Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Get Spartan with Your Critical Thinking Skills!





Going Spartan is a catchphrase which means, in a nutshell, 'whipping oneself into shape not only to do ones best, but to actually succeed in doing the best possible as failure is not an option!' I apply this 'do or die' mentality to my critical thinking skills, but this begs the question, what is critical thinking and how does someone who may not be trained in critical methods of analysis go about learning how to think critically? This video sums it up nicely. Have a good one, and remember, if you get a headache take an aspirin and get good rest. Also, eat lots of fruit.



Monday, December 28, 2009

Does Our Morality Derive from Natural or Supernatural Causes?

Andy Thomson always gives me those moments of epiphany where I go, "Oh yeah, that's so basic!" Great lecturer.





You can watch the rest of the Atheist Alliance International 2009 videos over at Commonsense Atheism and on YouTube.


Fact: Christians ARE Ignorant!




In a recent study done by the Barna Group (a Christian research outfit), in their year end summary they state that, "3: Biblical literacy is neither a current reality nor a goal in the U.S." (Read the full list after the jump for some really interesting statistics)


It's not surprising for someone who has studied their Bible to know that most church going Christians don't know much about it. Atheists often point this handicap out time and time again, and the reason is because many of said atheists were Christians before they read their Bible--and afterward defected into the ranks of heresy and skepticism--and the flood of apostates who have taken up reason and rationality over superstition and faith are proof that the Bible is one of the BEST tools for generating new atheists.


The problem is most Christians remain ignorant as to the content and stylings of their preferred holy book, let alone have any capacity to think critically about of any of it. Not because they are deluded, or delusional, although these may be factors to consider, but everyone who is capable of thinking is capable of exacting scrutiny and applying critical methods to the analysis of a text. 

The problem here, however, is that most believers  can't apply these critical thinking methods because they simply DON'T know what their beliefs should entail (as the Barna poll is proof of)! Why, we might ask? Because they haven't read nor comprehended any of the religious texts vital to sustaining their beliefs in the first place. But this raises the obvious question for Christians , if you haven't really read or dealt with the content of your sacred text, how do you know what it means to be Christian?


It seems, by my reckoning, that today's Christians are simply inheriting a watered down variety of Christianity from their parents, keeping the traditions alive which are handed down to them, but not actually taking the time to investigate the faith they are raised in, causing a generational rift in any actual religious knowledge or religious beliefs which are equated with the principle faith in the first place.


I think most Christians would agree that it's not alright just to make up your own "Christianity" as you go along, even though, according to the Barna polls, that's exactly what it seems most American Christians are doing. I know many Christians who are repulsed, if not saddened, by the idea that mainstream Christians aren't taking the time to practice a devotional sort of faith, but rather, that they are living the good secular life and merely keeping the Christian name as an honorific badge and nothing more.


This may explain polls repeatedly show that 95% of Americans say they are "Christian" when, in actuality, the number of died in the wool Christians is probably far less. Now that the newly polled 15% nonbelievers, a number which is expected to triple in the next decade, and the 25% of faith parishioners who prefer to practice a secular lifestyle regardless of prior affiliation to any religious organization what-so-ever shows the opposite trend for Christians. Christianity isn't growing, it's merely spreading, meanwhile most Christians are dwindling away and/or converting to a secular lifestyle. (See: Gallup-poll: Americans are becoming less religious.)



This is good news for nonbelievers, atheists, agnostics, humanists, naturalists, and secular free thinkers the world over--we'll soon have more friends to talk with! Moreover, what this means is, although American love to spiritualize everything, many are not following any orthodox Christian creed or semblance of Christianity familiar to us as the Christianity we recognize throughout history. They are practicing a hybrid of Christianity and Secularism.

Most Christians don't rely on the Bible, as Barna suggests, to inform their beliefs. So I think, as many have pointed out before me, they're getting their actual beliefs from somewhere else. And whether or not it is 'Chicken Soup for the Soul' or a bad Rick Warren book, their beliefs are all relative.  Just like the atheist, Christians are picking and choosing the ideas which best suit them, and rejecting those that don't.


Personally, I think this is what we need to point out and emphasize more clearly... religious believers are dependent on the same information we all are, for forming their assumptions. Knowledge in what their faith teaches, or the history of their religious beliefs and how they came to be, has little to do with it. And I happily cite the support Barna has conveniently done for me, because now when I say Christians are ignorant, people will know I'm not saying it as an angry atheist trying to attack people's "faith-based" beliefs, but I'm in fact point out that the majority of Christians don't even know what their faith based beliefs actually are! Precisely because they are completely illiterate as to the tenets of their faith (Granted this isn't every Christian, since I know many who know the Bible a great deal, in fact I used to be one, but in general it seems to me that most Christians don't have a clue--and that's the everyday variety. Which gets me to wondering, why is it so important that they, who do not resemble Christianity except in name, find it so important to be recognized as or called "Christians" anyway? I guess ignorance is bliss. Just a thought.)



I propose, that if we increase Biblical literacy along with literacy in competing world religions, that we will observe a natural tendency to reform opinion and fall back upon familiar secular ground, as has been the observable case thus far. That is, my theory is this: the more religiously literate a person becomes the greater chance they have of seeing the religious scheme for what it is, a big fat sham, and a mass exodus of faith-based adherents taking the spiritual aspects they like the best and starting a new faith, packing up these salvaged beliefs they couldn't live without, and applying them to a secular lifestyle seems to already be a reality. It's worth mentioning that it is a tested theory, that naturalism and spirituality do mix, as it worked for the Buddhists, why can't it work for a modern Christianity?


Gradual secularization seems, at this juncture, an inevitability. And I only wish more Christians would read their Bibles, because as a skeptic and a critic of Christianity in particular, it's tiring to try and educate "believers" as to the particulars of their beliefs before I can start showing how such beliefs are erroneous, unsustainable, and virtually indefensible to begin with.


On the horizon, I predict a glorious dawn of reason and crystal clear critical thinking awaits. A future where our rationality and knowledge outweigh our ignorance and don't ask don't tell policies regarding what it is we believe. There is no shame in not believing in something so ridiculous that to actually believe in it, in all that it entails, would be more shamefully ridiculous still. 

Even so, we can always change our minds after weighing all the evidence and thinking about it rigorously, the first step though, is looking at the evidence before formulating our beliefs. Herein lies the mistake I think these sorts of Christians are making when they prematurely settle for an inherited belief before considering what the evidence has to say. It's sort of like jumping to conclusions, and if someone should point out that such a conclusion is invalid, they simply ignore the criticism and continue to believe as they will. This is true ignorance, and it may suit the person of faith, but for a strict rationalist, such as myself, it just won't do.



Have a good one!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry X'Mas!!! And Bah Humbug!




Merry X'Mas all you present coveting, gluttonous eggnog guzzling, Christmas tree tinseling, heathen boys and girls out there! And whether you're religious or not, have a happy new year!

And because she's a darling:



Don't worry V- I don't know the lyrics either.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Advocatus Atheist to the Rescue: Secular Humanism Reading List

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I have a dear friend who is stuck in the quagmire of unreason and blinkered thinking we call America's Bible Belt, and due to forces outside of her control, has been forced to become one of the numerous closet skeptics afraid to voice her doubt for fear of negative peer pressure, of being ostracized by family and friends, and receiving undue scorn should she speak her peace of mind. Forced into silence by "Christian love." Ironic, don't you think?

Regrettably, she would have to endure all sorts of ill will in her overly zealous community at the hands of insular minded and intolerant religious partisans if she should confess her "honest to God" thoughts and opinions or mention, in any way, her atheism. She still sings in the church choir, because she loves music and singing, but if she mentioned her real thoughts and feelings she's be kicked out and bullied. It's not fair -- but that's the power of group-think -- where everyone sees things in black and white and has no tolerance for anyone who thinks differently.
As such, she has asked me to offer those in want of a new perspective a list of humanist and secular morality that might seek to enlighten her where the Bible and her faith has failed.

Who would I, an advocate of reason, be to deny such a request? It would be irresponsible of me to ignore somebody's pleas of desperation and longing to seek deeper truths and insights?

So if you're looking for another viable perspective on ethics, morality, and the meaning of life, then I find that this list of reading is essential.



Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Living the Wisdom of the Tao: The Complete Tao Te Ching and Affirmations by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer (Paperback - Mar 1, 2008)
Great Traditions in Ethics by Theodore C. Denise (Author), et al.

A Secular Age by Charles Taylor

Writings on an Ethical Life by Peter Singer

The Most Good You Can Do by Peter Singer





*Humanism (on Wikipedia)
Secularism draws its intellectual roots from Greek and Roman philosophers such as Marcus Aurelius and Epicurus, medieval Muslim polymaths such as Ibn Rushd, Enlightenment thinkers like Denis Diderot, Voltaire, John Locke, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and Thomas Paine, and modern freethinkers, agnostics and atheists such as Bertrand Russell and Robert Ingersoll.

A Response to Francis Collins: On Morality



Francis Collins recent appointment as director of the National Institutes of Health has sparked some outcry in the scientific community as of late. See the fallout at:

Jerry Coyne:
 


It's easy to see why the scientific community is nervous about appointing a devout Christian as head of all scientific funding and advancement, especially when the majority of Collins' beliefs directly contradict reason, or are limited in scope.

For example, in a recent lecture at Berkley about the compatibility of Faith and Science, Collins stated as a matter of fact like, that: "The existence of a “moral law” (which Collins defines as the universal observance by humans of codes of right and wrong) can be understood only by the existence of a creator."

I live in Japan, and it bothers me when poor theologians and religious nuts espouse that God is a source for a "universal" morality. A man as educated as Collins should know better. And now I can see why the scientific community is so nervous about his appointment.

I always like to teach the religious that what they talk about as “moral” laws are actually ethical standards. Standards which vary depending on culture, and the ebb and flow of trends within societies, separated and distinguished by the procession of time.

In Japanese culture they have the custom of bathing publicly, nude, in relaxing spas called ‘onsen’. Men, women, and children can go to these places to bathe and get clean. It’s an ancient custom, a hygienic necessity, and a cultural norm for the Japanese.

Whereas in Western and predominantly conservative cultures, most often religious, bathing naked with others would be a “moral” crime. It would tarnish the whole notion of bodily sanctity and chastity, of modesty, and of propriety and according to religious belief is viewed as indecent. In Christian circles, I’ve posited this cultural juxtaposition only to find the majority of Christians I talk to are shocked and irate at such a notion. They often snidely comment about how the Japanese are hedonists, unsaved, and will likely burn in hell for such “culturally backwards” and “degrading” practices. Others clam up, not wanting to offend others' sensitivities, but are undoubtedly disturbed or perturbed having heard about such a scandalous idea. But it would seem the point is lost on them.

The cultures are different, so too the cultural norms of what is considered acceptable and contemptible, right and wrong, and all this directly effects what the standard of ethical thought will be. Just to throw out another example, in Japan one of the biggest taboos is having a tattoo. In the West, such ink art is splattered over millions of fleshy bodies, even devout believers in Christ. But in Japan, a tattoo is the mark of villainy, only Yakuza (Japanese mafia), gangsters, and unrefined thugs have tattoos. Such types should be avoided at all costs, and foreigners who happen to have a little pink heart on their shoulder, or a butterfly painted on their ankle, or any little trivial ink done will be omitted and turned out from public establishments. Tattoos are a sign of evil! Well, even as it is an unfortunate stereotype, the point is that it's a cultural difference... an ethical standard unique to one cultural mode of thinking and not another. A moral sense of dissimilar cultural origin, but yet, still man-made.

