Questionable Motives

September 28, 2011

What ever happened to Baby Joseph, ‘saved’ by the Priests for Life stormtroopers from the evil clutches of Canadian health care?

Back on March 22 of this year, I posted about why Priests for Life are theological thugs, fanatical religious stormtroopers who prey on the hopes of others to aid and abet and revel in the unnecessary suffering of others in the name of  honouring their god. Their latest victim was Baby Joseph Maracchli who, in October of 2010 at 10 months of age developed a brain fever and became vegetative just like another previous child of the Maracchlis. The family wanted a tracheotomy performed so that they could take the baby home to die but the hospital disagreed on compassionate medical grounds:

Eight physicians at LSHC were unanimously of the opinion that Joseph had no hope of recovery, and there was no possible treatment that could reverse his condition. They quite rightly pointed out what was obvious that he would never get out of bed nor interact meaningfully with his environment. As responsible and caring medical professionals, the doctors sought a second opinion from colleagues in Toronto. The director of the critical care unit for Sick Children’s Hospital in Toronto (a world class facility and recognized leader for pediatric medical care) there agreed that further treatment was futile. Joseph’s doctors therefore proposed removing the tube that was assisting his breathing. If he could breathe unaided, he would go home to be cared for by his parents. If not, he would be given medication to ensure that he did not suffer, and allowed to die. A Canadian Superior Court judge ruled in favor of the Canadian hospital, ordering the life support removed.

This is when the Priest for Life entered and through their efforts helped make this sad story into a fundraising campaign, where they spent a considerable amount of donated money to fly the baby to St. Louis and have the tracheotomy. From their warped point of view, the priests were ‘saviors’ of the baby, vilifying the baby’s Canadian health care team in the process. The baby was released at the end of April and went home to Windsor Ontario.

Today, the Windsor Star reports:

Br. Paul O’Donnell, Major Superior at Franciscan Brothers of Peace, posted a message posted early Wednesday reported Baby Joseph had died.

“It is with great sadness that I report to you the passing of our dear Baby Joseph Maraachli. He passed away peacefully at home with his parents and family at his side. Praise God he had seven precious months with his family to be surrounded by love and was not put to death at the hands of doctors. May Joseph rest in the loving arms of his Heavenly Father surrounded by all the angels.”

Back in March, I pointed out that:

What is not reported very widely is that the couple’s first child who suffered from the same condition did receive a tracheotomy, at the parents insistence, and died a horrific death at home. That child suffered from infection, followed by pneumonia and eventually choked to death… it just took six months of additional suffering for this to happen. The physicians were rightly concerned on behalf of the quality of life of their patient to do as the family asked.

This time it took only five additional months for the baby to die after our priestly heroes intervened. They’re slipping as they get older, I guess, but any additional unnecessary suffering is a real feather in their theological caps.

September 27, 2011

Why is the US a fading power in the world?

Filed under: Christianity,Education,Religion — tildeb @ 9:48 am

Well, let’s ponder that deeply, parents. Let’s focus for a moment on what family values in public education looks like in action, shall we? Here’s how kids in a South Carolina public school spent part of their day… where the school administration obviously cares nothing about respecting the Establishment clause because it interferes with using the public domain to push private faith-based beliefs. In the meantime, let’s wonder what half a billion Chinese students and a half billion Indian students were doing in the equivalent school time?

The fact that so many parents sat there quietly and were okay with this evangelical production performed at their public school  shows why the the US cannot help but be a fading power in the new world knowledge economy: the widespread belief that ignorance coupled with stupidity promoted as piousness equals a ‘good’ education.

(h/t friendlyatheist)

August 1, 2011

And do we feel any safer?

I don’t.

From Truthout.org:

The United States Air Force has been training young missile officers about the morals and ethics of launching nuclear weapons by citing passages from the New Testament and commentary from a former member of the Nazi Party, according to newly released documents.

