. There is no internal conflict as to the truth of the statement “Organisms evolve and adapt to their environments”, the question of how it happens in specific instances are the subjects of discussion. There is, nor will there ever be, a requirement for ‘fairness’ or for providing time for alternate explanations, unless these explanations are derived from the same methodology. Otherwise, you are comparing scientific apples to schizophrenic oranges.

I propose to give away, for free, 100,000 copies of the Revised Edition of the Bible, which includes extensive references to historical, archaeological and physical scientific records to disprove the assertions of that book phrase-by-phrase. Hey, it’s only fair, right?

Science has no comment on religion (other than in behavioral terms), and religion should not try to usurp the expertise of science. To rehash the tired cliches about Hitler and evolution (let’s have a chat with the American originator of Eugenics, Charles Davenport, before drawing conclusions – Hitler couldn’t have enacted the idea without an American’s help – nice going), and Darwin’s supposed racism (he was, by all accounts, fairly tolerant – as least as much as an Englishman of his time could be) and misogyny (same notation) are idiotic, and will not convince anyone that evolution is not a scientific fact. You are, if you’ll excuse the phrase, preaching to the choir – the only purpose of this farce is to reinforce the religious views of those who already believe.

The evidence – ALL the evidence: physical, archaeological, biological, geological, etc., etc., adds up to ‘proven’, no matter how uncomfortable an untalented former teen idol is with the concept.

429px-Charles_Darwin_seatedWay to go, Mr. D.

Fuck you, Kirk Cameron.

No matter what you do, Kirk, Charles Darwin will always be more famous than you. Deal with it.


A More Palatable Alternative?

June 25, 2009

Manhattan’s version of the Atheist bus ads:

atheist.480

Even the rep from the Archdiocese of New York doesn’t find this offensive. You could expect, however, that the broad and harsh thumb of political correctness would be turned down at the very idea of such a sign here.  Metro Transit has a few things to learn about being an actual, functioning, modern transit system – this is but one of them.


Close Your Eyes, Honey. Reality Will Pass Us By Soon…

June 2, 2009

In the interests of “getting parents involved in schooling”, Alberta has passed a law requiring schools to notify parents when ‘controversial’ topics such as sex, sexual orientation or religion will be discussed.

Or, to put it another way, intolerant lobby groups have successfully enabled intolerant  parents of innocent children to discourage intelligent debate and ignore facts that can influence their socialization, their health and their well-being. The “ignore it and it will go away” philosophy of education hasn’t really been a huge success in the past, and I wouldn’t necessarily expect it to work to anyone’s benefit this time, either. The law places limits on free speech that would be unacceptable outside a fascist dictatorship – having studied education, the free flow of ideas and the pursuit of knowledge through unlimited questioning of assumptions seems to me to be the most effective way of creating a citizen that is informed and willing to engage in their communities and the political process, not to mention increasing the odds that they can and will learn from other cultural traditions through a fair-minded and inquisitive approach to social interaction.

What Alberta is creating, by allowing reactionary parents to deny exposure to knowledge and controversy to their children, is another generation of reactionary parents. Ignorance breeds fear, which leads to hatred. That fundamental fact of human nature seems to have escaped the legislators out there. Take away the right of children to be educated through free inquiry, and you are robbing them of experiences that, while sometimes uncomfortable, can be life-affirming and character building. The parents in question obviously lack confidence that educators can protect children from the evils of sexuality and other religious views – I lack that confidence too, but that to me is a positive, not a negative. If I were a parent who were worth anything (as I consider Kevvy to be, for example), I would be there for my children to discuss anything they were disturbed by, to help give them context and the benefit of my experiences, not take away the opportunity for them to ask the questions out of a sense of parental laziness: “I’m too busy to set them straight on these liberal ideas, so it will save time if they are not exposed to them.” If parents were doing the job they are supposed to do, socialization into the family unit with all of its benefits and flaws, the law would not be necessary, and children would be free to form their own opinions.

You have done teachers, and especially children, an injustice. For the sake of political capital among the conservative ‘grassroots’, you have created the means to perpetuate ignorance and hatred, to place children’s health at risk, and to leave the impression to other Canadians that Albertans are ignorant hicks.

Not all of them are, I understand, but certainly the politicians are looking more and more like it.


