Posts Tagged ‘Bill Maher’


For the last few months we’ve been running the best posts from years past, posts that will be new to most of our subscribers. This is a slightly revised and expanded post from January 2015.

Given the spate of near-daily Islamic-fanatic atrocities, and the wholesale pandering of the Trump administration to its deranged theofascist base, this post seems especially relevant now. Indeed, who today can’t be wondering, “Which is worse, Christianity or Islam?”

Let’s take a look at some of the worst structures and practices in both Islamic and Christian lands, both current and historic:

Slavery

Slavery is still practiced in many Islamic nations. The most notorious recent example is the enslavement of thousands of Yazidis by ISIS in Iraq. The Nigerian fundamentalist group Boko Haram is also notorious for enslavement of its victims.

At the same time, slavery persisted in widespread form in Christian lands until 1888 (Brazil) and in perhaps its most brutal form ever in the most religiously devout part of the United States until 1865. And enslavement of prisoners in the United States is still very widespread, currently involving at minimum hundreds of thousands of prisoners “paid” a few pennies per hour by for-profit corporations.

There is plenty of justification for slavery in both the Bible and the Koran, and not one word against it in either book.  (If you doubt this, run a search on Google or Bing. In fact, you’ll find justification for all of the horrors listed in this post.)

So, which is worse in regard to slavery, Christianity or Islam?

Islam “wins” this one based on the sheer brutality of some current Islamist groups.

Terrorism

At present, the most vicious and most active terrorist groups are Islamic (ISIS, Boko Haram, Al Qaeda, Taliban, and MILF — this is for real: the acronym stands for Moro Islamic Liberation Front). These groups are responsible for the murder of uncounted thousands of innocent people across the globe in recent years.

But Christian terrorism also exists, though in more subdued form.  In the United States, the Ku Klux Klan is a proudly Christian organization. As well, “right to life” Christian fanatics occasionally murder abortion providers and bomb abortion clinics; and they routinely stalk and anonymously threaten abortion providers, providing a dictionary definition of terrorism: they’re trying to frighten and intimidate — terrorize — abortion providers into no longer providing this constitutionally protected medical procedure.

Still, there’s no question that at present Islam “wins” this one hands down.

Internecine Warfare

By far the worst current example of internecine warfare is the Sunni-Shia mass bloodletting in Syria and Yemen, with thousands of casualties every single month.

But historically, Islamic internecine warfare has nothing on Christian internecine warfare. Just go back a few hundred years. Consider the Beziers massacre of 10,000 to 20,000 Albigensian heretics in 1209 by a crusader army commanded by papal legate Arnaud Amalric. Justifying the mass murder of helpless prisoners, Amalric famously said, “Kill them all. God will recognize his own.”

Then go forward just over 400 years to the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) for religiously motivated (Catholic vs. Protestant)  murder and mayhem on a mass scale. Then if you add in all of the nonreligiously motivated internecine warfare between Christian nations (Hundred Years War, U.S. Civil War, World War I, World War II, etc.), Christianity “wins” this one going away.

Subjugation of Women

The situation of women is unquestionably worse in Islamic lands than Christian lands. In some Islamic countries, the barbaric practices of female genital mutilation and child marriage are still very common, with the number of victims up in the tens, probably hundreds of millions. In far more Islamic countries, women are still very much second class citizens. Their testimony in court is accorded less weight than that of men, Islamic fanatics seek (sometimes successfully) to deny them education, they’re forced to wear head-to-toe coverings, they’re forced into arranged marriages, and “honor” killings are common and culturally accepted.

In the West, women still earn less than men, face street harassment and domestic violence, face a glass ceiling in employment, and rape is still a major and under-acknowledged problem. Go back a few hundred years, and you’ll find religiously inspired witch burnings all over Europe. And nearer to the present, denial of property rights, denial of the rights to contraception and abortion, and systematic denial of employment in many, many professions.

But bad as all this is, the situation of women in Islamic countries has been and is far worse than in Western lands. Islam “wins” here.

Persecution of Nonbelievers

In Islamic countries, it is simply unsafe (often deathly unsafe) for Muslims to abandon Islam. Many of their fellow Muslims will feel completely justified in murdering those who abandon the faith, and far more will condone such killings. Going beyond this, as the Charlies Hebdo atrocity in Paris demonstrates, Islamists feel entirely justified in murdering nonbelievers who were never Muslims, simply for criticizing Islam. And it’s not just unofficial Islamic thugs doing the killing. In Saudi Arabia, it’s a capital offense to be an atheist or an apostate, and the Saudi authorities are notorious for imprisoning and brutally whipping atheists and apostates, and threatening them with execution.

