Posts Tagged ‘human rights’

Who must give up identity politics?

August 30, 2012

Joe Klein says Democrats must give up identity politics. Excuse me?

Was Todd Akin a Democrat when he attacked women’s right to bodily autonomy?

Was Alan Clemmons a Democrat when he wrote a law which would suppress the voting rights of minorities?

Was Jan Brewer a Democrat when she denied public benefits to young immigrants working in and to the benefit of this country?

Was Peter King a Democrat when he created a panel to persecute American Muslims?

And was the Republican Party Platform somehow hijacked by Democrats where it calls for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman?

No. Those were all Republicans playing to their monochromatic base of male Christians.

Those were Republicans treating women’s bodies as their property, deciding that the voting rights of poor people, dark people, elderly people and students were not as important as winning an election, deciding that working to make a life in the land of the free should be as hard as the government can make it for immigrants, pissing on the First Amendment by trying to create classes of citizen where Christians are above suspicion while those other religions are the focus of hate and fear, and deciding that the genitalia of an individual matters more than the relationship between two people.

And the same things that motivate those Republicans would motivate those who come after, to come after contraception once abortion was illegal. They would further reduce the number of people who have the right to vote until it is only a few white males with enormous pots of money, own land, and have the good sense to be of the majority denomination. They would profit off of the labor of immigrants while paying them pennies and blaming them for anything wrong in a community. It wouldn’t be enough for it to be a Christian Theocracy after a time: you would have to be the right type of Christian. Which denomination of Protestant are you? Lutheran? You are too quiet for the American Christendom. Better to have been Baptist. And as for gays? Have you noticed that when Christian Republicans quote Leviticus, it always seems to be the same verse?

Who needs to give up identity politics?

Hell, nobody on the side of equality until the actions in the list above are political poison.

A Rallying Point for Progressive Atheism

August 27, 2012

It seems pretty straightforward to me: once we dispense with systems designed to prop up existing power structures in the guise of “serving god”…

Then we can serve as friends and allies to each other without consideration for what a mythical man might mandate. We can work towards equal rights and equal pay, we can work to improve education and opportunity, we can work to lift humans to the stars rather than bombing each other back to the stone age where the beliefs of religious patriarchs are more at home.

But even within atheism, many people question religion without questioning the host of biases and prejudices that are packaged with it. And so we need A+. We need a rallying place for atheists to not just reject god, but to reject all that “god” was made to champion by self interested “prophets,” politicians and other swindlers.

We need a place for atheists to rally to support and fight for women’s right to bodily autonomy and to equal pay as well.

We need a place for atheists to come together to oppose xenophobia and racism, and to dismantle the biblical teaching of “Cain’s Mark.”

We need a place for atheists to show their support for and work towards equal marriage rights.

We need a place for atheists to work towards a more sensible mental health system that doesn’t have roots in a belief that you can prayer your neurochemisty better.

We need a place for atheists to discuss issues of disability or gender in a way that doesn’t reflect the larger religiously-inspired discomfort with and blame for any deviation from (socially created) norms.

We need a place for people to teach and learn about privilege and oppression and organize to fight the systems that perpetuate them.

And thanks to Jen McCreight, we have one: Atheism Plus.

Pussy Riot and a How-To for government

August 22, 2012

To recap: The Russian government and the Russian Orthodox Church are using their joint power hand in glove and the art collective and political protest group Pussy Riot held a “Punk Prayer” protest in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. They sang and danced in protest and were, although disruptive, nonviolent.

3 members of the group were arrested, charged with “hooliganism” and sentenced to 2 years in prison. Which is ridiculous and an abuse of state power.

I will state right out front that I admire Pussy Riot and other protesters who issue challenges to a harmful status quo, who challenge political power and/or religious dogma.

But I am not arguing that people should be allowed to disrupt other groups meetings without any legal repercussions, either. After all  if majorities could ruin minority gatherings anytime they wished, tyranny of the majority would be stating the case mildly.

So what would be a sensible way to approach such an issue? How about this:

If the protest is violent, charge the protesters responsible for violence. Treat as you would any other violent crime.

If the protest is nonviolent but disruptive, charge the protesters with disturbing the peace, charge them, give them a court date and release them on their own recognizance. At the court date, the judge can let them choose between forms of community service.

If the protest is nonviolent and minimally disruptive (protesters are not preventing normal communication or activities within a space, etc. beyond their mere numbers) ignore them, you’ve got nothing. Leave them alone unless the situation changes.

Republican Party Platform Prepares to Back Akin

August 21, 2012

At the same time as Representative Todd Akin (Republican-Missouri) said this

“First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

-The Republican National Party prepares to reaffirm a platform which includes amending the constitution to outlaw abortion even in cases of rape or incest. From CNN, draft language for the platform:

“Faithful to the ‘self-evident’ truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed,” the draft platform declares. “We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children.”

The good news? Conservatives finally see a good side to the 14th Amendment.

