I think most of us have some level of ability to learn from our mistakes, even if it is through behaviour modification as a result of painful experiences. It seems for some, like the couple discussed in the link below, that this is not where religion comes in. Religion deliberately encourages blind faith. When it gets to the point where parents are choosing to pray rather than take their children to a doctor it brings a whole new slant on the brainwashing abilities of religious organisations. And, for this couple, not only did they let their first child die, they did it again and have now lost their second child. I think it is tragic and question why the child was not removed from their care.
Unfortunately this is not a lone case. This has happened before. Just one example shown in the link below.
There have been so many tragic things happening in the past few weeks, bombings, murders etc. And you know what? These are just the ones that the media feel they should bring to our attention and often only the cases in Western civilisation as there are just too many to report all over the world. Increasingly I feel that this aspect of religion should be done away with. Not faith, we cannot and should not dictate to others their personal beliefs, but i think we need to try to take away the ability of religion to instruct people to live their lives in a manner that causes harm to others. People can choose to smoke and on all the cigarette packets are extensive health warnings, there are bans in public places and places of work from exposing others to the smoke. Should the same not be done with religion and everyone who teaches opinions rather than evidence and the ability to analyse for ourselves the evidence in front of us? It will not happen any time soon and I am increasingly despondent by the degree of harm this does everywhere I look and not only that, but the acceptance it finds in society generally.
Good news about Obama's changed stance on gay marriage has rippled across several news outlets. It is positive news and again brings this issue to the public arena. Unfortunately, I can't help also thinking that this was just a political move forced by the Vice-president's expression of support for gay marriage. I also doubt it will have much impact on the presidential election as the general polarisation of opinion on this issue between voters appears to be along party lines anyway. The announcement came just after North Carolina became the most recent of the 31 states banning gay marriage. I am not sure what the government can do anyway, unless the power to ban gay marriage is removed from individual states. I don't know enough about how politics works in the US to comment on how feasible or what repercussions such a move might have. Anyway, there is a vast difference in stating an opinion and making it legislature.
Fundamentally, this is a civil rights issue. The banning of gay marriage is part of continuing discrimination against LGBT individuals. What does it matter what sex partner someone chooses to commit to and spend the rest of their life with? That is no one's business outside of the couple concerned.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-18014102The BBC news article I have linked to gives an overview of the story. The comments below the piece show how religion is often used as a reason for denying others the same rights. People are different for so many reasons. Why can we not just embrace those differences? There is not a limit on how many marriages can be handed out each year!
This video is a few years old now and stemmed from when California passed proposition 8 banning gay marriage. I think it has a lot of important points to make.
Yes, I know it is NOT Christmas yet and I know many will think it far too early to be discussing it, however, it was brought to my attention by an e-mail I received this morning inviting me to a carol service.
When I first acknowledged my atheism, after spending my entire life being rather devout (as children my brother and I would actually play at going to church and taking the communion), I went into a period that I can only call mourning. There was a positive side. For the first time in my life I felt very free. I felt relieved that the bad things in my life and the lives of my loved ones were not the result of some divine punishment for an unknown wrong, but instead they just happened. I was relieved of the worry that no matter how hard I tried to please something, I could never really understand what was right and wrong due to all the conflicting messages. I was freed of the concerns I had that basic human rights that I was a strong advocate of were forbidden by this deity that we were all forced to love and worship, and that if we didn't put our best effort into it, if we tried to sham, it would be known anyway. The constant worry and fear I felt melted away. But there was a cost, and that cost was the traditions and community that I had been surrounded by my entire life. The cost was my mother being disappointed in me and saying some hurtful things. I isolated myself within my own family and lost the family I had in church and with those of faith. That was what I had lost and mourned. However, once it (reason, rationality, the breakdown of my personal cognitive dissonance) had clicked (and what brought that about is a story for another time) there was never a moment of temptation to pick up the comfort blanket of faith and belief again.
For a while after this, I felt I could not enjoy the things that I once had. I could not enjoy carols and midnight mass and celebrating Christmas with my family without feeling a sense of betrayal, of myself and by myself, and to this day I am not sure where that guilt stems from. I suspect it was a hangover from my religious background. That was then. I now find that I can enjoy carols and certain moments that create part of Christmas. But I don't enjoy it because I have faith. I enjoy it because I find it beautiful. I find the songs lovely to listen to. I find church buildings and architecture to be inspiring for the vision and work that went into conceiving and building them. I love spending protected time with my family enjoying a winter's feast. Beautiful and enjoyable things are still in place without the faith that goes with religion. God does not make them special, it is humans that have done and continue to do that. So I will go to the cathedral and enjoy a choir singing Christmas carols just for the pleasure I can get from it, celebrating a tradition that is part of my personal history and that of my family.
