Posts Tagged ‘Religion’


Evil Jesus, History’s Most Unpleasant, Failed Messiah

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What words come from the mouths of the religious when they speak about Jesus?

Loving? Merciful? Just? Compassionate?

The reality is, the Bible reveals Jesus’s primary qualities quite differently: jealous, self-serving, arrogant, petty, maniacal, irrational, unforgiving, bloodthirsty, vindictive—and worse!

“Jesus was a moral lunatic who intended to return with an army of angels to eternally torture the vast majority of humanity. If you’d like to think that’s the “good version” of setting billions of people on fire, think again.”

We can do better, and create a clear a path to a kinder and more thoughtful world.

 

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The Arabic Translation of The God Delusion Has Reportedly Been Downloaded 10 Million Times

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I’m not sure about the legality, but if Richard Dawkins isn’t bothered by the copyright ramifications, then neither am I.

An unauthorized PDF translation of Dawkin’s The God Delusion, by Iraqi emigrant Bassam Al-Baghdadi, who lives in Sweden, has reportedly been dowloaded ten million times,

with 30 percent going to Saudi Arabia. Bassam said that there were over 1,000 downloads on the very first day after he uploaded it, and the numbers only climbed as the translation was picked up and shared on the blogs, websites and forums of prominent Arab atheists. The book has prompted unprecedented controversy and debate in the Arab and Islamic worlds.

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The translator received…

… you’ll never guess this!…

death threats and accusations of conspiring with the Zionists to corrupt the youth. He was forced to close his social media accounts and stop posting for a while. …

In the Arabic translation of The God Delusion, under the title, Bassam added the words: “This book is banned in Islamic countries.” It is fortunate and wonderful that the banning of books in the Arab and Islamic worlds is no longer feasible in our new age of information. I was able to read the book while I was still in Morocco, where I was born. Some atheist friends even managed to get hold of the book in Saudi Arabia. The dark times of censorship, in which knowledge for the people was confined to carefully curated books and resources, are gone and will never return.

According to Kacem El Ghazzali, writing for the Huffington Post, Dawkins was unaware of the translation until El Ghazzali brought it to his attention at a 2014 skeptics conference in Switzerland. It’s to the great biologist’s credit that he apparently raised no big stink about it.

As for El Ghazzali, who was born in Morocco but now makes his home in Switzerland, he says he owes

… a tremendous debt of gratitude to Richard Dawkins, and to others who guided my journey from the hells of religious dogma to the oasis of free thought and enlightenment.

If you’d like a copy of the Arabic God Delusion, you can download it here.

(Image via ScienceBlogs. Thanks to Brian for the link)

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How the Vatican Manipulates the American Democratic Process

Editor’s note: The following has been adapted from Chapter 4 of our chairman Dr. Stephen D. Mumford’s book, American Democracy and the Vatican: Population Growth and National Security (1984). This book is available on Kindle here.

The Abortion Movement

In 1980, Federal Judge John Dooling, United States District Court, Eastern District of New York, declared that the Hyde Amendment, which prevented Medicaid payment for abortion, was unconstitutional. (Copies of Judge Dooling’s 328-page decision in McRae vs. HEW are rare. During a recent conversation with the Brooklyn United States District Court, I was told that their copy had disappeared and, for this reason, they were not in a position to reproduce it.) Judge Dooling had spent a year gathering evidence and studying the anti-abortion movement, and his findings showed that the anti-abortion movement was essentially a Roman Catholic movement with a little non-Catholic window dressing.[8] The amendment, says Dooling bluntly, was a ploy by anti-abortion congressmen frustrated in their attempt to pass a constitutional amendment that would override the Supreme Court’s 1973 pro-abortion decision; its purpose was quite simply to circumvent the Court’s ruling and prevent as many abortions as possible. Dooling, a practicing Catholic, makes short shrift of the anti-abortionists’ pretensions to be a spontaneous grass-roots movement that owes its political victories to sheer moral appeal. He confirms that the right-to-life’s main source of energy, organization, and direction has been the Catholic Church, and he describes in detail how the movement uses one-issue voting to put pressure on legislators, candidates, and the party organizations that nominate them—a tactic that gains influence far out of proportion to its numbers. Please see appendix one for excerpts from Judge Dooling’s decision in McRae vs. HEW.

