DOMA and Proposition 8 are Religion-Based Impositions on the Liberties of the Nation: The U.S. Supreme Court Should Smite Both

by admin on March 25th, 2013
in General Wellness, Politics

What Robert Green Ingersoll said of the Bible (About the Holy Bible, 1894) applies as well to the Christian religion that promotes it, namely, it imprisons the brain and corrupts the heart.

While many examples could be cited, what clearer illustration of this reality could be found than in the positions advanced by religionists on the two issues now before the U.S. Supreme Court, namely, DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act) and California?s Proposition 8 banning gay marriage?

Religious dogma leads otherwise decent people to deny certain basic human rights to others that affect them in no way whatsoever. In the case at hand, dogma has motivated Christians to oppose marriage equality. Why? Because Christian faith beliefs persuade followers that if others are allowed to do what they find sinful, namely allow marriage equality for gays and lesbians, this will be a  violation of their religious liberties .

How convoluted is that? Is intolerance a Christian virtue?

Gays and lesbians are not seeking to compel any churches or religions to do anything they don't want to do. At present, gays or lesbians can marry without any involvement of religious officials, though some Christian ministers are supportive of such marriages and will perform such ceremonies in states where same sex unions are recognized.

Secularists and Christians and other religiously-oriented Americans who support freedom are wise to join in common cause to protect basic human rights and oppose religious encroachments on our laws and public policies.

Besides DOMA and Prop 8, other issues can be identified where liberties and personal freedoms are compromised, distorted, restricted or otherwise constrained by religion-inspired repression?

*  Restrictions on sexual conduct, including but not limited to same-sex relations between consenting adults.

*  Overt discrimination in the military. Only in the past year has the infamous don?t ask, don?t tell policy, which banned openly gay or bisexual from serving in the military, been overturned.

*  The status of women, who until the twentieth century were viewed as subordinate to men, lacking a full capacity for reason and dependent on husbands and other males. Not entirely but to a considerable extent, this prejudice was religiously inspired via holy books and suppressive elements of dogma and religious authority.

How odd that many still associate religions with the teaching of ethics when it fact religious policies and practices often are unethical. Freethinkers base their ethics not on ancient texts or the pontifications of pontiffs and other religious authorities but on reason and evidence. Religious dogma, usually vague and filled with you better the hell not threats, seems a sorry basis for ethics or public policies.

Who knows for sure that there is a God or, if one wants to believe there is, what his or her factual position is on freedoms and human rights?

There is only one reliable source for identifying the nature of human rights - us. We, the members of a given society, determine the nature of the rights we get to enjoy. In most Western nations, we rely on democratic processes to identify desired human rights based on our sense of desirable conditions under which we wish to live peacefully and productively with others with shared values. This is how we came up with what humanists call common decencies. We do not need religions to know that it is in our interest not to kill, steal, injure or plunder, break agreements, tell lies, ignore commitments, fail to assist others and so on.

Do you need a god or a religion to know these things? If someone is unlikely to refrain from doing such things save for fear of a god who will water-board him, hang him upside down and  burn him forevermore in some future life-after-death hellhole, would you want to associate with such a fiend?

Do you think this after-life form of justice motivates Christians who choose to oppose gay marriage?

Most of us accept the secular codes of conduct and common decencies of a positive nature even though we sometimes fail to function accordingly. (Self interest, temptations of varied kinds, special circumstances and so on lead us imperfect humans astray, some more often than others.) We accept these purely secular core norms, though often religionists give their faith traditions credit for their good, ethical behavior.

In this country and many others, we also embrace a variety of quite secular liberties for ourselves and others, including freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of religion, freedom to pursue an education and so on. For those who take their freedoms seriously, such liberties extend to sexual freedoms, though this is an area that brings conflict with those under the influence of religion.

