23 May 2015

Comhghairdeas!

"Oscar [Wilde] smiles in his grave." -- Stephen Fry

The vote-counting isn't quite finished yet, but it's clear that gay marriage in the Republic of Ireland has won resoundingly, with yes votes ranging from 50% in some rural areas to almost 80% in parts of Dublin.  Ireland thus becomes the first country in the world to approve gay marriage by referendum.

To anyone familiar with the country's cultural history, this is astounding.  Barely a generation ago, Ireland lay under the absolute domination of the Catholic Church.  Contraception and divorce were illegal.  Homosexuality was not decriminalized until 1993 (though note that even that was ten years before Lawrence v. Texas achieved the same in the last dozen states of the US).  The Church led the "no" campaign in the marriage referendum.

But every political party, and most other major social institutions, openly supported "yes".  The Church's millennium-old grip upon Irish culture and thought has been swept away in two or three decades.  And Ireland isn't alone.  Gay marriage is already legal in other former bastions of Catholicism such as Spain, Portugal, and Brazil, and other forms of social progress have made similar headway against the Church's opposition -- contraception and divorce, for example, are not only legal in Ireland but already fairly uncontroversial.

If the grip of theocratic bigotry could be loosened so much so fast in Ireland, it can happen anywhere.  Alabama, Mississippi, Iran, Saudi Arabia..... the future is coming for you, too.

19 May 2015

Voices from Ireland

This Friday, May 22, the Republic of Ireland will hold a referendum on legalizing gay marriage.  If the yes vote wins (and polls show it with a strong lead), Ireland will become the first country to approve gay marriage by popular vote rather than by legislation or court ruling.

For most of the twentieth century, Ireland was notoriously one of the most religious countries in Europe, though things have changed a lot in the last twenty years as the Catholic Church (the country's overwhelmingly dominant sect) has been discredited by the child-molestation cover-up scandals and other atrocities such as Tuam.  The Catholic Church is of course leading the campaign for a no vote, supported by Muslim and Christian immigrants who are small in number but fiercely socially conservative.

But the most moving testimony is that of individual voices.  Ursula Halligan describes what this huge expression of majority acceptance would mean to her after a lifetime resigned to loneliness and concealment.  Una Mullally writes of the positive spirit of working for the yes campaign in a country where prejudice and fear are still strong.  Fintan O'Toole, himself heterosexual, uses his own family to illustrate how the Church's narrow view of human relationships excludes many others besides gays.

A yes vote will be a victory for humanity and for human decency and happiness, and a decisive defeat for the Catholic Church in a country where, just a generation ago, its grip was firmer and crueler than in any other.

17 May 2015

Video of the day -- accent of choice


I'm actually rather intrigued by this.  Why is the British accent the preferred one in such cases?  There's a somewhat similar situation in Arabic with the Egyptian dialect, but the reasons are pretty straightforward.  I wonder if, say, the accents of Portugal and Spain have similar prestige in Brazil and Spanish-speaking Latin America.

[Found via Crooks and Liars.  The video is a tad NSFW here and there.]

Link round-up for 17 May 2015

You've seen the donut explanation of religions -- now here's the donut explanation of social media.

Tengrain updates his guide to the Republican candidates.

This table will baffle your younger friends.

What does it mean to be a man?  Views are changing.

Canadian money is fun.

Republican predictions about Obamacare were absurdly wrong (found via The Reaction) -- I can't wait to see a similar recap of their claims about gay marriage.

Where is the Confederate flag seen?

Poo-filled monsters are crawling on your face, and there's not a damn thing you can do about it.

Life in colonial America was a ghastly nightmare, apparently.

Modern church music makes a thinly-disguised appeal to sexuality.

Ireland may soon become the first country to legalize gay marriage by referendum.

Read one detainee's story of what goes on at the Homan Square police detention center, Chicago.

Texas blogger Shiplord Kirel fears Jade Helm paranoia could trigger an actual insurrection in the state.  The fact that the exercise begins just a couple of weeks after the Supreme Court verdict on gay marriage is expected probably won't help matters.

Here's how to tell if your religious liberties are being violated.

Jeb Bush won't give a straight answer on Iraq, because he can't.

