December 31, 2011

One to watch

From SCOTUSblog....

The Montana Supreme Court on Friday put to work its own view of what the Supreme Court had decided in the controversial ruling allowing massive corporate spending in political campaigns, and came out differently: the state court upheld a 99-year-old state ban on the use of corporations’ own money to support or oppose any candidate in state elections. The 5-2 ruling, including two dissenting opinions, is here. One of the dissenters predicted that the ruling would not survive an inevitable appeal to the Justices, and might be overturned without even a close look.

Eugene Voloch has this to add...

[W]hat has happened here is essentially this: The Supreme Court in Citizens United ... rejected several asserted governmental interests; and this Court has now come along, retrieved those interests from the garbage can, dusted them off, slapped a “Made in Montana” sticker on them, and held them up as grounds for sustaining a patently unconstitutional state statute....

Extremely positive development, but once Scalia et al get a hold of it likely it won't go anywhere, but it is damn interesting to see it reach even this far.


December 30, 2011

What does the KKK have that these folks don't?

The good folks over on the Christians for a Moral America blog have their panties in a wad over the yet to be released Peter Jackson movie, The Hobbit. All that witchcraft and wizardry is offensive to these believers of their particular version of witchcraft and wizardry.

Their bigotry and hatefulness regarding alternate superstitions isn’t the only place where these folks are kind of… well, bigoted and hateful. On the right sidebar of the linked page appears a closed poll with a very interesting question, and some even more interesting answer choices.

 Shot down? Yep. Good, moral folks these Christians. Good people.


December 29, 2011

Musical interlude

Late in the afternoon of August 17th, 1969, Country Joe and the Fish wrapped up a performance that lasted about an hour and a half on a muggy stage erected on a dairy farm in the Catskills of New York. That humid weather was murder on the technology of the day, most detectible in the tuning of the guitars. Seems like every few minutes the band would have to take five to re-tune. It had been like that all afternoon, and would continue into the night.

It also screwed up the equipment the film crews were supposed to use to record the next act. It messed them up badly enough that only a single tune of the hour-long performance by the band that followed Country Joe managed to make it to video.

Damn shame, but at least they captured the best that the British band formerly known as the Jaybirds had to offer. The performance firmly enshrined Ten Years After and their upstart, young blues-rock guitarist in the legend of Woodstock.

Presenting Alvin Lee performing I’m Going Home.


December 27, 2011

On Religious Freedom

The concept of the natural rights of man has been recognized for some time. In some of the earliest known writings on the topic the Stoics of ancient Greece described slavery as an unnatural, or external condition of man. The philosophy of sui juris, or the freedom of the human soul was espoused in many writings of the day.

It is a mistake to imagine that slavery pervades a man's whole being; the better part of him is exempt from it: the body indeed is subjected and in the power of a master, but the mind is independent, and indeed is so free and wild, that it cannot be restrained even by this prison of the body, wherein it is confined.

-- Seneca the Younger, De beneficiis, III, 20.

The worst speculative Sceptic ever I knew, was a much better Man than the best superstitious Devotee & Bigot.

-- David Hume in a letter to Gilbert Elliot of Minto, March 10, 1751

Those were the first few words of the first missive offered for this blog. That was on 2008.12.10, and the post was titled THE RIGHTS OF MAN (With Apologies to Thomas Paine) and the topic was the 60th anniversary of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Just a few months prior to this blog's d├ębut a Saudi led coalition of 56 Islamic nations managed to reverse Eleanor Roosevelt’s signature achievement of 60 years prior. They accomplished this by inserting language effectively criminalizing blasphemy under the guise of "religious anti-defamation". It was just this kind of religious intolerance that was the focus of Mrs. Roosevelt’s drive for human rights, yet every effort to override this movement was stymied.

Now just a short few years later we see attitudes swinging more in Mrs. Roosevelt’s favor. On 2011.03.24 Reuters reported on the groundbreaking consensus that had been reached by UN member nations to abandon the blasphemy language inserted in 2008. A new three-page resolution recognizing that there is "intolerance, discrimination and violence" aimed at individuals in all regions of the world emerged after discussions between U.S. and Pakistani diplomats.

Washington, DC – Today in Geneva, members of the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a groundbreaking resolution that seeks to address violence, discrimination and incitement to religious hatred without reference to the controversial notion of “defamation of religions.” Human Rights First said the move marks an important shift away from efforts at the UN to create an international blasphemy code, something that has for the past decade been supported by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).

The move by the UN Human Rights Council is important because we can now expect to see a shift from protection of religion to the protection of individual rights. And yes, change will come slowly. The resolution is a good start but recent events [HERE, HERE, HERE] remind us that the Islamic world is unlikely to make any rapid changes.

The cult of Muhammad ibn Abdullah is as firmly entrenched in the Muslin world as the cult of Jesus of Nazareth once was in Christian regions. Over time the greater freedoms allowed in the west promoted increased tolerance and a more secular society, gradually pushing onerous laws out of the books. Christians became a less authoritarian sect, but the Muslims were just on the rise.

Unfortunately when the adherents of one sect or cult feel threatened by encroachment of another we see protectionist laws resurface. The growth of Islam and the threat of terrorism has done exactly that to the west.  

