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The mayor argues that this Nativity scene celebrates the town's origins. / KOAT-TVAccording to Fox News, it’s on, folks! That’s right, Christianists’ annual paranoid whining about an imagined effort to abolish the celebration of Christmas in the US has resumed early — in August! (Even so, that’s not as early as back in 2013.) This story involves the town of Belen, NM which has a nativity in a city park year-round (“Belen” is the Spanish equivalent of “Bethelehem,” so Christians there appear to believe this is somehow necessary). KOAT-TV in Albuquerque reports on this particular little controversy (WebCite cached article):

It’s an iconic symbol for Christians everywhere — the birth of Jesus Christ, known as the Nativity scene — and it’s on display in a Belen city park. But now a Wisconsin advocacy group is warning the city to take it down.

“My first reaction was seething anger,” Belen Mayor Jerah Cordova said.

It’s an iconic symbol for Christians everywhere — the birth of Jesus Christ, known as the Nativity scene — and it’s on display in a Belen city park. But now a Wisconsin advocacy group is warning the city to take it down.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation says it was contacted by a concerned local resident and, after reviewing the situation, it agrees: the Nativity scene on government property is unconstitutional because it’s not a separation of church and state.

But Cordova doesn’t see it like that. He says the scene is more historic than religious, as “Belen” is Spanish for Bethlehem.

“Our town was named Belen for a reason, because our founders wanted it to be named after Bethlehem and of course, what happened in Bethlehem was the birth of Christ, which is something we’ve expressed since our founding,” he said.

I love the editorial reference to the FFRF as “a Wisconsin advocacy group.” As though they’re a bunch of meddling outsiders trying to tell these fine upstanding locals what to do, and who have no place in New Mexico. It turns out this is a common refrain, particularly regarding the FFRF, when they intervene anywhere in the South. “How dare these ‘outsiders’ come down here and order us around?” is a frequent complaint by Christianists offended by being confronted with the law. As noted in the story, though, the FFRF had been notified of this by locals who’d requested their assistance. Besides, the FFRF’s status as “outsiders” to Belen is irrelevant. If they’re breaking the law, then they’re breaking the law, and being told so by out-of-staters cannot and will never change that fact.

As KOAT-TV relates, mayor Cordova used an appeal to the slippery slope in order to justify keeping the nativity on city property:

“Where does it stop?” Cordova asked. “If we don’t stand up for the Nativity scene in the heart of Belen, next will they be asking us to change our name?”

For the record, I know of no effort anywhere in the country to force any municipality to change its name. It has never happened. To assume it will happen merely because one imagines it might happen, is irrational and illogical. At any rate, fuelled by his sanctimonious rage and standing on a foundation of fallacy and paranoia, Cordova promised his city will defy the FFRF and take the case to court. The odds are very good that they’ll lose. What’s more, a court battle is likely to cost them a good deal of money, even if some Christofascist legal outfit promises to represent them pro bono, because after the court case is over and they’ve lost, Belen will end up having to pay the plaintiffs’ legal costs. And that won’t be cheap.

I can’t help but wonder why any of this is even necessary. First, why must this nativity — reflecting Belen’s heritage as a New World “Bethlehem” — be placed only on municipal property? Is there any reason it can’t be moved to private property? Will it somehow lose all its magical power unless it’s in a city park? Is there any reason it can’t be moved to some church’s front lawn or something?

Second, why are Christians even erecting idols to their deity — which is essentially what a nativity is — in the first place? As I point out in my page on Decalogue monuments, idolatry is forbidden to Christians, as recorded in both the Old and New Testaments:

You shall not make for yourselves idols, nor shall you set up for yourselves an image or a sacred pillar, nor shall you place a figured stone in your land to bow down to it; for I am the Lord your God. (Lv 26:1)

Those who regard vain idols forsake their faithfulness (Jon 2:8)

Let all those be ashamed who serve graven images, who boast themselves of idols; worship Him, all you gods. (Ps 97:7)

Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. (1 Cor 10:14)

Little children, guard yourselves from idols. (1 Jn 5:21)

On top of this, though, a nativity put up prominently on public property is most certainly a form of public piety, which also was explicitly forbidden by none other than Jesus himself:

Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:1-6)

How, exactly, is a public nativity scene even an appropriate way to worship a deity who not only prohibited the construction of idols, but also public piety of any kind or at any time? Maybe it’s because I’m a cold-hearted, cynical, godless agnostic heathen and haven’t been granted the special sacred insight required to explain the illogic inherent in all of this, but I really and truly don’t get it.

