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Religious Intolerance

guest post by Brian Schmied

Nobody is quite as good at intolerance toward religions as other religions. It makes sense when you think about it. Secular people aren’t worried about becoming the collateral damage in a violent fit of divine jealousy, and they don’t worry about their children turning away from the light and burning in eternal hellfire.

Religions don’t like to mix, and they do a great job of worming their way into public policy to either violently suppress diversity or keep it out entirely. The obvious modern day examples are traditionally Muslim nations, which either punish formerly Islamic apostates with the death penalty, or do a terrible job of preventing vigilantes from carrying it out, depending on how progressive their legal system is.

It’s deeply unfair to limit this discussion to Islam, however. If you’re looking to be persecuted for your religious convictions, you don’t need to board an airplane. Radical and genocidal American strains of Christianity are surprisingly comparable.

Imagine you are a Muslim American officer attending a military school and ending up in this class. American military officers have been taught to believe that nuclear genocide of Muslims is not only an option, but necessary for American security. That is not an exaggeration.

The U.S military headquarters, the Pentagon, hosts a Christian Embassy, to better help America’s top military personnel defer their decisions to deeply unqualified, glorified shamans. Given such evidence, Mickey Weinstein’s assertion, “…that a Christian Taliban is running the military.” doesn’t seem so absurd anymore.

As much as these big religions hate each other, nothing gives them the heebie-jeebies quite so much as new religions. Small and strange religions evoke an interesting reaction among the adherents to culturally mainstream superstitions.

In our Christian society, it is very interesting how black and white some things are to the culture. To them, David Miscavige could just as easily be a Wiccan or a Satanist. It’s all boils down to the same Satan worship to them. Never mind that the official Church of Satan is atheistic and doesn’t believe in the existence of Satan, or a god, or any other supernatural things, and certainly doesn’t worship anything.

It’s a very strong Sith versus Jedi mentality that completely shuts down thought and examination. Earlier this year, conservative writer gave voice to the general bafflement among Christians. Raymond Ibrahim wondered aloud about the world’s complete lack of reaction to some anti-Christian mobs in Egypt, which he interprets as an official declaration of war by 1.4 billion Muslims against all of Christendom.

Never mind the 120,000 corpses in Iraq. Never mind that Afghani death tolls are not reported. Of course the U.S military, which has long struggled with the inordinate influence of fundamentalist Christians, couldn’t possibly be motivated to commit war crimes by Christian anti-Islamic sentiment.

On the one hand we have an angry religious mob attacking “non-believers” in their community, and on the other we have a global military network full of religious zealots with a budget nearly the size of Russia’s GDP conquering and occupying entire nations with blatantly made up excuses about WMD’s.

It’s hard to tell if the religious people are using the government to kill their enemies or if the politicians are wielding religion to motivate people to kill in their political interest.

 

Brian Schmied studied political science. He enjoys learning and writing about religions, politics, and the mayhem that ensues wherever they intersect.

Activism Current Events Opinion

PT Kizone’s New Bankruptcy Trial

I can only barely conceal my melancholy at the issues on which the illustrious students of Grand Valley State University seize. The United Students Against Sweatshops has recently been the most prominent litigator, yet it seems no one has had the wherewithal to ask what sweatshops in Indonesia have to do with contracts in the U.S. This is not a trick question. The USAS is protesting GVSU’s contract with Adidas, on the grounds of a particularly emotional case regarding PT Kizone, a clothing manufacturer in Indonesia. PT Kizone did supply Adidas. What’s conveniently unmentioned is that PT Kizone also sold “collegiate apparel” (dumbass sports jingoism) for Nike, and similarly useless products for the Dallas Cowboys. Adidas is only one customer, and no convincing argument has been made to link the PT Kizone debacle to the Adidas-GVSU contract. Forget the dwindling space program, the increasingly useless investments our government makes, and our crumbling infrastructure, GVSU students need to take to the streets to rectify the injustices of an Indonesian bankruptcy court!

Photo by Robert Matthews

I will not present any illusions that I am an expert in Indonesian business law, but since this is apparently the problems the liberal-arts students of Grand Valley concern themselves with, I found a report from 2006 that provided some clarity:

 

An employment relationship may be terminated by either the employer (the company) or the appointed receiver [the creditor], subject to the provisions of the prevailing labour laws, provided that at least a 45 days’ notice is sent before the termination… The new law also clearly provides that after the date of the declaration of bankruptcy, any unpaid salary prior to or after the declaration of the bankruptcy decision will be a part of the debt of the bankruptcy estate. (Mandala, S. 2006, pp. 4-5)

 

I’ll remind the dear reader that I am not arguing PT Kizone’s bankruptcy was handled ideally. But I doubt that it was handled illegally by Adidas. PT Kizone is not owned by Adidas, in fact, the owner fled the country after closing the plant (Brettman, A. 2013). As far as I’m aware, what debts get paid, and what don’t, is decided by that infamous Indonesian bankruptcy court. Not, say, twenty students and their solidarity outside Kirkhoff.