The mandatory Nuclear Ethics and Nuclear Warfare session, which includes a discussion on St. Augustine’s “Christian Just War Theory,” is led by Air Force chaplains and takes place during a missile officer’s first week in training at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

St. Augustine’s “Qualifications for Just War,” according to the way it is cited in a 43-page PowerPoint presentation, are: “to avenge or to avert evil; to protect the innocent and restore moral social order (just cause)” and “to restore moral order; not expand power, not for pride or revenge (just intent).”

The Powerpoint uses quite a few references to the Old Testament as arguments for why Jesus’ Dad loves nukes , (I haven’t read the 500 page training manual) yet I am assured by many theological sophisticates that the New supersedes these god-sanctioned barbarisms that I read plain as day. One has to be pretty stupid to assume that scripture means what it says, I guess. Obviously, I need more sophisticated comprehension skills. But I’m thinking that maybe the sophisticates should be taking up correct interpretation with their military commanders and selected trainers rather than us militant atheists… armed as we are by the bristling weaponry of reason and words fortified by the occasional beer or glass of wine.

Just sayin’.

Wouldn’t it be swell if the religious could get their theological house in order so that our public institutions like the military could at favour just one belief set rather than one that is a little… umm… bloodthirsty? Oh, right… that anti-American US Constitution keeps getting in the way of the armed forces being properly christian – the same Constitution (that contains the First)  military officers swear to uphold and defend from enemies foreign (and domestic, mumble, mumble, ahem). Oh, the conundrum! A good thing none of these confused military souls have their fingers on the triggers, so to speak… well, except those involved with the nuclear arsenal… and those who fly all those planes, drive the armoured vehicles, steer the ships and subs, carry firearms, and so on.

And yet for some unknown reason I still don’t feel any safer for reading Augustine. Funny, that.

June 1, 2011

Religious intolerance again: In with the Old, Out with New, or Why not stick to an anti-harassment policy for all students rather than include a new homophobia/heterosexism policy?

The short answer is that anti-harassment policies in schools don’t work, and this is being addressed in a Burnaby school district here in Canada. The public response surprisingly seems to be quite polarizing and the school trustees are trying to tread the political waters very carefully. But is it really a public response?

Burnaby, for those readers who may not know, is one of several multicultural and diverse cities making up the greater urban built-up area in the lower Fraser Valley commonly called ‘Vancouver’ (locally called ‘The Lower Mainland’ versus the somewhat confusing Vancouver Island urban population locally called ‘The Island,’ which happens to include the capital city of Victoria!). Greater Vancouver is a major city of about 4 million in Canada’s most western province, British Columbia, and is consistently rated as one of the best cities in the world to live… unless you’re a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered or questioning student, that is. And we know this because under anti-harassment school policies:

  • Three-quarters of LGBTQ students and 95% of transgender students felt unsafe at school, compared to one-fifth of straight students. Six-of-ten LGBTQ students reported being verbally harassed about their sexual orientation.
  • Three-quarters of all participating students reported hearing expressions such as “that’s so gay” every day in school. Half heard remarks like “faggot,” “queer,” “lezbo” and “dyke” daily.
  • Over a quarter of LGBTQ students and almost half of transgender students had skipped school because they felt unsafe, compared to less than a tenth of non-LGBTQ students. (Source)

Compared to heterosexual youths, LGBTQ youth going to school under current anti-harassment policies were more likely:

  • To have experienced physical and sexual abuse, harassment in school, and discrimination in the community
  • To have reported emotional stress, suicidal thoughts, and suicide attempts In addition:
    • LGB youth felt less cared about by parents and less connected to their families than heterosexual teens, and for lesbian and bisexual females less connected to school.
    • When bisexual youth reported high family and school connectedness, their probability of suicide attempts was much lower than for bisexual youth with lower connectedness, even when they had strong risk factors for suicide. (Source)

So why do school districts need to do anything about this at if it stirs up so much heated anti-policy local response which costs trustees their jobs?

