Questionable Motives

May 11, 2014

What is atheism?

Filed under: Atheism,belief,evidence,faith-based beliefs,reason,Religion,Science — tildeb @ 11:38 am

I continue to be amazed at just how poorly understood is atheism by those hell-bent on criticizing it. After all, if you can’t even figure out what the term means by those who use it to define their lack of belief with it, then how can these folk justify claims that non belief inherently possesses immorality while blathering about its association with all kinds of pejorative descriptions and character assassinations for those who do not believe in some meddlesome supernatural deity or deities.

So let’s be clear and define the term for those unable or unwilling to actually listen to atheists: atheism means non belief in gods or a god. The REASONS for holding no belief in some meddlesome supernatural deity or deities are many. I sincerely hope this video will help those who demonstrate such difficulty of comprehension grasping such a simple term finally understand what atheism means and how one arrives at this conclusion.

(h/t to the Arbourist over at deadwildroses)


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?

August 26, 2013

Why is accommodating respect for faith-based beliefs stupid and irresponsible?

medical treatmentOver at  Jerry Coyne’s site, Why Evolution is True, he posted about a measles outbreak in Texas traced back to a mega-church and non vaccinated children.  Coyne titled his post, “Measles back again, thanks to religion,” and gave us information about the outbreak, the response from church authorities and its ‘medical’ team, and data on the disease, all very useful stuff (as usual). But I disagreed in one sense that the measles outbreak was due to religion. It was just as much back because of those who accommodate faith-based beliefs of any kind and smugly attack New Atheists for daring to criticize any of it publicly. This is what I wrote in my ridiculously long comment:

I apologize for the length of my comment, but this post highlights that the ‘enemy’ of reason and knowledge isn’t just religion per se but those who support and tolerate a methodology that is clearly broken, namely, the empowerment and public acceptance of any faith-based belief (an acceptance demonstrated by offering unjustified respect rather than justified criticism of those who exercise any faith-based belief. I’m talking to you, accommodationists).

Into the category of faith-based beliefs can be everything from religion to anti-vaccination, conspiracies to astrology, alternative medicine to Winfrey/Chopra/Dr. Oz-ian woo. Belief in these is all of a kind, and the root is faith- rather than evidence-based belief… a method of thinking that elevates possibility to be equivalent to probability, meaning that it’s a way to elevate any belief in something to be the same weight in consideration as not having belief in it. In other words, it’s a way to make any faith-based belief seem as reasonable as not believing… one either believes in alien abductions, for example, (by entertaining the possibility) or one does not (by seeming to be closed-minded when there is no compelling evidence in its favour). See? Equivalent: six of one, a half dozen of the other. How very reasonable and open-minded we are and not followers of scientism like those intolerant, strident, and militant folk who are Doin’ it Rong!

What’s lost, of course, is any meaningful way, a methodology we can trust, to allow reality to arbitrate the faith-based belief because the weight of evidence (supporting or not supporting the belief) plays no important role; the equivalency is already clearly established by believers, which is why any possible evidence for the most ludicrous of beliefs is drafted into service and used as if equivalent to the array of evidence contrary to them combined with the absence of compelling evidence where it should be if the belief were true. In this sense, the use of evidence (aka, reality) by the faith-based believer is only used in service to the belief, whereas in every other area of life we know enough to allow our beliefs to be in the service of reality… if we wish to function successfully in it.

Any method of inquiry that refuses to allow reality to adjudicate claims made about it is a guaranteed way to fool one’s self. Believers in faith-based beliefs fool themselves (along with the tacit approval of accommodationists who decide the appearance of being tolerant of foolishness is a higher standard of intellectual integrity than respecting reality to inform our beliefs about it). But it doesn’t end here and this is the point accommodationsits fail to appreciate. A measles outbreak doesn’t just threaten those foolish enough not to vaccinate; it threatens both the non vaccinated AND the vaccinated with exposure to a preventable disease! This is unconscionable stupidity and social irresponsibility in the face of spreading a very real disease because of acting on a faith-based belief. As if believing in such faith-based foolishness weren’t bad enough, acting on this foolishness carries with it a demonstrable cost to all of us that causes real harm to real people in real life. Faced with this reality, I must ask: where did all these ‘reasonable’ accommodationists suddenly go? This is where the rubber meets the road of why respecting faith-based beliefs by anyone including accommodationists is a public threat to the health and welfare of us all.

