Posts Tagged religion
This shit keeps happening. First we had Todd Akin saying a “legitimate rape” can’t establish a pregnancy, so there’s no such thing as a rape exception for abortion law. Then we had Roger Rivard telling us how “some girls rape easy,” and we can’t trust a young woman who reports a rape. Now we have Richard Mourdock explaining very earnestly how there can be no rape exception because pregnancy by rape is God’s intention. We have all these Republican Congressional candidates saying these horrifying things about rape, pregnancy and women’s reproductive freedom, and they all think that if they just explain themselves a little harder, then we’ll see they’re decent guys who don’t hate women at all.
They are mistaken. Their further explanations merely dig them deeper into that hole.
Indiana candidate Mourdock has put himself in the national spotlight with this business:
Mourdock was asked during the final minutes of a debate whether abortion should be allowed in cases of rape or incest.
He replied: “I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that’s something God intended to happen.”
“I struggled with myself for a long time but I came to realize life is that gift from God, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape. It is something that God intended to happen.”
You may have seen the excerpt on Salon from Chris Stedman’s new book, Faitheist, in which he complains about how other atheists are such meanies.
(No, really: that is what’s going on in the book.)
Ophelia Benson read the excerpt so the rest of us wouldn’t have to, and she found that he puts a lot of energy into making himself seem as extravagantly humble as possible. If the phrase “extravagantly humble” sounds like an oxymoron, that should tell you something about the tone of the book.
While he’s at it, he gives us an anecdote of an encounter he had which seems rather…implausible. Ophelia describes it thus:
I’m reminded of Kingsley Amis, reading a novel he hated, constantly saying as he read, “No she didn’t, no they weren’t, no he didn’t, no it wasn’t like that.” I don’t believe a word of that paragraph. I don’t believe he remembers any brooch or tan corduroy vest – or their ages – or what they said – and certainly not that they said what he quotes.
I went and read the full text, and she’s not exaggerating. I will quote some passages, in sequential order:
I had never heard the word “faitheist” before, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t a compliment.
I blushed and ran my hands through my short hair — a nervous habit — and cleared my throat, asking if it was intended to be an insult.
“Yes,” he said without inflection. “There’s nothing worse than a ‘faitheist.’”
*blogger runs knitting needle through long, thick, incandescently shiny mane*
You want us to think about your hair? Show us something remarkable.
More importantly, I find it extremely difficult to believe that this other dude actually said those words. The jury’s still out on whether the no-inflection dude even exists.
Though I was disheartened by the event, I went to the post-panel reception, held at one of the panelists’ apartments, because I hoped that if I spoke with more of the group members I’d find some people who shared my opinions or learn a bit more about why they believed differently than I did. Also, as a thrifty graduate student, free dinner and drinks were hard to pass up!
I walked in and instantly removed my shoes. The apartment was beautiful; the ceiling-to-floor windows allowed for a stunning view of Chicago’s orange-and-white-lit skyline. The living room was impeccably clean. I scanned the crowd; I was easily the youngest person there and unfashionably underdressed (nothing new there). Looking down at my feet, I noticed there was a hole in each of my socks.
I sympathize with the impulse to go for the free drinks and dinner, I really do. It wasn’t too long ago that I was white-collar poor and wondering when I’d have health coverage again. However, the attention he gives to the fabulous apartment, contrasted with his own worn-out socks, is no accident. The trope of young, eager, struggling Chris Stedman up against the older, wealthier, more cynical New Atheists is a major theme in this piece.
I sat down on the couch, carefully balancing a mint julep in one hand and a plate of hors d’oeuvres I couldn’t name in the other, intensely aware of how out of place I must have seemed. Next to me on the couch were a woman in her mid-40s with a shimmering peacock brooch and a man in his late 30s wearing a denim shirt and a tan corduroy vest. I introduced myself and asked what they’d thought of the panel. They raved: “Wasn’t it wonderful how intelligent the panelists were and how wickedly they’d exposed the frauds of religion? Weren’t they right that we must all focus our energy on bringing about the demise of religious myths?”
