Posts Tagged civil rights

That Time A Woman Was Tortured Right Next To Me On a Bus

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With the use of powerful photography and well-placed billboards, this smart campaign by the human rights organization Amnesty International aims to show people what is going on in the world, even if it’s not happening in front of them on their street, in their neighborhood or at their train stop.

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I really hope that in my life-time I will live in a world in which a person’s human and civil rights are not in the hands, and at the discretion, of another human being.

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Your Right To Religion Does Not Supersede Someone Else’s Right to Equality

gay 1-1It is amazing, and with that I mean appallingly frightening, to watch the mental gymnastics religious people will go through to justify bigotry and hate and the extent to which they are willing to hide behind the Bible to justify their narrow-mindedness and intolerance.

The hatred and bigotry of religious people these days, among a myriad of other things, appears to be particularly focused on gays and lesbians and doing everything possible to humiliate and degrade them, including denying them their basic human and civil rights, and defending such thinly veiled bigotry, by making appeals to “traditional values”, “god” and other nice-sounding and “wholesome” terms.

It is a tragic testament to the state of affairs that gays and lesbians are being scapegoated when in reality those who have done, and continue to do, the most harm to society and its people are not gays and lesbians, but heterosexual, most notably religious, men (women too, but I say men because our political landscape  – from Congress to state governments – as well as the business sphere are predominately populated by men). Which is not to say that a person’s gender identity and sexual orientation should be used to pass judgement on their character and actions. It is merely to point out that if you are going to blame someone for the shit we’re in, maybe you may want to rethink whether someone’s sexual origination should be relevant in answering that question. And if it is not, then you should ask yourself why you think being gay or lesbian, and thus someone’s queerness, could somehow lead to the breakdown of society.

The sad thing, of course, is that even self proclaimed “reasonable” religious folks believe that at the end of the day it is ok, acceptable and understandable to deny gays and lesbians equal rights, or to at least curtail those, such as a same-sex couple should have to undergo more stringent scrutiny when trying to adopt and so forth.  And the thing is, such people don’t even feel bad about. On the contrary, they make such claims with a good conscience and they sleep well at night, too. No compunction.

One such individual is Mark David Hall, a “traditional, orthodox Christian” who  believes that “God designed marriage to be a covenant between one man and one woman.”

Hall is this week’s guest columnist at Oregon Live. Hall, who undoubtedly must have Jesus as his role model, and I can see that just by looking at all the love, caring and acceptance that is so shining through in his column, just like Jesus would do, defends the “right” (ahem) of religious people to deny services to discriminate against anyone mainly gays and lesbians and deny them services of any kind, especially when serving gays and lesbians constitutes “endorsing a practice” (homosexuality) that disagrees with the Christian’s beliefs hateful, ignorant notions. Although he personally would never to do it, as he assures us, Hall, nonetheless, fully supports business owners who want to be able to legally deny people services if they believe that rendering such a service would violate the tenets of their religion.

He believes that the “religious convictions of these individuals [who wish to discriminate] should be respected” because allegedly this country was founded  on “the conviction that men and women should be able to worship God according to the dictates of their consciences.

Yeah, I don’t think so.

The First Amendment

The First Amendment separates church from state, explicitly saying that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” That is all the protection and “right to religion” the  US Constitution provides. Full stop.

A place of business is a place of business. Baking a cake, serving food, selling furniture, AstroTurf, cars , clothes etc. are not exercise of one’s religion which would necessitate First Amendment protections.

What Hall is proposing is, therefore nothing but pure, cold, hard, unadulterated, not to mention legalized, discrimination.

The Demand For Legalized Discrimination

I am no legal expert but if the government, through laws and legislation, were to actually grant business owners the right, the legal right, to deny services to gays and lesbians (or any number and creed of people religious business owners do not like) if they felt that providing those services would violate their religious rights, then that would, in fact, constitute the government “respecting an establishment of religion”, which is a clear violation of the First Amendment.

Now, I don’t feel inclined to get into a discussion about how under the umbrella of “religious beliefs” millions of people have been killed, oppressed, subjugated and otherwise harmed over the millennia and continue to be killed, oppressed, subjugated and otherwise harmed, but I will say that such a measure, if made into law, would be nothing more than a license to discriminate. A licence which a myriad of companies out there could potentially use to discriminate against a host of people they don’t like and/or whose life style choices and/or various other inherent attributes they do not agree with.

After all,  what if business owners decide that they do not want to sell to blacks and Muslims, atheists and women, red heads or people with tattoos? This is no different than having a black only section in your restaurant or a”White Only” lunch counter at the diner – only that in this case religion is used to accomplish the same, which is to deny certain people, whom religious people deem abnormal or unworthy, access.

And make no mistake about it, granting certain people rights while denying the same rights to others based on any attribute you do not like is discrimination.

