11.18.2011

Sam Harris: What If We're Born In The Wrong Place, To The Wrong Parents, In The Wrong Culture, Given The Wrong Theology?

In the following video, taken from a debate with apologist William Craig, Sam Harris offers a thought-provoking view of religion from the perspective of circumstance. It's something that I have thought about often.

So many of us believe that our religion is true. We believe this with so much certainty that we don't hesitate to characterize other belief systems as incorrect.

A great majority of us are born into a religion. We are indoctrinated into our religions, whether we want to admit it or not. If we had somehow been born to a different family across the globe, in another culture, we would very likely have been indoctrinated into a completely different religion -- one which we would feel to be the one true religion. All other religions, including the one in that alternative scenario, would be false.

Beyond childhood, the religions that we are born into are further reinforced through worship and the reading of scripture. Each of us are further assured that our religions are true, because each of our holy books commands us to believe that they are true.

How are we to reconcile this? Many argue that, if a religion is true, it will find its way to us no matter where we are. We need to remember, that billions of people believe the exact same thing.

Although Harris does not delve into it, I have often extrapolated, considering the probability of Darwinian life elsewhere in the cosmos, that there are unlimited religions currently in existence -- not to mention those discarded, or yet to be conceived.




Fischer, Citing Quran, Calls For Military Ban On Muslims, Apparently Forgetting All That Bible Violence

Bryan Fischer, douchenozzle
If I didn't know any better, I would suspect that The American Family Association's Bryan Fischer is an invention -- brilliant comedy-slash-performance art for the ages, joining the ranks of Tony Clifton and Neil Hamburger.

His anti-LGBT, xenophobic, extreme Christian Right views are so ridiculously over the top, you'd be crazy not to wonder if he's simply an elaborate hoax.

If his extreme ideology wasn't enough, Fischer also lacks any hint of self-awareness, spouting blatant hypocrisy at every turn.

Take his recent post at World Nut Daily, in which he doubles down on his belief that Muslims have no place in the US military.
To my knowledge, I was the first voice in America to call for stopping the practice of Muslims serving in the U.S. military. I did so the day after the Fort Hood shootings in November of 2009.

I endured a withering firestorm of criticism from friend and foe alike, and was summoned to both CNN and the Alan Colmes radio show to explain myself.

Now a prominent Tennessee legislator, Rep. Rick Womick, is joining me in this call. Said he, at a Sharia-awareness-event over the weekend, "If you believe it (the Quran), you are commanded to kill anybody who will not convert to Islam."

And of course he is right about what the Quran teaches the followers of Muhammad and Allah. There are 109 verses in the Quran, by one count, that call for violence against infidel Christians and Jews. One example will suffice: "Slay the idolaters wherever you find them. Arrest them, besiege them, and lie in ambush everywhere for them" (Sura 9:5).

What part of "slay the idolaters wherever you find them" do brain-addled idolaters not understand? Muslims have been ordered by their god to kill you! What about that do you not get?
Further on:
Arresting, besieging and lying in ambush is exactly the kind of thing the United States military does to our enemies. Who are Muslims obligated to do that to? Who are the enemies of Islam that devout Muslims are ordered to arrest, besiege and ambush? Why, their fellow soldiers who believe in the God of Christianity.

It would be one thing if this ideology were covert and we were just finding out about it. But it's right there in their holy book where it has been for 1,400 years, where everybody, including our next commander in chief, can read it. It is sheer lunacy not to take this seriously.

In fact, I would suggest that I am showing more honor to Muslims than anyone else, because I am taking their religion more seriously than they are. I believe what Allah said through his Prophet, peace be upon him, that his followers have a sacred duty to slay infidel Americans. It shows a shameless lack of respect for Islam not to believe what their holy book says about their own religion. I have too much respect for Muslims and their sincerity and devotion to make that mistake.

That last paragraph is classic Fischer: Pure unadulterated hatred slathered in smarmy, patronizing righteousness.

