Posts Tagged ‘Fundamentalism’


“Having fundamentalists in a nation is like having congenital imbeciles in a family–it’s a calamity. Allow their mountebank, swindling leaders enough control over society and though religious faith would flourish fantastically, society would revert to the sheep-and-goat stage of culture . . . Wherefore it is perfectly irrelevant whether your fundamentalist is honest or utterly hypocritical in his religious beliefs . . . It just doesn’t matter. The question of his intellectual integrity will have to wait until he grows an intellect. In the meantime, however, what the forces of reaction are doing with him constitutes a continuing calamity.”

–Clay Fulks, Christianity, A Continuing Calamity

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(This was one of the Haldeman-Julius “little blue books,” which were very cheaply produced pamphlets which sold for a nickel, and which in toto–there were about 2,000 of them–sold over 100 million copies, mostly in the 1920s and 1930s. Christianity, a Continuing Calamity was published in the 1920s and is, unfortunately, as relevant today as when it appeared.)

 


The Christian right has been in a lather against ISIS because of its religiously inspired mass murder, rape, and sexual enslavement. Their anger is totally justified. Any decent person would be enraged by ISIS’s horrendous acts.

But there’s more than a bit of hypocrisy  in the Christian right’s denunciations of ISIS. Remember the Midianites and Canaanites? The Christian right’s holy book and its revered God, Jehovah, commanded the “chosen people” to engage in mass murder, rape, and sexual enslavement of both the Midianites and the Canaanites. And the chosen people apparently did it.

Consider these two passages from the Bible (KJV) regarding the Midianites and Canaanites:

Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with hims. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves. (Numbers 31:17-18)

And

And when the Lord thy God hath delievered it unto thine hands, thou shalt smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword, but the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even the spoil thereof, shalt thou take unto thyself and thou shalt eat the spoil of thine enemies, which the Lord thy God hath given thee. (Deuteronomy 20:13-14)

What are we to make of this? If the Bible is truly the inerrant word of God, and believers must obey God’s commands, it means that there’s nothing wrong with mass murder, rape, and sexual enslavement–as long as God commands it.

The Christian right, and all fundamentalists, should own up to this: they see nothing wrong with mass murder, rape, and sexual enslavement–as long as the right people obeying the right God do it.

The point is that Islam is not the problem. Religion is the problem.

 

 


“If you gave [Jerry] Falwell an enema, you could bury him in a matchbox.”

–Christopher Hitchens, the day after Falwell died

(quoted on cracked.com)


Given the spate of near-daily Islamic-fanatic atrocities,  it’s only natural that many people will conclude that Islam is inherently worse than Christianity. But is it? Let’s take a look at some of the worst structures and practices in both Islamic and Christian lands:

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 its 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.  (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.)

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

Terrorism

At present, the most vicious and most active terrorist groups are Islamic (ISIS, Boko Haram, Al Qaeda, Taliban). These groups are responsible for the murder of uncounted thousands of innocent people 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 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, Iraq, 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 (Catholics vs. Protestants)  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.

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.

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.

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(During this coming week we’ll put up posts on the reasons for the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and sane ways of dealing with it — and what’s likely to happen instead.)


Caliphate

(Caliphate, by Tom Kratman, Baen, 2008, 502 pp., $7.99)

reviewed by Zeke Teflon

With ISIS running amok in Iraq and Syria, committing mass murder in brutal, horrific fashion, it’s relevant to review probably the most direct sci-fi treatment of what a Muslim fundamentalist takeover would mean:  Tom Kratman’s Caliphate.

It’s in the form of a standard military/adventure sci-fi novel set a century in the future. But more than that it’s a political novel, concerned with a Muslim fundamentalist subjugation of Europe. Until recently, I’d have thought Kratman’s descriptions of the horrors inflicted by Islamic fanatics basically accurate but overdrawn. No more. Look no further than ISIS, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, and Al Shabab, and the barbarities committed on a daily basis by the Saudi and Iranian regimes.

