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Posted by on Apr 11, 2013 in Blog, Essays, What's Left | 12 comments

Why Won’t Religion Just Leave Us Alone?

 

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CLICK HERE:  How Religion Promotes Intolerance and (Gulp!) — Even Murder

 

I’m often asked, “why bother with religion?  Why not instead just let believers pray as they do, and leave them alone?

Oh, how I wish that were possible.  If only things were only that simple.  If only there was such an option — I’d take it.

Trouble is, we don’t have that option.

We anti-theists/agnostics/atheists can’t sit idly by and “let them pray.”  We can’t “leave them alone” — for one simple reason.  Because they won’t “leave us alone.”

No.

The religious faithful insist on invading every sphere of our human existence.  They demand totalitarian control over what we do, and how we think.  They demand absolute servitude, not only to their god but to a narrow set of twisted customs and belief systems prescribed during an ancient era when the worldwide consensus was the earth was flat and deadly diseases were caused by curses.  In short, religious practitioners not only invade our space and attempt to alter our consciousness, they also desire to be our lawgiver, our landlord, and — should we break their commandments — our executioner for eternal damnation.

We anti-theists promise to remain open-minded.  We even welcome the opportunity to debate, although we’re rarely given the chance.  We’re willing to let believers think and do entirely as they wish.  They can worship, so long as they don’t expect us to live in the same imaginary temple.

To my religious friends:  You can worship your god if you so chose.  Please, go ahead.  You can attend your church.  Please, do so.  Just don’t ask the rest of us to pay for your roads, bridges, utilities, power lines, and sewers that service your houses of superstition — and then have the audacity to demand tax exemptions.

We’ll even let you poison the minds of your own families.  Personally, I think there should be a period of compulsive non-religious education, in other words, something other than church indoctrination.  But I’m willing to concede to your law-given parental right to shackle your children’s minds and buckle their brains to your own religious mythology.  As horrific as the prospect is of cult mythology passed from one generation to the next, I’m willing to let you incubate your offspring with the idolization of angels and the giant sky daddy — that is if you’ll simply let the other children be educated according to science and evidence.

Let’s agree to meet in the middle, shall we?  I’ll grant you your rights.  But your rights end where my home, my brain, and my desires begin.  I won’t violate your space if you don’t violate mine.

But religion won’t go for this.  Unfortunately, those of you who support religion not only violate my space.  You steamroller over it.

Worse, religious beliefs aren’t merely pronounced from the pulpit.  In fact, they are written into our laws.  They tell us what we can and cannot do.  They determine curriculum inside our classrooms.  They even guide our foreign policy with the rest of the world.

Consider areas of your private life where religion has invaded your personal space and denied you the option of making a decision for yourself:

— Religion seeks to sanction who can and cannot marry.

— Religion seeks to deny women the right to control of their own bodies.

— Religion seeks to restrict scientific research and inhibit potential advances in medicine.

— Religion seeks to alter the teaching of science.

— Religion seeks to censor free speech and artistic expression

— Religion seeks to control our sexual behavior — including who has sex with who to which sex acts are acceptable.

— Religion aims to prohibit the legalization of drugs.

— Religion aims to prohibit the sale or consumption of alcohol during certain hours, on some days, and in various areas.

— Religion seeks to ban and criminalize online poker and gambling.  It opposes gambling in any form when it appears as an option for voters.

— Religion seeks to ban pornography and sexually-explicit businesses.

— Religion seeks to deny you the right to die, even if you’re suffering unbearable pain.

— Religion hijacks foreign policy away from self-interest in order to serve what are alleged to be holy instructions.

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But religion isn’t necessarily against everything.  Churches and religious institutions — and those who support them — are for lots of things.  They overwhelmingly favor policies some might even consider hypocritical.

Here’s a short list of things religion (and religious people) tend to favor:

— Religion favors the death penalty.

— Religion favors guns, even the most deadly weapons of assault.

— Religion favors and enthusiastically supports wars, as long as we’re killing the right people.

— Religion favors censorship.

— Religion favors the imposition of restrictions on things most people enjoy — like drinking, gambling, and sex.

— Religion favors an economic system whereby corporations and the wealthy can enrich themselves at the cost of the rest of society.

— Religion favors the use of animals as consumable objects to be used and then discarded.