While he is certainly correct in that the Quran is not in short supply of violent rhetoric and barbaric ideology, he seems to not also be aware that his Christian Bible is also not in short supply of the same violent rhetoric and barbaric ideology.

If Fischer wishes to ban all adherents of one religion based on the barbarism of its holy book, and the actions of some of its most extreme followers, then he might want to just call for a ban of Christians and Jews as well.

In a comparison of the Quran and the Bible for NPR, religion historian Philip Jenkins stated:
"Much to my surprise, the Islamic scriptures in the Quran were actually far less bloody and less violent than those in the Bible," Jenkins says.

"By the standards of the time, which is the 7th century A.D., the laws of war that are laid down by the Quran are actually reasonably humane," he says. "Then we turn to the Bible, and we actually find something that is for many people a real surprise. There is a specific kind of warfare laid down in the Bible which we can only call genocide."

It is called herem, and it means total annihilation. Consider the Book of 1 Samuel, when God instructs King Saul to attack the Amalekites: "And utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them," God says through the prophet Samuel. "But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey."

When Saul failed to do that, God took away his kingdom.

"In other words," Jenkins says, "Saul has committed a dreadful sin by failing to complete genocide. And that passage echoes through Christian history. It is often used, for example, in American stories of the confrontation with Indians — not just is it legitimate to kill Indians, but you are violating God's law if you do not."

Jenkins notes that the history of Christianity is strewn with herem. During the Crusades in the Middle Ages, the Catholic popes declared the Muslims Amalekites. In the great religious wars in the 16th, 17th and 19th centuries, Protestants and Catholics each believed the other side were the Amalekites and should be utterly destroyed.
Let's have a look at some of the passages from Fischer's Bible:
If there be found among you, within any of thy gates which the LORD thy God giveth thee, man or woman, that hath wrought wickedness in the sight of the LORD thy God, in transgressing his covenant; And hath gone and served other gods, and worshipped them, either the sun, or moon, or any of the host of heaven, which I have not commanded; And it be told thee, and thou hast heard of it, and enquired diligently, and, behold, it be true, and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought in Israel; Then shalt thou bring forth that man or that woman, which have committed that wicked thing, unto thy gates, even that man or that woman, and shalt stone them with stones, till they die. (Deuteronomy 17:2-5)

If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers; Namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth; Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him: But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. And all Israel shall hear, and fear, and shall do no more any such wickedness as this is among you. (Deuteronomy 13:6)

Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass. (1 Samuel 15)
Surely, Fischer would be the first to state that the above passages are out of context, relate to a particular time and place in human history, and don't represent modern Christianity.

Most Muslims would say the same thing about the passages Fischer has cherry-picked from the Quran.
Violence in the Quran, [Jenkins] and others say, is largely a defense against attack.

"By the standards of the time, which is the 7th century A.D., the laws of war that are laid down by the Quran are actually reasonably humane," he says.
And certainly, Fischer has a point when he points to some of the sensational stories of Islamic-fueled violence in recent times. We also must understand that these acts are a whole other animal, and most modern Muslims are far less extreme in their religious views than is Fischer.
That may be the popular notion of jihad, says Waleed El-Ansary, but it's the wrong one. El-Ansary, who teaches Islamic studies at the University of South Carolina, says the Quran explicitly condemns religious aggression and the killing of civilians. And it makes the distinction between jihad — legal warfare with the proper rules of engagement — and irjaf, or terrorism.

"All of those types of incidences — [Sept. 11], Maj. Nidal Hasan and so forth — those are all examples of irjaf, not jihad," he says. According to the Quran, he says, those who practice irjaf "are going to hell."

So what's going on here? After all, we all have images of Muslim radicals flying planes into buildings, shooting up soldiers at Fort Hood, trying to detonate a bomb on an airplane on Christmas Day. How to reconcile a peaceful Quran with these violent acts?

El-Ansary says that in the past 30 years, there's been a perfect storm that has created a violent strain of Islam. The first is political: frustration at Western intervention in the Muslim world. The second is intellectual: the rise of Wahhabi Islam, a more fundamentalist interpretation of Islam subscribed to by Osama bin Laden. El-Ansary says fundamentalists have distorted Islam for political purposes.

