Showing posts with label Fighting Fiction with Facts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fighting Fiction with Facts. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Beatriz Is Still In Danger



























Yesterday in El Salvador, after months of life-threatening delay, a seriously ill young woman was finally delivered of a non-viable fetus by cesarean section.  Beatriz's fetus was diagnosed with anencephaly early in the pregnancy and could not survive. The baby died within hours of its delivery, as expected.

For many people who have been watching this story, there was a collective sigh of relief; Beatriz's life has been saved!  Over here at NiftyIdeas I am relieved, yes, that one part of this woman's horror story has come to an end, but I am angry because the story does not end there.

 Beatriz is finally free of a doomed pregnancy.
 She now faces the difficult recovery from 
major abdominal surgery as well as from 
the physical and psychological fallout 
of having been made a reproductive prisoner 
of the state for several months.
One woman in El Salvador was forced to pay the price of a government bowing to political pressure and ruling that all of its citizens must obey the dictates of religious conservatives.

One woman in El Salvador was denied the right to freedom from reproductive slavery; was denied the right to "stand her ground" and defend herself from the threat of physical harm and even death.

One woman in El Salvador is a symbol for millions of women all over the world who have suffered a similar fate - or worse - and the millions more who will continue to suffer from state-sanctioned reproductive slavery and even murder.

Because she was a pregnant woman, Beatriz was denied a basic human right: the right not to have any part of her body - or her whole body - forcibly used by the state to serve the needs of another human being. That is a form of slavery. No man can legally be forced to give up control of his organs or blood to keep another human being alive - not even if that other human being is his own innocent child. Even non-pregnant women are usually permitted to protect their own bodily autonomy in the same way. The ideology called "sanctity of human life" which urges states to force pregnant women into giving up bodily autonomy no matter what the risk to themselves disappears in a puff of smoke once a fetus emerges from a womb as a living baby. Then, it can go to the devil as far as "pro-lifers" are concerned. They fight to deny babies life-saving health care, food and education after birth equally as hard as they fight to force their mothers into giving birth in the first place.

The cesarean section that Beatriz underwent yesterday was not a satisfying conclusion to a dramatic political and religious fight. The sighs of relief are premature and misplaced. Except for the long-overdue ending of her doomed pregnancy, Beatriz has suffered as horribly as it was possible to suffer because of her country's sick theocratic laws and she is still not out of danger. Beatriz was at risk for every kind of regular pregnancy injury and she has certainly suffered several. She has almost certainly suffered severe and permanent damage to her health, too and she could very likely have died. She could still die as a direct result of the chain of health repercussions that this forced pregnancy has caused.

Beatriz was forced to endure months of high risk pregnancy as a slave to other peoples' ideological demands. Like every woman who has experienced pregnancy, Beatriz will have lifelong effects to her body and her health due to the stress that even a normal, healthy pregnancy would have had on her body. Unlike most healthy women, however, Beatriz has undoubtedly suffered major repercussions which will negatively impact her health for the rest of her life. Kidney failure is not a minor, easily reversible thing which will magically disappear now that she is no longer pregnant. She may or may not ever recover from that. The triggering of a severe autoimmune disease flare up is not a minor thing which will disappear now that she is no longer pregnant. Autoimmune disorders are like a genie in a bottle - once that cork is popped and the evil genie escapes, the repercussions spiral outward from there; there is no stuffing it back inside the bottle.
Beatriz's fetus suffered from a 
fatal birth defect: anencephaly
It's brain and parts of its skull
were missing
 It could not survive.

Finally, the cesarean section itself was major abdominal surgery involving cutting through the densely muscled abdominal wall, cutting into an organ - the uterus - and removing the fetus. It should always be the last resort in normal healthy women because the risk of harm to the woman is so high. Beatriz should never have been forced to endure a doomed pregnancy for so long that her only medical option in the end was to face even more risk to her health and life by undergoing a major surgical procedure.  It was unnecessary for Beatriz to have ever been forced into that situation, and I contend that it was criminal for her government - and the theocrats who control her government - to have persistently harmed her in this way.

The risks of pregnancy have been minimized and dismissed by proponents of forced birth, to the point where the general population is almost completely ignorant of facts. The average man on the street actually believes that because it is both "natural" and commonplace, pregnancy is no big deal - that it has only trivial deleterious effects on a woman's life and health - and that labor and vaginal birth or even cesarean section are likewise no big deal, either. Pregnancy is indeed, "natural" - as are many biological functions which may exact a very high cost on the functioning organism - but it is by no means a trivial matter.

Illness, injury and even death
caused by pregnancy is a reality,
as are lost wages, high medical bills
and countless other hardships
suffered by women but ignored
or minimized by society.
Every pregnancy causes lifelong negative changes in a woman's body. No mother escapes that. These range from the universally-experienced, relatively benign, but still psychologically painful (stretch marks, loss of youthful tone in the body) to the frequently-experienced, moderately serious and both physically and psychologically devastating (permanent loss of bladder control; vaginal and perineum tearing resulting in permanent scarring, damage and pain; damage to the abdominal wall resulting in lifelong weakness and risk of hernia) to the rare, but significant number who suffer serious pregnancy harm (massive blood loss and organ failure causing lengthy and incomplete recovery; months of debilitating pregnancy complications requiring expensive, bankrupting medical care; loss of ability to work and earn a living or care for other children; loss of life).

The reality of c-section is that
it is a major surgery carrying
a risk of major complications
and months-long recovery.
Statistics for these harms are difficult to pin down because the popular narrative discourages reporting of pregnancy-related harm, and in fact many pregnancy or childbirth-related injuries and deaths are recorded as caused by whatever secondary cause stemming from the pregnancy actually killed the woman. In other words, if a woman's organs shut down due to massive blood loss in delivery, her death might be recorded as " catastrophic organ failure" and never be factored into any statistical analysis pointing to risks of pregnancy and delivery. Further, hospitals in most places are not required to report maternal injury or death statistics as a separate database.