Kratman also rightly goes after politically correct multiculturalists/cultural relativists who decry “Islamophobia” as ISIS and Boko Haram commit mass murder, kidnappings, enslavement, and beheadings.  He rightly decries the multiculturalists’ willful blindness to the horrors of Islam. For instance, they routinely dismiss reports of the disproportionate number of Muslims involved in sex crimes in Europe as “Islamophobia.” It’s undeniable that some right wingers grossly exaggerate this problem–for instance, while googling the matter I found a page headlined “100 Percent of Rapes in Norway Committed by Muslims”–but it’s also undeniable that the more socially conservative and misogynistic men are, the more likely they are to commit sexual abuse. And no one is more socially conservative and misogynistic than a Muslim fundamentalist. (For instance, on August 27, 2014, an AP story by Danica Kirka reports the beating, rape, and sexual trafficking of 1,400 children between 1997 and 2013 in Rotherham, England by, primarily, Pakistani Muslim men.)

One other praiseworthy aspect of Caliphate is that Kratman illustrates his description of the horrors of Islam with quotations from Muslim writers, whose own words condemn them.

Where Kratman goes off the rails is in ascribing head-in-the-sand multiculturalism to the entire American and European left. This is simply wrong. In the U.S., especially, most atheists (notably Sam Harris and Bill Maher, and in England Richard Dawkins) almost certainly reject this cultural relativism; and a good majority of atheists in the U.S. are on the left side of the political spectrum. (I base this on decades of observing and at times taking part in what passes for the atheist movement in the U.S.) A hell of a lot of us reject cultural relativism and self-flagellating multiculturalism. (For example, see The World’s Second Most Offensive Question.)

To his credit, though, Kratman is not entirely uncritical of the U.S. His description of the public reaction to further Muslim terror attacks and the subsequent fascist takeover of the U.S. is all too believable, as are his descriptions of atrocities committed by both Muslim and U.S. soldiers in the war he vividly describes. But strangely, given the overtly religious, theofascist nature of virtually the entire American extreme right, the American fascist government he outlines seems largely or entirely secular, though it’s hard to tell because of the sketchiness of the description; Kratman almost entirely ignores America’s Taliban–the authoritarian fundamentalists, conservative Catholics, and Mormons who want to turn the U.S. into a theocracy, the Christian equivalent of Iran. He seems to blithely assume that secularism will endure, even following a fascist takeover.

It’s also unfortunate that in the Afterword he equates the in-part unassimilable, authoritarian, misogynistic Muslims in Europe with Mexican and other Latino immigrants in the U.S. This is a terrible, inappropriate comparison. For over 20 years, I’ve lived in a neighborhood that’s roughly two-thirds Mexican, with a great many people here being first-generation immigrants. They’re not trying to impose a religious ideology on anyone. They’re not trying to set up religious courts. They’re not murdering people for religious reasons. They’re assimilating as quickly as they can. Overall, they’re hard working and do the dirtiest, most dangerous jobs simply to support their families. To equate them with authoritarian religious fanatics is highly offensive.

Still, despite its faults, Caliphate is worth reading.

Recommended, with reservations.

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Zeke Teflon is the author of Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia. He’s currently working on the sequel.

Free Radicals, by Zeke Teflon front cover


by Chaz Bufe, publisher See Sharp Press

The more literally people take their religious beliefs, the worse they tend to be: dogmatic, arrogant, authoritarian, cruel, willfully ignorant, and self-pitying.

Let’s take these in order. They’re all related; they’re interlocking. (We looked at these in more detail in 20 Reasons to Abandon  Christianity, Part I and Part II. Here, we’re only hitting the low points.)

Dogmatism. Asserting that some “holy” book or man is invariably correct–despite oftentimes massive evidence to the contrary–is almost a dictionary definition of dogmatism.

Arrogance. Just look at the self-congratulatory, self-referential terms religious folk use: “the chosen people” (or simply “the chosen”), “the elect,” “the redeemed,” “the saved,” etc., etc. And then look at how righteous they feel about imposing their dogmatic beliefs on others.

Authoritarianism. ISIS with its shariah law is only the worst recent example of this. Look also to Boko Harom in Nigeria and the mullahs in Tehran.

Here in this country, look at America’s Taliban: the Christian fundamentalists, conservative Catholics, and Mormons intent on turning this country into a theocracy (a “Christian nation”) with their religious beliefs jammed down everyone else’s throats via the government. (They’re already done this to a great extent via intrusive laws with no secular justification, such as those restricting abortion, [until recently] those outlawing “sodomy,” [until a few decades ago] those restricting or banning birth control devices, and those denying assistance in dying to those with terminal illnesses or intolerable pain. And let’s not forget about the “war on drugs”–conducted by uniformed terrorists–which is in large part fueled by religious “moral” fervor.