U.N.: Unbelievably Naive

March 27, 2009

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The United Nations Human Rights Council, in an act of political correctness and moral weakness run amok, has passed a resolution decrying the “defamation of religion”, which could be used to effectively criminalize criticism of religion. A few choice excerpts (emphasis in text from UN Watch):

The Human Rights Council,

Reaffirming the pledge made by all States, under the Charter of the United Nations, to promote and encourage universal respect for and observance of all human rights and fundamental freedoms without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion,

Reaffirming also that all human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated,

Recognizing the valuable contribution of all religions to modern civilization and the contribution that dialogue among civilizations can make towards improved awareness and understanding of the common values shared by all humankind,

Noting with deep concern the instances of intolerance, discrimination and acts of violence against followers of certain faiths, occurring in many parts of the world, in addition to the negative projection of certain religions in the media and the introduction and enforcement of laws and administrative measures that specifically discriminate against and target persons with certain ethnic and religious backgrounds, particularly Muslim minorities following the events of 11 September 2001, and that threaten to impede their full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Stressing that defamation of religions is a serious affront to human dignity leading to restriction on the freedom of religion of their adherents and incitement to religious hatred and violence,

Noting with concern that defamation of religions, and incitement to religious hatred in general, could lead to social disharmony and violations of human rights, and alarmed at the inaction of some States to combat this burgeoning trend and the resulting discriminatory practices against adherents of certain religions and in this context stressing the need to effectively combat defamation of all religions and incitement to religious hatred in general and against Islam and Muslims in particular,

Expresses deep concern at the continued serious instances of deliberate stereotyping of religions, their adherents and sacred persons in the media, as well as programmes and agendas pursued by extremist organizations and groups aimed at creating and perpetuating stereotypes about certain religions, in particular when condoned by Governments;

Recognizes that, in the context of the fight against terrorism, defamation of religions, and incitement to religious hatred in general have, become aggravating factors that contribute to the denial of fundamental rights and freedoms of members of target groups, as well as to their economic and social exclusion;

Expresses deep concern in this respect that Islam is frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and terrorism and in this regard regrets the laws or administrative measures specifically designed to control and monitor Muslim minorities, thereby stigmatizing them and legitimizing the discrimination they experience;

Deplores the use of the print, audio-visual and electronic media, including the Internet, and any other means to incite acts of violence, xenophobia or related intolerance and discrimination towards any religion, as well as targeting of religious symbols and venerated persons;

Well, you get the idea by now. Given that, in particular, a ‘negative depiction’ of a religion is entirely subjective, the UN has officially declared religion as immune from criticism – although the text refers specifically to muslims, the principles are effectively broad enough to include all religions: scientology, satanism, you name it. While I am against violence, and even stereotyping, giving blanket protection to a particular class of people, insulating them from criticism under an undefined concept of ‘defamation’ is dangerous.I need not tell regular readers just how dangerous. The fact that islamic countries regularly violate the basic rights of life and liberty to women is, apparently, no longer a topic of discussion, because such barbaric practices, including genital mutilation and outright murder of rape victims, is done in a religious context.

Worse, the UN has now, in writing, acknowledged the existence of ‘sacred persons’, which again creates another class of untouchable individuals who are free to do as they choose without fear of criticism.

If I may, I’d like to point out something to the UN:

Article 18.

  • Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Article 19.

  • Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

See those? Those are Articles from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In effect, the UN has seen fit to violate the most important precepts of humanity in fear of offending religious fanatics. The creeping doom of Western civilization continues – the international body charged with ensuring the protection of human rights has sacrificed the rights of millions who have every right to disagree with their family members’ disappearances, coerced marriages, honor killings, the molestation of children and the forced pregnancies and passage of preventable disease to satisfy some outmoded, prudish notion of morality. Not to mention taking away the right to dissent, to cry out for justice in the name of all the people who suffer injustices done in the name of some invisible man in the sky.

To throw up an unassailable wall around the collection of superstitions that constitutes religion is to create an elite class of holy men who will suffer no complaint, and who will brook no opposition. We are, all of us, even those of religious faith, endangered by myths run amok, subject to the whims of a religious minority who are untouchable and, thanks to the UN, unstoppable.

We used to be encouraged to join hands in brotherhood – now we are not allowed to let go as the first fanatic leaps off the cliff the UN has made. Needless to say, I am less than proud of an organization that is prepared to boldly lead us into the 12th century.


I Suppose Apathy is a Reaction, Too…

March 26, 2009

The G&M reports that Canadians are by and large indifferent to the Atheist bus ads:

The poll found 32 per cent of respondents opposed the ads, 20 per cent supported them and 43 per cent didn’t care one way or the other.

