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Sunday, February 12, 2006
 White House misused Iraq intelligence... DUH!

Topic: Commentary

On Friday February 10, 2005 the Washington Post reported that ex-CIA analyst Paul Pillar had released a report stating that the Bush administration had misused intelligence to justify going to war in Iraq. Once again, the media acted surprised.

Ex-CIA Official Faults Use of Data on Iraq - Intelligence 'Misused' to Justify War, He Says

The Washington Post reported on Pillars assessment:

"Official intelligence on Iraqi weapons programs was flawed, but even with its flaws, it was not what led to the war," Pillar wrote in the upcoming issue of the journal Foreign Affairs. Instead, he asserted, the administration "went to war without requesting -- and evidently without being influenced by -- any strategic-level intelligence assessments on any aspect of Iraq."

"It has become clear that official intelligence was not relied on in making even the most significant national security decisions, that intelligence was misused publicly to justify decisions already made, that damaging ill will developed between [Bush] policymakers and intelligence officers, and that the intelligence community's own work was politicized," Pillar wrote.

The fact is, however, that this was really clear three years ago during the lead up to war with Iraq in the first place. How is it possible that so many people failed to either recognize this, or to act on the recognition of it? The people I am questioning are the Senators and military leaders, the journalists and news agencies, and, most importantly, the American public.

Is blindly falling in line patriotic? When doing so allows the country to be taken down a path towards destruction, as offensive war often does, I think the answer is clearly no, falling in line and trusting the president is not patriotic, it is a form of treason.

When I originally wrote This War Is About So Much More back in March 2003 I asked the following question:

President George W. Bush Jr. has lied to bring us to war with Iraq. Whether this war be right or wrong, and whether its immediate consequences be good or bad, there can be no denial that the nation was moved to war with lies. So what does that mean?

I also stated repeatedly that it was clear that the Bush administration had already made up its mind to go to war with Iraq prior to making their public case for war; indeed I contended, and still contend, that the Bush administration had plans for going to war with Iraq before Bush was even elected in 2000.

The report by Paul Pillar is just one more confirmation of the fact that the Bush administration was able to manipulate the American public into war, and the American mainstream media aided the Bush administration in its deception of America and the world. During the time when questions should have been raised, the American mass media fell in line behind the president and became an instrument of State propaganda. There should be no mistaking the fact that the so-called "independent media" in America, i.e. the monopolistic corporate media that is in bed with the American government, played a vital and critical role in helping George W. Bush lead Americans into a poorly planned and ill conceived war that is now having, and will continue to have, grave implications for this country. The ones who called themselves patriots for waving the flag and "supporting the president" must also be held accountable for their role in further undermining American interests and the interests of the global community as well.

Not only have thousands been needlessly killed, but America is in a weaker military and diplomatic position because of this war, is less capable of dealing with the threat of Iran and North Korea, and has further tarnished its image internationally in ways that have undermined the long term security of the country and the global community.

As I stated originally, this war is about so much more, it's about the fact that the American public doesn't know how to distinguish lies from reality and doesn't exercise independent analysis and judgment of things that they are told by leaders, be they corporate leaders or government leaders. Americans in general truly are an easily manipulated people.


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 5:51 AM EST | Post Comment | Permalink
Saturday, February 11, 2006
 Western Leftists Show They Have Lost Their Way

Topic: Commentary

There have been recent claims by certain Western Leftists that the cartoons of Muhammad are an example of anti-Arab racism, and indeed that such imagery is a part of Western imperialism.

This is absolutely absurd and yet another example of how Leftism has become a confused and tangled ideology in the post WWII era.

Fritz Kuhn of the German Green Party has stated that "[t]he (cartoons) are racist and dangerous."

Prophet Mohammed cartoons 'racist': Green MP

Worker's World, which uses the Marxism slogan "Workers of the World Unite", has stated that the cartoons are an example of "imperialist racism".

Islam bashing part of racist war for empire

Both statements are ridiculous, although the socialist admonition against imperialism does have some merit.

The Dutch cartoons had nothing to do with imperialism. If anything, the Dutch cartoons were a response to the domestic immigration of Muslims.

I find it odd that a Marxist based organization would come to the defense of oppression in the name of religion when indeed Marxism views religion as one of the main instruments of the oppression of the working classes.

There is merit, of course, to the idea that many of the problems that we identify with "Islam" are really a product of Western imperialism in the Middle East. We can see clearly that settled Muslims in Western countries are not mounting violent protests. It is true that Islam has become a rallying movement of opposition to Western imperialism, there can be no doubt about this, but that does not, in any way, validate the beliefs and actions of radical Muslims.

The fact that Muslim radicalism has arisen in part as a reaction to Western imperialism does not mean that it should be tolerated, even by opponents of Western imperialism. There should certainly be support for Middle Eastern and Asian peoples in their struggle for rights, fair treatment, and fair compensation, and it is true that with fair treatment and fair compensation the radicalism of people in these countries can be expected to decline, but this alone is not the problem.

The issues go well beyond simple imperialism, these are issues that are endemic in Islamic society and go back over one thousand years. These are problems created by religious fanaticism. Regardless of the cause of the radicalism, even if we can honestly attribute some of it to a reaction to imperialism, we still cannot tolerate it's spread.

The cartoons themselves, however, are clearly not racist, they make valid critical points.

On the other hand, however, there is a virulent current racism within many Islamic groups, even outside of the Middle East. Both Asian and Middle Eastern Muslim leaders are on record making extreme anti-Jewish remarks, many of which bring back pre-World War II propaganda.

As a further example of this the Iranians have published anti-Jewish cartoons in response to the Danish Muhammad cartoons. Can anything better illustrate the intense racism and anti-Jewish sentiments in elements of Islamic society?

Jews were not even involved in the publishing of the Muhammad cartoons, and yet in "retaliation" an Iranian press has chosen to publish offensive anti-Jewish cartoons. In order to challenge the idea of "total freedom of speech", the Iranians have published three anti-Jewish cartoons, claiming that no Western paper would dare to publish them because there is only "selective" free speech in the West, and that the West would not dare to "offend the Jews".