But for a person of faith to admit that there is no such thing as a “universal” moral law would put into doubt their entire notion of morality. It would jeopardize their notion that they are the morally acceptable because they have God on their side. And so to adapt to such a naturalistic blow they go about demonizing those who are different, instead of embracing the differences and taking a curious interest into why it is so.

And this way of thinking, of holding your beliefs to be of an inviolable status above the rest, as the religious inevitably do, I find, breed intolerance, xenophobia, and prejudice. And is a direct consequence of believing God is a higher source of morality, and that people are not the progenitors of moral conduct. To the contrary, we humans have developed the concept, and moral standards and ethical concepts do vary from culture to culture. There is no universal. And if you ask me, I find it is irrational to assume morals stem from a divine source, when clearly it is not the case.

As for those ethical standards which the majority of humans abide by, such as not murdering, stealing, or sleeping around with others wives, these are common sense rules which have more to do with human solidarity and depend more on our necessity of communal interests and of survival more than they have to do with what is lawful according to imaginary gods of one religious ideology or another. And even if one form of "morality" was better suited than the next, it wouldn't prove it was God's definitive law (or for that matter which god's), it would merely prove to be the rule that was in our best interests.

Nor does it mean that just any one ethical standard will forever remain supreme. In the unforeseeable future there may be hither to unforeseen reasons for why a different or new standard of morality applies, and this constantly changing morality cannot be said to be better or worse--for these are standards we humans apply to it--they can only promise to be the best suited to our immediate purposes or needs. For example, I find rehabilitation of criminal offenders more moral, and better suited to society as a whole, than capital punishment. But millions of believers in God support capital punishment, even as it brings with it a myriad of ethical complications. But totally secular societies like Denmark and Sweden have shown how doing away with capital punishment (pardon the pun) and implementing rehabilitation for criminal offenders and reincorporating them into society, instead of simply eradication them, creates a more peaceful and healthier society. One filled with less crime and in where the value of human life is upheld and justice can still be served. The bottom line is, just to be clear, our moral sense of what constitutes any ethical standard is entirely a human invention. Albeit one that is constantly evolving, changing, and progressing; hopefully for the better.






My local Japanese Onsen's no Tattoos allowed sign.




Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Ten Commandments = Irrelevant






Many people say quite factually that without the Ten Commandments we couldn’t be moral. These people are obviously ill informed, to put it politely. Others may concede that we could be moral apart from the Bible, but that the Ten Commandments are still good rules to live by. I doubt that very much. One only need read them to know that they mostly devalue women to the status of property and tell you not to steal your neighbors goods, or boil a baby goat alive in its mother’s milk, oh, and not to worship other gods. These don’t exactly improve a person’s morality, and besides, such a list is unwarranted if common sense can handle the rest. In fact, I think George Carlin said it best.

But the question remains, are the Ten Commandments even logical? Can a rational person buy into the premise of these rules if they feel there may be merit to them, perhaps, great wisdom hidden in them somewhere?


First of all, I should point out that there isn’t just one list. The Bible has three different Ten Commandments lists. This is a Biblical discrepancy, since God only wrote the list TWICE, but since Moses destroyed the first list in a maniacal rage, according to the story there can technically only be one surviving list. So three different lists is problematic for believers. Remember now, Orthodox Jews don’t say people wrote the Torah, they believe God wrote it via divine dictation! Christians say the same about the New Testament (but that argument has been put to rest whether or not Christians want to admit it).  So we have a problem involving discrepant lists, since apparently an all perfect God got the divine laws, his own laws, wrong TWICE. That's right, God forgot about the first list, and had to correct himself not once but two times. Goodness gracious, God made another blunder... and another!

Peculiar as it all is, let’s ignore this for now. Let us focus on a couple of the commandments themselves, as they are to be the perfect law of the perfect God. As such, we should expect them to be flawlessly reasonable, beneficial, and deeply meaningful to everyone.
Let’s use the Exodus 20:2-17 list for simplicity sake, and we’ll ignore the discrepant variant lists found in Deuteronomy 5:6-21 and Exodus 34:11-27 for now. 

The 4th commandment is: to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. Sounds simple enough, but don’t only Jews practice the Sabbath? What were the Chinese doing for centuries before there were any Jews for God to talk to? Well, in actuality the Chinese were busy reading and writing, creating poetry, breading dogs, brewing tea, inventing gun powder and fireworks, and numerous other things advanced civilizations are known to do. Obviously God thought that the Chinese were getting along just fine, because he didn’t give them any lists or words to help improve them.

So now let us look at the 6th commandment, which is: though shall not kill. Good to hear it. But now, this seems to me to be, again, applicable only to Jews on Jews. For the Jews are commanded by God *multiple times throughout the Bible to kill entire nations, races of people, murder women and children, and to rape, pillage, and plunder.  Oh, and they needlessly sacrifice animals to God, a bloody symbolic ritual of offering penitence in the form of slaughtered flesh, as commanded by God, to be cleansed of sin and free of punishment. This sort of negates the shall not kill part. It seems that in the good olden days Jews were allowed to kill almost anything that walked or breathed. So maybe God meant only that Jews shouldn't kill other Jews?

Although, as perplexing as all this sounds, we aren’t out of the thick of it yet. For what is the punishment for picking up sticks on the Sabbath? Numbers 15:33-36 states quite emphatically that God said to Moses that the punishment for picking up sticks on the Sabbath is inescapable death! Low and behold, the Jews find another Jew doing just that and they take him to Moses, who consults with God, and God demands they murder the unholy fiend! And they do! Oops, God did it again, blunder!

Are you starting to get a headache yet?


Thou shall not kill, yet those who break the Sabbath must be killed. This is not just a big discrepancy; it is an all out contradiction made by God himself! Seriously, are we to believe that a perfect being makes such a fallible and (suspiciously) human mistakes such as this? Are you seeing a pattern here? I know I am.


Now let’s suppose we plugged this information into a computer and asked it to solve the problem for us. Well, I think you have already guessed what is likely to happen, CYCLIC ERROR, CTRL Alt Delete, REBOOT, CYCLIC ERROR, DOES NOT COMPUTE... DOES NOT COMPUTE... and so on until sparks are flying out and smoke is filling the room as your computer goes up in flames. Just an atheist’s hypothesis, but maybe this is where God went? He self destructed three thousand years ago due to his own inadequacy and irascible demands. After all, a perfect being couldn’t be so imperfect, so downright irrational, could he? If so, then he’s not God. And if not, then the God of the Bible is not God

Therefore, in light of this evidence, I suggest that the Ten Commandments aren’t just irrelevant, but they are truly nonsensical. And furthermore, if you have understood the argument, that the only logical option we are left with is that imperfect men wrote the Bible, and as a consequence, the Bible contains flawed and irreconcilable information so stupendous, so stupefying, that it would likely be able to make the Starship Enterprise self destruct. In summary, when it comes to the Ten Commandments of the Bible, we have no better evidence of a logic FAIL than this.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Superior Rationality: Atheism





Introduction
Does thinking logically, clearly, and objectively mean one is more rational than someone who is delusional, muddled, and purely subjective? Not necessarily, as there are certainly rational thinkers on both sides of the religious debate, but when it comes to proving an argument correct, it has been my experience that the clearly stated, strictly objective, and highly logical arguments are the ones which tend to fare better than those which lack these necessary tools for applying critical thinking to the subjects which concern us. In this short essay I intend to prove that although religious believers and atheists both use rational thought, that they use different forms of rationality, and that one form is superior in getting closer to the truth than the other.


Strong Rationality Defined
Strands of philosophy combined with the scientific method and enhanced by evidence and hard won proof along with critical analysis and good objectivity often culminates in the total sum to form a strong rationality. Strong rationality, then, is the combined traits and skills each of these independent disciplines allow for. From the scientific method to critical thinking and beyond, anyone who incorporates the full gamut of these things will be able to form better, well rounded, and keener arguments than a person who uses one, or merely a few, of these traits. 

Atheism, a rationally cogent position of nonbelief in the supernatural based off of logical inferences provided by the plethora of evidence and the deduction, using strong rationality, that the lack of support leads one to make the summation that the supernatural is not rationally sustainable. This doesn’t mean, however, that a religious believer is incapable of thinking logically or rationally. It simply means, there is more going on behind religious thought than meets the eye. 

Arriving at a position of atheism is relatively easy when relying upon strong rationality. It is sustainable by the very arguments themselves, which work to enhance each other, and work in tandem to reveal a naturalistic state of existence (confirmed by the scientific method), but seems to discredit the idea of the supernatural (an unfounded hypothesis lacking in adequate support) typically believed in by religious cohorts. In other words, the atheist’s position is enhanced by science, in turn the implications of science is better revealed through philosophy, and philosophy is more accurate when it incorporates and utilizes critical thinking and objectivity, and so on. If one element should fall short jeopardizing the balance between the various strands of thought and disciplines, fret not, for in whole the process of strong rationality will balance itself out as more data becomes available and as more evidence comes in. Therefore the more knowledge one can attain, the better chances one has for either constructing a powerful theory with minor flaws that will work themselves out in due time, or else, by inference via an understanding of the reality depicted thereby gain a deeper knowledge of the bigger picture, so to speak.

This is what rationalists, including the recent advocates for new atheism, such as Richard Dawkins, Dan Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, A.C. Grayling, and Victor Stenger all have going for them—they are exceedingly rational in their thinking processes. They utilize strong rationality, in its fullest sense of the term, just as the greats before them, such as Plato, Spinoza, Hume, Kant, Thomas Paine, Einstein and many other free thinkers along that vein. Their combined teachings and theorizing seek to raise our consciousness to a higher level, whereby strong rationalism becomes the truest form of mindful contemplation and crystal clear thinking. 

One might compare this version of strong rationality with the cosmological concept of a unified theory of physics. A unified theory is the collection of multiple, often mutual theories, which although are incomplete in themselves, all point to the same truth. Logically, it follows, the more correct theories you have the more likely you will be in discovering the correct answers about that which you seek to know more fully. Like any decent scientist, an atheist will be forced to discard inadequate theories in favor of the theories which best explain, or describe, the events observed as it makes heads or tails of the evidence. The closer one can get to an all encompassing theory which explains just about everything with utmost efficiency, the closer to the real truth one gets. I am arguing that much like a unified theory of everything looked for in modern physics, the new atheists (and rationalists in general) are using a similar practice of taking each new bit of evidence which come to light, disregarding the weak and throwing out the failed theories, thus progressively move toward a higher truth. At least, a truth which is more acceptable given what we know and after all is considered, because this strong rationality I speak of has multi-faceted capabilities in dealing with the dissemination of information, it is highly adaptive and much better suited to reveal actual truths about reality as we know it, at least more so than the oft wayward, vague, nebulous, frequently incomprehensible variety of religious modes of thinking.

Granted, this is a big accusation, so let me explain why I think religious thinking is less capable and less rational than secular modes of thinking. Consider Christian apologetics, something which I feel lacks the same prowess in dealing with the dissemination of information, as its approach is not quite as adequately suited for the task as the atheist approach is. That is to say, that even though some apologist thinkers and theologians may use some of the above processes which can lead to higher rationality, they don’t, or more likely can’t due do several reasons I will discuss.

Why can’t theists and religious adherents reach the lofty status of strong rationality? For starters, because the dogma of faith makes pious followers uncritical of its inherent weaknesses, and if one is not allowed to be critical of her own set of beliefs, or faith, then she is not likely to take the time to explore the myriad of possibilities that her faith is incorrect or in some way deficient. This means, faith which is maintained by dogma does not allow for the full investigation into each little fault or failing of its premises specifically because to do so may put the entire faith into jeopardy. It will allow for exploration into certain nooks and crannies which comprise the religiously held convictions, but if critical analyses should yield skepticism, then dogma steps in and the creeds and diktats of the institution supplant the methodology and processes which yields higher rationality. 