Photo credit: KOAT-TV.

Hat tip: Raw Story.

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A woman, who said she was raped by Islamic State militants, in a refugee camp in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq. Mauricio Lima for the New York Times.Most readers, by now, will have heard about a horrifying New York Times story. It seems the leadership of ISIS/ISIL/IS/whatever-the-fuck-you-want-to-call-that-barbaric-brood has devised an explicitly religious rationale for systematic sexual slavery and rape — almost exclusively of Yazidi girls (WebCite cached article):

In the moments before he raped the 12-year-old girl, the Islamic State fighter took the time to explain that what he was about to do was not a sin. Because the preteen girl practiced a religion other than Islam, the Quran not only gave him the right to rape her — it condoned and encouraged it, he insisted.

He bound her hands and gagged her. Then he knelt beside the bed and prostrated himself in prayer before getting on top of her.

When it was over, he knelt to pray again, bookending the rape with acts of religious devotion.

“I kept telling him it hurts — please stop,” said the girl, whose body is so small an adult could circle her waist with two hands. “He told me that according to Islam he is allowed to rape an unbeliever. He said that by raping me, he is drawing closer to God,” she said in an interview alongside her family in a refugee camp here, to which she escaped after 11 months of captivity.

Thus opens a blood-curdling story of what has rapidly become an institution within this savage outfit:

The trade in Yazidi women and girls has created a persistent infrastructure, with a network of warehouses where the victims are held, viewing rooms where they are inspected and marketed, and a dedicated fleet of buses used to transport them.

A total of 5,270 Yazidis were abducted last year, and at least 3,144 are still being held, according to community leaders. To handle them, the Islamic State has developed a detailed bureaucracy of sex slavery, including sales contracts notarized by the ISIS-run Islamic courts. And the practice has become an established recruiting tool to lure men from deeply conservative Muslim societies, where casual sex is taboo and dating is forbidden.

A growing body of internal policy memos and theological discussions has established guidelines for slavery, including a lengthy how-to manual issued by the Islamic State Research and Fatwa Department just last month. Repeatedly, the ISIS leadership has emphasized a narrow and selective reading of the Quran and other religious rulings to not only justify violence, but also to elevate and celebrate each sexual assault as spiritually beneficial, even virtuous.

In an ancillary story — this one offered by ABC News — it turns out that American hostage Kayla Mueller had been the property of, and repeatedly raped by, none other than the savages’ leader (cached):

Before her death earlier this year, American hostage Kayla Mueller was repeatedly raped by the top leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, according to counter-terrorism officials.

Mueller’s family confirmed to ABC News that government officials have told them that their daughter, who would have turned 27 today, was the victim of repeated sexual assaults by al-Baghdadi.

“We were told Kayla was tortured, that she was the property of al-Baghdadi. We were told that in June by the government,” Kayla’s parents, Carl and Marsha Mueller, told ABC News today.…

The new revelations about Mueller’s long ordeal — which involved torture since the beginning of her one-and-a-half years of captivity, her family has been told by the FBI — shatter rumors spread by some officials that she had cooperated or was a willing spouse, which has deeply upset her family and many inside her case.

Yes, folks … this means Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, who leads the world’s largest and most powerful terrorist organization and who’d like Muslims to embrace him as their new caliph, is nothing more than a rapist, pervert, and sexual deviant. In other words, he’s even more of a fucking bastard pig than we already thought.