Which brings me back to DOMA and Proposition 8. In the current issue of Free Inquiry Magazine (March 25, 2013), Ronald A. Lindsay has an article entitled, ?Humanism, LGBT Equality and Human Rights. It concludes with this summary:

The freedom to marry is different from other fundamental liberties. To speak freely, to exercise your religion freely, and to have intimate relations with the partner of your choice, government just needs to stay out of the way. Marriage, however, is a State-run institution. One cannot get married without State support and approval. But these facts do not change our analysis significantly. If the State supports an institution such as marriage, which allows couples to obtain certain benefits by legally solemnizing their union, then all individuals should have the same right to take advantage of this institution. Denying same-sex couples the right to marry makes no more sense than denying women the right to vote or African Americans the right to attend integrated schools.

Let?s support a society wherein everyone enjoys fundamental human rights. Let?s recognize that religion is often no friend of liberty, though many Christians either have already or will come to favor human rights over dogma if the issues of freedom are communicated effectively.

Americans have a great stake in the current battle to gain equal rights for LGBT citizens. The right to marry based on reason and this nation?s commitment to liberty should trump the tenets of ancient religious texts.

I?m proud to be associated with the American Humanist Association, the Center for Free Inquiry, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Freedom from Religion Foundation and a diverse coalition of many other secular and humanist organizations that are leading the fight to have the Supreme Court strike down these two infamous, religion-inspired constraints on everyone?s liberty. Let?s hope that the religionists on the court decide the cases not so much in accord with the make-believe better angels of their nature but in concert with their training in law and passion for justice. If so, we should expect their support for what we secularists believe is the best interpretations of liberty of, by and for the people.

February 14 - A Great Day: Let?s Also Honor Charles Darwin as Part of the Celebrations

by admin on February 10th, 2013
in General Wellness, Politics

I enjoy all holidays, and other days in between for that matter, but some special occasions inspire particularly good thoughts about an honoree whose life is recalled and celebrated.

Two of my favorite holidays are August 11 and July 18.

On August 11 in 1833, Robert Green Ingersoll was born in Dresden, NY. Not many Americans save those of the most ardent secular persuasion recognize August 11 as a holiday, take the day off and raise a toast in honor of The Great Agnostic, a colossal REAL wellness pioneer.

But I do. For me, August 11 is a holiday. I take the day off and toast the occasion.

Even fewer people take off, toast or revere July 18, but for me it?s one of the biggest holidays of all. And why not? After all, it's my birthday.

I celebrate numerous other special days, particularly February 12, December 2, January 25 and July 27. The first of these dates, February 12, is the birthdate of Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin (1809 ? what a day for humanity); the latter three dates the arrival days of my daughter, son and wife.

I?ll give Abraham Lincoln his due, no doubt of that. But Charles Darwin was special in a different and equally positive way, and unlike Lincoln, does not get nearly enough attention.

Many men and women of a scientific bent credit Charles Darwin for making the greatest advance of the 19th century. Paradoxically, many, and you know who they are, vilify Charles Darwin for that reason ? they simply cannot reconcile the creation myth with the reality of Darwin?s great discovery.

A CONGRESSIONAL RESOLUTION

Tuesday is Darwin?s 204th birthday. A bill (House Resolution 41) has been introduced in the Congress expressing support for designation of February 12, 2013, as Darwin Day and recognizing the importance of science in the betterment of humanity.

It reads as follows:

  • Whereas Charles Darwin?s theory of evolution by the mechanism of natural selection, together with the monumental amount of scientific evidence he compiled to support it, provides humanity with a logical and intellectually compelling explanation for the diversity of life on Earth;
  • Whereas the validity of Darwin?s theory of evolution by natural selection is further strongly supported by the modern understanding of the science of genetics;
  • Whereas it has been the human curiosity and ingenuity exemplified by Darwin that has promoted new scientific discoveries that have helped humanity solve many problems and improve living conditions;
  • Whereas the advancement of science must be protected from those unconcerned with the adverse impacts of global warming and climate change;
  • Whereas the teaching of creationism in some public schools compromises the scientific and academic integrity of the United States education systems;
  • Whereas Charles Darwin is a worthy symbol of scientific advancement on which to focus and around which to build a global celebration of science and humanity intended to promote a common bond among all of Earth?s peoples; and
  • Whereas February 12, 2013, is the anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin in 1809 and would be an appropriate date to designate as Darwin Day: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives

  1. supports the designation of Darwin Day; and
  2. recognizes Charles Darwin as a worthy symbol on which to celebrate the achievements of reason, science, and the advancement of human knowledge.

