Thursday, 22 January 2015

On banning offensive racist publications

Many calls have been made in in recent times to ban publications for racist or offensive content. The highest profile target among  these is Charlie Hebdo. Such calls have been wrong for reasons not the least of which because Charlie Hebdo is has a pro-immigrant political position.

If we are to ban publications for racist or offensive content, then to be consistent, we must also ban The Bible and the Quran.  Woah! That's a big claim there!  And if you're offended, you're welcome, let us be united in our offence, because there is plenty to go around. Let's take a look at some of the worst ideas in human history.

Bible: Foreigners are chattel

The following passage shows that slaves are clearly property to be bought and sold like livestock, furniture or equipment.

    However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you.  You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land.  You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance.  You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way.  (Leviticus 25:44-46 NLT)

Bible: human trafficking and sex slavery.

The following passage describes the sickening practice of sex slavery.  How can anyone think it is moral to sell your own daughter as a sex slave? Additionally, it is not really improved much by the restraint against slave trading with foreigners.

    When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are.  If she does not please the man who bought her, he may allow her to be bought back again.  But he is not allowed to sell her to foreigners, since he is the one who broke the contract with her.  And if the slave girl's owner arranges for her to marry his son, he may no longer treat her as a slave girl, but he must treat her as his daughter.  If he himself marries her and then takes another wife, he may not reduce her food or clothing or fail to sleep with her as his wife.  If he fails in any of these three ways, she may leave as a free woman without making any payment.  (Exodus 21:7-11 NLT)
- Source
    Moses, Eleazar the priest, and all the leaders of the people went to meet them outside the camp.  But Moses was furious with all the military commanders who had returned from the battle.  "Why have you let all the women live?" he demanded.  "These are the very ones who followed Balaam's advice and caused the people of Israel to rebel against the LORD at Mount Peor.  They are the ones who caused the plague to strike the LORD's people.  Now kill all the boys and all the women who have slept with a man.  Only the young girls who are virgins may live; you may keep them for yourselves.Source

Bible: Stone Women for extra marital sex

Sex is a natural and human act, fulfilling psycho-social needs and supporting healthy states of mind. yet this backwards text offers one of the most barbaric practices available to the human species in order to put an end to it.

    If any man take a wife, and go in unto her, and hate her ... and say, I took this woman, and when I came to her, I found her not a maid: Then shall the father of the damsel, and her mother, take and bring forth the tokens of the damsel's virginity unto the elders of the city in the gate: And the damsel's father shall say ... these are the tokens of my daughter's virginity. And they shall spread the cloth before the elders of the city. ... But if this thing be true, and the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel: Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die.(Deuteronomy 22:13-21)

Bible: The mark of Cain

This meme referring to Genesis 4:16 points to black/brown people being excessively violent, or at least that annoying them could have severe consequences. A meme that today for some, associates ethnic minorities with a propensity to violence. It is basically nonsense, but if one powerful ethnic group puts enough energy into disempowering another ethnic group, there will be blow back in the midst of the genocide. This is a human response it has little to do with ethnicity, or religion, except for what the oppressor group chooses to make of it. Just as American Christian settlers liabled indigenous "red skins" and "savages" for "manifest destiny", or as the Nazis liabled the Jews for the "The Creator" and "father land", and now as the far right wing liable Muslims for "racial purity", "Sovereignty" or "cultural preservation".

Koran: Jews are pigs, Christians are monkeys:

In Chapter five the Koran discusses the relationship Muslims should have with Christians and Jews, and goes on to use pejoratively compare them to other species. Demonstrating a version of the arrogant "chosen people" meme which earlier appeared in Judaic texts.

    O ye who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for friends. They are friends one to another. He among you who taketh them for friends is (one) of them. Lo! Allah guideth not wrongdoing folk.  (5:51)
    Shall I tell thee of a worse (case) than theirs for retribution with Allah ? (Worse is the case of him) whom Allah hath cursed, him on whom His wrath hath fallen and of whose sort Allah hath turned some to apes and swine, and who serveth idols. Such are in worse plight and further astray from the plain road.  (5:60)
- Source

Koran: Beat your wives

It does not matter that the associated haddiths say to beat her lightly, and to not leave a mark, the fact is, at the very least, this is psychological abuse, if we ignore the physical behaviour. This comes from the ideas like "Your women are a tilth for you (to cultivate) so go to your tilth as ye will"(2:223) (ploughable land), chattel and to be managed and cajoled like children.