"Toughen up", the school told bullied students, and now a 12-year-old has committed suicide.

Anybody remember this?  Didn't think so.

Here's how a fake patriot talks about a real one.

It's a rare thing these days, to have a chance to free a slave.

Go ahead, tell me this guy didn't deserve the death penalty.

Sometimes people get what they vote for. And sometimes consequences must be faced.

As marriage changes, so do wedding dresses.

A modern city begins to reveal its very different past.

Gay-haters beware -- Mike Pence's lunge into bigotry has destroyed him.

Yes, they really are this dumb.

Southwest Airlines needs to be sued out of existence, if this story is true.

Republican debate plans are edging into affirmative action.

What the hell are those bright spots on Ceres anyway?

Texas Republicans come up with yet another way to stigmatize the poor (found via Fair and Unbalanced).

Birds still carry genes for traits of their dinosaur ancestors, and can be made to express them.

Related to amphetamine?  Why do people use this shit?

An Iowa landowner gets a startling offer from an oil-pipeline company.

Can the wingnuts stop Jeb in the primaries?  Probably not.

Antarctica's Larsen B ice shelf is in the verge of collapse.

If you're worried about the Clinton Foundation, check this out.

[Image at top found via Rosa Rubicondior.  The tendonitis is finally clearing up, thank goodness.  I was getting pretty tired of typing everything one-handed.]

15 May 2015

Video of the day -- educating aunt Jessica


From the "Soap" TV show around 1980.  I know people of whom I suspect an effort at intelligent conversation might actually go like this -- don't we all?

12 May 2015

The Middle East -- no different world

"The occupation of our brains by gods is the worst form of occupation."

-- Abdullah al-Qasemi, Saudi Arabian atheist

Part of the reason Westerners often find the Middle East (including North Africa for purposes of this discussion) hard to understand is that we have been taught to think of it as something alien and other, a place on the far side of an Alice-in-Wonderland mirror where everything is different and incomprehensible, where familiar rules do not apply.  As a result, we fail to see commonalities between trends and events there and here, and we judge them by different standards.

In fact, European and Middle Eastern civilization have common roots in the great Classical (Greco-Roman-Persian) cultures and in the even earlier societies such as Babylon and Egypt from which the Classical world itself developed.   The history of the whole super-region has followed the same overall pattern -- the catastrophic rise of the Abrahamic religions (Christianity and Islam) followed by the long struggle between those who were utterly in thrall to those religions and those who kept fighting to rebuild and advance civilization, often under Classical inspiration.  As I put it here:

The beginning of the Dark Ages was marked by the destruction of the remnants of the Classical civilization by Christianity (and by Islam, in the east and south of the old Classical world). The wreckage of that pagan civilization, warped and polluted by Christian taboos and dogmas, eventually evolved into Western culture as we know it today (again, in the east and south, a parallel development happened under the "occupation" of Islam).

The trajectory of the struggle naturally was somewhat different in different areas.  The lands under Muslim rule initially did a better job of preserving and translating Hellenistic philosophy and science (perhaps because most of the Hellenistic civilization had been in lands which later fell to Islam), leading to the great "Islamic civilization" of the 7th through 11th centuries, which Ibn Warraq correctly explains was not Islamic at all but a Hellenistic revival under Islamic rule, eventually suffocated by the rigid theologians who had been working against it from the beginning.  Under western Christianity the collapse was almost total, followed by a long slow recovery until the dramatic revival of the Classical-inspired Renaissance, a "rebirth" which has been bitterly resisted by Christianity at every step from Galileo to Darwin to stem-cell research.  The struggles in the two areas were and are more alike than different -- the forces of enlightenment in both were broadly similar, the forces of religious reaction and obscurantism were broadly similar.

The very concept of splitting the old common realm into two halves, a "Christian world" and an "Islamic world", is itself a lie, a trick, a way in which the enemy has imposed its own paradigm as part of our world-view.  Unfortunately it has worked.

