Thursday, October 11, 2012

Justice for Malala Yousafzai will come at a price worth paying.

The religious have a way of making a virtue of infamy.  Not by anything they do, of course: self-loathing makes a mockery of individuality and of unfettered inquiry.  Genuflections and ululations are de rigueur of the faithful; any exercise into the intellectual realm is both prohibitive and prohibited.

(Yes, I understand that there are some out there who are quite willing to guffaw at this idea: they after all are normal law-abiding citizens of secular republics and Western democracies; they live in relative peace with their neighbors who have different and diverse confessions of faith.  Their own spiritual beliefs are personal to them and harm no one, or so it seems.  And that might well be be true; but truer still: as an American I can esteem their right to believe what they want and find disdain for their cognitive dissonance. )

Malala Yousafzai?  What do the 'faithful' say about her?  Well, for a start, all indications --clearest of which is a bullet that was launched and lodged into her brain by the Pakistani Taliban (Malala's assailant... no... Malala's furtive and failed assassin hid behind a balaclava)-- point to the convincing fact that the Islamic faithful of the Swat Valley want to see this fourteen-year-old girl dead for nothing more than wanting to go to school.  The thinking world is outraged enough by this simple act of barbarism that even the not-too-esteemed Laura Bush has spoken out.

Scrambled Middle Eastern geopolitics aside, Malala's attempted murder and the current bounty on her teenage (think about it: this girl is a seventh grader!) head should be a pivot point for the remaining foreign policy debates between President Obama and former Governor Romney.  Sadly, the damage of Benghazi, and the butcher of Syria  will politicize Malala into the deepest recesses of newspapers, blogs and 'interest'.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Pope's No Pills

One of the benefits of reading the classics is that one can find quite easily history repeating itself; or perhaps better phrased: the insight of an author that has lived and died resonates as if written but literally today.  Take for example this gem from Rebecca West's Black Lamb and Grey Falcon:

[Y]ou should see the Roman Catholic Church for what it really is:
not at all democratic, not at all in favor of speculative thought; far 
more alarmed by the vaguest threat of social revolution than by 
actual oppression, provided it is of monarchical or totalitarian
origin, and wholly unsympathetic with any need for free expression but its own.

The context of this quote, admittedly is not about contraception.  The dialogue is between West's husband --quoted above-- and their Croatian friend Valetta; the two were discussing a short-lived concordat in 1937 between the Yugoslavian government and Pope Pius XII that gave greater advantages to Roman Catholics as regards both religious education and practice than the Eastern Orthodox Christians of Serbia and greater Yugoslavia.  West's husband (the reader is never told his name) surely can not have known how prescient his words would become more than seventy years later.  Today, rather than 'Holy Mother Chruch' meddling in the affairs of federated European states oppressed for centuries by the parties of god, its focus is now on the subjugation of half of its 'flock' living in a secular and democratic republic.

The claimants of the current conservative harry against the Obama Administration assert that by requiring Catholic hospitals and charities to provide contraception to its employees, the federal government has violated the spirit and letter of the First Amendment.   As I write this, the only words that come to my mind are: 'I wish I knew how this is a violation of'..., but that is not really the case, because I really don't wish to know.  In fact, the better phrase would be: 'I wish I knew what the hell they were talking about.'  The recent political maneuver of President Obama allows the Catholic Church to continue its assertion that the 'Holy See' has command over the reproductive organs of its parishioners, yet mandates that insurance companies provide contraceptives to employees of the 'One True Church'.  Any Catholic who wants access (as it seems nearly 99% of them do) to birth control, will have it so; those who wish to maintain the lugubrious and precambrian practice of the 'rhythm method' as their birth control of conscience are left unmolested by adherents and apostates --although the latter may snigger.  But no: this simply isn't going to appease the US Conference of Catholic Bishops; they are quite concerned about lingering 'serious moral concerns' with the Administration's riposte to their redress.

Among his contributions to the English lexicon, the late Christopher Hitchens added: 'what can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence'.   No problem wondering what the hell that means! The proclamation of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops or any other authorized body of the 'Holy Roman Church' who maintain their organization as the final moral authority, while harboring pedophile priests behind the walls of the Stato della Città del Vaticano can not --either in principle or practice-- asseverate anything remotely decent or just.

