Posts Tagged “israel”

Popular Mechanics / The Real Face of JesusChristians love to assume their religion is founded on historical fact. Specifically, they’re absolutely certain their Jesus lived and walked the earth in the first decades of the 1st century CE. This assumption is so compelling that we count the years in terms of Jesus’ supposed lifetime … i.e. our Year 1 is, supposedly, the first year he was on earth.

The reality of it, though, is that it’s by no means certain at all that Jesus ever actually lived. Many people find this surprising, but Jesus’ historicity has been a subject of scholarly review and conjecture for over a century now. While devout believers in Christianity are certain Jesus lived, the rest of us, and scholars especially, aren’t as sure, because the historical record of his existence is vastly less clear and compelling than Christians claim.

Despite the lack of scholarly certainty, this month’s National Geographic cover story proudly trumpets that Jesus definitely lived (Archive.Is cached article). Their evidence? The discovery of a tomb:

Just yards from the tomb of Christ [at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem] are other rock-hewn tombs of the period, affirming that this church, destroyed and rebuilt twice, was indeed constructed over a Jewish burial ground.

Nat Geo has made a big deal about the recent discovery of one particular tomb near the Holy Sepulchre. The problem is, in historical and archaeological terms, this finding doesn’t really tell us anything, and it certainly doesn’t prove Jesus must have lived. The site of that church was “found” by the (Christian) Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine. When she was there in the 4th century, it’s possible she knew tombs were nearby, and that may have been why she picked that location. So finding a tomb in the area doesn’t mean anything.

The problem here is that Nat Geo is accepted as an authoritative publication. Many Christians looking to promote Jesus’ historicity are sure to use this article as ostensible “proof” that he actually lived. Unfortunately for them, it’s not “proof” of anything, other than that Christians would like to think he existed and will go to ridiculous lengths in order to say they’ve “proven” it.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

Photo credit: Popular Mechanics.

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Berlin Holocaust Memorial in snowFor years now, the “appeal to Hitler” (or reductio ad Hitlerum) (aka “appeal to Nazis,” reductio ad regnum tertium, etc.) has been a rhetorical weapon people have used to disparage pretty much anyone they hate. Since his election, the Right has hurled ad Hitlerums at President Obama pretty much non-stop, but prior to that, the Left often threw them at President G.W. Bush and V.P. Cheney. It’s an old habit, then, among American ideologues.

I’ve cataloged many instances of politicians, clergy and pundits using this vile propaganda technique, right here in this blog. It’s almost always invalid, because the people accused of being Nazis usually haven’t come even remotely close to doing anything like what the real Nazis really did during the 1930s and ’40s. Essentially, whenever I hear someone throwing around ad Hitlerums, I dismiss him/her as a childish whining crybaby who has nothing worthwhile to say.

In his own ongoing propaganda war against the Palestinians, as Haaretz reports, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu just let loose with his own clever twist on the old ad Hitlerum (WebCite cached article):

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sparked public uproar when on Wednesday he claimed that the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, was the one who planted the idea of the extermination of European Jewry in Adolf Hitler’s mind. The Nazi ruler, Netanyahu said, had no intention of killing the Jews, but only to expel them.

In a speech before the World Zionist Congress in Jerusalem, Netanyahu described a meeting between Husseini and Hitler in November, 1941: “Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jew. And Haj Amin al-Husseini went to Hitler and said, ‘If you expel them, they’ll all come here (to Palestine).’ According to Netanyahu, Hitler then asked: “What should I do with them?” and the mufti replied: “Burn them.”

Netanyahu’s remarks were quick to spark a social media storm, though Netanyahu made a similar claim during a Knesset speech in 2012, where he described the Husseini as “one of the leading architects” of the final solution.

Haaretz doesn’t elaborate much on what makes Bibi’s claim counterfactual, but a (UK) Guardian story on his remarks does (cached):

Yad Vashem’s chief historian, Prof Dina Porat, told the Israeli news website Ynet that Netanyahu’s claims were incorrect. “You cannot say that it was the mufti who gave Hitler the idea to kill or burn Jews. It’s not true. Their meeting occurred after a series of events that point to this.”…

n reality, the mass killings of Jews by SS mobile killing units – Einsatzgruppen – were already under way when the two men met face to face. The first was in Lithuania in July 1941, described by Yad Vashem as the “beginning” of the Final Solution.