These flaws in reporting help to conceal the extent of the risk that women take on when pregnant and it helps to perpetuate the false narrative that pregnancy is a natural, easy "choice" which is always better for a woman as well as an embryo. In fact, pregnancy is never objectively better for a woman than either abortion or never conceiving in the first place. It is much worse for her in every way - physically, psychologically, economically and legally. Obviously, human beings still wish to reproduce and many women wish to become mothers so they voluntarily risk these hardships. The problem is when society compels them to undertake these risks.

Sadly, Savita Halappanavar
did not survive her state's
determination to murder her.
When a pregnancy is voluntary, most women willingly take on the health risks even when they are properly informed about the potential seriousness of those risks because they choose to be pregnant. Often however women are not informed of the risks of pregnancy because the narrative has been controlled by anti-choice activists who promote the minimization of pregnancy risks and dismissal of the huge impact pregnancy makes on a woman's life. Because of deliberate miseducation, many women voluntarily become pregnant without understanding the full range of risks they are taking, and if the pregnancy later causes or uncovers a serious health issue, these women are put into a horrific quandary. Furthermore, whether women understand the risks or not, their ability to choose whether or not to take on the risks of pregnancy is being more and more reduced, even in so-called "progressive" countries where constitutionally-protected abortion rights still exist at least in theory.

Beatriz will never be the same again. If she survives the surgery and its aftermath, she will still endure a lifetime of severely diminished health and strength as a direct result of the actions of the Salvadoran state. She was forcibly harmed by the Salvadoran state, through its religiously-mandated laws and its theocratically-controlled government. I'm going down on record to say that the fact that this can still happen to any woman in the 21st century is an outrageous affront to human morality and a terrifying miscarriage of justice.

As the Republican party - representing the extreme religious right wing of society - continues to push anti-choice legislation through state legislatures and Congress, the safety and human rights of women
The 2012 Republican-dominated
Congress put policing women's
health before jobs, in spite of the
promises that got them elected.
even in the USA is in jeopardy. Access to safe legal abortion might be denied to women in a modern, democratic country is no longer guaranteed. In fact, in many states it is nearly impossible for a woman who needs an abortion to get the health care she needs and in most other states, it is increasingly difficult. What happened to Beatriz and Savita is already happening here, and has been happening for years. One reason why the stories are not publicized is because of false reporting of the causes of injury or death as noted above. But it is the implacable resistance in society to the notion that pregnancy might pose dangers to women which fuels willful blindness. In the USA and Canada, people don't know that many women every year are denied the healthcare they need, because they do not want to know.

Women are at risk of reproductive slavery and medical malpractice all over the world including in the "progressive" west. Instead of prioritizing women's health, increasing access to effective contraception for every woman and abortion services for women who need them, societies romanticize pregnancy and childbirth, fight against comprehensive sexual education for young people, limit access to healthcare, force pregnancy and childbirth and then saddle women with all of the physical and economic costs of involuntary parenthood. Men and women who value justice and human rights ought to be paying attention. Tomorrow we may be reading about a Beatriz or Savita in our own hometowns.





Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Bible in Under 11 Minutes



Back in March, I posted Dusty's first segment on parts 1&2 of The "History" Channel's "The Bible" - a Christian propaganda piece of monumental proportion.  The series was heavily promoted and, cashing in on the false presumption that a series on the History Channel would actually be... oh I don't know... historically accurate and factual, the producers managed to cull a very large audience for their proselytizing Christian lying for religion. Dusty cuts through all the nonsense and points out the laughable inconsistencies and ferociously vindictive evil described as god's love in the so-called "good book".

Here is Dusty's hilarious recap of parts 3 & 4 of that dishonest series presenting mythological horror stories as "historical" programming.  It is definitely Not Safe For Work (language, gruesome nature of Biblical mythology), but is definitely worth a viewing by those with strong constitutions (and few triggers). Caution:  graphic violence, rape, murder, blood.

Good job highlighting the twisted Christian "morality", not to mention the political agenda behind this sleazy propaganda.

via cultofdusty


Friday, March 29, 2013

Have A Good Friday

                                                                                                                                               Artwork by cliodhna
















If we want a signifier for the human condition, imagine the culture we would live in now if, instead of a dead corpse on an instrument of torture, our signifier was a child staring in wonder at the stars. That’s representative of the state of humanity, too; it’s a symbol that touches us all as much as that of a representation of our final end, and we don’t have to daub it with the cheap glow-in-the-dark paint of supernatural fol-de-rol for it to have deeper meaning. -PZ Myers


The resilience of nature, new life
and spring flowers. This is the
true meaning of Easter!
Even when I was a practicing Catholic, I never quite wanted to "celebrate" the Christian remake of Easter. I was happy to celebrate spring, rebirth, flowers blooming, days getting longer, the Easter bunny and coloring eggs to symbolize fertility and new life - in short, all the aspects of the ancient festival of Eastre that most people enjoy celebrating at this time of the year. But the human sacrifice myth that Christianity grafted on to Easter has always repulsed me.

I think one of the most puzzling and disturbing things about theism is this: belief seems to alter the human mind so that otherwise rational, good and decent people are able to accept a doctrine of "salvation through human sacrifice" without apparent discomfort.  In fact, Christians not only embrace this doctrine as the truth, but they consider it to be a beautiful proof of the love of the Biblical god.  Without any apparent irony, most Christians regard the story of the torture and execution of the son-god, Jesus, as the very zenith of joyful good news.