Basically, if one begins to doubt too much there is a string of self buttressing techniques, often the fall back arguments apologists like to overstate when pressed into a corner, which fit hand in hand, conveniently enough, with the overall consensus of the over arching religious scheme. Therefore, it stems to reason, faith is restricted by dogma, which in turn is necessary to sustain faith and protect it from too much skepticism, and moreover, is needed to advance the agenda of the institution where too much critical thinking may detract, or otherwise, hinder the goals and aspirations of the religious mind. This way of thought might be defined as weak rationality.


The Consequences of Weak Rationality
What this means then, is religionists, religious apologists, fundamentalists, middle ground moderates, most theologians, and believers in general are confined to thinking only within the confines of the bubble of what is allowed by their particular faith or belief system as kosher. Anything which is not kosher is rejected, even if it happens to be the truth! Take the denial of Darwin’s theory of evolution as a prime example of such a sad expression of a dwindling faith. Atheism, on the other hand, is without a belief system and so has nothing to protect, except for perhaps one’s own intellectual honesty. Atheism is not codependent on any one particular article or belief, or collection of beliefs (what I call appreciations), and so any bit of information or philosophy may be adjusted freely according to the new evidence. Or, if necessary, such may be altogether abandoned without jeopardizing the position of the atheist. The same cannot be said of the convictions of the religious person, as devotion is a key part of being devout, and so dogma is innately tucked under the layers of belief as a bedrock, a foundation, for faith to rest upon.

The pious dare not risk infidelity to their faith by thinking too clearly or too much about their faith. As such, the religious person of faith is only left with a limited capacity to work with the prescribed tools required to make sense of the wealth of disseminated information. Of course, the nonreligious are free to bask in the unbound and unlimited freedom of flirting with and intermingling with an endless sea of ideas, which they can draw on and gain from in such great capacity as if to exploit everything for all it’s worth. 

This allows the scientific minded atheist and skeptic to be genuinely heuristic in their quest for answers. Meanwhile, the religious devotee is stuck in the muddled up mess of faith’s politics, where the creed trumps any skeptical inquiry, and where the theories or factual evidence must be readily thrown out completely lest they become too much like their rival atheists. Sadly, it is too often the case that the dogmatist will throw out the baby with the bathwater without so much as an afterthought about the consequences of such a hasty ill-informed action. Why? Because their faith demands it of them. In every religious establishment there has been a tenet, creed, or doctrine expressly forbidding too much free thinking, always reminding believers that to walk away from the faith would have disastrous consequences. Predictably, devout followers love nothing more than to re-affirm their faith, restrict questioning to a minimum lest it breed skepticism, and thinking scientifically is only allowed insofar as one does not learn to disregard failed hypothesis in favor of better explanatory theories.

Doubt is a crippling force for religious believers, as it is a powerful tool for opening one’s mind, by forcing us to examine in detail what it is we profess to believe. Doubt is followed by curiosity, for not knowing is just too much to bare for us inquisitive humans, and so we set about searching for the answers promptly. But as the adage goes, curiosity killed the cat, and nowhere is that more true than under the banner of religious faith. Dare not go this far, dear believers, for you will turn away from faith and so it is no surprise that religious texts like the Christian Bible and Muslim Koran have safeguards in place protecting the institution of faith with scripture which condemns all kinds of heretical strands of thinking, namely different way of thinking, but most of all, condemns apostasy—a crime which is often deemed punishable as one of the greatest offenses in the realm of faith. Although, it is a curious thing, for how on earth can changing one’s mind be deemed a crime? Let alone a crime punishable by death, torture, banishment, or at the least ridicule and distrust? It seems to me tthat the punishment is disproportionate to the crime.

And if the punishment doesn’t fit the crime, and clearly this is the case where apostasy is concerned, then clearly we can be sure that religious theocrats are deliberately seeking to bolster a weakening faith, and this overcompensation has been going on for thousands of years. For why else would the ardent faith in what religious proffers to be the truth need to be safeguarded from critical thinking and inquiry, unless it wasn’t true to begin with? 

It seems to me, that the logical deduction is this: because of the self inflicted weakness of religious rationality, or weak rationality, the religious proponent simply can’t go toe to toe with the stronger rationalists, whether they are atheists, free thinkers, humanists, or something other. Quite truthfully, because the rationalist is allowed access to all human knowledge accumulated up till now, as well as all which is still forthcoming, they are in a better position to argue from a standpoint of knowing. The religious person of faith, however, is in a sad state of affairs, for his shoelaces are tied, and more often than not he is not allowed unbridled access to the same bulwark of human knowledge. Furthermore, the believer is specifically instructed to reject potentially dangerous theories and facts in favor of maintaining the institution of faith, even if this should breed ignorance rather than bring enlightenment. The sacrifice of intellectual honesty, if you ask me, is far too great to bear.

Thus, whenever a believer and a nonbeliever debate about the implications of religious faith, we can be sure that the religious proponent is instantly inflicted with a self-imposed handicap, one which they cannot overcome, otherwise they would turn into the very doubting Thomas heretics they detest.


An Example 
An example of weak rationality would be as such: William Lane Craig, a popular Christian apologist famous for the Kalam cosmological argument [the Kalam cosmological argument being a variation of the cosmological argument that argues for the existence of a Sufficient Reason or First Cause for the universe. Its origins can be traded to both medieval Christian and Muslim thinkers] might be able to concede that his cosmological theories are not well enough informed and have grown outdated, but he will never concede that the big bang “singularity” never actually occurred as he thinks it did, not even if science can reveal that Craig’s theory is altogether predicated on incorrect, if not wholly inaccurate, information. 


Admittedly, this would make Craig’s Kalam cosmological argument, a favorite among apologists, completely a false premise. Therefore, believer’s like Craig allow their dogmatic convictions to force them into holding on to antiquated and outmoded theories precisely because they appear to enhance his faith, and without them his faith would be that much more difficult to sustain (as if it was sustainable to begin with). Regardless of whether or not such a conviction is “sufficient” reason to maintain a devotional allegiance to any single belief, oddly it seems, the cosmological argument Craig developed in the late 70’s, which may have been sound back then with the limited knowledge available to cosmologists at the time, but now has the opposite effect as the wealth of newly discovered cosmological knowledge today detracts from his faith, in spite of what Craig and others might think. The Kalam cosmological argument is now void expressly because modern cosmology has proven that the big bang was not a once off event, and this proves the theological conjecture of a first cause entirely wrong.

Luckily for us atheists, however, there is more than enough evidence which, as a matter of fact, with great precision shows that the big bang was a real event which happened 13.7 billion years ago, and more than this, cosmologists have discovered that the big bang is one of many, perhaps an infinite cycle, of universe catalysts and inflationary incidents. Craig’s idea of a one off “singularity” that corresponds with the account in Genesis of his faith’s holy book, low and behold, has been completely falsified. That is, his theological premise is untenable. How does William Lane Craig account for this startling evidence which negates his first cause assertion? He doesn’t. Why? Because Craig’s holy book has no account of it, nor can it adequately explain what we now know. 

Venturing a guess, though, I predict that someone as well versed in rhetoric as Craig is will one day try and back peddle furiously, as many apologists are want to do when pressed into a corner (and after the fact), and state parsimoniously that the Bible doesn’t mention whether or not God might have created numerous prior big bangs or not, appealing to what we already know, that if God is anything like believers like Craig believe him to be then God is unknowable, and he'll likely add that we just can’t know for certain what God's plan could possibly be, that it’s just impossible to tell for sure. And from his faith based perspective that may even be true, but that’s filling a gap in our current understanding with the idea of God. 

The bottom line is, it’s insufficient precisely because it is a God of the gaps type argument. It explains nothing, but instead, brings up more questions than it can possibly answer while attempting desperately to safeguard the faith with diversionary tactics which always lead back to a currently (but not necessarily indefinite) unexplainable event. This is a defensive position, and ultimately, perhaps the only position for one who ignores the merits of strong rationality in favor of weak rationality simply because weak rationality is less provoking and doesn’t put their faith into conflict like strong rationality does.

Although, I don’t think I need to point out that an atheistic thinker has no such qualms; and if the big bang should one day in the future be proved to be entirely different from what we know now, or else prove to be altogether false, it has no direct impact on what the atheist is allowed to accept as the truth or how deeply they can continue inquiring about the truth of the matter. 

Christians, however, have to stop investigating the truth when the truth becomes apparently in favor of the atheistic outlook—that is to say, when the evidence begins to show favoritism toward a Godless universe, then the Christian has no alternative but to reroute the conversation, taking many detours, before finally settling for a God of the gaps defensive. 

Or to put it another way, if science or philosophy or any other way of thinking should lead toward unbelief, perchance initiate a sustainable nonbelief, the Christian must abandon the search for truth totally. Especially if the evidence compounds to show 1) religious belief is inadequate in light of better understanding, 2) and skepticism is bred via hard won proof and scientific advancement which, 3) contradicts the holy text or otherwise makes it more incomprehensible or unfeasible as a consequence, and 5) shows that God may altogether be nonexistent, or, that God is provably imaginary and that the idea of God is not easily sustainable given what we do know. 

I would like to remind the reader that the atheist is free to carry on carrying on in her search for answers without having to worry about such complications. In fact, atheist rationalists gladly welcome such complications, because it is a good sign that a theory or idea is lacking or is insufficient, and it challenges free thinking atheists to think more deeply about what it is they believe by examining their beliefs more carefully and fully. 


Conclusion
In conclusion, the atheist and rationalist are traversing the high road towards strong rationality and better understanding all the time. Regrettably, however, the religious person of faith is stuck combating their restrictions as well as dodging the bullet of raison d'etre, which would shoot down their beliefs and stop them dead in their tracks, and so they are forced to do the only thing a pious person of faith can do in such a situation, retreat, count their losses while refusing to admit defeat, and then boast to their comrades about how victorious they were as they spread the propaganda about how their enemy fled in awful terror—thus riling up the troops and getting the zealots worked up into a frenzy for one last hurrah against the superior adversary. The truth being, the opposition’s arms and stockpiles are growing vaster by the day—so much so that it’s not so much going to be a battle between David and Goliath as it is going to be a fight between David and Godzilla.

Strong rationalism, as defined earlier, offers the atheist a more satisfactory means of explanation of how things work, lends a better understanding of the natural world and all it entails, and yields real world results which enhance and sustain our secular convictions such as humanism and naturalism, just to name a couple. Religious apologetics, however, is not up to the task of combating or even dealing with the never ending onslaught of new data, and must work vigorously to avoid, or else denies every scientific discovery which seeks to dethrone faith from its pedestal of exaltation, thus take it down, bringing the supernatural into the realm of the natural where it stand no chance against the mighty forces of reason and intellect honed for generations by rationalists, skeptics, and atheists. Unless God makes himself known to us today in a surprising comeback, I think it’s safe to say who the future champion in this no holds barred, knock down drag out, fight between religion and atheism will be. Clearly, atheism has the upper hand—and a weary and beaten down religious faith can only win by a miraculous KO, and only if God steps in to do it for them. And I ask you friends… what are the chances of that happening?




Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Quote of the Day & A.C. Grayling




"Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so." --Bertrand Russell


Friday, December 11, 2009

The Cake is NOT a Lie!!!

What kind of music do atheists listen to? All kinds. Here's one of my favorite performers, look Jonathan Coulton up on iTunes or find him on YouTube. He's excellent.



And a quote from Richard Carrier I came across today:

Now, when we look at the few remaining gaps, honestly, what are the odds that this horse is suddenly going to lose those races, when it has won every other race before this one, and no competing horse has ever won even a single race? Prior probability is clearly heavily on the side of natural facts. The same cannot be said of God.