Atheism Plus Social Activism

August 19, 2012

Atheism Plus logo suggestions by Jadehawk

First, if you haven’t read Jen’s call to action, go read it and the follow up. I have to say: this is the movement I thought I had joined.

My reason for becoming an atheist- the reason I started losing my faith and questioning religion- was because of biblical passages that were anti women, anti homosexual, pro slavery and pro disproportionate response. Yes, I am an atheist because I don’t believe in god, but that is just the definition. I didn’t question the existence of god first. I questioned the morality of god:

I asked how could God kill children with bears just because they called someone baldy? Couldn’t the prophet have used a beneficial miracle or just good works to show that other things are more important than outward appearances? How could it be deemed appropriate by an omnibenevolent and omniscient being to create homosexuals and then declare homosexuality to deserve death by stoning? If it was a sin, why would God make some people have the urge and others without? And how could two adults being in love ever be a sinful thing?

I asked how God could make women the property of their fathers, to be bought for marriage. How could God decide that war and slavery was correct and that virgin women captured in battle were prizes for warriors? I asked how God could flood the whole world and kill everybody for being sinful when he made them to be sinful in the first place.

And the sick thing was, I wasn’t asking “how crazy is this god?” I was asking “how sinful am I that I can’t even begin to understand God’s Perfect Morality?” I was questioning God’s morality to understand it: and thought that it was evidence of my sinful state that I failed to understand.

But it wasn’t understandable as morality because it wasn’t morality. Even when I realized that, I didn’t stop believing in God. At first I simply decided that the bible didn’t properly record His morality. It took me a long time of exploration and questioning before I finally rejected the god hypothesis. But it was the immorality of the Christian Bible that started me questioning.

And it is my humanism that makes me blog as an atheist. My atheism itself might be just a conclusion about rejecting a premise because of insufficient evidence, but pointing out that lack of evidence is a means to an end: that of freeing minds from the shackles of religion, and undoing the social harms done in its name.

If you think that humans deserve equal rights, that women and men are equal, if you think that death sentences by stoning or otherwise deliberately carried out slowly are barbaric, and that love between consenting adults is something to be celebrated rather than to be opposed, if you think that distinctions in pigmentation are trivial and the social differences that result are profoundly terrible and that slavery and rape can never be justified, then you should oppose religion. But you shouldn’t stop at religion.

These wrongs exist outside of religion as well: religion is merely a transmission device that causes the ideas within to be more resistant to change. But we need to oppose misogyny and racism, homophobia  ableism and xenophobia wherever they may be. And while we are at it, we should fight the undervaluing of labor and the overvaluing of capital. Opposing these things helps everybody, whether you are privileged or oppressed on any particular question doesn’t change that: as a white person, it is in my interest to oppose racism just as it is in the interest of a straight person to oppose homophobia.

This especially goes for the situation of social movements focused on achieving progress in one facet of human rights: ignoring the other facets doesn’t work. You can’t claim to be working for human rights, and then say “Yes, but not for those people.” Just as the gay rights movement had to reform to include lesbians, the atheist community has to embrace women, the LGBTIQ community, people of color and has to embrace their issues as well. This should be a natural fit – as I pointed out, those issues are our issues – but I know we are going to have to work to make up for those activists who only care if an issue effects white straight males.

When religion is a test for political office.

August 3, 2012

In the Constitution of the United States of America, there is this to say about religious tests for office (emphasis mine):

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

But religion has become a de facto test in campaigns as the Christian majority is pandered to by politicians trying to out Christian each other, even when it involves attempts to infringe on the right to free exercise of religion of others.

In Tennessee, two candidates in a Republican primary are in a contest of who opposes the construction of a mosque more. In 2010, district lines were redrawn and so the mosque isn’t even in the district they are running in, but hey: these are Republicans and we can’t expect facts to get in the way of demagoguery.

So, they are opposing the Constitution they are bound to serve, in order to have an unconstitutional de facto test for office which, if more than rhetoric would infringe on the free exercise of religion of a minority group, if the mosque were still in the same district, which it isn’t.

It’s nice that sometimes stupid renders itself impotent.

But what about the underlying issues: the rights of the individual and minorities against possible tyranny of the majority, the right to build religious institutions, the tax exempt status of those institutions?

The Constitutional approach works better than we allow it to: the free exercise of religion including the building of places of worship, the protection of the rights of minorities and individuals is why we haven’t historical had problems with large groups of radicialized extremist minorities.

But- to pick a high profile example- Rep. King with his anti-Muslim panels wants to trample those rights and would increase the likelihood of radicalization, whether he desires that outcome or not.

And in the Bill of Rights this phrase “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” was used by Jefferson in the sense of a wall of separation where Congress could not pass- not to create a religion, not to create ties to a religion, not to either support or oppose a religion. Madison famously called that wall “absolute.”