The Times story explains that having forcible sex with kafirah (“infidels”) is — perversely — a form of worship, according to these savages. Now, the story also explains there’s a more mundane, even mercenary reason for this policy, which is as a recruiting tool to attract men who live in a society which is otherwise puritanical and sexually repressive. It gives them an outlet for sexuality that they couldn’t otherwise avail themselves of. Thus, a lot of kneejerk defenders of Islam will say, “You see? It’s not really a ‘religious’ thing. They’re just trying to attract guys who like the idea of being able to freely rape women.” That misses the entire point. First of all, if this had been an entirely-non-religious policy, it would not have been couched in religious language at all. Second, the fact that this systematic sexual slavery is limited almost exclusively to Yazidis — who according to Islam don’t follow a “religion of the book” and therefore are afforded no protections whatsoever — definitely points to a clear religious impulse behind it.

Most importantly, though, this defense misses the truly salient lesson here, which is that it’s possible to use the sacred texts and teachings of nearly any religion to craft policies which are convenient and utilitarian — not to mention self-indulgent. In other words, it’s possible to use and even abuse a religion in order to get whatever it is one wants! This tends to undermine the credibility of the religion in question, since if it were truly of divine origin, one would think it couldn’t be abused in such a way.

Lastly … by posting this, I am not saying all Muslims everywhere support this savage outfit’s policy, or consider it consistent with Islam as they practice it. By no means! As I said, all I’m doing is pointing out the harsh, unpleasant reality that a religion — indeed, almost any kind of metaphysics at all — can readily be twisted to suit one’s purposes. This is no less true of Islam than it is of Christianity or Judaism or Hinduism or Buddhism or Shinto or anything else. The solution is not to get offended at this observation, or whine and bellyache that one’s religion has been “attacked” by pointing this out. Rather, the solution is to work to ensure this kind of abuse of a religion is not tolerated, and is stamped out as soon as possible. In the case of ISIS/ISIL/IS/whatever-the-fuck-you-want-to-call-that-barbaric-brood, there’s been a little “stamping,” but they continue attracting adherents — both in their own theater of action and elsewhere — which tells me there has to be a whole fucking helluva a lot more stamping.

Photo credit: Mauricio Lima / New York Times.

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'It's the rage, stupid!' / PsiCop original graphicForgive me, Dear Reader, for this blog post which deals entirely with politics and has nothing to do with belief or metaphysics of any kind. This is important, so please indulge me.

I’m sure you’ve heard about all the ridiculous and juvenile antics of real estate mogul and “reality TV” star Donald Trump, now that he’s joined the Republican presidential primary for 2016. That makes him King Bozo of the “clown car” (WebCite cached article). I won’t quote any of Trump’s comments or rationalizations for them here; their content — aside from their crass, insulting, and rude nature — is beside the point, as is his fierce and petulant refusal to apologize for any of it.

No, my point is something else entirely. And that is that — on the strength of his fiercely juvenile antics — he’s riding even higher than before among the Republican rank-&-file (cached). Most politicos will say this is because a lot of Republicans are tired of political “business as usual” and are gratified that a fresh and unorthodox voice is making itself heard. I’m sure this makes sense to a lot of folks … but it doesn’t fly with me. The reason is very simple: It’s possible to be both outspoken and unconventional, without being unduly insulting. Unacceptable, outrageous, and childish remarks and actions need not accompany a critique of the political establishment. A guy like Trump certainly is capable of taking on and eviscerating “the Establishment” without acting like a two-year-old.

I’ll digress here with a full disclosure: For a decade, through the 90s, I was a Republican activist in my home state of Connecticut. I was a delegate at several district and state party conventions. I assisted the campaigns of several GOP candidates. I’ve dealt with a lot of Republican officials, including some whose names are well-known to other residents of the Nutmeg State (if not to folks in other parts of the country or the world). I wasn’t exactly a “big wheel” in the machinery of Connecticut’s GOP, but I had a lot of contacts and through those years spoke with hundreds of active Republicans, as well as a lot of Republican voters, during the process of campaigning for candidates.