And that's the difference between rational metaphysics and "god of the gaps" argumentation. The latter almost always relies on a repeated fallacy of possibilities ergo probabilities, "possibly, therefore probably." If any possible explanation can be conceived, the theist then simply assumes that that explanation is then probable. That's wholly invalid and irrational. We go with what is genuinely, demonstrably the most probable. And that just happens to be naturalism.



And one for the road, since the gals are liberal enough, although I don't know what their "religious" beliefs entail, by the lyrics on "Taking the Long Way" I'd say they're past agnosticism and leaning towards nonbelief/reason. Regardless, you can't say no to damn good music.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Thank God for the Inequality of Women




 Religion’s Role in Oppressing Women

“Do you not know that you are each an Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age: the guilt must of necessity live too. You are the Devil's gateway: You are the unsealer of the forbidden tree: You are the first deserter of the divine law: You are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God's image, man. On account of your desert even the Son of God had to die.” –Tertullian

“Organized religion always has been and remains the greatest enemy of women’s rights.” –Annie Laurie Gaylor

One restless night I remember staying up unable to sleep and to bide my time I began to surf the Internet. Suddenly, I stumbled upon an interesting online video concerning a rather controversial subject matter. It was a heated news discussion between the boisterous blue-eyed Bill O’Reilly of Fox News and the busty American porn-star Jenna Jameson. At first I was intrigued, the conservative Bill O’Reilly interviewing the rather liberal Jameson—who just so happens to be the most popular Adult Video idol in America. As I watched I found, to my astonishment, that Jenna Jameson was not a floozy but an intelligent and impressively articulate woman who held her own in the ‘No Spin Zone’. This led me to click open a link to an Entertainment channel documentary on the American porn-star and I watched curiously as Jenna Jameson recapped her life and carrier choices. The E! Channel documentary was entirely professional, as it was made for television, and it was thoroughly engaging. 
The show began with multiple interviewees attesting to the lifestyle and world of adult film making, a fourteen billion dollar a year industry in America alone.[i]  Continuing to watch with curiosity I became completely horrified when, one of the more virulent guests, the fork tongued Reverend Lou Sheldon, Chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition, came on and not only lambasted Jenna’s lifestyle but also condemned her to hell.  Who could hold such contempt for someone he’d never met, never seen (to my knowledge), and didn’t even know?  I thought that was going a bit overboard with the crazy damning and finger wagging. Come on, I get it, certainly no old fashioned conservative religious leader is going to appreciate Jenna’s line of work, not openly anyway, nor will conservative types likely approve of her profession, but give the girl a break!  Yet only a bona fide fool wouldn’t be able to see how the reverend’s words echo the Church’s own sexist, anti-woman, and chauvinist oriented hierocracy.  Annie Laurie Gaylor, feminist crusader and founder of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, has stated:
The various Christian churches fought tooth and nail against the advancement of women, opposing everything from women’s right to speak in public, to the use of anesthesia in childbirth (since the bible says women must suffer in childbirth) and woman’s suffrage. Today the most organized and formidable opponent of women’s social, economic and sexual rights remains organized religion.[ii]

What is wrong is to expect any woman to die a horrible death and face everlasting torture for the crime of being a female who enjoys sex. Regardless of what sexophobic religious scoundrels may remark upon, whatever Jenna Jameson has done it is far less repugnant than the spiteful contempt and petty personal digs of the sanctimonious.  Further still, Jameson’s lascivious actions are far less threatening and shocking than the historical and continued crimes of religion against the female.
As Rev. Sheldon confirmed with wild eye zeal that Jameson would burn an eternity in hell, I found it was pretty obvious that Mr. Sheldon didn’t believe in Christian compassion, because I recall Jesus Christ of the Gospels saying, “Judge not lest ye’ be judged.”[iii] Everyone knows that if you don’t follow the teachings of Christ, or at least try to, you’re not a real Christian. This haranguing verbal attack proved the reverend to be no decent Christian at all. Even so, the noxious hate of the reverend begs the question: does this intolerance represent his personal character or, perhaps, does it show the ideological influences behind his shortness of patience when it comes to beautiful women with a sexual nature? If it’s him personally that is crooked, then his religion will likely forgive him for such failings. Yet if it’s his religious convictions that are at fault, then he will be respected for being loyal to his ideologies no matter how repulsive or vile or hateful toward others they may be. Either way, the reverend gets to act badly without as much as a strict reprimanding. 
Mr. Sheldon should have left it at the part where he ridiculed a beautiful young woman for liking sex (so what if she likes a lot of sex?  What’s it to him?), and making sex films, but his tirade of Jenna didn’t end there.  It was obvious that the reverend, although I see nothing worth revering in such a wicked man, positively reveled in the fact that Jenna Jameson would endure torture and pain in a fictional place called hell.[iv] The sparkle in his eye and the relish to which he affirmed her terrible doom is all the proof we need to show that he hoped hell was all too real.  Call me a compassionate humanist, but I do not enjoy religious fanatics calling for death sentences on anyone.



I’d assume, to a person with half a heart, such threats would be more than unnerving—especially after 9/11 when we became mortified that religious beliefs continue to be enacted in such a way as to inflict the maximum suffering of so many innocent lives. It didn’t help matters that my younger brother lived just several blocks from the World Trade Center when it collapsed either. Religious threats, after that ground shaking event, have always set me on guard. 
It is strange to me that so many believers like to use hell as a bargaining chip.  First and foremost, this seems very “un-Christian-like” behavior to preemptively judge others by assuming they are undeserving or that it is too late for them. It appears that Jesus’ words, “You who are without sin, cast the first stone…”[v] all too often goes ignored, most of all by Christians. More than this brutish bullying, what really irks me is how these holy rollers always seem to enjoy the power of defamation and the ability to slander someone with the security of knowing that—because they are religious—they are untouchable. Should such malicious malcontent be sheltered from our disgust and critical reprimanding? Should we allow such immunity for the fowl mouthed religious?  It would be an injustice if we didn’t tell those who like to damn beautiful young women to hell for the made up offense of their gender to politely shut the “hell” up. 
  We do not have to agree with Jenna Jameson’s professional choices or lifestyle to know the reverend acted inappropriately. In any case, I have the sneaking suspicion that Jenna didn’t feel at all burdened by the reverend’s red faced hullabaloo. After all, I doubt she’s feeling much weighed down by the success and freedom she has gained by setting up her own company, taking control of her life, making her own choices, being independent and forward thinking, being an outspoken feminist, not to mention a savvy business woman (and now a loving mother too).[vi]  Although one might not agree with her on all fronts, nor do I expect them to,[vii] surely we can admire her for her independent spirit and gusto! If we can’t admire the good in her, then what does that say about ourselves? 
Let’s not forget that it was primarily because of uneducated chauvinist male pigs in the first place that women were so oppressed that they had no other choice but to seek jobs which sold their flesh (or even the ‘image’ of flesh) to men. Men who created religion, men who enforced more than oppressive restrictions on women, men who dominated women, men who sold and bought the services of women. If righteous men really want to solve the abuse of sex as entertainment then a good place to start would be by treating women better, period.[viii] Religion is sexist for the simple reason that it is man-made and vilifies a woman’s individual integrity and worth by treating her like chattel and then keeping a dominion over her where she is withheld an education and denied her own liberty and freedom of expression. Such outmoded first century considerations of women, more often than not, are aided and abetted by defective religious creeds and the pompous men of faith who are guilty of collaborating in instituting and regulating such criminally oppressive anti-woman polemics.[ix] Whether it is Islamic shiria law or age old Judaic customs which maintain the patriarchal scheme of religion, women are at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to the granting of equal rights.  At this point, it should not escape our attention that it’s not so much a religious debate anymore as it seems to become a human rights issue.
What follows then is an explanation for why impositions against the female have traditionally been ushered forth, or else entirely backed, by religious thought and patriarchal attitudes stemming out of the credulous religious myths of Monotheism. The observable treatment of women by religion throughout the ages, as I hope to show, is evidence which undoubtedly shows that religion is entirely manmade and does not offer equality for all, is based on archaic attitudes stemming from religious myth, and is evidence that God does not exist—precisely because it stems to reason that a just and loving God would not allow a religion to prosper which maltreats his beloved creation, especially that of the discrimination women have customarily received within their own faiths. Because the Abrahamic God of Christians, Muslims, and Jews sides exclusively with the male point of view, as you might expect, depicts a less than divine entity and shows a simple and sexist agenda behind the creation and regulation of God’s nepotism.



Woman’s rights advocate Annie Laurie Gaylor offers some insights about where religious sexism and intolerance of women stems from, fuming:
Because the bible is a handbook for the subjugation of women. The bible establishes woman’s inferior status, her “uncleanliness,” her transgressions, and God-ordained master/servant relationship to man. Biblical women are possessions: fathers own them, sell them into bondage, even sacrifice them.  The bible sanctions rape during wartime and in other contexts.  Wives are subject to Mosaic-law sanctioned “bedchecks” as brides, and male jealousy fits and no-notice divorce as wives. The most typical biblical labels of women are “harlot” and “whore.” They are described as having evil, even satanic powers of allurement.  Contempt for women’s bodies and reproductive capacity is a bedrock of the bible. The few role models offered are stereotyped, conventional and inadequate, with bible heroines admired for obedience and battle spirit.[x]

Religious holy books and creeds, in fact the very articles of faith people derive their beliefs from also contain some of the most potent recipe for gender inequality. One only need read the areas concerning female society roles in any religious book to know this is a sad fact.

Biblical Bias: Impositions against the Female
Forced inequality, oppression, death, rape, and torture of others are all things which human beings inflict upon one another. To rape a woman and find a religious justification to excuse the crime is most certainly a man-made excuse. If God ever did command his followers to rape their neighbor’s daughter, or kill an unbeliever simply because, or to perform any other immoral crime, we would be justified in telling that God to go straight to hell (since he made it especially for wrong doers, after all). 
Although, if the verses found in our holy books are any indication, we can assume that since God has turned a blind eye to such acts of barbarism and hasn’t struck such sinful offenders down, he either approves or is indifferent to the suffering of mortal men, women and children. That is only if he’s not altogether non-existent. And so, noticing this absence of righteous wrath for crimes against humanity religious leaders have deemed, speaking on God’s behalf (since he remains absent), that fifty pieces of silver is good enough to suffice as a supplement for the criminal offense of assault, violation, and rape.[xi] In Deuteronomy 22:28-29, it states: “If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered,  he shall pay the girl’s father fifty shekels of silver.  He must marry the girl, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.” 
Not only must the woman subject herself to abuse, but as a trophy prize she must endure the humiliation of being stuck with the rapist as his spoils.[xii] Furthermore, the woman must submit to her attacker and be forced to marry him without ever being allowed the chance of freedom or independence. Being bought as chattel and placed into the servitude of an abusive master isn’t just inhumane, it’s downright contemptible. This is why human trafficking is universally prohibited here in the twenty-first century. Only after the fact of the crime of rape, which according to religion isn’t about the woman’s rights but about the offense of theft of a man’s property (as the Tenth Commandment is evidence of), and being forced into an inescapable and violent bondage to a brutal monster who takes pleasure in the battery, rape, and sexual abuse of women is the “justice” of the Bible and God.[xiii] To believe the Bible is “God’s word” is to believe such despicable nonsense.
In an earlier verse, Deuteronomy 22:23-24, it calls for the death of both the rapist and the victim, because this is fair retribution in God’s eyes. But God is obviously forgetting that the victim didn’t do anything wrong. The injustice has happened to her; this is why she is called a victim. Many Christians cite that the lone positive verse in Deuteronomy 22:25-28 is a viable defense of the other (multiple) criminally negligent verses, since it claims the woman shall be left unharmed and the man who committed the crime shall be sentenced to death (contradicting the earlier verse). This I would suggest is common sense, but does this one verse come to the defense of women all too late?  The harm is already done.
It seems to me that to believe one compassionate verse tucked under the myriad of horrifying ones undoes all of their hostility is a leap in logic, let alone an obvious sign of overly wishful thinking. One right does not outweigh the many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many wrongs. In context, it is clear that one moral verse does not override the previous ten which condone the most heinous crimes imaginable against another human being, namely, rape, slavery, and murder. God is either contradicting himself on a biblical scale, or as I would caution, we are looking at laws created by godless men in a godless world—and for that reason this man-made religion has contradictions while giving permission for crimes which only men would willingly commit.



