My Other Big Complaint About Religion

I know I just said that I had one favorite argument from the Christopher Hitchens piece, but I forgot the second one that is closer to the end:

For this reason, I would not prohibit it even if I thought I could. Very generous of me, you may say. But will the religious grant me the same indulgence? I ask because there is a real and serious difference between me and my religious friends, and the real and serious friends are sufficiently honest to admit it. I would be quite content to go to their children’s bar mitzvahs, to marvel at their Gothic cathedrals, to “respect” their belief that the Koran was dictated, though exclusively in Arabic, to an illiterate merchant, or to interest myself in Wicca and Hindu and Jain consolations. And as it happens, I will continue to do this without insisting on the polite reciprocal condition—which is that they in turn leave me alone. But this, religion is ultimately incapable of doing. As I write these words, and as you read them, people of faith are in their different ways planning your and my destruction, and the destruction of all the hard-won human attainments that I have touched upon.

(emphasis mine)

Whenever I get all hot-headed and pissed off about conservative politics, I often have more than a few friends say, “Jason, you sound just like they do.” And while this may be true (and I loved it when someone called me an evangelical athiest once), although I may sound like them, in the end I don’t act like them.

Conservatives and the religions behind them want to say, “Jason, as a gay person you cannot married and if we had our way (those damn courts!!), having sex would be illegal and we might even kill you.” I would never do that. While laws outlawing homosexuality are not uncommon or even that “extreme” in today’s politics (a city manager in Largo, Florida was fired for wanting to have a gender-changing operation), I would never think of or suggest that Christianity or any opposite-sex marriages should be outlawed or punishable by the law.

A goal of religion is to create more religious followers. They are always going to be trying to do things to convert people like me. Athiests don’t do that. Sure, I get in a lot of heated and maybe offensive debates with people, but I honestly and truthfully believe the situations are different. Am I wrong?

Do I Feel Bad About Duke?

I want to say that I hate to admit this, but I’m not sure that I do hate to admit it. Let’s say I have mixed feelings about the outcome of the “Duke Lacrosse Rape Case:” the North Carolina attorney general dropped all charges and so the men involved are all innocent in the eyes of the law.

Without getting into the details of the case or the ethics around how the investigation/charges went, let’s just assume that they were innocent all along.

In light of this whole Don Imus thing (and his torrid past), I couldn’t help but think something along the lines of, I wish there was something like this that could happen to straight white men that might make them (and the country and others like them) realize that racism is an everyday thing for most non-white people in the U.S. and that their white privilege lets them either pretend racism isn’t as bad as people think or that the racists are only people like Strom Thurmond or other really old, bigoted white men, etc.

And then somehow the Duke thing came today.

What these men experienced is somewhat similar to racial profiling, but sort of in reverse. Black men all across the country are accused and charged with committing all sorts of crimes that they likely didn’t commit. We see this everywhere from Driving While Black/Brown to the amount of black (and sometimes innocent) men on death row.

The way I see it, these white Duke players got a taste of what it’s like not to be privileged and white.

The criminal justice system is setup to be biased in all sorts of ways, and this was a perfect example of how it can backfire against anyone.

I just hope that if this case ends up prompting improvements in the way justice is carried out in the U.S. that it doesn’t continue to privilege white men.

What’s Up With The Pope?

The Pope
During Easter Mass, the Pope made some comments about Iraq such as

Nothing positive comes from Iraq, torn apart by continual slaughter as the civil population flees

Being that he is the Pope, I think it’s safe to assume he’s speaking the word of God or something like that, right? Isn’t the Pope basically God’s representation on Earth?

What confuses me is the fact that George Bush also talks to God, but God is telling the president something different. In the past Bush has basically said that God told him to go to war in Iraq to spread peace and find weapons of mass destruction and whatever other justifications he used for the war.

So what’s going on here? Is God telling one thing to the Pope and another thing to George W. Bush?

And also, why does the Pope hate America so much? Doesn’t he know not to say anything bad about the war? Remember when France was against the war? There was all sorts of anger and even an ongoing boycott. Where is Bill O’Reilly now? And where is all the anger at the Pope?

Note: of course I don’t really think “god” talks to either of these people… I just find it revealing that when “liberals” in the U.S. say something about the slaughter in Iraq, the conservatives label them as traitors and say they hate the troops and stuff like that, but when the most prominent point-person for Christianity on the planet says stuff against the war (and his Easter comments were not his first…), nobody seems to hate him or question what’s going on.

