Tag Archives: Islam

How ironic: Bookstore bans “Free Inquiry”

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The Associated Press reported today (03/29/06) that the company that operates Borders and Waldenbooks stores will not stock the April-May issue of Free Inquiry magazine because it contains cartoons of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad that provoked deadly protests among Muslims in several countries a couple months ago.

Free Inquiry is the official magazine of the Council for Secular Humanism (CSH) based in Amherst, NY. It announced that it would publish some of the cartoons that sparked violence from Denmark to Syria by offended Muslims. In their press release they said they would publish them because the major magazines in the US (Time, Newsweek, etc…) refuses to publish them.

Borders said:

“For us, the safety and security of our customers and employees is a top priority, and we believe that carrying this issue could challenge that priority,” Borders spokeswoman Beth Bingham said Wednesday.

Bingham said the decision was made before the magazine arrived at the chain’s stores. The company operates more than 475 Borders and 650 Waldenbooks stores in the United States, though not all regularly carry the magazine.

Borders won’t carry magazine containing prophet cartoons

So the chain decided BEFORE seeing the magazine… interesting.

According to the AP report the cartoons are accompanied by three articles: one by editor Tom Flynn tracing the controversy and explaining the decision; a commentary by R. Joseph Hoffmann, director of the Council for Secular Humanism’s Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion; and a historic look at representations of the prophet.

Paul Kurtz, editor-in-chief said:

“What is at stake is the precious right of freedom of expression. Cartoons often provide an important form of political satire … To refuse to distribute a publication because of fear of vigilante violence is to undermine freedom of press _ so vital for our democracy.”

To be honest, Borders goofed. Free Inquiry is a small publication compared to others like Maxim, Stuff, and People. In fact I have gone to the two stores in my area and have yet to find an issue of Free Inquiry when I wanted to buy it.

But I get it. They can pander to those customers who might not have appreciated the cartoons in context and it doesn’t hurt them in the balance sheet. However, censoring the magazine is going to create more of a scene than just letting it sit silently on the shelf collecting dust before being shipped back to the distributor. The move also brings fresh free publicity for CSH.

Now if they decided not to stock Dr. Phil’s latest fake psychology book then all hell would break loose – or better what if they ban the Holy Bible – with its tales of incest, sex, violence, and tribulation.

So Borders will stick to its pandering while I cross them off my future shopping list for books.

Their loss.

*Side Note*

While I am against Borders censoring Free Inquiry, I was not pleased that CSH planned to publish the cartoons. I felt it was a self-serving publicity stunt. However, after learning about the 3 articles that will put the controversy in context and from a secular humanist POV, I feel better about them doing it.

Still the Biggest Lie: Christians in the US are persecuted

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While cruising the Internet the other day, I came across a post by Adam Graham on his blog titled “Why You Can’t Trust the Left on Religious Freedom“.

In the post he talks about the recent case of a man in Afghanistan who is under threat of execution for converting to Christianity. Afghanistan, although free of the mega-zelots, the Taliban, still bases their laws on sharia, or Islamic law.

Graham takes another blogger to task for complaining about some religious conservatives from the US who complained about the persecution of the man. At one point he makes the statement

Wow, and like I said, that’s why you can’t trust the left with religious liberty. First of all, do I think Russ would ever do violence against religious people? No. But what it shows is that Russ takes a flippant attitude towards it.

Then he goes on to make some wild speculations if the “left” responded to some hypothetical situations of persecution.

1) All Evangelical Christians were rounded up and deported from the State of New York:

Predicted Liberal Reaction: Shows them for not supporting gay marriage.

2) Muslims in Detroit kill hundreds of Christians and burn dozens of churches to the ground:

Predicted Reaction: Well, when you don’t clearly support the Seperation of Church and State, that happens.

3) Christians Put in Re-Education Camp in California

Predicted Reaction: Call it Reparitive Theory for anti-gay bigots

If Russ reacts like this to the persecution of foreigners, why would he react any differently to the persecution of American Christians? Any persecution is not just facilitated by bloodthirsty regimes, but those who couldn’t care less about what those regimes are doing.

Why You Can’t Trust the Left on Religious Freedom“.

I had to respond to the post and the following is my comment I left on his post:

A lot of wild speculation and reaching for your conclusion. What is your definition of persecution? Persecution is persistent mistreatment of an individual or group by another group. Is is near impossible for a majority religion to be persecuted. My guess is when Christians complain of persecution in the US they are more likely complaining about losing their special status within the overall culture – like the debates over the 10 Commandments in court houses and “under God” in the pledge. It is simply a false complaint.

Equating real persecution like the article at the beginning of your post noted, and the political debate over religion having a special status in the US government is comparing apples and oranges.

It doesn’t follow that “you can’t trust the left with religious liberty” since the situations aren’t the same.

In the US, the persecution clearly is going against non-Christians and non-believers as Christians are struggling in their death grasp as the “chosen people” of this country deserving of special status and special rights.

Graham responded to my comment by saying that David Limbaugh, brother of conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, wrote a whole book detailing the persecution of Christians in the US. (Persecution : How Liberals Are Waging War Against Christianity (2003)) Limbaugh’s book focuses on the political and legal debates over religion in the public schools and within the government. Real persecution is not mentioned.

Let me restate my point – the charge that there is persecution of Christians in the United States is false, it doesn’t exist. Like the “War on Christmas” it is an attempt at vicitimhood by the very people who are in power.

Being asked to cover up your cross at work is totally different than being told by a police officer to cover it after being stopped on the street and he/she indicates if you don’t comply you will be jailed or beaten. The first is not persecution while the former is. See the difference?

Also note that while you wouldn’t have recourse at work, since courts have ruled that the Bill of Rights end at the office door, the ACLU, yes them, would be first in line to defend your right to wear a cross while walking on the street.

There is religious persecution in the US but it is not toward Christians. Most persecution is directed at non-Christians and mostly Atheists. Here are some facts:

Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas prohibit an Atheist from holding public office. The prohibition is written in their constitutions and is in direct opposition to the US Constitution’s prohibition against religious tests for elected officials. Clearly those laws are illegal yet still on the books.

You can be fired or denied housing if you are an atheist and there is no legal re-course. Atheists and Muslims can’t be Boy Scouts or be leaders of Boy Scout units. Some states now require children to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in school even with the “under god” part.

A 1999 Gallup poll asked the question “If your party nominated a generally well-qualified person for president who happened to be a ‘X’ would you vote for that person?” “X” is Atheist, Baptist, Black, Catholic, Homosexual, Jewish, Mormon, and Woman. The percentages were: Baptist 94% Black 95% Catholic 94% Homosexual 59% Jewish 92% Mormon 99% Woman 92% and Atheist…. 49%

When I revealed to my co-workers that I was an Atheist and Humanist they made snide remarks about not getting Christmas gifts and left tracts on my desk as a “joke”. I know some Atheist friends who refuse to let our Humanist group to use their full names or picture on our website or newsletter in fear of retribution from friends, family, and co-workers who don’t know they don’t believe in a God.

It is logically near impossible for a majority group to be persecuted. I can only think of one solid example. Until 1990 in South Africa, whites holding power were the minority race in the country and they persecuted the Black majority.

But the facts don’t keep the religious right from claiming Christians in the US are being persecuted.

On March 27 – 28, Vision America’s The War On Christians Conference will convene at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C.

The conference is not only the first to address growing attacks on Christians, but will include discussions of every aspect of the War on Christians, including — Hollywood, the news media, the courts and groups like the ACLU and Anti-Defamation League.

Besides celebrated conservative leaders like Alan Keyes, Gary Bauer, Sen. John Cornyn, Phyllis Schlafly, Sen. Sam Brownback and Rep. Tom DeLay, the conference will feature timely and informative panel discussions.

Conference to Include ‘Jews Confront The War On Christians’ Panel

So as you can see the Big Lie is used by political conservatives to scare their election base to the polls to solidify the majority power they already hold.

Further reading:

God Squad Review CXXVII (Atheist Persecution of Christians)

US ups pressure in Afghan Christian convert case

International Religious Freedom (yes an entire office in the US State Department devoted to reporting on religious freedom in the world except in the US)

Kellmeyer doesn’t know much about history

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Most of the time when I am surfing the web I read some really ignorant self-serving crap. The saying “if it sounds ridiculous it is ridiculous” is never more true than when reading most web writings.

Sometimes I read something that is so shocking and disgusting that I have to comment on it.

Opposites Attract by Steve Kellmeyer on the RenewAmerica website is the kind of ignorant trash that passes for discourse in these days of Red vs. Blue states.

Kellmeyer pieces together historical items to conclude that Secular Humanism and Islam abuses women.

He makes a classic argument of guilt by association when in fact it is a straw man for Kellmeyer to knock down. Equating Secular Humanism and Islam is bad enough (because they aren’t even in the same neighborhood) but then Kellmeyer warps history to prove his “point”.

For example:

It has been noted in this column and elsewhere that the Enlightenment’s insistence on setting Reason up as a god was due in no small part to Luther’s insistence that Reason was the whore of the devil. Luther’s “faith alone” theology brought about the “reason alone” backlash that was the Enlightenment.

But, the two did agree on some things. For instance, while Luther and Voltaire fought each other bitterly, they did unite against their common enemy: the Catholic Church.