— Religion favors the exploitation of nature and environment purely for consumption and profit.

— Religion favors methods of torture in the name of national defense.

— Religion favors colonialism, military theatrics, and preemptive aggression.

— Religion tends to vehemently oppose other (rival) religions, resulting in hate and hostility.

 

Most of these generalities apply to modern-day Christianity.  Associated faith-based movements profess unwavering support for individual freedom.  Moreover, they rally against government involvement in the lives of ordinary citizens.  Yet when it comes to enforcing their moral codes, these same groups trumpeting individual freedom fall right into line with extremists in other religions.  Let’s call them for what they are — Taliban-light.  They want government everywhere — from our bars to our bedrooms.

Of course, this argument pales in comparison to even more troubling concerns.  As abominable as religious beliefs and believers often are, they’re only a fraction of the transcontinental state of repression and terror inflicted by the Islamic religion on the often powerless citizenry within many Muslim societies.  Judeo-Christian life might be considered downright blasphemous compared to these extreme theocracies where half the population are second-class citizens and terror is an instrument of conversion to the faith.

That said, it’s hardly a virtue for Christians to rightly claim in their defense — “at least we’re not as bad as them.”

Since I don’t believe in religion, what do I believe in?  What do I stand for?  What virtues are worth a fight?  Actually, I am a believer — though not in god or the supernatural nor superstition.

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MY PERSONAL MANIFESTO

My “religion” is based on the virtues of humanism.  This means….

1.  Individual enlightenment and personal fulfillment

2.  True equality and opportunity — equality regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or race

3.  Love for humanity, animals, and the environment

4.  Freedom of speech, open exchange of ideas, and artistic expression (even if it offends me)

5.  Cooperation, not competition and conflict

6.  Constant curiosity and exploration, which includes open discussion and dialogue (about any subject)

7.  The belief that bigger, faster, and newer does not always mean better

8.  The application of logic to all questions

9.  Education based on science and fact

10.  The repudiation of lies, censorship, patience, faith, religion, and superstition.

 

Thank you for reading.

 

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Posted by on Mar 4, 2013 in Blog, What's Left | 1 comment

Catholicism Goes Up in Smoke

cheech-and-chong

 

Imagine the possibilities.

The script reads as follows:  Cheech and Chong win a free trip to Italy.  While traveling, the old Pope resigns and a new Pope gets picked.  The two dope heads somehow stumble into the Vatican.  When the new Pope finally gets chosen, white smoke is traditionally released to the crowd gathered outside in Saint Peter’s Square, and a billion cheering worshipers watching worldwide.

Cheech and Chong.  White smoke.  You can pretty much figure out the rest.

At least the plot for “Cheech and Chong Visit the Vatican” would make sense.

But nothing makes sense in Catholicism.

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Catholics are in a state of denial, which is nothing new.  This has been a recurring problem ever since — oh, let’s see — around the year 624.

It took centuries to finally end the senseless torturing of hundreds of thousands of innocents during the Inquisition.  It took centuries to put a stop to the Crusades which sought to convert the conquered at the point of a sword.  It took centuries to save so-called heretics from being burned alive at the stake.  So why would anyone think the Catholic Church is now finally ready to turn over a brand new fig leaf and join the 19th Century, let alone the contemporary world of 2013?  The church still conducts services in Latin, for Crissakes. 

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Posted by on Jan 8, 2013 in Blog, Rants and Raves, What's Left | 2 comments

Who College Football Needs the Most

Marvin Miller

 

Marvin Miller.

That’s right.

Marvin Miller.

For those unfamiliar with that name, Marvin Miller was a man who changed sports forever.  He was arguably the most influential figure during the past 50 years when it comes to reshaping the four major professional sports leagues and revolutionizing where the money goes.

Miller died last month.  Back in his heyday, during the 1970’s, Miller headed the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA).  He’s the pioneer most responsible for transforming professional athletes from seasonal blue-collar workers into multimillionaires and celebrities.