"Basically what they do is they take verses out of context and then use that to justify these egregious actions," he says.

El-Ansary says we are seeing more religious violence from Muslims now because the Islamic world is far more religious than is the West. Still, Jenkins says Judeo-Christian cultures shouldn't be smug. The Bible has plenty of violence.

"The scriptures are still there, dormant, but not dead," he says, "and they can be resurrected at any time. Witness the white supremacists who cite the murderous Phineas when calling for racial purity, or an anti-abortion activist when shooting a doctor who performs abortions.

In the end, the scholars can agree on one thing: The DNA of early Judaism, Christianity and Islam code for a lot of violence.
Pot, meet kettle.


Further reading: 30 Reasons Why Bryan Fischer is Dangerous and Must Be Stopped



11.17.2011

Interactive Feature: In-Depth Look At USA's Religious Beliefs, Practices

USA Today often takes a beating for being America's McPaper, but every now and then, they serve up some pretty interesting stuff.

Take, for example, their 'In-Depth Look At USA's Religious Beliefs, Practices' interactive flash feature.

The graphics allow users to slice and dice data from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life's US Religious Landscape Survey. While the Pew Forum's site does have some neat interactive features (and is certainly worth checking out), the USA Today graphics serve the data up a bit differently, with breakdowns of survey responses broken down by religious affiliation, as well as a compelling topography of American faith. Users can view data for each state by clicking the state on the map.

The results often serve to confirm stereotypes: The southeast contains a large population of Evangelicals, the Northeast and the West coast have the larger 'unaffiliated' populations, and Utah is full of Mormons.

Also worth checking out are USA Today's interactive feature on shifting religious identities and their test on religious knowledge.

Screenshot below. Click here for the interactive feature.





Trey Parker & Matt Stone On New Atheism: Don't Be Dicks

Trey Parker and Matt stone, creators of South Park and The Book of Mormon, think Richard Dawkins is a dick.

Dawkins, on 'South Park'
In an interview by AJ Jacobs in Esquire, the due discuss their equal-opportunity offender approach to their work. Since South Park first aired in 1997, Parker and Stone have skewered Islam, Christianity, Scientology, Mormonism, and dozens of other belief systems, political ideologies, and conspiracy theories. They have even skewered non-belief, specifically the so-called New Atheism of Richard Dawkins.
One of South Park's best episodes featured Dawkins as a substitute teacher who ends up having kinky sex with the boys' creationist teacher, Miss Garrison (formerly Mr. Garrison, pre-sex-change-operation). The show ended five hundred years in the future, when Dawkins-worshipping atheists are at war over whether their religion should be called the "United Atheist Alliance" or "Unified Atheist League."
Stone had this to say about Dawkins:
"He's such a dick," said Stone. "You read his book and you're like, 'Yeah, I agree with that. But it's the most dicky way to put it... I think the neoatheists have set atheism back a few decades. And I'm a self-described atheist."
It is apt that the two were interviewed by Jacobs. His very funny memoir, The Year of Living Biblically, takes religion head-on. There are plenty of laughs, and some have certainly been offended, but at the end of the day, Jacobs realizes that he is a 'reverent agnostic.' In a Q&A session, Jacobs stated, "Whether or not there's a God, I believe in the idea of sacredness—that rituals can be sacred, that the Sabbath can be sacred, and there's great importance to that. So I'm still agnostic, but a deeply different kind of agnostic."

Parker and Stone seem to share this reverence for religion, despite their own personal beliefs.
"I'm concerned about people being happy," said Stone. "With religion I was always like, Does it matter if it's true if it makes you happy?"

"As storytellers for fifteen years, we started looking at religions for their stories," Parker said.