Kellmeyer is wrong. Martin Luther wasn’t just about “faith alone” theology. He wanted to reform the Catholic church. During his time the Church was corrupt including selling indulgences. Luther wanted the Church to go back to what he believed it should be – based on the teachings of the Bible. His actions challenged the authority of the Pope. Luther was a victim of politics – not religion.

Martin Luther

The Enlightenment was a backlash against Luther AND the Church – it was a backlash against the long period of doubtful tradition, full of irrationality, superstition, and tyranny.

Immanuel Kant defined the Enlightenment as follows:

Enlightenment is man’s leaving his self-caused immaturity. Immaturity is the incapacity to use one’s own understanding without the guidance of another. Such immaturity is self-caused if its cause is not lack of intelligence, but by lack of determination and courage to use one’s intelligence without being guided by another. The motto of enlightenment is therefore: Sapere aude! Have courage to use your own intelligence!

Next Kellmeyer writes:

Today, we see a remarkably similar thing taking place. Where Luther insisted on faith alone, Islam insists on rote memorization and constant emulation of the Prophet Mohammed. Where Voltaire insisted on the pre-eminence of Reason, the secular humanists today insist on the pre-eminence of the self. The Marquis de Sade and his modern counterparts have been transformed from lunatics (which is how de Sade was viewed by his contemporaries) to heros. Libertinism is the order of the day.

First of all, how the Marquis de Sade is relevant to his argument is a mystery to me. It is probably a variation of the Hitler argument or when arguing against Atheists religious conservatives trot out Stalin. Basically you give an example of the worst person in history and then try to pin the idea you’re against to their dead carcass.

Second Kellmeyer makes his first error about Secular Humanism. Sechums don’t “insist on the pre-eminence of the self”. We aren’t selfish nor do we advocate that. We do believe that reason is the best tool to explain our world just like thinkers like Voltaire. We also believe that human problems require human solutions.

Next we come to the jaw dropping part of the essay:

Similarly, Catholicism uniquely moderated other philosophies. Precisely because Judaism spent a millennium under Catholic influence, Jews no longer stone members of their community to death for fornication. Precisely because Islam lacked that Christian guidance, Muslims still do. The Christianity that wiped out Aztec human sacrifice, stopped Hindus from forcing their widows onto the funeral pyre, and destroyed the Thuggee cult of ritual murder found its moral force in a world-view that retained an understanding of the Catholic theology on personhood.

Any casual reading of history will refute Kellmeyer’s idea here. Catholics persecute and have persecuted Jews through out history. They didn’t call it the Spanish and Mexican Inquisitions for nothing, not to mention the recent Church apologies for past persecutions and looking the other way during the Holocaust.

Yes, Christianity wiped out Aztec human sacrifice because they wiped out the Aztecs as well as other native Americans in Mexico and South America. First they slaughtered the religious leaders then forced the people to convert to Christianity by use of force – including wholesale killing. You also had the mass deaths caused by diseases brought over from Europe.

It was common for Christian missionaries to destroy native religion and culture in an effort to convert the “savages”. The Catholic theology on personhood only applied to Catholics – obviously.

Kellmeyer’s argument so far is meant to pander to conservative Catholics. Conservative Christian and conservative Catholics are one nasty coalition as we have seen in recent years.

Finally we come to Kellmeyer’s “point” where is paints Sechums as supporting wife killing. He does this by pulling out Terri Schiavo and her plight to use an anvil against Islam and Secular Humanism:

And here is the most interesting thing about this 21st-century version of the Thirty Years’ War. The struggle between secular humanism and Islam does not just attack the Bride of Christ, it attacks women in general.

Islam views women as the source of most moral evil. According to Mohammed, hell is populated primarily by women. In the same way, secular humanism endorses a lifestyle of casual sex, casual contraception and casual abortion that disproportionately harms women.

While it is true that Islam doesn’t see women as equal (much in the same way the Bible and Christianity doesn’t), Kellmeyer makes another error about Secular Humanism.

Secular Humanism doesn’t endorse “a lifestyle of casual sex, casual contraception and casual abortion”. We do endorse personal liberty for everyone. People should be able to decide for themselves to have sex, use contraception, or have an abortion. If their religious beliefs cause them to NOT do those things then fine but they shouldn’t force what they want on the rest of us. In Secular Humanism, women are equal and should have the same freedom of choices males enjoy. That is no where near how women are treated in traditional Islamic culture or practice.

Kellmeyer ignores the fact that if it wasn’t for the move to reason there wouldn’t have been a United States. The American Revolution was the product of the Enlightenment and the pre-eminence of reason. The Enlightenment is all over the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

If I had to choose I would choose the Enlightenment over the “Catholic theology on personhood” every time and most women would too.