August 7, 2013

What is ‘scientism’ really all about?

Filed under: Religion,scientism,Steven Pinker — tildeb @ 9:49 am

Steve Pinker offers some keen insight why theists are so motivated to attacking the necessary role science plays in undermining their claims to authority and attracted to vilifying it with this Straw Man argument:

“(T)he worldview that guides the moral and spiritual values of an educated person today is the worldview given to us by science. Though the scientific facts do not by themselves dictate values, they certainly hem in the possibilities. By stripping ecclesiastical authority of its credibility on factual matters, they cast doubt on its claims to certitude in matters of morality. The scientific refutation of the theory of vengeful gods and occult forces undermines practices such as human sacrifice, witch hunts, faith healing, trial by ordeal, and the persecution of heretics. The facts of science, by exposing the absence of purpose in the laws governing the universe, force us to take responsibility for the welfare of ourselves, our species, and our planet. For the same reason, they undercut any moral or political system based on mystical forces, quests, destinies, dialectics, struggles, or messianic ages. And in combination with a few unexceptionable convictions— that all of us value our own welfare and that we are social beings who impinge on each other and can negotiate codes of conduct—the scientific facts militate toward a defensible morality, namely adhering to principles that maximize the flourishing of humans and other sentient beings. This humanism, which is inextricable from a scientific understanding of the world, is becoming the de facto morality of modern democracies, international organizations, and liberalizing religions, and its unfulfilled promises define the moral imperatives we face today.

You can read the whole article here.

May 15, 2013

Why can’t theists and New Atheists have a meaningful dialogue?

Filed under: dialogue,faith-based beliefs,New Atheists,regulation,Religion — tildeb @ 10:33 pm

religious confusionIn a nutshell, because theists alone try to moderate it.

I like to comment on other sites, like the give and take of a truncated argument where different people become involved and the original post can be explored in detail. This can be rewarding not just for the participants but for the host who can sometimes gather more hits to a site as they follow along. But sometimes I grow weary of  writing comments to start this kind of thread that end up going into moderation never to be seen again. Most religious sites are notorious for their moderation of comments, where the most outlandish and rude commentary is allowed when in support of the web site author but strangled when it becomes critical supposedly because of ‘militant’ tone!

I commented over at Just Thomism in response to a post about why the claim that ‘science destroys creation myths‘ did not matter to right religious creationist beliefs… a post that expressed the notion that myth shouldn’t be mistaken for being anything other than myth, and so any criticism of a creation myth shown to be false by scientific inquiry is not needed and in no way reduces the truth value of creationist claims.  Knowing full well that catholicism requires belief in a literal and historical Adam and Eve for them to have a literal and historical fall to own original sin and then pass it along to the rest of humanity that literally and historically descends from them, I commented how relieved I was that this notion could now be cast aside and that the redemption paid for by a literal and historical Jesus could now be seen as a literal and historical blood sacrifice for a metaphorical sin revealed in a creation myth.

I know, for example, that Pope Pius XII stated (with italics and bold added by me) : “When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains either that after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parents of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now, it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the teaching authority of the Church proposed with regard to original sin which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam in which through generation is passed onto all and is in everyone as his own” (Humani Generis 37).

Yes, it’s not apparent how reconciliation can occur when science examines reality and adduces that the tenet is factually wrong.


I also know, for example, that the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man. Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents” (CCC 390)

Note the word ‘parents’ as in plural – male and female together. It’s important because it’s factually wrong.

