Fundamentalism   2 comments

Sacre Couer Bell Tower

Content Note: War in the Middle East, Eternal Damnation, Mocking Scriptures

I was struck reading a quote from Chris Hallquist as cited by Leah Libresco.

This is why talk of “atheist fundamentalism” is ridiculous. Atheists do not have any holy book we consider infallible. We have no traditional dogmas to defend. We certainly do not reject central discoveries of science for the sake of any holy book or dogma. We do not think anyone should be eternally damned merely for disagreeing with us, or declare anyone’s private behavior to be an “abomination” just because a book written thousands of years ago says so.

I find this to be an odd sentiment, coming from an atheist. It isn’t an uncommon sentiment, but it is an odd sentiment. It’s odd because it treats religion as a special category of human behavior separate from other categories of human behavior. In this particular sentiment, many religious people and many atheists put themselves in agreement. That agreement is odd.

If Hallquist thought about religion as an anthropologist did, or a social scientist, or anyone else who didn’t give religion special eminence in the sphere of human activity, he would realize that of course their are atheist fundamentalists. If fundamentalism is a really existing phenomenon, it is a human phenomenon. It stems from concerns and motives and methods of thought that are common to all human beings. The existence of sacred scripture in a particular cultural context does not create new pathways in the brain or produce an otherwise unknown hormonal response. If the tendency to fundamentalism exists, it exists in all human beings.

A Dawkins or a Hitchens might not appear to be fundamentalist in every context, but then again I imagine it is just barely possible that religious fundamentalists are also capable of normal human behavior uninfluenced by their fundamentalism. It is certain that Dawkins and Hitchens both cheered on our destructive wars in the Middle East because of anti-Muslim bigotry. If that isn’t virulent fundamentalism, I’m not sure what is.

By the same token, though, Christian fundamentalism should be considered a reality even by convinced Christians. A sincere Catholic should be able to recognize that if human beings can be angry and irrational, they can be angry and irrational about things that happen to be true as well as things that happen to be false. I only know a few Christians who view their religion as immunity to sin, and all the rest should recognize that fundamentalism is a sin to which they are not immune. Given how common the charge of fundamentalism is against Christianity, Christians should be especially on the lookout for it, if only to prevent scandal.


Inactivity = Activity   Leave a comment

As many of my readers probably haven’t noticed, I haven’t been nearly as active with posting for about the past month. That’s because I was looking for a new job, spending Thanksgiving with my family, and then starting a new job. This hasn’t left me with much time for posting. Reading Susan Collins’ Gregor the Overlander series (which was fantastic) may also have played some small part

And I’m not sure when that reality is going to get better. There are many aspects that I like about my new job, but there are some pretty big drawbacks. So I may or may not be spending my time intensively looking for and starting another new job in the coming month. We’ll see.

In the meantime, thank you for your patience. I’ll be getting back to being reluctantly liberal and liberally reluctant again soon.

Posted 12/01/2012 by reluctantliberal in Blog Business

Repost: Nonviolent Action at its Best   Leave a comment

People tend to view pacifism in negative terms. Pacifism is the rejection of violence. It sounds limiting. But the opposite is true. Force is the easy and obvious answer. Once you take it off the table, what you’re left with is everything else. Like this:

Local media reported that the neo-Nazis were outnumbered by about a five-to-one ratio. The clowns shouted “white flour,” while others came with signs reading “wife power.”

Or this:

What came to Maisie, though, was an idea for passive resistance, pigtail-style: Instead of either scurrying away or returning the girl’s nastiness in kind, she’d wear her hair like that all week — I’m fine the way I am, thanks — and maybe get a couple of friends to do likewise. She poured out her heart — and her plan — on Facebook, then headed off to her after-school babysitting job.

Posted 11/19/2012 by reluctantliberal in Repost

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Election Results   Leave a comment

Content Note: Government Corruption, Civil Rights Abuses, Drone Strikes, Police Militarization, Incarceration, the Drug War, Homophobia, the War on Terror

So here’s my reaction to what happened yesterday.