Witness the unnecessary "Anti-Shariah" law now on the books in Oklahoma, and those proposed in several other states. This type of futile reaction tends to strengthen the will of those promoting religious intolerance elsewhere. Fortunately there are cooler heads and the effects of our home grown intolerance is somewhat muted.

In spite of the reactionism here and the intransigence of Muslim states, we are seeing changing attitudes elsewhere. Likely this is due to ever greater and uncomfortable encroachment of religion into public dialogue, as well as news stories such as those illustrated above.  

The change in the UN resolution comes as many of the globe’s borderline religionist states, led by  more secular nations, are leaning toward greater tolerance and political moderation. Initially Argentina, the Bahamas, Barbados, Fiji, the Republic of Korea, the Solomon Islands, Mexico, Uruguay and Zambia all voted in favor of the anti-defamation resolution in 2008, yet in this most recent move those same nations all switched sides.

In a recent Human Rights First report scores of cases were identified providing actual examples of the dangers of enacting a global blasphemy law. More than 70 cases were identified in 15 countries where the enforcement of such laws resulted in death sentences, long prison terms or arbitrary detentions, all based upon suspect accusations. A person accusing another of blasphemy cannot even recount the offense without also being accused of the sin, leaving a court to accept the accuser’s statement with no evidence that the accused might be able to refute.

Fundamentalist citizenry enabled by these laws have been documented attacking, assaulting, and sometimes murdering those accused; often with no evidence other than the accusation. The assassination of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer by his own body guard, and the murder of Pakistani Minister Shabhaz Bhatti were identified as results of blasphemy accusations, as were outbreaks of mob violence in Indonesia. 

The tides, hopefully, are turning. On Monday, 2011.12.19, as the 66th session of the United Nations General Assembly came to an end, it adopted two resolutions on the right to Freedom of Religion or Belief. One of these called for the elimination of all forms of intolerance and discrimination based on religion or belief and the other for combating intolerance, negative stereotyping, stigmatization, discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against persons, based on that person's religion, belief, or lack of belief.

It is a small start, but perhaps this will be the beginning of something grand. We can hope.

More reading on this topic at the links below:


December 25, 2011

Islamists kill dozens in Nigeria Christmas bombs

As reported by Reuters, violence promoted by the devotees of one cult of religious insanity is visited upon devotees of another.
Islamist militants set off bombs across Nigeria on Christmas Day - three targeting churches including one that killed at least 27 people - raising fears that they are trying to ignite sectarian civil war.

Being afraid of all islamists is crazy, but there are some of which the world should certainly be afraid. The same can be said of christians and most of the other creator superstitions. 


Evolve your beliefs

The following has posted in this space a couple of times in the past. Last year it was Franklin Graham's  NewsMax appearance trying to peddle the same, tired crap that prompted th repost. This year it is laziness and the ongoing blather spewing from Rick Perry and Michelle Bachmann. It seems to me the message is worthy of repeating.

What’s an atheist to do on Christmas?

Along about this time of the year I find myself amused with the perennial accusations of secularists perpetrating “War on Christmas”. Bill O’Reilly's seasonal schmaltz, an annual event for Bill, appeared on the December 3rd Factor. Poor Bill is forever attempting to crucify some Heinous devil worshiper in his quest to out the godless liberals at the root of American decay. This year’s target is Washington Governor Christine Gregoire.

MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann took O’Reilly to task in a most humorous commentary. The last two years I had the You Tube embedded here, but when Olbermann departed NBC they terminated the channel. Anyway....

Being one of O’Reilly’s devil worshipers, I feel at least somewhat vindicated, and more than a little amused. But still I remain confused. Why is it that we have these ongoing controversies?

My philosophies do not allow for belief in much of anything, certainly not a diety or creator, but I find little reason to fight the religionists. Other than the pre-holiday commercial onslaught and it being overall a pretty boring day, I find little in Christmas to dislike.

I’m by no means alone in this country when I identify myself as non-theist. Surveys have indicated that somewhere around 15% of Americans tic off the “non-religious” box where such is offered. Approximately the same percentage of date-seekers registered with choose either, atheist, agnostic, spiritual but not religious, or other when asked the faith question.

Personally I’d like to see the results of a survey offering only two choices: Monotheistic or Not Monotheistic.

Christmas is here to stay and the militant in our rank should just lay back and enjoy the inevitable. The Jews have done a good job of adapting, as have immigrant populations of various other faiths.

There is even a company offering atheistic Christmas cards that can be ordered over the WWW []. Judging by the prices I would speculate the owner is Jewish, but that is one of the ways the Jews have adapted to the Christian holiday.
Some recent surveys have indicated up to 95% of Americans celebrate Christmas in one form or another. Take that earlier 15% into consideration and you can figure about two thirds of the non-believers still celebrate the holiday. The remaining third are just noisy stinkers trying to rile O’Reilly.

Plenty of well known secularists and big name atheists celebrate Christmas. Heck, it’s a Federal holiday, you get presents, get off work most years, are encouraged to drink alcohol...

So what’s not to celebrate?

H/T to Hemant Mehta, AKA the Friendly Atheist and current Chairman of the Foundation Beyond Belief... a charitable organization that doesn't need God to be Good.


December 24, 2011

The Funnies, a day early