So if scientific inquiry reveals, as it has done using genetics, that we do not share a common founding couple, then surely this raises a irreconcilable problem of an incorrect central tenet of the christian faith as it pertains to the need for a literal and historical redemption for a literal and historical Fall. I pointed this out and – Lo and behold! – out came the deluge of sophisticated theology in action!

I was the problem. My lack of understanding sophisticated theology was the problem. Atheism was the problem. New Atheism was the problem. The form of my argument was the problem. My tone was the problem. My faith in the religion of science was the problem, and so on.


Nowhere in this deluge was the criticism ever focused on the actual problem I had raised: that there really was an irreconcilable difference between reality and the faith claim. Several people tried (and I think utterly failed) to find a middle ground between reality and faith by changing the meaning of words and applying metaphysical nebulous terminology to obfuscate defining that a problem actually existed. No dice. There really is an irreconcilable problem that requires the tenet to be changed if what’s true in reality actually matters. But to most believers – and this group of sophisticated theologians relying on the the teachings of Thomas Aquinas and his right arguments specifically – it will never be the tenets of their faith that requires change because they already know The Truth and just have to get everyone else to squint at it the same way by hook or by crook.

As if this theological assault wasn’t enough to send someone concerned with knowledge and respect for reality running from the room that turned out to be padded for the safety of its patients, I find out that one of the inmates – Crude – has posted on his own site a skewed version of just how nasty a person I am In Which The Asshole Makes A Reappearance. I commented in as nasty a tone as he had maligned me and it wasn’t moderated! The Lord works in mysterious ways! But then Crude got to work and lied again. This time, however, I wasn’t allowed to have my rebuttal published, nor any other comments about different posts. No talking allowed, you see, by order of the administrator who wishes to malign.

Imagine the irony when I see this next post by Crude: Is Dialogue With An Atheist Possible? He argues it may be possible with agnostics and atheists (of the weak-kneed variety more concerned with tolerant tone than truthful content) but not with those nasty and brutish people who identify with ‘cult of Gnu atheists’. Yes, the Gnus cannot be reasoned with and so any productive – aka, willing to be respectful of woo – dialogue isn’t possible. What’s possible, of course, is to call them all kinds of nasty names, lie about them, and then ban them from commenting about their unfair treatment!

Anyway, I spent time and effort to make a meaningful comment on this post but, of course, it wasn’t allowed. So I figured, hey, why not post it here if for no other reason than I want to see it on a blog! And I can do that because I understand and appreciate that legitimate criticism is the very heart of any meaningful dialogue. So, here it is:

Crude writes But what makes an atheist a Gnu is, fundamentally, a commitment to the view that not only is theism or Catholicism or (etc) wrong, but that it is a view not worth taking seriously to begin with.

And why is this? Simple. Because supporters of theism don’t respect reality enough to allow it to arbitrate their faith-based beliefs. But this doesn’t stop these supporters from presenting their faith-based beliefs as if they were equivalent to knowledge adduced from reality. This is intellectual fraud and not worth ‘taking seriously’.

 Supporting faith respects a contrary and conflicting stance by respecting what is merely assumed, merely asserted, to be true, to be knowledge, because it is  believed to be true and treats this belief as if it is equivalent to knowledge adduced from the reality we share. But it’s not because it cannot be demonstrated to be so. In addition, in order to maintain this confidence in the belief claims, supporters of the belief will not allow reality to arbitrate them independently; instead, faith – defined as the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen – is deemed to be the higher virtue than respecting reality’s adjudication of these claims.

 When a believer approaches honest dialogue between those who respect what’s true and knowable about reality based on this arbitration by reality and those who do not allow it any such role (but presume their faith-based beliefs are still equivalent to arbitrated knowledge adduced by reality’s evidence) there can be no meaningful dialogue because there is no meaningful middle ground. If there were a middle ground between what reality tells us is true about it and faith-based claims that would willingly submit to the same arbitration, then we the means to find a common ground. But it is theists – by rejecting reality as the independent arbitrator to faith claims – who have already rejected this means by which we can have a constructive and meaningful exchange of knowledge-based ideas. Theists exercise dishonesty by then blaming others rather than themselves for misunderstanding and misconstruing the knowledge value of their claims based on faith, but when we ask for evidence of this knowledge, guess what we find? Nothing! Faith-based beliefs alone contribute nothing to independently verifiable knowledge (justified true beliefs), produce no practical applications, therapies, and technologies that work for everyone everywhere in reality. Sure, they produce assertions and assumptions masked by nebulous terminology if the theists are sophisticated enough to try to obfuscate this fact, but that’s it.