This is good?
In any other context, human beings who think bloody human sacrifice is acceptable, let alone good, would be considered sociopathic. An entire culture of them would be considered monstrous. Yet, human sacrifice to gods - bloodshed for religion - is accepted as a normal part of human culture even to this day in some parts of the world. Only in a religious context is such depravity considered not only acceptable but laudatory.

The concept of redemptive blood sacrifice disturbs me on many levels.  It disturbs me that people are told that humanity is in need of redemption - that we are sinful, "filthy rags" condemned by our very nature to an eternity of torture in hell unless we seek "salvation"from a deity - when it is the deity which they also believe created our human nature in the first place. More important is the chilling reality that people accept this vile, self-loathing doctrine. I wonder at the twisted psychology of a faith that teaches little children that they are sinful, hell-bound creatures, and then goes on to tell them that their only path to salvation must be through a bloody human sacrifice that allegedly occurred 2000 years ago.

It disturbs me that the deity that millions of people worship is believed to require a blood sacrifice to expiate the sinfulness of its own creation at all. It seems incredible that an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving god - whose alleged desire is to welcome humanity into its presence - would deliberately create humankind with a curious, independent and impulsively immature nature and then subject the first humans to a life or death test which requires incuriousness, unquestioning obedience and experienced maturity.

A god of constant fury
It disturbs me that millions of people worship a god that would condemn all humanity for all eternity because of the inevitable failure of the two prototype humans to pass that impossible test because of the limitations of the very human nature with which that god endowed them.  It could make sense if people acknowledged that the god is a viciously manipulative tyrant which only fear kept them worshiping, but instead Christians insist that the mythical monster is a "loving" god.

It disturbs me that the cruel, capricious, psychopathic behavior which is the nature of the Biblical god - it is evident throughout holy scripture that God is all that and worse - must be called just, holy and glorious by its worshipers. Believers never seem to wonder why their omniscient and omnipotent god would require total, abject obedience in the first place nor why it could not - or would not - think of a more humane way for its followers to avoid eternal hellfire for the "sin" of being what they were created to be. It never seems to occur to believers that the deity they truly believe in is actually awful, even evil.

Christians refer to the Passion and Resurrection stories as the most "joyful" part of scripture.  I understand that they think it is the most important part - indeed it is the very foundation of the Christian faith - but I do not understand how people can remain so uncritical of this "salvation".  I find myself wondering how people can suspend normal human horror at such violent cruelty in this one celebrated instance,  calling it necessary and good. Their insistence that a god that can do anything somehow needed someone to die a violent, painful death to satisfy its thirst for vengeance and that this capriciously cruel demand is the greatest love humankind will ever know strikes me as very sad.

Human beings fear death more than anything else. Al Stefanelli writes that through most of history, the horror of dying spawned many versions of the Savior story.  Probably human beings then, as now, felt an awful impotence in the face of their inevitable demise and that sense of impotence may explain the continued acceptance of a doctrine of human failure leading to misplaced faith in irrational belief.

Think about that...
But, while fear and a sense of impotence may explain the willingness of believers to accept a savior myth, I feel that it is early religious indoctrination and psychological manipulation which leads people to sublimate their normal, healthy human aversion to wanton cruelty and to accept the meanest of human impulses - in the guise of Godly judgement - with hardly a murmur of protest.  Cruelty is called kindness, evil is called good and contempt is called love. Such is the bizarrely twisted Christian moral compass.

I suspect that the early Christian conquerers co-opted the pagan Eastre celebrations of springtime fertility not simply to 'win over' pagans to Christianity (they generally achieved this through intimidation and persecution anyway), but to make Christianity more palatable to the masses by entwining the terrifying and immoral doctrine with the more hopeful, joyful celebrations that most psychologically healthy human beings naturally prefer. By fusing the repugnant with the refreshing, Christianity keeps its adherents off-balance and confused about what ought to be the clear difference between goodness and evil.

I do not believe that the Biblical god - or any gods - exist, but I do think that the idea of such a god - and the repulsive religious doctrines built around it - ought to be resisted by all morally healthy people with every ounce of vigor that they can muster.

Replica of torture/execution device is the universally beloved symbol for the religion of "love".

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Tuesday Tonic - The Bible in 10 Minutes



via Cult of Dusty

For your Tuesday Tonic, Comedian Dusty Smith gives a hilarious (but NSFW) recap of the History Channel's The Bible series. In under 10 minutes, Dusty strips away the religious mind-twisting (no, really! evil is good, brutality is love, insanity is a "plan"! Check it out in the Good Book™) and gets down to what the Bible actually says.

Seriously, I need to hire Dusty to revive my Barmy Bible Study series!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

A Modern David and Goliath Story - Teenager Zack Kopplin Takes On The Christian Right






























When Zack Kopplin was in his sophomore year at Baton Rouge Magnet High School, in 2008, he started his fight against a new law called the Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA), which has earned him fame and notoriety for being a notable advocate for science in defiance of this law's disguised attempt at introducing creationism into the classroom in Louisiana.*


For your Saturday Inspiration, may I present a modern day David vs Goliath story:

When Christian fundamentalists in the Louisiana legislature passed the Louisiana Science Education Act, it was a signal that the religious right had finally declared open war against reality-based public education. This law virtually guarantees that growing numbers of children will be deprived of education as the modern knowledge available through comprehensive educational curricula is replaced by medieval constraints on learning where all access to knowledge must be restricted to whatever can be Biblically referenced.   

Alarmed and angered by these developments, LA teenager Zack Kopplin pushed past his shyness and fear of retaliation to protest the law. Zack began by writing a research paper on the subject while still in high school. Since then, he has sought and gained the support of 78 nobel laureates in his effort to persuade the Louisiana legislature that the LSEA was not just a mistake, but potentially disastrous for Louisiana children and the future economic growth of the state. He was disappointed in that effort: the Louisiana legislature refused to repeal the law. To Zack's (and many others') horror, Tennessee soon followed Louisiana's example and passed a similar creationist bill of their own.