The article on skepchicks and the further links in the comments section (including a link to the bill itself) reveal that new anti bullying bill voted for by the senate (but not approved by the house as yet) contains a get-out clause that would not prohibit
"a statement of a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction of a school employee, school volunteer, pupil, or a pupil’s parent or guardian"
I think, in the end, it comes down to what you class as bullying. There no reason why people should not be able to express their opinions and beliefs, no matter what I personally think the validity of their stance is, but there is a problem when those opinions and beliefs are used to attack and hurt someone else. The interesting wording indicates that physical bullying will likely be prohibited, but verbal expressions based on moral and religious grounds are permitted.
So, do words do harm? "sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never harm me" is the phrase I remember from school. Words can't hurt or do harm?
Emoitional abuse can do lasting harm to individuals trapped in an environment where they cannot escape such abuse, such as relationships or work/school etc. Isolated and single verbally abusive incidents obviously do not do as much harm as a physically abusive incident. However, the problem is not single incidents, it is a progressive situation where the abuse takes place over a long period of time.
Statements of "sincerely held beliefs" in a directed manner over a prolonged period of time can take their tole, especially if the person also has similar religious beliefs. In my experience it is the manner in which those statements are used that can be the problem. Intention to do harm and the actions resulting from that can make simple words cut very deeply. It is more of an issue when people are vulnerable or sel-conscious in some way and have areas which the bullies can manipulate.
In this case they have probably done their best to avoid the religious only exemption that appears all to often for my liking by including "moral conviction", which would not exclude atheists etc. But it does effectively mean that verbal abuse and bullying of almost everyone is justifiable. It seems a shame that what could have had some effect is diluted down with such a statement. But in tody's world, could they really have done any better?
Same sex marriage is banned in many (29) states in the USA, a country that portrays itself to support individual freedom. A recent judgement in California ruled that proposition 8, a state measure to ban same-sex marriages that had a voter distribution 52% for and 48% against, is unconstitutional and discriminated against same-sex couples who wish to marry.
Seeing as married couples have more rights with regard to taxes, medical information about their spouse etc., I see the granting of same-sex couples equal marriage rights to be just and that banning it is indeed discriminatory. The ban seems to be rooted in religious ideology that marriage should be between a man and woman only and the bible (I am not aware of other religious influences on the matter, it seems to be a Christian objection) specifically bans homosexual sexual relationships (certainly for male couples, I am not sure if female couples are mentioned specifically).
Sex and relationships between consensual adults is not something the state or government has any say in. Marriage is a legal confirmation of a committed relationship that grants spouses specific rights and as such no adult couple should be excluded. It does not make any difference that the bigoted voters in California (and other states. California had some slanderous commercial campaigns that I, new to the USA, was more than a little shocked by) banned the union. Mob rule does not make something moral. Might is not always right. And that is what we are fighting for, isn't? Equality and rights that apply across the board. Equality is not discriminating against people who are different to us, whether that is due to gender, race, age, sexuality or any of the other arbitrary factors that lead to groups of them and us. Simply because Californian voters decided to make their little aspect of bigotry legal does not make it right and the ruling is absolutely correct in that it is discriminatory. There are times when it is necessary to overturn the whims of children and do what is right, any parent will recognise this. And that is what is needed here. The issue is equality and what rights everyone should hold and that is the criteria that should be used. Not bronze-age mythology.
If LGBT couples want to marry, why stop them? Can someone offer any logical reason for this (note - the bible or any other religion says so is not a logical reason). If marriage were solely a religious union, then it would be a different matter, but it is not. Its roots may be religious but it has developed beyond that in this day and age. The bible supports slavery, but that does not make it moral or right to own slaves, and slavery, in the traditional and biblical sense of the word (not the slavery between two consenting adults), is no longer legal in the USA. Society is moving forward, acceptance of diversity is gaining ground. These archaic ideologies are in the process of being relegated to history and this judgement is another step on the path.
Unfortunately, this does not mean Californian same-sex couples can marry just yet and it is likely to be appealed so that bigots can continue to interfere in the lives of others for a while longer. But it will happen eventually.
Personally, I am looking forward to the day when marriage is not necessary to recognise the rights of committed partners, regardless of sex. I also would like to see the day when polyamory is recognised and you can legally bond with more than one person. But those are hurdles for the future. For now I just hope this particular step doesn't take much longer.
Conservapedia is a conservative and christian site set up to essentially promote the ideals of the Christian American right and pretend that it is an unbiased approach to factual information (by attributing statements to the person making them, this turns anything into a "fact" regardless of how much evidence supports or disputes such statements). Just take a look at the references in the linked article, often referencing other conservapedia pages.
Wiki page about conservapedia
"Women and girls throughout the world love ponies, but most women and girls dislike atheism  Ponies are often nicer than American atheists who typically give less to charity than American theists."
The stupidity of such statements is almost unbelievable. Unfortunately, some people made read this nonsense and take it seriously. It is so extreme it almost seems like a Poe, unfortunately I don't think it is.