The Congress would do the nation proud if House Resolution 41 passed unanimously.

SUPPORT FOR DARWIN DAY

A few years ago, a New York Times column contained this summary of Charles Darwin?s legacy: By the time Darwin died in 1882, he was recognized as one of England?s greatest scientists and was buried in Westminster Abbey. By then, most biologists had come to agree with Darwin that species shared a common ancestry. But many rejected natural selection, preferring other kinds of mechanisms to drive evolutionary change. It was not until twentieth-century biologists uncovered DNA that they were able to confirm the reality of natural selection, by discovering how it worked on the level of molecules. (Carl Zimmer, (February 10, 2009.)

There is speculation that the Republican Congressman from Georgia?s 10th Congressional District. Representative, Paul Broun may not support the resolution. Representative Broun recently told the Liberty Baptist Church Sportsman?s Banquet that all that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang theory, all that is lies, straight from the pit of hell. Evolution is one of those lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior.

Mr. Broun chairs a House science committee and attends a Baptist church in Athens, Ga. He is a member of the Gideons, the group that places Bibles in hotel rooms. His position makes sense to those who believe in the literal truth of a Bible written when people believed that life began and takes place on a flat, unmoving Earth at the center of a 6,000 year-old universe. Darwin?s theory, in other words, does not comport with Genesis. On the contrary, natural selection explains our existence without so much as a reference to a divine creator.

Americans are probably more familiar with the Tennessee law that sparked the infamous Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925 banning the teaching of human evolution than they are with the nature of evolution itself, as described in Origin of the Species.

This, of course, is just one more reason for doing what we can to make this coming Thursday, the 14th of February a celebratory part of the holiday that also honors President Abraham Lincoln.

The Constitution Applies to Disaster Relief: Federal Funds Are Not Appropriate Resources for Rebuilding Damaged Churches

by admin on February 1st, 2013
in General Wellness

You probably know by now that Congress is about to grant an additional $50.5 billion to the $9.7 billion in federal recovery aid for Hurricane Sandy. FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) and HUD will determine how the aid is distributed.

Can you anticipate a church/state conflict in this? Would it surprise you to learn that religious interests are pressuring Congress to force taxpayers, millions of whom are not religious, to contribute to the rebuilding of churches, temples and mosques. Don?t be surprised ? be outraged, because it?s likely to happen absent sufficient secular resistance.

Maybe you think religions should be treated the same as other victims. If so, we have a little disagreement. I think disaster aid to religious institutions is unconstitutional, irrational, unjustifiable and deplorable. It?s worse than that, but this will do for starters.

So far, indications are that all citizens will be forced to pay to rebuild churches. In one state alone, over 200 Catholic parishes are expecting taxpayers to make them whole. Other sectarian groups are lining up for tax dollars, including the New York State Council of Churches, the United Jewish Association and a long list of others.

All such applications should be denied.

Churches damaged by the destruction of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City were denied taxpayer aid on constitutional grounds in 1995 by FEMA and HUD. However, religious groups pressured Congress to intervene, which it did, thereby discarding the Constitution members had sworn (on bibles) to uphold. By an act of Congress, $6 million was distributed to damaged churches.

The amount of funds at stake in the current recovery effort is vastly greater than in the Oklahoma situation.

Suppose the religious forces seeking taxpayer-funded restitution were mostly Muslims, or Buddhists or Pastafarians or, God-forbid, atheists seeking to rebuild their godless meeting halls and freethinker centers for rational living? Would Congress override the Constitution again for minority faiths or, in the latter case, minority no-faith groups? Ha!