    "Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property; the good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded; and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them; then if they obey you, do not seek a way against them; surely Allah is High, Great." 
- Source


These much venerated texts certainly contain content that is racially and religiously charged as well as misogynistic and the above is just a miniscule sample of the horrors available to the easily offended. So these texts must also be excised from the public square if we are to avoid hypocrisy as we seek to ban cartoons dealing with issues of race religion or even their relationship to women.  It is likely critics will moan "Oh, you're cherry picking verses" or "you are taking it out of context". Even if this is so, presenting certain Charlie Hebdo Cartoons like the four Boko Haram sex slaves chanting "hands off our allowances" without the context of Marine Le Pen's comments that immigrants were having babies to get welfare benefits is also "taking it out of context". If you want to live in a society where ideas can be censored simply by having them misrepresented, you can, if you will stride into a functionally illiterate society ruled by near total ignorance, resembling  the 7th Century.

The plain fact of the matter is that in the centuries since these texts were written, many have learned to protect people and not ideas, but not everyone has caught up. Even the Pope has talked about giving his good friend a beat down for talking smack about his mother. It may be hard for anyone to hear "your mother is a whore", but if she is getting paid to entertain customers in a bordello, it is a fair call, and it doesn't necessarily mean there is anything wrong with her chosen profession, and if the person hearing these words is a borderline geriatric virgin in a frock, it about time they grew up and their mother is an impressive woman.  The debate over "offensive" cartoons is a distraction, one that extremist groups would perhaps like to paint as a clash of civilizations, whether this is wholly true is debatable, yes there is a clash of values, and of ideas, but censorship is no way to address these, such calls for censorship are like the calls of the child who says "shut up, stop saying Darth Vader is Luke father, it can't be true." (I knew that child a long time ago, he grew up and wrote this blog). I was recently asked about the anti-Semitic cartoons of the Nazi era. The answer I gave at the was not the best answer to be offered, I spoke out of my preference, which is to not have lies, liable, fabrications publish for the generation of hysteria, however my considered position is essentially "publish and be damned", and damned the Nazis would have been by an incredulous, more sceptical populace such that we see in France today. The Nazi regime was seeking to control it population by emotional manipulation. This is something a sceptic culture would be more immune to, when we examine issues of free expression, we cannot ignore freethought they go hand in hand. Credulity, as we say, is not a virtue and this is where the Nazis "lost it" so enthusiastic were they in anti-Semitic dogma of the church and their "Aryan" pseudo-science that failed to understand the real enemy was fascism and bigotry - left over from WW I and codified in the war reparations.

Let us entertain the notion of perspective. No one is saying satirical cartoons represent truth, meanwhile billions claims these holy books represent truth on a daily basis, with some willing to kill and die for that "truthiness"(sic). Satire is merely a tool to expose truth behind comments and opinions of the day, with many such comment frequently lies in service to ignominious agendas, such exposure serves a vital function. This function is of course despised by authoritarians. Regardless of the historicity of the Bible and the Quran, about which there are some serious questions to be asked, or even of their relative truth value, there are things of greater concern to humanity as a whole. How do we learn to live side by side in a globally connected world? How do we stop neoliberal fascism from extracting the wealth of the many only to be concentrated in the hands of the few(as Oxfam tells us this week, by next year, to world's wealthiest 1% own over half of all wealth). How do we stop poverty acting a recruiting tool for violent extremist ideologies? Not just that followed by Al Qaeda or ISIS, but also Stormfront, US patriot militias, KKK.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Author Karima Bennoune: Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here (Secular Conferen...

Legal professor, Karima Bennoune, Spoke The International Conference Religious right, Secularism and Civil Rights in London on October 11th-12th.

Friday, 9 January 2015

For Charlie

While some blame the victims, calling them arrogant and saying they had to know there would be consequences and their deaths are their own fault. Such comment ignore the arrogance of those who defend or employ the use of violence in response to offence taken from the ideas or critiques of those the disagree with.  Such sentiment violate the human right to freedoms from fear and violence.

They did know and they accepted that there may be consonances, and they accepted those consequence because the freedom to "speak your mind" was more important to them than the tyranny of unquestionable ideas. Europe had unquestionable ideas for which it considered "the right thing to do" to murder and torture in the defence of those ideas. Elements of French culture, have not forgotten this. and the can proud of the fact they have grabbed on to the value of free expression and held on like a bulldog.