In September 1941, again before Husseini’s meeting with Hitler, Einsatzgruppe C, commanded by Otto Rasch, killed more than 33,000 Jews over two days in the Babi Yar ravine on the outskirts of Kiev, an act of mass murder ordered by the new Nazi military governor of Kiev, Maj Gen Kurt Eberhard.

Look, I get that Israel and the Palestinians have a long, violent history. (Neither side has clean hands in that conflict … but at the moment, that’s beside the point.) I get that a new “stabbing intifada” has erupted, for purely irrational reasons (cached), and Bibi has to deal with it.

I also concede that Grand Mufti al-Husseini was, in fact, a ready student of Nazi propaganda and a raging anti-Semite. In many ways the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is perhaps the last extant relic of the Third Reich. But there’s just no way one can say he was the architect of the Holocaust. Simple chronology rules out any possibility of it.

Really, I get why Bibi would want to disparage Palestinians. I do. Honest! But … to lay the entirety of the Holocaust at their feet? When the facts don’t even come close to justifying it? Sorry, but that’s just wrong.

It’s time for everyone in the occidental world to just stop talking about Hitler and the Nazis already. Just. Fucking. Stop. If anyone feels the impulse to mention the Third Reich, s/he should stifle it and move on to something else. Or better yet, just shut up and stop talking altogether. (As the old proverb goes, it’s better to be silent and be thought a fool, than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.)

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Secret of my success: I'm going to succeed because I'm crazy enough to think I can …. / Motifake.ComRep. Michele Bachmann may be leaving Congress, but she doesn’t seem to be leaving behind her childish inanity. She used the occasion of her appearance on a Family Research Council radio show to depart from Washington on what she, no doubt, considers a high note: As BuzzFeed reports, she accused President Barack Obama of supporting Muslims’ jihad around the world (WebCite cached article):

Former Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann says President Obama has supported the agenda of Islamic jihad “at every turn.”

“And I have been very surprised, to answer your question, to see the president of the United States, at every turn, cut the legs off of our ally, Israel, and in fact embrace and lift up the agenda of Islamic jihad,” Bachmann said on the show Washington Watch hosted by Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council.

As BuzzFeed explains, Bachmann interprets reports of Obama penning letters to Iran’s supreme ruler as “cutting the legs off of” Israel (cached). That set her off on this tangent:

“Now when in the world — and by that, I mean the goals of the Islamic State, the fact that they want their own state. Our president, we know now, is writing secret notes to the Ayatollah in Iran; there’s a recent report that the president is trying to have private meetings with the Ayatollah in Iran. Iran is very clear about their goal — their goal is to have a nuclear weapon. They’ve said, unequivocally, they will use it against the United States and against Israel.”

Bachmann said she used time at the White House Christmas party earlier in December when members of Congress take photos with the president to tell him to “please end their nuclear program.”

“I used that time to talk to him about a nuclear Iran, and I asked him to please end their nuclear program, because we have the capacity to end it. And I said, ‘Mr. President, this will be on your watch.’”

Like most Religious Rightists — and in fact, most Rightists generally — Mrs Bachmann has a hypersimplistic view of the world affairs and the way diplomacy works. In the Rightist mind, Iran is Israel’s “enemy,” therefore, since Israel is our “ally,” the US is forbidden ever to communicate with Iran … for any reason, ever. That this is not how international relations actually works, is something Rightists don’t concern themselves with. The US — along with the other four permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany (aka “P5+1”) — is, in fact, communicating with Iran already, trying to end its nuclear program in order to spare the rest of the Middle East, including Israel. Of course, hawks in Israel would prefer that nation bomb Iran back into the Stone Age pre-emptively, so as to physically destroy their nuclear research. And Religious Rightists like Mrs Bachmann want that to happen, because they imagine doing so will invoke a counter-attack against Israel which, they in turn hope, will trigger Armageddon and the return of their precious Jesus to finish doing whatever it was that he never managed to get done, the first time he supposedly came to earth.