Ophelia Benson does not believe that Stedman actually remembers the details of the peacock brooch or the denim shirt and tan vest. I suppose it’s possible that these two people at the party were dressed that way, and that Stedman remembers it, but it’s also no accident that the peacock is an obvious symbol of pride. The dialogue, unfortunately, drains the paragraph of credibility. I do not believe for a second that anyone at that party actually said those lines. Why not, you ask? Because no one talks that way in an unscripted conversation.
I paused, debating whether I should say anything. My “Minnesota Nice” inclination warned me to let it be, but I had to say something. So I started small, asking them to consider that diversity of thought and background fosters an environment where discourse thrives, where ideas are exchanged, and where we learn from one another.
I was stonewalled: “We have the superior perspective; everyone else is lost,” said the woman with a flick of her hand that suggested she was swatting at an invisible mosquito.
No. No, she did not say that. I’ve hung out with atheists of the outspoken, confrontational variety that Stedman abhors. I’ve attended appearances by PZ Myers, for example, and had some fabulous conversations with the other attendees. They’re not all nice people, in fact some are raging assholes, but their speech is not unnatural.
Our conversation continued, and I offered up petitions that the positive contributions of religious people be considered with equal weight alongside the negative.
“I understand what you’re saying,” I said, trying to weigh my words carefully, “but how can we discount the role religious beliefs played in motivating the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or Mahatma Gandhi?”
“Oh, I get it,” the man jumped in with a sneer. “You’re one of those atheists.”
I wasn’t sure what he meant, but it didn’t sound like a good thing. I shifted my weight from one side to another — another nervous habit — and picked at an hors d’oeuvre that I thought might be some kind of cheese.
“What do you mean, ‘one of those atheists?’”
“You’re not a real atheist. We’ve got a name for people like you. You’re a ‘faitheist.’”
It is extremely unlikely that this conversation actually happened. “We’ve got a name for people like you”? No. This is, at best, exaggeration.
Leaving my Loyola class the day after my first atheist event, I stepped out into the cool, windy Chicago afternoon and thought back to my conversation with the man who had called me a “faitheist.” The bird-brooched woman had abandoned our discussion quickly, saying she didn’t want to waste her time. The man and I had moved to the hall, grabbing more food and another drink on the way.
“Take Islam,” he had said, leaning into a doorframe while I clutched my beer a little too tightly, the condensation running down my forearm to meet with the sweat that had just reached my elbow. “Now that’s a violent faith. And don’t try to tell me it’s not, because I’ve read the Koran.”
I thought of my friend Sayira, one of the most compassionate people I knew. Sayira was a young woman who was motivated by her Muslim faith to work for the economically disadvantaged.
This is another place where I have a bit of sympathy: I don’t like to see Muslims tarred with the terrorist brush, either, but that’s not what that man was doing, assuming he even said what Stedman quotes, which is still implausible. I have Muslim co-workers who are lovely people, and I’m aware of the Muslim emphasis on charity, but charity does not negate violence. Individuals can be wonderful, but that’s a separate issue from what their religion asks of them. Individuals can be totally peaceful, decent and generous, and the religion in which they count themselves can still be responsible for an outsize proportion of the world’s violence. I have no doubt that Sayira is awesome. Stedman’s position doesn’t become any more coherent when he contrasts Mr. Does-He-Actually-Talk-That-Way with Sayira, this one Muslim young lady who’s a wonderful person.
When you put words between quotation marks, you are showing the reader what came out of a person’s mouth, verbatim, in real time. The punctuation is not simply decorative. If you want to use quotes in a snarky manner to show us what you think the person really means to say, then first we need to see the words themselves. The dialogue that Stedman quotes in this excerpt is credible only if you’re willing to believe that confrontational atheists are humorless, emotionally deficient, socially crippled freaks with dazzling vocabularies. Those are not the speech patterns of normal people. In a novel, dialogue like that would look absurd. In a memoir, it’s preposterous. It makes the entire encounter look like a fabrication.
MOAR take-downs of Stedman’s ridiculousness!
Hemant Mehta shows us this incident in which the Rev. William Owens of the Coalition of African-American Pastors made the mistake of opening up the topic of “Biblical marriage” in front of an audience which included Jamila Bey. The press conference was supposed to be about CAAP’s opposition to marriage equality. Rev. Owens is a consultant to NOM. He acts like he isn’t accustomed to actually answering questions.