Hamshari newspaper plans cartoon response

The Iranian cartoons, however, make no valid points, and only demonstrate the pure hatred and malice of anti-Jewish elements in Islam. One cartoon, shown below, depicts Hitler in bed with Anne Frank after having just "fucked" her.

What possible value does this have? What statement is this trying to make? What, exactly, is the point? There is no point, it's just an attempt to be offensive for the sake of being offensive. Nevertheless, I see no reason why such a cartoon couldn't be printed in the West. It is certainly not an example of equal treatment however. The Danish cartoons were a reaction to real violence that was being brought against Europeans in the name of Islam.

The other two cartoons published by the Iranians are Holocaust denial cartoons, that imply that the Holocaust never happened. Again, this advances nothing and only shows how out of touch these cartoonists are with reality. That Iranians would use this as their big attempt to "counter the Danish cartoons" only shows just how depraved these people are. They fail to even understand the issue being brought to the table and can't see past their own blinding racism and hate.

Further more, many in the Middle East clearly don't understand the concept of a free and independent press. This is because the presses in the Middle East are run by the State, and the States are theocracies. They can't figure out that it makes no sense to ask the Danish government to apologize for something published in an independent newspaper. They can't figure it out because the newspapers in the Middle East are run by the governments, which also tells us more about the anti-Jewish cartoons published by the Iranian press. Those cartoons, unlike the ones published in Denmark, do reflect the ideas of the Iranian government.

The reaction to the Muhammad cartoons should certainly cause people to think more deeply about what a nuclear Middle East means. Hundreds of millions of Muslims all over the world have marched in the past week to the shouts of "Death to Israel", "Death to America", "Death to Europe", "We will defend the honor of Muhammad with our blood", "We will die for Muhammad", etc., etc.

There can be no mistake, the cartoons of Muhammad are not an example of racism, they are not a product of Western imperialism, they are not senseless blasphemy; they are legitimate and typical statements that are often made in Western Civilization, and they must be defended as valid and appropriate forms of free expression.

Western Leftists should recognize the reaction to these cartoons as a reaction of the radical Islam Right. Clearly the opposition to these cartoons is a far-right reaction. Not to recognize the political and cultural movements of others cultures is foolish. What about the interests of moderate secularists in the Middle East, are they to be abandoned by the Western Left in order to satisfy the bloodlust of Islamic conservatives?

Some Leftists seem not to understand that the enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend. Yes, there is Western imperialism, and yes we should be opposed to Western imperialism and the war in Iraq, but that does not mean that we support radical right-wing Islamic dictatorships, who themselves are also oppressors of the working classes in the Middle East. You have only to look at the Saudi Arabian theocracy, where it is illegal to display a Christian Cross or Star of David, to see that Islam is used as a tool, not only to spread hate against the West, but also to oppress the people of the Middle East as well.

For more on racism and oppression in Iran in the name of Islam see:

Iran Focus


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 4:06 PM EST | Post Comment | View Comments (2) | Permalink
Updated: Sunday, February 12, 2006 6:01 AM EST
Friday, February 10, 2006
 Misinterpreting The Enlightenment

Topic: Commentary

Since the outbreak of the controversy over the publication of cartoons depicting Muhammad, several Western commentators have stated that the lesson of The Enlightenment was to embrace "religious tolerance", stating that this lesson means we should be sensitive to the beliefs of others so as not to speak out in ways that might offend other's religious sentiments.

Nothing could actually be farther from the truth. The Enlightenment was a period of massive religious protest against the dominant Christian establishment in Europe, and a movement against oppressive religious practices and beliefs that resulted in the development of the modern secular culture that we have in the West today. The Pope was called the devil, churches were burned and destroyed, priests were hanged, Christian symbols were disrespected, and religion was rejected as false by millions.

Let's look at what The Enlightenment and the following 19th century "multiculturalism" were really all about.

Prior to the 16th century Western Europe held religious attitudes similar to those that are now held in "the Muslim world" today. During the 17th-19th centuries there were increasing calls for "freedom of expression" and "religious tolerance". "Religious tolerance" in this case did not mean tolerance of intolerance, what "religious tolerance" meant in this case was "stop killing people for criticizing mainstream religion".

The calls for religious tolerance during The Enlightenment were calls for the Christian Church to stop killing people who disagreed with the institutional dogma, and it was a purely internal affair - all criticism was directed at the religion of people's own culture. It was a call for peers to stop killing peers because they didn't hold the same religious beliefs. In this case, the organizations doing the persecution were dominant institutions in Western Civilization.

Dissenters were the ones calling for "religious freedom", including the freedom not to believe at all.

In the 1800s there were increasing calls for "multiculturalism" and religious tolerance in Western Civilization. In this case, the calls for multiculturalism and religious tolerance were based on the recognition that Christianity didn't have all the answers. For centuries missionaries had been converting native people all over the world - in the Americas, in Asia, Africa, and Polynesia. Many of these societies were more "primitive" and more simple societies than Western society, and many people, especially people who had traveled to Polynesia and Asia, recognized that there were many positive aspects to these cultures that deserved consideration.

In this case, calls for "tolerance" and "multiculturalism" were calls by members of the dominant culture, Western culture, to be more accepting of the cultures of the people whom Westerners were colonizing and dominating, instead of just completely wiping out their cultures. Likewise, there was an interest in these many new cultures as people were seeing for the first time that many cultures had values that were quite different from traditional Western Christianity, many of which were much more spiritual, more thoughtful, and more tolerant, such as the Native Americans, native Polynesians, Asians, and Aboriginal Australians.

This is completely different from the issues of multiculturalism and tolerance today. Trying to apply the principles of The Enlightenment and 19th century liberalism to the present day situation with Islam is completely absurd. What people were learning during the 1700s and 1800s was that there were cultures where men and women were treated more equally, there were many cultures that had fewer sexual taboos, there were cultures that had spiritual beliefs that were more in tune with nature. The call for "religious tolerance" during this time was a call for "fewer taboos".

