26 December 2009

Religion's biggest blunders of the year

Yesterday was Christmas Day, a day celebrated by Christians as the birth of Jesus Christ.

I respect their right to celebrate that. If you were wondering if I'm religious in any way, well I've been godless my entire life. Except for weddings or maybe some classical music concerts, I've never gone to church and have much much less, in fact never, attended formal religious services ever in my life. Despite what others may say, I'm proud not to rely on a supernatural power out there for happiness.

That being said, I'd like to celebrate such a profoundly religious holiday my own way: by exposing the biggest religious blunders of the year. I'm not just targeting Christianity; instead to show how dumb and irrational religion can be, I'll include any ideology that includes belief in a supernatural higher power(s).

Gwen Tompkins, "Arrest For Wearing Pants Galvanizes Women in Sudan". Morning Edition (National Public Radio): October 13, 2009. Sudanese woman Lubna Ahmed Hussein was charged for wearing "clothing causing harassment to public sentiment"...for wearing pants! Seriously, Islamic law does prohibit women from wearing pants, even in an era where pants are acceptable business wear for women in the American workplace.

Jonathan Turley, "Four Irish Bishops Resign in Wake of Abuse Report". December 26, 2009. Ireland's Catholic Church has had a big public relations snafu this year over its failure to report priests who abused children. It was so bad that two bishops resigned from the Church on...Christmas Eve! Way to please God!

Jonathan Turley, "Blasphemy Blog: Egyptian Court Upholds Four-Year Sentence of Blogger for Criticizing Islam". December 24, 2009. Yet another wacky story of Islamic law - known in Arabic as sharia - not giving a flying bug about something called basic human dignity. If I were writing this from Egypt (or just about any country in the Arab World) I'd get thrown in the slammer the next hour.

Jonathan Turley, "American Taliban: Family Group Calls for Laws to be Strenghtened That Criminalize Sex Outside of Marriage". December 12, 2009. Turley used "Taliban" in his headline for a reason: This kind of BS law, proposed by the Minnesota Family Council, translates to sharia! (Ironically, American conservatives claim that Muslims want to bring sharia to the US, but the same conservatives cheer on the Christians who want to pass laws like this that violate human rights.) Turley wrote an editorial in 2004 tackling this issue too and pointing out why such a law theoretically would violate the Constitution; it upholds a religious ideal! Specifically, the commandment "Thou shalt not commit adultery". Some may argue that it's not really religious to prosecute adultery, given that a victim does exist in the spouse whose partner cheated.

I take doubt in that argument though. Is it really practical to prosecute all those "man cheated on wife" cases? Given that's such a common activity among humans, it'd jam an already bulky caseload on judges throughout America. Furthermore, prison overcrowding would be worsened, especially in California.

Then comes those who are pushing public schools to teach abstinence education, promoting the idea that waiting until marriage to have sex is the healthiest choice in life. Even though the US government has spent billions in that kind of program, studies have shown that such education is very futile. In another expression, codifying abstinence in this sense would really make things worse. From 1920-1933, the 18th Amendment of the US Constitution put Prohibition in effect. This banned consumption and sale of all alcoholic beverages. Sadly though, it didn't put America back on a moral track as the Prohibition proponents hoped. Instead, organized crime went on the rise, as gangs found that they could make big profits off of the "prohibited liquid". A Cato Institute study from 1991, "Alcohol Prohibition Was a Failure" finds:

Not only did the number of serious crimes increase, but crime became organized. Criminal groups organize around the steady source of income provided by laws against victimless crimes such as consuming alcohol or drugs, gambling, and prostitution. In the process of providing goods and services, those criminal organizations resort to real crimes in defense of sales territories, brand names, and labor contracts. That is true of extensive crime syndicates (the Mafia) as well as street gangs, a criminal element that first surfaced during Prohibition.

So if premarital sex were banned, teens whose hormones were raging would just go underground to evade the law, like prostitutes often do. The Minnesota Family Council's proposed law just makes the sin look all the more satisfying.

PZ Myers, "Shame on Italy". Pharyngula (Scienceblogs.com): December 25, 2009. "The Italian National Research Council is sponsoring the publication of a creationist book, titled Evolutionism: The Decline of an Hypothesis." Yep, the government is seriously helping write a book that promotes pseudoscience. I ain't surprised given that Italy's a heavily Catholic country. It's bad enough that creationists have hijacked the American public schools; we don't need other countries sinking to our level.

Jonathan Turley, "Blasphemy (American Style): Obama Administration Supports Resolution on Limiting Free Speech to Bar Criticism of Religion". October 6, 2009. Yep, the Free World is passive about restricting the right to criticize religion.

PZ Myers, "Ireland has a blasphemy law". July 13, 2009. Ireland passed a law saying that anyone caught offending a significant number of religious people will be fined 25,000 Euros, which translates to approximately 36,000 US dollars. Oxford University professor Richard Dawkins considered this law to be medieval. I agree with Myers and Dawkins; isn't Ireland much better than those silly Islamic nations that whiplash people for speaking out against Islam?

PZ Myers, "What did she expect? That Jesus would stop by and give her a turnip?". December 5, 2009. "Poor, uneducated, obese, and religious". December 9, 2009. Both cases involve people who relied on faith, not medicine, to recover from illness. Sadly, epic fail.

PZ Myers, "The pope is an evil quack". March 18, 2009. Why? Because he lied to Africans about condoms and HIV! Way to express human dignity the Catholic way.

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