Questionable Motives

May 7, 2014

Are ‘honestly held beliefs’ reason enough to justify legal discrimination?

can of wormsWell, let’s look at the principle upon which all of us expect to be treated fairly and impartially before and by the law, namely, that

“All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In this respect, the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.” (Article 26, UN covenant on political and civil rights)

To support legal discrimination in a particular case means you must provide a reasonable justification to the benefit of all for that particular exemption against the general principle. This can be (and is) done when that justification can be shown to enhance the public good. For example, we can legally discriminate against all of us who have not achieved the age of majority or all of us who have been shown to be incapable of being responsible for our actions. Legal discrimination is permissible without breaking the principle of the covenant… but the justification must be the same FOR ALL.

Now let’s consider the idea of ‘honestly held beliefs’ to be the metric for varying what equality rights mean. The question can be formulated this way: does an ‘honestly held belief’ by another person constitute a reasonable justification to the benefit of all in your mind for the loss of your own equality before the law and the loss of its protection to guarantee them? Are you willing to have your legal rights be subject and hostage to the variability of another person’s honestly held beliefs?

There are a couple ways to come at answering this.

The straightforward answer here is either Yes or No. There is no middle ground. You are either willing to allow others (based on their ‘honestly held beliefs’) to determine the quality of your legal rights or you are not. The metric at work here is belief, and rests in the willingness to have your legal equality rights rights rest not with you, not empowered in and by the law, but in the belief-based opinion of others.  This breaks the principle that currently supports legal equality for all of us… not just against those whose legal rights and protection you wish to limit for whatever beliefs you may deem important enough but your own. Supporting the notion that ‘honestly held beliefs’ is sufficient to devalue equality rights to personal preference of beliefs means that you do not support the principle that upholds your own.

The extent of privilege our societies grant to religious belief and the institutions and speakers who represent them is truly astounding. For example, returning to the UN covenant on political and civil rights, we find the following:

“Discrimination is allowed if it is based on genuine religious beliefs or principles. This includes the actions of religious bodies or schools.”

Take a moment and think about that. What does it really mean?

Well, it means that the previous principle for all has been replaced in practice by the beliefs of some. It means all people are not equal before the law; our shared equality rights are in fact subject to the religious beliefs (and principles contained within them) of others, others who would deny them first for ‘honestly held beliefs… before any other grounds of justification are introduced! Where is the universal justification for this discrimination that demonstrates its fairness and impartiality to the good of all? It’s absent; what we have are lot of assumptions and attributions and arguments and conclusions unsupported by compelling evidence. This is faith-based belief in action… simply presumed to be justified because it is religious.  And that’s religious privilege in action and it undermines the very principle of YOUR legal rights, YOUR legal equality, YOUR legal protections. This religious privilege buolt on faith-based beliefs is incompatible with the very principle of equality law.

Another way to understand and appreciate the scope of craziness needed to sustain the argument of privileging ‘honestly held beliefs’ over and above and preceding equality rights for all is to apply the same reasoning, the same privilege, the same lack of independent justification to some other area of public interest. We have a host to choose from but let’s take a public water supply for our analogy and see how well the justification works.

The management of that public water supply is based on the principle of providing clean water for all… and we are all in agreement that this water should be safe for all to drink because all of us drink from it! But let’s say some people in the management team decide that certain privileged exemptions to that principle are justified by the ‘honestly held beliefs’ of those involved with providing this service, making the water supply safe for some but not for others. When people complain that their water supply is, in fact, contaminated – because some people honestly believe that the addition of industrial waste products containing toxins and carcinogenics to this part of the water supply but not that part at the request of certain industries to eliminate their waste is a net benefit to all, while reassuring the rest of us that we will continue to receive only a clean water supply – how is it a justification that doesn’t directly undermine the principle of clean water for all? Would the same exemption be allowed, for example, if the quality of everyone’s water supply – including the captains of these polluting industries and the management team themselves – were to be subject to the same vagaries of who received what quality of water when? Or would we as a municipality stand united and insist that the water supply be kept clean for all? Sure, the industrialists might complain that they have a real problem with their toxic wastes, but why should the quality of our water supply be their solution… any more than threatening our shared legal rights of equality be the solution to the demands of these religious for privilege to exercise their bias and discrimination in the name of the public good?