As West's husband concludes his colloquy with Veletta, I am left with the thought that perhaps his words could equally resonate in the early twenty-first century as they did on the cusp of the Second World War:

You should proceed with the difficult task of deciding whether you can 
reconcile yourself to this bias of the Church for the 
sake of thespiritual benefits it confers upon you.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Don't Bite Your Tongue

In following the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science on Twitter I found the following link from noted freelance journalist Abigail Esman, whose latest article at Forbes opines the ill conceived and lugubrious UN resolution 16/18, and its backers, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.  Were it not for my new year's resolution to become a more engaged and politically aware citizen of not only my state of Utah, but as a citizen of the Republic of the United States of America, I may have skipped this article altogether and navel gazed at the prospect of providing myself another whisky mac.

In his review of Andrew Roberts' book A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900, Christopher Hitchens quotes Roberts on the failure of the European Union to produce a viable constitution:

Roberts correctly notes that “along with over two centuries of amendments the entire (readable and easily intelligible) U.S. Constitution can be printed out onto twelve pages of A4-sized paper; the (unreadable and impenetrably complicated) proposed European Constitution ran to 265.”

I certainly don't believe in the cliché of 'great minds' thinking alike, but I will be happy to double-down on the fortunate hand dealt and gamble that one can have the same idea or arrive at the same summation as those who have tarried on a subject for far longer and deeper than one has time or perhaps inclination.  Thus, after reading the entirety of Resolution 16/18 --all one-thousand one hundred and sixty-nine words that produce more of an aural din rather than anything remotely resembling ecumenical affirmation-- I found that the prominent thought that kept moving from the the subvocal to words outright was: too much damn ink.

Resolution 16/18, designed to 'combat intolerance' of persons based on religious belief is nearly twenty-six times as long as the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, and is easily twenty-six times as superfluous and nebulous.   In part, it calls for the adoption of 'measures to criminalize incitement to imminent violence based on religious belief.'  If you, my dear reader can make any sense of that statement, then you will be most likely the first and the last to do so.  The syntax of the phrase leaves me to wonder who is to be criminalized, the victim or the perpetrator; it also leaves me wondering which is which.

I live in the state capital of Utah.  Within my neighborhood alone, there are four Mormon churches; within a fifty-mile radius of my house, there are at least five Mormon temples.  From the privacy of my own home --and often on Sunday-- I find time to not too tersely comment about the continued attempts of the LDS church to claim moral superiority in their continued --and vain-- attempts to usurp the Fourteenth Amendment, by asserting that the marriage standard is between one man and one woman and that any deviation from said standard is not only immoral, but should not be made legal.  Never mind their history for a moment of wishing to have more than one mother-in-law concurrently; and certainly never mind the fact that when a minister of any church performs a marriage, they are acting for and in behalf of the state, and not the other way around.  Would my critical and shared meditations of how odious it is for one human to tell another that since they happen to be sexually attracted to and fall in love with someone whom they share the same karyotype be a cause for some self-righteous prig to become so incensed that my words suddenly cause incitement to imminent violence against me?  Could one find oneself incarcerated because one spoke out against Rick Santorum and his unlettered rhetoric on the subject of comparing homosexuality to polygamy; or perhaps pay a fine and perform community service because it is all to easy to find offensive the stance of both Santorum and his church who continue a cretinous fight against the emancipation and education of women?  What, pray, will be one's sentence be in shouting down and actively fighting against the goons of the Christian god?  And one need not be a betting man to affirm that one's atheism is surely to cause incitement to imminent violence upon me by Islamists who live for a dystopian future of a sharia-bound world caliphate.

But, for the time being, my Mormon neighbors go to their church and their temples without constraint; the former Senator from the Keystone State expresses his opinion freely --constrained only perhaps by his political aspirations, which appear staler than lofty; his church can address their grievances to their government; the odious Phelps clan can affirm the grace of the Supreme Court through their gracelessness.   And I look forward to my continued plucking of the thorn of roses and placing them squarely in the sides of those who, in behalf of their fairy-tale fantasy of paradise, demand my silence and estrangement from the following forty-five words:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.