I chose to leave the party around the time George W. Bush was elected, because I didn’t like what I saw in it. There was a great deal of religious ferocity, as well as a rather virulent strain of intolerance for anyone who didn’t think “correctly.” Nasty, vile jokes at the expense of Democrats and minorities were common — and openly traded. Anger was palpable. I’d entered politics in order to make my town and my state better; but many of my fellow Republican activists had done so because they wanted to get “their way” all the time and to vent their rage at whatever they disliked; and they did so with the party’s approval. The GOP worked very hard to instill a certain amount of sanctimonious anger among conservatives beginning in the early 90s, and they’ve been milking it ever since as the chief fuel of the party. That particular aspect of the GOP has endured long after I left, as seen for example only last year.

(It’s possible much the same could be said of some Democrats. I really don’t know, because I didn’t join them and have never dealt directly with any Democratic activists. But even if so, that doesn’t excuse the childishly tasteless words and behavior I saw within the GOP, and it doesn’t make conservatism any less dysfunctional as a movement.)

At any rate, the Republican rank-&-file has embraced Trump, not because he’s unconventional, but because he’s saying things they like hearing. They’re every bit as crude and distasteful as he is, so they happily embrace his angry, juvenile verbal vomit. They see themselves in him — so they happily approve of his every childish move.

Even more than that, though … each time the mass media laugh at his latest juvenile maneuver and wonder aloud when his campaign will collapse, that only further encourages the Right to stick to him. Why? Because they goddamn fucking hate the mass media! Conservatives have despised the media since at least the Nixon administration, which for a while did a very good job of making it appear the Watergate scandal was just a figment of the imagination of the Washington Post and the rest of the “media elite.” Since then, the mantra that “the mass media are biased against the Right” has become part and parcel of conservative subculture. (They conveniently forget that major outlets like Fox News and the Wall Street Journal are decidedly biased in their favor but also very much a part of the mass media. Oh well.) Right-wing pundits like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Mark Levin, and the rest of that sanctimoniously-enraged crowd keep reiterating it to them by the moment, which only further reinforces this assumption. Many conservatives blame the mass media for Obama’s election (they were, after all, “in the tank” for him from the moment he announced his candidacy, you see). So the more the media ridicule Trump, the more convinced the Right becomes that he’s their man.

But beyond what’s already happened, the real problem for the Republican party is, it can only get worse. Trump has learned his poll numbers go up the more odious and vile he gets; so he’s sure to keep ramping it up. And the more he ramps it up, the more fiercely the GOP rank-&-file will attach themselves to him. He has no incentive to cool it, and the rank-&-file have no desire for him to do so. This is lethal for the party’s chances in the presidential election, though, because Trump’s disapproval ratings among the overall American population are high. Should he become the GOP nominee — which is quite possible, no matter how convinced many in the media are that it’s not — he’s guaranteed to throw the election to whoever the Democratic nominee is. The same fate will befall them if Trump doesn’t become the nominee and mounts a third-party campaign. So the GOP’s electoral fate may already be sealed.

In sum, Republicans created a monster when they decided to use anger, sanctimony and outrage as the glue that holds conservatives together to support their party. They now stand to reap a well-deserved reward for having done so! I suppose it’d sound nice if I could say I wished them luck, but quite honestly, I don’t. (This is in spite of the fact that I’m not really a fan of Democrats and/or liberals, either, and I’m by no means pleased with everything the current administration has done.) I want the Republican party to go down in flames — electorally speaking! — in 2016. Maybe that will encourage conservatives to fucking grow the hell up for the first time in their sniveling little lives and start acting like adults.

P.S. Ed. to add: Well, well, well! Buzzfeed reports that Donald Trump may have paid Breitbart News — an exceedingly popular Right-wing Web site — for glowing coverage (cached). This arrangement — which the site’s management vehemently denies — supposedly goes back to last year, so it predates Trump’s campaign by quite a while. It certainly doesn’t explain Trump’s staggeringly vast lead over his rivals, but if true, it means his candidacy is a lot less impromptu than it had appeared to be. Hmm.

P.P.S. Ed. to add: This morning, Donald Trump admitted his childish act is his way of intimidating everyone into letting him have his way (cached).