Needless to say, conversations around the beer volcano will be filled with even more raucous laughter for now into the future.  Blasphemy is not only a human right, it is a moral obligation. Je Suis Charlie. The talent of the staff of Charlie Hebdo will surely be missed, I wish for those injured in the attack strong and speedy recoveries. Thanks indeed go to the medical professionals who skill and dedication give the victims the best chance at a return to health.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

10 questions for atheists

I can play this game too.  Theists often ask questions that they think are show stoppers for atheist, or perhaps just conversation stoppers, hard to tell which, not that it matters much.  So Today Christian post 10 interrogatives, here are my answers, for what they are worth.

How Did You Become an Atheist?

1. I read about astronomy, then I read three chapters of Genesis. By then I knew cultures had many creation myths. And the first instruction the biblical god gives to Adam was justified by a lie, the serpent told the truth, and early modern English (kjv) was almost impenetrable to a 9 year old reader.

What happens when we die?

2. 130lbs of ape meat goes bad. What was it like not yet being conceived, they're a lot alike, probably.

What if you’re wrong? And there is a Heaven? And there is a HELL!

3. Free Beer, Lectures from Carl Sagan, classes with Bertrand Russell. Speeches, essays and articles from Christopher Hitchens.
Hell is borrowed and corrupted from earlier cultures which maintained a traditional underworld concept, and of course the Greeks had Hades. In order to develop and maintain the superiority of the new religion, the under world was cast as a terrifying place, a religious libel of sorts. so early Christians could our say "religion good the old religions is bad". It was marketing really, does your old can opener drive you nuts, does opening canned spagehtti require 911 on speed dial - Try the all new automatic Can-Reaper from K-Tel - only $99.99.

Without God, where do you get your morality from?

4. From the instincts naturally selected in social species. such instincts offer advantages to the species by creating greater opportunities to receive required resources and reproduce. Otherwise they come at the suggestion of the flying Spaghetti Monster.

If there is no God, can we do what we want? Are we free to murder and rape? While good deeds are unrewarded?

5. You can do what you want but some actions will reduce reputation while others enhance reputation. Some actions will lead to legal consequences. How ever there is also an instinct for altruism, so people tend to do good most of the time, an expectation of reward or punishment is not required, empathy helps a lot though. Bonus jugs at the beer volcano.

If there is no god, how does your life have any meaning?

6. My life has the meaning I choose. right now that means helping people understand things, including why fascism is not good for anyone. and why living a life in a fairy tale has hugely negative consequences. But I'm repeating myself.

Where did the universe come from?

7. No one knows, therefore the Flying Spaghetti Monster did it.

What about miracles? What all the people who claim to have a connection with Jesus? What about those who claim to have seen saints or angels?

8. Miracles as in rare poorly understood events, these happen from time to time, and when we do examine events and find an explanation, every time it's not magic. See also the Templeton study on heart by-pass patients . Anyone can get all hot and sweaty with a Ben Affleck or J Lo poster, just the same way that Julia Sweeney did with the Jesus portrait on her bedroom wall. The brain maintains models of people and characters, and under the right circumstance can induce perceptual experiences that feel very real. Google god helmet.

What’s your view of Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris?

9. I don't always agree with everything they say, but they are, or were (Hitchen's is sorely missed for his way with words) great consciousness raisers. It is better to listen carefully to an opponents arguments directly rather than take second hand a few quoted words from an intermediary with little motivation for an accurate rendering of their thoughts. If you listen carefully the arguments Reza Aslan presented on behalf of Sam Harris, wasn't actually Harris' argument. such errors are common, it has much to do with the way humans unconsciously filter information in accordance with our preconceived notions.

If there is no God, then why does every society have a religion?

10. Not all societies are Human. It is unlikely that many of the non-human societies  have religion, Do buffalo pray? Religion is a cultural phenomenon, and not all societies have religion, the Piraha People of the Brazilian jungle have a strong sceptics culture. UK is Mostly agnostics, and mostly antitheist, even though
it is officially Anglican. However cognitive neuroscience points to a cluster of cognitive mechanisms that lend themselves to religious behaviour(disembodied cognition - thinking of how others might think, agency detection - part of threat detection and leads to false positives, Moral inferencing - how we guess at the best action, Theory of mind - how we model the thoughts of others). Each of these mechanism offer survival advantages, but can lead people away from understanding what is known. Agnosticism and atheism is growing, and it grows fastest where religious fundamentalist right is gaining or holding power. Faced with the prospect the fundamentalists could be in control people tend to find affinity for the Flying Spaghetti Monster and his free beer volcano. And since he created all the gods, they are his children, he knows how to talk to them to make them play nice, or at least he tries his best, but some of them don't take their meds.

