Thursday, November 29, 2007

Update: Mohammad Teddy

Further to my note of a few days ago about the case of a woman in Sudan arrested for allowing her students to name a teddy bear Mohammad, she was convicted today and sentenced to 15 days in prison!

Sure, it's a great anecdotal example of the evil that religion hath wrought, but this is a sovereign nation jailing a foreign woman for a mistake in which she meant no malice whatsoever! It's disgusting and sad.

// Original Post
// 'Teddy' teacher jailed in Sudan

Monday, November 26, 2007

Idiocies of Islam - Arrested for Naming a Teddy Bear Muhammad

Add this to the Idiocies of Islam files. A woman was arrested in Sudan because her students named a Teddy Bear "Muhammad". It might actually be funny if a woman wasn't in jail in Sudan over this.
"A British schoolteacher has been arrested in Sudan accused of insulting Islam's Prophet, after she allowed her pupils to name a teddy bear Muhammad. Colleagues of Gillian Gibbons, 54, from Liverpool, said she made an 'innocent mistake' by letting the six and seven-year-olds choose the name.

Ms Gibbons was arrested after several parents made complaints. The BBC has learned the charge could lead to six months in jail, 40 lashes or a fine."
Save us from the insanity.

// 'Muhammad' teddy teacher arrested -- The BBC (via Andrew Sullivan)

Quote of the Day

"The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one."

-- George Bernard Shaw (1856 - 1950)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Embryonic Stem Cells

Few issues over the last few years have made me as upset as the religious right's incessant noisemaking campaign over embryonic stem cell research. Leaving aside a discussion of all of the suffering religion has caused in its attempts to stamp out abortion to another post, the various faith-based objections to stem cell research are even less convincing.

As to the political side of things, all of us are forced to live in a pluralistic secular society, which requires that certain moral judgments held by an overwhelming majority of the citizenry, such as with respect to murder and rape, are made into law. Unfortunately, this state of events all-too-often results in a variety of idiotic, antiquated moral judgments being made into repressive discriminatory laws (see, e.g. slavery, segregation and sodomy laws). There is, unfortunately, no way to avoid such mistakes in a system where power-hungry politicians are shielded from acting contrary to the Constitution by a majority vote of the unthinking masses. As Winston Churchill once said, "No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."

This failure of democracy, however, cannot be an excuse for the religiously inclined to constantly try to dominate our national dialogue with demands that their moral judgments du jour be enacted into law.

If my neighbor and a growing minority of people in my community believe that the most pressing threat to their children's religious purity is the presence of atheists teaching in elementary school, it is absolutely inappropriate for any sane person to give an attempt to pass a law in this regard anything more than a quiet laugh.

In the same vein, if a stout minority of zealots in our country decide that, based on their particular dogmatic religious ideology, the harvesting of cells from a fertilized embryo scheduled for routine destruction in order to do research into some of our most debilitating diseases is tantamount to murder, their attempt to ensconce their view into law should be equally laughworthy.

Our current Incompetent-in-Chief has set back the science of stem cell research and our growing preeminence in the world in the field of bioscience with his pathetic sop to the wide-eyed Christianists in our country who demanded that their particular view of stem cell research should be shoved down the throats of every other American who believes differently.

As to the moral side of things, it is hard to quantify the sum total of the suffering caused by religion's dogmatic intransigence on this issue. Here, I am including definite, indisputable instances of suffering rather than the suffering factor that certain zealots would ascribe to the killing of an embryo, which is only ultimately determinable if you give credence to their particular religious ideology. Once, and if, the future benefits of embryonic stem cell research are realized, this sum of suffering can be quantified by determining how much more quickly such benefits could have been realized by eliminating religious opposition; factored into the number of people suffering with or falling prey to the following example ailments during such time:
  • Paralysis
  • Alzheimer's Disease
  • Parkinson's Disease
  • Organ Failure
  • Heart Disease
  • Stroke
  • Brain Injury

// Stem Cell Research: Religious Groups Weigh In
// Wikipedia: Stem Cell Controversy

Homosexuality: Are Christians On the Wrong Side of History?

In a word, YES.

