A Petition Against Pulpit Political Programming

Do we want houses of worship to be involved in politics, further dividing the public and religiously engineering outcomes of elections?

While religious worship is something personal and dear to most folks, injecting politics and having to listen to a preacher tell you that you are doomed to hell if you vote for “X” politician is to attack the personal integrity and intelligence of the congregation.

Jefferson was adamant about separating religion and politics for a reason, and that reason he spelled out in A Bill for the Establishment of Religious Freedom. This is the document from which our Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment was crafted. It is a short read.

http://projectfairplay.org/petition

Let’s Get Past The Ancient Chauvinism

As a matter of understanding and a blow for universal empathy between the genders, I reblog this video.

Victoria NeuroNotes

Ten types of women Christian men should not marry.  This video/article was just brought to my attention.  Thanks Tim.

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Should there be Empathy for Terrorism?

 

Being an advocate of universal empathy and benevolent reciprocity, acts of sheer terror such as the Charlie Hebdo attack place me squarely on the horns of a dilemma, especially since I am opposed to the death penalty as well. So, since I do not shy away from cognitive dissonance, as I write this piece, I will attempt reconcile my seemingly opposing concepts. I turn to philosophy.

On one horn, I am a devotee of the John Stuart Mill School of Free Speech—a school of empathic thought that says, in Mill’s words:

If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.  –John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, Chapter 2 – Of the Liberty of Thought and Discussion.

Side note: It is clear to me that this mode of thought, in no small measure, influenced Jefferson and Madison when they crafted the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, the intent of which is laid out in Jefferson’s Virginia Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom. And that intent is the very heart of a constitutionally limited, representative democracy (a republic). I no longer see our nation as such, however, but that is an argument for another time.

Indeed, as Mill wrote concerning the “tyranny of the majority”:

John Stuart Mill

John Stuart Mill

Like other tyrannies, the tyranny of the majority was at first, and is still vulgarly, held in dread, chiefly as operating through the acts of the public authorities. But reflecting persons perceived that when society is itself the tyrant—society collectively, over the separate individuals who compose it—its means of tyrannizing (sic) are not restricted to the acts which it may do by the hands of its political functionaries. Society can and does execute its own mandates: and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right, or any mandates at all in things with which it ought not to meddle, it practices (sic) a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression, since, though not usually upheld by such extreme penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself. Protection, therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough: there needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling; against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them; to fetter the development, and, if possible, prevent the formation, of any individuality not in harmony with its ways, and compel all characters to fashion themselves upon the model of its own. There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence: and to find that limit, and maintain it against encroachment, is as indispensable to a good condition of  human affairs, as protection against political despotism. —John Stuart Mill, On liberty, chapter 1

Thus I have to say that Charlie Hebdo has, in my opinion, every right to lampoon fundamentalist Islam, bearing in mind that their parodies of Mohammad is not the root cause of the terrorist attack, but was a contributing factor.

On the other horn of my dilemma is the root cause of the Charlie Hebdo attack—that of the right of fundamentalist religions to preach and believe as they do—a religious teaching that encourages murder as revenge for perceived insults to Islam. Too, it is for the most part a mindset with which one cannot reason. This last point, of course, is the same for peaceful but still dangerous fundamentalist, religious beliefs of Western nations. If one is convinced that he will burn in an everlasting Hell if he does not abide by the doctrines he was taught to believe, how can anyone change his mind? Cannonballs of logic and reason will not dent his walls of dogma. But, has he the right to teach and build those walls for others?

This brings me back to Mill, who wrote:

First, if any opinion is compelled to silence, that opinion may, for aught we can certainly know, be true. To deny this is to assume our own infallibility.

Secondly, though the silenced opinion be an error, it may, and very commonly does, contain a portion of truth; and since the general or prevailing opinion on any subject is rarely or never the whole truth, it is only by the collision of adverse opinions, that the remainder of the truth has any chance of being supplied.