Zack's concerns are founded in chilling reality. Not only has the LSEA opened the door for creationism to be taught to unsuspecting children by dishonestly calling it "science", but the Louisiana legislature - with the blessing of Governor Bobby Jindal - has also passed bills for school voucher programs which funnel public tax dollars into religious schools which teach this overtly religious material. This blatant violation of the Constitutional prohibition against government endorsement of religion was made possible through a cleverly packaged bill purporting to support "academic freedom".

While science has been in the crosshairs of religious fundamentalists for decades, it is not the only school subject in danger. History is being rewritten in Texas (the source of the vast majority of textbooks used by all American schoolchildren), while Bible-based Mathematics (yes, Math!), Economics and  Literature, currently being taught inside the Christian homeschooling movement, are poised to be launched into the public school curricula as soon as Christian fundamentalists succeed in getting their agenda passed in state legislatures around the country. Louisiana is far from the only Republican-controlled state to be pushing through these anti-education measures, either. In addition to Louisiana, Tennessee, and Texas (unofficially), four more states are considering legislation which will allow religious fundamentalists to do an end run around both the Constitution and reality-based educational standards.

Fresh legislation has been put forward in Colorado, Missouri and Montana. In Oklahoma, there are two bills before the state legislature that include potentially creationist language.
A watchdog group, the National Center for Science Education, said that the proposed laws were framed around the concept of "academic freedom". It argues that religious motives are disguised by the language of encouraging more open debate in school classrooms. However, the areas of the curriculum highlighted in the bills tend to focus on the teaching of evolution or other areas of science that clash with traditionally religious interpretations of the world.
Four US states considering laws that challenge the teaching of evolution, Paul Harris, The Guardian, January 31, 2013.

Why are religious fundamentalists so determined to inject religion into science curricula (and into public education, generally) anyway? What possible benefit can there be in denying reality and refusing to accept the scientific theories which enabled humankind to develop technologies and medical treatments which these same people presumably do not refuse to use? The answer is sadly banal. Christian fundamentalists are attempting to destroy secular public education for the same reason that religion has always opposed allowing the people access to real education: for the preservation of the religious elite's power and wealth.  

American Christianism - like all religions - is a symbiotic relationship: religious elites derive their power and wealth from legions of followers who look to pastors and preachers for leadership and who believe that the religion they promote is true. Church is big business. From the enormous, multi-million dollar mega-church corporations to the one-man storefront church business, there is a huge incentive for preachers and their organizations to do whatever they need to do to maintain their "moral authority" over their flocks and thus hold on to their power and wealth.

The allure of religion
For their part, Christian believers provide a steady flow of income and huge political power to their church leadership (in the form of the "Christian" vote) in exchange for a sense of order and purpose in life, moral guidance and perhaps most important of all (though seldom acknowledged as a separate reason) the sense that they are valued members of a powerful majority.  For many born-again believers, that sense of belonging to a powerful majority is one of the few comforts they have in an often bewildering, disempowering and depressing life. 

The foundation for this mutually beneficial relationship is the Christian belief system. The moral authority of the religious leadership depends upon general acceptance of - and willingness to profess belief in - the doctrines of the faith. It is this belief system which is the weak link in the power structure of the business of religion. When the supremacy of the belief system is challenged, the power of the leadership is threatened. 

The problem for both the fundamentalist leaders and their willing followers is this: Christian beliefs - like most religious belief systems - are founded in mythology and the supernatural so evidence-based reality is obviously a threat to that foundation. Reality-based education, the goal of good, secular schools, is a direct threat to religion because by teaching children empirically supported facts about the natural world and giving them the critical thinking skills to continue to seek the truth about the world and our place in it, it teaches them the skills they need to understand how religion manipulates and controls the culture and to see how that manipulation is often motivated by very worldly, selfish goals. 
The Christian right has long suspected
that colleges are their enemies.

Well-educated people may not lose their belief in gods, but they often move away from organized religion. As more and more educated people moved away from organized religion during the last century - and gained independence from religiously-mandated tithing, rules for living and political activism - the wealth, power and influence of the church began to decline. The religious elites realized that public education was their mortal enemy. In the 1970's, a group of influential evangelical Christian leaders joined forces and formulated a plan to "take back America" - and a major focus of that plan was to undermine the public education system which they saw as the most dangerously effective dispeller of religious mysticism.

It wasn't only religious leaders who wanted to maintain the illusion of religious Truth™, however. If that were the case, they would have failed miserably since they are a relatively small elite with nowhere near the number of votes they would need to control elections or influence legislatures. They needed an army of loyal followers willing to act against their own material interests to provide the financial backing and votes needed to support the fundamentalist Christian agenda. Incredibly, they were able to marshall just such an army of dedicated, ideologically-driven followers within a couple of decades. Why?

Why would millions of people vote against their own interests and support a leadership which is working to deprive them of rights and their children of education?  On some level they know the Bible-based worldview is flawed and that the anti-science movement is wrong. They know it - even if they refuse to acknowledge it - because they use science-based technology, medicine and reproductive technology every day. Yet they deny the truth and vote to deny the truth to their own children and their neighbors' children, too. 

It is tempting to chalk this up to stupidity or irrationality, but that is a mistake. Christians are no more stupid than any other Americans. They can understand the truth but they choose to ignore it. Religionists see that the power lies in going along with the fiction, and they see what happens to people who refuse to bow to religious power. People gravitate to power and they can see that in a democracy the power is with the majority, so many make a choice to join the majority. That is not stupidity, it is calculation. In a purely objective calculation - looking at the negative social consequences experienced by outspoken non-Christians, for example - it may actually be more stupid not to go along with the Christian majority.  