In the Western countries, it’s been several hundred years since the torture and murder of apostates and heretics was commonplace. There are still unconstitutional laws on the books in several U.S. states denying atheists the right to hold elected office or serve on juries, and high-profile atheists are sometimes stalked and threatened, but the situation of nonbelievers in Muslim countries is undeniably far worse. Islam “wins” again.

In Sum

At present, there’s no denying that Islam, which Bill Maher calls “the mother lode of bad ideas,”  is worse than Christianity. But why should this be so? Consider the above: the worst examples of Islamic barbarism are current, and the worst examples of Christian barbarism are in the past, mostly centuries in the past.

What happened? In a word, science. In the West, science with its question-test-and-logically-analyze attitude has flourished and has eaten away at traditional religious beliefs. This has resulted in a good majority of “believers” being “cafeteria Christians” who pick and choose their “beliefs,” and reject those which are too ridiculous or too inhumane.  Hence the slow but fairly steady social progress over the last few centuries. This social evolution never happened in Muslim lands.

To put this another way, religions are toxic to the extent that their basic tents are toxic and to the extent that their members follow their teachings literally.

Many of the teachings in  the Bible are every bit as barbaric as those in the Koran. But a hell of a lot more Muslims than Christians take those teachings literally.

 


Comedian Kathy Griffin is back in the news. A few days ago she posed with a mock severed head of Donald Trump covered with fake blood.

From Griffin, this isn’t terribly surprising; on a New Year’s Eve several years ago I channel surfed to CNN’s live Times Square broadcast just in time to see Griffin direct a hoary stand-up putdown to a heckler (this is paraphrased, but close): “Hey! I’m trying to work! I wouldn’t come to your workplace and knock the cocks out of your mouth!”

Once the photo hit the ‘net, the denunciations thundered down from all sides: from CNN (which axed her from their New Years’ Eve broadcast), to 37-year-old spoiled brat Chelsea Clinton, to Trump himself. The reasons for the outrage were what you’d expect: the photo was vulgar, tasteless, “over the line,” disrespectful of the presidency, and disrespectful of Trump as a human being.

My reaction was a bit different: This seems like a stupid thing to post; it seems like she’s doing Trump and his minions a favor. What’s the point? Is there one?

Then I wondered about the context. What was it? Well, it turns out that Griffin was doing a photo shoot, and posed with the mock severed head as a comment on Trump’s disgusting, misogynistic remarks about Fox News host Megyn Kelly: “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”

But that’s still not a good enough reason to pose for that photo, even if Griffin had made the context obvious. That, at best, would have made the photo an expression of anger and contempt.

Why isn’t that sufficient justification for shooting and posting it? If Griffin was just an Internet troll, fine, whatever. But Griffin is a well known comedian, and if a comedian is going to use a shocking image it should at least be funny, and ideally be both funny and thought provoking.

Many of the best comedians — in days past, Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Bill Hicks, Sam Kinison, and currently Dave Chappelle, Louis CK, Bill Maher, Jim Jeffries, and Doug Stanhope — routinely “cross the line,” routinely use vulgar, deliberately offensive language and imagery; others, notably Steven Colbert, Jon Stewart, Samantha Bee, and Seth Myers, use shocking language and imagery occasionally.

(If you want your comedy to lull you to sleep, comedy that stirs up no disturbing thoughts whatsoever, you’ll always have your Jerry Seinfelds, Jay Lenos, Jeff Foxworthys, and Bill Cosbys, comics with either nothing to say or who drastically pull their punches.)

What sets the work of Carlin, Hicks, Jeffries, et al. apart from the Griffin photo? Their use of shock and vulgarity is oftentimes funny and almost always thought provoking.

The Griffin-Trump photo is neither.

It isn’t funny, it doesn’t make a point, and it allowed the Whiner in Chief to whine — and this time with some justification. Kathy Griffin did Donald Trump a favor.

In the end, the only funny line (that I’ve seen) about the matter was delivered by an anonymous TMZ headline writer: “Kathy Griffin Beheads President Trump: I Support Gore.”


Bill Maher

–graphic courtesy quotesgram


Ted Cruz

“There’s a reason why everyone hates Ted Cruz. There’s a reason why the big question about Ted Cruz is always, ‘When he shaves in the morning, how does he avoid spitting in the mirror?’”

–Bill Maher, interview on The Daily Beast


Anarchist Cookbook front coverby Chaz Bufe, co-author of The Anarchist Cookbook

Of late, the corporate media routinely cite “radicalization” as the reason people seemingly turn on a dime into murderous pieces of human shit. But this “explanation” explains less than nothing.  It slaps a label on murder and the beliefs underlying it, while implying that there’s nothing wrong with those underlying beliefs–as long as those holding them aren’t “radicalized.”

