I Want A SuperPac!

by admin on March 13th, 2012
in General Wellness

During a debate at Oxford on the subject of evolution in 1860, the Anglican Bishop of Oxford, Samuel Wilberforce, asked Darwin defender Thomas Huxley whether it was through his grandfather's or his grandmother's lineage that he descended from a monkey. Huxley said he had no shame in having monkeys as ancestors, but that he would be mortified to be associated with a man who used his intellectual powers for sophistry.

The candidates seeking the 2012 presidential nomination of the Republican Party have staked their prospects on a strategy of using their intellectual powers for sophistry. They are making monkeys out of themselves in the eyes of all who are not part of the evangelical Right Wing. The Republican candidates are caught up in a religious fervor; one declares that he nearly vomited reading the words of the Catholic Democratic candidate for president in 1960 to a convention of Protestant ministers:

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference; and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the president who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.

I do not believe any Republican candidates or office holders over the years since Kennedy's speech have expressed any disagreement with that famous speech.  Not even popes over the last 50-plus years have objected. What possessed such an outburst from candidate Rick Santorum? This is what Republican Party politics has come to.

Let me summarize the nature of the Republican Party that I would like to expose with Pac ads that I would fund, if I had a few million to spare for this important purpose. It seems to me that Republicans prefer creationism over science, faith over reason, condemnation over tolerance, moralism over accommodation, patriarchy over equality and the status quo over reforms. The Party cares less or not at all about inequalities, poverty, discrimination, universal access to quality health care, safeguarding the environment, husbanding natural resources or supporting education. What they do seem to care about, passionately, is blocking access to abortion and contraception, stopping research on embryonic stem cells, keeping taxes low and making sure no gay people are allowed to marry.

I believe America needs a new Super Pac, and if I had the money, I would fund one. I would not coordinate with the Obama campaign (can't do that, you know), which is fine with me, since the Democratic strategists might not like the ads I would promulgate. All the ads would cover these three themes, which I believe to be true:

  • The Republican Party has become an American Taliban. The extremist evangelicals embrace a messianic worldview as bizarre and oppressive to human rights as that of their Islamic cousins in Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan.
  • A vote for Republicans supports faith-based policies leading to a theocracy.
  • The Republican Party will bring about civil conflict as divisive as the gulf between north and south in 1860. To borrow a line from Thomas Henry Huxley ("The Coming of Age of the Origin of Species," 1880), their "irrationally held truths would, if translated into policies and laws, prove more harmful than any imaginable reasoned errors? by the Democrats.

Today's Republican Party is the Democratic Party before the Civil War began - the Party of censorship, oppression and patriarchy.

I want a Super Pac to say these things, because I support such a message.

FFRF Advises Women: Leave the Church!

by admin on March 3rd, 2012
in General Wellness, Religion

Many Catholic women are frustrated by the unrelenting campaign by church leaders (not of their choosing, please note) to restrict access to contraception services. This opposition also affects non-Catholic women, as well. The Church seeks to prevent health insurance plan coverage under the Affordable Health Care Act purchased by religious employers. The Catholic leaders and their supporters in Congress term such coverage "an assault against religious liberty." The only assault is the one being waged by the Church against women?s rights.

The Catholic Church has a history of pedophilia and opposition to gay rights as well as women?s equality. When might enough be seen as just that - enough?

In the eyes of one advocacy group dedicated to the separation of church and state, the recommended answer is "now."

In a new campaign headlined, "It?s time for you to quit the Catholic Church," Annie Laurie Gaylor of the Freedom From Religion Foundation seeks to persuade female Catholics to consider leaving the Catholic Church.

Since I left at least 60 years ago, my first reaction was, the sooner the better.

Here is Ms. Gaynor's letter addressed to Catholic women. It will be further developed during the next few days while funds are raised for a full page ad in the New York Times. This text is available at FFRF.

It?s time to quit the Roman Catholic Church.

It?s your moment of truth. Will it be reproductive freedom, or back to the Dark Ages? Do you choose women and their rights, or Bishops and their wrongs? Whose side are you on, anyway?

It is time to make known your dissent from the Catholic Church, in light of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops? ruthless campaign endangering the right to contraception. If you?re part of the Catholic Church, you?re part of the problem.

Why are you propping up the pillars of a tyrannical and autocratic, woman-hating, sex-perverting, antediluvian Old Boys Club? Why are you aiding and abetting a church that has repeatedly and publicly announced a crusade to ban contraception, abortion and sterilization, and to deny the right of all women everywhere, Catholic or not, to decide whether and when to become mothers? When it comes to reproductive freedom, the Roman Catholic Church is Public Enemy Number One. Think of the acute misery, poverty, needless suffering, unwanted pregnancies, social evils and deaths that can be laid directly at the door of the Church?s antiquated doctrine that birth control is a sin and must be outlawed.

