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Monday, March 6, 2006
 Understanding Evolution: History, Theory, Evidence, and Implications

Topic: Announcements

Understanding Evolution: History, Theory, Evidence, and Implications

This is an extensive piece that covers the history of evolutionary concepts, conflicts between Christianity and evolution, an explanation of, and evidence for, biological evolution, criticisms of evolutionary theory, and the broader implications of evolutionary theory. Unlike many pieces on evolution that try to dance around or reconcile the conflicts between science and religion, this article addresses those issues head on.


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 9:44 PM EST | Post Comment | View Comments (14) | Permalink
Sunday, February 19, 2006
 Americans now the largest charity case in the world

Topic: Commentary

Though Americans may not realize it, Americans are the largest recipients of financial assistance of anyone in the world. The trade deficit is reported to have hit an all time record high of $725 billion for 2005.

What this means, exactly, is that Americans received 725 billion dollars of "aid" in 2005 from the rest of the world. The $725 billion is essentially a loan that has gone out to the American public. This loan comes out to an average of $2,448 per person in America, but that doesn't really tell the picture because that is based on dividing the total deficit by the total population. Obviously children don't directly purchase goods, so the cost can't accurately be distributed among them, and not every individual has received an equal distribution of this aid. I don't have the data needed to determine who, exactly, has received more of this aid, but obviously those who have purchased more have directly received more aid than those that don't purchase much.

That doesn't give the whole story either however, because sellers of goods are also indirect beneficiaries of the aid as well. In this case, individuals take on the loan, but sellers get compensation.

Here is the bottom line, however: Americans receive more financial aid from the rest of the world than people in any other country. Americans are bigger receivers of "charity" than the poorest people of Africa or South America.

Additionally, many people have claimed that the cause of the trade deficit has something to do with the way that China values it's currency, or the fact that wages are so much lower in developing nations, etc., but in 2003 Germany became the world's leading exporter and has gained in its lead in that position for the past 2 years. German wages and compensation to workers are higher than the compensation to American workers. Additionally, many have claimed that the problems facing the US auto industry are because of unions, wages, pensions, and healthcare coverage, but auto workers in Japan and Germany have more job security, higher compensation, and better retirement benefits, yet Japan is consistently expanding its market share and efficiency. "Incidentally", the ratio of executive compensation to "blue collar" compensation in Japan is much lower than it is in America. In other words, executives get less pay and workers get more pay in Japan than they do in America. In 2000 the ratio of executive compensation to worker compensation for American executives was  475 to 1, for Japanese executives the ratio was 11 o 1.


source: http://www.uaw.org/publications/jobs_pay/00/0700/jpe04.html

So, what is going on here? America is becoming increasingly less competitive economically, yet the leaders of our economy are being paid orders of magnitude more than the leaders of the economies that are out competing American companies. American workers are increasingly living off of global charity as the products of their labor are also increasingly being redistributed to executives and shareholders. Ultimately, workers from around the planet are subsidizing both American workers and American executives and shareholders, but by far executives and shareholders are getting the better deal. Not only are they getting the better deal, but the they have been able to transfer the debt load onto the American working class, as corporations now have record levels of cash on hand while American families now have record levels of debt.

Compare the trade deficit to the donations given by America. In 2002 charitable giving from the United States hit a record high of $241 billion overall. This figure includes both private and governmental giving. I don't have the latest data for 2005, which may have set a new record, but its safe to assume that the figure is less than $725 billion. The United States government gives about $15 billion a year in foreign aid, but most almost all of this aid goes to other governments, and much of the money actually works against the interests of citizens, therefore harming people more than helping them. This is part of the point, though. America foreign aid is like money from lobbyists, and there is indeed a link between our trade deficit and our foreign aid. Just like lobbyists pay politicians millions to receive hundreds of millions in benefits for their interests (there is an average rate of return of $100 for every dollar spent on lobbying), the American government pays other governments to receive aid as well, and this is indeed a part of how the American people, but more importantly American corporations, get such huge financial assistance from the world.

The American way of life is heavily subsidized by the global population, and indeed American foreign aid should be seen as a type of lobbying of foreign governments to get benefits for America from the populations that the governments rule. The biggest delusion, however, is that Americans give charity to the rest of the world. In fact, the world is giving charity to America. The American trade deficit exceeds all charitable giving from America to the rest of the world and that doesn't even begin to explain the issue. That doesn't even touch on how much America underpays foreign workers or the deals by which America is able to acquire raw materials such as oil, metals, and timber from countries at below market values.

Overall, total American giving to the rest of the world is a small fraction of the financial assistance given to America by foreign peoples. In fact, America could stop all foreign giving, both public and private, and lift much of the world out of poverty if Americans would just pay off debt and give foreign workers fair compensation. Why does the American government give foreign aid to countries where American corporations pay workers fifty cents a hour to work? Simply paying the people decent wages would alleviate the need for the foreign aid... but then, that's really what the foreign aid is buying after all, the foreign aid is paid to the governments to help secure beneficial economic agreements for American corporations.