Bey: Reverend, What is God’s position on polygamy?
Owens: [Glares] Well, I think you know that. This is not about polygamy. This is about same-sex marriage.
Bey: This is about your — I need you to define for me, please, the Biblical definition of marriage–
Owens: The Biblical definition of marriage is a marriage between a man and a woman. And I’m not going to–
Bey: But Reverend–
Owens: I’m not going to get on another track!
Bey: … Talk to me about Abraham’s marriage.
Owens: Madam. Next question! Next question.
Bey: Reverend, what is God’s position on polygamy?
Owens: Next question!
Bey: Reverend, what is God’s position on polygamy?
Owens: Are you, are you going to stand there and just demand that I answer your question? This is not about polygamy. This is about same-sex marriage… and I will NOT do any different.
Bey: Reverend, you said that you would answer questions about Biblical marriage.
Owens: [To security] Would you have this lady removed?
Look at that again: “Are you going to stand there and just demand that I answer your question?” Why, yes, Rev. Owens! It’s called being a journalist. If you bring up “Biblical marriage,” as if the Bible is a helpful guide to well-adjusted family life, then you should be prepared for someone to ask about polygamy. This is especially important given how much energy the anti-equality side puts into comparing SSM to polygamy, or sounding the alarm that marriage equality will put us on a slippery slope to polygamy, bestiality and state-sanctioned incest. In light of the environment which the pro-patriarchy side has created, one should know better than to bring out the Good Book as a defense of enforced heterosexual monogamy. The Reverend just walked right into it.
You may have heard about the medical conference in Israel that’s banning women from speaking at the event? Specifically, the gynecology-focused conference where women aren’t allowed to speak on stage?
The annual Innovations in Gynecology and Halacha conference of the Puah Institute for Medicine and Halacha is scheduled for Wednesday. Some 1,000 men and women are expected to attend the conference, which is geared to the Modern Orthodox and haredi Orthodox communities. Male and female participants are separated by dividers in the conference hall.
The conference has been held for the last 12 years, but this marks the first time that the absence of female speakers has become an issue. Women do not serve as speakers, according to the organization, in order to insure the participation of the haredi Orthodox, who are generally wary of medical advancements in fertility treatments.
Their rationale is this:
1. Haredi don’t like to see women speak to male audiences.
2. Haredi are ambivalent about fertility treatments.
3. The Puah Institute wants Haredi doctors to attend this conference and learn about advancements in fertility treatments, therefore,
4. Women must be strictly separated from men at the Gynecology & Halacha Conference.
Notice that no one is trying to keep women from seeing men speak on stage. It’s fine for female doctors to sit in the audience while men make presentations. It’s the question of male doctors watching presentations by female doctors on stage that’s a problem.
Am I missing something here? If letting women show themselves in public is such a problem for Haredi men, then…maybe, Haredi men should not be gynecologists? Think about this for a second: if it’s “immodest” for a man to see a woman speaking on stage about medical advancements, then how is it the least bit acceptable for a man to put his hands on the private parts of a woman whom he may have just met that day?
It occurs to me that if Haredi men followed through on their “modesty” requirements and just left gynecology to female doctors, this conference wouldn’t be an issue.
(Yes, I know: when they talk about “modesty,” they’re really talking about keeping women in the kitchen, which means female doctors are only tolerated because of secular pressures.)
All that said, though, the controversy is totally worth the trouble, owing to this hilarious fauxpology from Puah:
“We are sorry that instead of appreciating the great advances we have merited to see in women’s health in general, and in particular within the religious sector, as a result of our conferences, there are cynical, aggressive elements who try to block us by using the prevailing public ambience,” the organization said on its website. “These elements are riding on the back of the Puah Institute in order to advance their personal agenda.”
Shorter version: “You bitches are just JEALOUS! Waaaaah!”
According to ThinkProgress, Crazy-Eyes Bachmann is the first occupant of the GOP Clown Car to sign onto the FAMiLY LEADER pledge (no, I am not making up that random non-capitalization), a little manifesto for The Handmaid’s Tale with a wee side of V for Vendetta theocracy.