A backer of the Roman Catholic presidential candidate says that if women want to avoid pregnancy we should put an aspirin between our knees? Catholic politicians are urging that the right to contraception should be left up to states? Nearly 50 years after the Supreme Court upheld contraception as a privacy right, we?re going to have to defend this basic freedom all over again?

You?re better than your church. So why? Why continue to attend Mass? Tithe? Why dutifully sacrifice to send your children to parochial schools so they can be brainwashed into the next generation of myrmidons (and, potentially, become the next Church victims)? For that matter, why have you put up with an institution that won?t put up with women priests, that excludes half of humanity?

No self-respecting feminist, civil libertarian or progressive should cling to the Catholic faith. As a Cafeteria Catholic, you chuck out the stale doctrine and moldy decrees of your religion, but keep patronizing the establishment that menaces public health by serving
rotten offerings. Your continuing Catholic membership, as a ?liberal,? casts a veneer of respectability upon an irrational sect determined to blow out the Enlightenment and threaten liberty for women worldwide.

You are an enabler. And it?s got to stop.

If you imagine you can change the church from within ? get it to lighten up on birth control, gay rights, marriage equality, embryonic stem-cell research ? you are deluding yourself. If you remain a ?good Catholic,? you are doing ?bad? to women?s rights. You?re kidding yourself if you think the Church is ever going to add a Doctrine of Immaculate ContraCeption.

It is disgraceful that U.S. health care reform is being held hostage to the Catholic Church?s bizarre opposition to medically prescribed contraception. No politician should jeopardize electability for failure to genuflect before the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
(Question to ask your Bishop: Does he hold up an umbrella against the rain? Isn?t that just as ?unnatural? as using a condom or diaphragm?)

Your Church hysterically claims that secular medical policy is ?an assault against religious liberty.? You are savvy enough to realize that the real assault is by the Church against women?s rights and health care. As Nation columnist Katha Pollitt asks: Is it an offense against Jehovah Witnesses that health care coverage will include blood transfusions? The Amish, as Pollitt points out, don?t label cars ?an assault on religious liberty? and try to force everyone to drive buggies. The louder the Church cries ?offense against religious liberty? the harder it works to take away women?s liberty.

Obama has compromised, but the Church never budges, instead launching a vengeful modern-day Inquisition. Look at its continuing directives to parish priests to use their pulpits every Sunday to lobby you against Obama?s policy, the Church?s announcement of a major anti-contraception media campaign ? using your tithes, contributions and donations ? to defeat Obama?s laudable health care policy. The Church has introduced into Congress the ?Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, ? a bill to place the conscienceless Catholic Church?s ?rights of conscience? above the rights of conscience of 53 percent of Americans. That the Church has ?conscience rights? to deny women their rights is a kissing cousin to the claim that ?corporations are people.? The Church that hasn?t persuaded you to oppose contraception now wants to use the force of secular law to deny contraceptive rights to non-Catholics.

But is there any point in going on? After all, your misplaced loyalty has lasted through two decades of public sex scandals involving preying priests, children you may have known as victims, and church complicity, collusion and coverup going all the way to the top. Are you like the battered woman who, after being beaten down every Sunday, feels she has no place else to go?

But we have a more welcoming home to offer, free of incense-fogged ritual, free of what freethinker Bertrand Russell called ?ideas uttered long ago by ignorant men,? free of blind obedience to an illusory religious authority. Join those of us who put humanity above
dogma.

As a member of the ?flock? of an avowedly antidemocratic club, isn?t it time you vote with your feet?

Please, exit en Mass.

The letter is signed by Annie Laurie Gaylor, Co-President of FFRF.

If you wish to contribute to FFRF's campaign to fund the placement of
this ad in the New York Times and/or become a member of FFRF, go to
their website and do it. I did.

Isn't freedom of speech wonderful? Let's not lose it to another theocracy.

All good wishes.

President George Washington Would Not Be Happy With Republican Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum

by Don on February 23rd, 2012
in General Wellness, Politics

Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by difference of sentiment in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought most to be deprecated. I was in hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy which has marked the present age would at least have reconciled Christians of every denomination, so far that we should never again see their religious disputes carried to such a pitch as to endanger the peace of society.

Who wrote that? Take a guess? Do you think it was Robert Green Ingersoll? Professor Richard Dawkins? Sam Harris? Daniel Dennett? Christopher Hitchens?

It was George Washington. The remarks are contained in a letter dated June 22, 1792 that Washington addressed to Edw Newenham. (Source: United States Government Print. Off., 1931 - 1944. Volume 32, page 73.)