Corporations lobby the American government with millions, causing politicians to spend billions lobbying foreign governments with "foreign aid" on behalf of American corporations, who in turn give favorable terms to American corporations and enforce laws that protect American corporate interests at the expense of their own local populations and workers.

There certainly is no doubt, America is the largest charity case in the world. Of course life is great in America, every American today is receiving thousand of dollars a year in financial assistance from the rest of the world.

For further details see:

Mind the record trade gap

Trade gap: Blame exporters?


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 9:49 PM EST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Sunday, March 19, 2006 8:22 AM EST
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
 Glory to Peaceful Islam!

Topic: Commentary

We have all heard many times, I am sure, that Islam is a peaceful religion, and that Muhammad is a man of peace and honor. We have repeatedly heard imams who have claimed that to fight and show violence is an offense against Islam, and that thus the terrorists and rioters and suicide bombers are actually desecrating Islam by going against the teachings of Muhammad.

Furthermore, they go so far as to write children's books about how loving and peaceful Muhammad was and they introduce teachings about Islam in the schools in the name of "multiculturalism". Let us reflect then, on the peaceful, tolerant, teachings of this "most humble" religion:

The Noble Qur'an

2:193: And fight them until there is no more Fitnah (disbelief and worshipping of others along with Allah) and (all and every kind of) worship is for Allah (Alone). But if they cease, let there be no transgression except against Az-Zalimun (the polytheists, and wrong-doers, etc.)

9: 12: But if they violate their oaths after their covenant, and attack your religion with disapproval and criticism then fight (you) the leaders of disbelief (chiefs of Quraish - pagans of Makkah) - for surely their oaths are nothing to them - so that they may stop (evil actions).

9: 13: Will you not fight a people who have violated their oaths (pagans of Makkah) and intended to expel the Messenger, while they did attack you first? Do you fear them? Allah has more right that you should fear Him, if you are believers.

9:14: Fight against them so that Allah will punish them by your hands and disgrace them and give you victory over them and heal the breasts of a believing people,

9:26: Then Allah did send down His Sakinah (calmness, tranquillity and reassurance, etc.) on the Messenger (Muhammad), and on the believers, and sent down forces (angels) which you saw not, and punished the disbelievers. Such is the recompense of disbelievers.

9:29: Fight against those who (1) believe not in Allah, (2) nor in the Last Day, (3) nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger (4) and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth (i.e. Islam) among the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians), until they pay the Jizyah with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.

47:4 So, when you meet (in fight Jihad in Allah's Cause), those who disbelieve smite at their necks till when you have killed and wounded many of them, then bind a bond firmly (on them, i.e. take them as captives). Thereafter (is the time) either for generosity (i.e. free them without ransom), or ransom (according to what benefits Islam), until the war lays down its burden. Thus [you are ordered by Allah to continue in carrying out Jihad against the disbelievers till they embrace Islam (i.e. are saved from the punishment in the Hell-fire) or at least come under your protection], but if it had been Allah's Will, He Himself could certainly have punished them (without you). But (He lets you fight), in order to test you, some with others. But those who are killed in the Way of Allah, He will never let their deeds be lost,

47:5: He will guide them and set right their state.

47: 9: But those who disbelieve (in the Oneness of Allah Islamic Monotheism), for them is destruction, and (Allah) will make their deeds vain.

47:10: That is because they hate that which Allah has sent down (this Qur'an and Islamic laws, etc.), so He has made their deeds fruitless.

47:11: Have they not travelled through the earth, and seen what was the end of those before them? Allah destroyed them completely and a similar (fate awaits) the disbelievers.

 

As you can see, the reaction to the Danish cartoons has everything to do with the teachings of this religion. For those who have claimed that the reaction has nothing to do with the religion, but rather that it is purely a product of Western imperialism, it is plain to see from a reading of the Qur'an that the violent actions of Muslims around the world over the years is according to the teachings of Islam.

Why doesn't the mainstream media publish these quotes from the Qur'an when they cover stories about Islam? Why have these passages not been used as a reference to understand the reaction to the cartoons? Clearly, these passages help us to understand the reaction to the cartoons. Will the "moderate Muslims" be offended because we quote their holy book word for word?

Why do "moderate Muslims" continue to say that Islam is a religion of peace? Are they themselves misled? Have they themselves not read the Qur'an? Do they actually not understand their own religion? Are they just fooling themselves? Are some of these "moderate Muslims" just being selective and only choosing to follow the teachings that they like, or are some of these "moderate Muslims" a front for the further infiltration of secular society with a violent, bigoted, and warlike religion that demands fearful obedience and preaches hate to all that to not believe in "Allah"?

I suspect that it is a mix of all these things, but one cannot be concerned with what Muslim believers are or are not doing and why they are doing it, what non-Muslims should be concerned with is what we are doing. Continuing to give cover for this religion or to allow it to further infringe on open and secular culture is only inviting more violence, more domination, and more calls for social regulation.