 So what is there to talk about?

 Well, the New Atheists talk about confronting religious privilege in the public domain and why this privilege is both unwarranted and unjustified, and for this audacity, are vilified. Just look at the kind of religious terms Crude uses to try to smear New Atheists. And we see these religious smears all the time. (This is a clue…) New Atheists are commonly called ‘militant’ and ‘strident’ and ‘angry’ and all manner of typical putdowns but they are also called ‘cultists’ and ‘fundamentalists’ and ‘evangelicals’ and ‘religious extremists’ and so on . This is the ‘dialogue’ that we have in play, and one that never treats the criticisms of New Atheists straight up and seriously by using reality successfully to arbitrate faith-based claims and  produce knowledge. Pointing out that there is no shared epistemology – no reliable and consistent method independent of faith – to connect faith-based claims to the adjudication of an independent reality means there is no common ground on which to discuss meaningful differences between those who respect reality’s role to arbitrate claims made about it and those who demand a special exemption for their faith-based claims… but want everyone to go along with accepting the charade that these claims are equivalent to knowledge… but another <i>kind</i> of knowledge.

 Not going to happen. Not ever. Not on our watch.

Although supporters of religious privilege effortlessly use reality-based knowledge all the time in their regular lives, when it comes to the public treatment of their faith-based claims, those who continue to respect reality and hold these beliefs in the same contempt believers themselves use elsewhere, are suddenly the bad guys, the ones who should be written off, the ones in need of… wait for it… blogging administration and comment approval! Why? Because such bloggers as Crude are more concerned with protecting their faith-based claims from legitimate criticism than dealing with it in a mature and intellectually open and honest respectful manner. And that’s why we cannot have any meaningful dialogue and why theists themselves – and not New Atheists – do not allow their faith claims to be taken seriously.

There. That feels better.

January 9, 2013

Why is acting on the presumption of Original Sin moral hypocrisy in action?

This is just too good not to pass it on.

To all of those people who are so humble in their faith-based arrogance that they presume all humans are born with a fallen nature in need of salvation, that all are sinners unworthy of god’s love except by grace, who have the meekness and mildness to presume this opinion causes no harm but brings a moral benefit to all, have a listen to how strident, militant, shrill atheists, who make no such assumptions and who hold no patience to such unadulterated bullshit, dismantle its pious overtones to expose it for what it is: moral hypocrisy in action.

(h/t to Tracy Harris and Matt Dillahunty at Atheist Experience #795)

November 11, 2012

Lest we Forget… Why is Remembrance Day a purely secular event undermined by religious inclusion?

Filed under: public domain,Religion,Remembrance Day,Secularism — tildeb @ 11:52 pm

As a trumpet playing member of various community music groups, I play at a lot of Remembrance Day ceremonies.

Yeah, so?

Wikipedia reminds us that Remembrance Day (also known as Poppy Day or Armistice Day) is a memorial day observed in Commonwealth countries since the end of World War I to remember the members of their armed forces who have died in the line of duty. This day, or alternative dates, are also recognized as special days for war remembrances in many non-Commonwealth countries.) In my experience, all of the ceremonies I have attended (and I always attend because I do not forget) are thoroughly soaked with the christian message of Jesus and god and a heavenly afterlife (hellfire and damnation are for another day, I guess). Having performed at two such ceremonies today, for example, I watched several hindu and muslim veterans of the Canadian Armed Forces have to endure the christian hymns and the christian prayers and the repeated calls to the christian faith by a christian minister in uniform, as if service to these christian goals was the central feature of why all people – even those who do not share any version of the christian faith – served and sacrificed in the various wars, police actions, conflicts, and United Nations peace keeping missions Canada had asked these folk to undertake on its behalf.