In an article supporting taxpayer funds for religious institutions damaged by Hurricane Sandy, a writer quoted Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York in favor taxpayer-funded restitution. Gee, what a surprise ? the Catholic Cardinal wants money, even if some of it comes from infidels. Here is the Cardinal?s objective, no-special interest perspective: ?The wind and waves did not discriminate when it came to destroying property. The houses of worship are the very bedrock of the neighborhoods now trying to rebuild. To not offer natural disaster assistance grants to rebuild a house of worship just doesn?t make any sense.? (Avi Schick, ?Separation of Church and State, Disaster Edition? in the Wall Street Journal Houses of Worship Section, January 24, 2013.)

I wonder how many non-religious Americans consider the ?houses of worship? to be ?the very bedrock? of their neighborhoods? I?m going to go out on a limb here and say, ?none.?

In the current issue of Free Inquiry, Tom Flynn writes, ?The nation?s religious composition is vastly different today than it was in, say, 1995?yet current law regarding separation of church and state and the rights of religious minorities has changed scarcely at all. American public life is no less redolent of Christianity, no less steeped in illegitimate privilege for the orthodox, today than it was in the 1990s.?(See Tom Flynn, ?When ?Current Law? Is Not Enough,? February/March 2013, Volume 33, Number 2.)

The current effort to utilize public money for rebuilding religious institutions demonstrates the validity of Mr. Flynn?s assessment.

Government has no business paying to erect, maintain or repair houses of worship. Writing for American United for Separation of Church and State, Maggie Garret makes these salient points in support of that position:

  • This exclusion has been U.S. policy for more than 220 years.
  • Religious groups are expected to pay their own way.
  • Religions are not treated the same as other secular interests ? the rules do not allow government funding, but they do enjoy tax exemption and are often free from regulations and oversight that other entities must follow.
  • It is not government?s role to provide places for people to worship or to subsidize sacred spaces.
  • Unlike schools, hospitals, libraries and community centers, houses of worship serve a private purpose ? to promulgate specific theological points of view.

(Source: Maggie Garrett, ?Storm Damage And Religion: Hurricane Sandy Didn?t Blow Away The Constitution,? Americans United for Separation of Church and State, January 25, 2013.)

Was it not conservative Republican Right-Wing Christian groups screaming about getting big government out of their lives during the recent presidential election? Have they decided that government is pretty good, after all? Well, it doesn?t matter ? the Constitution protects all taxpayers from having to subsidize any religions, except for the onerous tax exemptions given to religions, which are bad enough. Let?s not allow things to get much, much worse with disaster relief for religion.

Let?s resist this effort to impose a religion tax on all the people ? churches and other religious institutions should do what homeowners and business owners do to safeguard their interests against disasters ? buy good insurance policies.

Be a Patriot, Strike a Blow for Liberty and Protect the First Amendment: Fold Your Arms in Protest While Declining to Recite the Religious Pledge of Allegiance

by Don on December 27th, 2012
in General Wellness, Religion

Imagine how put off you would be if, at the start of every workday, all employees at your worksite were expected to stand, face the flag and recite the Lord?s Prayer - or passages from the Bhagavad-Gita or the Holy Quran. Unless you were a devotee of the favored religion, you?d probably find the exercise rude at best or, much worse, a violation of your rights.

I suggest it?s time for the twenty percent of the ?nones? in this country and all other citizens, including Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims who do not believe that the Republic is ?under God? (or, if they do believe that, do not believe that the inclusion of this religious phrase in a once secular pledge of loyalty is appropriate or constitutional), to show overt opposition to the Pledge of Allegiance wherever and whenever it is recited.

I recommend a simple, respectful but clear physical technique for displaying opposition to this McCarthy-era imposition of Christianity into secular national affairs: stand, like everyone else but with folded arms, silently while slowly moving your head slightly from side to side in an unmistakable expression of ?NO!?

