Tag Archives: fundamentalism

Who Owns Your Life?

Just how valuable is human life and to whom? Is choosing our own time to die an acceptable option? Or is human life sacred and the option to die is not in our hands? What about abortion and the woman’s right to her body?

Priests and politicians want to retain the ownership rights over everyone’s, including the fetus’s life, because they say there is something very special about human life and it needs to be preserved at all costs.

But aren’t we just one of many life forms that inhabit this planet? As well, as a location in this universe our planet takes up an infinitesimally small space. It is hardly dominant, perhaps hardly relevant in the big scheme of the universe, so why do we consider ourselves so special? Especially now that we have found the building blocks of DNA scattered in gas clouds among the stars and discovered solar systems perhaps not unlike our own.

Well, according to the Bible, God gave us supremacy over everything on earth. But that’s hardly surprising since in all likelihood we created our gods in our own image to begin with. Then these gods or god – regardless of what name he, she, it or they go by – told us that we were special. Some gods went further – they said that some tribes were more special than others – the chosen ones. Way back when, it was probably a reasonable way to lay claim to territory and inspire the tribe to protect it.

But even supernatural beings needed administrators and business managers on earth, so men became special because it was men who became witchdoctors, shamans and priests . And when the gods gave us “dominion” over all the beasts of the earth, the managers of the religion business included women in the general category of beasts. Now, grudgingly, we have given women some rights in the western democracies, but there are still many, many places where women are not only second rate people but even chattels, without the right to run their own lives.

Isn’t it bad enough that we literally torture someone with Huntingdon’s or Lou Gehrig’s disease until the body finally gives up and dies? We deny them the right to choose to die with dignity at a time they choose. And don’t lecture me with the “slippery slope” argument. There is always a slippery slope somewhere for somebody because it is an effective scare tactic used by those who lack a rational argument.

The “slippery slope” argument is, of course, also used by those who oppose abortion. And, oddly, most of the violent and very vocal opponents of abortion seem to be men! So are we back to the same old story that women’s rights exist at the discretion of men?

I can’t think of many things more basic than a person – man or woman – having the right to decide the course of their own life. That to me includes a woman’s right to decide what happens to her body, of which the fetus is a part. So if the woman decided for what to her are sound reasons for an abortion, there should be no law standing in her way.

Is she ending a life? I don’t know and to the best of my knowledge nobody yet has come up with a clear and logical definition of when exactly human or other life begins. So I think that any religious based definition should be left out of the equation because it is purely arbitrary. The claimed sanctity of life should apply only to those who claim it – the rest of us should be allowed to do as we see moral and ethical.

Theoretically, in Canada, a woman has the right to an abortion on request within some limitations, such as how late in the term it is. But in practice there are publicly funded hospitals and clinics that refuse to carry out what would normally be a legal procedure.

Not so long ago Dr. Henry Morgenthaler, an active abortion rights promoter and activist here in Canada, was reviled by anti-abortionists for having been granted the Order of Canada, one of the highest honors in the country. While it hardly recompenses him for the time he spent behind bars in the same Canada and not so long ago for the assistance he gave to women, it does show that we are slowly moving ahead.

I have no problem if someone believes in and practices his or her religion. It’s totally OK with me, provided they don’t interfere in my life and don’t subjugate any other part of humanity either – whether it is women, those with different beliefs, nonbelievers or just the average Joe or Joan on the street who only want to get on with their lives. And no matter if those lives are lived in Toronto, L.A., Berlin , Kabul or Baghdad.

We could arrive at a better future for everyone in only a lifetime or two if the priests and the politicians would only do what they claim to do – put people ahead of dogma and ideology.

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The Pope Knows A Sin When He Sees One

There can be little doubt that sooner or later we will outgrow our food supply – literally f— , sorry, copulate ourselves into overpopulation. We could go the way of Easter Island which supported a thriving civilization until the islanders ran out of resources and their civilization died.

