Questionable Motives

August 30, 2011

What were the five stupidest statements made at Gov. Perry’s Texas prayer rally?

Filed under: Politics,Religion,Texas — tildeb @ 9:39 am

#5 “Lord, I pray that we might see a reinstating of the display of the Ten Commandments in our classrooms. I pray Lord that we will again see freedom to pray in our classrooms.” This gem was from Vonette Bright, a co-founder of CRU (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ).

#4 “Tens, even hundreds, of thousands of Jewish people in the last decades have come to their Messiah. And so Lord, we pray for the revival around the world, and for Israel to come to their own Messiah.” From Pastor Don Finto of the Caleb Company.

#3 “In the humanistic culture, people are talking about love without reference to Jesus Christ.” Can’t be good without god, can we? This from Mike Bickle, director of the International House of Prayer Missions Base of Kansas City.

#2 “There’s a crisis of truth in the pulpits today in our land. That, in the name of tolerance, even in the name of love, we are redefining love that is not on God’s terms. Jesus is god. There is no other god than Jesus. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All the world religions, they can say what they say. There is no other god besides Jesus. There is no other standard of truth. Jesus alone is the standard of truth. He defines morality. He defines marriage. He defines life. He defines righteousness. And in our allegiance to him, we say what he says. It’s time to come out in the open. It’s time to go public. Regardless what it costs us, we love you Jesus! The only god!” Yup, what’s a christian rally without insisting that Jesus was anti-choice and anti-gay? That’s Mike Bickle again. How handy is it, really, that jesus agrees with whatever Mike Bickle says?

#1 But by far the stupidest statement was by the governor himself, Rick Perry, who tells us why god is against such political prayer rallies. But Perry so immersed in his own stupidity that he doesn’t see the irony: “His agenda is not a political agenda. His agenda is a salvation agenda … He is a wise, wise god, and he is wise enough to not be affiliated with any political party. Or for that matter, He is wise enough to not be affiliated with any man-made institutions.”

(h/t Secular News Daily)

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.

December 9, 2010

How does the long arm of American evangelical beliefs threaten people’s lives in Uganda?

Ignorance in action so often aided and abetted by religious conviction continues to cause unnecessary suffering. This is especially true regarding the treatment in law of homosexuals and the active advocacy of religious organizations to promote bigotry and misogyny in the name of god.

From HuffPo:

Rachel Maddow devoted almost half of her Wednesday show to a lengthy interview with David Bahati, author of the infamous bill in the Ugandan Parliament that calls for gay people to face life imprisonment or, in some cases, execution if they are convicted of having practiced homosexuality.

Bahati is also a member of The Family, the religious organization that carries substantial power on Capitol Hill (ever heard of the yearly National Prayer Breakfast?) .

Maddow asked him how gays living openly in Uganda harmed children. “It hurts my family when my child goes to school and is converted into gay…when the purpose of procreation is undermined,” Bahati said.

He also said that he was concerned about following “God’s law.” Maddow pressed him on this point, finally getting him to acknowledge that, in his view, the “appropriate punishment” for violating God’s law is death. “We need to turn to God,” he said.

Watch the entire interview (in two parts) here.

September 13, 2010

What is the root of religious intolerance?

Scripture. Holy scripture. And we need to be courageous to face this most unpleasant fact. The only way for religion and Enlightenment values like freedom of expression to live together in peace and tolerance is if religion becomes domesticated. And that means that the scriptures need a good editing to annul the intolerance and bigotry it promotes by order of god and for the scripture’s literalistic adherents to be marginalized by main religious body of followers. And this needs to be clearly stated by our political leaders who, so far, have done a piss poor job enunciating this necessity; instead, they have kowtowed to the religious sense that all is fine and dandy in their religion… except for a few dingbats, wingnuts, and deluded folk who actually dare to believe that the scriptures say what god means. I know… crazy talk!

As Dan Gardiner clearly explains in this article:

Of course religions can evolve. It is true, for example, that most Christians do not support the immediate execution of all homosexuals and very, very few would think it appropriate to kill a man who had carnal relations with a sheep. Or kill the sheep. That’s progress.