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October 16, 2012

What does hypocritical religious bullying look like on websites?

Filed under: abortion,bullying,misogyny,Religion,reproductive rights — tildeb @ 10:04 am

It looks like “your comment is awaiting moderation.”

Over at the blog Eternity Matters, for example, we read the thoughts of a man who claims that god “has given me the passion and the opportunity to share the Gospel with countless atheists and agnostics.” Okay. The guy says he wants to share. Sharing is good. I like to share my thoughts, too.

So I read his posts. Granted, they are often vitriolic diatribes against anyone who dares question his certainty that god has determined that all abortion (but not the supposedly god-sanctioned spontaneous kind) is a moral obscenity, but this is not a surprise given that he thinks that god also specially selected him with “a passion to get involved in the pro-life issue, which I consider to be the most important moral issue of our time.  I’ve been a volunteer at CareNet Pregnancy center as a counselor, teacher of pro-life reasoning classes and board member – where we try to save lives now and for eternity.”

This guy honestly thinks he represents god’s eternal will in this matter.

Oh, my.

In the news lately is the tragic suicide of bullied Canadian teen Amanda Todd and we hear many comments from those in positions of authority about what can be done to reduce the bullying that causes so much unnecessary grief. One in particular grabbed our blogger’s attention, and of course he has to twist it into revealing a liberal attempt to thwart god’s will about the immorality of anyone so misguided as to support a woman’s legal right to choose what is done with her womb.  Here’s the first part of his post:

As my brilliant wife noted, abortion is the ultimate bullying: A weak, defenseless, unwanted human being is literally destroyed.  The innocent victim is de-humanized and left completely unprotected.

Now the Democrats want it to be funded by taxpayers, including pro-lifers.  So they quit being “pro-choice” and are now completely pro-abortion.  They think that there aren’t enough abortions in our society and they want to force pro-lifers and religious organizations to pay for those abortions.  That is the opposite of choice.  It is also racist, as those abortions will certainly increase abortions in the black community beyond the current 3-to-1 ratio relative to whites.

You might think that is as extreme as you could get pro-abortion-wise, but that would mean you hadn’t read this: Ontario Catholic Schools Forbidden From Noticing That Abortion Is Wrong.  Yes, they consider it bullying to even mention pro-life reasoning in Catholic schools and they are glad to trample religious freedom and free speech.  This is what you get when you vote for Liberals.

It always bothers me when people assume that public education is the right channel to promote a religious agenda… in this case the immorality of medically responsible abortion services. This approach utterly fails to reveal why the need for therapeutic abortion services is a matter of medical concern and turns it into a black or white moral issue fueled by religious zealotry. It is this zealotry that is misogynistic because it is aimed solely at women to at least impede if not eliminate their legal right to have access to have any say over the contents of their uterus’. It fails to make any room at the inn of religious certainty for professional medical services based on best practices when it comes to an occupied uterus. Eternity Matters (EM) insists that curtailing the teaching in publicly funded schools that abortion is a moral obscenity is an even greater form of bullying than that imposed on Amanda.

So I decide to share my thoughts about EM’s one-sided post and comment…

Telling children what to think with public education dollars equals religious freedom. Teaching children how to think is bullying. Riiiigght.

Why don’t you check out what it is like to live in a country that has codified into law these catholic ‘moral’ precepts and then report back on how well your anti-choice position combats misogyny? What gets lost in all the anti-choice noise is the concern for respecting women’s health and providing proper access to health care services directly related to it. When you place this concern somewhere beyond the filter of your moral precepts, you are exercising misogyny. Why is is (sic) it your job to tell others what is and is not moral? Do you honestly think that women are not capable of considering the moral ramifications of their choices so they need to be told… by men like you?

The result? My comment is held in moderation while others are allowed to post supportive comments! After many hours, I comment again,

The heading in the comment section reads, “So, what do you think?”

I comment and you ‘moderate’ it out of existence because….? You show that you don’t care what others think when you do this; what you really create is simply an echo chamber by allowing comments that support your view while you censor criticisms of it. This practice shows your intellectual integrity in action, and it is lacking.

One would think that for someone with such certainty about your moral superiority and clarity of god’s objective moral authority you are quite willing to impose on others, you would be willing to take on all comers because your position is strong. Obviously, it’s not and you aren’t up to the job because you fear that the criticisms of the opinions of those with whom you disagree are simply beyond your ability to adequately address. And doesn’t that show better than anything I can say why theology like yours in practice is identical to intolerance and tyranny. That makes you a bully! Well done.

Because such people as the blogger at Eternity Matters are bullies, they need to be exposed for the cowards they really are… the cowards who hide behind their ability to moderate dissent.

October 11, 2012

Should we just dream of civil rights… for gender equality?

Filed under: civil rights,Equality,misogyny,sexism — tildeb @ 11:36 am

The video of Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard  tearing a new one for the Leader of the Opposition Tony Abbott’s blatant sexism and hypocrisy has gone viral. In Pakistan, we have the shooting of a 14 year old girl who dared criticize the Taliban’s condemnation of education for people with vaginas. In atheist circles, we have the ongoing debate about SkepChick telling guys not to accost women in elevators late at night. We have Jessica Ahlquist threatened with rape and murder for advocating the removal of the Lord’s Prayer from her school. And the list of those daring to point out sexism grows daily in the face of anger and resentment, threats and hatred. Courage, as we can see, is a quality of character. We need more of it.

Martin Luther King gave a speech about civil rights where he eloquently explained to those of us who assumed race to be an important and defining aspect of our identity to dare to dream… dream that his four children would one day live in a nation where they would not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. Powerful words…. words just as true for race as they are for gender.

What this means in action is that we are responsible for keeping racism alive when we empower it. That means we are the ones responsible for practicing racism when we allow ourselves to use it as a meaningful part of an individual’s identity rather than allow that identity to be based on the content of the individual’s character. Likewise, we are individually responsible for empowering sexism when we assume gender defines the content of an individual’s character. We become sexist when we do this. When a child advocates for education, and gets a bullet in the head for doing so, no other excuse than ignorant sexism of the shooter can account for delivering this blow to a girl rather than a boy. But the shooter doesn’t target boys and in comparison boys are not assassinated for seeking education. Girls are. Globally. And that kind of misogyny practiced by so many is just as obscene to King’s central point as is assuming leadership in matters theological is dependent on possessing a penis. Sexism – like racism – reduces both the character of the practitioner as well as the rights of the target to be treated fairly.

We know we have arrived in the promised land of civil rights when we don’t see skin colour as meaningful, when we don’t treat people differently based on knowing their sexual orientation, when we do not even consider gender to play a part in defining abilities and character. When we treat people fairly – as we ourselves wish to be treated by others – then we do our individual part to eliminate these artificial impediments others must face… at least in our personal dealings.  And what a world this would be if more of us would set out to do our small part in elevating the content of our own characters by having even a modicum of courage exhibited by so many women of removing these stupid and damaging -isms we impose on others and thus directly improve in some small way the lives of those with whom we interact.

Each of us can do this. And the time to start is now.

April 19, 2011

Why are the Abrahamic religions blots on the dignity of humankind?

Because they they are misogynistic. Paula Kirby from the Washington Post explains why, from which I have extracted  the following but I know you’ll head on over to read the whole piece for yourself:

“Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.”

Here, in Ephesians 5, attributed to St Paul, we have in a nutshell the church’s attitude to the respective positions of man and woman. The man’s role is to be the head, the woman’s to submit to him. The meaning is crystal clear, unmistakable; and yet, despite the fundamentalists who firmly believe such Iron Age prejudices still apply today, there are many liberal Christians who have the decency to cringe at the primitiveness of such instructions and who therefore bend over backwards to pretend they’re not as bad as they quite patently are. “Ah yes,” they say, “but Paul goes on to say that husbands must love their wives. And not just love them, but love them as they love themselves. So clearly this is a reciprocal arrangement, equal in value, imposing constraints of equal weight on both man and wife. All is well with the world and we can continue to pretend that Christianity is the friend of women.” But no. All is not well with the world, and only the deluded or the disingenuous could claim to see equality where there is only subservience.