The commonalities in the present struggle against fundamentalist Christianity and militant Islam seem impossible to ignore, yet people caught up in the smaller-scale dynamics of the left-vs-right conflict with American society often seen unable to escape the categories imposed by that conflict and to see the real situation.  (I'm more of a big-picture guy myself -- leaders and political parties and even countries come and go, but the broader patterns of civilizational struggle remain what they are.)  To them, the Middle East is not a complex region engaged in the same kind of internal struggle as our own society is.  It's a secondary arena in the internal American left-vs-right battle, to be paid attention only insofar as what happens there can be interpreted to score points in this argument here at home.  It's an inchoate mass of "Muslims", one more group to be plugged into the existing paradigm of internal American or European arguments about racism, immigration, discrimination, etc.

(I'm not only singling out liberals here.  The right wing is just as wrong in embracing a Huntingdonian "clash of civilizations" model when the real clash is not between civilizations but within them.)

For example, vocal criticism of Islam sometimes results in accusations of racism, as if the Islamic religion and Middle Eastern people were a single, inseparable entity.  It would never occur to those who make such accusations to think that similar criticism of Christianity somehow constituted racism.  American liberals fighting against fundamentalist Christianity would never mistake fundamentalism for the sum total of authentic American identity; they know that it's just one element, and a very dangerous and reactionary one, contending for power within a hugely diverse American culture.  But they don't seem to be able to see Islam in the same kind of role within Middle Eastern society.  In America, "Muslim" gets plugged into the same kind of slot as "black', "Latino", "gay", etc., and all hope of actual understanding evaporates.

Try to put that paradigm aside for a moment and look at the Middle East as a complex society in its own right, locked in a prolonged internal conflict between theocracy and secular enlightenment as the West is, and if you do so with a genuinely open mind, you'll be startled at how much more sense it all makes.  Huntingdon had things exactly wrong.  The demarcation of "we" vs "they" is not the false border the enemy drew down the middle of the Mediterranean.  "We" are the forces of secularism, modernity, and individual freedom in Iran or Tunisia as much as in the US or France; "they" are the theocrats and reactionaries in Riyadh, Tehran, Raqqah, the US Republican party, the alphabet soup of theocratic hate groups fighting tooth and nail to keep gays and atheists down -- and, yes, the Islamic extremists in Europe as well.  It's all the same war.

(As an aside, I don't know how the whole "racism" angle got started.  Over the years I've known people from Iran and Arab countries and seen pictures of thousands more in news stories.  They sure look "white" to me.)

But isn't the Middle East genuinely more religious than the US?  On the whole it probably is (as the US is more religious than Europe), and certainly the forces of militant religion there are more violent and able to intimidate secular people into keeping quiet.  But look more closely and a different picture emerges.  This recent report on atheism in Arab countries, for example, reveals an ongoing secularization similar to what is happening in the West -- about 5% of people in Saudi Arabia call themselves "convinced atheists" (not publicly, of course), comparable to the figure in the US, and much higher percentages in various countries acknowledge being non-religious even if not quite ready to embrace the A-word.  The rise of unbelief is being driven by the same forces as in the West -- education, exposure to cultural diversity via the internet, and access to the writings of "New Atheist" giants like Dawkins.  Islamic behavioral rules in some areas, such as pre-marital sex and alcohol use, are quietly becoming more relaxed.  Fiercely-repressive religion-based laws, and the willingness of Islamist thugs to use violence when they see disapproved behavior, keep these changes less visible, but they are nevertheless happening.

Of course, you can find people in the Middle East who do indeed claim that being a Muslim is an essential part of being a proper Arab or Afghani or whatever.  But you can also find Americans who think you're not a "real American" if you're not Christian.  Such knuckle-draggers cannot be allowed to define anyone else's identity.

Christopher Hitchens once spoke of his experiences doing book-signings in towns in the American South and being met with large crowds of people, all of whom had thought themselves the only atheist in the town and were startled at how many others there were.  How many towns and cities from Mazâr-e-Sharîf to Marrakesh are gradually building toward the same kind of critical mass, when I'm the only one becomes Hey, there are a lot of us!

Treating Islam as a monolith and as an "oppressed" group, even when the issue is terrorist attacks on free expression, is an insult to all the courageous people in the Middle East who are fighting against the brutal oppression Islam imposes.  It's just like calling American fundamentalist Christians "oppressed" or "persecuted" when their relentless bullying of gays and atheists runs into some pushback -- a meme the fundies have indeed been trotting out lately, though it doesn't seem to fool many liberals when they do it.