But, even if religions evolve, religious texts don’t. The language of brutality and bigotry is still there, in books said to be holy. Surely it is not surprising that it can still inspire suspicion, hostility, and division, or that, every now and then, some strange little man will read it and decide to burn a Koran or picket a gay man’s funeral or fly a jet into a skyscraper. It’s true that religion can inspire the best in us. But it can also inspire hate and madness. This is a fact of enormous importance, if only our leaders had the courage to say it.

The fact of the matter is that biblical and qu’ranic scriptures are filled with god’s sanctified intolerance for the Other and various admonishments and punishments that seem to suit his rather barbaric taste in allowable retribution. People who honestly believe that these scriptures really are the word of god cannot understand how others who claim to be of a similar religious persuasion can cherry-pick which are to be understood to be benign metaphors and which are to be taken literally. Arguments for moderate and tolerant religious beliefs are usually based on theological interpretations that rely on a rather sophisticated reading that elevate the good bits over and above the bad bits. But many adherents feel uncomfortable agreeing to go along with these man-made interpretations rather than stick closer to the source. And I do not think we can fault these folk for relying on the source material… a practice hammered into my head by the repeated mantra of many a professor: when in doubt, go the source.

Our leadership – like most religious folk – would have us believe that these believers who rely on the source scripture for and are willing to act on their religious beliefs are some fringe group that has been radicalized into fundamental extremism. I think that is unfair and is an avoidance technique to have to deal with the truth of the matter: it is the religious and tolerant moderate who has moved away from the word of god as revealed in scripture. Unless and until we recognize scripture itself as a never-changing central impediment to achieving tolerance and legal respect for the rights and freedoms and dignity of the Other, we shall continue to pretend that this intellectual cowardice to face reality is a synonym for tolerance. It isn’t. It is an enabling attitude. And that enabling cowardice shall continue to exact a heavy price in human suffering in the name of god.

(Tip to a subscriber)

August 24, 2010

Does a catholic education teach students how to spell ‘collusion’?

Filed under: Catholic Church,Politics,Priests,Scandal — tildeb @ 2:38 pm

Here’s another example of why the word should receive more special treatment in a catholic education than others:

The police, the Catholic Church and the state conspired to cover up a priest’s suspected role in one of the worst atrocities of the Northern Ireland Troubles, an investigation has found.

The NI Police Ombudsman’s probe found that high-level talks led to Fr James Chesney, a suspect in the attack, being moved to the Irish Republic.

Who is Fr James Chesney and why would he be moved?

In a statement in December 2002, Assistant Chief Constable Sam Kinkaid said: “In a search of 1972 papers, information has been found which clearly indicates that a parish priest in the south Derry area was a member of the Provisional IRA and was actively involved in the Claudy bomb.

“Records show he provided an alibi for a person suspected of playing a prominent role in the atrocity. The priest is now deceased.”

ACC Kinkaid also said his investigative team had found papers relating to a discussion held on 5 December 1972 between the then Northern Ireland Secretary William Whitelaw and Cardinal Conway, the then Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland.

“This private discussion occurred at one of the regular meetings that they held to address issues relating to the troubles,” he said.

“On 6 December 1972, the day after the meeting, a briefing letter was sent from a senior NIO official to Police Headquarters indicating that the private matter discussed related to the activities of the priest.

“The letter of 6 December 1972 indicates that the secretary of state gave the Cardinal a full account of his disgust at the priest’s behaviour and also indicates that the Cardinal knew that the priest was behaving improperly.”

No-one has ever been convicted of planting the three bombs in Claudy that day.

What a surprise. Not.

August 16, 2010

Catholic evidence of an alternative universe?

Yup. Michael Voris of The Vortex shows us clear evidence how his faith allows him to live in alternative universe while using the rights and freedoms found in this universe within his country’s secular society to advocate that all of us should join him there.

(Tip to Pharyngula)

May 30, 2010

Advocating for discrimination in Turkey – Does this make Rand Paul proud?

Filed under: Bigotry,civil rights,Media,Politics — tildeb @ 10:26 am
Tags:

From the Daily News:

Turkish public opinion continues to advocate for a total restriction of rights for atheists and homosexuals, according to recent study conducted by Boğaziçi University and the Open Society Association.

