An American comming to terms with all that means.

Religion in Government

On Saudi Women Drivers, Fundamentalism, and Why We Should Care.

I have been watching articles today about the driving protest in Saudi Arabia where women are “tearing apart the fabric of Saudi society” – according to Wahhabi muslim clerics.

What are they doing? Daring to drive a car – the licentious whores.

You see, in the Saudi Kingdom, there is no separation of church and state. Saudis are highly educated. Many are extremely wealthy. It is not some back-water civilization. But it is a theocratic and deeply misogynistic one. The combination is no coincidence.

All the Abrahamic faiths are deeply misogynistic at their root. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all originate from what Christians would call the “Old Testament”. Those texts define women as the property of their fathers, husbands, slave masters, or male relatives. They define these attitudes as moral – prescribed by the creator of the universe as just and right. So it follows naturally that societies that use these texts as sources for their moral compass oppress women as a mater of course.

In Saudi Arabia, a particularly pious mutation of Islam called Wahhabism runs the show. Roughly translated, it means “fundamentalist”. Where have you heard that before? The result of the influence of these clerics is indefensible.

Setting aside the fact that the 9/11 hijackers and countless other Islamic terrorists all come from Saudi Wahhabism, so too does a host of other barbaric injustices visited on Saudi women as a mater of law, today.

Saudi women may not go into public without a close male relative, or ride a bicycle for the purpose of transportation. They must get the permission of a male family member to marry, and cannot visit stores deemed harmful to their virtue (like music stores). What happens when they do?

The religious police beat them with batons or they are whipped publicly in the streets.

Let that sink in a while. Without the protection of a secular constitution that uses the power of the state to protect people from fundamentalists – even in a rich, modern, and educated country, you find yourselves being beaten in the street (or worse) for doing anything a holy man does not like.

The articles on the Saudi protest are all over the web today. Google it and read the defense the clerics give to justify their misogyny. Then, do another search. Search for fundamentalist, conservative, dominionist, and ironically-named “free-will” Baptist websites in this country.

Go ahead, I will wait…

Notice any similarities? If you change the name “Allah” to “God” you just might. Make no mistake about it. The cries of persecution we hear from these groups (the majority group, no less) are crocodile tears.

Their agenda is the same as the Wahhabi. Join us or die, here or in eternity. And not satisfied with that, they tell you that your sin (that they made up) will so anger their god that he will inflict devastation on everyone if you don’t do what *his* followers tell you to do. So, even if we must whip women in the streets for buying a Madonna album, or drag a homosexual behind a truck on a chain, or hang 19 people and press a 20th to death over an unsubstantiated accusation of witchcraft, that is the moral thing to do. It has to be done. It is the ultimate will of a just and holy god.

Bullshit.


Searching for God – Finding Original Sin

I was recently following a story on CNN about the “selfishness” of couples who are childless by choice. When I asked several commentors why they thought these couples selfish, I kept hearing the same few themes emerge:

  • They may one day regret not having children because they will grow old and lonely.
  • They are selfish because they think only of themselves and do not want to share with a child.
  • They have an obligation to God to have children, as directed.

Of the three, only the last two address the question of selfishness. The first is, actually, a selfish justification – if that is truly the primary factor in deciding to have a child.

The last two were supported entirely from religious beliefs. The third is honest and clear, but that second one is sneaky.

Except in cases where a child is actually conceived, even the most hard-line pro-lifer has no leg to stand on when talking about a couple’s obligation not to exclude the needs of a non-existent child. Hormonal birth control and abortion present a much more difficult scenario.

So, where does this concept of an unconceived child, to which a couple owes an obligation, originate? Among Christians, it seems to be a fairly broad interpretation of Jeremiah 1:4-5:

4 Then the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,

5 Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

Of course, that is pretty thin, even if you take the Bible literally. If God is all-knowing it certainly follows that he could have known (about) Jeremiah, and known all that Jeremiah was to do in his life before Jeremiah actually existed. I also think it reasonable to conclude that this view would be present in anti-abortion and anti-contraception schools of thought.

Reaching back deeper, the first recorded mention of a pre-existent soul is the “ka” of the ancient Egyptians. They had very complex beliefs about the soul and their intense focus on the afterlife surely had a strong effect on the development of the soul concept in the latter Christian religion that would emerge in the same region.

So, It is fair to say that the second rationale is a thinly-veiled appeal to Christian tradition that manifests itself in the debate over several social issues.

You can see the entire article and the comments in their full context here.

My suspicions were borne out by the replies I received to my question. Even though the article was not overtly religious, although I think I have demonstrated the motivation to be connected to religious tradition, when individuals use their religious world views to justify a position on any topic, I usually comes down to this (included as posted):

please dont think im jusging just sharing my experience to see if can relate….maybe….u were in a “spiritual wilderness” or “desert” for a time…maybe God was testing to see if u really loved Him (im sure u did)…God is very mysterious and doesnt act the way we think He should…not judging u at all but i was kind of an atheist for a lot of my life after looking for Him and needing Him so desperately and thinking He just didnt care….yet God showed up in my life BIG TIME and now i know He was always there and because of my terrible experience of looking for Him and not “finding” Him, to know He was always there…it makes me appreciate Him so much more…i know He was there in the midst of all my problems…Hes so real to me now

My response:

Patricia,

I appreciate your comment. It is not those who genuinely wish me well, but with whom I disagree, that I take issue with. Nor, can I be overly judgmental, given that I was once a evangelical myself. I have a great deal of empathy for that position, though I am now glad to be past it. I take offense when those who believe claim a divine authority over my affairs, or the common civil society we all have to share.