Today the world’s population stands at around 6.5 billion, projected to rise to at least 7.2 billion in 2015. Just imagine how many of us will be here in 2050! This kind of population growth can’t be sustained but less sex is hardly the answer. The only problem with sex is that sometimes it causes children and too many kids without adequate resources means more ignorance, hunger and more kids. The cycle continues.

The basic tools for slowing or stopping population growth are simple: contraception, vasectomy, tubal ligation, sex education and education in general. Simple for us common folk but is it simple for the Catholic Church? Nope, the Pope and his priests know a sin when they see it.

Of course, eating meat on Fridays used to be a sin too, but the Pope looked at that one and said – what the heck , the farmers need to eat too. That was a good decision for the oceans, so how about now making a good decision for the world’s resources?

Unfortunately the Catholic Church remains a major stumbling block when it comes to any kind of population control involving birth control. It maintains abstinence is the only sinless way, but even a small army of priests have found that hard to follow. Some churches are literally going broke trying to pay for the sins of their past and present priests.

An organization that spans the globe and is still powerful in underdeveloped areas of the globe is a prime stumbling block in the fight against overpopulation. In doing that it inadvertently promotes hunger and continuing ignorance.

Pope Benedict even claimed in a recent speech that the use of condoms is not only a sin but also increases the incidence of AIDS! Benedict, oh Benedict, you’re really misfiring on this one! You must have failed your elementary science pretty badly to say that.

Fortunately for the world the Catholic church has lost some of the iron grip it once had. Even so, its sway in some of the poorest regions of the world is formidable and troubling.

It would be nice if dogma fed people, but food is better.

The popular, politically correct, solution is to grow more food and improve the distribution network. Good plan, but we’ve been talking about that for years and the hunger is still there, only more of it. What’s that definition of insanity again? Something about doing the same thing but expecting different results?

A far more practical and ethical solution is to decrease the world’s population through free birth control devices and education. While birthrates in most industrialized countries are already falling, they are more than counterbalanced by population growth elsewhere, especially where there is endemic poverty.

Will supply of condoms and education in birth control interfere with some cultural practices? I certainly hope so, if that will result in less ignorance, subservience and poverty. “Culture” is not cast in stone, it evolves and adapts to changing needs like everything else does.

Western women have the vote today, and their husbands get sent to jail if they’re caught beating them. These are both recent changes among many in our western culture, so where’s the problem?

History tells us that societies disintegrated through the destruction of resources. Easter Island is just one example where only huge, inscrutable human statues are all that remain of a once thriving civilization. The end came when too many people exhausted the island’s limited resources.

We could literally fornicate ourselves out of house and home… but what a way to go!

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GOD WANTS IT MY WAY – OR ELSE!

I have to pity poor old God. Did he (substitute she or it or whatever else you like) really know what he was getting into when he created man in his own image? For an omnipotent being, he sure managed to screw it up.

From the dawn of history he has had so many faces, so many incarnations, that even he must have lost track of them all. And absolutely all of them were THE correct one, according to somebody on his ground based management team. I would have given up a long time ago, thrown up my hands and headed for a nice vacation to another planet. Or maybe that’s exactly what he’s done because we haven’t heard from him directly for a long time now.

His agents, the guys who look after his business on the ground, have been busy, though. For centuries, I might add. The Christian God’s agents alone have been pretty busy: Crusades, Inquisition, Teutonic Knights, just to name a few have kept them going. We’ve also had witch hunts, other miscellaneous burnings at the stake, prohibitions of meat on Fridays, and a list of sins to be punished that boggles the mind.

And all in the name of God! And since it’s now OK for Catholics to eat meat on Fridays, did the local managers get it wrong the first time? Oh, no – no siree! New directions came down with a focus elsewhere. At some point he must have also decided that the Crusades and the Inquisition weren’t accomplishing all that much, so he gave up, omnipotent or not. Or maybe it’s his agents who didn’t hear it right the first time.