Stone illustrated the idea with the Parable of the Hipster Coffee Guy. Recently, Stone was at a New York hotel that was trying very hard to be cool. It had stuffed animal heads on the walls and exposed brass pipes. "I don't know if Luddite is the right word, but it was back-to-basics. The guy making the coffee had a beard and tattoos. And I'm sitting there going, 'What the fuck. I'm too old for this. This is not my scene.' And then I drank the coffee, and I'm like, 'Holy shit. That's amazing.'

"And it made me think there's something about dressing up and playing the part. To me, that's religion. You can write down how to make the perfect cup of coffee. But to make it really good, you have to play something fictional, you have to dress up, you have to think, This is the most important thing."
Read the full interview at Esquire.




11.16.2011

What Is Tolerance?

November 16 is International Day of Tolerance.

The UN General Assembly invited UN Member States to hold the day for observance, with the goal of advancing "human welfare, freedom and progress everywhere, as well as to encourage tolerance, respect, dialogue and cooperation among different cultures, civilizations and peoples."

I once stumbled across the UN's Declaration on Principles on Tolerance. It's probably as fine a document as you will find on the subject.

Many of us have certainly run into a scenario in which we have been called 'intolerant' for denouncing the beliefs of others. If one is self-aware, such an accusation does not fall on deaf ears. Progressives are often pointing out the hypocrisy in others as a means of highlighting the need for reflection or reform. It would make sense that accusations of hypocrisy and intolerance would give pause to one who is combating intolerance.

The UN's declaration addresses this issue, and does a great job of explaining that tolerance does not require that one be tolerant of social injustice. This is where the rubber meets the road.

When we denounce beliefs which cause harm to others, we are in no way in conflict with the concept of tolerance. Tolerance, in part, is "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."

It wouldn't hurt us to give more attention to this day. There sure seems to be a lot of confusion as to what tolerance really means.

Here is the UN declaration:




Declaration of Principles on Tolerance

Proclaimed and signed by the Member States of UNESCO on 16 November 1995.

Preamble

Bearing in mind that the United Nations Charter states: 'We, the peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, ... to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, ... and for these ends to practise tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours',

Recalling that the Preamble to the Constitution of UNESCO, adopted on 16 November 1945, states that "peace, if it is not to fail, must be founded on the intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind",

Recalling also that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion" (Article 18), "of opinion and expression" (Article 19), and that education "should promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups" (Article 26),

Noting relevant international instruments including:

  • the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,
  • the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,
  • the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination,
  • the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide,
  • the Convention on the Rights of the Child,
  • the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol and regional instruments,
  • the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women,
  • the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment,
  • the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance Based on Religion or Belief,
  • the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities,
  • the Declaration on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism,
  • the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action of the World Conference on Human Rights,
  • the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action adopted by the World Summit for Social Development,
  • the UNESCO Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudice,
  • the UNESCO Convention and Recommendation against Discrimination in Education,

Bearing in mind the objectives of the Third Decade to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination, the World Decade for Human Rights Education, and the International Decade of the World's Indigenous People,

Taking into consideration the recommendations of regional conferences organized in the framework of the United Nations Year for Tolerance in accordance with UNESCO General Conference 27 C/Resolution 5.14, as well as the conclusions and recommendations of other conferences and meetings organized by Member States within the programme of the United Nations Year for Tolerance,

Alarmed by the current rise in acts of intolerance, violence, terrorism, xenophobia, aggressive nationalism, racism, anti-Semitism, exclusion, marginalization and discrimination directed against national, ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, refugees, migrant workers, immigrants and vulnerable groups within societies, as well as acts of violence and intimidation committed against individuals exercising their freedom of opinion and expression - all of which threaten the consolidation of peace and democracy, both nationally and internationally, and are obstacles to development,

Emphasizing the responsibilities of Member States to develop and encourage respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction as to race, gender, language, national origin, religion or disability, and to combat intolerance,

Adopt and solemnly proclaim this Declaration of Principles on Tolerance

Resolving to take all positive measures necessary to promote tolerance in our societies, because tolerance is not only a cherished principle, but also a necessity for peace and for the economic and social advancement of all peoples,

We declare the following:

Article 1 - Meaning of tolerance

1.1 Tolerance is respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity of our world's cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human. It is fostered by knowledge, openness, communication, and freedom of thought, conscience and belief. Tolerance is harmony in difference. It is not only a moral duty, it is also a political and legal requirement. Tolerance, the virtue that makes peace possible, contributes to the replacement of the culture of war by a culture of peace.

1.2 Tolerance is not concession, condescension or indulgence. Tolerance is, above all, an active attitude prompted by recognition of the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms of others. In no circumstance can it be used to justify infringements of these fundamental values. Tolerance is to be exercised by individuals, groups and States.

1.3 Tolerance is 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.

1.4 Consistent with respect for human rights, the practice of tolerance does not mean toleration of social injustice or the abandonment or weakening of one's convictions. It means that one is free to adhere to one's own convictions and accepts that others adhere to theirs. It means accepting the fact that human beings, naturally diverse in their appearance, situation, speech, behaviour and values, have the right to live in peace and to be as they are. It also means that one's views are not to be imposed on others.

Article 2 - State level

2.1 Tolerance at the State level requires just and impartial legislation, law enforcement and judicial and administrative process. It also requires that economic and social opportunities be made available to each person without any discrimination. Exclusion and marginalization can lead to frustration, hostility and fanaticism.

2.2 In order to achieve a more tolerant society, States should ratify existing international human rights conventions, and draft new legislation where necessary to ensure equality of treatment and of opportunity for all groups and individuals in society.

2.3 It is essential for international harmony that individuals, communities and nations accept and respect the multicultural character of the human family. Without tolerance there can be no peace, and without peace there can be no development or democracy.

2.4 Intolerance may take the form of marginalization of vulnerable groups and their exclusion from social and political participation, as well as violence and discrimination against them. As confirmed in the Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudice, "All individuals and groups have the right to be different" (Article 1.2).

Article 3 - Social dimensions

3.1 In the modern world, tolerance is more essential than ever before. It is an age marked by the globalization of the economy and by rapidly increasing mobility, communication, integration and interdependence, large-scale migrations and displacement of populations, urbanization and changing social patterns. Since every part of the world is characterized by diversity, escalating intolerance and strife potentially menaces every region. It is not confined to any country, but is a global threat.

3.2 Tolerance is necessary between individuals and at the family and community levels. Tolerance promotion and the shaping of attitudes of openness, mutual listening and solidarity should take place in schools and universities and through non-formal education, at home and in the workplace. The communication media are in a position to play a constructive role in facilitating free and open dialogue and discussion, disseminating the values of tolerance, and highlighting the dangers of indifference towards the rise in intolerant groups and ideologies.

3.3 As affirmed by the UNESCO Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudice, measures must be taken to ensure equality in dignity and rights for individuals and groups wherever necessary. In this respect, particular attention should be paid to vulnerable groups which are socially or economically disadvantaged so as to afford them the protection of the laws and social measures in force, in particular with regard to housing, employment and health, to respect the authenticity of their culture and values, and to facilitate their social and occupational advancement and integration, especially through education.

3.4 Appropriate scientific studies and networking should be undertaken to co-ordinate the international community's response to this global challenge, including analysis by the social sciences of root causes and effective countermeasures, as well as research and monitoring in support of policy-making and standard-setting action by Member States.

Article 4 - Education

4.1 Education is the most effective means of preventing intolerance. The first step in tolerance education is to teach people what their shared rights and freedoms are, so that they may be respected, and to promote the will to protect those of others.

4.2 Education for tolerance should be considered an urgent imperative; that is why it is necessary to promote systematic and rational tolerance teaching methods that will address the cultural, social, economic, political and religious sources of intolerance - major roots of violence and exclusion. Education policies and programmes should contribute to development of understanding, solidarity and tolerance among individuals as well as among ethnic, social, cultural, religious and linguistic groups and nations.

4.3 Education for tolerance should aim at countering influences that lead to fear and exclusion of others, and should help young people to develop capacities for independent judgement, critical thinking and ethical reasoning.

4.4 We pledge to support and implement programmes of social science research and education for tolerance, human rights and non-violence. This means devoting special attention to improving teacher training, curricula, the content of textbooks and lessons, and other educational materials including new educational technologies, with a view to educating caring and responsible citizens open to other cultures, able to appreciate the value of freedom, respectful of human dignity and differences, and able to prevent conflicts or resolve them by non-violent means.

Article 5 - Commitment to action

We commit ourselves to promoting tolerance and non-violence through programmes and institutions in the fields of education, science, culture and communication.

Article 6 - International Day for Tolerance

In order to generate public awareness, emphasize the dangers of intolerance and react with renewed commitment and action in support of tolerance promotion and education, we solemnly proclaim 16 November the annual International Day for Tolerance.



11.15.2011

Charles Darwin 'Barrel of Monkeys' Portrait

Check out this amazing Darwin print from Pure Evil. If you look closely, you'll notice that dozens of Barrel of Monkeys chimps comprise the portrait. The print is 24 by 33".

From Pure Evil's description:
A 4-colour process screenprint with 5th colour border of the beardy genius Charles Darwin made up of 100's of stenciled barrel monkeys.
Unfortunately, the print is currently sold out.


Detailed look here.

h/t Dangerous Minds.



The 'Douchiest Occupy Wall Street 'Eviction' Tweets Award' Goes to...We Have A Tie!

Last night, while Occupy Wall Street protesters were being forced from Zuccotti Park, a few folks were downright giddy with excitement, tweeting well into the night.

If there are two media pundits who feed off of negative Occupy news like pigs at the trough, it's conservative commentator Michelle Malkin and right wing media critic, Andrew Brietbart.

Malkin and Breitbart, douchebags
Here we have a sampling of Ms. Malkin's wee-hour zingers:
Live from New York…It’s Operation Monday Night Un-Occupy Zuccotti Park

NYC Occupiers now bemoaning loss of their personal belongings. #privatepropertyrightsepiphanies

NYC Occupier shrieks in horror: "A SANITATION TRUCK!" Like garlic to vampires. #ows

Occupiers United Against NYC Sanitation Trucks: "All we are saying is give filth a chance!" #ows #MICCHECK

The Occupier narrating the clean-up needs a throat lozenge. And then some duct tape.

Oh, dear. The Occupiers are doing some sort of Indian war chant thing. #ows

#WAWAWAWAWAWA

Occupier:"This is history in the making." #justlikenormandyortiananmen #standingaroundwithiphonesblockingdumptrucks

Kamp Alinsky Kids now split up into roving bands of brigands wandering NYC. #occupybedtime

Then we have Mr. Breitbart, certainly feeding off of Malkin's punchiness:
NYPD removing #OccupyWallStreet: Is the DoodiePoopieRapieMurderySuicidyGropy Socialist/Anarchist/Utopian #OWS Dream Coming to an End?

I will be starting an NYPD Gonorrhea Fund for all Riot Police Who Accidentally Contract Sexual Disease While Ridding Zuccotti Park.

Overhearing #OWS cry as they are disbanded, I sadly recall last day of summer camp. I feel your pain! There's always next WTO/G-FillInA#!

Do I care if #Occupy gets bigger? That's more public defecating, murder, don't-report murder stories for my websites?!

Musta been a TranFat® violation that finally pushed Bloomberg over the edge. #OWS

Watch Live Now: 562 people, 3243 tattoos being forcibly removed from Zuccotti Park: http://bit.ly/u7qBl4 #OWS

C'mon #OWS-ers! We made our point! (That we have no point!) Now let's do something ballsy: #OccupyTehran! Mic check: Let's roll!

The Great #OccupyWallStreet Constipation is Coming to an End.

All we are saying, is give RapeMurderSuicidePublicPooingGropingPubicLice a Chance! #OWS
Congratulations, Michelle and Andrew! You succeeded in further cementing your images as immature, screeching, humorless, half-wits, who only see the world in black and white.