Bachmann claims she told Obama to “please end [Iran’s] nuclear program” but was rebuffed by his “condescending” response. As though, prior to her saying something, it hadn’t occurred to Obama to do so. That’s ridiculous, because not only has the US been working with 5 other major nations to terminate Iran’s nuclear capability, but arguably, the US and Israel have already launched schemes to demolish Iran’s nuclear research program, during the Obama administration. Just because Obama refuses to give his blessing to Israel’s pre-emptive attacks on Iran doesn’t mean he’s doing nothing about the problem of Iran’s fanatical mullahs and ayatollahs getting their grubby hands on nuclear weapons.

Also, I find it curious that Mrs Bachmann thinks Obama supports jihad, especially since he went to war against ISIS/ISIL/IS/whatever-the-fuck-you-want-to-call-that-barbaric-brood (cached)! I have no idea how Mrs Bachmann could possibly consider Obama’s campaign against ISIS a form of “support” for jihad — such a conclusion defies logic. I suppose she probably subscribes to the Religious Rightist idea that Obama is a secret Muslim (cached), so she probably considers Operation Inherent Resolve to be just a “false flag” effort meant to make it appear he opposes jihad, when in fact, the opposite is true. This kind of raging paranoia would not be unusual in a Rightist … unfortunately.

Photo credit: Motifake.Com.

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Waaah!I just blogged about some insane reactions to the Ebola outbreak. But now I’d like to comment on some Christianists using it as a promotional tool. This isn’t new for them, of course; their appeals to what I call “disaster theology” are old hat. There’s a reason they use this tactic: First, because people talk a lot about disasters and crises, and they’re well-covered in the media, so these guys hope to ride these stories to more attention than they’d have gotten otherwise; and second, because it’s a way of playing on fear, and fear is a way of hooking their audience, and — they hope! — reel in more donations.

The first example comes from Pastor John Hagee and is reported by Right Wing Watch with accompanying video (WebCite cached article):

“I want every American to hear this very clearly,” Hagee said, citing Joel 3 to warn that God will judge any nation that seeks to divide up Israel and declaring that “our president is dead set on dividing Jerusalem. God is watching and he will bring America into judgment.”

“There are grounds to say that judgment has already begun,” Hagee continued, “because he, the president, has been fighting to divide Jerusalem for years now.”

“We are now experiencing the crisis of Ebola,” he stated, as well as threats from Islamic radicals and even civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri all as a result of God’s judgment on America due to Obama’s policies

Hagee is a rabid Christian Zionist, one of those Christians who claims to love and support Israel, but what they’re really doing is agitating for that nation to (somehow) trigger Armageddon. (Specifically, what they hope is that Israel will do something to elicit a massive attack from “the kings of the east” as related in Revelation 16:12.)

Now, I have no idea why he thinks President Obama is “dividing up Israel.” My guess is he’s referring to the “two-state solution.” Unfortunately for the obnoxious little troll Hagee, that isn’t Obama’s invention. Not at all! It actually predates him by decades. In fact, it predates even the creation of Israel (and therefore predates Obama’s birth!). Its origins can be traced to the time of the British Mandate in Palestine, and the Peel Commission in 1937. Of course, that partition never happened, nor did the subsequent UN partition proposal which came along 10 years later. The current manifestation of the “two-state solution” began with the Oslo Accords in 1993; since then, it has been the policy of every US president — Democrat (Clinton, Obama) and Republican (the Younger Bush) — to pursue a two-state solution. It’s no more Obama’s policy than it was Bush’s or Clinton’s, nor is it (in principle, anyway) much different from any number of other plans that have been floated for the last few decades. (And I’ll leave alone the fact that Israel was “divided” in ancient times by the Hebrews themselves.) Why God would choose this particular moment to savage the country with Ebola, when Palestine-division plans had been tossed around for most of the 20th century and all of this one to date, isn’t really evident. At least, Hagee doesn’t bother to explain it.