Was I mostly alone in seeing the gross unfairness of imposing this particular religious ownership of the Remembrance Day tribute? Apparently so. Was I mostly alone in having visited several of the war cemeteries of fallen Canadian soldiers overseas and noted the small but significant number of headstones marked with the Star of David and the Crescent? Apparently so. Was I mostly alone in knowing service men and women who held no commitment or allegiance to any religious beliefs? Apparently so. But then, we Canadians are a very tolerant bunch. It’s difficult to imagine that this forgetfulness could be the case… in spite of the presence of non christian uniformed people, but if not so forgetful then why is there a general amnesia about properly honouring and respecting these non christians who had equally served and sacrificed?

Can a christian Remembrance Day ceremony pay proper respect to all those who deserve equal and fair treatment?

I don’t think so. I think the insertion of religious overtones undermines exactly what Remembrance Day represents and acts contrary to intention that brought about the need for it: to remember why what was won is so important, lest we forget the cost of this forgetfulness.

I think Remembrance Day is purely a secular event allowed by the faitheists and religious apologists of all stripes among us to be hijacked and abused to serve a different purpose, a very specific religious master, namely, christianity. (Is there a public tradition and/or ceremony not stolen by the christians and claimed for its own? None come to mind.) This hijacking, this theft of the meaning behind this event to remember, is a travesty, a way to disrespect and dishonour what these men and women have done in defense of the very values they held to be worth fighting and dying for:

Secular values.

Let’s take just a moment and understand what this term properly means unencumbered by what the religious have warped it to mean:

From Wikipedia we get a pretty good idea:  namely, from Latin saecularis meaning “worldly” or “temporal” that describes the state of being separate from religion, or not being exclusively allied to any particular religion.

The religious attempt to have this term mean something quite different, that anything that applies to anti-religious sentiment defines secularism, but this isn’t true. It’s another hijacking, another theft in the service of a religious goal.  Secular values refer to values that are independent of any religious authority. This is why the Wikipedia entry clearly shows that modern usage means exactly this (go check it yourself and then wonder why the religious are so motivated and determined for it to be considered a pejorative rather than unifying term).

A secular value means its authority is a bottom-up one, a value that is owned first by each and every individual, which is then considered common to all, and commonly upheld in the public domain, meaning those areas of governance and administration that serve the entire public and not simply some privileged part of it, public institutions such as defence, foreign policy, education, law, etc.. Think of the value of ‘equality’, for example; its authority does not come from somewhere else, is not bestowed upon us by a sovereign or granted by some social oligarch; the authority for this value comes from each of us based on the desire for justice, equity, and fairness in public dealings. This creates a demonstrable social benefit. The value is not granted power by nor dependent on some other authority; it is a value upheld by all of us and implemented by all of us in our daily lives. We expect to be treated fairly, with reasonable consideration shown for our equivalent status with other citizens. The principle (although not always in practice) is for all have equal access to legal representation, equal access to education, equal access to health care, equal consideration of merit, and so on. It is a value we hold in common to each other and not based on some other authority granting equality here but not there, for these folk but not those, to privilege this group but not that. So is the value, for example, of religious freedom, one owned by each and every individual which is common to all. Its authority does not rest with some court, nor is it defined only by some legislation; it rests within each of us and we reasonably expect to exercise this right in our private lives. As strange as this will sound to the ears of the religiously confused, religious freedom – like equality – is a SECULAR values independent of any other authority that attempts to co-opt it in its name.