Which raises an impolite question for the the former employees of PT Kizone: why aren’t you handling this in Indonesia? The salient students bemoan the loss of “legally” mandated severance pay (Brettman, A. 2013), but if the issue is a legal one it has no business in American universities. Similarly, what about the legal obligations the universities have to Adidas? I could not find the GVSU-Adidas contract, but I very much doubt it requires Adidas to pay the severance fees of companies it buys clothing from. Not that that stopped anyone, because of this unwanted attention, Adidas is compensating 2,700 ex-employees of PT Kizone (“Victory,” 2013).

I suppose no one should be surprised that a private company bowed to unwanted political pressure, or that many universities did the same. Institutions aren’t known for sticking up for the unpopular. But I am surprised by what University students are bothered. Our congress can’t pass a bill to make gun control laws consistent for gun shows and gun shops. First New York flooded, then Grand Rapids did. We’re at war for who knows what, and terrorist’s internet magazines have Inspired lone-wolf attacks on U.S soil. It’s not the conversation I find problematic, but that this seems to be the only one.

References

Brettman, A. 2013. Adidas settles with Indonesian workers over PT Kizone. The Oregon. Retrieved from http://www.oregonlive.com/playbooks-profits/index.ssf/2013/04/adidas_settles_with_indonesian.html

Mandala, S. 2006. INDONESIAN BANKRUPTCY LAW: AN UPDATE. OECD. pp. 4-5. Retrieved from http://www.oecd.org/indonesia/38184160.pdf

VICTORY! “Badidas” Campaign Forces Adidas to Respect Indonesian Garment Worker Rights. 2013. Retrieved from http://usas.org/tag/pt-kizone/

 

Opinion Science

Evolution is *not* a philosophy, and, a semantic proposal

Hello all, Dave Muscato here again!

I live in Missouri, the Show-Me State. You’d think that means we’re a rather skeptical bunch, desirous of evidence and good reasons before we take a claim to heart. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen at the level of policy-making.

Right now in Missouri, a GOP representative, Rick Brattin, has introduced House Bill 291. This bill includes some outlandish policy changes: It seeks to define, officially, evolution as a “philosophy.” It also says that this philosophy “denies the operation of any intelligence, supernatural event, God or theistic figure in the initial or subsequent development of life” and that “[the] origin of life on earth is inferred to be the result of intelligence directed design and construction. There are no plausible mechanisms or present-day experiments to prove the naturalistic origin of the first independent living organism.”

This is ridiculous. But wait: It gets worse!

If scientific theory concerning biological origin is taught in a textbook, the textbook shall give equal treatment to biological evolution and biological intelligent design.

What the what?! Didn’t we settle all of this already with the Dover case?

change-darwin

I have a proposal. Can we stop calling it the “theory of evolution”? Evolution is a fact. We have seen it happen under controlled conditions and entire fields of science depend on it. In the words of the evolutionary biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky (who also happens to be a Russian Orthodox Christian), “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.”

I know that “the theory of evolution” is short for “the theory of evolution by means of natural selection,” and I understand why people shorten this to simply “evolution.” But this is incredibly misleading, and really does nothing but give ammunition to creationists, and confuse the scientifically ignorant.

What we really mean to say is, “the theory of natural selection”that is the theoretical part. There is no controversy (well, none among legitimate scientists) about whether or not evolution itself occurs. The “controversy” (which, again, is artificial) is about the mechanism responsible for these observed changes in the frequency of alleles within a population. The Catholic Church under Pope John Paul II acknowledged that evolution occurs, but the official stance was that this process was guided by God, rather than random mutations and non-random selection. This is of course unsubstantiated, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.

I hope you will join me in taking care to watch ourselves in our language. When we must include the word “theory,” make sure you are talking about natural selection and not evolution. And if you live in Missouri (or even if you don’t), please write to, email, or call Rep. Brattin and tell him this bill has no place in our schools.

Until next time,

Dave

Activism Current Events Ethics Opinion

Against Kate Middleton et al

from: http://pandawhale.com/post/10555/my-penis-works-celebrate-peasants

Kate Middleton’s predictable but nonetheless depressing rise to fame only adds insult to the great injury that is pseudo-monarchy. Almost as inexplicable as the stupidity of the American two-party system, but surely stupider, is the United Kingdom’s love affair with a particular rich family who is openly paid to be rich. She mocks us with her trivial celebrations, and we proles relish the opportunity to worship her. Now, she has gone and done the most typical possible thing a human can do: she has reproduced. And to continue this most excellent resistance to millions of years of evolution her face again is exploding all through the intertubes. As if the pretentious, superfluous, and ostentatious display of unearned wealth that was her wedding wasn’t enough.

Middleton’s new royal estate is publicly funded, and worse yet, publicly honored. The royal family serves no real purpose for the United Kingdom’s government, and certainly not one proportional to the honors “Her Majesties’” government bestows upon it. I am in no way the first to have pointed this out either. It’s perfectly obvious to anyone standing beyond the fool’s haze of tradition that the best possible government does not include a facade of tyranny.