In doing so, you and other co-conspirators for safeguarding separation of church and state will effectively be acting as patriots for your country, striking a blow for liberty while protecting your rights under the First Amendment. Patriotism need not be defined or associated with God-belief. To do so, as occurs with the recitation of the revised Pledge, marginalizes freethinkers. We have a right to communicate dissent from this imposition on our own, non-Christian convictions.

If the folded arm version of dissent from the Pledge catches on, it won?t be long before the odious ?under God? Pledge is seen as the divisive intrusion into secular civility that it is. As expressions of silent dissent expand throughout the nation, the Knights of Columbus and communist scare era origins of the religious modification to the historic Pledge will be better understood by the American public. The ?under God? addition will be widely discussed and debated. Many, if not most, service clubs, schools and other institutions that have for too long gone along with the revised Pledge absent organized resistance will drop it entirely. The commotion and needless discord it generates will be seen as more trouble than adherence to this ritual is worth.

Not incidentally, the national debate and the disharmony associated with the ?under God? intrusion will also be factored into future deliberations at state, federal and the Supreme Court levels when the next round of challenges reach these courts.

Speaking of which, there is a promising court challenge to the Christian version of the Pledge. As reported in an About.com essay, the argument this time is new and quite possibly improved. Furthermore, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has agreed to hear the new arguments. (See Austin Cline, ?Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to Review 'Under God,' ? About.com - Guide, October 31, 2012.)

In the case described, parents of public school children required to start each day with the Pledge assert that the phrase 'under God' ?transforms a patriotic exercise into a religious exercise which encourages prejudice and bigotry to nonbelievers like themselves.? Of course that?s exactly what it does wherever participation is expected as part of a public ritual. "This," the Massachusetts plaintiffs hold, "violates that state's constitutional protection of the equal rights of all citizens." The plaintiffs case ?pits the legal equality of nonbelievers against the desire of Christians to have their beliefs endorsed, promoted and supported by the government.? Just so.

The head of the American Humanist Association is quoted to the effect that such a discriminatory practice stigmatizes non-believers and those of other faith traditions and therefor clearly violates the equal rights safeguards for all.

Let?s not wait for the courts to act. Let?s start a folded arms campaign against the Pledge immediately. Next time you are at a town hall, civic association, school or other gathering where the Pledge is about to be recited, think of all the patriots that have done so much over more than two centuries to protect the rights we enjoy today. In their honor and for the good of your country,  stand and display an alternative to the ?under God? pledge. Give everyone a look at the truly patriotic Pledge, a folded arms, NO head movement side to side that sends a clear message that America is actually under a constitution of, by and for the people.

As Frank Zappa put it, ?Anybody who wants religion is welcome to it, as far as I'm concerned -- I support your right to enjoy it. However, I would appreciate it if you exhibited more respect for the rights of those people who do not wish to share your dogma, rapture or necrodestination.? (Cited by FFRF as attributed to Warren Allen Smith in ?Who's Who in Hell.?)

What Do We Really Know About the Female Orgasm?

by Don on December 14th, 2012
in General Wellness, Sex

The religion of orgasm: utilitarianism projected into sex life; efficiency versus indolence; coition reduced to an obstacle to be got past as quickly as possible in order to reach an ecstatic explosion, the only true goal of love-making and of the universeMilan Kundera, Slowness

INTRODUCTION

I dunno, maybe some articles should be marked gender specific or something. I mention this because I struggled a bit with a column in the December 12 edition of the Huffington Post. An essay by Kristen Mark dealt with a topic we guys are famous (infamous) for not contemplating so much, namely, the female orgasm. Thus, my initial reaction in coming upon Ms. Mark?s piece about the significance, if any, of the female orgasm in evolution was both immediate and confident: Good gracious, heaven?s to Betsy, OMFG! What brought that up? Of course this phenomenon serves an evolutionary purpose. How could it be otherwise? Why have it if not?

At which point I began reading Dr. Mark?s essay.

Kristen Mark, Ph.D., is a behavioral health scientist with an academic background in psychology and public health. Her specialty is sexuality and romantic relationships, according to her blog. She is an Assistant Professor at the University of Kentucky in Health Promotion and also serves as Managing Editor for Good in Bed. And an occasional columnist for the Huffington Post.