See Also 
  Today Christian 10 Questions for Atheists.
  Today's image from Funny Atheism - Because religion is a joke

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Some jokes aren't funny anymore

Often we find in our lives,  people - be they friend, family or strangers who are missing vital information about the way life on this planet works and they wind up doing some very strange things.

For example, if you go out and about on Venice Beach, or Central Wellington you'll find street preachers, the Salvation Army, Jehovah's Witnesses or even Mormons offering salvation. Sometimes, you don't even have to go out, they'll come to you. But there is something vitally important that they have completely missed. We are all already saved. While most of them may have noticed that no one is being flung into the asphyxiating vacuum of space by the centrifugal force generated by the Earth's spin, few understand or appreciate why this is. Pastafarians have long known of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, sauce be upon him, and his work keeping us all safely on the ground. We laughed when Newton published his delicious gravity satire in Principia Mathematica. Sadly, the gravity satire has since become an urban legend - a myth and it has over shadowed the reality.

The reality concerning our maintained proximity to the ground is that the Flying Spaghetti Monster uses his noodley appendages to apply pressure in order to ensure we all remain firmly in contact with terra firma, he's so effective centrifugal force accounts for only 3% of the force he applies. We praise him for he is noodley and his unconditional care for us. We know his care is unconditional because people who do some really un-noodley things are still here on the ground. As mentioned before we are not seeing people being flung into space where they would surely asphyxiate.

The Newtonian satire was of course intended to highlight mathematical principles Newton was expounding with a math-geek joke - like Pascal's wager. Sadly, this simple fact has been lost to many, giving rise to satirical religions in which people even claim that Pastafarianism - the one true faith built on evidence and trust in the Flying Spaghetti Monster's work - is a satirical religion. We often don't help ourselves when we confirm this comic assertion either because people can  miss the ironic inflection in our voice or sometimes we forget to use the correct inflection. It really is quite upsetting, especially when we see these other satirical religions taking on some mean schtick and then getting into really ugly jokes and pranks while the audience completely fails to follow along. Take ISIS (won't someone please take ISIS), here is bunch of dudes running around with their shtick about a couple of iconoclastic caricatures they like to call Mohammed and Allah - now these guys are just not funny, not even to people who play on the same sort of schtick, and when their jokes fall flat they lineup their former audiences up ditches and shoot them in the back of the head. I know nobody likes a critic, but really this is way too much.

Still others employing a schtick about witches in central and west Africa with children are really losing the plot. One mother wrapped a plastic bag around her young daughters arm and set it on fire after the girl not getting the joke, simply denied being a witch. If your jokes aren't funny, please avoid risky pranks on your audience - get better material, let your imagination be free - your audience will thank you. The girl found help from a local charity that looks after many more children who have failed to see the humour of many other parents and church leaders. Sadly this means their are many more stories like hers, and some of them are far worse. Some have had the children drank a mixture of alcohol, mercury and priest blood in an ironic take on the line "Thou shalt not suffer a poisoner to live" which they render as "thou shalt not suffer a witch to live"(exodus 22:18). These children feel quite ill afterwards, and don't feel the slightest bit entertained.

The Israeli government with the IDF and Hamas with Hezbollah, along with a bunch of random fan boys and fan girls, keep pranking each other over a tent space schtick. Trouble is, while they keep doing this, others keep getting drawn into the comedy who'd really just rather get on with the business of making noodles and enjoying his complex carbohydrate goodness - ramen. But it becomes very difficult to boil noodles properly if at any moment half a city block suddenly collapses and turns your stove on its side. Also many struggle to see the funny side of a random rocket blowing up your car, especially if you happen to be in it at the time, but can their be a more balanced response? Consider a lampooning letter to the editor in the local newspaper, inviting them around for dinner and tweaking their nipples or putting a Mentos in an ice cube to serve with their coke? All these are much funnier, and you can all have a good laugh, enjoy some pasta together while working out how to clean up the mess.

