Sunday, June 12, 2011

Beyond Belief News- Tennessee Law Prohibits Offensive Pictures.

Gov. Bill Haslam signed an amendment to an existing law last week so that internet images that cause anyone emotional distress would be a thing of the past.

Let's think about that for a second.

If the court judges that you had no legitimate purpose in posting these "offensive" pics, then you can spend up to a year in jail.

Who are the people who are protected against being offended? 


This doesn't have to be the person depicted in the image.

It doesn't even have to refer to the person who claims offense.

It just has to be someone who sees it, and doesn't like it. 

This includes pictures of Muhammad, religious jokes, honest pictoral critique of a religious practice, or even a political cartoon speaking about religion. 

So funny it is illegal in 3 states!

Don't think that your twitter account or facebook accounts are safe either. 

This new law applies to anywhere on the internet that you post pictures.

The language of the law certainly doesn't refer to religion, but it has all the beginnings of a blasphemy law.

Do we really want this sort of stifling of expression in North America?

Let's be clear.

No one has the right to not be offended.

I am offended by a lot of things:
Young men wearing their pants around their thighs;
Swearing around other peoples children;
Spitting in public; and
Being stared at for no reason (don't ask).

But should these things be outlawed merely because they offend me? 


Ok, maybe just this one.

As much as I hate these things, I would never suggest that they should.
Personal offense is related to personal values and priorities, how can I vet my behavior based on another persons values?

If I don't like something, it is my decision to speak up and ask for the person to stop or to just walk away.

It is far too onerous to let your actions be guided by what may or may not offend someone else's sensibilities.  What about MY sensibilities? 

Why are my opinions so much less important than everyone else's? 

What a law like this amounts to, is protecting peoples beliefs from unwanted critique or insult.

Are we seriously making criticizing or even insulting people illegal?

I hope not.  Do we really want to give people's beliefs a protected status beyond the power of public critique or questioning?  What a slippery slope that will become.

I am severely offended by this new law and what it will do to the face of free speech and open dialogue.  Does this mean that it is the first law in history to actually violate itself?

In the immortal words of Red Foxx;

"If I have offended anyone here tonight, I want you to know, that sincerely from the bottom of my heart, I really don't give a shit."

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Free Will isn't Free...

Come with me of your own free will or I'll kill you.  I'll just point this at you while you decide...

At least not if it is the "free will" that the Abrahamic religions offer. 

It is often said that god's first gift to us was free will, but how can we choose freely when the consequence is eternal torture?

Any choice that we make under duress is not really a free choice is it?

Read my blog, or the cat gets it!

Now I admit that society limits our free will as well, in the form of laws. Organized society gives us rights, but at the expense of giving us rules to guide our behavior.  There is even a justice system that deals with those who disobey, but nothing that even approaches the scale or scope of heavenly punishment. 

The eternal torture for finite crimes is not a punishment, it is more akin to revenge. 

Punishment is finite. 

It fits the crime and ends when a person has paid for the crimes that he has commited.

Revenge is emotionally motivated and is an expression of anger that can be cruel and far beyond the severity of the actual crime that it was enacted in response to.

Infinite torture for finite crimes?

That seems overly punitive. 

But all I did was read the "God Delusion"!

It surprises me when people act surprised when I tell them that I am offended by the concept of a loving god sending his creations to hell.  No one would argue that our prisons should physically and emotionally torture their wards for the rest of their lives for even the smallest crimes (unless they said they were sorry first).


That would be the cry from the masses, and they would be right to cry thusly. It would be a grisly and immoral system of crime and punishment, not to mention completely ineffective at creating a society that could live together in harmony.  It would be an evil dictatorship that is hated by the masses. 

Once you put the parameters for that punishment into the mix, we enter the realm of the completely freaking crazy.

And there is really only one rule...


That remind you of anyone?

Love and obey me, cause I'm as nutty as squirrel poop!

It is an fantastic indicator that the only completely unforgivable sin is not loving god enough.  And it is a terrible and immature reaction to have hell as the punishment for it.  Does it even make sense to threaten someone to make them love you? Would that love ever even be genuine? 

Free will?  Not with the hell-gun to our heads it isn't.

So let's get this concept of religious free will out of our heads.  Neither the bible, the Torah, nor the Koran have set up a system of morality that is anything but terrifying.

Don't think...OBEY

Don't choose...FOLLOW

Don't love him....then you will be coerced to do so under pain of being sent to the eternal torture room in the sky.

That sound like a loving and moral system of codifying behavior?

Not to me.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Your Move Jesus...

The Bible is the "word"?  Pretty sure that everybody knows that the BIRD is the word, your move Jesus....

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Rational Response- Vicarious Redemption

This month's "Rational Response" is a rejoinder to the morality claim of Christ supposedly dying for our sins (if there really is such a thing).

It is an oft heard appeal for us to obey God becuase he gave up his only begotten son, or because Jesus sacrificed so much for us.

But is this a moral teaching?

Is this really a good reason to bow down to a being (real or not)?

And finally does this story display God's (and therefor Jesus') good and loving nature?
These are only a few of the questions that we have to ask ourselves when thinking about this.

For me, I have always had a hard time listening to this story (even while I was a Christian) for a few reasons;

1. What did he actually "sacrifice"? He is an aspect of god, and as such the mythology tells us that he can't die. The only thing that "died" was his mortal skin that he adorned in order to appear human. Sure he was in pain, but was it a sacrifice? His suffering was over in a mere 3 days (not all that long in the grand scheme of an infinite life) and he rose to be the ruler of the universe. Sounds more like a hazing ritual for a promotion than a sacrifice.