I have found a copy of the full text of the pledge, and I’ve read it so you don’t have to. Here are some selected highlights!
Faithful monogamy is at the very heart of a designed and purposeful order – as conveyed by Jewish and Christian Scripture, by Classical Philosophers, by Natural Law, and by the American Founders – upon which our concepts of Creator-endowed human rights, racial justice and gender equality all depend.
Yeah, that same Jewish and Christian scripture that portrayed powerful patriarchs with multiple wives and hordes of concubines. “Natural Law” just means they want more juicy sperm-meets-egg goodness. The “American Founders” would have to be some weird secret society I’ve never heard of, as our Founding Fathers weren’t really concerned with “family” “values.” We’ll see what these idiots mean by “racial justice” and “gender equality” in just a moment.
Santorum gives us his thoughts on why liberals care about marriage equality:
“The reason the left has gone after same-sex marriage is because it’s a two-fer,” Santorum said. “When you redefine marriage, you cheapen marriage. You make it into something less valuable, less special … [and] it is a sure bet that will undermine faith.”
Liberals advocate for marriage equality because it cheapens marriage AND it undermines faith?
That’ll be news to my local LGBT group who are full-throatedly in support of civil marriage equality and who are mostly church-going Christians.
Di Tzeitung, the Brooklyn Hasidic newspaper that Photoshopped Sec. of State Clinton from an important photograph, expects us to swallow this:
The allegations that religious Jews denigrate women or do not respect women in public office, is a malicious slander and libel. The current Secretary of State, the Honorable Hillary R. Clinton, was a Senator representing New York State with great distinction 8 years. She won overwhelming majorities in the Orthodox Jewish communities in her initial campaign in ’00, and when she was re-elected in ’06, because the religious community appreciated her unique capabilities and compassion to all communities. The Jewish religion does not allow for discrimination based on gender, race, etc. We respect all government officials. We even have special prayers for the welfare of our Government and the government leaders, and there is no mention of gender in such prayers.
Boilerplate spin-doctoring, how dare you accuse our religion of sexism, our peeps totally voted for Sen. Clinton for both her terms, and so on.
In accord with our religious beliefs, we do not publish photos of women, which in no way relegates them to a lower status. Publishing a newspaper is a big responsibility, and our policies are guided by a Rabbinical Board. Because of laws of modesty, we are not allowed to publish pictures of women, and we regret if this gives an impression of disparaging to women, which is certainly never our intention. We apologize if this was seen as offensive.
Now let’s parse this out a bit.
In accord with our religious beliefs,
Because religion has been invoked, we are supposed to turn our brains off and accept that it’s all nice and fine. We wouldn’t want to criticize a religion, now would we? It’s not civil. We need to watch our tone.
we do not publish photos of women, which in no way relegates them to a lower status.
They do publish photos of men, however, so erasing the women from those images simply acts like they shouldn’t exist. Out of sight, out of mind.
Publishing a newspaper is a big responsibility, and our policies are guided by a Rabbinical board.
The newspaper avoids responsibility by invoking the Rabbinical board, while trusting that we not dare criticize the board for its editorial policies.
Because of laws of modesty, we are not allowed to publish pictures of women,
It’s fine to publish pictures of men, but images of women are immodest. Because they’re women, after all.
and we regret if this gives an impression of disparaging to women, which is certainly never our intention.
How does one define “disparaging to women” so that acting like they weren’t there doesn’t fit?
We apologize if this was seen as offensive.
And they close with the classic, never-fails faux-pology! They’re so sorry they tried being quietly misogynistic and got called out for it.
Hats off, Di Tzeitung! Packing that much bullshit into so few words takes a lot of practice!
(Warning: clicking on the link is likely to make you hate your fellow Americans.)
Gee, it only took God 70 years to punish the wicked Japanese for Pearl Harbor. Old man’s losing his touch. I guess that means I won’t be punished for my premarital sex, heathenism and foul language until I’m well into my 90s, by which point I’ll be lucky to be alive anyway. No, no, wait, I’ve got it! God will punish my pro-choice arguing by giving my grandchildren cancer in their 30s. That’s the way it works, right?
Damn, you people suck so hard. We need God for morality like we need cotton candy for nutrition.