It's a shame that you're both married, because you clearly deserve each other.



The Catholic Church: Rejecting Children, Rejecting Progress

It's not much of a surprise that the Catholic Church is seeing a decline in recent years. Church attendance has fallen to less than 30 percent in Italy, where 95 percent describe themselves as Catholic. Here in America, 400,000 left the church in 2008 alone.

The church has been hit hard by child sex abuse scandals, causing many to rethink their affiliation. Many are also having a hard time reconciling their personal convictions with the Church's views on contraception, gender equality, and reproductive rights.

As if those reasons weren't enough to decimate the church's attendance, we have this 'issue' of homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

When it comes to homosexuality, the Catholic Church, unlike many Protestant churches, will not budge. Not only will they not budge, they are also shooting themselves in the foot. They are guaranteeing the decline of new life in the Church by rejecting the very children they need to survive (and, in turn, rejecting the parents, and potential parents, of their own communities).

In Illinois, the Church has decided that, rather than let same-sex couples adopt, they would rather get out of the foster care business altogether.
Since March, state officials have been investigating whether religious agencies that receive public funds to license foster care parents were breaking anti-discrimination laws if they turned away openly gay parents.

In discussions after the civil union bill went into effect in June, representatives for Catholic Charities in Joliet, Springfield, Peoria, Rockford and Belleville told the state that accommodating prospective foster parents in civil unions would violate Catholic Church teaching that defines marriage between a man and a woman.
The Church has since called off efforts to keep in the foster care business by dropping lawsuits against the state, and agreeing to transfer over 1,000 foster care children to other agencies.

The Catholic Church simply refuses to evolve. The number of gay couples who adopted tripled in the last decade. This is a battle the Church will not win.
According to the Adoption Institute, at least 60% of U.S. adoption agencies surveyed accept applications from non-heterosexual parents. Nearly 40% of agencies have knowingly placed children with gay families. About half the agencies surveyed reported a desire for staff training to work with such clients.

"If one agency doesn't serve you and you're gay, then another agency will," said Adam Pertman, executive director of the Adoption Institute. "You don't need 100% agency participation. The bottom line is, if you're gay or lesbian in America and you want to adopt, you can."

About a third of the adoptions by lesbians and gay men were "open," and the birth families' initial reactions regarding sexual orientation were very positive, according to the study.
Contrast these realities with the stunted logic of the Church:
“We believe that children are best served by being in the home of a married couple or a single individual,” [Catholic Conference executive director Robert Gilligan] explained. “That's not a radical notion.”

He added that homes provided by married couples or single, committed individuals “is in the best interest of the child and quite frankly, I think society should recognize that that's in the best interest of the child.”
Talk about throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

While there is no reason to believe that single parents can't, or don't, do the job (so many do it extremely well), it is absurd to posit that two loving parents of the same sex are not as capable as a single parent, especially in an economy where at least one parent must work full time to make ends meet.

Good luck, Catholic Church. While this latest step certainly isn't the nail in the coffin, it isn't doing you any favors.

According to the Public Religion Research Institute:
More than 6-in-10 (62%) Millennials (age 18-29) favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, 69% favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to adopt children, 71% favor civil unions, and 79% favor employment discrimination protections for gay and lesbian people.

Slightly more Catholics (46%) believe the Catholic Church’s position on the issue of gay and lesbian people is too conservative than believe it is about right (43%).

Nearly seven-in-ten (69%) Millennials agree that religious groups are alienating young people by being too judgmental about gay and lesbian issues. Among seniors, only 37% agree that religious groups are alienating young people by being too judgmental and 48% disagree.

Among religious groups, 73% of non-Christian affiliated, 64% of Catholics, 60% of black Protestants, 59% of white mainline Protestants, and 51% of white evangelical Protestants say places of worship contribute either a lot or a little to higher rates of suicide among gay and lesbian youth.
The train has left the station, dudes.  It seems most don't want you on board, anyway.