What is most significant in this extract is Judge Dooling’s finding that the anti-abortion movement’s main source of energy, organization, and direction has been the Catholic Church. The bishops’ Pastoral Plan prompted the creation of the Moral Majority. Richard A. Viguerie, a Catholic, is the man most responsible for the development and success of the New Right, and he will be the first to claim that honor. He was also involved in the original discussions that led to the creation of the Moral Majority and, as its fundraiser, can be credited with its financial success. Paul Weyrich, a Catholic, claims credit for originating the idea for the group and the name itself. In their search for an attractive front man for the organization, they chose Jerry Falwell, who, according to intimates, has an insatiable lust for power—and, thus, Moral Majority, Inc., was born.[9]

It is inconceivable that these Catholic laymen were not responding to the bishops’ Pastoral Plan. Much went into avoiding public disclosure of the role of the Catholic Church in the creation of the Moral Majority. Maxine Negri, in “A Well-Planned Conspiracy,” exposed involvement of the Catholic hierarchy in the Moral Majority.[10] Then, the June 21, 1982, issue of U.S. News and World Report noted:

At the heart of Moral Majority is a direct-mail operation…. Membership claims … put the number of Moral Majority’s active supporters at roughly 4 million Roman Catholics, Protestant fundamentalists, and orthodox Jews. The organization says its “hardcore contributors,” numbered at more than 400,000, include a cadre of 80,000 priests, ministers, and rabbis organized into fifty autonomous chapters.

This claim of autonomy should not be taken seriously. What is described here is exactly the organization described in the Pastoral Plan of Action down to the details.

None of us who has ever worked extensively with fundamentalist churches or lived among fundamentalists ever took the claim that the Moral Majority was a fundamentalist organization seriously. One characteristic common among fundamentalists is a keen sense of individualism, and individualists are often fundamentalists because of this trait. There is self-selection. They strongly resist the “herding” that characterizes other major denominations such as the Catholic Church. It is very difficult to organize two or three local fundamentalist churches to carry out even a local short-term civic activity. Organizing much beyond this is inconceivable. In contrast, the Catholic Church, with its keen sense of organization acquired over a two-thousand-year history, found the “organization” of the fundamentalists a relatively simple task by providing with few exceptions the entire organization infrastructure, including the organization of the fifty autonomous state chapters and the organizations in the 435 congressional districts.

The far more experienced and autocratic Catholic Church found the fundamentalists easy prey. They created “leader” Jerry Falwell and they sought out for other visible positions others who also had an insatiable lust for power. These fundamentalists toe the line of the Catholic Church to maintain their newly acquired visibility and their sense of power. And, of course, the purse strings of the Moral Majority are controlled by those who collect the money—represented by Richard Viguerie. As the old adage goes, “he who controls the purse strings, controls the organization.”

The Family-Planning Movement

There is little doubt that virtually all opposition to the family-planning movement is Roman Catholic. The anti-family-planning movement’s main source of energy, organization, and direction clearly has been the Roman Catholic Church. Most people outside the family-planning field are not aware that this anti-family-planning movement continues to score major victories, such as preventing the U.S. sale of Depo-Provera, the birth-control injectable given every three months, a method which all available data indicate is safer than birth control pills. Depo-Provera is used by tens of millions of women around the world and is now approved by over one hundred countries, including most European countries, WHO, and other prestigious groups. Other victories include successfully laying roadblocks that prevent tens of thousands of women from receiving sterilization operations when they want them, roadblocks which result in thousands of unwanted births yearly. Far more important are the successes of the Church in minimizing U.S. assistance to family-planning efforts in developing countries.

Many of these victories for the Church come under the heading “Administrative Areas” in the bishops’ Pastoral Plan of Action. Two recent examples of Catholic Church activity are the mandatory notification of parents of teens who seek contraceptives at federally funded clinics and the banning of federal funds for family-planning clinics which provide abortion.

The ERA Movement

The Equal Rights Amendment died June 30, 1982. I am certain that its failure was the result of the success of the Catholic hierarchy’s bold efforts to defeat it. As with the anti-abortion movement, the main source of energy, organization, and direction of the anti-ERA movement is the Roman Catholic Church.

In June 1978, I received a Planned Parenthood Washington Memo which contained an article entitled “U.S. Bishops Block Pro-ERA Statement.” In part, it read:

The Roman Catholic hierarchy, in early May, refused to permit issuance of a subcommittee’s statement supporting the Equal Rights Amendment, indicating that the fight against legal abortion takes precedence as its preeminent concern.

The pro-ERA statement was supported by the bishops’ six-member Ad Hoc Committee on Women in the Church and Society, which took pains to separate support for ERA from any connotation of accepting abortion. Furthermore, they sought only to issue the statement in their own behalf and had reportedly consulted with the Family Life section of the bishops’ Department of Education, which apparently approved their conclusions “that the ERA will not threaten the stability of marriage in family life.”