Today, however, this entire situation is turned on its head. The calls for "religious tolerance" today, are calls to increase taboos. The calls for "tolerance" today are calls to tolerate intolerance, not calls to respect the ways of life for people like Native Americans. Islam is not some primitive spiritual belief system, Islam is a highly structured, highly aggressive, highly oppressive, religion that has global domination has a part of its goal. Fundamental elements of Islam state that all "infidels", i.e. all non-Muslims, should be killed. There is a goal in Islam to convert or kill every person on Earth, and there are millions of Muslims around the world who take that seriously! During the 1800s Westerners looked at themselves and recognized that they were being spiritual aggressors and cultural dictators, and we sought to stop those practices. However, many Muslims today are themselves spiritual aggressors and cultural dictators and we cannot spare them the very same criticism that we have inflicted upon our own selves. The ideas of The Enlightenment and 19th century multiculturalism were correct, but those ideas do not mean that we tolerate intolerance.

Not all Muslims are intolerant, and that's fine, but the Islamic religion suffers from the same flaws that Christianity does, it claims to be "one true faith" that requires everyone to submit to it. The religious tolerance that was preached in the 18th and 19th century, the tolerance that helped to create our modern Western Society, was a call for tolerance of non-aggressive natives who just wanted to practice their traditional values without being killed or converted by Christians. We were right to "tolerate" these people and to understand that aggressively converting tribal people to Christianity was not the best thing to do. People were right to look at some of these cultures and realize that they had qualities that were better than Western culture, that many of these people were more free, more happy, more at peace, and more cooperative than Western society was at the time. We looked at Native Americans, Polynesians, Asians, etc. and saw that we in the West didn't know it all and that these people's ideas had value too, and we made judgments about their values and cultures. We saw something that we liked and decided to integrate it. The same is not true of Middle Eastern Islam. I don't see anything there that I like. I see hate, violence, fear, oppression, over a thousands years of tribal warfare and fighting, and people who are trapped in mental cages.

Take these protestors in Lebanon as an example:

This is a protest in Lebanon, one of the more liberal places in the Middle East. The women are all wearing bandannas that read "Here I am at your service, oh messenger of God''. The speaker at this service, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, believes in the destruction of the West, and preaches "Death to Israel", "Death to America", "Death to Europe". In his service he stated, to the cheers of 500,000 followers, "Today, we are defending the dignity of our prophet with a word, a demonstration, but let [US President] George Bush and the arrogant world know that if we have to ... we will defend our prophet with our blood, not our voices."

Meanwhile, there is a proposition in Europe to censor the European press so as not to offend these fanatics. European Justice and Security Commissioner Franco Frattini said, "the press will give the Muslim world the message: We are aware of the consequences of exercising the right of free expression. We can and we are ready to self-regulate that right."

Insane! This message should never be given. A line has to be drawn in the sand somewhere, and this is the place. It must never be the case that we in the West have to regulate out own domestic press so as not to offend the sensibilities of fanatics in the Middle East. We cannot tolerate their intolerance, we cannot facilitate their aggression and domination, we cannot facilitate their use of fear and "respect" to subjugate women and children, kill homosexuals, cut-off the heads of "infidels", and persue Islamic theocracy. The fact that so many people have "been offended" by cartoons published by a small newspaper in Denmark (that were brought to the Middle East by radical Muslims and put on display), is not a sign that we should back down and accept the practices of radical Islam, it's a sign that we must do more to fight this problem.

Islamism is not to be "tolerated", Islam is an aggressive and intolerant religion, that demands obedience. Islam has many more taboos that our current society, not less. The call for Enlightenment Era tolerance was a call remove taboos, not to tolerate more taboos. The principles of The Enlightenment in no way support self-censorship to avoid insulting Islam, it was during The Enlightenment that Western Civilization didn't even censor itself to avoid insulting people of its own faith.

The Enlightenment was a period of intense self-criticism and introspection in Christian society in the West. This is exactly what the Islamic world needs today, and we cannot silence ourselves due to the lack of introsepection on the part of another culture.


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 6:34 AM EST | Post Comment | View Comments (3) | Permalink
Updated: Saturday, February 11, 2006 11:22 AM EST
Thursday, February 9, 2006
 The Necessity of Open Criticism - Religion Included

Topic: Commentary

The violent protests by Muslims around the world against the publishing of cartoons depicting Muhammad are obviously about much more than that, on both sides of the issue.

Undoubtedly the Muslims are outraged at more than just the cartoons, and the point of the cartoons was about far more than just disparaging Muhammad or Islam.

The cartoons were commissioned because of violent intolerance by Muslims shown towards people in the Danish region. With only 5% of the population in Denmark, writers and reporters there live in fear of offending Muslims even in the course of honest and correct reporting, because offences against Islam can result is being killed, as has been demonstrated by two high profile murders of people who criticized Islam from the area of Northern Europe.

The point of the cartoons was for the newspaper to prove that it was not afraid to criticize Islam, as many in the area claimed that all of the press was afraid of the Muslims. Indeed, the cartoons have proved there point, there is something to fear from Muslims.

The issue, however, is not simply "making fun of" Muhammad. The exact same fanatical intolerance and eagerness to resort to violence to silence criticism of Islam that has been displayed in relation to these cartoons is also responsible for facilitating many other abuses that take place in Islamic culture. So-called "respect", the idea that certain people, ideas, or institutions, should be beyond criticism is nothing more than a socially evolved mechanism for the entrenchment of exploitive institutions of power.

Under the guise of "respect for Islam", women are raped, women are stoned to death for having been raped, people are not allowed to in engage in scholarly examination of Islam, women's genitals are mutilated in order to prevent them from feeling sexual pleasure, thousands of people are sentenced to death every year on flimsy charges and for offences such as blasphemy, young teens are sentenced to death for minor crimes, and entire Islamic cultures are completely stifled from freethinking and personal freedoms.