Nothing could be more absurd than letting the oppressor claim to be the authentic voice of the oppressed.  Don't be tricked.  Apartheid did not speak for South Africa.  Communism did not speak for the Russian people.  Christianity does not speak for America.  And Islam does not speak for the Middle East.

10 May 2015

Link round-up for 10 May 2015

Hey, I actually agree with Miley Cyrus about something.

The cultural revolution continues:  more Americans would be comfortable with a gay President than with an Evangelical one (found via Republic of Gilead).  It fits in with how Americans are becoming less conservative.

That Nebraska woman who is suing homosexuals (all of them) quite appropriately gets the brush-off.

If you're a Christian business owner, play it safe.

Don't give too much credence to that Pew Center forecast on the future of religion.

Hey, now there's a computer game for Christians!

One profound change in just the last five years -- a clear majority of Americans now favor using high taxes on the rich to redistribute wealth.

Two worlds, one sun (found via TYWKIWDBI).

If Obama really supported Sharî'ah law, he'd be a Republican (discussion here).

You never know when somebody's watching.

Pinku-Sensei has been running a series on student sustainability videos.  Here's one everybody can use at some point:  natural ant eradication.

France's National Front party suspends the membership of its own far-right ex-leader (found via Fair and Unbalanced).

Harry Potter author, Scotland resident, and British patriot JK Rowling suffers harassment by Scottish nationalists.

Evangelicals are like the prophets of Baal.

Rosa Rubicondior takes an in-depth look at two of the most famous fraudulent "miracles", Fatima and Lourdes -- seriously, if the "incorruptible body" scam doesn't disgust you, you're beyond hope.

Hillary Clinton has been a tough and effective fighter for human rights, and she's our best chance to roll back the Reagan revolution (found via Zandar).

This map of where in the US life is getting harder speaks for itself.

Sign here to oppose horrific cruelty to rabbits.

Some people call the cops when they see black people doing totally innocuous things (found via Fair and Unbalanced).

New evidence on bird evolution highlights the intellectual bankruptcy of creationism.

In Iran, it's not only women whose clothes and hair arouse the ire of cantankerous mullahs.

Madison WI becomes the first place in the US to ban discrimination against atheists.

Africa's biggest airline takes a stand against trophy hunting.

Whether in Italy or in Oregon, some tourists are assholes.

Earth-Bound Misfit shows off her aerial photos of the Mississippi (click for bigger versions).

Kaveh Mousavi explains in convincing detail why visiting a magnificent shrine didn't make him feel one bit more favorable toward religion.

Oregon now protects gay youth from "conversion therapy".

Anti-gay-marriage nuts are now reduced to throwing impotent tantrums and threatening that God will kill everybody.

Classy bunch some American Sniper fans are (I wonder if the idiots who are trying to blame Pamela Geller for the terrorist attack on the Dallas cartoon contest will also accuse Abby Martin of "incitement", etc.).

If your fundamental rights are being violated, it doesn't matter whether you're a good person or a bad one.

The horrors of rigid abortion law in Paraguay adumbrate what could happen if Republicans ever get full control in the US.

What would Jeb Bush's foreign policy be like?  Here's a clue.

Fracking chemicals are being found in home tap water.

Huckabee is basically Palin.

As atheism spreads, it's becoming demographically more representative of the general population.

Republicans have good reasons for discouraging science.

On Baltimore, we need to pay attention to both this and this.

60% of Republicans say if Jeb Bush is the nominee, they won't vote for him.  Most are probably just venting and the poll is by some baggot outfit anyway, but if even 1/20 of them follow through, it's a problem for Bush.

[Whew!  Still having to type one-handed -- it's slow going.]

08 May 2015

The British election -- some observations

Amid yesterday's massively disappointing news from the land of my ancestors, there are a few points worth making.

1)  Paul Krugman was right, as he usually is.

2)  Low turnout among young, urban, left-leaning constituencies was a problem, as has often been the case in the US -- highlighting the importance of understanding the reasons for apathy among these voters and overcoming them.