Thirdly, even if the received opinion be not only true, but the whole truth; unless it is suffered to be, and actually is, vigorously and earnestly contested, it will, by most of those who receive it, be held in the manner of a prejudice, with little comprehension or feeling of its rational grounds. And not only this, but, fourthly, the meaning of the doctrine itself will be in danger of being lost, or enfeebled, and deprived of its vital effect on the character and conduct: the dogma becoming a mere formal profession, inefficacious for good, but cumbering the ground, and preventing the growth of any real and heartfelt conviction, from reason or personal experience. —John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, Chapter 2 – Of the Liberty of Thought and Discussion.

Therefore, fundamentalist Islam does, indeed, have a right to teach its opinions, although Mill would not condone—nor would any person possessing even a molecule of humanity and reason—allowing it to act out its nefarious teachings.

The solution? By allowing radical and harmful ideas to be spoken, society, perceiving the danger, knows who to watch and to whom contrary opinions, especially those of empathy, must be conveyed. Still, there must be constraints, especially in fundamentalist Islam, to prevent harmful acts. If the individuals of the group are beyond reason, then society must protect itself, by any means necessary—although capture should be our primary concern.

However, terrorists who are captured should not be put to death, but imprisoned and detoxed, if possible, of their harmful concepts. If they cannot be detoxed, then they must remain in prison and be treated humanly.

This episode highlights why I promote the view that every individual should rid himself of all religious dogma, saving only the single concept of benevolent reciprocity: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This goes for Western nations as well. Our primary goal, above all, should be the elimination of poverty and corporate/government greed–the ultimate medium for radicalism to grow.

I welcome your arguments and corrections if you find any.


Max T. Furr is author of The Empathy Imperative, a philosophical novel that takes a critical look at justice, love, and mercy, and written in the spirit of the BBC/WGBH Boston film production, God On Trial. 

Based on

ANSWERS IN GENESIS: A Profile in Parasitism (AN UPDATE)

—-Updated from my original post, Answers in Genesis: A Profile in Parasitism.—-

The State of Kentucky has decided to extend no further tax incentives to Ark Encounters, a Christian fundamentalist theme park.

The Mask of Deception

           The Mask of Deception

Now, I understand that some folks might think the following is a continuing attack against Christianity in general and Answers in Genesis (AiG) in particular. On the contrary. I am only suggesting how I believe empathy could be applied to this situation such that the solution is in the best interest of everyone. That is, by the way, the purpose of the religion clauses of the First Amendment.

Fairness requires empathy, and empathy can only be derived from within.

First, with regard to AiG, note that no one is making any attempt to shut down its right to purchase property and have a theme park. First Amendment watchdog groups demand only that governments–federal, state and local–represent all of its citizens, without regard to their religious beliefs, their political opinions, or their financial standing. All working citizens pay taxes, thus, all citizens must have free access to commerce and must not be forced to subsidise sectarian religion.

Secondly, in the United States–as most of you know–all religions are to be treated equally under constitutional law. The only way this can be accomplished is for the government to remain neutral in matters of religion, (i.e., it cannot make laws respecting anyone’s religion).

When the courts attend matters of church and state separation, they reference the intent of the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses of the First Amendment, which may be found in Jefferson’s Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom. Here is the excerpt pertinent to the AiG case.

Well aware that the opinions and belief of men depend not on their own will, but follow involuntarily the evidence proposed to their minds; that Almighty God hath created the mind free, and manifested his supreme will that free it shall remain by making it altogether insusceptible of restraint; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments, or burthens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, who being lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do, but to extend it by its influence on reason alone; that the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world and through all time: That to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical . . . [note that Jefferson was a Deist, not a Christian]

How could this be more empathetic and fair to all citizens?

Now, with regard to AIG’s ongoing efforts to have the taxpayers of Kentucky pony up 10s of million$ more in tax breaks for its restrictive, fundamentalist Ark Encounters theme park, after Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) reminded Kentucky lawmakers, many times, that they were elected to serve all the people and not just fundamentalist Christians, the State backed out of further tax incentives for the park. AiG is now resorting to revenge attacks for being forced to abide by the Constitution.

