The Usage of False Language

A long time ago, I wrote this:

Statutory Rape, a Legal Absurdity.

Having been a horny teenage boy, it seems clear to me that if I was seduced by an older woman, even if she was one of my teachers, I would not have considered myself a victim at all, but would have felt proud that she chose ME to be her sex partner! But at the same time, I would have known it to be a violation of the most basic standards of proper behavior in schools. As a willing participant in the sex acts, I would be just as guilty as the teacher and would also expect to be punished in some way. And yet, society still has this idea that someone below the age of “consent” (which varies in different countries and even different states in the USA) must automatically be called a “victim of child rape”. If that is not an obvious form of AGE DISCRIMINATION, what is?! Continue reading

A Lost History of the Baha’i Faith

Note:  This is a guest entry by Eric Stetson.


Dale Husband, a fellow Unitarian Universalist and former Baha’i, invited me to write a short summary of a book I edited which has recently been published, A Lost History of the Baha’i Faith: The Progressive Tradition of Baha’u’llah’s Forgotten Family.

lost-history-bahai-faith-coverThis book tells the story of the Baha’i faith through the writings of some of the children and grandchildren of its founder, and others who knew Baha’u’llah personally. They called themselves “Unitarian Baha’is” and stood for a broad-minded faith based on reason and individual freedom of conscience. Because of their liberal views and skepticism of absolute religious authority, they were excommunicated and shunned as the Baha’i faith developed into an organized religion. In fact, all but three descendants of Baha’u’llah – totaling dozens of people – were excommunicated by their own relatives who led the religion after its founder’s death.

The Baha’i faith was founded in the mid 1800s by a Persian nobleman in exile who claimed to be a new messenger of God. Baha’u’llah taught that all nations, races, and religions should come together to build a global civilization of peace and justice for all. Although Baha’i began as a pluralistic, reform-oriented offshoot of Islam, it quickly relapsed into a form of fundamentalism based on claims of infallibility by its leaders.

The Baha’i organization expects its members to believe that Baha’u’llah’s successors were perfect and infallible and that their interpretations and decisions can never be changed. A Lost History of the Baha’i Faith offers a different perspective on what Baha’i could have become – an Islamic-inspired faith with similar progressive values as Unitarian Universalism – if the Baha’i prophet’s own descendants had not been ostracized and expelled as heretics.

This book reveals how even liberal religious movements can be hijacked by dogmatic thinking. A cautionary tale for people of conscience of any faith.


Integrity at Freethought Blogs

Having integrity means that you take action to enforce rules that are indeed based on clear standards of right and wrong even if doing so seems hurtful at times to certain individuals that otherwise are of value to a certain group. A clear example of this in my life is when I caught a  member of my World of Warcraft guild Stormchasers stealing from the guild’s bank to profit himself, causing me to expel him from the guild as punishment. This after he had offered to teach me and other members how to do better at player vs. player events. Sorry, but that does not allow you to ROB us!

Rules1Rules2Theft3Theft2TheftNow a network of bloggers has had to do the same to one of their own:

It is with great sadness that I announce that Avicenna Last of the A Million Gods blog has been removed from Freethought Blogs as a result of a long track record of plagiarism that we just became aware of. That sadness is brought on primarily by the fact that I consider Avi a friend and hold him in very high esteem (yes, even after this ethical lapse). Let me explain why.

Here’s what I know about Avi. More than anyone else on this network, and more than almost anyone else I know, he really gives of himself to those who need it most. This is a guy who has spent the last few years living in rural India, working in a clinic treating the desperately poor people of the area while making very little money. He has been away from his family and his fiance and living in conditions that he did not need to live in to do put his talent and training as a doctor to help people. During that time, he has also been sent around the world to trouble spots where the need is more immediate and acute, treating refugees after violent attacks and natural disasters. During that time, he has contracted malaria and several other nasty ailments as a result of his work. He’s a good man. A very good man. And I consider him a personal friend, which I strongly hope will not end with this action.