It is interesting to note the context in which this infamous passage occurs: immediately following the commandment to women to submit to their husbands we find the commandment to children to obey their parents, and to slaves to obey their owners. No amount of instruction to the husbands, parents and owners in question not to ruthlessly exploit their positions of power can alter the fact that women are classed with children and slaves when it comes to their social standing, freedom and self-determination and, like them, are called on to embrace their inferior status with cheerfulness and enthusiasm. In this same sequence of instructions slave-owners are exhorted not to threaten their slaves. Does this make slavery acceptable? Of course not. Only religion could attempt to present such a loathsome idea as though it were not a blot on the dignity of humankind, and the requirement for women always to submit to their menfolk is no less repugnant.

So isn’t this always the case even without these religious influences?

Show me a non-religious society that feels so threatened by the thought of female sexuality that it will slice off the clitoris of a young girl to ensure she can never experience sexual pleasure. Show me a non-religious society that feels the need to cloak women from head to toe and force them to experience the outside world through a slit of a few square inches. All three Abrahamic religions share the myth of Adam and Eve, the myth that it was through woman that evil was let loose in the world. They share the heritage of Leviticus, which declared a menstruating woman unclean, to be set aside, untouched, a revulsion that remains even today among some orthodox Jews, who will refuse to shake a woman’s hand for fear she may be menstruating. What kind of lunacy is this? It is the lunacy of a Bronze Age mindset fossilized by the reactionary forces of religion.

But of course the lunacies derived from religious beliefs neither begins nor ends here; it’s a fount for lunacy that keeps on giving.

Religion is one lie after another: the lie of original sin, the lie of eternal life, the lie of hell, the lie of answered prayer, the lie that life can have no meaning without religion, the lie that religion is the source of morality, the lie of creationism, the lie of a spy-in-the-sky who hears your every word and reads your every thought. And to this list we must add the lie that it views men and women as equal. It has got away for so long with the kind of lunatic word-games that allow death-by-torture to be presented as an act of love, and eternal torment in the flames of hell to be seen as a necessary act of justice, that we should perhaps not be surprised that it has also managed to dupe its followers into seeing the systematic suppression and silencing of women as an act of liberation and equality. Nevertheless, it is a lie, like all the others: a cynical and wicked lie. It is time women everywhere woke up to it.

That would be a good start.

March 10, 2011

Why will the Egyptian revolution fail?

Filed under: belief,civil rights,Egypt,Human Rights,Islam,misogyny,Religion — tildeb @ 10:07 am

It started off with such promise, but the revolution in Egypt will fail because the right to political and social equality for half of the population is held in contempt by the vast majority of its populace. The archaic anti-enlightenment belief directly supported by islam that women do not and should not have the same political and social rights as men has not been overthrown.

A demonstration on International Women’s Day by 300 women advocating for equality reveals this truth. The group was attacked and broken up by a much larger group of men who reportedly groped and beat and chased these women from Tahrir Square.  But this depressing result should not be surprising. PEW polling data reveals the scope and breadth of beliefs held by the vast majority of Egyptians that stand diametrically opposed to establishing political and social equality for women. And without equality in law for all citizens, the revolution is simply a period of time between being ruled by different strongmen.

Move along, folks. Nothing new to see here.

December 5, 2010

How do the religious undermine the Golden Rule?

I read many comments and articles by ‘moderate’ theists who suggest that, at their core, religious beliefs are really all the same, that what people are responding to with various kinds of religious faiths is recognizing the transcendent, honouring the spiritual, paying homage to a felt but never seen creative and loving force. It all sounds so… well, kumba ya-ish. And heart-warmingly lovely, mitigating the trivial differences that so easily separate us and acts like a special kind of blessed force (unseen by athiets, of course) that promotes the common good.

And then I read something like this and have to remind myself that the metaphorical holding of religious hands argued by different theists about life-enhancing nature of religious compatibility is nothing more than soothing lies we find in the daily practice of religious beliefs that inform how we behave towards others.