According to a report of the National Catholic News Service, acceptance of the statement had been urged by ninety-four employees of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and the U.S. Catholic Conference, but advance disclosures about the issue also generated heavy mail from the “right to life” groups opposing the ERA. The NCCB’s forty-eight-member administrative board, which sets policy for the 345 U.S. Roman Catholic bishops, rejected the pro-ERA document during an early May meeting in Chicago, contending that it could hurt anti-abortion efforts.

It is now apparent that this move by the bishops was a brilliant ploy. The Church not only evaded taking a positive stand on an important social justice issue which threatens its power but it has worked diligently to defeat the ERA by using the very same political action organization used to combat abortion!

In my home state of North Carolina, one of the last hopes of the ERA movement, we saw statewide polls in May 1982 show that two-thirds of our citizens favored the amendment, and, in June 1982, we saw two-thirds of our lawmakers vote to defeat it. Clearly, a vast superior organization killed the ERA in North Carolina, a finely honed and skillful operation, one two thousand years in the making—the same one continuing to fight legalized abortions in our fair state.

Actions Taken by the Church

What actions has the hierarchy taken to counter the abortion, family-planning, and ERA movements?

In 1980, Jean-Guy Vaillancourt, a Canadian Roman Catholic professor of sociology at the University of Montreal, published a book entitled Papal Power: A Study of Vatican Control Over Lay Catholic Elites.[11] This is a study of the techniques intensively used by the Vatican in many countries to control Catholic laypersons in Italy over the past one hundred years. In 1875, the Vatican created a system of local parish committees of at least five members each, called Catholic Actions. These committees were created to organize laypersons to assist the Vatican in seizing control of local, state, and national political machinery. Over the years, the Church gained considerable experience in organizing these committees and in ensuring obedience and a very high degree of responsiveness to the chain of command by the committees. These committees and their more recent counterpart, civic committees, are highly effective in mobilizing Vatican efforts. Vaillancourt places the role of the committees in proper perspective by discussing

a famous open letter presented to the Pope in 1968 by dissatisfied Catholics from France and elsewhere. The letter severely criticized the Vatican’s excessive attachment to wealth and power, stressing the idea that Church authorities are too repressive and manipulative:

“The whole Church apparatus is organized for control: the Roman Curia controls the bishops, the bishops the clergy, the clergy controls the laity … and the lay Christians control (what an illusion!) mankind. Hence a multiplication of secretaries, commissions, structures, etc., with their programs and rules…. Underhand influences have suffocated the openness which had manifested itself at the lay conference in Rome, a congress which had very little communication with the bishops who were then meeting in a synod.”

After this attack on the abuses of social and legal power by church authorities, the letter goes on to describe three of the favorite techniques of control used by the Vatican: secrecy (there are secret files even against bishops), spying and informing, and repression (used even against some of the most respected theologians).

Secrecy can be classified as either a legal or a social method of control, depending on whether it is used as an administrative-legal procedure or as a simple social defense mechanism. Spying and informing would clearly be instances of social power, since they entail the use of social processes. Finally, repression, as discussed in the open letter, refers to a mixture of legal, coercive, and even remunerative power. Concretely, it includes the habitual recourse by Church officials to excommunications, censures, condemnations, demotions, and the removal or firing of offenders from their ecclesiastical jobs.

In researching Papal Power, Vaillancourt studied Vatican control over lay Catholic elites for years, spending a large part of his time at the Vatican. To effect this control, Vaillancourt has found that the Vatican exercises eight kinds of power—all of which have been used and have proved effective in opposing social issues in the United States.

ECOLOGICAL POWER, based on the physical control of material environmental conditions. An example of this is the use of territory, buildings, or real estate to control people through the domination of their environment.

REMUNERATIVE POWER, based on material or nonmaterial rewards or compensations. An example of this is the way the Pius XII Foundation uses its funds to support some lay activities and not others.

COERCIVE POWER, based on physical or psychic violence. Examples of this are burning at the stake, torture, imprisonment, banishment, blackmail, removal from office, denouncement.

SOCIAL POWER, based on the use of structural-organizational or psycho-sociological mechanisms such as Catholic Action congresses, peer-group pressures, rumors, co-optation, social ostracism, socialization, use of mass media, nepotism, and selective recruitment. An example of social power is “conditioning.” …

LEGAL POWER, juridically founded, or simply based on bureaucratic and administrative norms, procedures, and maneuvers. An example of this is the rule of secrecy which affects, under the pain of “grievous sin,” the affairs of the Secretariate of the Pope and the Council for the Public Affairs of the Church in their relations with Vatican diplomats and other high-ranking prelates. Another example is censorship, through the nihil obstat and imprimatur.

