atheism, censorship, christians, justice, law, minority rights, pedophiles/priests, religion, Things We Should Know

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

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.

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culture, education, favourite person, justice, media, minority rights, politics, racism, Things We Should Know, United States

I Have a Dream…

Martin_Luther_King_-_March_on_Washington

August 28, 1963.

MLKDream_64kb.m3u

This is an audio recording of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. giving the “I Have a Dream” speech during the Civil Rights rally on the steps at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.

Not much I can add, except that I urge everyone to keep the dream alive, every day.

Source: Internet Archive.

justice, minority rights, politics, racism, religion, sexism

Affirmative Action… time to move to the next stage?

I realise I could be opening a casn of worms here, and laying myself open to a certain amount of cyber-abuse, but so be it. This article by Neil MacDonald has brought to mind a discussion I had not too long ago  with Kevin, the progenitor of this blog. 

The following quote:  ‘More than 30 years ago, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun wrote a line that became the battle standard for affirmative action. “In order to treat some persons equally,” he said, “we must treat them differently.”It was an elegant, even poetic way of expressing an uncomfortable truth: that, sooner or later, promoting or admitting someone on the basis of race is going to involve shoving aside or passing over someone else for the same reason.’ describes what, I think, is the  endpoint to Affirmative Action if you blindly follow it to it’s logical conclusion.

Before I go too much further, I want to emphasize that I do NOT have a problem with equal rights for everyone regardless of race, religion, creed, gender, sexual orientation, or any other quality used as a basis of bias by some parts of society.  The movement(s) that brought about Affirmative Action were necessary, and have done society-at-large a great good; by starting to erase boundaries that were neither justified, nor conducive to good and civilized society.

Two things bother me most about Affirmative action:  The first is that it seems to come down to filling a quota. While it increases the numbers of minority of people in the workforce, and therefore exposure to equally qualified individuals of all races and creeds…  It really stops short of actually changing the attitudes that made Affirmative Action necessary in the first place. Those who were likely to dismiss qualified individuals from positions on the basis of irrelevent racial or gender-based criteria, now simply have changed their tune to “You’re just here to fill a quota.”  The second is that ultimately, some people are being hired/ promoted over equally qualified people based on race, gender or creed, the very thing that Affirmative Action is supposed to combat. This seems to me to be somewhat oxymoronic, circular and self-replicating. It can never be a permanent solution – because it’s implementation ultimately produces new categories of under-represented and discriminated against people.

During the converstaion with Kevin, he argued, quite eloquently, that the current legislation(s) surrounding affirmative action does more than enough to provide avenues for individuals to compete on merit, and not on the basis of any other criteria. But does it really? If one person can be moved ahead by ticking the visible minority box, how  is that equal? Is opting? demanding? to be treated specially, and/or given special consideration not voluntary segregation (albeit priviledged segregation)?

 The example Kevin used was the hiring practices and workplace policies of the federal government of Canada. I couldn’t argue against that case, effectively, because they do sound reasonable, and it appears, ostensibly as if anyone can challenge them if they feel they’ve been dealt unfairly. Ok, perhaps he’s right in that specific case. Given ponderous governmental bureaucracy, I’m really not sure how effectively the issue is managed one way or the other. But, how about the private sector? Charges of discrimination are infinitely more difficult to prove there, as any number of trumped up deficiencies may be invented to cover why some was discriminated against, passed over for promotion, or unfairly dismissed.

I have to admit, that when pressed, I could come up with no better a solution than MORE legislation. I suggested legal culpability be spread from the organization to the offending individual personally, and also to the person responsible for supervising that individual personally, and so on up the ‘chain of command’. And I DO mean personally culpable, not professionally; as in the individuals themselves can be charged directly, as well as the organization as a whole. I’m not sure this would work either, as it punishes the problem of personal bias, but doesn’t do anything to alter it.

Bigots top my list of people who should be given a swift boot to the head, just to see if anything rattles around inside. Ideally, I’d like to see hiring procedures that are absolutely anonymous, and discrimination go by the wayside. Individual merit should not include/ or exclude anyone on the basis of gender, race or creed.