3)  The side which better resists the purist distraction of third parties and third candidates has a huge advantage.  Many of Labour's lost seats were lost to the triumphant rise of the  SNP in Scotland.  This likely reflects not pro-independence sentiment, which lost in a landslide in the referendum less than eight months ago, but the fact that the SNP is economically more left-wing than the Labour party.  It was the 2000 Ralph Nader effect writ large.  Hopes that the UKIP would draw off enough right-wing votes to cost the Conservatives numerous seats were dashed, while the Conservatives' coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats, was obliterated as conservative votes "came home".  Right-wing voters were more united behind the main right-wing party, while the left was more splintered -- and we see the result.

4)  Conventional wisdom has long has it that opposition to immigration is a top issue with British voters.  Yesterday's result is evidence to the contrary.  The Conservatives had five years to reduce immigration and did nothing effective -- in fact, it increased during their tenure.  And voters massively rewarded them.  It's hard to see what incentive any party will have in the future to take any serious action on the issue.

5)  While disappointing, this is not the existential disaster that a similar Republican sweep in the US would be.  The British Conservative party more resembles US conservatism in the pre-lunatic days of Buckley and Goldwater (as Frank Schaeffer said, "you could disagree with them, but these were not crazy people").  It's inconceivable that a theocrat like Huckabee, an extremist ideologue like Cruz or Rand Paul, or a clown like Perry could ever be seriously considered as a party leader by British Conservatives.

6)  It's still remotely possible that Cameron will keep his promise of a referendum on European Union membership by 2017, but I'd judge it to be unlikely.  As with immigration, claims that British voters are strongly hostile to the EU were not borne out by actual results.  The UKIP got 12% of the popular vote, less than most polls predicted, and won only one of 650 Parliament seats.  Cameron now knows he can safely ignore it.

7)  Conversely, the risk of a break-up of the UK itself has now dramatically increased.  Socialist sentiment in Scotland and Wales is much stronger than in England, yet they are now stuck with five more years of austerity and general stagnation.  Don't be surprised if the issue of Scottish independence, at least, re-emerges over the next few years.

8)  Finally, if you're worried that this might be a foreshadowing of our own election next year, don't be.  Britain's culture, its political system, its candidates, and the character of its right wing are all substantially different from those of the US.  See instead the recent startling and encouraging result in Alberta, Canada, a country rather more comparable to the US.  Note too that turnout in that election was "the highest in decades", enabling the left to win in a province long run by conservatives.  As always, getting out the vote is the key.

06 May 2015

The British election on Thursday

.....is explained for Americans here.  For coverage from Britain, see The Guardian.  The biggest difference between Britain's Conservative party and US Republicans is that the former isn't dominated by religious fundamentalism, as is shown by its rapid evolution on gay marriage, despite pockets of ongoing homophobia.  Though politicians shy from discussing it, a major issue is the possibility of Britain leaving the European Union, which will not go away regardless of which party wins.

Posting may be light for a while.  I have a severe pain in the left wrist, which makes typing a one-handed and rather laborious process.

05 May 2015

My comment on the attack on the Dallas cartoon contest

Freedom of expression, including the freedom to mock and attack religion, must be defended without reservation and without compromise.  No "but", no "nevertheless", no "on the other hand".  Freedom of expression, including the freedom to mock and attack religion, must be defended without reservation and without compromise.  Period.

03 May 2015

Link round-up for 3 May 2015

Check out these Polish posters for famous American movies (found via Mendip).

You need to get permission (this would have been Video of the Day if I'd found a version I could embed).

If you're an atheist who's suffered bullying or discrimination even in a secular country like the US, post your story here.

In post-Christian Britain, the pagan festival of Beltane is reviving (found via Mendip).

Shaw Kenawe takes an intriguing look at the octopus, a surprisingly smart and adaptable creature.

This is actually pretty decent advice.

Colorado's anti-teen-pregnancy program is a great success -- so of course Republicans want to get rid of it.

No, I am not a social justice warrior.

Can somebody find a date for this.....tree?

Stonekettle Station on the Jade Helm paranoia is a masterpiece of its kind.