Support for the ads was strongest among respondents in British Columbia and Ontario, with the highest opposition in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Support also varied by age and income, with younger respondents and those making more than $60,000 a year more likely to favour running the ads.

bus-whatever

As usual, the comments section has become a rich vein of idiocy and name-calling. Another argument for I.Q. tests being required before you can purchase one of them computing boxes.

In any case, I think the VP of Harris-Decima has it right: we are generally a more secular society, but that doesn’t mean we can relax and let religious groups place conditions on freedom of speech.  As one rare intelligent commenter wrote in response to some religious reactionary post (paraphrasing, of course), “You have the right to your belief, but that does not insulate you from being criticized on the basis of that belief”.

At least the younger generation is waking up from the long wishful dream of imaginary men in the sky – or at least are more willing to debate about it. If that’s not a hopeful message, I don’t know what is.


Vigilance and Knowledge

February 23, 2009

Welcome, my friends, to Freedom to Read Week.

I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on what it means to be able to read what I want, when I want, and just how critical it is to be able to read at all. I enjoy reading, I read for about an hour a day on average – mostly non-fiction in the last few years, just out of a personal preference and an insatiable curiosity more than anything else. I have, as I always do, a stack of books next to my bed, with bookmarks in each of them, awaiting my return. I’m either unfocused or too curious for my own good. Just as an example of the subjects that interest me, the stack consists of the biography of Charles Schulz (from the library – surprisingly I’m not impressed so far), a history of modern Japan, a short history of the world, the diaries of Michael Palin, a book of the 50 worst films of all time, a behind the scenes look at 60 classic films, and one or two others. You get the idea from this that my reading choices are eclectic, to say the least – next week’s stack may be quite different. What I love more than anything, however, is the freedom to create my stack of beloved friends without interference from anyone.

The true measure of the maturity of a culture is the breadth of its tolerance and the degree of freedom an individual had to explore ideas, good or bad. We must always be on guard for ideological pettiness, for censorship based on a narrow view of the world, for suppression of ideas by those who feel they know better. I thought it would be interesting to create a link to the list of challenged books in Canada, which provides a snapshot of intolerance and narrow-minded paranoia, in most cases.

But of course, that’s just my opinion. Isn’t it great that I have the freedom to write it, and that you have the freedom (and impeccable good taste) to read it?

Happy reading!


Shenanigans 2: The Next Day

February 10, 2009

For the edification of readers who are interested, here is an article from the Chronicle-Herald in which the university defends its decision to move the pro-life lecture discussed yesterday:

SMU defends moving pro-life lecture


Saint Mary’s University is defending its decision to relocate a pro-life presentation that was disrupted on its Halifax campus last Thursday.

“The university remains committed to academic freedom, diversity of opinion, and supports open debate in a forum that does not put the personal safety and rights of our community at risk,” a news release on the university’s website said Monday.

“There is a balance that must be maintained among all of these.”

Jojo Ruba, who helped found a Calgary non-profit group called the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, visited the university Feb. 5 as part of his speaking tour.

His lecture, Echoes of the Holocaust, drew comparisons between abortion and the genocide of six million Jews during the Second World War.

A new pro-life group at the university invited Mr. Ruba and booked a room through the school’s chaplain. But demonstrators from the Coalition for Choice arrived just as he started speaking, drowning out his speech and blocking his visual presentation.

“Protesters were asked to stop disrupting the event, but after more than an hour and a half, the presentation was relocated to a nearby location,” the university’s news release said.

The university said it was reviewing the matter.

(At least the C-H has finally decided to share the fact that the lecture continued, rather than omitting it from the story as they did yesterday.)

And there you are – no matter how offensive, how wrong-minded or how misogynistic his opinions might be, he does have the right to offer them. Free speech means just that: the freedom to speak about what you want, when you want (I’m not going to launch into a discussion of hate speech right at this moment – that way lies madness). The university’s position, no matter how much we may dislike it, is completely defensible, and would likely have been made in a similar way if the positions were reversed. In fact, by letting him talk, and display just how ignorant and deluded he is, the university has done everyone a favor. Let the petard-hoisting begin!

Addendum: Originally missed this editorial from the same paper, which covers largely the same ground. I disagree somewhat with the assessment of the CCLA lawyer quoted – the basis for my opposition to pro-life groups is their desire to take rights away from women, and not to generously offer them ‘another choice’. I doubt that it’s just me…


Shenanigans, Sir.