A 17 year old girl lived a hellish life and died a horrible death because of people acting on their religious convictions. More religion will never solve this ongoing and familiar tragedy played out in the lives of us little people who grant their religious convictions and the convictions of others a legitimate role in determining how to behave in ways that supposedly honour a god.

This is insane. And it’s insane because doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result – some divine enhancement in the lives of humans – is not a rational nor reasonable expectation. Such a belief that a different result will occur is maintained in spite of contrary yet consistent evidence of harm caused by acting on religious convictions. When we choose to empower such beliefs with an assumption that they are legitimate because they involve some homage to a deity, then we have left the arena of what is rational, what is reasonable, what is probable, what is likely true, and entered the arena of what is is merely hoped for, what is wished, what is improbable, what is likely false. And this legitimizing of what is hoped for in spite of evidence to the contrary is not compatible with empowering respect and audience for what is true. Expecting more religious belief to magically find some way to stop the kind of human abuse people commit in the name of some god is crazy talk. It’s delusional. It’s dangerous and, in the case of Nurta Mohamed Farah, deadly.

Anyone who thinks that religious belief has a legitimate and compatible role to play in helping anyone determine how to treat other human beings with dignity and respect is guilty of helping to legitimize the actions of people to do terrible things to other people for exactly the same reasons. By legitimizing the intentions of those who act to honour some god, we legitimize the basis of such assumptions that they are true, that they are accurate, that they are correct. Such assumptions help to legitimize delusion and insanity rather than what’s rational and reasonable and backed by consistent evidence. Those who assume that religious belief is equivalent to rational thinking have no evidence to insist the two are compatible methods of inquiry, compatible voices that need to be heard, compatible means to inform morality and ethical behaviour, compatible avenues to establishing respect not only for the rights and freedoms and dignity of other people but how to act in ways that achieve these results. The evidence does not support this assumption. What evidence there is shows that by legitimizing delusional thinking, we legitimize its failure to respect other people’s claim to equal rights, legitimize its failure to establish equal freedoms, legitimize its failure to support equal respect between people, and we see this failure played out in religious inspired tragedy after religious inspired tragedy.

Isn’t it high time in the 21st century to stop tolerating and legitimizing this failed voice offered up as a compatible way of achieving noble goals and Enlightenment values by the religiously deluded? The religious perspective has nothing to offer any of us but more failure to be reasonable and rational and consistent with the evidence in every area of human endeavor in which it is granted a fair hearing. Isn’t it time we recognized its failure? Isn’t it time that we gave full credence to the rational and reasonable voice  of a basic equality and dignity for all in shared rights and freedoms and reject the anti-rational voice of delusion? Is that not the least we can do on an individual basis if for no other reason than in memory of this one girl whose sad life was warped and twisted and ended by the deluded in the name of their religious beliefs? Isn’t a human life more important in and of itself to be treated as we ourselves wish to be treated – with the same level of dignity and respect – than simply as a piece of property of some god to be used and abused by the faithful who claim to be fulfilling god’s wishes?

We really do have to choose eventually because these different perspectives and antithetical methods of achieving our goals are not compatible. Agreeing at the very least to empower the Golden Rule seems to be a good starting point for everybody… unless you are deluded, in which case your opinions should not be invited to the grown-up’s table.

August 1, 2010

Can you imagine what law based on catholic dogma might look like in action?

Oh, wait. We don’t have to imagine. We have Guanajuato! The catholic church must be so pleased.

From Change.org with bold added:

Six women in the conservative Mexican state of Guanajuato have been sentenced to 25 to 30 years prison time for the crime of making decisions about their own bodies.

Actually, that’s not completely accurate: one woman’s crime was having a body that made the decision for her.

Ms. Magazine reports that the six women were tried and sentence for homicide under laws criminalizing abortion. Activists working with the women reports that all six defendants were poor and had little education. Two were impregnated by rape, and all were abandoned by the sperm-providers. One had a spontaneous abortion, a.k.a. a miscarriage.

Is this not exactly what we would expect to find with catholic dogma about sex ed, contraception, and abortion at work in the legal system?

Guanajuanto can brag about sporting the country’s harshest penalties for abortion, which is only legal in Mexico City, and even rape survivors can face 25 to 30 years in prison.