Obama Won

I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, in terms of judicial appointments, the direction of federal leadership, and the future of health care in this country, we are significantly better off with Obama than we would have been with Romney. Overall, I think the country chose the lesser of two evils.

On the other hand, those two evils probably weren’t very far apart in almost any other respect. Under either Romney or Obama, our fiscal policy will print money and give it to the banks, our foreign policy will consist far more of bombs than development aid, and rampant corruption will continue with federal agencies cheering it on.

And while I do ultimately prefer Obama to Romney, I have to admit I’m curious how the Democrats in congress, who have cheered on Obama’s augmentation of executive power, would have reacted to a Republican president with the power to detain and kill anyone political expediency allow. Ah well, it looks like the mainstream left will ignore civil rights abuses for another four years.

The Democrats Still Control the Senate

This has most of the same tension contained in my reaction to Obama remaining president. Granted that the Democrats in congress are mostly cheering on rampant corruption and the erosion of civil liberties, they’re still a far preferable bunch to the likes of Akin, Mourdock, and Brown, who all lost.

But while I’m ambivalent about the Democrats retaining control of the senate, I am ecstatic that the Republicans were mostly rebuffed. Akin and Mourdock lost in parts of the country that they should have won in, and it is a sign to me that the US isn’t hopelessly mired in destructive conservative ideology.

The Republicans Still Control the House of Representatives

Which was expected. Actually the near inevitability of Republican control of the House (along with terrible filibuster rules in the senate) added to my ambivalence about the presidential elections. No matter who won the presidency, congress was going to make any major legislative agenda impossible.


This is the election result I’m most excited about. Marriage Equality was affirmed in one form or another in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington. I knew three years ago the demographics spelled the end of “Traditional” marriage, but I am thrilled that things are moving so quickly.

Marijuana Legalization

Several states voted to legalize marijuana, which I am praying is the beginning of the end of the Drug War. For those who don’t know much about our War on Drugs, it is arguably even more destructive than the War on Terror (even in foreign policy terms, if you consider its impact on Colombia and Mexico). The War on Drugs militarized our police force, drove gang violence, and gave the US the largest prison population in the world. It has torn apart families, and I’m hoping that these legalizations will be the first major step to end it.

For those of you considering moving to Colorado to open a pot shop, you should know that the DEA still considers Mary Jane illegal under federal law, and would be happy to prosecute you. Local police will leave you alone (at least, they should) but Uncle Sam won’t.

Monsanto’s GMO Victory

No good here. GMO’s will not be labeled in California. Monsanto and other big ag groups came in, outspent their opponents 4 to 1, and defeated an initiative that had more the 70% support a few months ago.


I’m far more excited about the election results than I expected to be. We’re still running our country into the ground in terms of corruption, infrastructure, education, non-lethal R&D, labor law, and general quality of life. But marriage equality and the rejection of reactionary Republicans gives me hope.

Repost: The Worst Civil Liberties Abuser in American History   Leave a comment

Content Note: Slavery, Government Harrasment, Civil Liberties Violations

Glenn Greenwald has an excellent article here about the topic. Hooray for history!

After all, owning human beings as chattel is the supreme civil liberties violation, by far the gravest civil liberties abuse in US history. That goes without saying. It is sui generis.

That’s why it was so bizarre to see that the very same Matt Yglesias, just moments later, pronounced Woodrow Wilson – a president who never owned any slaves and never presided over slavery – to be the “worst-ever president on civil liberties”, even suggesting that Wilson has no “serious competition” for that ignominious title. It was when I pointed out the irony of Yglesias’ selection of a non-slave-owning president in light of his tweet that the interesting question arose of who should be considered the worst civil liberties president in US history.