2. Did he die for US? He died because the other part of himself (we won't get into that bit of irrational nonsense here) decided that he needed blood entertainment in order to forgive his creations. Not just any blood would sate his wrath, but the blood and torture of his son. There was no choice. He wasn't told that we would suffer unless he took our place, nor did he plead for us not to be tortured in such a way. He just went along with God's decision to kill him. He chose that method of forgiveness. He could have chosen
anything, but he chose torture and blood. So he was just participating in a play of his own writing. There was no outside agency that was going to harm us if he didn't act. It was his choice, so there really is no component of heroism here.

3. Is it a moral teaching? NO! It is exactly the opposite for many reasons. It espouses the idea of vicarious redemption and that is about as lazy and immoral an idea as they come. You are no longer called to be responsible for your own crimes, because someone else will pay for them in your stead. Where is the
concept of personal responsibility, the very ideal upon which morality is based?

4. Does this show God's mercy and goodness? This is the crux of the argument for me. As I said before, there is no outside agency coming to hurt those whom Jesus loves. So there is nothing requiring him to stand before us to save us from the pain of whatever punishment we have coming. There is only him, and he makes the rules. He decided that we were immoral, he decided that the only way that he wanted to forgive us was to torture and kill someone, and he decided that someone would be his son. That is like getting robbed, and then in order to forgive the thief, stabbing your own mother in the face saying "that feels better, I can forgive you for robbing me now. Want to come back to my place for beers?".

(Don't worry my mother is tough, she'll only spend 3 days in the hospital).

I can't imagine the robber extolling your moral fiber to his robber buddies. He wouldn't be saying "His mother got stabbed so that I could be forgiven, what a great gal!". He would be saying "What a crazy bastard! He did give me beers though, and never stabbed me even once, so I guess all's well that ends well.... But let's not cross this crazy guy again, OK?"

I find the teaching of vicarious redemption and the cross to be morally reprehensible and intellectually impossible. Can we actually pass on our own responsibility to others for our wrongdoings?  The very concept of moral absolution degrades our morality as it deprives us of the opportunity to discover ethical values, and relieves us of the intellectual and societal responsibility to do so.  Thomas Paine once said that we can take on another man's debt, or even his place in prison, but we can never take on their crimes as though they were our own. That is an impossible action that would rob him of individual culpability for his actions and his responsibility to others and thus rob him of his morality as well.

So do we really think that you can take on another person's crimes as though they were your own?

Would we even want to live in a society where you could?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Stand Up Islam- Part Deux!

Sharon Horgan, host of a BBC show "Have I Got News For You" is catching
a lot of flak from islamic officials for a (possibly) tasteless joke
that she told on her show.

"The Independent described the Dostoevsky metro station... as the Mecca
for suicides. Not to be confused with the Mecca of suicide bombers -
which is Mecca."

First off, that IS funny!

Not because I paint all Muslims as suicide bombers, but because it is a clever play on words and the unpalatable fact that the suicide bombers in the news are Muslim. Clearly no one with a modicum of sense believes that all Muslims are suicide bombers, but Mecca IS the direction that the newsworthy suicide bombers pray towards.

Second, there is irony in the protests, because those who are offended by this are threatening HER. If this doesn't represent the stereotype more than her joke did, then I'll eat a cat. (and I like cats a lot)

Third, (and most important!) if Muslims across the world are more upset by this joke than those Muslims dragging Islam's rep through the mud by being suicide bombers for Allah, then their priorities are pretty mixed up. Use this sort of comment as fuel to publically attack those organizations and show the world that Islam will not stand for violence in it's name. Why must we only hear of Islam's offense when there is a cartoon drawn, a joke made, a movie released, women defended, or bikini's worn?

Stop implying we are violent...OR I'LL KILL YOU!

Stand up Islam!

Stand up and tell the Muslim world that your leaders will no longer put up with such vile acts. (if you can get them off the news talking about vile things that is)
Stand up against Sharia laws that subjugate women and call for the death penalty for the simplest of crimes. Stand up and disavow Islam with violent protests and call the protesters offensive.
Stand up and show the world how little you appreciate your own members acting in such a way.

THIS would be the way for Islam to clean up it's world image. By staying relatively silent on these crimes that should be far more eggregious than simple jokes and cartoons, they give silent permission to those who ACTUALLY damage the way that the world perceives them.

If they are offended, they should direct their ire in the right direction.

Shouldn't their voices be the loudest each time a bomb sounds killing innocents in their name, or at every protest where "Kill the Infidel" signs are displayed by Muslims, or at the very mention of beating or
stoning women? If they were really concerned about being seen as a peaceful religion, shouldnt' they be first in line fighting Sharia law in many of it's forms?

I am pretty sure that no one would answer "No" to that.

Aren't there acid scarred women, stoned reporters, bomb victims, that need those voices supporting their cause?

If they are so concerned about their reputations, shouldn't they have better things to rail against?

So why I am only hearing them ring in the media in response to a harmless comedian?

You decide...

Headline Cartoon found here

Friday, June 3, 2011

Atheist Haiku of the Month- Vicarious Redemption

If my son volunteers to let you punch him in the face, I'll forgive you.

He died to save us?

Who made that immoral rule?

God did it to us.