Yet, with all of this, many Western leaders, and almost of all of the American mass media, has come to the defense of Islam.

Yes, American and European leaders and media outlets have come to the defense of the taboos that are responsible for perhaps the single leading contributor to human rights offences in the world today.

Many Muslims have claimed that the cartoons are hypocritical, because Western society would not tolerate desecration of sacred Western images. They go further to show their anti-Semitic obsession by saying that the biggest taboo in Western society is criticism of "the Jews". We all know that there have been plenty of desecrations of Jesus over the years in Western society, everything from pictures of Jesus and Mary smeared with piss and dung to movies and plays that make fun of him, and in no case have Westerners taken to the streets, burned buildings, and killed people because of it. People don't live in fear of offending religion in Western society anymore, at least not in fear for their physical safety. There was a time when we did, that was called The Dark Ages and later The Burning Times.

Iranians have claimed that cartoons lampooning the Holocaust should now be printed to "prove" the equal treatment of freedom of the press. This only goes to further show the hatred and lack of understanding of these Iranians. The cartoons of Muhammad were a legitimate criticism of practices that take place among some Muslims. There really are many Muslims around the world who use Islam to legitimize violence, abusive treatment of women, and the silencing of critics. The figure of Muhammad in the cartoons was used a figurative symbol for Islamists who engage in these these bad practices, that we can look out in the world every day and see taking place. The Holocaust, however, was a real event, in which millions of people were killed in an attempt to exterminate an entire group of people. Disparaging this event can bring nothing to the table, there is no criticism to discuss. The fact is that the same Iranians who claim that printing cartoons about the Holocaust would show equal "free speech" are known Holocaust deniers, who claim that the Holocaust never happened and claim that Jews are making up lies to get European sympathy and have an excuse to steal the land of Arabs. We know this drill already. So these two different subjects are not equal, but nevertheless, if people want to print cartoons "criticizing the Jews and the Holocaust" then they can go ahead, we know that we won't see riots in the streets over it, but we also much know that such an act is not equal to the valid points made by the Dutch cartoons.

Several people in the press have mistakenly claimed that the lesson of The Enlightenment was "tolerance", insinuating that we should be tolerance of Islam's taboos, but this is completely false. The Enlightenment saw heavy criticism of the Christian religion. The lesson of The Enlightenment was TOLERANCE OF CRITICISM.

Tolerance is a two way street, and clearly Muslims, even the so-called "moderate Muslims", do not know how to reciprocate tolerance and they don't know how to tolerate criticism.

The mass media in America, however, has now decided to become a propaganda outlet for Islam apparently. Virtually every single news report on the cartoon images makes the claim that"Muslims are offended by images of Muhammad, which is forbidden by Islam."

This is a flat out lie.

Doesn't anyone in the Western media actually investigate anymore, or do they all just repeat what people tell them to say?

There is not one single thing in the Koran that says anything about images of Muhammad. Islam has teachings against "idolatry". Idolatry is the worship of "idols", or objects. In Islam there is a prohibition, not based on the Koran, but on later Islamic thought and Sharia law, against any images of people, animals, gods, spirits, etc. So, according to some Islamic teachings, just about all media in the West is in violation of Islam. This is why in many mosques they only have patterns, they don't have any images. Since Jesus is also considered a prophet in Islam every image of Jesus is also a major offence against Islam. Muslims consider having images of Jesus to be "idolatry", and this is one of the things that classify Christians as "infidels". Not all Muslims go by this rule however, in fact some mosques have images of Muhammad painted on them.

There have been thousands of images of Muhammad made by Muslims over the years anyway, in part because the teachings against images of Muhammad are not universal in Islam and are not a part of the Koran.

Here is an Iranian website with many images of Muhammad:

http://www.hamshahri.org/vijenam/javan/1384/841115/panke3.htm


Image of Muhammad on Iranian Mosque

Secondly, idolatry has to do with the worship of images. The only, I repeat only, laws against making images in Islam are laws about idolatry. They are laws designed to prevent people from worshiping images. Clearly, the cartoons do not violate any idolatry laws. Interestingly, the fact is that the only violation of Islamic law for making images of Muhammad is if you make respectful images of Muhammad, because those are images showing worship of Muhammad, and you aren't supposed to worship Muhammad, you are only supposed to worship "the one true god, Allah".

So, the Western media, instead of using this as an opportunity to advance understanding of Islam and to engage in honest reflection upon the situation, have instead chosen to be spokesmen for intolerance, spokesmen for oppression, spokesmen for the single largest groups of human rights violators in the world today, and to give false credence to their false claims, and they have decided to take the side of those who would use violence to silence dialog instead of those who have proven the point that they set out to make, that Islam is intolerant of criticism. The only laws in Islam against images of Muhammad are Sharia law, the same laws in use right now that result in stoning women to death if they were raped.

Great job American "free press", great job again at doing your work and "investigating" the issues.

We have seen in recent times the importance of open criticism across the board, and Islam is no exception. The case of the South Korean stem cell scientist Hwang Woo-suk is an example of a situation where his students and lab assistance were afraid to criticize his actions, resulting in ethical violations and the publishing of false research papers and lying to the scientific community. It was only when an American scientist had the fortitude to stand up and criticize Hwang Woo-suk's work that the truth was known. The culture of opposition to criticism is inevitably a culture that leads to corruption and violation of rights, because "respect" is used as a weapon to silence honest inquiry.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hwang_Woo-suk#Controversies

This same "respect card" was played in the America media again after the Coretta Scott King funeral. During the funeral of this active opponent of war, violence, and government infringement of civil liberties, several speakers gave political messages about the very same things while in the presence of President George Bush. The response from the conservatives has been that this was "disrespectful" to "Mrs. King". In reality they mean that it was disrespectful to George Bush, because it showed the greatest respect for Mrs. King, I'm sure that she would have used the opportunity to spread her message of non-violence and civil liberties herself if she could have.