TRADITIONAL POWER, based on the use of traditional symbols, rituals, ideas, and sentiments. The cementing of loyalty through a mass of torch-lit procession during a congress would be an example of this kind of power. Appeals to practices (for example, speaking Latin) and documents popular or prevalent in previous times are also instances of the use of traditional power.

EXPERT POWER, based on professional, technical, or scientific or purely rational arguments. An example of this is the recourse to commissions of experts in theology or the social sciences to bolster one’s position. Pius XII’s speeches to numerous groups on a multitude of topics was also an effort to control through expert power.

CHARISMATIC POWER, based on exemplary or ethical prophecy. Examples of this are calls for social justice and equality (used extensively in recent years) or the giving away of some of the Church’s possessions for certain causes (for example, a ring in a Brazilian slum). In a less prophetic vein, the replacement of personal charisma of office and the routinization of charisma are other examples of the use of this kind of power.

The Vatican with one hundred years of experience in controlling nations through these lay Catholic organizations, has chosen to export this highly developed mechanism for control of lay Catholics and democratic processes to the United States. In 1975, the Church launched its Pastoral Plan of Action. The “committees” discussed in this plan are the same “committees” discussed by Vaillancourt that are used to control lay Catholics and to serve as political machinery. These “committees” which make up anti-abortion organizations are openly being used by the Vatican to manipulate the American democratic process. This includes the Moral Majority organization, as unsuspecting Protestants lend their support. For those who have figured out that they are being used, the lust for power or attention given them is enough to keep them in the fold.

The Pastoral Plan of Action was supposedly initiated by the Vatican because “the will of God and the law of reason” demanded an unrelenting fight against abortion. However, by 1978, it became apparent that the Vatican had simply seized upon a golden opportunity to mobilize Catholic America into a political party using its “right-to-life committees”—including the Moral Majority. Some observers began to recognize that these very same “committees” were being used to fight the other “enemies” of the Catholic Church: the ERA, family planning, the environmental movement, illegal immigration control, and support for the Global 2000 Report. I am now convinced that abortion was simply an excuse to politically mobilize the American Catholic Church and create, de facto, an American Catholic Political Party. The same techniques and tactics developed and used by the Church one hundred years ago to manipulate local, state, and national governments on other continents are exactly the same techniques and tactics seen in America today!

In 1977, victory for the ERA movement seemed almost certain. Few Americans realize the fantastic amount of organization and mobilization of human resources, funds, and commitment it took on the part of the Vatican to turn apparent victory for the ERA into defeat. Phyllis Schlafly, a Catholic, and the “organization” she headed, got more help from the Vatican and the American bishops than most Americans can possibly imagine. Judge Dooling found the anti-abortionists’ claim that they were a grass-roots movement to be spurious; the belief that the anti-ERA forces are also a grass-roots movement is ridiculous.

As serious observers study the opposition to the family-planning movement, the environmental movement, illegal immigration control, and the Global 2000 Report, they recognize just how sophisticated the opposition is—the amount of energy, organization, and direction each has—and that the opposition is all the same people, the same committees.

Conclusion

This is not an abstract theory. Such organization has been effective in Italy and other countries and was described by Vaillancourt before it got underway in earnest in the United States. Until those of us who are concerned about these social justice issues are willing to confront the Catholic hierarchy, there will be no significant advances in these areas of social justice. So long as the Church can act “undercover,” it will continue to be effective in thwarting significant advances. Our willingness to permit the Church to act in secrecy in America vastly enhances its power. It is absolutely essential that our silence be shattered. If not, then no matter which of these causes is “our cause” it’s a lost cause. Just as important, the strength of a threatening Vatican-controlled political party in America will continue to grow. American Catholics who are seriously concerned about social justice must take the pope and the Vatican at their word when they say that they do not intend to change their course. Catholics must be aware that the pope and the Vatican are choosing their social justice issues very selectively. In the 1970s, Cardinal Leo Suenens proposed that the position of pope and the Vatican, as we know it, be eliminated and that four “mini-pope” positions be created; this is consistent with Catholic teachings. He insisted that this is feasible. Perhaps it is time for socially responsible American Catholics to break the American Church away from the control of the Vatican. Otherwise, they as individuals stand to be accused of the same hypocrisy practiced by their Church hierarchy.


[8] D. J. Dooling, decision in McRae vs. HEW, New York: U.S. District Court. See, Appendix 1 for a more complete extract from Judge Dooling’s decision.

[9] P. D. Young, “Richard A. Viguerie: The New Right’s Secret Power Broker,” Penthouse (December 1982), p. 146.

[10] Maxine Negri, “A Well-Planned Conspiracy,” The Humanist (May/June 1982), 42:3:40.