On the same conservapedia page
"Like the serpent in the Garden of Eden, atheists are often deceptive."
Pot calling the kettle black. Seriously. The amount of deliberate misinformation perpetuated by extreme groups such as this should be illegal. It is a shame that this type of thing exploits freedom of speech (and I acknowledge that it is more important to have freedom of speech than to instigate censorship, still, this is the downside). Slander and lies are often the tools used by organisations such as conservapedia, and the blind faith indoctrination by religions only foster the acceptance of the type of statements quoted above, eroding individual ability to question ideas that support their faith. Horrifying, stupid and it should be made an example of.
Thanks to Blaghag for highlighting it. http://www.blaghag.com/2011/06/conservapedia-has-solved-atheist-gender.html?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter
This is the full article.
The case is that a woman ended up murdering one of her children and subjecting others to abuse as the result of a fervent religious belief that has been taken to the point of delusion. This is the problem with religious belief. it is accepted in society. No matter how wacky, if it is part of the major religions it will find some level of acceptance, tolerance and, in some cases, support. So when does it cross the line? When does simple cognitive dissonance (which does not cause harm to anyone beyond the person engaging in it) become delusional to the point at which adhering to a faith becomes more important than reality? Blind faith is dangerous and the only recourse I can see is education and broadening one's horizons. Unfortunately, it seems that not many people have access to or drive to do this, while at the same time faith-based delusion is encouraged.
Having just read this article, I am horrified but not surprised.
So now women protesters are subject to virginity tests and torture to confirm the preconception that no single woman of moral standing (i.e. a virgin) would participate in the protests. Also is the implication that as long as they weren't virgin's, they could not claim sexual assault or rape by military personnel.
From a senior general,
"We didn't want them to say we had sexually assaulted or raped them, so we wanted to prove that they weren't virgins in the first place," the general added. "None of them were."
It is really sad. Unfortunately, I don't think the situation there will improve any time soon, but the seeds have been sown for change. Hopefully highlighting these issues in the rest of the world will help.
One of the things I have found the most surprising, and with hindsight I cannot even remember why, is the puritanical attitude prevalent in the USA (and admittedly this seems to be getting worse in places like the UK and other European countries) towards sex and individual expression. As some of my recent online activity and blogs indicate, there is an increase in curtailing choice withregard to what happens to a woman's body. The US in general is careful to cultivate a perception of freedom to the rest of the world, and compared to many countries this is probably true. Coming from Europe, however, I very quickly noticed that it is a facade. There is the veneer of freedom that covers some rather ugly truths about pervasive racism, sexism, intolerant, snobbery, inequality and the worship of celebrity and the wealthy. If you are not a white heterosexual male with what society perceives as "normal" sexual interests then you are one of "them", part of the group of devients that are responsible for the woes of today's society and spoken of in degrogatory tones.
Why is this? Why does it matter what or who someone chooses to share their body with, providing no harm is done? (i should point out that i refer to harm as that which is non-consentual and has a long lasting and damaging effect on someone's physical or mental well-being). What does it matter what colour skin someone has? What gender they are? This will show my own bias, but I can't help but observe that the "them and us" culture has been explicitly encouraged by religions around the world for far too long. Most notebly, Christainity and Islam, religions that foster a patriacal society, repress women, encourage slavery and bring up the concepts of sex being wrong, immoral and evil. I wonder just how much role religion had to play in how the "group think" operates in today's world, and how much of religion is a product of what was probably a good survival strategy when humans were forming early societies. Politics also plays a huge part in this, not only in international interactions but within countries. the polarisation of parties in the US being a prime example and the subsequent interference in personal lives.
Regardless, the relatity is that there is hate, fear and lothing against people who are percieved as being different, and if individuals do not personally believe it, it is something used in general and can hurt your job, your social standing, whether you can walk down a street without harrassment from individuals or law enforcers, and even your acceptance by family. I do not understand this. I do not understand how people can remove themselves so far from empathising with other human beings as to demonise them for relatively innocent actions/things they have no choice over (e.g. loving someone of the same gender, being kinky, having different colour skin, being a different gender, changing gender or just enjoying sex and being open about it). At the end of the day, we are all humans. Why has that simple fact been lost? Can we continue to turn the tide of acceptance as shown by feminism, racial equality movements and the LGBT community to a greater acceptance here in the US (and genuine acceptance rather than the lip service a lot of people give it) and across the world? I don't know. Some differences have been made and I hope the aspects I observe are simply the final throws of dying intolerance rather than a resurgence. I hope. Maybe I am a dreamer....
Imagine there's no heaven, it's easy if you try
No people below us, above it's only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today
Imagine there's no countries, it isn't hard to do
No need to kill or die for and no religions too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace
You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one
Imagine no possessions I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger a brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing for the world
You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one
You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
Take my hand and join us
And the world will live, will live as one
Skeptical kinkster musing on whatever takes my fancy!