But no, conservative commentators have said repeatedly that it was "disrespectful", and that it was not "the time and place". Of course not, it's never the "time and place" for open discussion as far as opponents of criticism are concerned.

In the lead up to the war with Iraq we were told again and again that opposition to the war was disrespectful to the president, and that it was not the "time and place" for criticism, it was only time to "get behind the leader". Of course, as is often the case, the critics were right and the administration was wrong. Basically nothing that the President said turned out to be true, and what many of the critics said turned out to be correct.

This issue of the cartoons is about much more than cartoons or even about Muhammad and Islam, its about the issue of open inquiry and criticism.

Nothing can be above criticism, not religion, not the President, not scientists, not anything. Respect can only be a two way street and can only come from openness to criticism and tolerance of debate.

Critical perspectives on the Muhammad Cartoon controversy:

Everyone Is Afraid to Criticize Islam

Something Is Rotten Outside the State of Denmark


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 8:18 AM EST | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink
Updated: Saturday, February 11, 2006 2:34 PM EST
Thursday, February 2, 2006
 Muslim Reaction to Cartoons Shows Problem with Religion

Topic: Commentary
Muhammad cartoon row intensifies

The violent reaction of Muslims to cartoons of Muhammad illustrates the very point that the cartoons intended to make. Back in September the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published cartoons of Muhammad, some of which depicted him as a man of violence.

The reaction from Muslims to these cartoons has been to burn flags, dawn AK-47s and rocket launchers, and chant "Death to Denmark!"

Following these Islamic protests the cartoons were re-published in newspapers across Europe, including Spain, France, and Germany, to which Muslims have shouted "Death to Spain!", "Death to France!", Death to Germany!", "Death to Europe!"


Muslims Protesting Denmark in Palestine


Palestinians Protesting in Front of European Embassy


Muslims showing the "Holy Book of Peace"

Gee, I wonder how Islam has gotten a reputation as a violent religion?

Leaders across the Middle East have lined up to promote boycotts against Dutch and European businesses, demand apologies from the newspapers, and hurl ever more curses against the West. Some have even said that the publication of these cartoons will likely lead to more terrorism.

"Freedom of opinion, expression and of the press, which we guarantee and respect, cannot be used as an excuse to insult sanctities, beliefs and religions," said Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak.

The new President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, stated: "Any insult to the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) is an insult to more than 1 billion Muslims and an act like this must never be allowed to be repeated."

An act like this "must never be repeated"? Give me a break. We are talking about cartoons in a newspaper of a man who has been dead for 1,500 years, as compared to the millions of people being killed and tortured each year in the name of Allah!

The fact that 1 billion militant people on this planet have been insulted by this benign act of caricature should frighten any sane person, and should be a wake-up call as to the perils of religion.

I hope that this also gives the Europeans pause over their tolerance of Islam and their consideration of the admission of Turkey into the EU.

Europe had to fight for 500 years to rid itself of Christian religious tyranny, they would be fools to allow an even greater religious tyranny to creep back into Europe now. Unfortunately, religious tyranny is greater here in America than Europe, hence we have not seen any American publications willing to re-print the cartoons here our of fear of reprisal. I think it clearly demonstrates where freedom of expression is truly greater.

No one should be apologizing to Muslims for the cartoons. There is nothing to apologize for.

Muslims have done an excellent job of proving why they are viewed as militant bigoted tyrants and fanatics. If you can't dismiss a cartoon then you have serious mental problems, and that's exactly what religion is, a mental disease, as we can clearly see. Religion is obviously the single greatest threat to humanity today, and the leading cause of violence in the world.

Practically the entire Israeli/Palestinian conflict is based on religion. It's senseless.

The greatest irony, however, is that Muslims claim that their outrage comes from the Islamic ban on images of "The Holy Prophet Muhammad", however the reason for this taboo against images of Muhammad is to prevent people from idolizing Muhammad, since the Muslims are supposed to regard him as just a messenger of Allah, and not someone to be worshiped.

The point is that Muslims are supposed to focus their worship on Allah, not Muhammad, yet clearly they fail to even understand the meaning of their own rules. They still idolize Muhammad, as is evidenced by the way they talk about him and go insane if you make a cartoon of him. Making a cartoon of Muhammad doesn't even violate the intent of the "no images of Muhammad" rule anyway. As I said, the intent of the rule is to prevent the worship of Muhammad.

Not only this, but the fact remains that there have been thousands of images of "Muhammad" made throughout the years in Muslim cultures. Of course no one really knows what Muhammad even looked like, so it's somewhat of a mute point anyway.

For Islamic images of Muhammad see:

http://www.zombietime.com/mohammed_image_archive/

The reactions of Muslims to the cartoons of Muhammad demonstrates exactly why these cartoons were made in the first place, and it demonstrates exactly why religions needs to be criticized, people's beliefs need to be challenged, and why no one has the right not to be offended. In their reaction to the cartoons it seems many Muslim leaders have confused the freedom of expresion with the freedom of oppression. To claim that there can be "free press", as long as the press is restricted so that it cannot challenge religious taboos, is no freedom at all.


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 10:38 PM EST | Post Comment | View Comments (2) | Permalink
Updated: Friday, February 10, 2006 6:40 PM EST
Sunday, January 22, 2006
 Review of January 15th Speaking Event

Topic: Announcements
I have received several questions about the January 15th speaking event so I will provide a summary of it.

The event went very well. About 30-35 people attended, which is what we planned for. My presentation was about an hour and a half long, accompanied by PowerPoint. We had about a half hour of questions and discussion after the presentation.

Pretty much everyone that attended was non-religious from what I could tell. The presentation was strictly historical and I did not get into personal opinions on religion or make any claims about religion itself. The presentation was about the major thinkers and ideas that have challenged religion in Western Civilization over the past 500 years, and the contribution of religious criticism to the development of modern society. I also discussed the role of the Cold War in contributing to the current religious climate in America today.

I also had a table full of historical objects, such as "pre-In God We Trust" money, old pictures of major religious critics, and many old books from religious critics, such as works from Robert Ingersoll, Thomas Paine, etc.