An astonishing 53 percent of participants strongly believed that the right to freely express a different sexual orientation should be restricted. Similarly, 37 percent of the people sampled denounced the right of believing in no religion, with 59 percent standing against atheists flaunting their lack of religion. Moreover, 28 percent denounced the right of non-Muslims to be open about their religious identity.

Well, that’s Turkey. Such advocacy could never happen here in the West. Could it?

In the US this week, Rand Paul, who beat an establishment-backed candidate in a May 25, 2010 GOP primary to win the Republican senate candidacy in Kentucky, appeared on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show and, in a long exchange with the liberal host, repeated his belief in a limited government that should not force private businesses to abide by civil rights law. Maddow asked him, “Do you think that a private business has the right to say ‘we don’t serve black people’?” “Yes,” was Paul’s answer, although he tried to explain that in terms of freedom of expression. It was actually another attempt to explain his belief that a limited government that should not force private businesses to abide by civil rights law. In a 2002 letter Paul had written to a Kentucky newspaper, he argued that private individuals and businesses should have the right to discriminate, even if it is abhorrent.

Not only can it happen in the US,  it IS happening in the US with direct support from those who call themselves tea-baggers. Paul’s win is evidence for that support. Let us hope that the people of Kentucky will not elect him and his dangerous willingness to undermine civil rights legislation.

So why should we care?

If we don’t support civil rights laws and those who are willing to uphold them against people like the tea-baggers and their chosen candidates, then we open the door to once again to discriminate on the basis on race, gender, religious belief, sexual orientation, and so on. We can reasonably expect similar advocacy for discrimination against identifiable minorities if they are elected. Those who allow discrimination to flourish are not just the politicians once they are in power; they are us – the ones who give in to our fear and biases and  bigotries and cast our vote in that direction. And that vote can have a direct cost that creates victims – real, live people – out of our willingness to tolerant bigotry.

May 21, 2010

What does fear of gays look like in action?

From the CBC:

A judge in Malawi has found a gay couple guilty of unnatural acts and gross indecency after a trial that drew worldwide condemnation of that country’s laws on homosexuality.

Blantyre Chief Resident Magistrate Nyakwawa Usiwa issued the ruling Tuesday. The couple could be imprisoned for up to 14 years.

Steven Monjeza, 26, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, had been jailed since their arrest Dec. 27, when they celebrated their engagement with a party that drew crowds of curious and jeering onlookers.

Their hearings also drew ridicule, an indication of views on homosexuality in this traditional society — and elsewhere in Africa.

Homosexuality is illegal in at least 37 countries on the continent. In Uganda, lawmakers are considering a bill that would sentence homosexuals to life in prison and include capital punishment for “repeat offenders.” Even in South Africa, the only African country that recognizes gay rights, gangs have carried out so-called “corrective” rapes on lesbians.

What can I say? I was offended, so I wrote to the Malawi high commissioner:

The sentencing by this Malawi ‘court’ of Steven and Tiwonge is a mark of bigotry and shame that contravenes section 20 of your country’s constitution. And your government seems to be in full agreement with this ruling. When court rulings support populism, but break the spirit of guaranteed constitutional rights and freedoms for all, then all citizens lose. The fact that your government is satisfied with this ruling makes a mockery that human rights are respected and are of any legal value whatsoever in Malawi. On the world stage, your country has taken a giant step backwards into an age of superstition and fear about a victimless activity between consenting adults some in your country find offensive.

So what?

Unless and until the government of Malawi and its agents in positions of authority have the moral courage and political fortitude to step forward and accept that rights and freedoms for all outweigh popular superstition and bigotry against some, your country’s voice will be one of regressive and brutal bigotry codified and enforced by a bullying and ethically corrupt government that deserves nothing but condemnation and marginilization for it lack of intestinal fortitude. If your government can so easily discriminate against these two men because you find their behaviour offensive, then I see no reason why your country should not wholeheartedly agree to have its membership at the United Nations revoked and sentenced to 14 years of hard labour for offending the many people other governments represent who find your ruling so offensive. Simply put, your country does not belong at the same discussion table as civilized nations because your failure to act in this matter of Steven and Tiwonge is uncivilized and deeply offensive. Your government’s failure to intercede and insist that your courts enforce the law equally on behalf of these two men is at the very least a disgrace, an abdication of your government’s responsibility to all the people it represents like Stephen and Tiwonge, and I consider criminally negligent.