P.P.P.S. Ed. to add: Megyn Kelly returned to Fox News after a planned vacation, and Trump wasted no time venting his juvenile rage at her via Twitter. I have no doubt this childish stunt will further pump up his approval ratings within a GOP electorate which clearly views such behavior as “presidential.”

Photo credit: PsiCop original graphic.

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General Audience with Pope FrancisPope Francis continues to amaze, by repeatedly marching to his own drummer. The latest example of this came during his most recent audience. As Religion News Service reports, he instructed priests to welcome remarried Catholics (WebCite cached article):

Speaking out on one of the most contentious issues of his papacy, Pope Francis on Wednesday (Aug. 5) issued a powerful call for the church to embrace Catholics who have divorced and remarried, telling a gathering at the Vatican that such couples “are not excommunicated, and they absolutely must not be treated that way!”

“They always belong to the church,” he added, calling on pastors to welcome Catholics who have remarried without an annulment, even though such Catholics are currently barred in most cases from receiving the Eucharist, the central sacrament of the faith.

“The church is called to be always the open house of the Father. … No closed doors! No closed doors!” Francis told the crowd at his weekly public audience, which resumed after a monthlong summer break.

The pope’s words were greeted with what was described as thunderous applause [cached].

The article points out that Catholicism has, traditionally, taken a hard line against remarriage:

Current teaching says such Catholics cannot receive communion unless they abstain from sexual relations because their first marriage is still valid in the eyes of the church.

A debate over this has been brewing in the halls of the Vatican since Francis took office, and it appears his comments are of his effort to press the matter. He also pointed out the hypocrisy — not to mention dysfunctionality — of the Church’s current approach:

How can the church “tell these parents to do everything to raise their children as Christians, giving them an example of a firm and practiced faith, if we keep them at arm’s length from the community, as if they were excommunicated?”

I can attest that it’s not uncommon for people born into, and married within, the Catholic Church to be alienated from it, and therefore become ex-Catholics, because of this particular issue. It’s literally driving people right out their doors … making it a really stupid way to operate. And, from the “thunderous applause” of the people in his audience, it sounds as though a lot of lay Catholics agree.

Photo credit: Catholic Church England & Wales, via Flickr.

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A photo frame displaying portraits of blogger Niloy Chowdhury, 40, with his wife is placed inside their room in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Friday, Aug. 7, 2015. Assailants believed to be Islamist militants entered an apartment building posing as potential tenants and killed the secular blogger in Bangladesh's capital on Friday, in the fourth such deadly attack this year, police said. (AP Photo/A.M. Ahad)Unfortunately, there are a lot of places in the world where being a non-believer is dangerous, and being an outspoken non-believer is undeniably deadly. Bangladesh is one of them. Just this year, four secular bloggers have been killed there. Agence France-Presse reports via Yahoo News on the latest such slaughter, which took place earlier today (WebCite cached article):

A gang armed with machetes hacked a secular blogger to death at his home in Dhaka Friday, sparking protests in the capital over the fourth such murder in Bangladesh this year.

Niloy Chakrabarti, who used the pen-name Niloy Neel, was killed after the gang forced its way into his apartment, according to the Bangladesh Blogger and Activist Network, which was alerted to the attack by a witness.

“They entered his room in the fifth floor and shoved his friend aside and then hacked him to death. He was a listed target of the Islamist militants,” the network’s head, Imran H. Sarker, told AFP.

Police confirmed Chakrabarti, 40, had been murdered by a group of half a dozen people at his home in the capital’s Goran neighbourhood who had pretended they were looking for somewhere to rent.

As one expects in a country with many Islamists, calls for help went unheeded before Chakabarti was hacked to death:

“Two of them then took him to a room and then slaughtered him there,” deputy police commissioner Muntashirul Islam told AFP, adding that his wife had been “confined to another room” during the attack.

Mahbubur Rahman, another deputy commissioner, told reporters Chakrabarti’s wife had been heard crying out “Save us! Save us!” but no one responded.

The AFP notes the 3 previous savage butcherings in Bangladesh, as well as the fact that the government there has taken the cowardly route of doing basically nothing about them:

Immediately after the murder, hundreds of secular activists joined a protest march in the city’s Shahbagh Square, which was also the venue for the demonstrations two years ago.