The average age of those attending was probably about 45 years old, with several seniors in attendance, but the range of ages was pretty broad. Some of the questions that were raised during the question and answer session were:

> What were Einstein's views on religion, I have heard many people say that he believed in God?

This came because I mentioned Einstein as a prominent religious critic during the Cold War. I explained that Einstein often used the term "God" when confronted with questions about his religion, but he always explained that he considered God to be "the physical universe", and science was "his religion". Einstein was trying to reconcile faith and religion, but he did this by trying to infuse the materialist worldview with "religious wonder". Einstein, however, was always a materialist and a determinist, and on several occasions he denounced Western religion and criticized Christianity and Judaism, including in his self-authored obituary.

> Though there is much less religious belief in Europe, are those people still just as irrational as Americans and do they believe in other things, such as alien abductions, etc., in other words, did one form of irrationality just get replaced with another.

My comment was that I did not think this was the case, because scientific education is much better in most parts of Europe than it is here, and the materialist worldview is more broadly held there than it is here. Of course there are "quacks" everywhere, but no I do not think that Europe has just as many "people of faith" as America, simply under a different label, I think that Europeans have more fully embraced a scientific world outlook.

> Someone commented on how they think that the fact that industrialization and the "fruits of science" have resulted in some negative things caused people to get disillusioned with science and that that was why there was a religious resurgence in America after World War II.

I said that I agreed that that must have had some effect, however, the same trend did not occur in Europe or Japan. There are always many factors that contribute to large social trends, but I believe that the Cold War and the institutionalized association between "godlessness" and "evil commies" played the dominant role in shaping American religious views after World War II.

There were a few other questions as well.

Several people thanked me after the presentation.

Overall it was a great event and I enjoyed it. I will be speaking at another event as part of a panel on February 12th, for Darwin Day.


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 10:06 PM EST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Monday, February 13, 2006 10:35 PM EST
Thursday, January 12, 2006
 Speaking event Sunday, January 15th

Topic: Announcements

History of Religious Criticism in Western Civilization
Sunday, January 15, 2006, 1:00 pm



Abstract
While a significant number of people in America are disillusioned with, or critical of, religion, few people are aware of the historical role that religious criticism has played in shaping modern Western Civilization, or the degree to which people have challenged Western religion in the past. Furthermore, many Americans are unaware of the degree to which the Cold War has impacted religious attitudes in the United States. This is the case, to a large degree, because religious criticism is not taught in schools, nor is it discussed in the mainstream media. All history that is presented in America is a Christianized, or at least Christian sensitive, version history. The only way to be exposed to non-Christianized versions of history in America is to actively seek out alternative information, which can be complex and time consuming. The objective of this presentation is to provide a basic understanding of religious criticism and an overview of the past 500 years of Western history in the context of religious criticism, showing that religious criticism has played a central role in the development of modern Western Civilization and that the Cold War has had far reaching effects on religious attitudes in America.

Presentation Outline

  • Introduction

  • Types of Religious Criticism
  • The Renaissance (1500-1650)
    • The Protestant Reformation (1517-1555)

  • The Enlightenment (1650-1790)
    • English Empiricism
    • French Materialism
    • American Revolution

  • 19th Century German Atheism (1800-1900)
  • The Golden Age of Freethought (1870-1917)
  • 20th Century Communism
  • Anti-Communist Reaction (1919-1945)
  • Religion during the Cold War (1945-1992)
  • Religious Criticism Today

Additional Information
Location: Tigertail Lake (BCC’s Water Sports Facility)
580 Gulfstream Blvd., Dania Beach
(west of I-95 south of Griffin, east of Ravenswood. By the Fishing Hall of Fame)

http://www.centerforinquiry.net/fll/


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 6:59 AM EST | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, January 12, 2006 7:00 AM EST
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
 Why the US Cannot, and Will Not, Leave Iraq Any Time Soon

Topic: Commentary
There is decreasing support for the war in Iraq, and there are increasing calls to bring the troops home. President Bush has also begun hinting toward the idea of bringing troops home “if things go well” in Iraq. The recent elections in Iraq have been hailed by president Bush as a flowering of democracy and “freedom” in the Middle East, but what is really going on here?

The group that came out on top in the recent Iraqi elections is that of the Shiite Muslims who support Islamic theocracy in Iraq. This is the group of people who are most closely aligned with Iran.
Earlier this year Iranian democracy brought Shiite fundamentalist Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to presidential power.

Now lets get a few things straight.

The press and the President keep telling us that the “insurgency” is fueled by Muslim extremists and the Sunni minority of Iraq. Here is the thing though, the Muslim extremists are in the majority in Iraq and the Sunnis are much more secular than the Shiites. In practice the Sunnis are the moderates and the Shiites are the extremists, and the Shiites are the ones gaining political power in the government. Yes the Sunnis ruled with somewhat of an iron fist during Saddam’s reign, but much of that was in order to prevent the more radical Islamist Shiites from dominating the country with religious fundamentalism. Iraq was one of the few places in the Middle East where women could go to the university, drive cars, own property, etc.

What exactly happened when America invaded the Middle East?

Well, despite the fact that there was a movement in Iran to open up towards the West and become a more liberal society, when America invaded Iraq and Afghanistan this pushed the Iranians to adopt a much more conservative, anti-American, anti-Western, nationalist stance. With America invading the countries next door the Iranian people felt threatened and when election time came the country shifted far to the Right and elected the fundamentalist radical Ahmadinejad.

In Iraq we deposed one of the most secular and socially moderate regimes in the Middle East to bring religious fundamentalists (who are ideologically sympathetic to Iran) into power.

Now, both Iraq and Iran have Shiites in power. Meanwhile Iran is still perusing nuclear capabilities and their leader is shouting ridiculous threats about Israel. Democracy in Afghanistan has yielded a parliament that is thought to be about 60% warlords, many of which are former or current members of the Taliban. Not only that but the Taliban insurgency is increasing in Afghanistan as well.