The Auditor General of BC has ordered that:

“School districts should: Provide teachers with suitable guidance for encouraging tolerance and respect for students of same sex orientation.” (#9, page 62)

The BC School Trustees Association has stated that:

“the BCSTA encourages and supports school district policies that specifically address the safety concerns of, and prohibits discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans-identified students, as well as students who are harassed due to perceptions of their gender identity or sexual orientation; and has the Education committee draft a sample policy to aid school districts in this process.” (Source)

Perhaps most telling are the findings from the BC government’s Safe School Task Force:

“From our conversations with British Columbians all across the province, we have learned that bullying behaviour is often founded in discrimination based on perceived “differences” such as race, disability, gender or sexual orientation; that discrimination can have a negative impact upon student psychological and emotional health; and that bullying can contribute to decreased student participation in school and failure to graduate.”

“The Task Force members heard that even the perception of being homosexual or of being tolerant of homosexuality is enough to result in harassment and intimidation, including both emotional and physical abuse from those who choose to bully.”

“Presenters expressed concerned about the frequent use of homophobic language in schools. For example, the use of pejoratives such as “that’s so gay” have become common in the lexicon of students for describing negative events or as an insult to make students who are, or are perceived to be gay, uncomfortable.”

Against this background, Burnaby has completed a draft policy that states:

a) Teachers shall be encouraged to embed and integrate LGBTQ issues into existing curriculum in age-appropriate ways to help students acquire the skills and knowledge to understand the impacts of homophobia and transphobia upon society, and
b) School staffs shall be encouraged to support LGBTQ people by teaching about their positive contributions to society and modeling acceptance of diversity.

So what’s the big deal here? The school district has to do this and there’s lots of good evidence that something needs to change. But the interesting question is: Why is it that Burnaby – the 12th school district to formulate such a policy in BC – is suddenly faced with such stiff ‘public’ opposition where none existed for the other 11 school districts? Don’t you find that a bit… shall we say… suspicious?

A group known as Parents’ Voice has organized against this policy in Burnaby. They claim to be merely an ad hoc community group of concerned individuals, but when one digs a little deeper one finds that it is in everything but name a religious group. Why are we not surprised that a religious group would be behind some push to keep the old that doesn’t work and protest the new that does? Faith-based belief is immune (read ‘superior’) to contrary evidence, of course.

In their organization’s news release, we find the following comments… with a bit of bold added by me for emphasis, but of course no specific mention of their ad hoc community group’s major religious tie:

Growing numbers of students, parents and other tax-payers are concerned that the Board’s failure to provide full disclosure may be a deliberate attempt to hide the fact that there is a hidden political agenda—an agenda that doesn’t respect parental rights, student’s rights or the Charter-mandated equality rights of Canadians, but instead serves the political interests of activist teachers and their union. Parents’ Voice asks; “If the faith-based community is not considered an ally, does this Board of School Trustees consider them to be the enemy?

But the game of deceit – what we in the atheist community like to call Lying For Jesus – was exposed when about 100 protesters showed up at the trustee’s meeting and we found out that of the  nearly all were members of Burnaby’s Willingdon Church (and almost entirely of Asian descent), who crowded into the packed board room holding handmade signs that read “No to 5.45.” Is this group truly  representational of the public?  I don;t think so.

One of their spokespeople said “This policy places far too much importance and emphasis on an issue that impacts a few,” said Heather Leung, a local parent with three kids in the school system. “What is being recommended in this draft is a deliberate and systemic strategy to indoctrinate our children with a controversial moral teaching that should be left for families to decide on and wrestle through.” Leung also said the policy labels children and suggests they question their sexual orientation and sexual identity.

Another said ““The draft policy imposes on children the idea that their family is perpetrating negative stereotypes when parents educate their children with the values that are consistent with their moral beliefs,” says George Kovacic. Kovacic believes the anti-homophobia policy uses children as “pawns to promote a particular social agenda.”