The charge that Christianists are "irrational" is probably without merit, too. We cannot know what people really believe in the privacy of their own thoughts, only what they profess to believe. We can, however, see that perfectly sensible people say and do objectively irrational things for very rational reasons.  For example, when people endure hazing rituals in order to be accepted into a highly desired group, it is clear that they do not "believe in" the irrational things they must say or do to win a place in the group, but it is equally clear that they are willing to do whatever it takes to be members because they do believe in the value of belonging to the group. Self-professed Bible-believing Christians may or may not believe that the Bible is literally the source of all truth and knowledge, but they definitely believe that belonging to the Christian religion is worth saying that they do. When you consider the harm that they know they would experience in their social, personal and professional lives should they refuse to submit to the pressure to profess the Christian faith, it is undeniable that in a very real sense it is more rational to go along with Christian fundamentalism than it is to fight against it.

So, while it is true that supporting the Christian Right's agenda is harmful to their own material interests, for many Christians the psychological benefits - they might call it their spiritual interests - of belonging to the church are more important. Church followers were, and still are, anxious to preserve the fictional foundation upon which their own position in a powerful majority is built.  They support lies in order to preserve their religious privilege. Feeling safe in a modern world full of cures and conveniences made possible by science, they cannot imagine losing those gains so very few followers of fundamentalist Christianity can see any downside to denying reality in this manner. They don't see that, having grown up with a decent education themselves, their religious "belief" is a choice, but for children who know nothing else but indoctrination (backed up by the fear of hellfire), there may be no psychologically safe "choice" possible. They only see the upside: the consolidation of their group's position of supremacy in American society: the continued normalization and forced public acceptance of false beliefs which supports their own psychological comfort and social position. 

Public apathy about the creep of religious fundamentalism into the public sphere will have a profound impact upon the future of this country. This is not a fringe movement which poses no threat to our reasonable, sensible little corner of the world. This is a powerful, well-organized and - until very recently - stealthy campaign to concentrate power into a few hands, using religion as the weapon to subdue and incapacitate the people. Nearly 50% of the population already professes to believe that the creation myth explains our existence and the Bible is literally the source of all knowledge. That number could jump to an overwhelming majority of future voters if an entire generation of schoolchildren is deprived of the ability to think critically or to understand the basic principles of math and science which underpin nearly all of modern technology and medicine.

A child devastated by the  
"good news" of Christian
indoctrination. (Jesus Camp)
The school voucher concept was the brainchild of religious extremists who were determined to completely dismantle the secular public school system and reduce all education in this country to a training ground of future foot soldiers for the conservative Christian elites. They have been working on this elsewhere in the world (in places where the public education systems are far less robust than in the USA) through their "mission" programs, too.  The United States was a tougher arena for the Christian war for supremacy, but little by little, the religionists have succeeded in chipping away at the Constitutional protections which once guaranteed that American children would have access to an education free of ulterior agendas. Laws like the ones that Zack Kopplin is fighting in Louisiana deprive children of a real education while indoctrinating them mercilessly with the mythology, eschatology and psychological terrorism of fundamentalist Christian theology. The Christian right intends to return Christendom - within a generation or two - to an appalling condition where a majority of the population will not understand the nature of reality and will be too cowed by theological terrorizing to ask any questions about it. 
"Give me a child until he is seven
and I will give you the man."

Coming soon to a school near you: Belief instead of knowledge. Feeling instead of thinking. Obedience instead of understanding. Acceptance instead of justice. Conformity instead of liberty. Fearful self-loathing instead of hopeful confidence. 

Unless America wakes up to put a stop to this madness, the result of these laws will be the perversion of every cherished American ideal. Christian fundamentalists have been working on this particular strategy to control American society for more than 30 years (before that, they tried other strategies which were not as successful). If this sounds alarmist to you, consider that these religious extremists are counting on that. They are counting on the moderate middle of America to dismiss those who are raising the alarm, while they continue their stealth campaign to destroy the foundation of religious liberty and establish a Christian theocracy in the USA. If we continue to ignore this situation and allow religious extremists to write, lobby for and pass laws which enshrine a particular religious ideology as the government-endorsed national ideology, the consequences for religious, political and intellectual freedom - not to mention technological and economic development - in this country will be disastrous.

Please read more on this topic and spread the word.  Below, you'll find some links worth checking out (even if you have no time to read, please take 5 minutes to watch the video linked at the bottom of this post):

*Meet Zack Kopplin: The Millenial Fighting Creationism in Louisiana (Q&A), Dillon Zhou, policymic, January 28, 2013.
How 19-year old activist Zack Kopplin is making life hell for Louisiana creationists, George Dvorsky, i09, January 16, 2013. Loch Ness Monster used to debunk evolution in state-funded school, Claudine Zap, June 25, 2012
Christian Fundamentalists teach US Children Loch Ness Monster is Real to Disprove Evolution, Lucy Sherriff, The Huffington Post UK, June 25, 2012.
New Creationist Bill in Colorado, Ed Brayton, Dispatches from the Culture Wars, January 27, 2013.
She Brainwashed Me With Science, Ed Brayton, FTB, January 24, 2013.
Another Clueless Legislator on Evolution, Brayton, January 26, 2013.
Texas Public Schools: Still Teaching Creationism, Josh Harkinson, Mother Jones, January 28, 2013.
Critics say Montana allows creationism in schools, Associated Press (OregonLive), January 25, 2013.
Loch Ness Monster seen as real dinosaur in biology books taught in Louisiana school, Eric Ortiz, NYDailyNews, June 26, 2012.
14 Wacky "Facts" Kids Will Learn in Louisiana's Voucher Schools, Deanna Pan, Mother Jones, August 7, 2012.