I do not think our first, or any subsequent president, with the possible exception of George W. Bush, would approve of positions expressed by Rick Santorum, the ex-senator from Pennsylvania who is currently the frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination.

Santorum has been serving the farthest of the far right wing of the Republican Party a toxic brew of Dark Age philosophy. He makes frequent references to the Devil and biblical values. He  opposes many human rights (e.g., gay marriage, civil unions), contraception (!), stem cell research, prenatal tests, right to die laws, science in general (environmental protections, climate change) and secularism (church/state separation) in particular.

Santorum is great for comedians, but a potential disaster for the country. I can't imagine him as the nominee of the Republican Party, but then this is the Party that gave us George W. I certainly can't imagine that anyone not on the Far Side of the extreme right would vote for him, but one never knows.

As noted, he is a boon for comedians. The other night, Bill Maher said this: It just shows you how when someone is a nobody politically speaking -- as Santorum was in 2008 -- you can say any kind of crazy shit and it's not newsworthy. But when you are seeking the highest office in the land...in the world -- it really worries me that you believe in demons and a personified creature named Satan." Santorum, not Bill Maher in a comedy routine, declared that what Satan really wants is the demise of the United States. (Source: A 2008 speech at Ave Maria University in Florida. He did not explain how he came to this insight.)

Santorum has said that our rights trace not to the U.S. Constitution but from God, specifically the Christian god. He believes the American divide is not a culture war - it's a spiritual war: Our nation's way of life is falling to evil forces...If you were Satan, who would you attack in this day and age? (Frankly, it has never occurred to me to ponder what I would do if I were Satan. But, now that I just pondered the matter a bit, I think I'd vote for Santorum.)

Santorum wants to defund public education - better to school children at home, as the Founders did then and he does now. Why is Santorum so against contraception? According to Bill Maher, Because there's a line in Genesis about not spilling your seed. A random brainfart from some desert dweller 3,000 years ago, before people knew about germs or atoms or round planets, and it gets written down and passed down and in 2012 people like Rick Santorum ... believe it.

So, if you are not Satan and won't be voting for Santorum or a registered Republican qualified to vote against him in a primary somewhere down the electoral line, what can you do? Probably not a lot. Hoping for the best will do as much good as prayer, rain dances or tossing a coin into a wishing well. Of course you can write letters to the editor or write an anti-Santorum blog, but wouldn't it be nice if there were another option, in addition to the usual ways of trying to make a little difference in your own way? 

There is. You can gather with like-minded, sensible folks and commiserate, laugh, strategize and in many ways enjoy a day on the Mall in Washington, D.C. You can make plans now to attend the Reason Rally on March 24!

The Reason Rally is co-sponsored by all the leading secular organizations. The day-long event is designed to unify, energize, inform, embolden and entertain secular people from around the country and throughout the world. There will be music, comedy and talks by luminaries of the secular movement. Everyone is welcome, including those not-so-secular. I'm sure even Santorum would be welcome. 

It may be the largest secular event ever. And its free.

Details about the Rally are here.

I'll end this with an observation about knowledge and reason as contrasted with faith from Arthur Schopenhauer: Faith and knowledge are related as the two scales of balance; when the one goes up, the other goes down...The power of religious dogma, when inculcated early, is such as to stifle conscience, compassion and finally every feeling of humanity...For, as you know, religions are like glow worms; they shine only when it's dark. A certain amount of ignorance is the condition of all religions, the element in which alone they can exist. (Parerga and Paralipomena (1851), cited in Who's Who in Hell compiled by Warren Allen Smith and Freethought of the Day compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor, February 22, 2012.)

Recognize the Difference Between the Imposition of Religious Dogma and Freedom of Religion - and Do What You Can to Prevent the Former and Safeguard the Latter

by Don on February 9th, 2012
in General Wellness, Religion

The four Republicans seeking the Party presidential nomination, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, nearly all Right Wing broadcasters and others who lean more toward theocracy than secularism are promoting the idea that the Obama Administration is hostile to religion. This is absurd. Yet, a campaign is on to persuade voters that the Administration's support for pregnancy prevention benefits equates with hostility to religion - specificity, interference with Catholic dogma in opposition to family planning . Yesterday, House Speaker John Boehner decried what he called an "unambiguous attack on religious freedom in our country."

Nonsense. The Speaker, the Catholic bishops and the rest are demanding that religious institutions be exempted from a Department of Health and Human Services regulation that in no way abridges freedom of religion. The trumpted up controversy concerns an important provision in the implementation of the Affordable Health Care Act that simply insures that employer health insurance plans include services that women overwhelmingly need and want - such as no-cost access to contraceptive health services.

The Republican campaign is in support of the Catholic Church, an institution that is seeking to impose its religious dogma on their employees and the patients they serve, including those who are not members of their religious faith.