Iniquity against the Female: A Religious Legacy
From the onset religious powers have attempted to strip a woman of her dignity and any means to self actualization, freedom, education, expression, and independence.[xiv]  When women weren’t allowed such freedoms they either took the abuse bending over, or turned to prostitution where they were paid to, not as a last resort but more out of the necessity for survival in a patriarchal world filled with manmade rules.  Those who did not comply with the religious authorities were unjustly murdered.  Whether it was the lady Hypatia of Alexandria, a noble woman mathematician and philosopher (circa 370 CE), who was attacked by a mob of Christians, stripped naked, and dragged through the streets to the newly Christianized Caesareum church, where she was flayed, set ablaze, and then brutally killed; or the fate of the legendary St. Joan of Arc who met a similar fate after being framed by Church authorities for crimes she did not commit; such tribulations offer a glimpse of the sad affairs women have had to suffer and endure over the course of history.
As we will see, most manmade religion shows favoritism almost exclusively to the male, is sexist, and often acts deplorably in executing chauvinistic decrees which oppress and abuse women and the rights of women. This limited scope of thinking, the backwards customs of egocentric bronzed aged patriarchs, along with the brutish prejudice and the fear of women is commonplace among the most fundamental religious faiths. The problem is that this sad state of affairs continues to be prevalent in most major religions today. 
Though it is wrong to oppress someone in such a way that seeks to hold them back and make them second-class citizens, religion has excelled in doing just that.  Though it is wrong to hold women to unfair standards, such as ritualistic practices that men do not equally share the burden of, for instance veiling their head and face and having to hide themselves from public sight, religion continues to make these unfair (and often unethical) demands of women. But it should not surprise us knowing the religious propensity to do away with women either by trying to make them invisible to society, as if they never existed, by shrouding them in unfavorable attire, or by jailing them for such absurd offenses as not wearing the proper garments, or else or by locking them up in some horrible place such as Magdalene Asylums.[1]  
The underlying problem is that such dread of the opposite sex always seems to permeate the mainstream religious ideologies themselves, thus for several millennia, women have been at the mercy of cruel chauvinistic men of high ranking power within religious regimes which foster an irrational fear of the female sex. Such an overwhelming and unnaturally developed fear leads to intolerance, and intolerance leads to hate, and this irrational hate is the byproduct of religious attitudes rooted in doctrinal beliefs. But why does religion have an inherent phobia of women at all?



The Bible says we are created in God’s image, but according to religion this isn’t good enough. Christopher Hitchens, the author of god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything also points out another shortcoming of religion when it comes to women—not to forget sex—as religion so often seems to nurture this inescapable scorn and fear of the female anatomy. Religion has so vehemently treated the fair opposite sex abusively, and has viewed reproduction as a one way street as if the female anatomy was something grotesque.[xv] Readily, religion makes the claims women are “unclean” and so it bans them from religious ceremony and other rights and allots positions of leadership and power strictly to men. How is it that religion drives simple people mad with fear of female genitalia thus causing them to be direly apprehensive to the fact that men and women are fashioned differently out of necessary design? 
In his book Hitchens mentions a few good points, none of them good for religion.  One of his points being that it is strange, strange indeed, that this design of humanity which is said to be created in the image of God so often succumbs to the gruesome rituals of mutilating the genitalia of women and small children in outmoded acts of superstitious ritual. In order to make us, who are supposedly created in God’s divine image, just a little bit better via medieval rituals we as infants must face a violent barbaric ritual of circumcision. All this trouble since, apparently, we weren’t God-like enough when we are made in his image. 
I don’t know about you but I for one think hacking away at God’s divinely created image would not be the best way of improving it.  In fact, it may be insulting to the God who took the time and loving effort to create us in his image in the first place; if you believe in that sort of thing.  If the theological counterclaim is that this ‘image’ was a metaphor for the human ‘spirit’ then why not finish the job and get rid of the whole body and do up a human sacrifice right?  No, that’s going too far, but when has religion ever stopped at going just a tad too far? 
Where religion is concerned it announces that we are made in God’s image and then in obedience to this God’s demand for symbolic sacrifice zealotry compels the devout to proceed to chop, cut, hack, bite, tear, and rip the flesh from that “divine” image reminiscent of a Vincent Van Gogh-esque attempt at improvement. Thus following outmoded holy traditions a faithful follower’s initial reaction upon seeing a beautiful soft bundle of a newborn babe is to hack at its genitals to make God happy! If you can’t see the problem in this, then I’m afraid the argument is wasted. I believe this was the gist of Hitchens’ point regarding the rabbinical ritual of circumcision. I do not believe he meant it in the sense that all circumcision is bad, however, since certainly there may be medical reasons for it. But this has only been discovered after scientific advances in modern medicine. In the context of religion it is undeniably a barbaric practice. Moreover, traditional circumcision was not based on medical research but developed out of pure religious superstition. Christopher Hitchens is quite right to remind us of this upsetting fact, as well as point out the glaring immorality of the act—to mutilate the gentiles of defenseless babies in order to appease God—is a cruel and barbaric act.



Murder of a Patron Saint: Why it’s not alright to be Female according to Religion
For the very same dangers that compel religion to harm and oppress women is the very same danger of why taking scripture literally—even allegorically—is not good if the scripture is defunct or the person reading it is.  You may say, yes, fine—let’s get rid of that bit of demeaning verses, appalling customs, or adverse religious thinking and practices, but first, we would have to get rid of our belief in talking snakes. 
In the helpful essay “Mary Magdalene and the Disciple Jesus Loved,” Esther A. de Boer points out the constant Biblical urge to suppress females and force them into submissive roles under the authority of the male.  Please excuse the substantial, yet important quote in which Boer reveals: 
In several canonical first century letters wives are encouraged to be submissive to their husbands, while the husbands are told to love their wives (Ephesians 5:21-33; Colossians 3:18-19; 1 Peter 3:1-7). Paul, when demanding that women wear veils when praying or prophesying (1 Corinthians 11:1-16), argues that the reason for this is that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a woman is her husband and the head of Christ is God. However, later in the argument he changes from wives to woman in general, referring to the creation: “For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.” (1 Corinthians 11:8-9) In addition, while 1 Peter 3:1-7 refers to the submissiveness of Sarah to Abraham, in 1 Timothy 2:1-11 the creation analogy is used again: “For Adam was formed first, then Eve,” continuing thus “and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” The author concludes that a woman has to learn with all submissiveness: “I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men: she is to keep silent.” This text and the perhaps non-Pauline text in 1 Corinthians 14:34-36 about women who are to keep silent in the assemblies 29 were quoted again and again in the centuries that followed to emphasize that women are not allowed to have authority over men.[xvi]

The fourth century blind theologian Didymas also reiterates this Christian tradition of suppressing women in his comments reflecting an all too prejudiced way of generally thinking at the time:
But in Scripture there are no books written in their (women’s) name. On the contrary, the Apostle says in First Timothy, “I do not permit women to teach,” and again in First Corinthians, “Every woman who prays or prophesies with uncovered head dishonors her head.” He means that he does not permit a woman to write books impudently, on her own authority, nor to teach in the assemblies, because, by doing so, she offends her head, man: for “the head of woman is man, and the head of man is Christ.” The reason for the silence imposed on women is obvious: woman’s teaching in the beginning caused considerable havoc to the human race; for the apostle writes, “It is not the man who was deceived, but the woman.”[xvii]

Yet for thousands of years (it’s hard to believe I just said thousands) religion and the men behind it have used the Garden of Eden creation myth, what should be just a children’s fable about a talking snake, as a justification to suppress women’s social status, deprive them of an education, and consider them vile.  This is the merits of religious thinking.  And this thinking—to oppress women on religious grounds of any kind—let alone a bronzed age myth—is quite frankly cruel, irrational, and altogether ridiculous.



Yet religion is hardly ever concerned about the moral consequences of its forcefully regulated inequality of the sexes.  Men have never been forced to veil their entire bodies for fear of enticing the female’s uncontrollable sexual desire to abuse and rape him, while women surely have experienced such pains.  Men have never been forced to undergo violent genital mutilation to keep themselves submissive and afraid of the opposite gender by having an unruly gang of women whack off his testicles and penis against his will, when women have experienced such gruesomely irreversible and psychologically damaging horrors in the name of faith (even though Jesus was a proponent of castration—an embarrassing fact for pro-life Christians). 
To my knowledge no man has ever been denied access into a place of worship even as his erection may be protruding from his thick robes, whereas for the facts of nature, women have not only been denied access but have been sent home unable to question why a man’s reproductive right is unquestionably welcomed but a woman’s is deemed dirty and grotesque.  No man has ever had to suffer being married against his will to a domineering or unloving wife forty years his senior, but many women have suffered this lamentable fate.  These are but just a few observations we could make in noticing how religion so unfairly treats women. 
Yes, men and women are different, but that doesn’t mean we can grant the male more liberties while stripping the female of her every dignity simply for being different.  That’s sexism, and the sick twisted world according to religious custom.  But human rights and gender equality calls us to actively search for a higher standard of equality than what religion offers.
St. Joan of Arc may not have been abused and branded a heretic by religious men if they had not so wickedly despised women so much.  I would venture to guess that if Joan of Arc were a man, and not just posing as one, she would not have been framed for the arcane punishment of wearing men’s clothing and then discriminatorily burned alive at the stake for her visions and prophesying.  In The Catholic Encyclopedia (Volume VIII) in the article St. Joan of Arc we find the startling account of her trial and of the many absurd reasons for her death.  It states:
Undoubtedly her position would now, in case of a relapse, be worse than before, for no second retractation could save her from the flames. Moreover, as one of the points upon which she had been condemned was the wearing of male apparel, a resumption of that attire would alone constitute a relapse into heresy, and this within a few days happened, owing, it was afterwards alleged, to a trap deliberately laid by her jailers with the connivance of Cauchon. Joan, either to defend her modesty from outrage, or because her women's garments were taken from her, or, perhaps, simply because she was weary of the struggle and was convinced that her enemies were determined to have her blood upon some pretext, once more put on the man's dress which had been purposely left in her way. The end now came soon. On 29 May a court of thirty-seven judges decided unanimously that the Maid must be treated as a relapsed heretic, and this sentence was actually carried out the next day (30 May, 1431) amid circumstances of intense pathos.[xviii]

More expressly, if she were male, she may have ushered in a new religious era and started a movement so great that it might have altered the course of history and Christianity as we know it.  If Paul of Tarsus can fall down on a dusty dirt road on his way to Damascus and epileptically shake about and proclaim his visions came from God, and if the Prophet Muhammad can fall down in a damp cave and flop about like a fish out of water and proclaim his visions came from God, then why can’t Joan of Arc fall down into an open grassy field and claim the same?  But alas, she was made an inferior female!  And for this crime of gender, she was beaten, broken, burned, blackmailed, and betrayed then martyred, and finally, dismissed into the annals of history as simply an absorbing bit of Christian trivia. This is the type of respect and appreciation religious women have customarily received.