From AU:

Answers in Genesis (AiG), a creationist Christian ministry, had applied for a 25 percent sales tax rebate through the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet for Ark Encounter, a theme park that will feature a 510-foot replica of Noah’s Ark. The application received preliminary approval, and since the project is expected to cost $73 million, final approval would have cost the state up to $18 million in sales tax revenue.

But the Ark Park sailed into stormy seas in August when Americans United informed the tourism cabinet that AiG had posted online an opening for a computer-assisted design technician to work at Ark Encounter. That job post has since been removed, but in the August description, AiG said applicants must submit a “[c]reation belief statement,” as well as “[c]onfirmation of [their] agreement with the AiG Statement of Faith.”

That “statement of faith” required potential AiG employees to affirm their belief that homosexuality is a sin on par with bestiality and incest, that the earth is only 6,000 years old and that the Bible is literally true. Anyone who doesn’t agree with those statements won’t be considered for the job. (Read more here.)

According to AiG’s own website, “The purpose of the Ark Encounter park is to point people to the only means of salvation from sin, the Lord Jesus Christ, who also is the only God-appointed way to escape eternal destruction.”

But after receiving word of the tax-break cutoff, according to AU, “AiG . . . said earlier this week that it would run 16 billboards throughout the state promoting Ark Encounter and attacking ‘intolerant’ groups like AU. AiG also said it bought a 15-second digital video display that will run in New York City’s Times Square.”

AiG feels that it has been attacked unfairly and is being denied its “right” to tax dollars from non-fundamentalist Christian people–the same folks they would bar from employment at the park, no matter what their qualifications.

I have to wonder, What would the politicians of Kentucky, who want to continue the tax breaks, do if a group of Muslim citizens wanted the State to give them tax incentives to establish a park dedicated to Islam? Would you think that the folks at AiG would object?

How do you feel about this? Does AiG have a right to tax dollars? Should all religions have that same right?

Should an Atheist Group be Disallowed a Seat at the Table of Public Discourse?

Image: www.redbubble.com

“Woman with Dead Child” by Kathe Kollwitz, etching, 1903 National Gallery of Art,D.C. Image: http://www.redbubble.com 

Empathy, as I often say, must not be a one way street. The only way to a peaceful world is through Universal Empathy and Benevolent Reciprocity. This goes for religious groups as well as not religious groups. As John Stuart Mill put it, if all the world were of one opinion except for one person, the world would have no more right to silence him than he, had he the power, to silence the world.


Federal Lawsuit Demands Equal Space for “Reason Station,” Church-State Watchdog Says.

DETROIT – In an effort to protect the First Amendment rights of all Warren, Mich. residents regardless of their religious or philosophical beliefs or non-beliefs, the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and Freedom from Religion Foundation have filed a federal lawsuit challenging the city’s ban on an atheist booth in a city-hall atrium where the city has allowed a prayer station.
Image from http://www.soulation.org/Image: http://www.soulation.org/

The atrium has been set up by city officials as a public space that can be reserved by a wide variety of groups and individuals, including civic organizations and Warren residents, but the mayor is not allowing an atheist to use space in the atrium because his belief system “is not a religion.”

Since 2009, the city has allowed a local church group to run a prayer station in which volunteers distribute religious pamphlets, offer to pray with passersby, and discuss their religious beliefs with people who approach the station. The lawsuit filed today does not seek to have the prayer station removed, but instead asks the court to order the city to treat believers and non-believers equally.
“Once the government opens public space for use by private groups, it cannot pick and choose who can use the space based on the content of their message or whether public officials agree with that message,” said Dan Korobkin, ACLU of Michigan deputy legal director. “For instance, Warren officials would not be permitted to grant access to activists supportive of the mayor and reject the applications of activists who are critical of the mayor.  The same logic extends to this matter: the city cannot allow speech supportive of religion and reject speech supportive of atheism.”
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Douglas Marshall, a Warren resident whose request to install a “reason station” was rejected by the city. Marshall wishes to set up a station that is similar in size, structure and function to the prayer station – a folding table and chairs with literature on display and available to the public – except that his station will offer information and opportunities for discussion from a non-religious perspective.
“The city has an obligation to serve all members of the community equally, regardless of their faith or their lack of faith,” said Americans United Associate Legal Director Alex J. Luchenitser. “Our laws make it clear that our government can’t adopt a rule book that favors one group over another.”