Guanajuato can also brag about having the country’s highest teen pregnancy rate, which might be related to the utter refusal to teach sex education in schools in the area. The mayor even tried to ban passionate kissing in public, and duly became a laughingstock.

It was also the only state to fail to enact legislation against gender violence, such as rape, despite the fact that this had been required on the federal level. The excuse for not instating such a law? Well, because violence against women in Guanajuanto doesn’t exist, so it’s just silly to have legislation against it. I guess they said as much to the women who decided to abort the pregnancy caused by their rapist.

After all, why attempt to prevent unwanted pregnancy by teaching youth about sex and birth control or instituting legal protections for women against rape when you can simply throw vulnerable women in jail for ending a pregnancy that they didn’t want and were unprepared to provide for.

Why not attempt to prevent this unfolding tragedy? Because it goes against being a good little catholic, silly, and would interfere with what is much more important than criminalizing some women: what is much more important is to institutionalize the catholic church’s misogynistic teachings, of course. Yes, the church can be very proud of this progeny of turning women into incubators for rapists or murderers. Well done, Mother Church.

Can we feel that burning christian love yet? It’s a different kind of burn…

July 22, 2010

What’s wrong with a little ironing between between mothers and daughters?

Filed under: abuse,belief,Catholic Church,misogyny,Religion — tildeb @ 8:56 pm

This atrocity is a failure of sex education and I think arguably a result of too much Catholic influence. But it’s not the boys who pay the price; it’s the girls. Isn’t always the girls? Funny how that seems to almost always be the case… not that religion in general and catholicism in particular are partly misogynistic. They are wholly so.

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.

April 3, 2010

Why is a pedophilia-ridden, pedophilia-hiding, child-abusing Church allowed to write laws controlling women’s rights?

Americans should be ashamed of how much active interference they allow religious concerns in their public policies. Especially American catholics and most especially American catholic women. From The Nation comes this article from which I have taken excerpts and added bold face:

In the response of church hierarchs to the ongoing scandal, which now involves Pope Benedict XVI himself, Archbishop Timothy Dolan urged worshipers at St. Patrick’s Cathedral to show “love and solidarity for our earthly shepherd now suffering some of the same unjust accusations, shouts of the mob and scourging at the pillar, as did Jesus.”

Talk about arrogant: the pope’s suffering of being caught covering up child sexual abuse in the church equates with the pilloring of Jesus? Please.

What gives a church in which celibacy is equated with holiness, in which males have almost all the power, the right to a place at the table where laws are made about women’s bodies? The same institution that has dealt so indulgently with its ordained pedophiles had no problem excommunicating a Brazilian mother who sought an abortion for her 9-year-old daughter, raped and impregnated with twins by her stepfather, or pushing for laws in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Chile banning abortion even to save the woman’s life..

Most Catholics take a flexible view of the church’s teachings on sexuality. They use birth control–how else could Italy, Spain and Poland have among the lowest birthrates in the world? They divorce and remarry, use condoms to prevent STDs, undergo in vitro and other banned fertility treatments and even have abortions. Yet there were the bishops, holding the whole healthcare reform bill hostage to their opposition to abortion rights, advising on the crafting of language right in the halls of Congress. And as Jacobson details, it was the Conference of Catholic Bishops that worked alongside Republican Congressmen Chris Smith, Joe Pitts and Mike Pence to insert last-minute language denying HIV-positive women access to contraceptives and favoring abstinence-only-until-marriage policies in the 2008 President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

There isn’t much that non-Catholics can do to force the church to abandon its 2,000-year-old misogynistic ways. We can’t force it to ordain women and married men, or value a woman’s life over a fertilized egg, or see homosexuality as something other than, in Pope John Paul II’s memorable words, “intrinsic moral evil.” Catholics themselves will have to do that, whether by leaving the church in numbers large enough to get the bishops’ attention or by organizing within it, like Catholics for Choice, Women-Church Convergence or the international group We Are Church. But certainly the rest of us can demand that the Obama administration, Congress and government generally stop catering to the Vatican. The bishops can’t even make their own flock obey their outmoded and cruel rules and regulations, so why should they exercise power over the entire country?

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