Separate But Equal and the Jim Crow laws that enforced them were terribly unjust and discriminatory, not to mention that under Separate But Equal, there was, in fact, no equality for those who had to be separated, by law, from the rest of the (white) population that felt threatened by black emancipation.

The irony here, of course, is that under the umbrella of “religious freedom” such a law would mainly be utilized to deny services to gays and lesbians and only gays and lesbians. In fact, this appears to be directed at gays and lesbians only as there is rarely any talk about denying other entities that violate biblical laws (and we all know that they exist) services. They do call it religious freedom but that is only a scaffold beneath their bigotry.

Sweet Taste of Wickedness 

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SWEET TASTE OF WICKEDNESS: This cake purchased from Gresham’s Sweet Cakes by Melissa bears an important message

Last year, the owner of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, told a lesbian couple that “we don’t do same-sex marriages.”

It is interesting to note that there is nothing there to indicate that Sweet Cakes by Melissa was denying to bake wedding cakes for other biblically non-approved actions, such as for couples for whom this is the second marriage (i.e. who have been divorced), for example, or inter-faith marriages. There is nothing in there about doing hymen inspections to sanction the validity of a heterosexual engagement before agreeing to bake a cake. In fact, the owner was more than happy to bake a cake for all people no questions asked but decided to throw the Good Book at her same-sex wedding customers, claiming that apparently in this instance, and in this instance only, her religious convictions were being violated.

Surely, if one were so obliged so as to deny people services because it disagrees with one’s religion, one would do so for all actions that violate religious doctrine.

See how religious/Christian supremacy works?  Religious people have put everyone on the defense, playing the victims whose rights are being allegedly neglected and stomped on. As the privileged, dominant entity they really believe that they are entitled to their privilege and dominance and that demands for equality infringe upon their rights to subjugate, discriminate, oppress and harm others. And they think they have that right, that entitlement, because it is in the name of god and religion.

This “right to discriminate” legislation which Hall supports with bells and whistles, is a hate filled piece of legislation directed at gays and lesbians only. This is not about right to religion. This is legislated hate under the guise of right to religion.

The  new name for bigotry these days seem to  be “religious freedom” which religious people have taken to mean that it should be upheld to the point where it should supersede and trump someone else’s human and civil rights.

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Religion is harmful, in case you had not gotten that message from the eleventy million other examples and cases I have talked about and explored here.

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Conversations With Theists

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Trying to have a constructive, intelligent and meaningful conversation and/or even debate with religious people is impossible. It is more likely to be hit by a meteor than find a religious person capable of engaging in intelligent, meaningful discourse about religion, life and existence,  and with that I mean not using fiction such as the Bible, god and Jesus, as the “back up” and back bone of their arguments.

Eventually such conversations take on the form where you see yourself educating a grown-ass human being with all their mental faculties intact on basic tenets of deductive reasoning and coherent thought, which, invariably, sounds condescending and patronizing, making the religious people feel like you are talking down on them or treating them like an idiot, which is certainly not intentional but merely what happens when you talk to someone who is the intellectual equivalent of a strawberry short-cake incapable of rational thought, or unwilling – the science is still out on that one.

The thing is, I do not look forward to putting religious people down and talk down on them or even come across as patronizing, they do it to themselves. After all, how do you have a conversation with someone who, upon being presented with facts about something, goes back to citing Jesus, the Bible and thus the kind of unbelievable crap that a fifth grader could disprove, as their “source” or “evidence”?

If you believe the things written in the Bible, and I mean everything, not just cherry-picked items you find convenient to believe in and adhere to – including that the Earth is 6000 years old, that a woman was made using a man’s rib, talking snakes that coax people into eating fruits that then get them banned and the myriad of other fairy tales and fables in the Bible – then that not only sets you up for being rebutted, ridiculed and utterly creamed in a debate – which in turn you find offensive, mean and harsh-  but it also makes you an idiot.

If you believe that the billion-galaxy universe was just created for us, you are an idiot.

If you believe that a man can come back from the dead, then you are an idiot.

If you believe that a man can part a body of water through sheer will power, then you are an idiot.

If you believe that a virgin can become pregnant by some invisible being, then you are an idiot.

If you believe that a woman was created by taking the osteopathic tissue of a male, then you are an idiot.

If you believe that god answering the prayers of overpaid thespians and athletes while ignoring the plight of starving children in Sudan makes sense and is just a matter of god working in mysterious ways, and a matter of free will, the you are an idiot.

When you live in a world in which 26,000 starve to death every day yet you keep thanking god for the food he allegedly put on your table and thus for personally feeding you, then you are an idiot.

The list of such absurdities goes on and on and the religious person’s defense of them is always “free will”, “evil” and “faith.”

It is like this guy Ray Comfort who, upon being asked what he would do if he had indisputable proof that god, in fact, did not exist, responded that he would just go and pray to god to give him clarity while he contemplates  that.

Really? You expect me to respect that?

Conversations with theists almost always take on the same form to the point where I can anticipate precisely what they are going to say next.