Why Does Religion Hate Women? 
If you believe this mistreatment of women was all in the past, then I beg you to recall the poor Muslim women in Sudan jailed for the crime of wearing pants (the same “crime” the martyred Joan of Arc was burned alive at the stake for), all the while women in Egypt and other parts of the Muslim world, women like Ayaan Hirsi Ali relays her suffering along with those who have been the victims of the faith based practice of female genital mutilation. 
Pointing out the hypocrisy in which religion venerates the male but devalues the female is the once Fundamentalist Preacher turned born-again-Atheist Dan Barker, co-founder of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, and author of the book godless.  In his devastating rebuttal against religion, Barker reminds us that even Jesus upheld the Old Testament view of women, observing: 
Not a single woman was chosen to be among the 12 disciples or to sit at the Last Supper.  This is cited as one of the reasons the pope does not approve of ordaining women.  But does he forget that the disciples, besides being male, were also all Jews?  How can there be an Italian, Polish or German pope, an Irish bishop or a Mexican priest?[xix]

Again, it’s painfully obvious such a pretense exists because of the man-made nature of religion.  That such injustice is continued to be allowed is despicable.  Indeed, in the course of human history to get past cultural prejudices has never been easy, certainly it has been a great impediment to those who preach in an all loving God, but religion in my experience has routinely sought to reinforce such prejudices not abolish them. 
So much inhumane and sexist treatment has not only been used by religion to keep women subservient, but time and time again, religious authorities have not only implemented but preserved and shamelessly defended the most barbaric forms of chauvinism and sexism aimed at disparaging women and selfishly empowering their own egos, and have had the gull to call such ruthless proclamations God-given law.  Such abuse of authority and attacks leveled against the integrity and intrinsic value of women has existed since the beginning of man-made faiths.
As expected, many women all throughout history have had no other choice but to resort to sex, as it is almost certain that men saw to it that religion posed such strict restrictions on being a woman that it made it all but impossible for a woman to survive independently unless she catered to men’s instinctual desires.[xx] It is no coincidence that the more egalitarian and stable a society is and the more rights women acquire, including the freedom to work, the more she plays an active role in society the less religious those societies become.[xxi] Whereas the more a woman is restricted by religious law, and dictated to by the established patriarchies, the more extreme religious impositions against the female become in that culture.
How can religion—which is part of the problem—backhandedly tell women that this desperation to survive against the odds is sinfully wrong? Yet such irreversible damage has been done by years of Biblical misinterpretation and misapplication, and such sexist male chauvinism permeates Judaic, Christian and Islamic attitudes towards women and has inherently allowed for the degradation of the female for the past several millenniums. 
Those women who in the course of history persisted to think for themselves were most certainly blacklisted, spat on, burnt alive, or undesirably stoned.  It doesn’t matter how many women were murdered at the Salem Witch Trials in the name of religion, even just one was one too many. Nowadays for women to turn this subjection, sexual oppression and abuse around and take control of their sexual lives, who but for the high and mighty sanctimonious would dare preach it is wrong to shed the oppressive hand of patriarchal domination?  But the bigotry is still alive and kicking today. 
Jimmy Carter, the 39th President of the United States and a believing Christian, recently severed his ties with the Southern Baptist Convention over the fact that the Christian denomination recently voted that women must be subservient to men, are inferior, and that under no circumstances should women be allowed to serve as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service.  For Carter, a human rights proponent striving for the advancement of human rights and winner of the 2002 Nobel Peace prize, this religious narrow-mindedness was enough to outrage his humanitarian spirit and sparked his immediate scorn.
This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. It is widespread. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths…  Nor, tragically, does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple. This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women's equal rights across the world for centuries. The male interpretations of religious texts and the way they interact with, and reinforce, traditional practices justify some of the most pervasive, persistent, flagrant and damaging examples of human rights abuses.[xxii]

Not to learn from history and to have religion still making this tired out rant against women who show even the slightest sexual independence two thousand plus years later demonstrates how sectarian religion is; and shows that behind God is a concealed deity of phallic worship and the hidden agenda of male supremacy.[xxiii] Risking a lifetime of tyranny and forsaking all civil liberty and equality for the chance that there is a place in hell reserved for people we don’t agree with, such as female porn stars (as religious bigots like Sheldon hope for), is a sick and twisted fantasy I don’t want any part of.  We don’t have the right to dictate how people live in their private lives and only retain a little leeway to suggest how they might live in their public ones.



In the Name of Religion: Continued Impositions and Crimes against the Female
In Australia a Muslim man named Abdul Reda Al-Shawany was recently sentenced to two accounts of assault and rape of a fellow Muslim woman seeking freedom for herself.  An Australian newspaper reported that the woman (unnamed citing reasons of fear for her life) had been noticed reading the Bible and Al-Shawany, a complete stranger, didn’t approve of her contact with Christians and threatened to kill her, in what he deemed would be halal—meaning the woman’s killer would go to heaven for the honor killing—if she continued further contact with the “infidels.”[xxiv]
According to the article, Al-Shawany lured the woman to a secluded farm claiming to have news about her family’s situation in Iraq.  Accompanying him of her own volition the unsuspecting young woman appealed to hear more from Al-Shawany for fear of distressing news concerning her loved ones.  However, the poor Muslim woman suddenly became the victim of Al-Shawany and his accomplice’s brutal attacks (both men Muslim). The assaulted woman was violently hit on her head, had her hijab tied around her face to smother her, and the perpetrators raped her twice in a degrading, humiliating and vicious attack.  Yet to our horror, we find, this wasn’t even the woman’s greatest fear. According to the accosted woman she informed authorities of a rather deeper gut wrenching terror, arguing that, she was afraid she would be killed, either in retribution or in an honor killing.
Consider that even amid the overwhelming violence inflicted upon her female gender she is neither safe nor free since, even more upsetting than the irrational prejudice is the religious mandate that her husband is obligated to kill her, or else her brother or her uncle or her father can kill her, without question by invoking the right of honor killings.  Honor killings come about not only by the misapplication of religious doctrine but also because much of the male-egocentric rules found in religion which seek to bolster male dominion and arrogance while strangling womanly independence and having her suffer into a state of subservient humiliation in the name of God’s “fairness.” If she does not comply she will be forced to suffer death and the wrath of Allah. This provocation of fear is an outright terrorist tactic which tribal minded thugs cannot help but rely upon because of their belief that it is their duty bound obligation to follow, down to the letter, the one true word of God.  
For the poor victim in the article, all this fear and abuse came about for the “crime” of reading another culture’s religious holy book.  Yet nowhere does the Qur’an cite that reading the Bible is a crime.  If fact the Qur’an admits that Jews and Christians are “People of the Book.”[xxv] Which book? God’s book. Beyond this distinction the Qur’an merely cautions Muslim believers to avoid taking the “Christian” scriptures at face value since apparently it has been corrupted by human hands. 
Even so, it is a common belief in Islamic culture that to put one’s faith into the teachings of a corrupted text other than that of the “perfect” Qur’an, such an act becomes a traitorous heresy and the crime of apostasy.  To then be convinced in this new text, and coincidentally, leave the Muslim faith and defect from one religious ideology only to uphold another “heretical” or dissenting ideology, in Islam, carries with it a severe punishment of death.



Not only has Islam struggled to renounce its severe practices of punishment for assumed crimes against doctrinal faith, it has also been slow to take diplomatic strides to convincingly show an equality of the sexes which boosts women’s social worth within Islamic society.  In fact, in most instances, it has divisively done the opposite by promoting inequality among the sexes as it unashamedly categorizes men and women according to a patriarchal maintained, if not designed, system of religion.  The ill-treatment of women is a standard affair in some parts of the world today, but what cannot go overlooked, is that it is mostly instigated by pious men of faith.  Sam Harris has this to say on the controversial issue:
What can we say about this behavior? Can we say that Middle Eastern men who are murderously obsessed with female sexual purity actually love their wives, daughters, and sisters less than American or European men do? Of course we can… Where’s the proof that these men are less capable of love than the rest of us? Well, where would the proof be if a person behaved this way in our own society? Where’s the proof that the person who shot JFK didn’t really love him? All the proof we need came from the book depository.  We know how the word “love” functions in our discourse. We have all felt love, have failed to feel it, and have occasionally felt its antithesis. Even if we don’t harbor the slightest sympathy for their notion of “honor,” we know what these honor killers are up to—and it is not a matter of expressing their love for the women in their lives.[xxvi]

In certain Islamic countries and in any country which degrades the equality of women and actively seeks to oppress them, perversely, it appears the woman is far better off in the hands of her assailants than those who should be compelled by their inverse ethical standards of compassion—who should not come to her defense but, to her great horror, come to finish the job her aggressors started. 
Yet the nightmarish truth is that in cultures which borrow heavily from dogmatic laws rooted in tribalism and superstition entire groups or factions have been known to peddle in the sinister dehumanization of a woman’s worth.  Most often they ensure dominion by force, simultaneously trading in her value in exchange for power over her gender, and by making her into an undesirable ‘product’ to be discarded of when she has served her purpose of breeding.  Underage marriage, arranged marriage, and polygamy are all side effects of treating women like chattel instead of equally as human beings.  Thus a woman’s subsequent subjugation is secured by the very religious customs she may uphold. 
This lamentable scenario, as awful as it is, cannot be avoided as long as people continue to read their outmoded religious texts from a fundamental perspective which dictates a literal rendition of their faith.  In other words, the literal enactment to recreate the natural world according to their rather mystifying beliefs—often accompanied by the theocratic urge and totalitarian intent to subjugate, suppress, conquer, dominate, control, if not completely vanquish those who do not share their tremendously extreme world views. It is a sad thing indeed that so many profusely believe this path is God’s undeniable will on how they should live, and that to oppose such animalistic behavior, chauvinistic and brutish laws, and reject such obviously false doctrines formulated from ancestrally inherited fallacies come with the strict penalty of death.  Here we have the distinct dilemma of not being able to abolish the inequality or violence against women until we can abolish the defunct, indeed, dangerous man-made ideals which compel it.
Al-Shawany wasn’t insane (not in the clinical sense anyway) to try and murder an innocent girl, he was merely devoted to Allah’s divine cause.  Apparently it is this sort of devotion to an overly anthropomorphic overtly masculine God, which men like Al-Shawany so blindly worship, which fills them with the impudence driven disregard for their women.  Maintaining Allah’s word, and so too maintaining an archaic form of an oppressive and sexist patriarchy, was more important to Al-Shawany than another human beings vitality and life. 
Debasing women is not a commonly acceptable practice except for within the confines of male dominated societies and under the pretext of certain religious, and or superstitious, beliefs.  Instead of seeing any patent religious atrocity in the making, indeed, oblivious to the subjugation of women and other religiously mandated crimes against humanity, many simply go about practicing the harmful elements of their faith unwittingly; or in the case of pious women, they go on accepting the harmful abuses of religion without protest since to suffer is a form of humble submission and a show of devotion to God.  The fear of what will happen if they protest too much is quite startling.  They have quite literally been convinced that their voice doesn’t matter, that they are that insignificant.  That love can only be expressed via their meekness—that is to say submissiveness—in other words by giving in. 
What other choice does a woman have other than to submit to her oppressors and love them for the mercies they grant her? Escape is impossible, or rather, she would not dare wish to escape because the consequences for her would be too horrible to imagine.   But escape seems the only truly liberating option. I for one feel that religious women who do not wish to get punished and who truly think they love God are suffering from a long term form of Stockholm syndrome. Any disillusioned woman, in her right mind, would likely not hesitate to attempt an escape from the misogynistic patriarchal faiths they are a part of and seek refuge in more liberated societies. 
This is why the notion of “religious freedom” is a misnomer since there is no such thing as freedom within religion. Indisputable freedom requires a strict egalitarianism shared among all peoples, believers as well as nonbelievers, and as we all know egalitarianism is completely missing where religion’s outlook on women is concerned.  What is more, submission to God is predicated on an all out dangerous falsity that women are inferior (or secondary) to men, and that in the end we are all inferior to God.  As such, freedom within religion is impossible.  Religious faith at we know it is entirely a male governed autocracy, and as such, we can be certain of one thing: there can only be freedom from religion.