Tolerance is a two way street. Islam is a religion founded on the idea of intolerance of others. There can be no tolerance of intolerance.


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 7:21 AM EST | Post Comment | View Comments (24) | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, February 22, 2006 4:56 AM EST
Monday, February 13, 2006
 Thank goodness for "moderate" Muslims...

Topic: Commentary

Much has been said in the recent American press about the "civilized" and "peaceful" response of American Muslims. The credit for this "moderate" Muslim response in America is partly due to the fact that none of the cartoons have been published by major American news agencies.

Basically what this is stating is that there is no reason for American Muslims to be upset since Americans have censored themselves to the wishes of Muslims in the first place. Of course there are probably some war-time considerations at play, but nevertheless this is not really much of a "win" for Americans.

Meanwhile, American Muslims have received praise because they didn't march in the streets with banners calling for the destruction of Israel and Europe and they didn't burn down buildings. What these "moderate" Muslims have said, however, gives plenty of cause for concern.

While the mainstream media in America declined to publish either the cartoons or to run truthful stories about the fact that there are thousands of images of Muhammad in Islamic society, CNN did show a blurred out image of Muhammad during a part of its coverage of the story.

In response to this a local Ohio newspaper, the Akron Beacon Journal, published a cartoon making fun of CNN's blurred out image of Muhammad. The cartoon showed a blurred out image of Muhammad.

In response to this, "moderate Muslims" had the following reaction:

A.R. Abdoulkarim, Amir of the Akron Masjid, applauded newspapers that decided against running the cartoons, but condemned those who did. The Beacon Journal, he said, was in a class of its own.

"They take the prize for being the most ill-intended, irresponsible property group," he said. "Allah curses and condemns them and every Muslim in this community should curse and condemn them."

Julia A. Shearson, director of Ohio's Council of American-Islamic Relations, said they want the Beacon Journal to apologize for running the "unethical" cartoon and want the paper to publish their letters to the editor.

After yesterday's press conference, Bok met with several leaders. The cartoonist said he drew the cartoon to take a shot at CNN for "distorting a distortion" and not at the prophet or Muslims.

Reaction to the Cartoons Descends into Unintentional Self-Parody:

Thank goodness these "moderate Muslims" are only cursing and condemning the newspaper for making a social commentary on censorship instead of issuing death threats or burning down their building.

Of all the Danish cartoons, this is the one I actually like the best:

The point that this cartoon makes is obviously very relevant, and indeed it still applies to America as well. Despite the praise of Islamic "moderation" in America, the fact is that fear of Islamic persecution is just as high here as it is in Europe. We have avoided Islamic persecution in America by simply bowing to Islamic fear.

Nowhere, however, is there as high a fear of Islamic persecution as there is in the Middle East. What has been so obviously left out of the discussion of the cartoons is the fact that the people living in the greatest fear of Islam are the people living in "Islamic societies".

Nowhere is the fear of Islam greater than it is in the Middle East itself. It should not be forgotten that Islamic fundamentalism has actually been increasing in the Middle East over the past 90 years, in part as a reaction to Western imperialism. But nevertheless, there is a significant portion of Middle Eastern society that does want to join the modern secular world, and it is these who actually have the most at stake with the "cultural clashes" that have been taking place. Middle Eastern secularists have more to gain or lose than anyone in the West, and yet they seem to be completely forgotten by the mainstream media, Western multiculturalists, and Western politicians.

Unlike some, who see the "cartoon controversy" as highlighting a "clash of civilizations" between the "Muslim World" and the West, the real clash goes way beyond regional boundaries and is between secularists and those who would use religion to silence criticism. Many religionists from all walks of life would rather join forces to ban all religious criticism. There are many religionists in America today who would rather side with Middle Eastern Muslims on the issue of blasphemy than their next door neighbors who want free and open discussion of all matters, including religion. And thus, we see that this issue is not really about "East vs. West", its about theocrats vs. secularists.

There are theocrats all across the West, especially in America, who are now building coalitions with the Muslims to help throw up new barriers to religious criticism. There are millions of Christians who wish that their religion were as well protected as Islam is, and there are many who are no doubt willing to work with Muslims to create new protections for all religions.

This is why it is of importance for secularists to come into contact with, cooperate with, and help secularists in the Middle East, the ones who are currently living in the greatest fear of Islam.

There are secularists groups all across the Middle East, who recognize the need for the liberalization of Middle Eastern society, and the development of an open Middle Eastern culture. While so many Western leaders have been eager to appease Islamic intolerance, there must be a recognition for those in the Middle East who have been working, and are working, to combat Islam at the heart of its base.

I urge you to visit the following links and learn about Middle Eastern people who are themselves struggling for secularism against Islam:

Institute for the Secularization of Islamic Society

The Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq

Iranian  Secular Society

Tariq Ali


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 10:26 PM EST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, February 14, 2006 6:37 AM EST
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

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