The troll’s claims about Ebola being a pestilence sent due to “Obama’s” plan to divide Israel, conflict with what another pastor has said about it. A North Carolina pastor, Raw Story reports, says it’s because gay marriage is now legal, and the epidemic will grow worse as new states enact it (cached):

A Baptist pastor is warning that God will escalate the Ebola crisis when North Carolina begins performing same-sex marriages.

During his Sunday sermon following a series of court actions that effectively struck down North Carolina’s constitutional ban on marriage equality, Berean Baptist Church Pastor Pastor Ron Baity suggested that homosexuality was a sign of the End Times.

“So the book of the Revelation is about End Times events and what happens when this world is destroyed by fire, when the stars and the universe and the sun and the moon, like untimely figs cast from a tree, are just completely done away with and annihilated,” he said, telling his congregation to focus on what the Bible said would happen before that.

“Listen, folks, it’s on,” he announced. “You might as well get ready for it. It’s on. It’s just a matter of time when they’re going to say to the churches… It’s just a matter of time before our constitution in our churches will be overturned like our state constitution just been overturned this week. I mean, it’s coming.”…

“You think Ebola is bad now, just wait. If it’s not that, it’s going to be something else. My friends, I want you to understand, you can’t thumb your nose at God, and God turn his head away without God getting your attention.”

Of course, Baity threw into this sanctimoniously-outraged sermon the obligatory references to Sodom and Gomorrah, referring to the common Abrahamic-religious legend that YHWH incinerated those two cities because of homosexuality — even though this assumption isn’t really supported by the Bible itself. Like most Christofascists, little Ronnie is upset over the existence of gays and would rather they all went away so he wouldn’t have to deal with them or have to treat them like fellow human beings.

Expect more, not less, of this sort of thing as the Ebola crisis keeps getting the mass media’s attention. Fierce religionists aren’t going to turn up their noses at something that useful.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Haredi crowd aisle after refusing to sit next to women on flight /  Photo Credit: Amit Ben Natan, via Shalom LifeAir travel is a nightmare these days, as everyone knows. What with TSA’s laughable “security theater” antics — which includes making passengers take off their shoes, belts, and throw away their coffees and sodas at security checkpoints — there’s the problem of cramped flights jammed with cranky people. Well, a bunch of ultra-Orthodox Jewish men on a flight from JFK in New York to Israel recently did their best to make this already-bad situation much worse for their fellow passengers. This debacle, Canada’s Shalom Life reports, stemmed from the fact that none of them would sit next to a woman (WebCite cached article):

Passengers aboard an El Al flight from New York’s JKF airport to Israel claim that hundreds of ultra-Orthodox passengers demanded that they trade places with them before takeoff, saying they cannot sit next to women.

“It was an 11-hour long nightmare,” one of the passengers summed up her experience.…

According to the passengers who were on the plane, their fellow ultra-Orthodox travelers refused to sit next to women prior to the takeoff, which not only delayed the flight, but caused actual chaos to ensue on the plane.

“People stood in the aisles and refused to go forward,” said Amit Ben-Natan, a passenger who was on board the plane.

“Although everyone had tickets with seat numbers that they purchased in advance, they asked us to trade seats with them, and even offered to pay money, since they cannot sit next to a woman. It was obvious that the plane won’t take off as long as they keep standing in the aisles.”

I’m not quite sure what horrific thing would have happened to any of these guys if they’d actually shut their faces and sat down next to women. Would they explode? Would they catch some kind of disease? Do they have “girl cooties” that the Haredi just can’t allow to infect them? What, exactly, is the point of this sort of juvenile and idiotic shit-fit? Someone please tell me, because I can’t figure it out. Perhaps that’s because I’m just a cynical, cold-hearted godless agnostic heathen and can’t comprehend such holy matters. Or whatever.

Something that didn’t help at all, was that the El Al flight crew actually indulged these incredible religionistic crybabies:

Passengers claimed that though the El Al flight crew informed them they do not have to agree to a switch, the flight’s captain said over the PA system that the flight would not take off as long as people were standing.

“This is completely inconsiderate of the non-haredi travelers. I don’t know many airlines that would allow their passengers to act like that,” said Bar Natan.