So there’s another fine example of religiously inspired intolerance adduced from scripture brought into the public domain (by a tolerated – even celebrated – immigrant minority no less!) – into one of the most successful multicultural cities in the world – attempting to negatively affect needed policy change so that others currently subject to discrimination can perhaps one day be tolerated – even celebrated – by the public at large.

The irony is jaw-dropping.

March 22, 2011

Why are Priests for Life theological thugs?

First, who is Baby Joesph Maracchli and second, what’s the big deal about his medical care?

Joseph Maracchli, the son of Lebanese immigrants, was born on January 22, 2010, and his parents say they noticed he couldn’t eat or breathe properly and wouldn’t open his eyes or cry. The family, who lives in Windsor, Ontario on the Canada – United States border near Michigan, took him to a Michigan hospital in June 2010, where he was diagnosed with a metabolic brain disease, which the doctor said would make him developmentally delayed. Maracchli was treated and returned to normal after a month. However, in October 2010 he developed a fever and was breathing rapidly and was rushed to the emergency room and later transferred to the London Health Sciences Centre in London (LHSC), Ontario. The hospital said he was in a persistent vegetative state from which he would never recover. Maracchli’s family wanted the staff there to do a tracheotomy so that they could take him home and he could die in the care of his family instead of a hospital. Sounds pretty reasonable, doesn’t it?

What is not reported very widely is that the couple’s first child who suffered from the same condition did receive a tracheotomy, at the parents insistence, and died a horrific death at home. That child suffered from infection, followed by pneumonia and eventually choked to death… it just took six months of additional suffering for this to happen. The physicians were rightly concerned on behalf of the quality of life of their patient to do as the family asked.

Eight physicians at LSHC were unanimously of the opinion that Joseph had no hope of recovery, and there was no possible treatment that could reverse his condition. They quite rightly pointed out what was obvious that he would never get out of bed nor interact meaningfully with his environment. As responsible and caring medical professionals, the doctors sought a second opinion from colleagues in Toronto. The director of the critical care unit for Sick Children’s Hospital in Toronto (a world class facility and recognized leader for pediatric medical care) there agreed that further treatment was futile. Joseph’s doctors therefore proposed removing the tube that was assisting his breathing. If he could breathe unaided, he would go home to be cared for by his parents. If not, he would be given medication to ensure that he did not suffer, and allowed to die. A Canadian Superior Court judge ruled in favor of the Canadian hospital, ordering the life support removed.

Enter our heroes, the Priests for Life, those celibate men of the cloth who (incredibly and without shame) think their religious beliefs equip them with the kind of god-soaked moral knowledge necessary to determine proper medical treatment over and above a team of highly trained and specialized medical professionals who actually care for children as their daily job. Let us keep in mind that there has never been a suffering life these meddling priests have not tried to prolong. The Terri Schiavo debacle immediately comes to mind.

Peter Singer, professor of bioethics at Princeton University picks up the story:

Little Joseph Maraachli is a new poster boy for the “pro-life” movement. But what has happened to him should instead teach us what to do – and what not to do – if we are really serious about saving human lives. The 13-month-old from Canada, who has been having medical treatment for most of his short life, suffers from a severe neurodegenerative disease. He has difficulty breathing on his own. His head is small for his age and has not grown for three months. He has seizures. His pupils do not respond to light or follow a moving object. His movements are not purposeful.

Then Priests for Life, a Catholic -abortion and anti-euthanasia organization stepped in, chartering an air ambulance to fly Joseph from Canada to Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center, a Catholic hospital, in St. Louis, which will perform the operation the parents requested.

“We Rescued Baby Joseph!” says a page on the Priests for Life website. The organization’s director, the Rev. Frank Pavone, says he has been told that it could cost as much as $150,000 for Joseph’s stay in the pediatric intensive care unit. That doesn’t include the cost of the aircraft, which would have added thousands more to the bill. Priests for Life is, of course, asking its supporters to donate to pay these costs.