That’s just a slight glimpse of the Christian side. Allah has also produced several versions of what he wants and still does. There’s the Taliban who would rather behead you than sit down for a cup of tea, Al Qaeda guys who know exactly what their god wants and are not shy about blowing up anyone who disagrees. And what about the Ayatollahs of Iran? They claim to have a direct line to god as well. What a busy guy.

Jehovah used to be a really nasty guy, too, according to the Bible, but lately he has left the Jewish people alone. At least you don’t hear all that many new directives coming down as for some of the other guys.

Then there are still the Eastern religions – Buddhism, Hinduism and others. There seems to be quite a bit less confusion here – the big guy has pretty well kept a low profile, at least as far as most of us in the West are concerned. We’ve heard all about the rift between Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan and it would be no news to me if each side claimed that god was with them.

Has any side in a war ever asked for help from up above for the other side? Not likely! Both sides know that god is on their side. In the old days this was insured by a few sacrifices of maidens, lambs , what have you, but we’re different today. God’s local agents only call on him to destroy the other side – with a couple of lightning bolts and maybe a drum roll of thunder as accompaniment. Less messy than sacrificing people or animals and just as effective.

So let’s give three cheers and an amen for god’s agents on earth. They’re doing a heck of a job telling us what god wants. In the religion business everyone claims they’re right. So listen up! Or else …

© Copyright George Salmins 2009

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Alberta, Canada – Dumbing Down the Kids

There’s nothing quite as dangerous for the future of a country (or province) as keeping information from children in their formative years, yet that’s exactly what the Province of Alberta will be doing with one of the proposed revisions to their Human Rights Legislation. They will promote ignorance if the bill passes without changes.

If the bill becomes law, one section of it will allow Alberta parents to remove their children from any class where something that is taught conflicts with their religious view. Religion is not a subject in Alberta schools now, so where’s the problem?

The problem is that science and history will get kicked right where it hurts. A lot of science and history conflicts with fundamentalist religious teachings.

Some creationists tell us that the earth is 6,000 years old, give or take a year or two. Science and common sense tells us that this is a myth and even Alberta creationists and fundamentalists should have some inkling of this. After all, Alberta harbors some of the most ancient dinosaur excavation sites on the continent. But creationists say these were put there on purpose, just a bit of theater by the creator to confuse the picture. According to them men walked alongside dinosaurs and evolution is a myth and a hoax. I wonder if they also flew on the backs of pterodactyls? After all, weren’t the beasts put on earth for the benefit of man? But I digress.

The real problem is that, if removed from class, their kids will not get to learn anything about archeology, geology or evolution. They will have to make sense of the world with only a part of the information available to them. Somewhat like trying to run on one leg.

Astronomy could be another area where kids would be withdrawn from class because some strict creationists still believe that the Sun revolves around the Earth. And Galileo and Copernicus never lived? I haven’t heard that one yet, but I do know that the church of the day tried to shut them down . Exactly what the proposed legislation would do to some kids’ opportunity to learn.

I’m sure that some parents will consider the content of other classroom subjects to be not what their particular brand of religion says. The history of the Middle East would certainly contain the seeds of objection, just to name one.

So did the legislators intend to support the beliefs of the parents, no matter what? Did they really wish to support parents if they decide to raise dumbed down kids? Information is what lets us to explore and compare conflicting ideas and develop critical thinking. This proposed law will only serve to spread ignorance. I can’t believe that was the original intent, although it most certainly would be a foreseeable by-product.

Not giving kids a chance to form their own conclusions is a denial of their right to learn and to come to their own conclusions. The freedom to form independent conclusions should also be a basic human right. This can’t be done without full information on hand.

It’s time some Alberta legislators looked beyond political expediency and their own personal biases. Don’t shortchange the future generations. Look at the opportunities some kids will be missing and look at some of the dead-end ideas that will be perpetuated.

Isn’t it time for people and legislators to realize that religious fundamentalism of any kind is a danger not just in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but right here in Canada as well? So why encourage it?

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