If you doubt that the school voucher idea is for anything other than to undermine secular, public education for American citizens, please take five minutes to view this video excerpt from the documentary, School Choice: Taxpayer-Funded Creationism, Bigotry and Bias.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Netherlands or Holland? Now You Know!



via CGPGrey


For your Saturday inspiration and edification: 
the difference between Holland and the Netherlands.
Four fun-filled minutes packed with information and history. 
Learn something new today and amaze all your friends!


"Welcome to the great nation of Holland, where the tulips grow, the windmills turn, the breakfasts are chocolatey, the people industrious and the sea tries to drown it all...except this country isn't Holland." (watch the video and learn more! It's cool!)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Yes, It Is Rape.

Today's post is a Nifty PSA that I hope my readers will pass on far and wide. Let's make it go viral on Facebook. There is no banner photo on this post because the subject is too serious and I do not want the TRIGGER WARNING* that this post discusses rape culture to be missed.

We live in a culture - the culture of virtually all of humankind, not any particular national culture - which refuses to hold men accountable for acts of sexual aggression against women. The sociological term for this is Rape Culture.

Glamorizing rape.
  Rape Culture is an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture.  Rape culture is perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies, and the glamorization of sexual violence, thereby creating a society that disregards women’s rights and safety.
  Rape Culture affects every woman.  The rape of one woman is a degradation, terror, and limitation to all women. Most women and girls limit their behavior because of the existence of rape. Most women and girls live in fear of rape. Men, in general, do not. That’s how rape functions as a powerful means by which the whole female population is held in a subordinate position to the whole male population, even though many men don’t rape, and many women are never victims of rape.  This cycle of fear is the legacy of Rape Culture. (Rape Culture, Marshall University Women's Center.)

 From very early ages, men and women are conditioned to accept different roles. Women
are raised to be passive and men are raised to be aggressive. We are conditioned to accept certain
attitudes, values and behaviors. Our conditioning is continuously and relentlessly encouraged and
reinforced by the popular media, cultural attitudes and the educational system. The media is a
major contributor  to  gender-based  attitudes  and  values.  The  media  provides  women  with  acomplete list of behaviors that precipitate rape. Social training about what is proper and ladylike,
as well as what is powerful and macho, teaches women to be victims and men to be aggressors.
 The high incidence of rape in this country is a result of the power imbalance between men
and women. Women are expected to assume a subordinate relationship to men. Consequently,
rape can be seen as a logical extension of the typical interactions between women and men. One
way to analyze the power relationship between men and women is by examining some of the
common social rules women are taught. (Defining a Rape Culture, UC Davis web publication.)


Glamorizing violence
Whittling down the definition of rape to such a thin sliver of possible scenarios that it might eventually simply disappear as a "crime" entirely, has become the vogue these days. The impetus behind that social and legislative push is that many men (and many women, too, since we all are immersed in Rape Culture) believe that, in most cases, forced sex is justifiable. Most people agree that it may not exactly be polite, or the smoothest, nicest way to behave, but coerced sex is usually not really rape: it's just a guy doing what comes naturally when he finds a woman attractive. If men don't pursue, the human race will go extinct! She probably asked for it. If she didn't say "No', then she probably meant "Yes", and if she wasn't clear, how is a guy supposed to know anyway? If something happened that she didn't really want, then she ought to have thought of that before going on that date/accepting that drink/asking him in for coffee/smiling and flirting/pick any scenario because they all lead to forced sex somewhere every day.

With very rare exceptions,  not quite consensual sex is seen as the inevitable result of mistakes made by women (leading men on, dressing like sluts, asking for it, etc) and therefore most people are uncomfortable labeling such incidents "rapes". After all, it somehow strikes people as unfair to call a man who uses a woman's body against her will a rapist, when he is otherwise a nice guy and anyway it was a natural reaction by any red-blooded male to female provocation. For many people there is really only one definition of rape: the violent 'bushy-haired stranger' (this imaginary monster is always a 'bushy-haired stranger', ever notice?) who sexually assaults a virgin, leaving visible injuries. 

Violent stranger rape is comparatively rare. If Republican hopes to narrow the definition of rape to so-called "forcible rape" are realized in every state, rare violent stranger rape could become the only kind that will be recognized as criminal, while women actually live in fear of the myriad forms of "not-really" rape that can happen to them at any time, while society looks the other way. Since in Republican dreams the coercive power of the threat of force is not equivalent to the use of physical force, cannot be measured and is probably all in the woman's hysterical, over-reacting imagination anyway, nearly all of the most prevalent rape scenarios would no longer be considered crimes. Women will be victimized by the sexual aggression of men without even the inadequate protection of seldom-prosecuted laws to give them the courage to step out into the world knowing that they have the legal right to not be sexually harrassed - even though that right is assaulted every single day in a thousand little ways. This systemic intimidation which limits women's ability to pursue their lives and happiness as freely as men is sanctioned and encouraged by Rape Culture. 


22 Ways to Stop Violence Against Women
Below is an ad airing in the UK which addresses Rape Culture in a gut-wrenching, all-too-common scenario: a party, probably with drinking, the initial trust of the young woman, the expectations of the young man, and the eventual rape. Rape culture ensures that many young men really do not believe that forcing sex on a person who is saying 'No' is rape, especially if she was initially flirting or drinking at a party or has had sex with him before. This ad underlines the truth that rape occurs whenever one person coerces another into sexual activity against the second person's wishes

*TRIGGER WARNING!  Please be aware that this ad portrays a commonly-experienced scenario where a rape occurs, and though very well-done, it may be painfully triggering to many viewers.

via Love, Joy, Feminism


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Tuesday Tonic - The War On Christmas




Mrs. Betty Bowers, America's best Christian, reports on the war on Christmas from her embedded position in the enemy's maw - er, the shopping mall.

Quote for the win:

"We stole December 25 fair and square and we're not giving it back!"

Friday, November 30, 2012

Pat Robertson Does It Again!!