If nothing else, overturning the court’s decision on constitutional grounds would show the world that your government at least has the merit, unlike 37 other timid and scared African countries, of having grown a pair.

There. That feels better.

April 27, 2010

Why should we be ashamed of respecting religious belief in the public domain?

Canada is hosting a G8 summit and wants to promote a child and maternal health-care initiative for developing countries. But that will not include any money for funding abortion.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the health initiative should include access to safe and legal abortion. Why? Because safe abortions reduces women mortality – a fundamental concern when addressing issues about about child and maternal health-care. So access to therapeutic abortions is a health concern.

According to the 1995 Beijing World Conference on Women by 189 participating countries and more than 2100 non-governmental organizations, the resolution passed that access to family planning, safe and legal abortion and maternal health, are essential to achieving gender equality. The UN Treaty Monitoring Bodies (TMBs) have recognized that access to these essential reproductive health services is rooted in international human rights obligations. The Beijing PFA (Platform For Action) highlighted the impact of unsafe abortion on women’s lives and health and the need to reduce recourse to abortion through expanded family planning services. It urges governments to review punitive measures against women who have undergone illegal abortions and calls for women’s access to quality post-abortion care. In turn, over the last decade, human rights bodies and regional and national courts have increasingly recognized that restrictions
on access to safe and legal abortion interfere with women’s enjoyment of their human rights.

So access to abortions according to the UN is a human rights concern.

But rather than follow this previously agreed to PFA, Canadian officials say they will instead focus the G8 plan on other measures aimed at improving the health of women and children in poor countries — including safe drinking water and vaccination programs, an important issue about child and maternal health to be sure. But why not therapeutic abortion?

Access to therapeutic abortion (outside of Canada) according to Harper and his Canadian government is about “clarifying family planning,” which simply does not include any discussion about abortion. One must wonder why when it is widely considered both a health-care concern and a human rights concern. According to Harper, it is not a concern at all and certainly not one open to debate.

This omission is a cop out, a capitulation not to the best practices of modern medicine nor furthering the human rights of children and their mothers. It is a tacit nod of agreement to the religious belief that abortion under any circumstances is wrong. By refusing to fund abortion outside of the country, the Canadian government’s inaction supports the bizarre idea that a zygote is of greater value than is the life of a fully developed mother. This position simply ignores (or at least finds perfectly acceptable) maternal mortality when therapeutic abortions are unavailable. What lies behind the politics of abortion is neither any kind of informed debate about why it is a necessary part of health-care or a necessary plank in furthering maternal human rights; it is a position in favour of appeasing religious sensibilities at home about this controversial topic. And how informed is that sensibility by comparison? I think not at all. It’s simply an uninformed, unjustified belief that has no place at the table of discussion about child and maternal health-care.

And do religious sensibilities stop in areas of public health care?

Umm, no. Are we surprised?

In January (2010), the Ontario government introduced changes to the sex education component of the public school curriculum: Grade 1 children were to be taught to identify genitalia using the correct words, such as penis, vagina and testicle, Grade 5 children were to be taught to identify parts of the reproductive system and describe how the body changes during puberty, and in Grade 7, the plan was to teach kids how to prevent unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. Children in grade 7 are usually 12 years old.

CBC News reported the following:

Religious groups objected to the revised curriculum and raised a voluble campaign against it earlier this week. They promised a huge demonstration on the front lawn of Queen’s Park (the Ontario provincial legislature) to protest the sex education changes.

“It is unconscionable to teach eight-year-old children same-sex marriage, sexual orientation and gender identity,” said Charles McVety, head of the Canada Christian College. “It is even more absurd to subject sixth graders to instruction on the pleasures of masturbation, vaginal lubrication, and 12-year-olds to lessons on oral sex and anal intercourse.”

So we know what McVety thinks is unconscionable and absurd in sex education at these grades and seems quite content to oppose any curriculum that promotes healthy sexuality, counteracts schoolyard misinformation, prevents teen pregnancy, gives information that shows how to avoid STDs, and so on. What does he offer in return as an alternative that still meets the goals of informing ht epublic about these issues? Nada. On what, then, does he base his opposition? His religious belief. And how is that uninformed religious belief comparable to the kind of consideration to what informs best practices in education? On what basis of knowledge is a religious belief about sex education equally worthy of consideration than curriculum development done by professionals and informed by evidence?