Here's an interesting MP3 recording of an Albert Mohler radio program addressing the question of "America’s Debate over Homosexuality: Are Christians On the Wrong Side of History?" -- Read More

(In)Validity of Faith

Here's a good Nietzsche quote for the day:

"A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything."

-- Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Why the outspoken must remain so

"Whilst men are linked together, they easily and speedily communicate the alarm of any evil design. They are enabled to fathom it with common counsel, and to oppose it with united strength. Whereas, when they lie dispersed, without concert, order, or discipline, communication is uncertain, counsel difficult, and resistance impracticable. Where men are not acquainted with each other's principles, nor experienced in each other's talents, nor at all practised in their mutual habitudes and dispositions by joint efforts in business; no personal confidence, no friendship, no common interest, subsisting among them; it is evidently impossible that they can act a public part with uniformity, perseverance, or efficacy...When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."

–Edmund Burke, Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents 82-83 (1770) in: Select Works of Edmund Burke, vol. 1, p. 146 (Liberty Fund ed. 1999).

Enamored of Sam Harris

Although I read it over a year or two ago, I still consider The End of Faith by Sam Harris to be one of the most impressive books that I have read in the last ten or so years to address the evils of religion.

From his website:

"The End of Faith
provides a harrowing glimpse of mankind’s willingness to suspend reason in favor of religious beliefs, even when these beliefs inspire the worst of human atrocities. Harris argues that in the presence of weapons of mass destruction, we can no longer expect to survive our religious differences indefinitely. Most controversially, he maintains that “moderation” in religion poses considerable dangers of its own: as the accommodation we have made to religious faith in our society now blinds us to the role that faith plays in perpetuating human conflict. While warning against the encroachment of organized religion into world politics, Harris draws on insights from neuroscience, philosophy, and Eastern mysticism in an attempt to provide a truly modern foundation for our ethics and our search for spiritual experience."

"The End of Faith articulates the dangers and absurdities of organized religion so fiercely and so fearlessly that I felt relieved as I read it, vindicated, almost personally understood… Harris writes what a sizable number of us think, but few are willing to say in contemporary America… This is an important book, on a topic that, for all its inherent difficulty and divisiveness, should not be shielded from the crucible of human reason."
Natalie Angier, The New York Times Book Review

You should also check out his more recent book, A Letter to a Christian Nation, which I bought a few weeks ago and I haven't yet had the time to read.

Another excellent example of Sam Harris' overwhelmingly powerful thesis appeared recently appeared in the form of an excellent web debate with political commentator Andrew Sullivan. I unfortunately am also a big fan of Andrew for a variety of his political commentary but, obviously, am seriously put off by his staunch, irrational defense of his particular pet religion, Catholicism.

Religion and Homosexuality

The true scope of religion's impact on the lives of homosexuals throughout history is difficult to measure. One needn't immediately jump to obvious examples of homosexuals dying at the hands of the religiously inspired in order to catalog their suffering. Look more closely and you will see a vast litany of subtle suffering foisted upon millions of homosexual lives throughout history.

Here is but a short list of the Subtle Evils that religion's general condemnation of homosexuality has inspired:
  • Suicide
  • Lifelong dissatisfaction with the life one is forced to lead
  • Loveless marriages and the pain they cause to opposite sex spouses and the children of such marriages
  • Brutality, both in the form of actual physical abuse and psychological torture
// Religious Views on Homosexuality: A Comparison Chart

Purposes for this endeavor

In a debate about the merits and demerits of religion, reasonable minds all too often resort to the same tired lines of argument. On the pro-religion side, we are regaled with stories of the feelings of caring, good works and fellowship that religion can inspire in people. On the anti-religion side, otherwise intelligent atheists are often left with the same tired repetition of examples such as the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades, Islamic notions of jihad and other such readily identifiable evils that the pro-religion apologists can quickly discount as mere aberrations.

The thesis of this site is that the evils of religion as far more insidious than the large-scale, instantly newsworthy, easily discounted evils (my so-called "Grand Evils") with which we are all so familiar. In fact, the malevolent effects are far more widespread, insidious and damaging than the Grand Evils. It is through this site that I hope to catalog these myriad "Subtle Evils", which are responsible for such a large portion of humankind's suffering over the last several thousand years.