Bruce Gerencser hates Jesus -- the American Jesus.

An independent libertarian state has been declared -- let's see how many of our wingnuts move there.

Habitable worlds orbiting Tau Ceti?  Probably not.  But here are some alien landscapes you can visit here on Earth.

One law for Rand Paul, another for the rest.

Ubiquitous limestone walls are a distinguishing feature of Ireland's green landscape (found via GoodShit).

Here are the ten leading countries for renewable energy (#3 may surprise you).

Cool business idea (and he's feeding the homeless), but I can just imagine the jerks trashing him.

Rotten business idea -- make money by making life more miserable for prisoners.

"Not guilty!" -- too bad a lie already destroyed your life.

3,800 years before their famous extinction, the dodos were in deep shit.

Faggots cause meteors.

Talk about an uneven match -- Tom Cotton challenges Javad Zarif to a debate.

Republic of Gilead looks at Scott Lively's increasingly-deranged hate rhetoric.

Nigel Farage jumps on the Christianist anti-gay bandwagon, probably dooming UKIP's hopes of becoming a major party. Wacko candidates remain a problem.  The daughter of a party activist speaks out.

Rubio tries to lecture Obama on Middle East policy and commits a flabbergasting blunder (found via Horizons).

Secular Ethics debunks Christian arguments for anti-gay discrimination.

Baltimore was the scene of hideously brutal riots -- in 1812.

We've already had the debate on gay marriage, and the bad guys lost.

El Salvador shows the horrifying results of draconian abortion laws.

German car company Audi has invented a carbon-neutral diesel fuel -- potentially a huge step forward in fighting global warming.  Tesla's new house batteries could be another game changer once the price comes down -- more on them here.

Republican efforts to use Benghazi against Hillary will probably blow up in their faces, (found via Fair and Unbalanced).

The long-term effects of bullying are actually worse than those of abuse (found via GoodShit). Here's one victim who's speaking out and her shockingly unresponsive school authorities.

Why don't quick cuts in movies bother us?  Because that's how we actually see the world all the time, we just don't realize it.

Hillary doesn't need the wingnuts (and probably couldn't win them anyway).

The young are with us -- not only more pro-gay but more pro-union too.

This is a rather bizarre choice for funeral entertainment (link from Shaw Kenawe).

Yo Jeb, how's that minority outreach going?

Here's a revealing photo report on last weekend's anti-gay "march for marriage" in Washington (found via Republic of Gilead, which now has its own report on the event posted).

Gosh, I wonder why conservatives have such difficulty appealing to women voters.

"Christian Science" isn't as harmless as you think.

Stay the hell away from the terrifying machineel tree (found via GoodShit).

Ramona's Voices and PM Carpenter talk sense about the Baltimore rioting, but will anyone give them a fair hearing?

Here's why science arrives at the truth and religion doesn't.

01 May 2015

Satanism strikes again!

This is just too good.  A Satanist woman in Missouri, "Mary", who happens to be in need of an abortion, is using the fundies' own "religious freedom" law against them in an effort to circumvent the mandatory 72-hour waiting period.  Crooks and Liars has the whole story, including part of Mary's letter to her doctor, which shows the spirit of the best kind of Satanist:

My body is inviolable and subject to my will alone.....I regard a waiting period as a state sanctioned attempt to discourage abortion by instilling an unnecessary burden as part of the process to obtain this legal medical procedure. The waiting period interferes with the inviolability of my body and thereby imposes an unwanted and substantial burden on my sincerely held religious beliefs.

She also has a GoFundMe page to help cover travel expenses -- the nearest Planned Parenthood clinic is hundreds of miles away -- though as I write this it's unavailable and may have been taken down.

Mary is affiliated with The Satanic Temple (which has her story on its front page at the moment), a group which has repeatedly twisted the fundies' tails by using their own laws and clichés against them.  They're out there publicly confronting and challenging Christianity in visible and meaningful ways, something not many groups (Satanist or otherwise) seem to have the guts to do these days.  They may not be everybody's cup of tea, but I'll be keeping a closer eye on them from here on.  Ave Satanus!