Marx called religion the opiate of the people. And we, as skeptics, have already stepped back from tradition and recognized faith’s grim role. I suggest that we again make use of this capability when considering the royal family, however pretty and polite they may appear. Giving the people their opiates in the form of a skeuomorphic government has numerous consequences; not the least of which is glorifying a decrepit regime of servility. What bothers me most is, every moment that the international conversation is about these useless figureheads is a moment the meaningful conversations are neglected for the sake of inane babble.

For example, the title of this article by Jane Hamilton is Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton boosts UK’s economy.* What Hamilton of course means, as is more clear in the article, as that demand for specific fashion items has risen dramatically because of our obsession with the young Duchess. That is not at all the same thing as boosting an economy. The world’s resources were redistributed to imitate Middleton, she did not create new resources, the economy was not “boosted”, except for the savings she doubtlessly annihilated.

The only rational response, then, is to not only endeavor to truly end the reign, regardless of how ineffectual it is, of the English tyrants. Doing this in the state is not enough, but removing them from the discussions of the interesting is necessary as well. Why should we waste any more of humanities’ precious and scarce resources on the pompous symbols of a darker time?

 *Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton boosts UK’s economy by Jane Hamilton, (1/10/2012, The Sun) <http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/4049338/.html>

News Opinion

The problem faced by Conspiracy Theory

As there are different types of philosophies so too are there different types of Conspiracy Theory. These range from simple one off events such as the assassination of JFK and 911 to historically entrenched conspiracy theories that encompass esoteric ideals with real world implications. The latter tend to be associated with secret societies or Meta intergalactic conspiracy theories involving alien control.

Today the biggest problem facing Conspiracies Theory is its lack of articulation and analysis of systematic processes. However, simply dismissing conspiracy theories as being illogical, wildly imaginative or staggeringly absurd will no longer work as an analytical benchmark. In terms of pure logic and reasoning some conspiracy theories are more plausible than others. For instance take the assassination of JFK. It is plausible that a network of men other than Lee Harvey Oswald had him assassinated. This is more plausible than the premise that the world’s political and financial systems were deigned to be as they are in order to serve the purpose of a smoke screen designed by a secret society in the ancient world that envisioned world domination – whatever that is.

Apart from the art of linguistics, Conspiracy Theory fails to address the phenomena it seeks to explicate in a concise or sophisticated manner. As a further hindrance to the cause, the semantics encompassing Conspiracy Theory have reached bursting point – a concept ablaze with theoretical amalgamation producing ideological saturation. As a consequence both the descriptive and conceptual terms of Conspiracy Theory have become meaningless. Take the conspiracy theory of JFK as a single point conspiracy. By this I mean a preplanned arrangement between two or more individuals at a single point in time. These individuals would have conspired collectively to corrupt the political process when disposing of Kennedy.

It is precisely here where the misdiagnosis of conspiracy theories emerge, they must therefore reframe their theoretical ideas of the process they seek to analyze. Single point conspiracy theories can be equally analyzed as single point corruption, both occurring at designated points in time within social, economic and political systems. Immediately this sense of analyses and the semantic use of single points of corruption bring credence to the attempted argument. Political Scientists and Sociologists study corruption, particularly at discrete points in time regarding illegal operations and processes in a system. However not too many study Conspiracy Theory as a serious framework for consideration or as a viable ontological alternative. Predominantly when studied in a serious format, it is the the work of psychologists attempting to discredit conspiracy theories by merely labeling them under the banner of erratic belief systems.

In order to provide analytical and insightful robustness to a theory, conspiracy theorists must first stipulate what phenomena they are trying to explain and what type of conspiracy they are advocating. If proponents of conspiracy theories want to build a persuasive argument they must first elucidate what they mean by a type of conspiracy in a particular context. To explain something like JFK they must illustrate how single point conspiracy theories are equivocal to single points of corruption – one off events in political systems and not the byproduct of an overarching conspiracy with a superior teleological goal enacted by the New World Order. This is because pre planned Meta conspiracy theories of secret world rule in which every observable phenomenon is linked to a larger Meta Conspiracy Theory is rendered inept by Social Chaos Theory because no room is allocated for randomness and error.

By positioning the argument in the Social Science domain of single point conspiracy or corruption lends itself to readily defensible claims. Systematic corruption and single point conspiracies are rife in the world and this is why rules and regulations are formulated to prevent the abuse of power. What cannot be logically argued is the convergence and transition from the micro to the macro that results in Meta Conspiracy Theory. For example that corruption in small parts of a social system is somehow related to a pre planned conspiracy on a larger scale such as the global financial crisis, 911 and the Iraq war. For this reason when seeking to explicate a corrupt occurrence; the conceptual and contextual use of Conspiracy and Conspiracy Theory is of the most importance when analyzing social and political phenomena.

__________

Tony Sobrado is a Social Scientist and Research Analyst based in London. He writes for www.atthegrapevine.com and is a member of Project Reason and JREF.  He is currently working on Who rules the world? An analysis of Conspiracy Theory which addresses the phenomena of Conspiracy Theory from the perspective of the social sciences. He holds a BSc in Political Science from The London School of Economics and a Masters degree in Social and Political Theory.

You can find him on twitter @TonySobrado.