Here’s the irony. According to the most rigorous charity evaluation agency in the country, GiveWell.org, you can save a child’s life for about $1,000. All you have to do is give the money to their top-rated charity, Village Reach, which delivers vaccines and other urgently needed medical supplies to rural areas in developing countries.

If Priests for Life were really serious about saving lives, instead of “rescuing” Joseph so he can live another few months lying in bed, unable to experience the normal joys of childhood, let alone become an adult, they could have used the money they have raised to save 150 lives – most of them children who would have gone on to live healthy, happy lives for 50 years or more.

We’ve seen such things happen before. In 2005 the anti-abortion movement put a huge effort, and large sums of money, into “saving” Terri Schiavo. In the end, after Congress had been recalled specifically to enable a federal court to hear the case, she was allowed to die. An autopsy showed her brain had been severely and irreversibly damaged.

We can obsess over Joseph and Terri – or we can make an honest effort to save the lives of countless children whose names we may never know. It is our choice.

But the Priests for Life don’t want to save lives in the sense of protecting the dignity of those who are already alive yet suffering; they want to prolong the biological functioning of a body regardless of the suffering… the younger the better and a fetus especially, even if it kills women to do so. Since becoming involved in the medical treatment of Baby Joseph, the Priests for Life have mobilized support from the likes of the Hope Network and the legions of catholics and christians who think these groups do god’s work. Now the medical staff at LSHC have been the recipients of the kind of faith-based love the anti-abortion crowd – championed as they are by Priests for Life – sends out to those who disagree with their beliefs: hate mail and death threats.

Oh, I can hear the faithful claiming loudly that those extremists don’t represent the mainstream religious.

But they do.

You see, Priests for Life and the anti-choice crowd are no different than the mainstream believers in that they don’t give a rat’s ass respecting your life;  they care only for life, which according to their beliefs belongs not to you but their god. And they will continue to act accordingly not to respect your rights and freedoms as an autonomous individual where dignity of personhood must reside, if the term ‘personal dignity’ is to have any personal meaning, but as god’s Stormtroopers out to protect what belongs to him. That’s why they’re theological thugs and are empowered by those who respect their beliefs about what god owns over and above respecting your personal dignity.

August 28, 2010

Do these claims against atheists look familiar?

Excellent article by Edmund Standing over at Butterflies & Wheels well worth the reading in its entirety from which I have taken these excerpts:

Claim 1: If an atheist reads a religion’s ‘holy book’ and find it to be full of vile, ignorant, and divisive material, the atheist is being unsophisticated in his or her approach. The atheist is ‘siding with the fundamentalists’ and consequently is not worth listening to.

Claim 2: If an atheist is to understand a ‘holy book’, they cannot simply read it, but must instead read it through liberal theological interpretive frameworks, and must understand that the ‘true message’ of the ‘holy book’ is something that emerges through the reflection of generations of interpretive communities, not through the plain and clear words that are actually printed on the page.

Neither of these arguments holds water, and are no more impressive when put forward by liberal Muslim apologists than when put forward by liberal Archbishops. These ‘arguments’, in Islam and in Christianity, are fundamentally intellectually dishonest and can only be the result of massive self-deception on the part of their proponents. There is really no case to answer, but I shall quickly knock down these claims again:

Response to Claim 1:

There is no logical reason why a supposed ‘holy book’ should not be taken at face value. This is especially the case in Islam, given a central belief in Islam is the claim that the Qur’an is a perfect, divinely authored text. This is not simply a ‘fundamentalist’ belief, but rather a mainstream belief. In fact, given the centrality of this belief, the use of the term ‘fundamentalist’ in regard to Islam is more problematic than with Judaism and Christianity because, as Sam Harris notes, ‘most Muslims appear to be “fundamentalist” in the Western sense of the word’. That is not to say that most Muslims are violent extremists, but that most at least pay lip service to the idea that they intrinsically view the nature of the Qur’an itself in exactly the same way as the extremists do.