Read more at: https://au.org/media/press-releases/americans-united-allies-challenge-michigan-citys-rejection-of-atheist-display

— Max T. Furr is author of The Empathy Imperative, a philosophical novel based on the epic struggle between religion and science, and brings the true nature of justice, mercy, and love into sharp focus.  What would the world be like if empathy, not self interest, were our primary motivating force?

Why We Have a Wall of Separation between Church and State

Image

IRAN: “Razieh Ebrahimi was forced to marry at the age of 14, became a mother at 15, and killed her husband at 17. Now at 21, she is on Iran’s death row.”

The primitive and inhuman religious intolerance of fundamentalist Islam is not a testament to the superiority of Christianity, but a testament to the brilliance of the Founders of our republic (in particular, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison) in placing the Establishment Clause* in the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, thereby, as Jefferson said, erecting a “wall of separation” between Church and State.**

Keep in mind that in the West, fundamentalist Muslims are considered to be evil merchants of hatred and death. Indeed, they are.

But keep in mind, too, that Islam is only one of the three Abrahamic religions, the other two being Judaism and Christianity. Of the three, it is the radical faction of Islam that holds most faithfully to the ancient scriptures, albeit adding many more draconian laws (especially for the subjugation or women) since its founding.

If a Jewish or a Christian nation were to strictly abide by the ancient laws, which they claim to be God’s Word, but to which only fundamentalist Islam faithfully subscribes in toto, there would be little difference between the fundamentalist Muslim states and the states of the west.

Fortunately, Judaism has moderated and evolved, with the help of reason, and early Christians saw fit pick and choose from the old laws, leaving out the summery executions of women for perceived insults to the male ego and their obsession for dominance. Fundamentalist Islam, however, with it’s head firmly buried in the 7th century, still perceives itself emasculated by independent women–and in Islam, the old laws govern the state. There is no Wall of Separation. Men still fear female independence.

ImageAnd yet, even here in the West, modern day Christian fundamentalists–including many politicians and some Supreme Court Justices, who should understand the Constitution better than anyone, still disavow and deny existence of the Wall of Separation, (e.g., Scott “Stoning Gays is Fine” Esk, of Oklahoma, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy MooreU.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and many others).

Such inexcusable ignorance! Have these people no knowledge of what happened in the early years of our nation? Have they not heard of the Salem Witchcraft Trials and the execution of women? With enough people like Esk, Scalia, and Moore, et al, in government, is there any doubt that we would not revisit the years when woman were hanged, stoned, crushed, or drowned by mere accusation of witchcraft and men and women executed for homosexuality?

 This is the very reason for the Establishment Clause. And for Scalia, et al, not to understand this is beyond belief. For his information (as though he would care), the intent of the Separation Clause is documented in Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom. This is the document from which the Separation Clause was fashioned and it spells out Jefferson’s precise intent–which is true freedom of conscience and speech for every person, and under no coercion from clergy or government agency. Scalia, et al, should take the time to read this document.

If a religion cannot stand on its own merits and be strong enough to withstand criticism, even from its women, then it does not deserve to survive. If our “leaders” cannot understand the concept of benevolent reciprocity (do unto others . . .) then they should step down.

* Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

** The “Wall of Separation” comment is found in Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in the state of Connecticut, written in 1802.


— Max T. Furr is author of The Empathy Imperative, a philosophical novel based on the epic struggle between religion and science, and brings the true nature of justice, mercy, and love into sharp focus.  What sort of world would a truly benevolent god have created?

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