Is Faith Conversion a viable Alternative?
Using religion as a means to debase women is, nevertheless, cruel and inhumane, not to mention detestable. To do so inevitably sponsors the precarious hope of conforming women to a masculine world view.  As in this case, I think it’s clear that it’s not that God is susceptible to man’s imperfections, but instead, manmade gods are never capable of liberating men from their own sinful passions. 
Needless to say, I fear that faith conversion to another less extreme religion, like Al-Shawany’s female victim chose to do, won’t bring her much more comfort in the long run.  If only someone had warned her about the classical preferences of the Biblical God and his people’s own excuses for the suppression, murder, rape, and debasement of women she might have had second thoughts about her conversion. In a short article entitled “How (and why) I Became an Infidel” the brilliant and eloquent Ayaan Hirsi Ali has this to say on conversion from one faith to another:
After I wrote my memoir, Infidel (published in the United States in 2007), I did a book tour in the United States.  I found that interviewers from the Heartland often asked if I had considered adopting the message of Jesus Christ.  The idea seems to be that I should shop for a better, more humane religion than Islam, rather than taking refuge in unbelief.  A religion of talking serpents and heavenly gardens?  I usually respond that I suffer from hayfever.  The Christian take on Hellfire seems less dramatic than the Muslim vision, which I grew up with, but Christian magical thinking appeals to me no more than my grandmother’s angels and djinns. …The only position that leaves me with no cognitive dissonance is atheism.[xxvii]

Flip-flopping and changing beliefs to a more humane religion, we might agree, is not the answer to the problem. The basic elements which underline the fundamental beliefs that seek to hold women back and force them into oppressive forms of despotism are the same fundamental beliefs which make up the dogmatic principles in the mainstream faiths all over the world. As we have seen, such unbecoming and sexist principles are interlaced throughout the bulk of the holy texts of the religious and cannot be easily separated or distinguished from the primary faith based tenets and convictions. 
Perhaps it is not always in ‘practice’ that we see these crimes enacted, occasionally over time the popularity and tendency to prefer one terrible act over another changes (perhaps a sign that our morality is evolving) while obsolete scriptural practices fall out of style, or else die out completely.  We don’t hunt witches any more for the very reason that we no longer are suspect that old ladies with black cats are necromantically causing nationwide famines, droughts, or hurricane Katrina.[xxviii]   But the inescapable truth is that the criminal acts found inside the pages of religious scripture consists of some unruly written laws pardoning such vile crimes (on behalf of the offender),[xxix] and that’s proof enough that the text itself is corrupt.
Women very rarely force themselves into such debasing and dehumanizing situations such as prostitution, slavery, and rape unless they’re being forced to—either circumstantially or physically. And religion is certainly guilty of perpetrating this defiling behavior.  Of all the points I am getting at in regards to religion’s role in oppressing women this next one should stand out the most—that the lust for women, power, and wealth are all things which sound distinctly like the obsessions of men and the gods created by them.



Let Freedom Reign by Stripping Away the Headscarf one Religion at a time
Naturally, religious people argue that women should wear a veil in humble submission of God’s will, or offers the preposterous notion that until religion came about they had no rights at all, so such religious compliance must somehow be good for them.  This may very well be true, for many in the third world experiencing religion for the first time it may be a more structured life, with rules and regulations, and with laws to guide you by.  But the rights people are allotted or the choices they freely make within the confines of their faith are not the problem.  The problem is that their religion will continue to confine them to that exact amount of sovereignty and no more. 
Religious men in power especially don’t like strong willed women, since they seek to destabilize the man-made hierarchy.  Such a natural opposition toward unfairness has, of course, gotten independent minded women into a hot spot on more than one occasion. The Salem Witch trials were evidence of this fact. However, to oppose the religious institutions of man has allowed women to be wrongfully hunted for the crime of heresy and witchcraft.[xxx] Yet a thinking person’s question might be this: how does one prove the supernatural capabilities of a witch if they cannot even prove the supernatural capabilities of their own god first?  After all, not a single woman burned at the stake has ever been proved a witch.  This makes them all innocent according to the quoted offense, which makes every woman murdered in the name of faith a victim of a hate crime which stems directly from religion. The danger of upholding such a plethora of shibboleths I think is obvious.
For example, if a religious woman ever wanted to tear away the veil, which separates her from the world, and strip off her burqa and let her beautiful strands of hair freely blow in the autumn breeze, like the Turkish heroine Kadife in Orhan Pamuk’s Nobel Prize-winning novel Snow, she would be pressured by her religion and religious leaders to think twice—and maybe even at the implicit risk of imposed death.  If a young lady didn’t comply with the wishes of the religious clerics (all men), a woman could be ostracized by her family, forced into submission, or worse, murdered for no other reason than she didn’t surrender to their absolutism.  On this controversial issue the civil rights blogger Pat Condell, has openly criticized use of the burqa, challenging the outdated practice of female concealment by offering the value judgment:
The whole point of female concealment in Islamic society is that men are not expected to take responsibility for their sexual urges. So any woman who is not covered up from head to toe is asking to be raped. The burqa therefore legitimizes rape. It apologizes for rape. It justifies rape… And it makes it, in my opinion, as offensive of a public statement as a Klu Klux Klan uniform or a Nazi swastika, and I think it should be treated with exactly same revulsion and contempt. And as for the free choice argument that you like to defend so disingenuously, well… this so called choice to wear the burqa is exercised more in the West than it is in Muslim countries, because here it is being used quite deliberately as a weapon of cultural jihad—in a naked attempt, if you’ll pardon the expression, to undermine the most fundamental of our values—that every human being is born equal.[xxxi]


Pakistan’s late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, the first woman ever to be elected as a high official in a Muslim state, was assassinated, not for her political views but for her humanitarian efforts and attempts to empower women.  She was killed by fascist Islamic thugs all under the naïve impression that women are inferior and do not have equal rights to that of a man—the very thing Bhutto bitterly fought against.  There needs to be more women like Bhutto in the world.  For her efforts, Bhutto was posthumously awarded the United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights.
As we know, Islamic politics are inseparable from state politics, and the agenda against women is never clearer than in striking examples like this, where the voice of a woman is stifled because of the threat she poses to man-made fascist regimes. The fact that religious faith can be implemented and incorporated into the scheme of fascism, as a way to oppress and dominate, and as a way to sponsor sexism and widespread xenophobia is just one more example of compulsory religion forcing its creed on people and keeping them restrained.  It is oppressive, and it seems, that it wishes to stay that way.
Today, in Basra, Iraq, women are still being murdered in the 21st century for implied religious disobedience. According to a CNN report called “Violations of ‘Islamic teachings’ take deadly toll on Iraqi women” radical Islamic factions have allowed extremists to strangled women to death, amputated body parts from women, mangled and disfigured women’s faces by throwing acid on them, even as they have tortured, raped, and even executed women in the presence of their small children on the streets.  These brutal killings were enacted simply because women did not “properly” cover themselves, wore make-up, or else were wearing the “wrong” color of head scarf.[xxxii] It seems that women are still, after hundreds of years, being persecuted for the same absurd “crime” that St. Joan of Arc was, namely for wearing the wrong attire.
Amnesty International issued a 2007 report stating that, “Politically active women, those who did not follow a strict dress code, and women [who are] human rights defenders were increasingly at risk of abuses, including by armed groups and religious extremists.”[xxxiii] And although moderate Muslims are right to reject these extremist’s unspeakable actions, the real travesty is that these men got their ideas from the same religious modes of blinkered thinking. The truth is, in a religion which has an entirely fundamentalist interpretation of its holy book, there is no liberal interpretation to be had, so the whole of the faith becomes extremist and intolerant as a consequence.
My question to you dear reader is this: must we continue another thousand years in this disgraceful manner? In order to put an end to these grotesque crimes against humanity and nastiness towards women we must cut off the poisonous thinking from its source. We would be best to tear religion away, along with it all its oppressive, slanted, and unethical rules and dogmas, and shed it like the brave heroine Kadife did her head scarf.

Footnote

[1] Also known as Magdalene Laundries, initially originating as a voluntary rehabilitation center run by the Catholic Church to help women prostitutes rehabilitate and repent for their sins, it quickly turned into a 150 year gender oppressive prison scheme.  Soon enough the sexual repression of women extended beyond prostitution, to unmarried mothers, developmentally-challenged women, and abused young girls.  Not only their supposed crimes of sexual misconduct, but also any sign of sexual female independence, and female sexuality in general, was regarded as a grotesquery by the Church authorities and the women were viewed as “in need of penitence.”  Even young girls who were considered too promiscuous and flirtatious were sometimes sent to an asylum.  In the asylums women were forced to undergo hard labor, often times being abused or starved and manipulated to repent, while the silent treatment and isolation was used as manipulative tools for punishment.   The frightening conditions of the convents and the poor treatment of the inmates was shown in the acclaimed film “The Magdalene Sisters” (2002), written and directed by Peter Mullan.  The last of the nightmarish Magdalene Asylums was closed on September 25, 1996.