Usually it goes something like this:

1) Religious person makes some hateful or unfounded claim, and I say unfounded because said religious person’s source(s) for making the claim are almost always The Bible, god, Jesus  – i.e. fiction (or whatever prophet and/or holy person the religious person is adhering to).  Not all my conversations are with Christians. I have debates with all sorts of religious people and suffice it to say that the arguments, if one can call it that, they present are the same in essence with only the names of holy people and locales changed.

2) I respond with facts and referencing historic, biological, physical and anthropological realities.

3) Religious person responds with some more bizarre, incoherent babble, citing the Bible and Jesus and other works of fiction as the source for their ignorant, detrimental and often hateful claims,  peppered with false analogies, strawmen and a host of other just factually wrong things.

4) I respond with some more facts refuting the ridiculous claim religious person makes.

At this point, my contempt and frustration is becoming more evident and surfacing. It is as if I was witness to a hilarious skit whose plot begins to slowly fade into the macabre and heinous and ridiculous and my smile fades equally as I am faced with the sad, baffling and horrific realization that I am talking to someone trapped in so much self-delusion and ignorance, nothing seems able to get them out of it. Reason, facts, physical laws, reality are all secondary when you deal with someone whose main reason for believing in humbug and fiction is faith, also known as wishful thinking.

5) Religious person then short-circuits and gets frustrated/confused/overwhelmed with all those facts presented to him or her and the nullification of their absurd claims, prompting them to grasp for straws, including playing the victim and whining about how unfair it is of us terrible, angry, mean atheists/critics to point out inconsistencies, injustices and a host of other detrimental acts of the church/bible/religion.

The same person that just spent the last hour telling us that gay people, for example, should not get married and thus be treated like second class human beings and citizens, suddenly begins whining, kicking and screaming about how unfair I am to them and how mean it is of me to not respect their beliefs and symbols and religious icons etc. etc.

typical-teenage-new-atheistPlaying the victim is then quickly followed by something in the order of “Oh, my faith is strong so what you say doesn’t bother me” blah blah blah and such a proclamation is accompanied usually by various ad hominem attacks and disparaging “observations” about my person and personality:  you sound angry, you sound bitter, you sound unloved, you sound like something bad happened to you and you never got over it, you poor thing, I feel sorry for you, I pity you, god loves you though, oh my dear I can tell someone has hurt you and you are speaking out of hurt, you are intolerant, you have no sense of humor, you have no hope blah blah yawn.

Every. Single. Time, this is the pattern. And this is the pattern because, at the end of the day, religious people have absolutely no backing of their claims. When you reference Hobbits, goblins, unicorns, god, Jesus, Muhammad, the Koran, the Jedi mind shit, Gremlins and other fictitious characters and entities to make your point or worse, to make claims about life, existence and such things,  you have no argument.

When you have no argument, other than the fictitious entities mentioned above and such things as “free will”, “satan” and “faith” – well that makes you quickly look like an idiot, which I can see, can be frustrating.

1238877_724072137625119_1597316218_nCase in point, the son in the Facebook conversation depicted here. His mother pisses and moans about his atheism and asks him why he has to share his terrible lack of belief with the world (which is darn rich coming from people who are always more than eager and willing to shove their backwards religious beliefs up everyone’s asses and vaginas, literally) and when her son responds by citing her her very own fucking Bible, she brushes him off with something patronizingly stupid like “Oh, at least you read it” obviously, and true to form, not having understood a single word he just said.

Note that how religious people behave now, feeling that their faith and beliefs are under attack  – which is absurd because how can someone’s demands for equality constitute a threat to religious people  – unless, of course, said religious person’s beliefs require them to hate – is the same line of arguing white supremacists used during segregation and the Civil Rights movement.

They, as the privileged and dominant as well as oppressive entity, suddenly claimed to be the victims who had to protect themselves against the blacks who had the NAACP on their side while those, poor white folks had nothing to protect them against the black man and his reefer but the KKK.

In reality, black people in this country wanted nothing more than equality and dignity instead of being subjugated, scapegoated, lynched and treated as sub-human.

Only in the minds of religious people is seeking equality “bullying,” as Michelle Bachman put it earlier this week when lamenting Arizona’s failed “right-to-discriminate” bill by stating that “the gay community have so bullied the American people”  – as if gay people were not legitimate citizens of their own country but just these other disgusting, bullying entities pestering an entire nation with their calls for equality. I mean how dare they demand equality and infringe upon Michelle Bachman and other religious peoples’ right to subjugate, humiliate and discriminate against an entire marginalized segment of the population?

Yes, only in the diseased minds and hearts of god-loving, religious people are demands for equality “bullying”, while casually dismissing an entire marginalized population as illegitimate citizens of their own country is considered “traditional values.”

Of course, when  – as an atheist  – one points out such hate and inconsistencies, one is called angry, militant, intolerant and hateful. If religion and its followers are one thing, then it is sadly predictable and thoroughly harmful.

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