What Bar Natan said is true. I’ve never heard of any airline crew tolerating disruptive passengers, especially while a plane is still on the ground and they can kick the malcontents off easily.

Note that, even once the plane was in the air after they’d pitched their fit over the presence of women, the Haredi compounded it all by creating even more trouble while in transit:

It seems that after takeoff a large portion of the haredi travelers took to the isles to pray which, according to their fellow travelers, crowded the isles and caused the flight to be unbearable.

Again, it seems the flight crew indulged these guys because they allowed this to occur. Well done, El Al! How nice of you to bend over happily for your ultra-Orthodox brethren. Their irrational, childish, metaphysically-rationalized wishes, after all, are vastly more important than getting a plane in the air on time or making other passengers comfortable. The rest of the passengers must be treated like shit compared to the all-important Haredi. What they say goes, and everyone else can go fuck off. It’s mandatory … for some reason, again that I can’t fathom, and again that’s probably due to my being an insolent, cold-hearted godless agnostic heathen, not gifted with sacred insight into such godly matters.

Photo credit: Amit Ben Natan, via Shalon Life.

Hat tip: Peter at Skeptics & Heretics Forum on Delphi Forums.

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When the Fail is so strong, one Facepalm is not enough / Picard & Riker / based on HaHaStop.ComBy now anyone who’s read my blog knows that Glenn Beck is a lying Christofascist ignoramus of the highest order. It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged about his insanity, but I just came across something he said which is so colossally stupid — not to mention absolutely and totally false — that I can’t help but point it out. What he has done is to establish his own version of American-Israelism. The report comes from World Net Nut Daily, which I don’t normally use as a third-party source of information, but they provide video, so brace yourselves (WebCite cached article):

Radio and television host Glenn Beck is now going public with his belief the United States is among the famous “Lost 10 Tribes of Israel,” and America today is suffering calamaties just as ancient Israel did due to its disobedience to the laws of God.

Echoing the conclusions of some experts who have delved deeply into what’s known as the theory of “Anglo-Israelism” or “British-Israelism,” Beck took viewers of his TV show into a biblical history lesson dating back to the time after King David of the Old Testament, when the once united Kingdom of Israel became divided.

For someone like myself, who studied actual history in college and who knows a thing or two about Biblical times, I groaned involuntarily. I know that misinformation is coming … and it did … but I couldn’t have anticipated how stunningly bad it would be. You see, among the many ahistorical claims Beckie-boy made, is this:

Beck went on to note that when the Assyrians [who’d conquered the northern kingdom of Israel] were finally defeated by other powers, they and the Israelite captives fled northward.

“And they fled out of captivity through the Caucuses Mountains,” he said. “The Caucusus Mountains are where you hear the word ‘Caucasian.’”

Glennie goes astray here by making too much of the word “Caucasian.” He’s suggesting that everyone who’s a “Caucasian” is a descendant of these Assyrians and their Hebrew captives. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth. First of all, even before the Assyrian nation came into existence there were many nations, populated by people who would later be called “Caucasian,” already in Europe and in western and southern Asia! Second, Glenn errs by taking the term “Caucasian” too literally. Its etymology is actually mistaken. German anthropologist Johann Blumenbach, in the late 18th century, erroneously thought that the Caucasus mountain region had been the original homeland of the Aryan peoples. We now know he was wrong about that … and about a lot of other things, too, especially his “racial degeneration” theories. In any event, serious scientists no longer view the racial term “Caucasian” as being meaningful. That the Glennster does, and connects it literally with the Caucasus Mountains, betrays his ignorance.

But having spewed that lunacy, Beckie-boy wasn’t done. He reeled off even more lies:

“What’s interesting is the Assyrians, who were very good, meticulous record-keepers, and who were just brutal [people], they settled in Italy and in the Germany area and the Russia area where facsism comes from. But the Israelites, the Lost 10 Tribes, they went north and they started to scatter [in another] direction, and they went to the coastlines, generally in the area where the Pilgrims came from.