[11] Jean-Guy Vaillancourt, Papal Power: A Study of Vatican Control Over Lay Catholic Elites (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980).

Dr. Stephen Mumford is the founder and President of the North Carolina-based Center for Research on Population and Security. He has his doctorate in Public Health. His principal research interest has been the relationship between world population growth and national and global security. He has been called to provide expert testimony before the U.S. Congress on the implications of world population growth.

Dr. Mumford has decades of international experience in fertility research where he is widely published, and has addressed conferences worldwide on new contraceptive technologies and the stresses to the security of families, societies and nations that are created by continued uncontrolled population growth. Using church policy documents and writings of the Vatican elite, he has introduced research showing the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church as the principal power behind efforts to block the availability of contraceptive services worldwide.

In addition to his books on biomedical and social aspects of family planning, as well as scientific articles in more than a score of journals, Dr. Mumford’s major works include: The Life and Death of NSSM 200: How the Destruction of Political Will Doomed a U.S. Population Policy (Research Triangle Park, North Carolina: Center for Research on Population and Security, 1996); The Pope and the New Apocalypse: The Holy War Against Family Planning (Research Triangle Park, North Carolina: Center for Research on Population and Security, 1986); and American Democracy and the Vatican: Population Growth and National Security (Amherst, New York: Humanist Press, 1984).

Professor Milton Siegel, who for 24 years was the Assistant Director-General of the World Health Organization, speaks to Dr. Mumford in 1992 to reveal that although there was a consensus that overpopulation was a grave public health threat and would be a major cause of preventable death not too far in the future, the Vatican successfully fought off the incorporation of family planning and birth control into official WHO policy. This video is available for public viewing for the first time. Read the full transcript of the interview here.

The Fascist Vatican

Empire – The Vatican: A Wholly Roman Empire?

 

 

 

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Emanations from the Human Butt Polyp Pat Robertson: Gays Will Force Christians To Like Anal Sex And, Eventually, Polyamory And Bestiality

Right-wing televangelist Pat Robertson tackled the recent controversy over Memories Pizza, which became Indiana’s first business to publicly declare that they won’t cater to same-sex weddings in the wake of the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act this week.

“Most gays, if they’re having a wedding, don’t want pizzas — they want cake,” Robertson told “700 Club” viewers, according to Right Wing Watch. “It’s the cake-makers that are having a problem.”

Still, he warned Christian business owners of all types that gay customers will eventually “make you conform to them.”

You’re gonna say that you like anal sex, you like oral sex, you like bestiality,” he added. “Sooner or later, you’re going to have to conform your religious beliefs to the group of some abhorrent thing. It won’t stop at homosexuality.”

Noting that Christian beliefs will “come under assault” until polyamory and polygamy are acceptable, too, Robertson lamented, “It’s a weird world we’re living in.”

The comments aren’t too surprising, particularly given Robertson’s recent history of anti-gay sentiments. In Febuary, he argued that a Washington state judge’s ruling that a florist had discriminated against a gay couple by refusing to provide flowers for their wedding was also indicative of society’s eventual embrace of bestiality.

He asked, “To tell a florist that she’s got to provide flowers for a particular kind of wedding? What if somebody wanted to marry his dog? She’s got to have flowers for that?”


It’s time to fight religion: Toxic drivel, useful media idiots, and the real story about faith and violence

Out of misguided notions of “tolerance,” we avert our critical gaze from blatant absurdities. We must now get real

It's time to fight religion: Toxic drivel, useful media idiots, and the real story about faith and violence
Richard Dawkins, Mike Huckabee, Bill Maher, Reza Aslan (Credit: Reuters/Chris Keane/AP/J. Scott Applewhite/HBO)

The relentless march of time generally affords humankind, which happens to include folks in the media, the chance to reflect on events and acquire wisdom. But the weeks passing since the massacre in Paris of the highly talented Charlie Hebdo cartoonists for their depictions of the Prophet Muhammad have only granted a good number of commentators the opportunity to bedork themselves time and again, as they pen columns and make on-air statements that both spread confusion and betray commitments to untenable, morally reprehensible extenuative positions concerning Islam. This is tragic, for, if anything, the slaughter of European artists exercising their lawful right to self-expression in the capital of their own country offered us all a “teachable moment” sans pareil about the nature of the threat lurking within – in fact, innate to — the “religion of peace.”