Response to Claim 2:

The idea that ‘scholars’ who present Islam as dividing the world into believers and unbelievers and believe that Islam is supreme amongst religions have somehow ‘misinterpreted’ their faith is farcical, for throughout the Qur’an this is precisely the worldview that emerges. When religious liberals sugarcoat the clear meaning of their religious texts by claiming that we should not look directly at the text but rather at the writings of liberal ‘interpreters’ of the text, they are not basing their argument on anything approaching a logically coherent position, but rather on wishful thinking and self-deception, and they offer no firm, objective criteria by which such ‘interpretation’ can be seen as authentic.

Why attack moderates?

During the debates over religion that occurred during the Enlightenment, which were often framed in extremely harsh language, it was not violent extremists under attack, but the very notion of God, supernatural authority, and so on. The result of those debates ultimately was that religion in Europe took a beating and no longer represents any sort of threat to liberal democracy. Likewise, religious arguments in the political sphere are longer accepted on ‘divine’ authority, but must be articulated in such a way that they make sense in a secular context. While Muslim moderates are doing – or trying to do – good work in hindering extremism, they must also accept that the Enlightenment critique also applies to their beliefs, and that in the adult world people have every right to make criticisms, even of liberal religion, that may appear ‘nasty’ on first reading. If liberal Muslims are willing to trample on the beliefs of their less moderate co-religionists, then they must also be prepared to have their beliefs trampled on as well. No-one would consider that their personal political views should be exempt from criticism just because they are non-violent political views, and it would be an absurd and worrying precedent to be set were that the case. Religion is no different. Despite the fact that religious people seem to have a lot emotionally invested in their ‘faith’, the fact remains that religion, just like politics, is an ideology, and as such it is a perfectly legitimate target for criticism and debate, even if it is liberal and moderate in its nature.

There is one further point about moderates which has been well articulated by Sam Harris. It’s an argument worth considering. In the short run, pragmatically speaking, moderates appear to be a good thing, but their continued identification with a belief system that is extremely open to far less liberal interpretations may actually perpetuate the survival of its more irrational and beligerent forms. While moderate Muslims can criticise Islamism and offer alternative ‘interpretations’ of the Qur’an, they still maintain in doing so that the Qur’an does have some kind of authority.

Ultimately, Islam and the Qur’an do not pose problems because of ‘misinterpretation’, but rather because they belong to a world far from modernity and are actually of no relevance to modernity. Atheists have every right to point this out, even if it means criticising those who are nonetheless doing good work against extremism. Moderate Islam and moderate Quran’ic ‘interpretation’ offer no real bulwark against those who read the text of the Qur’an and take it at face value, as a perfect and divinely authored text. Only by acknowledging that any notion of a divinely authored book is simply false, by accepting the harsh reality that this book is in fact useless (and indeed dangerous) in the modern context, and by embracing human reason and freethinking will the curse of Islamic extremism ultimately be overcome.

August 21, 2010

Spiritual fitness?

You are a soldier in training. Your unit is marched to a christian concert where you are told you may or may not attend. About half choose not to attend, who are then marched back to barracks, locked down, and all are ordered to maintenance duty for the duration of the concert.

From Talk to Action:

For the past several years, two U.S. Army posts in Virginia, Fort Eustis and Fort Lee, have been putting on a series of what are called Commanding General’s Spiritual Fitness Concerts. “Spiritual fitness” is just the military’s new term for promoting religion, particularly evangelical Christianity.

Is this treatment unusual? Is it the case that the US military allows freedom of and from religion, or is the policy to routinely tip the table when it comes to ‘spiritual fitness’ and claim that the rolling ball is making a choice about its direction? What are they saying over at Dispatches from the culture wars?