Cruelty. This is so obvious it seems almost  unnecessary to provide examples, but just to hit a few of the low points: the Inquisition with its ecclesiastical torturers; the mass burning of “witches”; imprisonment of atheists (in 19th-century England). And currently, denial of access to abortion to rape and incest victims; vindictive prosecution and imprisonment of those who help those in intolerable pain die with dignity; (until recently in this country) cruel, lengthy prison terms for the victimless “crime” of “sodomy”–an unfortunately common, current practice in all too many other religious countries;  support for the death penalty, and the slavering, vicarious enjoyment of judicial murder; and the hideous, unjustifiable sentences routinely imposed on drug “offenders” for their victimless “crimes.”

Willful Ignorance. Again, this is so obvious that there seems little point in mentioning anything but the low points. Climate change denial. Creationism. Submission of women. Persecution of gays. Leviticus (the entire damn thing–almost nothing but vicious assertions and incitements to murder). The list goes on. Christian apologists go in with predetermined conclusions, cherry pick the evidence to find anything that supports their wishful thinking, and ignore the rest — the exact opposite of the scientific approach.

Self-Pity and Paranoia.  Christian crybabies constantly whine about how “persecuted” they are. What’s the reality? The number of laws prohibiting Christian worship in the U.S.? Zero. Property tax exemptions for  churches?  Universal. Clergy housing tax exemptions?Universal. Money from the government to churches? Very, very common. An entire TV “news” network devoted to flattering the most fear-driven, vicious, authoritarian Christians? Check. Cruel religious precepts, with no secular justification,  enshrined in law? Almost universal. Laws restricting access to abortion. Laws restricting access to or (until relatively recently) banning contraception. Laws outlawing homosexuality–almost universal in the U.S. until very recently, and still very common in Christian countries outside the U.S.  Laws prohibiting individuals from controlling their own lives and deaths? Almost universal. And, lest we forget, nearly 80% of the U.S. public is Christian, along with a good 90% of U.S. lawmakers.

The way the Christian victims in the U.S. manage to put up with such terrible persecution is a constant mystery and  inspiration.

And, yes, the very being of all too many American Christians, their cruel, intrusive, authoritarian nature, is enough to gag a maggot.

But what of the decent Christians we all know? They’re decent people to the extent that they cherry pick Christian scripture and preaching and ignore the rest. They’re cafeteria Christians, choosing what they like and discarding everything else. Why do they do this? Because scientific advances have revealed how outright insane many religious beliefs are, and because they’re nice people. Not as a result of religion, but despite religion. They’ve simply discarded the most inhumane aspects of it (after 250 years of secularism, which is powerful only because of its ideas).

What’s the harm in this? you might ask. Well, first off, they’re taking financial advantage of the rest of us.  Their churches contribute nothing to schools, libraries, fire departments, or the other services they and their members use. The rest of us pay for this with our property taxes.

And, probably worse, liberal Christians provide cover for their mean-spirited, goose-stepping co-religionists. They make religion appear almost respectable. We’d all be far better off if they’d abandon it and allow those who take their religious beliefs seriously, literally, to reveal the true nature of religion. (This is the wonderful thing about the Westboro Baptist Church [“God Hates Fags”]: they’re honest, and they reveal the true nature of Christianity. Fred Phelps was absolutely right when he said of the Bible that there are two verses about hate for every one about love.)

Right-wing, theocratic Christians are a deadly threat to our lives, families, and freedoms. Liberal Christians who know better and who reject the more vicious parts of Christian dogma should be ashamed of themselves. They provide camouflage for the mean-spirited authoritarians intent on turning the U.S. into Iran.



“Catholics and Fundamentalists would regard it as an outrage to be coupled together, and I have the tenderest regard for their feelings. Both believe in eternal torment, a blood-atonement, and so on. Both boast that they surrender not a tithe of ancient Christian doctrine at the bidding of modern culture. Yet there is a material difference. Catholic literature is generally written by men with a far more complete and lengthy education, and is therefore far more dishonest…..Not dishonesty, but ignorance, is the outstanding characteristic of Fundamentalist literature…”

–Joseph McCabe, Religion of Woman

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Quoted in The Heretic’s Handbook of Quotations

Front cover of "The Heretic's Handbook of Quotations