Ultimately, His Noodliness wants us all help each other and be kind, it is one of his top suggestions. He's uncomfortable with unquestioned authority - a common theme in many of these satirical religions, especially Abrahamic satires. So he as made suggestions, rather than commandments, and hopes that people will use reason and see the validity of his ideas.

May have a pasta day, and may you be touched by His noodley appendages.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Sometimes in depth conversation is just not going to happen.

After David Cameron made a speech, in February, in which he offered deference to millions of peaceful Muslims, before making the point that UK resident Muslims should accept “British” values, pointing to tolerance and acceptance of non-belief, other belief, and of UK culture, like to encompass rights for women and LGBT people, no doubt many social media debates happened.

Deference to an audience that may feel threatened by criticisms of certain ideas associated with a broader superset of ideas in which they may be emotionally invested is appropriate, if for no other reason than not be heavily criticised in turn for making sweeping generalisations encompassing many who already agree that such a subset of ideas are worthy of criticism. Not doing so, some say, would lead to Cameron being called racist, but in any case would be counter productive.

One conversation I participated in went as well as any drunken brawl in a bar in that part of town where the police never go.

In early July, After a friend shared an article about Cameron's speech from the Telegraph. A mutual acquaintance (Q) made the statement that they would rather Islamic values than British “imperialistic” values. Apparently “values” of other groups means different things to different people and is subject to selection bias, which was evident in Q's remark.

To make a counter point I replied with an uncommented link to a Patheos page containing passages from the Tahir by Ayatollah Komeini. A description is bad enough, but to be truly disgusted you really have to read it. Caution – keep a barf bag handy.

The response that came back was disturbingly angry. And included an accusation of racism among “white atheists”. Q's response fit criticisms of leftists bowing to Islam for the sake of multiculturalism in to comments made by Pat Condell. I doubt Pat's critiques are representative of the left generally., but it would be a cheap-shot to use Pat's comment's as a retort. He does make the point that tolerance of the intolerant positions of Islam is inappropriate, and since the three of us all have gay friends the four major schools of though present a huge problem for people we care about. See Wiki.

A little stunned by the angry reply, I chose to point out how nice it was to have a reasoned discussion without name calling and ad hominem and left it at that. But, there were some big holes in Q's response.

Islam, of course, is not a race and history tells it is not indigenous to Iran, Nor is it entirely a necessary part of being Iranian, as Iranian atheists do exist as well as other faith groups including Ba'hai, and are vocal in social media. While the Tahir appeared in the context of Iran's Islamic Revolution. It is important to note many Iranians, who are mostly ethnically Persian, reject passages in the Tahir referenced above. Now a racist would saying thing about Persian physiognomy and cognition however that would be pointless, as the science suggest that there is little variation across ethnic groups, and indeed there is more variation within ethic groups.

People are good, not because of their religion, but often in spite of it, as Iranians themselves have shown by rejecting both the Tahir and the Hijab.

What's this about the hijab? Check out My Stealthy Freedom on facebook. Iranian women are photographing themselves without the head scarf required by the mullahs. Apparently, the regime is losing the culture war in Iran, Younger Iranians do not support their government, and many even despised the current regime. The old guard of the Islamic revolution is on borrowed time as it is being replaced by political and social progressives.

I highly recommend Bread and Roses, on Youtube. The show is hosted by Mariam Namazie from the UK based Council of Ex-Muslims. The will hope fully be aired on bootleg satellite TV so that it is available to Iranians looking for more information to help them understand what else is going on other than what the mullahs are saying.

You can have peace, over conservatism's cold dead corpse.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Is the GOP really concerned for the welfare of South America children or just racist?

While GOP politicians argue over what to do about a flood of mostly child refugees from South America as three nations are beset by genocidal insurgency, the quest is what is really going on here, and Why do they fiddle while Rome burns?

Nimby, perhaps, Texas GOP reps shipped a bunch of kids to California by bus. So That's plausable.

Racist, well ever since the dixie-crats jumped ship to the GOP this has always been in play.

Louie Gohmert likened the US's southern border to an unfenced swimming pool, while trying to demand the securing of the border. Unwittingly, in so doing he admits America is too dangerous for children.

Israel secured it's border, now how is that working out. By broad measure it is with the majority of Palestinians unwilling to accept a two state solution. the recent flare up, with the most spectacular horrors coming from the over use of military tools in what is essentially a social ans political problem.

See Also
   Raw Story - CNN schools GOP council woman South American Child exodus ethics

PS: Hi, Brenda