The essay in Huff Post begins with an admission that, like me and most guys, even Dr. Mark, an expert on sexuality and romantic relationships, hasn?t given this question a lot of thought! What?s more, sexual scientists don?t agree on what role, if any, the female orgasm played and/or still plays in evolution. But, the good news is that studies shed a bit of light. Research points to two different hypotheses on the role of the female orgasm (henceforth the FO): the byproduct hypothesis and the mate-choice hypothesis.

TWO HYPOTHESES

The byproduct hypothesis denies an evolutionary role for the FO. It holds that women experience orgasm because of men?s adaptation to it. I don?t even understand this hypothesis, as explained by Dr. Mark in the Huff Post. Maybe you can figure it out. Here?s the deal: Men have sensitive orgasmic penises. These appendages reward seed spreading. Both male and female genitals develop from the same anatomical structure. The genitals of fetuses are undifferentiated during the first two months of gestation. This fact somehow gives women the benefit of this pleasure reward. Go figure. As noted, this is over my head. If you know what it means, good on you. But please ? no need to write me with an explanation. It?s not necessary for a person my age to know everything about the FO. I know more about the sneeze than I do the FO. For example, I know a sneeze is 1/10th of an orgasm. When Jarod Kintz discovered this, he said, Perhaps that?s why it takes me 18 seconds to sneeze.

Dr. Marks suggests the mate-choice hypothesis might be a little easier to follow. That was good news. This hypothesis is that the FO evolved to attract mates. The FO favors males who might want a long-term relationship and/or males with higher quality sperm. How that works is not explained, unfortunately.

ADDITIONAL POSSIBILITIES

FlirtOther studies suggest that the FO boosts a woman?s chances of getting pregnant. Yet another found that women who faked orgasm performed a greater number of mate retention behaviors than women who didn?t fake orgasm. This is said to support the mate-choice hypothesis.

A better hypothesis, IMHO, is the How was it for you? hypothesis (my term) ? that the FO, in concert with the MO (male orgasm), produces post-coital pair-bonding. Anxieties and hormones (oxytocin in females) are released and cigarettes are smoked (well, not anymore but we?re talking about evolution here so an historical perspective must be maintained for scientific purposes) and genuine tenderness and affections follow. Usually.

MAYBE NO EVOLUTIONARY PURPOSE

On the other side, there are reasons to conclude that the FO did not and does not have an evolutionary role. Among these contra factors are the following:

  • The FO occurs infrequently during intercourse. If the FO were adaptive, you?d think a FO would be at least as common as a MO (male orgasm) during intercourse.
  • Relative to masturbation, penile-vaginal intercourse takes forever to reach paydirt, so to speak. If the FO were all about evolution, things would work the other way around.
  • You?ve heard the ad expression, Where?s the beef? Well, with regard to the FO and evolution, Where?s the pleasure in intercourse ? for the female?

SUMMARY

Well, where does this leave us regarding the basic issue of the role of the FO in human evolution? I think it leaves us a little unsatisfied, yearning for more, disappointed in our partner (i.e., the scientists who should know about this matter with greater evidentiary depth of understanding) and looking somewhere else to get our needs met.

Maybe there are other ways the FO connects with evolution, unrelated to spreading seeds, cultivating the fields and keeping the game going. Maybe the FO and the MO as well prepare us for the end, an idea captured by Peter Redgrove but not cited in the scientific literature: We rehearse for the big death through the little death of orgasm, through erotic living. Death as transfiguration. On the other hand, this might not be one of the other ways, though there almost surely are other explanations.

I?m thinking right now of another source for help on the matter, someone like the writer Benson Bruno, whose contribution to the topic was to observe: When I?m thinking about the plot arc of a romance and I want to shape my climax, I make origasmi.

Whatever the case might be on this important question, I think that all sensitive New Age guys should pay more attention to the FO and less to the MO.

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