Team owners hated Miller.  That’s because he made them all share their wealth.  Unfortunately, many sports fans also despise Miller — largely because of what the player labor movement later deteriorated into after he retired.  His aims and objectives twisted by the likes of Donald Fehr and others, Miller’s original intent was simply to achieve fairness.  He recognized that athletes possessed special skills which were not being rewarded proportionally to the risks they were taking and the sacrifices they were making.  While team owners supposedly take risks when purchasing sports franchises (highly debatable, since virtually no pro team are ever sold at a loss), it’s the athletes who take staggering levels of risks every second they’re on the field, on the court, or on the ice.  Careers can be over in an instant.  Future earning power can be shattered with the tear of a tendon.  This doesn’t even begin to address the intense pain of injuries of the potential for a lifetime of disfigurement.  Go take a look at former pro football great Earl Campbell, who can barely walk after a career in football.

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Posted by on Oct 19, 2012 in Blog, Travel, What's Left | 0 comments

My Great Privilege — Meeting a World War II Veteran

American Veteran Photo

 

In few more years, they’ll all be gone.

Every one of them.

The millions who marched on foot across a continent and who sailed the high seas some 70 years ago are slowly but surely leaving us.  They pass away at the rate of thousands per year, which will gradually come to a few hundred, and then to a trickle.  In another decade or so, they will be no more.

They are what has been called “the Greatest Generation.”

When times were the toughest, they endured it.  When duty called and the bell of national service rang, they answered it.  When our way of life and liberty was at stake, they defended it.  And when it was all over and some came home, they honored and remembered those who didn’t.

They are our heroes.

Indeed, most aren’t young anymore.  Most have seen and suffered far more than any human should endure.  They don’t play on sports fields.  They aren’t moviestars.  They aren’t rich or famous.  But they are far more special than any of those superficial icons with fleeting illusions of accomplishment.  They are the survivors and the victors of the last century’s most trying test.  They are the champions.  The champions of the world.

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Posted by on Oct 12, 2012 in Blog, What's Left | 5 comments

Gasoline at $6 a Gallon? It’s Here (Almost)

Death Valley Gas 

In a scene right out of Mad Max, some places are now charging $5.90 a gallon for unleaded.  The premium fuel has actually hit six bucks.

SIX DOLLARS!  A GALLON!

Where is this?  Some remote whaling village in Norway?  No, it’s right here in the USA.

Here’s a snapshot of the sign out in front of the Chevron station in Shoshone, California — which is located close to Death Valley.  Admittedly, this is a tough place to reach.  So, gas is going to cost a little more in out-of-the-way places where it simply costs more money to transport fuel from the producer to the consumer.

But a 50 percent markup from the national average of just under $4 a gallon?  (Note:  This sign and price was not unusual — other stations in the area had similar prices per gallon).

Might this be a conspiracy?

Let’s agree that it costs significantly more to truck gasoline to remote parts of the country, such as Death Valley.  I’m not sure precisely how much more it takes to drive a tanker from a fuel hub such as Los Angeles, which is 200 miles west.  But let’s concede that it costs more.

I wonder — does it cost any more to transport fuel out to the desert than, let’s say, to a small town in the hills of Tennessee, where the same gallon of unleaded gas now costs $3,89 a gallon?

Someone please explain this to me.  $5.90 a gallon in Shoshone….$3.89 a gallon in Gatlinburg.

Roughly the same geography from refineries and tankers, and the same reliance on overland transport.  Shouldn’t the high dessert in California and the Smokey Mountains in Tennessee have roughly the same gas prices?

Again, please educate me.

Moreover, Id like to know that if indeed it’s more difficult to move goods to the consumer to a place like Shoshone, then why aren’t the other products also marked up significantly?  A coke that costs $1 in Los Angeles is not priced at $1.50 in Shoshone.  In fact, it’s the same $1.  A candy bar that costs 60 cents elsewhere is also 60 cents here.  Same with just about everything — except gasoline.

When people in one part of the country are forced to pay a 50 percent markup on a product that is widely available in similar regions at a substantially lower cost, something is very wrong.

I have a solution:  I hope the day comes when this nation nationalizes the oil industry.  Seize them all.  Acquire all their assets.  Take them over in the public interest and damn all the greedy shareholders who are caught holding an empty bag.

But all this pales in comparison to my final inquiry.  Alas, I’ve saved the biggest question for last.  Take a close look at that sign again.  Look carefully.

I wonder — can’t the idiot who runs the Chevron gas station afford some legitimate signage, rather than using black electrician’s tape?  I mean, the criminal oil company and the service station are raping consumers to the tune of $6 a gallon.  And the sign looks like a fucking lemonade stand?

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