“We’re protesting a culture of impunity in Bangladesh. One after another blogger is being killed and yet there is no action to stop these murderers,” said protester Sarker of the Bangladesh Blogger and Activist Network.

The problem here, of course, is that as long as these Islamist terrorists are going after outspoken atheists, the country’s Muslim government isn’t motivated to act. They don’t appear to care about atheists or their country’s nominal secular nature. Secular activists are dispensible, I guess. Once the terrorists have slaughtered or driven out all the secularists, though, their machetes will start chopping into other targets … i.e. other Muslims, of different sorts than they are. At that point it will have turned into a sectarian war, and the government will be forced to intervene; but by then, the terrorists will have had time to entrench themselves and will be more difficult to go after. As unpopular as secularists are in a country which is over 90% Muslim, it really is in the government’s best interests to start going after the Islamists now, rather than later.

But my guess is they won’t see the wisdom in this. They will, as I noted, keep acting like cowards and letting secularists die so they don’t have to get up off their sniveling little asses and actually do something. Cowardice is perhaps the single most common human trait — sad to say.

P.S. Edited to add: The Center for Inquiry offers a timeline of such attacks in Bangladesh, dating back some 16 years (cached). Hat tip for this addition: Friendly Atheist.

Ed. to add: As though to answer the question of why Bangladeshi authorities aren’t doing much of anything about the butchering of secular bloggers, they just made their position on the matter clear (cached):

Terming hurting one’s religious sentiment as crime, Inspector General of Police (IGP) has advised the free thinkers not to hurt religious sentiment in their writings.

IGP AKM Shahidul Haque said: “According to laws if any one hurts one’s feelings, he will be punished by the law.”

Advising the free thinkers, IGP said: “None should cross the limit.”

In the eyes of the government, then, the lives of any anyone who’s publicly atheistic are automatically forfeit. How wonderful! (Hat tip for this edit: Friendly Atheist.)

Photo credit: AP Photo/A.M. Ahad, via Yahoo News.

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Welcome to Farmersville, TX ... 'ceptin if yer wunna dem Mooslim types, den we can'ts let y'all inta our goodly Chrishun town / PsiCop original graphicPity the devout Christian folk of Farmersville, TX. Some horrible Muslim-type people seem to have moved in, and are trying to take over the town by building their own cemetery. They’ve only been living there for decades, and need one, but it seems this is just too much for the local Christian masses to take. As the Daily Beast reports, they’re not going to stand for it (WebCite cached article):

In the town of Farmersville, Texas—a far-flung suburb of Dallas 20 miles from Garland where the Draw the Prophet Mohammed cartoon contest was held—area Muslims have purchased a 35-acre tract on Lake Lavon for a new Muslim cemetery.…

Ever since the cemetery proposal was announced this summer the plans have been cause for controversy and outrage [cached].

Tuesday night, in a town of 3,000 people, between 300 and 400 people gathered in the Farmersville High School cafeteria/auditorium for a town hall meeting to discuss the plans: Every seat was filled and an overflow crowd lined the walls and filled the adjacent hallway, small children playing quietly in front of their parents and grandparents.

These devout Christians proceeded to express a lot of stupidity and prejudice in their effort to disparage and derail the project. For instance:

Muslims have been buried in the Dallas area for decades with no concerns about health violations or contamination, but in Farmersville those concerns were very prevalent.

The first written question was: “What is the Muslim burial process, and will there be seepage?”

What do they think … that “Muslim-hood” is going to leak into the ground and consume the town or something!? There was also this admission:

When the town hall was turned over to an open mic, the second person to get up was Darrell Moore, “Commander of Farmersville VFW Post 7426,” who represents WWII veterans still living in town.

He said, “People, we have received a lot of phone calls. We have received letters from out of state, OK. I want you all to understand something. We are a veterans’ organization. We are not the police. We have been called on to do illegal activities.” (Moore didn’t specify what he meant, but presumably activities to somehow resist the planned cemetery.)