I would argue that making churches and other religious organizations tax exempt is in effect a subsidy by the government which violates the Constitution, and is an imposition on all- whether Muslim, Christian, atheist or Buddhist- who don’t want to pay higher taxes to support other people’s churches.

There may be an argument to be had against that mosque- or at least its tax exempt status- but it is the same argument that would apply to churches, and so you won’t ever hear it from someone rallying their Christian Soldiers to vote.

Links found at Political Wire.

Youtubers Get It, So Can You.

August 2, 2012

 

Note the difference between that and the sort of thing Hemant argues against? I know it is subtle but I think if the above was the common approach everybody would be a lot happier, and our government wouldn’t be trying to get into its citizens’ bedrooms.

Secularism: For The Win.

In defense of Muslim Americans

July 27, 2012

A handful of Christian Republican Representatives have been calling for governmental persecution of Muslims, for no reasons beyond that A) Muslims aren’t Christians and B) it brings in donations and votes from a certain demographic of Christian Americans who think the end times are a good thing and will be triggered by righteous war by Christians on Muslims.

In response to this call, 42 “religious, secular, interfaith, advocacy, legal and community organizations” have sent a memo to those 5 Republican Representatives. It is very well written, and I recommend reading it, but I have 2 reservations:

The memo starts by listing the Representatives with the address “Honorable” before each. Even putting aside the fact that they are politicians, surely their positions as governmental leaders coupled with their divisive actions stretches such an address as “Honorable” past the point of credibility.

The memo goes on to address them as “Dear Rep.” before each name. Dear to who, other than (possibly) their mothers? My apologies, back to the point.

The United States was founded to be a secular country. This means that everyone has the right to worship or not as their conscience dictates without government interference whether that interference would be hostile or benevolent, desired or not. Ideally that means that nobody has their pocket picked to support another’s church, but at the barest minimum it means you don’t use the government as a club to intimidate those who believe differently than you do.

Muslim Americans have been going through an incredibly rough time in this country since shortly after 9-11, and it is entirely unfair. Do our political leaders suspect every Christian American to be moments away from engaging in shootings or bombings because of attacks on abortion clinics?

No, that would be as ridiculous as… suspecting all Muslims everywhere of being enemies of America. Or a strange cultural belief that equates Arab with Muslim despite there being plenty of Muslims who aren’t of Arab descent and plenty of Arabs who aren’t Muslim.

I can’t believe this even needs saying, but: Muslims are just individuals like any other individuals trying to make their way in the world. Yes, just like other religions, there are extremists:

But the United States does not have a problem within its population with extremists from minority religions. Due to the bill of rights guaranteeing freedom of religion, people of minority religions have tended to be much happier here than in other countries. What we have is a problem with political extremists produced from frightened majorities with feelings of threatened entitlement.

Found through Friendly Atheist.

Sign making for the atheist contingent of the SF Pride Parade

June 23, 2012

I’m making signs for the Pride Parade tomorrow and I’d like to ask for suggestions:

What would you put on your sign if you were marching with a bunch of atheists in a LGBQTI Pride Parade?

So you’re saying that religious people are hateful?

June 16, 2012

Indonesia,

I think you might want to consider releasing Alexander Aan for a few reasons, but I’m going to mostly skip the ones about tourism and respect among nations.

Let’s talk about 2 things: what Alexander Aan actually did, and what the charge is:

1 Alexander Aan voiced his opinion on Facebook. He didn’t libel, slander, attack, threaten, defraud, blackmail or give away state secrets. He merely voiced his opinion on a matter that is considered worth discussion to a great many people around the world: religion. If you don’t consider religion to be worth discussion, I suggest your office not discuss it, but allow your people to if they so choose.

2 The charge was “deliberately spreading information inciting religious hatred and animosity,” which seems revealing.

Is there a similar provision prohibiting inciting secular hatred and animosity? And if not, do you realize that your very law implies that people lose their reason and become hateful when concerned with religious matters?

The information spread was fairly innocuous in and of itself. If Alexander Aan had voiced his opinion that Sun Tze was attracted to his daughter-in-law or had intercourse with his wife’s maid, it may have slightly irritated people who admire Sun Tze, but they wouldn’t have done anything about it beyond writing responses on the internet or maybe posting a youtube response. As for Alexander Aan’s declaration that he personally doesn’t believe in a god… And? Yes, he was “deliberately spreading” that information, but the hatred and animosity that resulted is the responsibility of those who harbor those feelings.

There are only a few cases in law where people are commonly held not responsible for controlling their own feelings: when they are deemed incapable due to being children,  or insane, or in rare cases, when a third party drugged them.

So, when your government as good as says that your religious citizens are incapable of controlling their own feelings and actions, when you imply that one nonbeliever has more control over the actions of your religious citizens than those citizens do- are you comparing those religious citizens to children, to crazy people, or to the chemically impaired?

Thank you Hemant Mehta and Maryam Namazie.

Indonesian government contact information