#1 Election Issue For Me

I’ve seen some polls around the Internet that ask voters what their top issues are in this midterm election. One of the choices is “moral values.” Well, I put that as my main reason but not because I support “moral values, which I assuming in this case (and most cases in the mainstream media) means “Christian Values.” But I am not voting for “moral values,” but rather, against these so-called moral i.e., Christian “values.” I don’t want these “values” pushed on me, and I hope that by voting Democrat that is what is happening.

God Made Me Post It!

As promised in my God Made Me Do It post, I went ahead and posted my college paper “The Problem of Faith and Reason in Brown’s ‘Wieland’; or a Kierkegaardian Critique of Wieland As a Knight of Faith.”

Keep in mind that this is probably what I consider to be my first “heavy academic” paper. I was just getting the hang of writing papers using philosophy for support, so parts of this paper aren’t are strong as they could be. Of all the papers I’ve ever written, this is one that I would like to revist and work on some more given my strong feelings on religion.

Read it and let me know what you think.

Disgraceful

I love how sometimes the media picks up on a certain phrase/adjective and uses it absolutely everytime something is mentioned.

For example, if I had a dollar everytime the phrase “disgraced lobbyist” was placed before Jack Abramoff‘s name, I would have somewhere around $1400 (I’m currently getting 1,415 results).

By contrast, there are only 1,384 news articles that include the phrase “lobbyist Jack Abramoff” that don’t have the word “disgraced” in the article.

So basically what this means is that when a news article mentions Jack Abramoff’s name, it’s more likely to include the phrase “disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff” than it is likely to not include it.

Now I’m not saying that Jack Abramoff isn’t a disgraced lobbyist (he is most certainly a slimeball), I just find it lazy and humorous that this phrase seems to be so automatic and unoriginal with news reporting. Try a thesaurus or something. I’m sure there are other words that one could use instead of the now-tired “disgraced.”

What are other examples of this? Right now I cannot recall, but keep your eye out for lazy writing.

Racial Profiling

This morning while subjecting myself to conservative talk radio, one of the talk show hosts made a comment about how the U.S. should be racially profiling terrorists and targeting people from the Middle East, etc. His rationale was that since most terrorists are Muslim, it would be in our best interests to go after them and if we end up trampling on the rights of innocent people, it doesn’t really matter, in the end.

What these people who advocate racial profiling fail to recognize is that being white is a race and that if we really want to infuse profiling into law enforcement, then:

  • Since pretty much all rapes are done by men, we should assume all men are rapists
  • Since most “white collar crime” is done by old white men, we should assume that they are all ripping off their companies
  • Since nearly all of the people who bomb abortion clinics and terrorize those who work there and seek treatment there are Christians, we should assume all Christians are terrorists
  • … and so on

Yes, I’m exaggerating a little, but it really irritates me that people who call for profiling are so unaware of how they themselves can be profiled. I’m not sure whether it’s ignorance/arrogance (i.e., they assume white people/men/Christians/etc. have no reason to ever be profiled) or whether it’s some sort of law of averages thing (i.e., they assume that there are too many white people/men/Christians to target). Either way, it pisses me off.

If we start profiling we assume everyone is guilty (for better or worse), and if people are okay with that, fine, but don’t be so stupid as to assume that you yourself cannot or should not be profiled. For example, if I had my way, I’d probably have most Christians locked up for homophobia/misogyny/etc. and the potential to commit hate crimes/rapes or something like that. So it’s a good thing for them that I don’t have that authority. (Again, I am exaggerating [sort of], of course.)

Terrorism Plot: Time For Vacation!

I love the fact that the UK had been investigating this now-foiled terrorism plot for the last few weeks and that the US got involved within the last ten days… sounds like a perfect time for Bush to go on vacation, eh? It’s one thing to say that he happened to be on vacation today when the shit went down, but the fact that this supposedly really large terrorist plot unfolded recently might cause one (especially if one were the president) to maybe postpone a vacation?

Snowing at the White House

I don’t know if you would call this a guilty pleasure or what, but I don’t keep secret the fact that I often listen to conservative talk radio. Now if you read any of my posts about politics, I would hope that it’s pretty clear that I’m about as far from conservative as they come.