Visitors at the Creation Museum paid good money to view an utterly false "vegetarian" dinosaur display.































Stop the presses! For the second time this year, Pat Robertson has actually expressed a rational thought! First, it was "legalize marijuana" and now...LOOK!...Pat has declared that Young Earth Creationism is false!

Everything you need to
deprive your child of a
science education!
Yes, you read that correctly, Pat Robertson went on television and admitted to his viewers that millions of fundamentalist Christians have been lied to by the perpetrators of the YEC dogma, among them the "Answers" in Genesis fabulist and founder of the Creation "Museum", Ken Ham. Answers in Genesis was created to provide apologia for young earth creationism, and in the USA Ken Ham was their man. Thousands of homeschooling networks have used Answers in Genesis curriculum materials to deprive their students of any coherent understanding of the reality of the age of the earth, the evolution of life or any other reality-based scientific knowledge.

The Creation "Museum" is part of the even broader outreach of that movement's determination to indoctrinate youngsters with lies and mythology. Ham lobbied for (and received!) publicly-funded financial incentives to construct a glorified indoor theme park which tells the "story" of life on earth according to Biblical mythology. By gaining access to some public funding and calling the religious edifice a "museum", Ham and his disciples were able to misrepresent their religious agenda as a mainstream "educational" institution just like bona fide museums and libraries. The targeted groups can venture outside their religious "schooling" bubbles and find their carefully-inculcated worldview confirmed in a "public place". It is all part of the drive to paint a veneer of legitimacy over the fabrications, mythology and straight-up lies that the Young Earth Creationists present to their students in place of real science and reality-based history. (The other part of that strategy is to inject YEC into public schools by claiming that it ought to be taught alongside real science and history, thus giving it a false equivalency to reality-based instruction).
Now, now, settle down, Viewers!
I'm still the same old batty Patty!

Yet, even in the echo chamber that is the fundamentalist religious schooling movement, young people still claw their way out of the suffocating fear of eternal damnation to question the validity of a belief system which denies the reality right before their very eyes every day. In response to a viewer who was worried about her family's ticket to heaven in the afterlife because they found the Biblical "explanation" (or lack of it) for the existence of dinosaurs unconvincing, Robertson had this to say:

Look, I know that people will probably try to lynch me when I say this, but Bishop [James] Ussher wasn't inspired by the Lord when he said that it all took 6,000 years. It just didn't. You go back in time, you've got radiocarbon dating. You got all these things and you've got the carcasses of dinosaurs frozen in time out in the Dakotas.

They're out there. So, there was a time when these giant reptiles were on the Earth and it was before the time of the Bible. So, don't try and cover it up and make like everything was 6,000 years. That's not the Bible. 

If you fight science, you're going to lose your children, and I believe in telling it the way it was.

Of course, Pat Robertson did not always believe in telling it the way it was (or, for that matter, telling the truth at all). But, things are different, now. It seems that the wily ol' fox has twigged to the fact that young people sometimes resist being indoctrinated with lies. That 'god-created 6000 year-old earth, end times are a'nearing' alternate universe that fundamentalist Christians have been forcing on their young is not just a terrible, manipulative lie, but it is a terrible manipulative lie that they can't sustain because the facts just won't go away.

Even a broken clock is right twice a day,
so a wingnut with bats in the belfry
 can be right twice in a year!
Naturally, Pat tries to spin it as a positive for fundamentalist Bible-based faith ("That's not the Bible"! Any flaws in Christian Reconstructionism have been human errors, not flaws in the actual theology!), but the jig is up. Religious extremists simply cannot cover up the overwhelming evidence that their doctrines are false. The younger generations are on to them. While it is unlikely that we will soon hear confessions that extremist religious teachings were misleading at best and harmful at worst, and their favored position in society and influence in government policy has been detrimental to the country, the public confirmation by a former proponent that young earth creationism is dead wrong is at least a step in the right direction. For over a decade, creationist nonsense has been used to eviscerate school science curricula thus undermining our scientific and technological progress. It may take another decade to undo the damage, if indeed we still have that much time before the rest of the world sprints ahead of us in the global race for scientific and technological innovation.

Isn't it marvelous how quickly base self-interest will induce even hardliner right-wing extremists to soften their irrational stances when it just isn't winning them elections anymore? Rabidly fundamentalist preachers doing a U-turn on the anti-science highway, GOP representatives decrying the anti-immigration hard line, and wingnut radio hosts giving themselves whiplash spinning their positions on immigration policy, reproductive rights and economic inequality: Change is in the air! Republicans are doing a hasty, awkward two-step which they are trying to sell as a modern dance with intentionally surprising twists and turns. Their extreme positions were an illusion! In fact, they are for what they only seemed to be against. Or at least, some of them hope to conceal their true agenda better in the future. Meanwhile, others believe that their approach was not extremely conservative enough.
Equality for women next, Pat?
Oh, right.

But batty Patty knows that doubling down on a losing strategy simply won't pay doesn't make sense. He has admitted that young earth creationism is a lie, because he understands that - even with homeschooling, burying "sheltering" young minds, and determined miseducation of children (often using public funds) - not even the hugely powerful evangelical Christian machine can suppress reality-based knowledge and cover up the truth forever.

Next thing you know, old Pat will be arguing in favor of right-wing acceptance of evolution, global climate change and women's equality!

"The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family, political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians." Pat Robertson

Okay, maybe just the first two.

                                         -------------------------------------------------------------------

Update: Before I even had this blog post finished (yes, it's taken me two days - I have the flu, so sue me), Ken Ham has taken the time to blast Pat Robertson over his remarks. Quelle surprise!

