Kim Davis and Religious Freedom: A Slippery Slope

From the Dept. of Careful What You Wish For:


Ted Nugent: Death To Sharia, Unless Its My Sharia

Ted Nugent, never one to mince word salads when it comes to Islam, has proposed a 'final solution' for Islamic extremists in his column at WorldNutDaily:

Radical Islam is a global cancer. Shariah law should be seen as the hate speech that it is. Its very essence is a criminal act of sedition, advocating the overthrowing of the U.S. government, punishable by hanging. It must be dealt with now, not tomorrow or next week, or surely this religious cancer will consume the host and darkness will indeed cover the Earth. 
This rabid, voodoo threat is very real and right in front of us. We must not shoot just one or two rabid dogs, but to save the human race, we must kill them all.

We don't really expect anything different from The Nuge. He is, after all, the guy who wrote "Wang Dang Sweet Poontang."

But Nugent, in justifying the extermination of the Islamic threat, also voices his deathwish for other "rabid dogs" and "vermin":
I want carjackers dead. I want rapists dead. I want burglars dead. I want child molesters dead. I want the bad guys dead. Let the victims defend themselves in a timely, efficient manner. Double tap center mass. No court case. No plea bargaining, no parole. No time off for good behavior, no early release. I want ‘em dead. 
Their victims know who they are and what they are doing. Blow ‘em away and let the crows pick their carcasses clean.
Sounds a little like Sharia there, Ted.

And remember, this is the guy the GOP trots out regularly to rally the troops.  They'll do it again in 2016.


I Am Charlie -- Even If Charlie Is Vile and Unfunny

I have been seeing several comments, blog posts, and articles pointing out the racist, misogynistic, anti-Semitic, xenophobic nature of Charlie Hebdo's content over the years. From what I've seen, I wouldn't disagree.

Here's the thing, though. It shouldn't matter. If this had happened at the offices of Barely Legal or the Westboro Baptist Church it would have been equally as tragic and unacceptable. We should fight for the rights of even the most vile individuals to express themselves, tastelessly or not. We have Larry Flynt to thank, remember, for making The Onion and South Park possible. 

Many have gone out of their way to say "I am not Charlie" because of the type of content for which Charlie was responsible. This strikes me as not too different than saying "I am not Mike Brown" because I wouldn't have stolen a cigarillo, or wearing an "I can breathe" shirt because I'm not overweight selling loose cigarettes on the street corner for extra bucks. None of these people deserved to die.

It doesn't mean that we shouldn't call out those who peddle in racism, xenophobia, and misogyny. The French satirical magazine has been around for decades. To call out Charlie Hebdo right now for their content feels too much like telling a rape victim that she shouldn't have dressed so provocatively.


Redskins Trademark Outrage: A whole bunch of people on Twitter who don't understand things


The Commencement Address No One Asked Me To Give

The below guest post was written by Matt Shipman, a science writer and father of three who lives in Raleigh. You can follow Matt on Twitter at @ShipLives or connect with him here on Google+.

Driving home from work recently, I heard a story on the radio about commencement addresses.

This made me wonder what sort of commencement address I would give, in the unlikely event that anyone asked me to give one. I think it would go something like this---

Greetings, graduates!

I am not going to spend a lot of time talking about whether you are special.

Some of you are probably special, or will be; most of you, by definition, aren’t. But (and here’s the thing), even if I said that none of you are special, every single one of you would think that you were the exception. See how normal you are?

Your class is also diverse: men and women of different races, cultures, religions, sexual orientations, and fields of study. What on Earth can I say that’s relevant to all of you?

Here it is: don’t be an asshole.

I am entirely sincere when I say that.

It sounds obvious, yet every day an astonishing number of people fail to follow that simple advice. So allow me to suggest some useful tips.

Be kind. Say please and thank you. Do nice things for people. (But don’t expect anything in return, or get in a snit if no one thanks you – if you do those things, you’re being an asshole.)

Now, being nice can be tricky. If you start running up to strangers and offering to help them, they may assume that you are planning to mug them.

So here’s an example of something nice you can do that will rarely scare other people: if you’re ever in line at the grocery store and the person behind you has a screaming child on their hands, offer to let them go ahead of you. They may not take you up on the offer, but they’ll probably appreciate it.

That’s about it.

Oh, and you should also work hard, engage in critical thinking, appreciate the roles of innovation and scientific research in economic development, and try to understand (though not necessarily admire) the perspectives of other people.

But mostly, don’t be an asshole.