NOTES

[i] The O’Reilly Factor, Fox News, August 26, 2002.  
[ii] Annie Laurie Gaylor, “Nontract #10 Why Women Need Freedom From Religion,” Available online: http://ffrf.org/nontracts/women.php
[iii] Matthew 7:1
[iv] In C.S. Lewis’ imaginative work The Great Divorce, Hell exists only as a diminished sort of limbo separated from and absent of God’s love.  However, souls are allowed to redeem themselves if they give up their hubris and stubborn preference for the ‘self’ and submit to the Lord’s love.  In Lewis’ eyes this rejection of the self cleanses “original sin” as Adam and Eve’s choice to sin showed a preference for the self over God, which coincidentally was the same sin that Satan was guilty of committing.  However, I highly doubt Lewis got this notion of self abrogation from Christianity but, rather, imported the concept from Buddhism.  At any rate, by denying the selfish ego and accepting the Lord, it seems, is enough to get back into God’s grace.  Yet because this is strictly a psychological battle, hell is not so much a place as it is a state of mind.  Thus a refusal to allow God in, or else, the absence of love, a spiritual void in other words, is Lewis’ notion of Hell.  This is a common theme in Lewis’ theological works as well, but as romantic as this notion is, it isn’t an accurate scriptural depiction of Hell.  Hell is known to contain many Earthly qualities, physical features (such as burning fires, sulfur, arid scorching heat, and iron chains, etc.), and is—according to the often misread Biblical scripture—not meant, and never was intended, to be metaphorical.  Since it can’t be a state of mind, and certainly not metaphorical, this last reason leaves us with only two remaining choices.  Hell is either a corporeal location residing in a parallel dimension we have not yet uncovered the whereabouts of (improbable) or else a non-existent one (probable) conceived by wicked minds hell-bent on affirming their morbid desire for their pernicious religious fantasies to be true.
[v] In John 8:3-11 Jesus comes to the aid and defends a known adulteress, presumably another woman who enjoys a lot of sex.  Unsurprising to us that this should contradict the teachings of Leviticus 20:10 which commands adulterers be put to death.  Either Jesus was a very good humanitarian, or else, a very bad Jew.  On a side note, something which has always interested me, now as when I was a practicing Christian, is that Jesus seems to be (on the rare occasion) one of the only Biblical figures who shows any consistency towards his appreciation of women.  His coming to rescue the accused adulteress leads me to feel empathy, and his shaming of the Pharisees leads me to feel that certain verses like this open a window that better allows us to glimpse, perhaps, the historical Yeshua of Nazareth at his best.  Although this is merely a musing on my behalf, since Jesus’ views of women was “traditional” at best.  However, assuming it has any historical relevancy (which it may not), I feel it is still a verse that stands out and lends a rather fascinating facet to the character of Jesus.
[vi] To her credit, in an August 28, 2004 interview with CNN, Jenna Jameson stated that after she has children she will quit the porn industry.  Moreover, in the CNN interview Jenna has stated she would, “Absolutely” quit the porn industry after birthing children, and added that it’s “because I want to focus 100 percent of my time on my child, and I want to be able to tell my child that once they came along, that mommy was no longer a porn star.”  When questioned whether or not her future daughter should choose to go into the porn industry Jenna quickly commented, “I’d tie her in the closet.  Only because this is such a hard industry for a woman to get ahead and get the respect that she deserves… and it’s not something that I would want my daughter to go through.  It’s not something that any parent would choose for their child.”
Interview available online: http://edition.cnn.com/2004/SHOWBIZ/books/08/27/jenna.jameson/  (Retrieved June 5, 2009)
[vii] I’m not attempting to defend the porn industry.  Rather, I am deeply concerned with defending a person’s individual rights.  As such I am defending Jenna’s, and any independent woman’s, right to freely choose her own lifestyle and what she can do with her own body without having to be dictated to by pompous and arrogant men; who regrettably enough, can only view women as sex objects and not as individual people in control of their own destinies.   
               [viii] In a study done by Baylor University, known for its programs in Social Work, released controversial findings that one in every 33 women are the victims of sexual advances by religious leaders, spanning 36 religious denominations. Many of the perpetrators used the excuse that it was God’s divine wish or desire that the women engage in sexual intercourse and used their position of authority to manipulate vulnerable women into having sex with them.  Two thirds of the sexual offenders were married.
[ix] The New Internationalist has an informative article on the patriarchal dominion of Christianity over women along with a feminist critique on religion in general, available online at: http://www.newint.org/issue155/gateway.htm
[x] Ibid.
[xi] Rape is one of the most heinous crimes imaginable, yet, more than 10 Bible verses condone rape, sexual slavery, child slavery, and worse.  The Biblically permitted crime of rape always coincides with murder and theft of property where the woman’s value is disregarded almost entirely.  The Bible condones rape in these passages: Exodus 21:7-11, Judges 5:30, Judges 21:10-24, Numbers 31:7-18, Deuteronomy 20:10-14, Deuteronomy 22:28-29, Deuteronomy 22:23-24, Deuteronomy 21:10-14, Zechariah 14:1-2, 2 Samuel 12:11-14
This should be enough to cause us to shamefully shake our heads.  Sure, we could throw out all the bad verses, but if we allowed our modern morality to guide us thus, what is stopping us from throwing out all the verses of Biblical scripture altogether?  The argument that it’s simply the Old Testament and shouldn’t be read literally is not a good defense for cherry picking what one likes over what one cannot stomach.  You should be a poor believer if you only believed in half of what your belief professes and ignored the rest.  But to believe it all without question would be flat out dangerous, and this is the problem we find whenever we put our faith in archaic myths of yesterday—they don’t suit our contemporary sensibilities and so no longer serve a guiding purpose—yet countless believers want to hold onto these antiquated beliefs with a dogmatic vice-grip.  This should worry us. 
[xii] The Qur’an is just as inadequate and outmoded when it comes to women’s equality.  Surah 4:23-24 and surah 23:1 of the Qur’an explicitly states that a man can have enslaved women sexually, which he has conquered or bought, even if she is married.  Whereas surah 2:223 equates women to property, stating she is the field, and the man can “go” into his “property” anytime he pleases.  Surah 2:282 asserts that a woman is worth one-half a man.
[xiii] Strange that when God demands a human sacrifice it’s recurrently a helpless female, whose father gladly obliges and happily murders her in the name of faith.  If you don’t agree then tell it to Jephthah’s daughter who was murdered at God’s behest in Judges 11:30-40.  If a true story, it seems awfully sexist and cruel; and not at all a model story to try and live by.
[xiv] For a thorough look at the religious oppression of women and women’s rights see Annie Laurie Gaylor’s book Woe to the Women: The Bible Tells Me So, published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
[xv] This sexist fear within religion evidently stems from Scripture.  Consider the example of Job 14:1-4 in which Job states, “Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble… Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?  Not one.”  Job, often cited as the perfect example of loyalty and devotion to God, was also a sexist chauvinist.  I would have liked the story of Job better if Job had had some redeeming quality, a sense of chivalry, perhaps.  But instead he is not an example of perfect faith, but the example of a perfectly delusional human being who would rather sit by and watch his family suffer and die—all in the vain attempt to gain God’s favor by proving himself faithful—in other words Job cared more about appeasing God’s arbitrary and haphazard whims than he did his own family’s safety and wellbeing.  Rather, it is frightening how closely Job resembles religious fanatics and extremists of today more than anything else, and I would caution it is not a Bible story people should seek to find any moral guidance from.  To let your family suffer and die because the voices in your head command it is not an ethical teaching let alone a healthy one.  Only clinically insane people would have done and said the things that Job had.  It goes without saying that sexist chauvinism, negligence to care for one’s own children, the strange sociopathic disinterest in one’s wife and family, bouts of schizophrenia where the little voices in your head insist others are less important than their ghostly (ghastly) instructions are not qualities people should admire and emulate, and anyone who did I would probably consider mentally ill. 
[xvi]Mary Magdalene and the Disciple Jesus Loved” by Esther A. de Boer, p. 8, 2007; retrieved online: http://www.lectio.unibe.ch ISSN 1661-3317
[xvii] Didymas as quoted in St. Augustine’s theological work On the Trinity 3.41.3
[xviii] Herbert Thurston, The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VIII.  Copyright © 1910 by Robert Appleton Company, Online Edition Copyright © 1999, by Kevin Knight
[xix] Dan Barker, godless, p.179
[xx] Exodus 21:7-11 of the Bible makes it perfectly clear every man is allowed to sell his own daughter into servitude (even sexual slavery), with certain niceties applying, and under the conditions that she not be let out of the house—presumably to be raped easier by her male owners.  Such a sexist scheme is definitely an excuse for female slavery, for men to purchase and trade women into bondage, maltreatment, and sexual abuse—which is exactly the sort of immorality we have come to expect from the word of God and the men hell-bent on obeying it to the letter. 
[xxi] See: Society without God by Phil Zuckerman; and The Death of Christian Britain by callum Brown; and also Sacred and Secular by Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart.
[xxii] Jimmy Carter’s article can be found in The Observer and the Guardian UK online at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/jul/12/jimmy-carter-womens-rights-equality
[xxiii] Look no further than Numbers 25:16-17 for proof of the beginnings of religious imposition and God’s hatred towards women.  Cozbi, an innocent Midianite woman is sacrificed and killed because the men of the Lord could not control their lust for the Moabite women and began to engage in all kinds of sexual immorality.  In order to appease God’s wrath, an innocent girl is murdered for the crimes of pious men.  Cozbi is then murdered, not for any crimes she had committed, but for the crimes of God’s disobedient men as a blood sacrifice.  Whether or not this story happened or is just a healthy dose of tragic myth, we are uncertain.  However, for those who are certain this is part of God’s perfect word, we are in danger of sponsoring a very sexist and inhumane view of women that can, and has, lead to much misery.
[xxiv] See: “Man jailed over 'Bible' rape” Available online: http://www.news.com.au/story/0%2C23599%2C21911631-2%2C00.html
[xxv] The Qur’an makes reference to “Peoples of the Book” quite frequently in reference to those stemming from the faith of Abraham; surah 3:64-71.  Although surah 29:45-49 instructs Muslims not to dispute with People of the Book in the name of solidarity among God’s chosen believers, the majority of the Koranic verses reprimands Christians and Jews by calling them disloyal to God and suggests they correct themselves by following the Qur’an instead of their own tarnished holy texts.  As such, the Qur’an clearly states in numerous verses that Christians, Jews, and Muslims all believe in the same God and so are all classified as Peoples of the Book.  See surah: 2:97-101; 2:213-214;  3:18-20;  3:64-71;  3:72-80;  3:98-101;  3:110-112;  3:113-117;  3:199;  4:131;  4:153;  4:171;  5:15-19;  5:5;  5:67-69;  5:77-80;   5:59;  and 29:45-49. 
[xxvi] Sam Harris, The End of Faith, p.189
[xxvii] See: The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever, p.480
[xxviii] Not all people are so enlightened, though.  It is well documented that Pastor John Hagee, in fact, believes and has publically stated that Hurricane Katrina was the judgment of God and the “divine hand” working to punish the city of New Orleans (collectively) for the crime of homosexuality.  In other words, in the tradition of Jerry Falwell, because Hagee is homophobic and hates gays he believes his God brings about natural disasters to kill thousands of innocent lives in God’s enacting revenge against loving relationships between same sex couples.  This very unscientific reasoning has lead the superstitious guided Hagee to point out (pulling his 21st century meteorological expertise from an ancient book of myths) that, “All hurricanes are acts of God because God controls the heavens. I believe that New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God and they were recipients of the judgment of God for that.”  See the online article “Hagee Says Hurricane Katrina Struck New Orleans Because it was ‘Planning A Sinful’ ‘Homosexual Rally’” available online at: http://thinkprogress.org/2008/04/23/hagee-katrina-mccain/  
[xxix] Surah 4:34 of the Qur’an states: Men have authority over women because God has made the one superior to the other, and because they spend their wealth to maintain them. Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because God has guarded them. As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and forsake them in beds apart, and beat them. (Dawood)
Literally, women who rebel against the authority of her husband (man) or God (manmade) she is to be punished and beaten.  This form or religious abuse is exactly what “rebellious” women should expect in a religion that does not consider them equal or value them enough to grant them their own independence apart from any man.  Bottom line is, such an unruly verse, such as surah 4:34 of the Qur’an, seeks to keep male dominion over every female, and if she should rebel against such an oppressive scheme, by God’s decree she is to be beaten down into submission.  I should like to point out that this is not taking the verse out of context; this is reading quite clearly what it has to say.  And what it has to say is cruel and inhumane.
[xxx] John 15:6 mandates that burning those who do not believe in Christ, and is the verse which religious authorities have so often cited as support for burning heretics alive.  The offense against women is doubly felt, since any woman who was accused of heresy has traditionally been branded a witch.  This of course does not bode well for women either.  A woman who is branded a witch will not be allowed a fair trial—as Joan of Arc is evidence of—since Exodus 22:18 mandates the unrelenting genocide of all witches.  Which brings us back to John 15:6 and the burning of heretics and witches—thus the burning of any woman brave enough to challenge religious authority. 
[xxxi] Pat Condell’s religious critique of female concealment and the burqa can be viewed online at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4FpTvp0tgs 
[xxxii] Arwa Damon, “Violations of ‘Islamic teachings’ take deadly toll on Iraqi women,” CNN News, 2008. [WEB/LINK]
[xxxiii] For more information concerning the equality and rights of women see Amnesty International online at: http://www.amnesty.org/en/campaigns/stop-violence-against-women

Advocatus Atheist

Advocatus Atheist