Only because the public tolerates unjustified religious interference and unwarranted intrusions in the public domain does ignorance and bigotry of uninformed religious belief become a potent political force, enough to adversely affect informed public policy in education to the likes of the sanctimonious self-righteous morons like McVety and his ignorant ilk, as well as adversely affect funding for promoting the health-care and human rights of women in developing nations. That’s the ongoing gift (and legacy) of religious belief in action in the public domain: promoting ignorance over knowledge, belief over health, misogyny over human rights.

These weak-kneed governments should be ashamed of themselves for appeasing the ignorant and foolish among us (including those within these parties) for political gain. That political behaviour – supposedly done in the name of good governance – is what is  truly unconscionable and absurd. For when we grant guanocephalic clerics and their supporters a place at the table of determining public policy like education and foreign policy aid because of some warped idea that the representatives of the public owe respect to religious beliefs of the few, we are damaging the welfare of all.

April 20, 2010

Why is attribution to link cause with effect so important to determining what’s true?

I would have thought this question was pretty easy to answer but I have come across many religious believers who have serious difficulty understanding why. For example, I am told repeatedly (and I presume honestly) with great assurance that testimonials and revelation lead to a transformative experience that itself is strong evidence that god (or some ‘outside’ agency) exists and intervenes in meaningful ways in our world. When we unpack the meaning of this claim, we find that the link is very tenuous between having an experience and attributing some outside supernatural agency to what caused it.

I have found that believers in supernatural agencies are quite willing to attribute to these supernatural agencies to whatever cause is currently unknown, misunderstood, or poorly informed – what many call the god of the gaps, referring to assigning god to whatever gaps we have in our knowledge. But it goes much further than that, I think.

From demonic possession to the building of the pyramids, from the ghostly squeak in the floorboards in the dead of night to the influence of the stars on our fate, far too many people attribute these things or events or imaginings to a single, easy, completely unjustified source: it was oogity boogity! (Fill in whatever name to some supernatural agency you may wish here)

So what’s the harm, right? If people want to believe oogity boogity links cause to effect, who cares? People have a right to believe in whatever they want, so the excuse goes. And I agree… as long as this belief stays within the private domain where it belongs. People are allowed to delude themselves and pretend that their attributions to supernatural agencies are as valid an explanation as any repeatable, testable, measurable, falsifiable and reliable explanation that clearly links cause to effect by means of a consistent mechanism, one that works here as well as there today and tomorrow. But when that supernatural explanation is inserted into the public domain and people support the insertion because they happen to agree with the attribution rather than causal truth value, then we are opening the door to lunacy.

Many women who do not dress modestly … lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes,” Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi was quoted as saying by Iranian media (brought to us by Yahoo News). Sedighi is Tehran’s acting Friday prayer leader. “A divine authority told me to tell the people to make a general repentance. Why? Because calamities threaten us,” Sedighi said. Referring to the violence that followed last June’s disputed presidential election, he said, “The political earthquake that occurred was a reaction to some of the actions (that took place). And now, if a natural earthquake hits Tehran, no one will be able to confront such a calamity but God’s power, only God’s power. … So let’s not disappoint God.”

Minister of Welfare and Social Security Sadeq Mahsooli said prayers and pleas for forgiveness were the best “formulas to repel earthquakes. We cannot invent a system that prevents earthquakes, but God has created this system and that is to avoid sins, to pray, to seek forgiveness, pay alms and self-sacrifice,” Mahsooli said.

When we allow attribution between a cause and effect to have no natural mechanism to measure its truth value but, instead, allow for whatever supernatural explanation people want to be inserted in its place, we are setting the stage for exactly this kind of lunacy. There is no known way to link dress to tectonic activities, so the attribution to god is as good as one that attributes the link to the nefarious deeds of intergalactic mushrooms.

So next time a politician tells you that he or she will support some oogity boogity to be inserted into public policy, take issue with it. Don’t allow your private preferences for assigning a favoured supernatural attribution to sway you; religious or not, your civic duty to all your neighbours is to keep all oogity boogity out of public policy altogether.

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