To this I can only say, “What the fuck!?” He offers no evidence the Assyrians went to Italy, Germany or Russia. He directly connects those Assyrians with fascism, a political movement that didn’t emerge for two and a half millennia after their state had vanished. And their Hebrew captives, whom the Assyrians had supposedly taken with them, somehow escaped, at some point Glenn never discloses, and settled in “coastal areas” (I guess he forgot that Italy has lots and lots of coastline, and Germany and Russia have some, too).

Lastly, the Glennster goes on at length about how America’s various symbolic associations with the number 13 — such as in the presidential seal — just can’t possibly have anything to do with the fact that the country was founded as a federation of 13 former British colonies. Oh no! It comes, instead, from the 12 tribes of Israel.

Yes, that’s what he said. That 12 equals 13. Glennie-boy even rationalized this idiotic formulation:

As far as why 12 tribes of Israel would be represented by the number 13 and not 12, Beck stated, “The tribe of Joseph split into Manassah and Ephraim, and those were in northern Israel. That’s the northern kingdom of Israel. That’s the thirteen tribes.”

The WND article continues with a whole lot more of Beckie-boy’s insipid and fact-deprived drivel, complete with his usual long chains of associations. It also cites a “historian,” Steven M. Collins, who supports Glennie’s insane ramblings, however, I can find no record of this Collins having any credentials in history (either by virtue of being awarded a history degree, or having authored an article in a peer-reviewed history journal). I can only assume the guy is no more a “historian” than another of Beckie-boy’s Christofascist friends, David Barton.

In any event, what the Glennster outlines here isn’t really that strange, if you see how similar it is to a movement known as British-Israelism. It, and other related wingnut hypotheses (such as the Khazar myth) are all basically anti-Semitic notions, cooked up in order to rob Jews of their own spiritual heritage and award it to some other group or nation instead. It’s all very irrational, not to mention hateful, and it has no place in the 21st century United States.

Nevertheless, the Glennster is sticking to it. Hmm.

Ordinarily I’d have embedded the video of Glenn spewing his ignorance, distortions, exaggerations, and lies … but somehow I can’t bring myself to put his face on my blog any more. Something about it just turns my stomach. You’ll just have to go there for yourself if you care to see this insanity.

Hat tip: Rational Wiki.

Photo credit: HaHaStop.

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Susan Silverman, center, a reform rabbi, sits on the ground and prays with her daughter, left, after being asked by Israeli police to remove their prayer shawls at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City February 11, 2013. (STRINGER, REUTERS / February 11, 2013)I’ve blogged a number of times about ultra-conservative Jews in Israel targeting women as sub-human. They appear to believe — as do a lot of conservative Muslims, and Christians — that women are to be neither seen nor heard, and are not to be treated as human beings.

What’s remarkable is that ultra-conservatives have commandeered the government of Israel to do their bidding in order to keep “the Weaker Sex” in its place. The Hartford Courant reports on some arrests of women who insolently dared to thwart ultra-conservative sensibilities (WebCite cached article):

Israeli police detained 10 women, including a rabbi from Bloomfield, at one of Judaism’s most sacred sites on Monday for wearing prayer shawls, which Orthodox tradition sees as solely for men, a spokesman said.

The incident at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City highlighted the divisions between the more liberal streams of Judaism and politically powerful Orthodox groups that traditionally limit the role of women in prayer.

The Western Wall is administered under strict Orthodox ritual law, which bars women from wearing prayer shawls or publicly reading from the holy scriptures.

Among those held was Debra Cantor, rabbi of B’nai Tikvoh-Sholom in Bloomfield, and Susan Silverman, a reform rabbi who is a sister of American comedian Sarah Silverman.

I’m curious as to precisely what awful thing the ultra-conservative Jews think will befall their country, if some people with two “X” chromosomes stand before the Western Wall. I really don’t get it. It’d be nice if someone could explain it to me — but somehow I doubt it will ever happen. Seriously, what is the problem with women wearing prayer shawls, and praying, on that spot? Anyone?

This just goes to show that it’s not just Christians or Muslims who think poorly of women and want to repress them. Most religions, in fact, don’t seem to want women around — in spite of the fact that they’re 50% of the population.

Photo credit: Reuters, via the Hartford Courant.

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