“It’s not gonna happen,” Moore continued. “I’m gonna save y’all a lot of phone calls and a lot of time. The position of the VFW in this situation is the VFW will support whatever laws, regulations, and ordinances set forth by the state and local government. We are not the police department. We are not going to take a stand on this either way.”

You read that right: People had actually been trying to get the local VFW to take up arms and prevent the cemetery from being built. Yes, the VFW. They didn’t take the bait, but this is how desperate the devout Christian folk of Farmersville (and elsewhere!) are to block this horrific Muslim cemetery.

The behavior of people at this meeting was juvenile and deplorable. Just read the article for all the details. They seem to have fallen for the too-often-believed lie that there’s no religious freedom for Muslims. It’s time they fucking grew the hell up and accepted the reality that there have been, and are, Muslims in their vicinity, and that they have as much right as anyone else to practice their religion … which includes burials. They may not like that, but too fucking bad for them, that’s just the way it is. The sooner they make their peace with it, the better off they’ll be.

Photo credit: PsiCop original graphic.

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bygging þar sem Alþingi Íslendinga situr, síðan 1881 (Íslenska); Parliament Building in Reykjavík, Iceland (English)For years now I’ve pointed out that the “crime” of blasphemy is really no crime at all; it doesn’t actually harm anyone or anything else. Consider: If (for example) someone expresses disrespect for a deity, what does that accomplish? It can’t harm the deity, since — if they exist — deities are metaphysical entities unaffected by such things. The deity — again, if it existed prior to the blasphemy — will continue to exist and in the same state as before. It can’t harm the deity’s religion, because it will go on just as it had previously; it will still have followers, its teachings won’t vanish, its various artifacts (objects/locations of worship, sacred texts, etc.) will go on as before. It also can’t harm the deity’s worshippers; they can keep on worshipping him/her/it as they always did, and continue believing as they did, prior to the blasphemy having been uttered.

Thus, blasphemy damages nothing and no one. People might be offended by it, but that doesn’t really mean anything, since they aren’t harmed in any meaningful way.

Despite this, a lot of countries have outlawed blasphemy, as well as apostasy (refusal to adhere to the prevailing religion, which is related). As noted, because blasphemy never harms anyone or anything, these laws accomplish nothing, except to protect believers in those countries from the terrible burden of being offended by someone outside their faith. This has the corollary effect of sensitizing people to any expression of blasphemy, and this in turn infantilizes them, fooling them into thinking the entire world believes as they do and they’re entitled never to have to know that not everyone does. This leads them to do insanely juvenile things like riot, maim and murder when they hear someone might burn a Qur’an (for example), or kill people over rumored blasphemies that never actually happened.

There really is no reason, therefore, for any jurisdiction on earth to have a blasphemy law.

I’m glad to hear, therefore, that — as the BBC reports — earlier this month, Iceland repealed its old blasphemy law (WebCite cached article):

Iceland’s parliament has abolished its blasphemy laws, despite opposition from some of the country’s churches.

A bill was put forward by the minority Pirate Party [cached], which campaigns for internet and data freedom.

It came after the deadly attack the same month against French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris.

The bill said it was “essential in a free society that the public can express themselves without fear of punishment”.

It’s too bad it took a massacre to bring this to their attention … but at least they managed to get this done, driven by Iceland’s Pirate Party, which had been small but is growing in both numbers and political influence (cached). What’s also gratifying is that Iceland’s largest church supported repeal of the blasphemy law (cached):

The Iceland Monitor website said that the Church of Iceland supported the change [cached], and quoted them as saying that “any legislative powers limiting freedom of expression in this way is at variance with modern-day attitudes towards human rights”.

The Catholic Church of Iceland, along with a couple others, opposed it, claiming that allowing people’s religion to be insulted somehow reduces their religious freedom. I haven’t a fucking clue how that works — and I suspect they don’t either — but that’s what they said.

It’s time the entire world grew the fuck up and did what Icelanders did, which is to get rid of blasphemy laws. Because that’s what this is all about, ultimately … the maturity it takes to let people say what they want, even if it offends their religious senses. We can no longer afford the alternative. We just can’t.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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