From commentator Laen (27)

This is common in Basic, AIT, and army schools…airborne, wlc, air assault, and etc. All the concerts/shows/whatevers are commonly cover ups for christian activities. All christian bands pop, country, or the holiday shows…bleh the holiday shows. Oh and by the way while at the events you could get real food and drinks as opposed to just the chow hall garbage, that’s how they bolster the numbers to make it look like people want to go. Offer the concerts on one side and the food and drink on the other…see which gets more traffic then. Same with Sundays, go to church, some church, or clean the barracks.

From sdej (48) comes this comment:

I recently completed a year in Iraq. The first day I was in the unit I had to meet with the Chaplain as part of in-processing. I figured that would go pretty quickly. He asked me my religious preference and I answered none. Somehow that got translated as non-denominational christian and I got handed a stack of literature including a New Testament. While we were downrange, he sent out mass e-mails to the entire unit almost every day. There was no way to opt out. They didn’t always cross the line into proselytizing but often did. I managed to archive every one of those messages just in case I decide to do something about it.

The Army seems to think that spiritual fitness is an important and real thing, separate from mental or emotional fitness. It’s the default assumption and is codified in our FMs and ARs. I cannot thank the MRFF enough for the work they do.

Yet is it not the sworn duty of every officer in the US military to defend the Constitution – the entire Constitution including the First Amendment’s Establishment clause? Or are parts of that Constitution exempted from that oath if certain actions promote a specific kind of christian spiritual fitness? Should we hold officers to that oath or shouldn’t we?

I think some commanding officers need to have their dishonourable asses fired.

July 19, 2010

Is this your child? Was this you?

Filed under: child abuse,Children,Christianity,Religion — tildeb @ 9:35 am

June 18, 2010

Sorry to be a christian?

Filed under: Christianity,Poetry — tildeb @ 10:51 am

PoetrySlamVancouver – Chris Tse, winner 2009

(Tip to Project Reason)

May 27, 2010

Why is religious morality hypocritical and duplicitous?

Filed under: Christianity,hypocrisy,Islam,misogyny,Morality,Religion,Secularism — tildeb @ 10:43 am

Morality. The purview of religion. Or so religious spokesmen – and they are always men – assure us. And far too many of us go along with assertion and pay heed. But the unasked question is whether or not the application of some religious moral code is warranted when it comes to human activity. Why do religious spokesmen speak out as if authorized by god to make moral pronouncements on so many human issues and religiously tread without thought or care to human rights and the dignity of personhood and why are they not held to account by the majority of us?

We are treated to a non-stop litany and repeated insertions of moral pronouncements by various clergy whose only expertise is the imaginings of theology to deeply affect attitudes and practices and funding of issues outside of the religious purview – medical issues like abortion and research, legal issues like gay rights and marriage, political issues like constitutional reform and education, and so on. Into this arena of human activity comes religious pronouncements using morality as a wedge to pry open every human activity and concern possible – from diet to dress to sex to parenting… there is no end – to allow religion to be seen as relevant and meaningful even when it has no legitimate expertise or informed opinion about the activity or issue itself.

Far too many of us go along with this charade, this crock. But at what cost? What is the downside to granting religious imaginings and moral judgments filtered through various Iron age moral codes and their often ignorant and anti-intellectual immoral conclusions a place at the modern discussion table? There are many costs and most relevant to all is the cost to human rights and human dignity we allow to be sacrificed on the alter of religious morality by tolerating this public interference.

Take, for example, this article in the Ottawa Citizen from which I have posted some excerpts (but note the article’s repeated dichotomy about muslim versus christian rather than religious versus secular – you’ll see what I mean in a moment) :

When Shazia Hidayat was training for the Olympics in her native city of Lahore, Pakistan, she was forced to jog through the streets in the middle of the night with her brother cycling beside her. A woman, particularly a Christian one who did not cover her head, was not safe working out during the day. So Hidayat would wake up at 2:30 a.m., don a baggy T-shirt and full running tights for modesty, even in 40C weather, and run 15 to 20 kilometres.