29 April 2015

Long war, decisive battle

It's understandable that the battle for gay marriage, and the broader struggle for social acceptance of homosexuality, is important to gay people and their families.  It's a matter of winning critical legal rights and an equal place in society after generations of being a despised and brutalized minority.  But why is this battle so important to the enemy?

For it is.  As I pointed out here, American fundamentalist Christianity has chosen to make the fight against gay rights something of existential significance, their "hill to die on".  Republicans in state after state push laws protecting the "religious freedom" to shun, exclude, and reject gay people.  Scott Lively wants to confront gays with "the threat of the mob" bearing "pitchforks and torches".  Leaders like James Dobson and Tony Perkins are threatening a new civil war or revolution.  Mike Huckabee says the US is "moving rapidly toward the criminalization of Christianity", and remember, this man is not some backwoods preacher in a swamp, he's a serious contender for the Republican Presidential nomination.  The Family Research Council has held 21 days of prayer seeking divine intervention in the Supreme Court (Good As You blog has covered this in depth).

Superficially this seems odd.  The Bible never quotes Jesus as mentioning homosexuality.  Gays have been gaining social acceptance for decades, and gay marriage has been legal in some states for years, with none of the supposed dire consequences materializing.  At most, a half-dozen merchants have been prosecuted for flagrant violations of established anti-discrimination laws.  Churches have not been forced to marry gay couples (and they won't be, just as they can still refuse to marry divorced people or mixed-race couples or anyone else they object to).  Hate speech like "homosexuality is a sin" has not been made illegal anywhere in the US, and the First Amendment guarantees that it can't be.  There is no sign of the religion professed by 83% of Americans being "criminalized".  By and large, the growing acceptance of gays has had no concrete effect on its opponents' lives at all.  So why are they so desperately invested in this battle?

I think the real issue is not just the fight for gay acceptance but the much broader, more fundamental, and harder-to-define struggle of which it is part.  I call this larger struggle "cultural de-Christianization", the process of rolling back and driving out an alien occupation of the Western mind.  This has been going on for at least four hundred years on many fronts, including the rise of science and the scientific world-view (notably the work of Galileo and Darwin), the rise of secular government, the decoupling of civil law from the Christian taboo system, the gradual re-sexualization of mass culture and the public space, the decline of fervent religious belief among populations in most Western countries, the equality of women, the acceptance of sexual relationships forbidden by the taboo system, and many other areas.  A comment I've seen with increasing frequency on right-wing sites over the last couple of years is that the US is becoming a "pagan" country.  And in a deep sense, it is.

The beginning of the Dark Ages was marked by the destruction of the remnants of the Classical civilization by Christianity (and by Islam, in the east and south of the old Classical world).  The wreckage of that pagan civilization, warped and polluted by Christian taboos and dogmas, eventually evolved into Western culture as we know it today (again, in the east and south, a parallel development happened under the "occupation" of Islam).  In their own twisted and shallow way, the fundamentalists know this -- and know that the war they thought they had won sixteen centuries ago is now being re-fought.

[This is, by the way, touching on my fundamental vision of the world -- I'll eventually have a lot more to say about it, but that's a matter for future posts.]

Well, one of the sharpest divides between the Judeo-Christian-Islamic taboo system and the Classical culture was their attitudes towards homosexuality.  In the three great cultures of the Classical world (Greek, Roman, and Persian), homosexuality was an unremarkable and ordinary part of human behavior; in Greece, bisexuality in males was even a social norm informally institutionalized by society, though same-sex marriage, in the formal sense, did not exist.  Judaism, Christianity, and Islam condemn homosexuality in the harshest terms, as a sin worthy of death, a penalty which is actually enforced today in several Muslim countries, as it was by Christian rulers during the Dark Ages.  For that matter, homosexuality was still brutally punished in much of Europe as recently as the 1950s and in much of the US until the Lawrence v. Texas decision in 2003.

This, I think, is the real reason the fundies are so agitated about the gay-rights battle -- losing that battle is a clear sign that they're losing the overall war.  Mass social acceptance of homosexuality, crowned by legal and broadly-accepted gay marriage, marks a shift of American culture from Christian to "pagan" on a deep level.

This was adumbrated back when some Christian denominations began debating the possibility of female clergy.  I remember conservative Christians arguing that the idea was dangerous because it was "pagan" in spirit, and they were right.  When you hear the word "priest" spoken in English, you think of a Catholic priest, but the word "priestess" evokes something pagan and ancient.  Priestesses existed in many pagan religions of the Classical world, but female clergy have not traditionally been part of Judaism, Christianity, or Islam.

But the present fight over homosexuality is far more fundamental.  Allowing female clergy has little impact outside the denomination that chooses to do it, but the new acceptance of homosexuality is sweeping the whole society.

There are battles which foreshadow the outcome of a war even if the war's end is still a long way off.  Stalingrad and Midway were examples.  After those battles, years of hard fighting remained, but it was pretty much a foregone conclusion which side was going to win.  In the war to roll back Christianity's mental occupation of the West, the fight for gay rights is such a battle.

26 April 2015

Link round-up for 26 April 2015

"Take it off!"

Yeah, but Mars doesn't have fundamentalists.

Are you old enough for the truth?

Next time, ask somebody who can read the language.

Here's why our society can't withstand the rise of gay marriage.

The Koch brothers may have overpaid for their latest acquisition (found via Politics Plus).

Funny how these totalitarian states tend to be so Victorian.

BDSM and abuse are polar opposites.

Scooby-Doo has a bit of truth for the kids.

Some textbook writer had a bit of fun here.

That Clinton Cash attack book?  Looks like there's no real substance to it.

Dress properly for church.

What's a biscuit?  Depends where you live.

The domestication of dogs teaches us a lot about evolution, including our own.

There are bacteria that feed on electricity, and they might even be useful (found via Mendip).

This Islamic school in Australia is apparently run by complete morons.

The Independent Fundamentalist Baptist view of the cosmos looks like something out of Rube Goldberg (found via Bruce Gerencser).

Gay marriage is coming to Chile.

The evidence is clear -- strong labor unions mean a better life for everyone.

An important point too often overlooked -- ignoring the existence of bisexuality gives undeserved credibility to the "ex-gay" scam (found via Republic of Gilead).

Sigh.....more disgusting frat behavior.

If you're keeping track of how many Republican investigations into Benghazi have come up with nothing, it was seven as of November (found via Progressive Eruptions).

OK, here's a church I might consider going to.

Green Eagle reminds us yet again of why they're called wingnuts.  More craziness here, and of course Bachmann is in a class by herself.

The data don't support the claim that Republicans can win by boosting fundie turnout.

Younger people are generally more enlightened, but there are exceptions.

Public opinion is turning strongly against anti-gay "religious freedom" laws (found via Republic of Gilead).

Delusional thinking is delusional.

Politicians "protecting the children"?  Bullshit.

Lucy Aharish is an Israeli patriot with a difference.

Jindal is working hard to destroy Louisiana's future.

Attacks on Hillary from the left are stupid.  The enemy already has her in their sights. Judge her by who opposes her and why.  Stonekettle Station responds to a Dick Morris hit piece.

This parent exists.

Jon Stewart has some fun with the Republicans' floundering on gay marriage.  The religio-nutters are going berserk.  Scott Lively, rather less funny, fantasizes about mob violence.

A professor at a fundie university was caught teaching actual science, so of course he had to be fired (found via Republic of Gilead).

Libertarianism has already been tried.

Classy move there, Taco Bell.

The gutting of the Voting Rights Act reminds us why the 2016 election is so important.

Suicide note?  Well, it's a murder-suicide.

Florida's Latino demographics are changing, making the state tougher to win for Republicans.

Yes, you nitwits, ISIS is Islamic.

Marriage is threatened by.....just about every aspect of modernity, apparently.

Never forget the Armenian genocide.

The configuration of pre-Civil-War pro-slavery sentiment is strangely reflected in the modern constituencies of the Republican party.

You're not worthy to help us feed poor people because you're a faggot.

The fossil-fuel industry is really shaking up Oklahoma.

Despite early missteps, Obama has emerged as one of our most successful Presidents (found via Progressive Eruptions).

20 years after a dire warning, we're still ignoring our biggest terrorist threat.

25 April 2015

Video of the day -- it's been too long already


Found via Good As You.