I think you misunderstand the cause of my despair. I once would have said that I absolutely felt his presence. I always, certainly, felt the fear of his judgment. It is a seriously heavy trip to lay on someone – that a all-powerful, omniscient, holy deity created you personally and expects your perfection to match his own. Dispite his declared capability to do otherwise, he created you with a fatal flaw that assured that you could never, by your own abilities, live up to those expectations. And then, he sent his son to Earth as a man to prove to you that only he, himself could live the way he expects from you, as if to further illustrate the point.

That is the bad news, but here is the good news: He, as his own son, brings you a great gift and opportunity. If you accept what he says, and put your whole being into it, he will accept your scapegoating of a faultless man (himself) and personal capability for the attendant ritualistic, unjust human sacrifice, as absolution for your flawed soul (that he himself created). You will get to live for eternity in worship and praise of him knowing every millisecond of eternity that you are entirely indebted to him for *loving* you so much as to put you through it in the first place.

Of course, if you don’t – unspeakable misery and unimaginable torture THAT WILL NEVER END awaits you behind door number two. – That’s the GOOD news…

My despair is that I did believe this for a long time. My despair is that I spread this vile proposition to the people I loved and cared about. My despair is that even though I could not reconcile this obvious paradox with my rational mind, I shut it off and proceeded on “faith alone”.

If a human father did this to their human child, we would rightly call him a monster. We would not let “faith” or the compiled and heavily edited scrawlings of the oral stories of bronze-age sheep headers blind us to the obvious injustice of it, or excuse ourselves of our obligation to speak against the evil of its regressive effects on humanity.

My despair was that I allowed myself to be deluded into thinking that this was the only moral thing to do. The conflict between what my rational mind was screaming, and the strength it took to suppress those thoughts as heretical, or as the “influence of this world, ruled by the prince of this world”, exhausted me. So, I went through a second conversion experience, where I decided that I would go where reason and evidence took me.

So, now I am as free as any human mind can be. I am still guilty of having been deceived by some well-intentioned and some not-so-well intentioned people into believing without evidence so damaging a belief. I now strive to learn the unknowns; indeed admit that they exist. In a world where God is mysterious, irrational to our mind, and has a plan that we are not equipped to understand, that drive to learn is extinguished – and sometimes punished by death. It is no coincidence that those old stories tell us that man’s original sin was to eat of the tree of knowledge and assume to know the mind of God.

Now, here is the actual good news:

There seems to be no credible evidence that we are actually in such a pickle. You do not get to live forever, and there is no divine dictator that has every moral choice answered for you – no thought required.

Instead, you get to actually BE moral. You get to take credit for, and live with the consequences of, your actions. You can be a moral person FOR IT’S OWN SAKE. Not because you live in fear of punishment, or hope for eternal reward for living with the honesty, integrity, curiosity, agency, passion, empathy and love you should strive for god or no. You only have one life to live, indeterminate and finite. You have obligations to those around you and everyone you share the Earth’s resources with. Reason, evidence, empathy, and love are much better guides and tools for navigating that life than any holy book.

It has become clear to me that the first admonition is the one that should concern believers most. When you eat of the tree of knowledge, you realize that god has no power over you; you created your own god in your own mind.


Gallery

9-22-1692 We Have Already Forgotten

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Today is a day that should have lived in infamy. But, you won’t see any splashy graphics on CNN or FOX News about it. There will be no reading of the victim’s names, no laying of wreaths on multi-million dollar monuments. You are likely scratching your head right now straining to recall the event yourself. It is increasingly evident, that the lessons we learned that day are fading into the mist of time. Unfortunately, we have need to remember those lessons in today’s political climate.

319 years ago today, the last of the 20 innocent people accused of witchcraft (in what would become the US) were hung, by their own neighbours, with the full authority of the colonial government of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, under “direction” of God. “Witch-hunt” would enter the American lexicon, and the premise of theocracy in American government would prove itself destructive, once again.

This would be a tragic footnote in history if we had not succumbed to religious zealotry so many times in our brief history on the planet. Indeed, we have excused these atrocities away time and time again. We cite bad apples or individuals that “pervert” the true meaning of religion, or false prophets, even supernatural demons at work among men. For every documented instance of barbarism in the name of God, we invent another excuse for Him so that we do not have to challenge our own worldview, or the myths we tell ourselves.

At any rate, religious fundamentalists wielding the levers of the state is always a bad idea. In Salem, not even those that were accused and murdered were safe, though all were Puritans (except perhaps Tituba, a slave from Barbados). As far back into history as we have records, people have used the mantle of God to justify the most horrible acts imaginable against each other. Where science and reason, observation and thoughtful consideration, flexibility and compromise are absent, irrational superstition fills the gap. Church-state separation is as much a protection from religion as it is a protection for whatever religious beliefs you may hold.

Since I doubt that this story will see much exposure elsewhere, I am posting pictures that I took of each of the 20 Salem Witch names inscribed in the only monument to this tragedy of justice. It is in a small stone-walled area right next to the old Salem cemetery constructed in recent times. Because the bodies were “thrown into cracks in the Earth” rather than buried in the Christian cemetery, this is the only place where these victims of religious fundamentalism are honoured.

The moral of this story is simple, believe whatever you want, but don’t use your “faith” to lord over your neighbours who believe differently. If the myths that we tell ourselves in history books about the Puritans are your idea of the “Christian Foundation” we built this great nation on, you should look deeper. Be careful what you wish for, the next window they look into may be yours.

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For more information take a look at: law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/FTRIALS/salem/salem.htm