Anyone who thinks that America can bring the troops home from this situation is kidding themselves to say the least. There is no way that American troops can “come home” from the Middle East any time soon. In fact even a minor draw down in troops seems unlikely.

The Bush administration is talking about brining troops home because that is what people want to hear, and, once again, people are allowing themselves to be led by what they want to here. Americans are now believing that it’s actually possible to extricate ourselves from the mess in the Middle East. It’s not. We are going to have relatively high levels of troops in the Middle East for years and years to come. Ten years from now we are still going to have over 100,000 troops engaged in military operations in the Middle East. Now that we have gone in, it’s quicksand, there is no way out.


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 9:53 PM EST | Post Comment | Permalink
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
 Why I Support the Execution of Stanley Williams and the Death Penalty

Topic: Commentary
With the recent execution of Stanley Williams there has been a lot of discussion of the death penalty, with many people opposing it. I myself am a strong supporter of the death penalty, and in fact I consider a criminal justice system without a death penalty to be unjust and unethical. I also find the mentality of people who would eliminate the death penalty just to see people live their lives in prison to be reprehensible. This is essentially creating more victims just to keep one's own conscience clean. The first thing that the opponents of the death penalty need to accept is that this issue is not about them or their feelings of guilt or their feelings about humanity, it is about the convict and the victims. We should not refrain from killing others just to keep blood off our own hands.

Many opponents of the death penalty claim that "killing them makes us as bad as they are". This is false, but it also demonstrates the selfish attitude of the opponents because their real desire in opposing the death penalty is to absolve themselves of the act of carrying out justice.

When discussing the death penalty there are two completely different and important factors to consider.

First: Is the death penalty justifiable at all? In other words, in cases where there is 100% certainty that the person convicted is guilty of the crime that they are convicted of, is the death penalty appropriate?

Second: Is the death penalty justifiable given the consideration that people may wrongfully be convicted?

I hope to show here that the death penalty is justifiable on both of these counts.

Establishing the first point is essential, because if there are no cases where the death penalty is justifiable then there is no point even discussing the second point.

Is the death penalty justifiable in any case, and if so, what cases?

I would say that the death penalty is certainly justifiable in cases of "cold blooded" murder and torture. If someone kills another human being for "no good reason", then this person should be put to death. What constitutes "no good reason"? Intentionally killing someone for enjoyment, out of callous disregard for their life, or in order to cover-up another crime.

Killing someone in self defense, even while committing a crime, should not warrant a death penalty because this is a case of natural self preservation, despite the fact that it is ultimately a result of another initial crime. Small crimes can escalate beyond what the perpetrator anticipated and result in the killing of someone that the criminal had no intention of killing originally. This should not warrant the death penalty.

I do not think that any crime of passion should warrant the death penalty, because these are emotionally enraged acts of violence that most likely don't reflect on the person's overall demeanor or intentions. Crimes of passion are not justifiable, but they are understandable.

Why is the death penalty justifiable in the cases mentioned? Because the person committing the crime has broken the most essential social contract. The most essential social contract is that we will not kill each other senselessly. You are free to live on this planet as long as you abide by the rule that you don't kill other people for no good reason. Once you violate that rule, then your time is done - you have demonstrated that you do not deserve to live. Killing individuals who are a threat to society and who themselves have callous disregard for life is perfectly natural and part of maintaining a healthy population. Rehabilitation or not makes no difference. What good works can be done to undo the killing of people for no good reason? None. Nothing can redeem that act, and there should be no reason why we should keep people alive or allow people to live who have broken the most important social contract, which is not to kill other people without cause.

Killing a killer does not "make you as bad as the killer".

Forcing society to pay for the maintenance of the lives of killers indefinitely is a crime against society. That the family of the victims of murder have to pay for the meals and medical care of the person who killed their loved ones is a crime. Literally what is happening with a life sentence is that someone's loved ones are killed, and then they have to give up a portion of the value that they produce every day to the person who killed their loved one. It's like if you are a farmer and someone murdered your child for fun, and then you had to take a portion of the food that you harvest every day and give it to that person for the rest of your life. That person's murder of your child then makes them a dependent of yours. That's exactly what prison is and how prison functions. Prison punishes the victims as well as the criminals, because we all have to pay for it.

If you are a part of society (which everyone who is in contact with any other human is) then you have an obligation to society not to murder people. When you make the choice to kill another human being for no good reason you have given up your right to life. It's a very simple rule.

Now for the second point. Many people claim that we should not have a death penalty because the justice system is not perfect and we inevitably condemn innocent people to death. People get wrongfully convicted all the time. It is a tragedy of life that is so far impossible to solve. The reality, however, is that people who are given a death sentence are far more likely to have a wrongful conviction overturned than anyone else. The fact that it is a death sentence means that these people receive extra attention. Wrongful convictions where there is a death sentence are more likely to get overturned than life sentences.

All wrongful convictions are an injustice. Serving life in prison if you didn't commit a crime is hardly less a tragedy of justice than being put to death if you didn't commit the crime. The fact is that if you are actually innocent of the crime you stand a higher chance of having your conviction overturned and being set free if you are on death row than if you are serving life in prison.

Furthermore, it has been demonstrated many times that the death penalty can be a useful bargaining chip to get defendants to cooperate with an investigation. The threat of the death penalty has been shown many times to lead to cooperation by murderers that helps to solve the crimes that they have committed.

People who have committed senseless murder deserve to be put to death. In fact, in cases where there is 100% certainty that the conviction is correct I think the death sentence should be carried out within weeks. In cases like those of Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer, etc., there is no reason that the death sentence should not be carried out almost immediately.

Not only is the death penalty completely justifiable, but it actually increases the accuracy of the justice system. I do feel, however, that the death penalty is not correctly used in America today. First of all, there are dozens of people on death row who have been sentenced to death on crimes committed as juveniles. Most of these people killed a male, often their father or step father, who was abusing their mother. These conviction are an outrage. To sentence a teenager to death for killing the abuser of their mother, or the sexual abuser of them self or a sibling, is a complete reversal of justice, yet this is the case in our justice system today.