The Secular Coalition of America issued the following statement summarizing the difference between freedom of choice and religious barriers to choice: Almost every sexually active American woman has used contraception at some point in her life. To allow religiously affiliated hospitals, schools, and nonprofits to deny millions of women access to contraception would be a gross and unconstitutional infringement on their religious liberty. This regulation does not force Catholic or other religiously affiliated hospitals or care providers to actually provide care that runs counter to their deeply held believes. It only requires that they, as employers, make available to their employees access to contraceptive care if their employees choose to use it.

Please consider contacting your Representatives, writing a letter to the editor of your local paper and/or telling your friends why you do not support this grotesque attempt by the Catholic Church and the Republican Party to dilute your freedom from religion. Do not allow Right Wing Christian fundamentalists to deny millions of women access to contraception.

A Suggested Strategy for Secularists To Discourage School Prayer Initiatives

by Don on January 31st, 2012
in General Wellness, Religion

Some of us are losing faith, not in faith (we long ago dismissed that as a preposterous concept), but in reason, at least as a tool for communicating with religious fundamentalists. This is particularly so concerning their unrelenting assault on the principle of church/state separation. While violations take many forms, one of the most common takes the form of attempts to reintroduce prayers in public schools.

In towns, cities and states across the land, secularists must engage in a never-ending struggle with theists to stop their efforts to inject prayer rituals in sporting events, graduation ceremonies and other assemblies and in classrooms. True believers, often undereducated Right Wing Republicans, can?t seem to get that the 1st Amendment establishment clause originally and at present separates church and state functions. This provision has worked well for more than two centuries. It has benefitted not only secularists but the religious freedoms of believers.

Christians and others are free to pray all they like - but they can?t impose prayer on others - at least not yet. Hold your hat - the future lies ahead. The make up of the current Supreme Court is such that this separation tradition is not secure.

I live in Florida, where the fundamentalist mentality is very strong at state and local levels. The Florida Legislature, an overwhelmingly Republican body, is infamous for attempted church/state violations. The latest is of special note.

A Senate Bill (#0098) would authorize school boards to encourage school prayer, including sectarian prayer, ?at the discretion of the student body.? The Center for Inquiry (CFI) and other national secularist groups have noted that this ?mischief-making proposal to encourage students to inflict prayer on other students is unconstitutional.? Others have noted that #0098, if it enacted, would once again create conditions where "religion?s effect would be to inflame peer pressure to conform to a ritual of the Christian majority, promote bullying and exclusion, erect barriers between students, magnify differences and reward conformity."

Many secularists in other parts of the U.S. might have thought that it was well established by now that a captive audience of young, impressionable students should not be subjected to proselytization, either by authority figures or by a ?class vote.? The CFI stated that, ?the First Amendment places freedom of conscience above majority rule. The Supreme Court has ruled in more than 60 years of consistent decisions that prayers have no role in classrooms, graduations or school events. The Court has ruled so-called ?student-initiated? prayer equally inappropriate.?

And yet, the Florida Legislature is now moving toward creating a law that would ignore all these objections. Reason has little chance in the face of religious fervor or, perhaps, cynical manipulation of voters by politicians seeking political advantage.

Over a century ago, a Florida jurist wrote this in a landmark decision: ?There is no such source and cause of strife, quarrel, fights, malignant opposition, persecution, and war, and all evil in the state, as religion. Let it once enter our civil affairs, our government would soon be destroyed. Let it once enter our common schools, they would be destroyed.? Weiss v. District Board, 44 N.W. 967, 981 (1890).

If this legislation passes, taxpayers will be burdened not just with bad law but with the costs of defending a foolish statue that will eventually be rejected, even by the current Supremes.?

To put a halt to this legislation, a different strategy should be considered by Florida and other secularists interested in separation of church and state in general and safeguarding against pernicious school prayer rituals. How? By supporting a prayer of their own!

Normally, finding a prayer that would prove acceptable to freethinkers, atheists, infidels, heretics, apostates and the like - who, by the way, can?t even agree on what to call themselves, would be impossible. However, not so in the case of the prayer I have in mind. It comes from the Holy Book of Python, Chapter II in The Meaning of Life under Growth and Learning, as follows.

O Lord, ooh, You are so big, so absolutely huge. Gosh, we're all really impressed down here, I can tell you. Forgive us, O Lord, for this, our dreadful toadying and bare-faced flattery, but You are so strong, and, well, just so super fantastic. Amen.

This prayer can be led by a headmaster, principal, teacher or student elected as prayer leader by other students. Or, best of all, it could, on important occasions, be led by a member of the Florida Legislature who voted for bill #0098, or the governor who signed the legislation that made it official.

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