If one were simply to consider specific acts which constituted grave assaults on civil liberties – narrowly defined as the core political rights explicitly protected by the Bill of Rights: free speech, freedom from deprivation of life and liberty without due process, etc. – one could make a strong argument for several presidents. John Adamssigned The Alien and Sedition Acts, which essentially criminalized certain forms of government criticism in preparation for a war with France, a radical assault on the First Amendment.

Abraham Lincoln illegally suspended the core liberty of habeas corpus without Congressional approval. Wilson’sattacks on basic free speech in the name of national security were indeed legion and probably unparalleled. Franklin Roosevelt oversaw the due-process-free internment of more than 100,000 law-abiding Japanese-Americans into concentration camps.


Posted 11/05/2012 by reluctantliberal in Generic Post

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Vote Anyone Else   Leave a comment

If I were in the battleground state, I’m not sure what I would do.  I don’t like Obama.  As a matter of fact, I think he’s a war criminal.  And I think the things he couldn’t be convicted of are far worse than the things I think he should be convicted of.  He’s accomplished almost nothing in four years, and there’s hardly a campaign promise that he hasn’t broken.

But for all that, president Obama would still be infinitely better than a Romney presidency.  There are some states where the election could be decided by a few hundred votes.  As much as I despise Obama as a president, he’s far preferable than the alternative.  I don’t know, but if I were in a battleground state, I just might vote for the war criminal.

But I’m not in battle ground state.  All of my state’s electoral votes are going to go to Mitt Romney.  There’s nothing I can do about that.  As sometimes happens, conventional wisdom is wrong about voting.  Voting for either of the two major parties in my state would be throwing my vote away.  It would change nothing.  It would say nothing.  It would be pointless.

Voting for an independent candidate, on the Other hand, might say something. It wouldn’t change the outcome. My state is red. We established that. But it might just send a message of discontent with the two party non-choice that we’re given every four years. No, my candidate won’t win. My candidate was never going to win. But it might change our backwards conventional wisdom just a little bit. Right now, it looks like a few thousand votes in Ohio will decide the election. Every other vote is pointless.  California, for all its votes the electoral college, has no power in this election.  California is blue.  Everyone knows that California is blue.  Every vote cast for major party in California is a wasted vote.  It changes nothing and it says nothing. But every vote cast for a third party candidate is a registration of discontent.

I want the less evil presidency. I would take Obama over Romney. If I lived in a swing state, I might even vote for Obama. But I don’t live in a swing state. I live in a safe state. So given that my vote won’t change anything, I’m going to use it to register my discontent. If you live in a safe state, if your vote is as meaningless and useless as mine, you might try doing the same. Probably nothing will come of it, but it still has better odds of changing something than voting for either of the major parties.

Repost: “I Blame My Back Pain on Misogyny”   Leave a comment

Content Note: Sexual Harassment, Back Pain, Undiagnosed Conditions, Misogyny

Here’s a sample of an excellent post from Christine Marietta.

My new therapist, a man, asked me in our second session, “Have you ever felt violated in your life?” I had been complaining about an interaction with a man that left me wanting to shudder and scream and take a shower. My two simultaneous answers, “Yes” and “No,” raced each other from my gut towards my mouth, bottlenecking somewhere in my throat. I sat for a minute with my jaw hanging uselessly off my face.

No. No, I have never had any orifice penetrated against my will. No one has forced a kiss on me. No uncles touched me in any closets. I don’t fit society’s definition of a violated woman.

But Yes. Every day. Three times on my way to your office, in fact, Mr. Therapist. Once in the form of, “How about a smile, sweetheart?”, one honk, and one “HEEYYY!!” Words and actions that interrupted my thoughts, demanded my attention, told me in some form that I don’t belong to myself, ever, unless I’m willing to fight for me on my way to therapy. I’d like to say I am always ready to fight for my self, but it’s not true. No one can fight all the time.

You should read the whole thing.

Posted 11/01/2012 by reluctantliberal in Repost

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