Rarely have murderers so clearly manifested their motive. With the exclamations they made as they carried out their atrocity — “Allahu Akbar!” and On a vengé le prophète Mohamed, on a tué Charlie Hebdo!” (The prophet Muhammad has been avenged, we have killed Charlie Hebdo!) — the attackers explicitly told us they were killing for Islam, and imparted precisely the lesson they intended: Do not insult or ridicule our faith or you will pay the supreme price. They wrought violence against innocents who dared transgress the commandments of a religion they did not profess. What’s more, they de facto succeeded in imposing sharia tenets well beyond the confines of the Islamic world. How many major publications or networks dared even publish the anodyne drawing of a teary-eyed, forgiving Muhammad that graced the cover of the post-massacre issue of Charlie Hebdo, to say nothing of the other images satirizing the Prophet that presumably led to the fire-bombing of the magazine’s office in 2011? That so many Western media outlets shied away from doing so is more than scandalous. It unambiguously signals one thing: terrorism works. More lives are likely to be lost as a result.

Those whose profession it ostensibly is to enlighten found ample grounds on which to rebut reality and muddy the waters around the matter at hand: the faith-motivated murder of cartoonists for doing nothing more than drawing cartoons. Serial Islam-apologist Reza Aslan appeared on Charlie Rose‘s show and admitted that the Quran has “of course” served as a “source of violence” for terrorists, but then resorted to his usual tiresome Derrida-esque double-talk when it came to discussing his religion’s material role in the killings. “We bring our own values and norms to our scriptures; we don’t extract them from our scriptures.”

The New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof, an unwitting recidivist “useful idiot” for Islamism, cautioned us to avoid “religious profiling” and contended that “The great divide is not between faiths. Rather it is between terrorists and moderates, between those who are tolerant and those who ‘otherize.’” He is apparently unaware of Islamic traditions dividing the world into Dar al-Islam (the Abode of Islam, or Muslim regions) and Dar al-Harb (the Abode of War, where Muslims must strive against, and even do battle with, infidels, in order to convert them. For Kristof, a “strain of Islamic intolerance and extremism” is the (mere) “backdrop to the attack on Charlie Hebdo.”

Susan Milligan, writing in U.S. News and World Report, opined that news outlets should feel no pressure to publish the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, since “This isn’t about religion or respect, and it insults every peace-loving practicing Muslim to suggest otherwise.” Wow. Has she converted to Islam? What gives her the right to speak for “every peace-loving practicing Muslim?”

There are other examples, but foulest of all were the excretions emanating from James Zogby, president and founder of the Arab American Institute. I’ll cite in full the opening paragraph of his Huffington Post op-ed:

“The perpetrators of the horror at Charlie Hebdo were not devout Muslims outraged by insults directed at their faith. They were not motivated by religious piety, nor did they seek to strike a blow at ‘freedom of expression.’ Rather they were crude political actors who planned an act of terror — seeking to create the greatest possible impact. They were murderers, plain and simple.”

Every sentence here, with the partial exception of the last, is so transparently counterfactual that no refutation is warranted. But it gets worse. Zogby goes on to spew toxic drivel he will never live down, informing readers that he believes in “freedom of expression, but” — the “but” here portends the most insidious kind of “blame the victims” slander — “with freedom also comes responsibility. Pope Francis got it right when he noted ‘You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others’. . . . As Francis added ‘one cannot offend, make war, kill in the name of one’s religion — that is in the name of God. To kill in the name of God is an aberration.’”

(Except that in Islam, a faith long spread by the sword, it isn’t. Dozens of Quranic suras and texts from the Hadith call upon Muslims to commit violence against unbelievers in the cause of jihad, including, of course, those who insult the Prophet Muhammad.)

Zogby continued, complaining of the “prejudice against the religion of Islam” evinced by some commentators, and bemoaning the “hurt . . . Muslims have felt at the insults directed at the faith by the dominant secular French culture.”  He concluded with boilerplate gibberish, declaring that those who kill for religion “are not Muslim or Christian or Jewish or Hindu or Buddhist murderers or terrorists. Rather they are murderers or terrorists who defile the language of religion in a vain effort to justify their violence.”

Zogby’s is by far the most disgraceful, twisted, retrograde commentary on the Charlie Hebdo tragedy I have come across. Yet in adducing Pope Francis’ admonition to those who would insult faith, he unintentionally makes a point: Representatives of the world’s major religions usually stand together in calling for respect for their institutionalized fables, and they still, even now, usually get it. After all, respect, at least of a sort, is just what theocrats of old exacted, on pain of torture and death, when they ruled during the brutal millennium before the Renaissance that was once (and justly) known as the Dark Ages.