So when I talk about a secular values, what I’m referring to is a set of values held in common and possessed by each individual… an authority over and above any other value system in the public domain that attempts to makes these values subservient to its authority. Secular values are not a top-down affair; their authority comes from the bottom up and belongs to each and every citizen. Canadian values are secular values because they are not granted by some authority figure like a king or a pope or judge to empower them; our political system itself is legitimate only because it is based on authority resting with each of us… each of us who then gives consent (through voting) by this inherent authority we individually own to be governed, to understand that legislation is passed by representation in OUR name, that laws are made in OUR name, internal governance made in OUR name, fund public education, implement foreign policy, maintain defence, upgrade health care, invest in research and development  in OUR name. The authority for all of this comes from each of us, the citizen who owns the very political authority that legitimizes governance and administration of the public domain.

To be absolutely clear, all western liberal democracies are secular not because they are anti-religious per se but because they draws their authority for legitimacy to act in the public domain only from the sum of authority from each citizen they represent. This is why we call it representative government. Government IS us. That is its only legitimate authority: the consent of the governed.

I hope it’s clear that secular means individual authority, and it’s a fundamental pillar to our way of liberal democracy. It is based on the very reasonable rule of reciprocity – what the religious like to co-opt and pretend to own under such a name as the Golden Rule, for example – that the rights and freedoms I want to enjoy places on me the burden that you, too, can enjoy the same rights and freedoms I am willing to grant to myself. Where my rights and freedoms end is where they infringe on the same rights and freedoms held by you. This method of legitimate governance by the consent of the governed – the source of its authority resting in each individual – works to produce peaceful, prosperous, and civil societies based on rights and freedoms owned by all, expressed by all, and maintained by all. And when an infringement does occur, (I can only speak of my Canadian perspective) at home or abroad, many of us who voluntarily join the military and police ranks do so because we wish to uphold this secular value of fairness and equality based on individual authority.

Don’t take my word for it, of course; go talk to those in these uniforms and ask them why they serve. This prime motivator of an important secular value – of standing up for those who cannot stand up for themselves – becomes very clear very quickly. Most of us do not aspire to become bullies not agents of a bullying authority (although this danger is always present with power).

But I claim that secular value of protecting and sacrificing for this way of life, when individual authority is endangered by bullies, is what we intend to respect when it comes to the reason to participate in Remembrance Day ceremonies; we just forget to honour this prime motivator, this prime secular value, during all the praying and singing of hymns foisted on us by those who assume values worth having must come from some god.

For those not familiar with the spontaneity of Canadians in regard to honouring their military, a quick word to the wise: because our founding peoples were a triad of warring and shifting allegiances between French, English, and First Nations, we’ve had a difficult time coming to the modern era of tolerance and respect for all within a single national framework, with relatively cohesive national policies and practices that do not intend to make victims out of one of these three groups. It’s always a work in progress, combined with a long history of terrible injustices, bumbling governance, and brutal arrogance, yet through it all we have come a very long way to achieve to various degrees a remarkable and vibrant multi-cultural country that is peaceful, prosperous, and dedicated in practice to secular values.( Oh, and we play a lot of hockey, too.)

Why is this important to understand? Well, it’s important because most Canadians hyphenate our identities to a similarly remarkable degree. (Homogenous we aren’t.) This matters when we consider the following:

A Canadian soldier is killed in, let’s say, Afghanistan. At the main airbase, all the troops are assembled for what’s called a ramp ceremony where there is an official recognition of a fallen comrade being sent home by plane. Upon arrival, the plane’s ramp is lowered to an official reception by the family, and usually in some combination the highest ranking officer available i s present, sometimes like the Chief of Defence Staff, the Minister or Deputy Minister of Defense, the Prime Minister, the Governor General and of course the Base Commander and the highest ranking unit officer of the branch of the service of the killed soldier. Each soldier matters, you see, and this shows the family on hand that their son’s or daughter’s sacrifice is recognized on behalf of the public. The public is kept away during this private ramp ceremony while the soldier’s flag-draped coffin is moved from the plane into a waiting hearse for transportation to the country’s chief coroner in a city two hours away by car. The family accompanies the coffin’s journey by limousine as does the military guard in a convoy of black unmarked vehicles.