However, humans, by nature, seem to be overly ‘clanny’. Almost xenophobic in their attitudes towards those outside ‘the group’, those that are different.  Will there ever be a time when we don’t look at those we deem to be ‘others’ differently? When ones qualifications, social skill and work ethics are the only criteria for hiring/ promotion? I’ve heard it suggested many times that it is largely a generational thing, that once the bigotted dinosaurs have died out and/ or retired from positions of authority, things will be better. Then we will be able to relegate Affirmative Action to the legislative backroom, no longer needed. But I worry that this will never be the case, as intolerance can be taught as easily as tolerance, perhaps even easier.

So what do we do to completely erase bigotry?  I confess I really don’t know.

Graven

christians, minority rights, religion

It’s all about you, people, it’s all about you

New York’s governor David Paterson announced yesterday his intention to push for a vote on legalizing same-sex marriages in the state.

Naturally American Christians, who take the greatest umbrage with how others find joy, aren’t going to take this sitting down. In an effort to rally the troops, they have decided to frame the issue as an insult to religion rather than a civil rights or legal issue:

“The Governor is also being disrespectful to the new Catholic Archbishop Timothy Dolan and to every Catholic in New York City by pushing a gay marriage bill the same week that Catholics are celebrating welcoming ceremonies for his arrival,” stated Diaz.

“I think it’s a laugh in the face of the new archbishop,” Diaz said, according to AP. “The Jews just finished their holy week. The Catholics just received the new archbishop. The evangelical Christians just celebrated Good Friday and resurrection. He comes out to do this at this time? It’s a challenge the governor is sending to every religious person in New York and the time for us has come for us to accept the challenge.”

See? It’s the timing – he chose to do it now as a simple insult to rednecks, not because he’s hoping to build on the momentum of two states in two weeks having done the same thing. 

Aside from the fact that I still can’t for the life of me (a straight, married male) understand how on earth gay marriage has any effect on straight people any more than my marriage affects anyone I’m not married to, this pusilanimous whining from the religious is starting to grate.  I realize I’m a godless heathen (yeeha!) and I live in godless, fag-friendly Canada (yipee!), so nothing I say will make any difference whatsoever to those that haven’t yet seen the dark, but I’ll try.

For all the ceremonies and history, marriage is, at it’s heart, a civil status, not a religious one. Christians get married in Christian ceremonies, Jews in Jewish, Muslims in Muslim, but at the end of the ceremony, everyone signs a civil marriage certificate – the same marriage certificate. Hell, I got married in an atheist ceremony to which Thor was absolutely uninvited and even I got to sign on the line!  The lucky couples that sign this certificate all have the same rights, privileges, and obligations regardless of the ceremony the precedes the signing. (Unless you live in one of those happy lands that practice that attrocity, Sharia.) What gay marriage is about is allowing same-sex couples the right to sign the marriage certificate and access to the civil rights, civil privileges, and civil obligations therein, nothing more. Specifically, it has nothing to do with forcing unwilling churches to marry gays – it simply allows them the right to sign the paper.

In point of fact, if this actually was a religious issue, Christians would be out protesting atheist marriages and Jewish marriages, but they’re not. There would have been protests and placards at our ceremony ten years ago, but there were none because it’s not about religion or marriage at all, it’s all about homophobia, plain and simple.  It’s about finding the sexual practices of others unsettling and icky and wanting them to go away, not about religion.

I’ll let you in on a little personal information here – there are people in this world, atheist and theist alike, that I find attractive and could imagine myself having sexual relations with. Yep, it’s true. And there are others who I find so unattractive that I could never envision wanting sexual relations with. Yep, that’s true, too. However, I don’t protest their right to have relationships with other people who *do* find them attractive, regardless of my feelings on the matter.  I don’t protest ugly girls in bars, and don’t curse them in the street when I see them walking with boys. You’d be surprised how easy it is for me to get through the day without thinking about icky sex with ugly people – it barely even rates “minding my own business”, it’s that easy.

Is it possible for you guys to grow up and mind your own business?

Kumbayah.

Update: I should have added this little piece. It’s video poetry. A storm is coming, indeed – “we’re being punished”. Enjoy.