We are accustomed to reflexively deferring to “men of the cloth,” be they rabbis and priests or pastors and imams. In this we err, and err gravely. Those whose profession it is to spread misogynistic morals, debilitating sexual guilt, a hocus-pocus cosmogony, and tales of an enticing afterlife for which far too many are willing to die or kill, deserve the exact same “respect” we accord to shamans and sorcerers, alchemists and quacksalvers. Out of misguided notions of “tolerance,” we avert our critical gaze from the blatant absurdities — parting seas, spontaneously igniting shrubbery, foodstuffs raining from the sky, virgin parturitions, garrulous slithering reptiles, airborne ungulates — proliferating throughout their “holy books.” We suffer, in the age of space travel, quantum theory and DNA decoding, the ridiculous superstitious notion of “holy books.” And we countenance the nonsense term “Islamophobia,” banishing those who forthrightly voice their disagreements with the seventh-century faith to the land of bigots and racists; indeed, the portmanteau vogue word’s second component connotes something just short of mental illness.

The herd inclination of progressives to exculpate the canon of Islam and the role faith in general plays in inciting violence insults those with even a superficial knowledge of history. There is nothing commendable about covering up how religious convictions motivate killers, be they Christians (think of the Serbian Orthodox “cleansing” of Muslims in the Yugoslav war), Jews (recall Baruch Goldstein’s 1994 murder of 29 Palestinians at a Hebron holy site), Hindus (memorably, the Gujarat massacre in 2002 and, of course, the epochal Hindu-Muslim bloodshed accompanying Partition). Religion in each of these barbaric episodes (and many, many more) was the universally recognized primum mobile. Why should we not admit the same about the Charlie Hebdo slaughter?

Worse still is the offense that denying faith’s role in atrocities inflicts on commonsense. No one doubts people when they say their religion inspires them to attend mosque or church, make charitable donations, volunteer in hospitals or serve in orphanages. We should take them at their word when they name it, as did the Charlie Hebdo assassins, as  the mainspring for their lethal acts of violence. We should not toss aside Ockham’s razor and concoct additional factors that supposedly commandeered their behavior. The Charlie Hebdo killers may have come from poor Parisian banlieues, they may have experienced racial discrimination, and they may have even been stung by disdain from “the dominant secular French culture,” yet they murdered not shouting about any of these things, but about “avenging the Prophet Muhammad.” They murdered for Islam.

No doubt, some commentators contort themselves to avoid blaming Islam because they personally know Muslims who would do no harm to anyone. But as regards the Charlie Hebdo massacre, Islam’s innocuous votaries are irrelevant. The problem lies with the incontrovertible calls to violence in the Islamic canon that derive from a sense of supremacy as God’s final, irrevocable words to humanity, and with those who take them literally.

This all leads us to an overarching issue of critical import. Adherence to any of the Abrahamic religions — that is, to the trumped-up doctrines of systematized, unverifiable fables mandating certain kinds of behavior and outlawing others — is, to repeat Kristof’s silly term, “otherizing,” or divisive, provocative, and ultimately inimical to social harmony. Traffickers in such fables, or those who provide cover to those who do, deserve to be disinvited from every forum convened to seek solutions to the problems they themselves have helped create. Or perhaps they should be invited, but only as court experts in the particular variety of mass psychosis they and their ancestors have engendered.  “Dialogue between religions” — a perennially popular yet doomed endeavor often proclaimed as necessary by religious potentates — should be eschewed in favor of rational discourse among reality-based individuals. Please, let’s give the shamans and witchdoctors the day off.

What to make of Western leaders’ reluctance to indict Islam in the Charlie Hebdo massacre? Cowardice must be involved — better to deride a few bad apples “perverting a great religion” than risk angering large, and growing, Muslim communities at home, or inciting attacks against embassies abroad. And as a practical matter, convictions held as passionately as they are irrationally cannot be challenged without peril. That Obama and Hollande have gone to great lengths to avoid implicating Islam in the Charlie Hebdo massacre constitutes implicit recognition of the innate insolubility of religious conflicts – such beliefs cannot be disproven on an evidentiary basis, but only fought over, eye for eye. Once faith stands accused, the guns come out and the bombs go off, and death and mayhem ensue. Best to steer clear of all this.

Yet risks, to say nothing of honest discourse, are essential to true leadership. Faced with this, yet another crisis involving Islam and the violence it tends to beget, the only real options are unified defiance (as embodied in the Je Suis Charlie marches across France) or surrender, as exemplified in news outlets’ widespread reluctance to publish the eminently newsworthy Charlie Hebdo cartoons. By accepting the bald casuistry and specious analysis offered by religion’s apologists, or by denigrating, à la Zogby, the (wonderfully) muscular French version of secularism known as laïcité (no Islamic headscarves or Christian crosses allowed inside schools, no burqas to be worn outside), we are collectively opting for capitulation, and jettisoning our precious patrimony — freedom of expression, an essential element of any open society. If we do this, we should be ashamed of ourselves and do not deserve to be free.