One of those Inevitable Facebook Debates: Religion, Agnosticism, Time & Space

I recently had one of those inevitable FB discussions with some right-wing conservative Christians in which I was lumped in with atheists. I tried to explain that my lack of religion is no more a rejection of a deity than an independent voter's lack of party association is a rejection of government.
Here's part of that discussion in which I explain how my appreciation for the vastness of time and space tends to make it difficult for me to accept any form of religion as we know it:

Many people don't quite understand why people make a conscious decision to not identify with or follow a particular religion -- or no religion at all. Most of us did not reach this point without a great deal of contemplation. Many of us simply can't reconcile any of the existing religions with our understanding of the cosmos -- not with good conscience, anyway. We are not bad people. Morality can and does exist outside of religion.
13.8 billion years condensed into a calendar year
There have been many belief systems throughout time (and possibly throughout the cosmos by other intelligent beings millions of light years away from us), and there will be many other belief systems, possibly arising long after our likely inevitable extinction.
To discount such an acknowledgment is to deny the realities of the history of the cosmos and any and all life within it. We're a tiny blip on the timeline of the cosmos, as well as on the map of the cosmos, which contains at least 300 sextillion suns. That is a 3 followed by 23 zeros.
Perspective is a good thing.
I don't deny the existence of a deity. I simply acknowledge the reality of the vastness of time and space, and logic dictates that one religion which has only existed for a very brief sliver of time on one of billions (trillions, more?) of potential life-supporting planets, is probably not the one 'true' brand of religion. If it is, it's a very strange thing for a deity to do -- to drop a needle in an infinite haystack -- the one needle that will guarantee eternal life -- yet it is only available to the tiniest sliver of living beings (and only a portion of those, since many of them follow another religion due to geographical and historical influences, heritage, etc.), who happen to live on this one very extra-special planet (one of sextillions, likely many more) during an incredibly minuscule sliver of time -- also, let's drop this nugget on a small group of isolated desert-dwelling people who don't (can't) write things down.
If you were a deity, that would maybe be the absolute worst way possible to inform a cosmos (which you created) about your existence. It's hard to imagine that a deity, if he/she/it exists, would be that short-sighted, or that bad at marketing him/herself.
And if a deity made it possible for me to think logically about these things and it led me to being open-minded about the possibility of other paths of being a moral creature in this world, and I honestly gave it a good go for a good decade and a half, and continue to be as moral and ethical as I was then, why would he/she/it punish me eternally? Wouldn't he/she/it appreciate a well lived life of philosophical contemplation, empathy, and a determination to reduce suffering?


Duck Dynasty: No, Tolerance Doesn't Have To Go Both Ways

Sorry. Duck Dynasty again. It's always the stupid shit that forces a dialogue, it seems.

There's a lot of whining going on about there being no tolerance for people of faith in America anymore.

Here's the thing about tolerance. Tolerance (which I've posted about before here) does not require that one be tolerant of social injustice. When we denounce beliefs which cause harm to others (and yes, denigrating LGBT folks and equating homosexuality with bestiality is indeed harmful), we are in no way in conflict with the concept of tolerance. Tolerance, in a global declaration by the UN, is defined as "the responsibility that upholds human rights, pluralism (including cultural pluralism), democracy and the rule of law. It involves the rejection of dogmatism and absolutism and affirms the standards set out in international human rights instruments...The practice of tolerance does not mean toleration of social injustice or the abandonment or weakening of one's convictions."

When people state that they stand with Robertson because he has the right to speak freely about his faith, they're right -- he does have that right. But it begs the question -- are Christians required by their faith to malign human beings for their natural traits? (If so, that's a horribly flawed morality.) And are those who disagree required to tolerate it?

The reason why it has become "politically incorrect" to denigrate gays and lesbians is not because society no longer tolerates religious belief or family values. It's because this view of sexuality and gender is as unethical and as harmful as the Taliban belief that women should stay at home rather than go to school. It is quite simply archaic and discriminatory thinking that has no value in modern society -- thinking that is morally dubious at best. While those who embrace reason, science, and human progress are moving on and leaving behind naive and outdated views from ancient texts, others remain kicking and screaming, believing that others are being intolerant of their Bronze Age ideas about sexuality and gender (or about the origins of the cosmos and life).

If we must tolerate religious views of LGBT-condemning fundamentalist Christians, then we must also tolerate the religious views of women-stoning fundamentalist Muslims. We can't say that one is any more or less correct. They are both morally unsound and archaic views that cause harm to others.

Why aren't people tolerant of those who wish to cure epilepsy or mental illness by drilling holes in the skull? (This was a common early medical practice.) Well, mostly because we learned more about biology, realized that we were mistaken, and we changed our approach.

There is nothing about tolerance that requires someone to tolerate the mistreatment or maligning of other human beings because of their natural traits. So crying foul on this one and saying it's an attack on faith and family values is to miss the point. Because anti-LGBT sentiment is not a value. Any faith that dictates that it is, is morally flawed. Acquiescing to such ideology is not a virtue.