September 14, 2014

Blasphemy laws in America

The Internet machine lit up last week when a Pennsylvania youth pulled a boner (pun intended) by posting a Facebook photo of himself in a rather tasteless pose with a praying jesus statue. This got our hapless 14-year-old miscreant charged with the crime of blasphemy and threatened with a two-year stretch in the Juvie pokey.

This law, which appears to be the product of somebody’s poop chute isn’t actually titled “blasphemy”, but the effect is the same. Our teenage Bozo is being charged with “desecration, theft or sale of a venerated object”, a second-degree misdemeanor from a statute enacted in 1972. The “venerated object” in question is that jesus statue. Jesus is on private property owned by a group named “Love in the Name of Christ”.

So the local constabulary wants to charge the boy with “desecration”, which Pennsylvania law describes as “defacing, damaging, polluting or otherwise physically mistreating” an object “in a way that the actor knows will outrage the sensibilities” of anyone who learns about it. Out hapless fool’s Facebook photo provides ample evidence that the child mounted the statue, striking a pose that most folks would find tasteless, but does it “outrage”, and even if so, did the boy “know” this? That one is going to be tough to prosecute, I think. A more sensible charge might be trespassing, but jesus was not vandalized or damaged. He is still kneeling in prayer with eyes fixed skyward, so there is no theft. I’m not sure how one might pollute a statue but jesus appears sober to me so I don’t think that happened.

But apparently there are plenty of people in Pennsylvania wearing shorts that are twisted or maybe a few sizes too small, because they think jesus was desecrated. Ask Webster what that word means and try to apply it to these circumstances. Only in the mind of a dogmatist could it be stretched that far.

Now I would agree the boy’s behavior was crude and certainly immature… he is 14… how mature were you at age 14? On the surface this law appears designed to defend religious objects from ridicule… which is the textbook definition of blasphemy.  Any way it is applied this law violates the free speech rights of this boy, and tramples all over the establishment clause to boot. I call foul, and I truly hope the township is silly enough to press it because even the wingnut Roberts Court would find the law out of bounds on First Amendment grounds.


September 10, 2014

Pushing the reset button

We often hear folks saying inane things like “Those people have been killing each other for a thousand year” when referring to Middle Eastern conflicts. There is some truth to that, but it actually doesn’t go far enough. It would be more accurate to say 1,200 years; and it started with Christianity.

In 325, Roman Emperor Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus Augustus; better known as Constantine I or Constantine the Great, fell under the influence of the Nicean Council and affirmed a view of Christianity that evangelicals will recognize… that Jesus and the Father are one and the same. The term in Greek is homoousios. The council condemned all other factions as false beliefs.

Next comes Flavius Theodosius Augustus, better known as Theodosius the Great, who was emperor from 379 to 395 and was so enamored with Constantine’s pet religion that he decreed that it was the official religion of the empire. Like all good Christians of the time he persecuted pagans and splinter Christian groups, proscribed the death penalty for “pagan” practices, destroyed “pagan” temples and pretty much abolished their holidays except for the ones already usurped by his particular cult.

Makes me think of that Johnny Cash song, Along Comes John; although in this case it was along comes Muhammad. 

About 200 years of persecution by the Niceans caused a bunch of wrinkled shorts, so when this Muhammad dude comes along saying he was the last prophet of Allah, called for war and led the hoards in battle against their tormentors… they gave him a medal and a 9-year-old bride. Muhammad was the first effective political and military leader of the Islamic community; preaching that it was God's mission for him to convert and conquer for Islam. Sound noble enough, except that his edicts were no less harsh than were those of Theodosius. He raised and army and set about slaughtering Christians, pagans and polytheistic Arabs.

Round and round it goes… where it stops nobody knows. Pick a side and reach for the brass ring… and tell me again how it isn’t religion that is the problem.

Just to add a few more names to what has become a virtual rogue’s gallery, think about the crimes committed by Pope Urban II (the 1st Crusade), Pope Gregory IX (founder of the Papal Inquisition), the Arch Deacon Ferrand Martinez (responsible for the massacre of 10,000 Jews), Tom├ís de Torquemada (2nd Crusade), John Calvin (established bizarre moral laws and burned offenders at the stake), Hong Xiuquan (believed himself the brother of Jesus, started the longest war in the history of China, killing about 20 million people in the process). 

More recently we have Ayatollah Khomeini (established his version of Sharia law in Iran, banned alcohol, western movies, non-religious and non-martial music, gender segregated sports and beaches, forced women to cover their hair, and men were banned from wearing shorts). Then there was Osama bin Laden, Muhammad Amin al Huseini, Mullah Muhammad Omar, and the Cheney/Bush/Rumsfeld triumvirate. Until just recently part of the training for U.S. Air Force nuclear missile launch officers included indoctrination into some officer's view of how Jesus would push the button. (look it up!)

Adolph Hitler fits in here somewhere and to a lesser degree there is Joseph Kony, Jim Jones and David Koresh. Now we have this ISIS, ISIL, IS… whatever you want to call the thing… every bit of it the fault of religious fundamentalism and the moderate sheep bleating along behind.

Respect... screw it. 

Don’t talk to me of respect. If you follow any splinter of any religion… or any philosophy requiring blind faith, then you are one of those bleating sheep. I do not respect that. No matter how much I may respect you as a fellow human, unless you are standing up and loudly protesting the sins of you elders, I cannot respect your belief. Regardless of how functional, creative, progressive or capable you are in every other aspect of your life, I will not and can never respect the blight that is religion. It is your religion and it is your disease. Like alcoholism, until you admit the disease you will never overcome it.

If this angers you... that is your problem and evidence in support of my point. If you have any shred of an open mind and I’ve mentioned anyone or anything unfamiliar to you, or if you doubt my facts (PLEASE doubt my facts), spend some time doing research. Prove me wrong if you think you can.

Our world is a far bigger place than our current petty feuding and the petty, greedy players would have you think. Step away from the trees and learn to love the forest. 

Do I really need to give credit for the author of these words?

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today...

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one