Head-shaking and accusations of disloyalty to the authority of ???:
"Not only do we have to work hard to not let our kids be led astray by the anti-God teaching of the secularists, we have to work hard to not let them be led astray by compromising church leaders like Pat Robertson," Ham said Wednesday in a post on Facebook.
"Pat Robertson gives more fodder to the secularists. We don't need enemies from without the church when we have such destructive teaching within the church," Ham added in the statement shared with those following his non-profit Christian apologetics ministry on Facebook.
...And...like clockwork...the inevitable threats and fear-mongering:

"I still shake my head at the number of church leaders who want to appease the secularists and accept their anti-God religion of millions of years and even molecules to man evolution," Ham wrote. "Such leaders (including Pat Robertson) have a lot to answer to the Lord for one day. Such leaders are guilty of putting stumbling blocks in the way of kids and adults in regards to believing God's Word and the gospel."

Ken Ham of Creation Museum Slams Robertson for Dismissing Young Earth Theory, Stoyan Zaimov, The Christian Post, November 30, 2012.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Christian Conservatives Hate The World...Therefore Climate Change Denial




























"Immediately after the distress of those days " 'the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.' 30 "At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. 31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. Matthew 24:29-31:29

This month in Scientific American magazine, there is a fascinating in-depth account of the history of the Christian conservative anti-science movement which has ebbed and flowed in this country for nearly 200 years. The concluding paragraph sums up this critical issue very well:

In an age when science influences every aspect of life—from the most private intimacies of sex and reproduction to the most public collective challenges of climate change and the economy—and in a time when democracy has become the dominant form of government on the planet, it is important that the voters push elected officials and candidates of all parties to explicitly state their views on the major science questions facing the nation. By elevating these issues in the public dialogue, U.S. citizens gain a fighting chance of learning whether those who would lead them have the education, wisdom and courage necessary to govern in a science-driven century and to preserve democracy for the next generation. (Shawn Lawrence Otto, America's Science Problem).

"President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise
of the oceans,and to heal the planet." What a good joke!
NPR has a related story today about conservative climate change denial and how it is affecting the current election. At the RNC convention in Tampa, the guffaws from the Republican faithful at Mitt Romney's thinly veiled coded "joke" pointed to not only global climate change denial, but to an even more sinister truth about conservative Christian theology. They laugh about denial, because it is a political tool to further their religious agenda. It is possible that many conservatives understand very well that global warming is happening, but that fact is actually a source of gleeful satisfaction to the true believer, not a cause for concern. So why do they publicly deny it? The policy of denial is necessary in order to block any efforts by sane people to slow down or stop human activity that contributes to global warming. Evangelicals see this climate crisis as part of the end times, the most highly anticipated and welcome event in the conservative Christian mind.

There is something I think people must understand every time they read examples of the often incoherent dishonesty of Christian apologists as they deny the reality of global climate change: Christians want the world to end. In their religious delusion, they really do believe that it is necessary for the world to be destroyed in order to bring about the return of their Messiah, and they welcome the end of the world

This truth cannot be overstated: conservative Christians despise the World™. They deny the importance of this mortal life. It is a religion of self-loathing where the only relief for the wretched sinner is not in this life - on this earth - but in another "life" after death.  The entire point of Christianity is to deny that this life is all we may have, to disparage the efforts of human beings to improve this life for themselves and others, and to work toward bringing about the end of this world, so that their bronze-age mythical "prophesies" can be brought to fruition. This is not hyperbolic fear-mongering. Christians are open about this. They consider it to be "good news".

Standing up to the propaganda of religious madness,
the President is the adult on the national stage.
In the larger conservative movement, there was a concerted effort to undermine efforts to slow global warming combined with propaganda "education" designed to mislead people into thinking that there is a scientific "controversy" over whether global warming was an actual phenomenon. There is no controversy about global climate change: the scientific community is unanimous that it is happening and that it has been greatly accelerated by human activity. As with their successful effort to convince more than half the population of the lie that Evolutionary theory is scientifically "controversial", conservative groups managed to undermine the trust that people once had in scientific research, leaving the population adrift in a sea of religious lunacy and doubt.

From time to time, a thinking Christian speaks up, trying to sound the alarm, but even knowing how much is at stake, he is careful not to offend the powerful religious majority. Even the rational Christians who claim not to agree with the extremists will not break away from the power and privilege that belonging to that group gives them. They know on what side their bread is buttered and they hope to continue to perform a balancing act between what they know is morally right and their desire to remain aligned with power. The agenda of Christian fundamentalism has become a juggernaut and it has swept all other voices to the fringes.

Global warming denial propaganda funded by
conservative groups with Christian ties like the
Heartland Institute helped to sway public opinion
against the scientific reality.
Every effort that science makes to warn about or mitigate global warming is met with fierce resistance by powerful lobbyists backed by radical fundamentalist Christian groups. One fact canot be stressed enough: These groups want the world to come to an end. With the irrational zeal of true believers, they welcome mass death, destruction and horror because they imagine themselves to be the "elect" - the tiny group of their god's favored people who will not be destroyed in the cataclysm that they are doing their utmost to bring about.

There won't be any satisfaction for the rest of us if and when these fools discover that they and their descendants will perish along with all those they hate if they succeed in setting the world on a final path to global catastrophe. It won't matter that they were dangerously, madly wrong and we were right. The only thing that matters is that we find the courage to speak up now and take action now to slow down the disaster.

A few items to read and ponder:

Fact: June 2012 was the 4th hottest month since record-keeping began in 1880.  It was the 328th consecutive month that global temperatures have remained above the 20th century average.

Here is the sort of story which will warm the cockles of the fundamentalist's heart, while it chills the blood of people who care about humanity.

Mother Jones, The state of climate change denial.

Antiscience Beliefs Jeopardize U.S. Democracy, Shawn Lawrence Otto, Scientific American, October 17, 2012.

Equal time to truth and bullshit, from No brain left behind.