February 9, 2009

Ok, I can to some extent understand the willingness to remain ignorant on a particular subject. Additionally, I can comprehend the fact that some people are possessed of such naiveté that they are surprised by the reactions of people to the expression of certain opinions or views. Fine, I’m sure it happens to farmboys and people from isolated communities all the time.

But, I find it hard to believe and accept that, if you are equating a woman’s legal right to choose what happens to her body to the fucking holocaust, and you are surprised that some people take offense, I’m sorry, you are one dumb mutherfucker.

Let me regroup for a moment. Jojo Ruba, a representative of the pro-life group the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, was scheduled to give a lecture on Thursday evening at Saint Mary’s University. According to the published report, Ruba was invited by the SMU pro-life group to deliver a talk entitled “Echoes of the Holocaust”. His lecture, however, was interrupted by the Coalition for Choice, who chanted over Ruba’s speech and blocked his overhead slides. The event was shut down, and Mr. Ruba was escorted from the room.  A short video of the incident was posted on YouTube on Feb. 6:

Wow, those are some clever chants, there. I particularly like the “When you get pregnant, let us know”.  It is totally weird watching this happen in a room in which I have sat on many occasions.

According to the video’s description:

A smaller number of students and media were able to make their way to a second location where the presentation and question period concluded peacefully.

So if this statement is in fact true, he did deliver his message. This is important to keep in mind as we continue down this slippery slope.

To indicate, even in jest, that making the association between women choosing to access a legal medical treatment and the systematic slaughter of millions of individuals would not elicit a negative reaction is to display a level of denial somewhere between Dick Cheney and Steve Harper. The organization has encountered trouble before, so why does this come as a surprise?

Look, my views on this are abundantly clear: I am pro-choice, and that’s that. To try to elicit sympathy is idiotic at least, and coldly calculating at most. I take issue with the way the Chronically Horrid has semantically constructed their story to make Ruba the aggrieved party, while (if true) the fact that he got to continue his talk was left out. The way the story, and the accompanying video are contructed, the protesters are unequivocally the villains – remember when the white supremacist guy came to town and tried to do the same thing? Fortunately, he failed. This guy might not.

So, we know what my opinion is, but let me throw you a curve: while admiring the dedication and passion exhibited by the protesters, and my agreement with their overall message, I believe the protesters have probably set their cause back rather than enhancing it by disrupting Mr. Ruba’s presentation. What would have worked better was an attempt to involve him in a reasoned debate in which he would discuss, objectively, the premise of his abhorrent association. He would only be able to make assertions based on faith, or that had no basis in fact but in doctrine, and you, young, energetic, chant-composing protesters would have proven that your university has prepared you to meet all comers and dispel all superstition by engaging in rational discourse.

Which is what you should have done, instead of reinforcing his view of pro-choice activists, and the view of everyone who agrees with him. Check the label on the YouTube video – not a lot of admiration or sympathy in

SAINT MARY’S STUDENTS ASSAULTED BY PRO-ABORTION MOB

Is there?

The best thing to do, in my opinion, is to let people talk, talk, talk until they hang themselves with their words. Sooner or later a ‘crusader’ who goes around spouting offensive nonsense like this will get his just reward, and it ain’t gonna be heaven, brother. Once they stop, ask them questions, demand they prove what they say is true, and remember not to rise to the bait of trying to prove it isn’t true – that’s not your job, it’s the claimant who always has the burden of proof. Once you have confronted superstition with logic, fear with reason, and willful blindness with a clarity of vision, people like that will have no choice but to scurry under the big crucifix-shaped refrigerator they scurried out from under in the first place. The louder you shout, the louder others shout to be heard, and so on and so on. Let your words and your education be your weapons of choice – and in this case, I do decidedly mean ‘choice’.


A Light on the Horizon?

January 16, 2009

According to today’s Globe and Mail, the British Atheism campaign, “There’s Probably No God…” may be making its way to Toronto. Still disagree with the probably, but…

0116atheist600big

… Let me say, at the risk of bodily harm, that whatever she believes in, sign me up.

I’m glad there is some hint of organization among the freethinkers these days – it seems often that the dogmatic collectives have the benefit of organization over us – an organization of ‘nonconformists’ is a bit of an oxymoron if you think about it. One interesting thing I came away with from the story that should shame all xtian crusaders: the Muslim representative was the most open-minded and accommodating of all the religious leaders who commented in the story.

And, as usual, the comments section will make you weep for the future of mankind.Although it is not as bad as some.

P.S. If I hear one more self-important elitist idiot using the arrogant, pompous, shit-eating phrase ‘sheeple’ once again, I will seriously lose it.


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