Secondly, the death penalty is unevenly applied based on race, and this is an outrage. The problem, however, is not the death penalty itself, but rather the laws and the justice system. The fact still remains that wrongfully convicted blacks are more likely to be set free from death row than from a life sentence due to the extra scrutiny of their cases.

I support the death penalty and actually think that it's use should be expanded, but the inequities and injustices in the system definitely deserve much attention and need to be corrected.

As for Stanley Williams, if he was guilty of the crimes for which he was convicted, then he deserved the death penalty. His execution should serve as his ultimate lesson to the youth he claimed to be committed to helping. The lesson is simple. This is not a game, and being in a gang and committing crime is not cool or a means to fame and you aren't going to be forgiven if you kill people. Don't get involved and don't do the crime, because you aren't going to be a hero, you are going to be executed. It's not glamorous, it's real. Stanley Williams is not a hero. The heroes are the guys and girls that grew up in the same neighborhood as Stanley and went on to become successful and productive members of society, who are now raising their own families, instead of destroying families. Those are the real heroes, not Stanley.


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 6:33 AM EST | Post Comment | View Comments (15) | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, December 15, 2005 10:11 PM EST
Sunday, December 11, 2005
 The so-called "War on Christmas"

Topic: Semi-random Thoughts
Bill O'Reilly and other conservatives are continuing to spread the 50 year old "War on Christmas" myth. They claim that "secularists" are trying to undermine the Christian roots of the Christmas holiday, by using phrases like "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas", etc.

First of all, as an atheist I can tell you that I, and my like minded acquaintances, am perfectly happy with Christmas. I have always celebrated Christmas and will continue to do so. I say Merry Christmas and I have a Christmas tree.

The irony is that so much of Christmas isn't Christian in the first place. That the "War on Christmas" crowd complains about the use of the phrase "Happy Holidays" is also quite ironic because the word "holiday" comes from "Holy-Day". "Holidays" used to all be "Holy Days" in the Roman tradition.

First of all, virtually every part of Christmas comes from "pagan" tradition, not Christianity. About the only part of Christmas that is "Christian" is the name.

The date of Christmas comes from the Roman celebration of Natalis Solis Invictus, a.k.a. Saturnalia. The holiday was a celebration of the rebirth of the Sun God after the winter solstice. This was the major holiday in Rome, and it was co-opted by Christians who lived in Rome because it was a traditional Roman celebration. Once Christianity became the religion of Rome the holiday became officially adopted by the Christians.

That's just the beginning. All of the following traditions come to us from "pagan" (pagan just means non-Abrahamic) culture:


  • Christmas Trees
  • Mistletoe
  • Poinsettia
  • Holly
  • Wreaths
  • Exchanging gifts
  • Elves
  • Santa Clause
  • Bell ringing
  • Caroling
  • Yule log
  • Fruit Cake
  • Magical reindeer
  • Winged angels


All of these aspects of Christmas are originally from the winter solstice celebrations of various "pagan" cultures. So as you can see, Christmas was never very Christian in the first place.

Additionally, after the Protestant Reformation most Protestant groups, especially those from England and early America, rejected Christmas as a pagan practice.

Christmas was actually made illegal in many American colonies by the Puritans and Pilgrims. Where it wasn't illegal it was still not popular.

Christmas didn't become a nationally recognized holiday until after the Civil War.

As much as Christians now lament the "commercialization of Christmas", it was actually the commercial interests that made Christmas popular in America in the first place. In the late 1800s department stores and other businesses are the ones who made Christmas what it is today. Christmas in America has ALWAYS been highly commercial, largely secular, and mixed with a wide variety of cultural traditions.

The other irony is that guys like Bill O'Reilly are really complaining about the effects of free-market capitalism. They complain about the fact that Christmas has become too commercial and that terms like "Happy Holidays" are becoming more widely used.

Well, Christmas is so commercial because we live in a capitalist society, which Bill O'Reilly claims is God's gift to mankind. Which is it Bill, are you pro-capitalist or anti-capitalist?

Likewise, terms such as Happy Holidays are being used because corporations want to include as many people as possible and not be exclusive. It's another product of a free-market system. As a company do I want to market only to Christians, or also to Jews and people of other faiths (since just about every culture and religion celebrates around this season)?

Don't forget that many of the country's major department stores are based out of the major cities like New York and L.A.

These cities tend to be much more cosmopolitan than "red state America", and thus the people who set policy for these department stores are much more sensitive to multiculturalism.

Why is our country run by multiculturalists from the "blue states"? Because of free-market capitalism. Free-market capitalism is both liberalizing and centralizing. The free-market tends to move towards inclusiveness and new ideas. Capitalism tends to centralizes economic means and power. What the conservatives are really railing against with their "War on Christmas" rants is free-market capitalism.

Why don't people like Bill O'Reilly and other Christians just come out and admit that they are anti-capitalists?

At any rate, as an atheist I am perfect happy and comfortable with Christmas, as well as Christian Christmas carols and nativity scenes. I mean, since all the nativity scenes are built wrong anyway, what is the harm?

All nativity scenes are anti-Biblical, since the Bible says that when the wise men (the Bible doesn't say how many wise men) visited Jesus he was living in a house and was a young boy. The Christian nativity scenes just prove again how little they read their own holy book. It seems that Christians can't get anything right about their religion and few of them have any knowledge of it. Maybe a good Christian activity for Christmas would be to read the Bible and try to find inspiration for their Christmas celebrations there, where they can see that there is no such celebration in the Bible and that all of their traditions are either wrongly practices or are pagan traditions.

All the while, I will happily sing Christmas songs, and decorate my Christmas tree, and enjoy the holiday season.

There is no war on Christmas. The reality is that Christmas never was what the Christians claim that is was. It was never a Christian holiday in the first place, and it was made popular in America BY commercialism, not as a religious holiday.

Merry Christmas!!!


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 8:16 PM EST | Post Comment | Permalink

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