We need to turn the tables and refuse to let the faith-based or their smooth-talking accomplices set the terms for debate; refuse to cower before the balderdash term Islamophobia; refuse to let faith-mongering fraudsters, from the Pope in the Vatican to the pastor down the street, educate our children or lecture us on morals or anything else. If we do not believe the Bible is true or the Quran inerrant, we need to say so, loudly, clearly and repeatedly, until the “sacred” sheen of these books wears off. And it will. Behaviors change as beliefs are adjusted. We no longer burn witches at the stake or use ghastly vises to crush the skulls of those suspected of being “secret Jews” (as was done in Spain and elsewhere during the Inquisition), and none but the insane among us would enact the gruesome penalties prescribed in Leviticus as retribution for trifling offenses. We have progressed, and we will progress again, if we, for starters, quit worrying about political correctness and cease according religion knee-jerk respect.

Some time ago, the meme “Islam – the religion of peace” began circulating, originating, apparently, in an erroneous translation of the Arabic name for the faith. Islam means “submission” (to the will of God). The brave cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo faced down threats and refused to submit — and paid with their lives. For their deaths to mean anything, we need to show similar guts.

We need, after all, to tell the truth. If we don’t start doing this now, our next question must be, who among us will be the next victims?

Jeffrey Tayler is a contributing editor at The Atlantic. His seventh book, “Topless Jihadis — Inside Femen, the World’s Most Provocative Activist Group,” is out now as an Atlantic ebook. Follow @JeffreyTayler1 on Twitter.


‘This is just insanity’: four Nobel laureates let fly over Australian science funding

Four of the nation’s most-renowned scientists have spoken to The Australian Financial Review about their concerns for Australian science and our ability to compete as an innovation economy.

What Nobel prize winners Elizabeth Blackburn, Brian Schmidt, Peter Doherty and Barry Marshall had to say about innovation funding in a nation historically responsible for a range of world-beating scientific advancements was often scathing.

Each holds fears for Australia’s global competitiveness. As stated by the AFR’s Anne Hyland, “When it comes to investment in science, Australia is in reverse as other countries floor the accelerator.”

Here’s a selection of quotes from the Nobel laureates about Australia’s investment in science and our economic future. For the full story, read: How ignoring science damns our economy at the AFR.

ELIZABETH BLACKBURN (joint Nobel prize in physiology or medicine in 2009)

Photo: Ken James

“How could Australia not think of investing heavily in science? This is just insanity. The fact that the natural resources boom is fading away – it’s foolishness.”

“I come back and have these marvellous science conversations and I talk to really, really bright people, but they’re under-used. They don’t groan. They just do the best they can.”

“Australia needs to invest in science. It’s a bigger picture than politics. Prime ministers come and go. National policies can be developed in a much less politicised way and be much more forward looking, whoever the prime minister happens to be.”

“There needs to be a very serious investment because you have all this scientific talent. If you look at the track record of countries that have invested in science, it’s obvious, it works.”

BRIAN SCHMIDT (joint Nobel prize in physics in 2011)

Photo: Rohan Thomson

“I’m scratching my head and losing sleep at night about that in a way that I haven’t before.”

“It’s unclear to me whether or not we will continue to be a great astronomy nation.”

“If we lose [our] advantage, are we going to replace that with something else? We damn well better be or we’re going backwards.”

“If we’re damaged it will take 20 years to fix ourselves. It only takes one year to cause 20 years of damage.”

PETER DOHERTY (joint Nobel prize in physiology or medicine in 1996)

Photo: Arsineh Houspian

“The celebration of science in Australia is pretty thin.”

“Basic science is done through public funding. It can’t be left up to the magic of the market. It doesn’t work in innovation.”

“We still have high quality universities. If we keep cutting back on that sector we’re going to lose it. It’s sad.”

“Australia, because of its location and the fact it’s an open Western country, really has tremendous potential to be an innovation hub.”

BARRY MARSHALL (joint Nobel prize in physiology or medicine in 2005)

Photo: Philip Gostelow

“There’s a layer of administration and bureaucracy that sits on top of original scientific research that almost doubles the cost or more.”

“[There’s] not the priority given to academic and scientific pursuit in Australia by politicians and government”.

“We need to raise some political pressure and educate politicians.”

“[In Singapore] their resources are their people and they say: ‘What are they going to do? We want to give them something interesting to do and have them doing things that are going to be white-collar, high-value jobs with some product coming out of it.’ ”

Fairfax Media


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