That said, yes, I do listen to conservative talk radio. The bad habit started because Coast to Coast AM is played here in Seattle on conservative talk radio station KVI. So when I go to sleep listening to Coast, I wake up to people like Kirby Wilbur or Tony Snow.

When rumors started circulating last week that Snow was the most likely replacement for Scott McClellan, I must admit that I felt a little “in the loop” or something. Like, silly as it is, when they say you feel somewhat of a personal bond with broadcasters/columnists/whoever that you listen to/read on a daily basis, it is somewhat true. I (and millions of other listeners, I’m sure) feel as if Tony Snow is somewhat of an acquaintance (I wouldn’t call him a friend since I’m sure we’d not get along very well in person).

One of the things about Tony Snow is that he tries to be somewhat of a contrarian. Now that conservative talk radio is hardly a small-time operation and everyone knows how influential it is and how tied the personalities are to the Republican party, the hosts seem to go out of their way to disagree with Bush and other Republicans as a way of saying, “No no no, we actually think for ourselves.” (When, in fact, this is all a big smoke screen since they really only disagree on minor aspects of policy and pretty much always share the same overall philosophy but may disagree with the execution, etc.)

Nonetheless, Think Progress has gone and culled some great criticisms that Snow has hurled at the Bush administration (and now they have a good Tony Snow on the issues). I don’t think this is insightful or anything or really advances the debate about issues, but it is pretty embarrassing for the Bush administration — OR it’s potentially to their benefit since it’s somewhat of a sign saying, “Anyone who argues that it’s all ‘yes men’ around here is certainly wrong.”

It’ll be interesting to see how Snow does as the White House Press Secretary. Unlike McClellan, I do believe that Snow will be able to be more involved with policy and that’s probably a good thing for reporters — he’ll definitely have more credibility than McClellan, who only seemed to be able to regurgitate whatever message Bush and his inner circle wanted him to say. (And in a way, I do feel bad for McClellan since Bush and company made him look like a total jack-ass on numerous occasions [“No, no, I spoke to Rove. I spoke to him about — no, I spoke to him about these accusations, I’ve spoken to him”].)

Of course, the most ridiculous thing about Snow going from Fox News to the White House is the fact that it just gives more credence to the argument that Fox has a rather unhealthy relationship with the Republican Party. Now that Snow will be the press secretary, I shudder to think about the level of access that the White House and Fox News will have with each other. I envision a lot of swapping of exclusive interviews for promises to spin a story in whatever way the White House wants. Not that this doesn’t happen already, but with a Fox News former employee being the liaison between the press and the White House I’m sure it’ll only get worse.

Is Abortion Bad?

Over on Slate, there was recently a debate between William Saletan and Katha Pollitt about whether abortion is “bad.”

I won’t do any sort of thorough analysis or dissect the argument, but I will say that William Saletan’s arguments about abortion continue to piss me off (despite the fact he’s pro-choice, he still has some moral hang-ups that irk me — he looks at the issue as the ends, not the means, which may be wise politically but I’m not sure it’s the best/only way of maintaining legalized abortion).

What the debate reminded me of, more than anything, is that I don’t necessarily think abortion is bad. It seems that most people who are pro-choice still think abortion is bad and make some sort of moral judgment about people who have them. Numerous times I’ve heard pro-choice people say, “I think it’s a woman’s right, but I wouldn’t personally have one.” What is missing is the next clause in the phrase, which probably goes something like, “Because I’m not one of those people” (or something less obvious and more concealed).

The way I see it, abortion should pretty much be considered a medical procedure like surgery. People don’t get all morally worked up over the removal of a tumor, and at the time of an abortion, whatever is inside the woman is basically similar to that. I know people consider this type of talk to be crass or whatever, but a tumor is an unwanted growth. Language-wise, they are the same thing.

Instead, though, we create this complicated and unnecessarily stressful drama around the idea of an abortion and imply that it should be a tough and grueling decision and that after the procedure the woman should feel sad for her loss and maybe throughout her life cry when she sees a baby and always have a lingering “what if” in the back of her head. A long time ago I read a great article on Salon about this “abortion narrative” (but I cannot find it now, unfortunately).

I hate the political atmosphere where pro-choicers are having to turn into anti-abortionists just to ensure that people have the right to decide what they want to with their bodies/lives. In the short term, we may maintain the necessary rights, but I fear what we sacrifice by continuing to moralize the situation and increasing the amount of guilt a woman feels with implicit language and assumptions. This is yet another case where I worry about the ends justifying the means.