Something really interesting happens at this point. All along the route, the convoy begins to encounter Canadians who are aware a soldier is coming home for one last time, who take a moment to stand along the multi-lane highway waiting for this string of black vehicles to pass by. They come out of schools and businesses, stop their cars, get off buses, stand on overpasses, raise some personal flag or drape this national symbol over the side of an overpass. Officers of other serving branches come to the highway, turn on their emergency lights: national, provincial, municipal police cars, ambulances, fire trucks, silent flashing sentinels. Sometimes small signs with heartfelt messages will displayed, and all done spontaneously for the members of the grieving family to see and perhaps understand that their grief is recognized and perhaps shared in some small but meaningful way while on their terrible journey. We care, and we want to show our respect for their loss, honour the sacrifice of a real person, one of us,  made in OUR name.

In the nation’s capital at the end of the official Remembrance Day ceremony, and in symbolic sympathy throughout this huge and diverse land at local cenotaphs and small monuments to the war dead, Canadians do another peculiar thing: we take off the poppies we have been wearing to show that we remember their sacrifice in the weeks prior to the official day of remembrance, and lay them on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier… individually… amounting one by one until by their tens of thousands they make a blanket of tiny little flowers blood red with black centers.

None of this is organized. None of these symbols is religious. The intention is purely secular, purely individual, meant to show by each participant that this soldier is one of us, one of OURS. The poppy of remembrance belongs to each and every one of us, a common remembrance owned not by the state, not bestowed on us from some divinity, not sanctified by anything other than the value we hold in trust for the next generation, purchased individually by donation to a veteran, to demonstrate an individual debt owed to those individuals who came before and who protected our individual authority it from being usurped by force of arms. Remembrance Day represents OUR sacrifice in defence of OUR authority that empowers OUR secular rights and freedoms.

All people, religious and non religious alike, need to be reminded why their secular values are worth dying for. A good start would be to get religion out of Remembrance Day altogether…. lest we forget.

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 13, 2012

Religion in the public domain? What’s the harm? Perhaps a little a little prosody will help…


My point, dear sir, is simply put:
I’m asking you—get off my foot.

You must forgive my clumsiness
I did not mean to cause distress
I so regret I did transgress,
As everybody sees!
It clearly wasn’t what I meant—
I mean, it was not my intent
I trod your toes by accident
I beg your pardon—please!

I do not know the way things went;
It might well be an accident.
My point, dear sir, is simply put:
I’m asking you—get off my foot.

I tell you, I was unaware!
It isn’t that I did not care
I didn’t know your foot was there!
It never crossed my mind!
I took a step; I did not know
That in my path, an inch below
My boot, there sat your tender toe,
Disastrously aligned!

The crucial point, is not, in fairness
The lack, or presence, of awareness
My point, dear sir, is simply put:
I’m asking you—get off my foot.

My friends and I—my awesome bro’s—
Have secret greetings that we chose;
We show our love by stomping toes
It’s good, you see, not bad!
You can’t assume I meant to harm
In truth, it shows a certain charm!
I take offense at your alarm—
It’s wrong that you’re so mad!

Your friends, of course, are not my friends
My toe is where their privilege ends
My point, dear sir, is simply put:
I’m asking you—get off my foot.

I do not care. I have the right
To leave my footprints where I might
I will not bend, nor feel contrite—
You ought to let it go.
I’ll step just where I damn well choose
If there’s a toe—I don’t care whose—
I’ll take my step. Some win, some lose…
Too bad about your toe

Your reasons are not my concern
But clearly you have much to learn
My point, dear sir, is simply put:
I’m telling you—get off my foot.

From Cuttlefish

October 6, 2012

What’s the harm of a little religious belief exercised in the public domain?

Rep. Paul Broun (R-Georgia) is member of the Science Committee of the House of Representatives and chairs the House Science Committee’s panel on investigations and oversight. He claims to be a scientist because he’s a medical doctor, which reminds me to remember that half of all medical doctors graduated from the bottom portion of their class.

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