No. How many atheists have become “radicalized” and then went on to commit mass murder in the name of religion? Zero. How many have committed mass murder in the name of atheism? Zero. (I’ll deal with the old “but what about?” canard regarding Lenin, Stalin, Mao, et al. in another post very shortly — for now, suffice it to say that those pieces of human waste were also partisans of an authoritarian ideology that rationalized mass murder, and their “historically inevitable” role in carrying out that murder; the underlying rationale is virtually identical to that of Islamic and Christian terrorists.)

In recent decades religious believers have carried out  all of the systematic murder, be they Islamists or “pro-life” Christians.

But what about authoritarian beliefs makes them so toxic? It’s the belief of religious and political true believers that they’re receiving their marching orders from God (or, in the case of Marxists, from “history”), and that anything they do in carrying out those orders is justified–their orders come from God or “history,” after all.

Bill Maher recently said that the problem was not “radicalization,” but religion. He was right, but he didn’t go far enough. The problem is authoritarianism–the belief that you’re “God’s chosen people” or an agent of “historical inevitability,” and that because of it you’re justified in doing anything to other people.

Until “believers” abandon their underlying authoritarian beliefs, they’ll continue to murder people.

“Radicalization” isn’t the problem.

Religion and other authoritarian ideologies are.

 


by Chaz Bufe, publisher See Sharp Press

In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, the enemies of free speech have been worming their way up through the floorboard. They range from religious fanatics openly supporting murder, to those who say–nudge, nudge, wink, wink–that those who exercise free speech should expect consequences. They range from PC multiculturalists, to Fox News commentators, to the pope. His comments were typical. He likened insults to religion to insults to his mother, and balling his fist said that those who make such comments should “expect to be hit.” He added that free speech doesn’t extend to ridicule of religion.

These remarks are very similar to Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.’s  famous aphorism about yelling fire in a crowded theater, which he used as justification to restrict free speech in Schenck v. United States (1919), which upheld the Espionage Act. That Act had nothing to do with espionage, but was instead designed and used to suppress opposition to World War I.  Under it, thousands were prosecuted and jailed, often for years, for exercising the supposedly sacred right of free speech.

But do Holmes, the pope, et al., have a point? No, they don’t. They’re using argument by analogy, the weakest form of argument. Its weakness lies in that argument by analogy treats two dissimilar things as if they were identical, and then prescribes the “remedy” for one as if it were the “remedy” for the other. This only holds if those making the analogy can demonstrate that the two things are identical, or so similar that the differences between them are trivial. But they never do this, because they can’t. They’re attempting to arouse an emotional response, and hoping that listeners will be caught up in the emotion and will overlook the obvious fallacious nature of their argument.

If you doubt this, please notice that both Holmes and the pope used two of the most inflammatory, emotion-rousing analogies imaginable.

Also please notice that they don’t even attempt to demonstrate that “yelling fire in a crowded theater,” insults to one’s mother, and critical political and religious speech are the same, and so should be treated the same. Again, they simply can’t do this, so they rely on assertion and the inattention and  emotionality of their listeners.

If they want to outlaw yelling fire in a crowded theater, fine. Let them say so. And if they want to outlaw critical political and religious speech, fine. Let them say so, and let’s see them produce some actual justification for doing that rather than hiding behind false analogies.

If they want to outlaw certain types of speech, they need to demonstrate that those types of speech are threats to the public. But they can’t, and they don’t want to be open about what they’re up to, so they rely on weak arguments and emotional manipulation.

There are only two reasons why people advance the “yelling fire” fallacy. There are only two reasons why they advance this tired half-witticism: 1) They’re too dumb to know what they’re doing; or 2) They’re deliberately trying to manipulate and mislead.

Finally, regarding the pope’s comments: once past grade school, most people do not respond to comments about their mothers with physical violence. That’s called growing up, acting like an adult.

Related


There’s a truly loathsome, dishonest piece  by Sonali Kolhaktar on  Alternet accusing Bill Maher and Sam Harris of “islamophobia”; Kolhaktar then seamlessly conflates “islamophobia” with racism–a charge which she hurls at Maher. This is a truly vile accusation, and the author makes it citing no evidence whatsoever. This baseless accusation says a hell of a lot more about her than Maher.

The main thrust of the piece, other than slinging mud at leftists who recognize the menace of islam, is that muslims are decent people, just like everybody else. In one sense, Kolhaktar is right. Like christians, muslims are decent people–to the extent that they ignore the teachings in their “holy” book, which contains admonitions to murder heretics and nonbelievers and to enslave nonbelievers. (I’ll put up another post today or tomorrow citing specific passages from both the bible and the koran.)

Much as multiculturalists and religious apologists would pretend otherwise, religion IS the problem. Maher was absolutely right when he said that islam is “the mother lode of bad ideas.”

Believers are decent people only to the extent that they ignore the vicious, authoritarian passages in their “holy” books–only to the extent that they ignore the admonitions to murder, enslave, and impose their beliefs on others.