When she dared run in public mixed-gender races, groups of men hurled stones and shouted insults. At other times, extremists from certain mosques threatened her life, yelled it was shameful for women to exercise in public and even confronted her with a Muslim “husband” whom they ordered her to marry. She would then, by law, be automatically considered a Muslim. They saw Hidayat not as a strong role model for girls, but as a symbol of moral decay.

Women, particularly Christian women, must keep a low profile in a country whose supreme court has outlawed kite flying, and whose legislature passed a law last month banning non-Muslims from becoming prime minister.

In 2005, Hidayat decided to run in Pakistan’s first mixed-gender marathon through the streets of Lahore. This would be the third attempt by athletics officials to hold a mixed event. At a race earlier that year, extremists had forced the cancellation of a race in the city of Gujranwala.

“Several hundred activists affiliated with the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (a coalition of Islamist political parties) used petrol bombs, clubs, and bricks to attack participants, organizers, spectators, and police at a mixed-gender marathon in Gujranwala. The activists torched 19 vehicles and smashed windows in the stadium and adjacent buildings. Police used batons, tear gas, and firing in the air to restore order. The clash resulted in injuries to 15 persons,” read a U.S. state department report.

At a second attempted mixed marathon race, police arrested participants — particularly the women — and detained them for several hours before the race was cancelled.

On the eve of the Lahore Marathon, various extreme religious and political leaders vowed to protest or threatened violence against any woman who ran, or those who organized the race.

In The Daily Awaz, a Lahore newspaper, religious figure Allama Muhammad Mumtaz Awan vowed his followers “would make bitter protest and take out rallies today against the shameless Marathon Races that are being officially promoted in support of moral corruption and nudity and in violation of Islamic culture and decency. At this occasion all … will make loud protests in the mosques during the Friday congregations and move condemning resolutions through the worshippers against the Marathon race that is being undertaken at American instigation to promote western culture and civilization.”

Hidayat and hundreds of other women from Pakistan, Europe, Kenya and other countries defied the threats and ran anyway. Hidayat, wearing a T-shirt and full tights, was ridiculed and called vicious names. Many men threw stones at her and the other women.

Hidayat notes things are improving for women and Christians in a few limited ways, but regressing in many others.

So Hidayat has left Pakistan and come to Canada to live, work, and run in – of all places – Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (bit nippy for half the year). Pakistan’s loss, Canada’s gain. But she did so not for reasons of being a woman, particularly a christian woman, as the article would divert us into believing, but for exchanging religious oppression for secular freedom… including being a woman without cost and being a christian without cost.

Is running a moral issue? Well, no… as long as it is done by a human equipped with a penis. I guess god’s okay with the morality of a running man. But apparently, no vaginas are allowed to run in public by order of this same imaginary sky father as some would have us believe. Why? Religiously inspired morality! But just look at how convoluted the reasoning must be – empowered only by religious belief –  to turn the running by a woman into a moral issue! And one set up that – oh by the way – just so happens to directly detract from her rights but not his. Coincidence, I’m sure.

Not surprisingly, the morality of misogyny itself is never at issue when religion comes calling to drive a wedge into separating the rights and opportunities of men from the rights and opportunities of women; isn’t it high time religious misogyny itself becomes the central issue each and every time religious interference is brought into the public domain?

Unless and until the basic tenets of religious belief becomes a workable model of equality that enhances human rights and human dignity rather than intentionally detracts from this respectable moral goal, the pronouncements about applying religiously inspired morality to human issues have no legitimate place. And a good start to this rejection of religious interference on legitimate moral grounds is for enlightened and educated individuals to grant no audience whatsoever to the hypocrisy and duplicity that empowers religious morality to be inserted into the public domain.

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