But facts are facts. The first I heard of this was about 15 hours ago. I pay no attention whatsoever to the slymepit as I prefer to avoid cesspools full of raging assholes. My initial response, given my affinity for Avi and the source of the accusations, was to dismiss it as much ado about nothing. I believed, with very little thought or effort to confirm, the initial speculation that someone had either gotten his password or that it was the result of some sort of technical glitch.

Then I got an email from Hemant Mehta, someone I also hold in high esteem and consider a friend, and he told me that he’d been looking into the evidence and found a powerful case for plagiarism, whether a result of intention or lack of concern for attribution. I emailed Avi and said, in essence, that you have to address this publicly and you have to tell the truth, whatever that is. I’m glad to see that he has now done so. Hemant also published the evidence he had found and he’s right, the case is pretty unassailable. All of this happened while I slept. When I woke up this morning, I looked at both Hemant and Avi’s posts about it and immediately decided to take the matter to the executive committee and recommend his expulsion from the network. The committee agreed.

And so do I.

Stop the Hypocrisy, NOW!

On the blog Why Evolution is True, we find this entry that seems to have nothing whatsoever to do with evolution, biology, or even science at all.  Instead, it is all about hypocrisy in religion:

Imagine being forced to go to work every day and, as part of the job, profess something that you absolutely don’t believe.  More than that: at least once a week you have to publicly profess it, and also counsel other people on the explicit premise that you share the beliefs you reject.  In other words, you’re forced to live a lie.

No one is forced to do anything like that.  The issue is that you have a job that makes you money and enables you to influence others. That sounds like a strong motivation to keep doing it, but there are alternatives.

Why do these preachers stay in the faith and on the job? Three reasons, mostly.  One is financial: what else could they do with their training if they left the ministry? Often they have neither equity (living in church-owned houses) nor pensions.

What about simply switching to become ministers of Unitarian Universalist churches or hold some other position in the Unitarian Universalist Association? You do not have to believe in the Bible as the Word of God to be a UU!

You can also profess liberal Christianity in the UUA and not be hypocritical:

Another, and perhaps more important, reason is that an admission of unbelief  would shock and disappoint their friends and family.  This is a very powerful motive, for facing the truth would rip asunder your network of social and family support.

Where is the unconditional love that Christians are supposed to have for people? And wouldn’t being open and honest about unbelief be just as likely to cause others to defect as well?

Finally, many of these preachers like their work, especially the part of the job that involves helping troubled people……..There’s absolutely no doubt that faith, and religious institutions, have provided important help for those in need or in trouble.  Some religions do this more than others.

There is no reason why they cannot do work like counseling or doing charity work, even if they are atheists.

But isn’t it a shame that there aren’t secular communities where those with altruistic instincts can “minister” without hypocrisy or fear?

That last remark irritates me.  The UUA may not be “secular”, but it provides exactly the sort of framework needed by those former Christian ministers. And then there are these many groups:

Nice going, Jerry Coyne. Your obsession with bashing religion only made yourself look ignorant! And that would not be the only time you did that!

The downfall of Greenpeace

Greenpeace is a hard-core environmental group that first become known for trying to stop whaling activities by direct interference with the whalers. But that was decades ago. And now it has pulled a stunt against another culture that has destroyed its credibility forever.
Peru Plans to Charge Greenpeace Activists for Damage to Nazca Lines

Pie charts and privilege.

The basic conflict between conservatives and liberals can be illustrated by the following pie charts.

In the first, we see a typical arrangement in which a certain class that is privileged gets most of what they want, leaving only a little for members of a non-privileged class.

PieOne A truly just society, one that liberals would favor, would have an arrangement like this:

PieTwoBut this would cause the formerly privileged group to have less, which would go against their interests. But what if we could enlarge the amount of resources so that everyone could have more?

PieThreeSounds ideal, no? But conservatism depends on social inequality, so instead they might push for THIS instead!

PieFourIt does not matter how large or how small the pie is, as long as a privileged class gets most of it, period!

Maybe that explains this: