Love, Philosophy, Religion, Uncategorized

An Open Letter To My Muslims Brothers & Sisters

Assalamu alaikum

The world tells me we are inherently different. I’m not a Muslim my self, but I’ve always been fascinated & inspired by Islamic contribution to human civilization. The history of & historical figures from the Islamic world have fascinated & inspired me for years, especially the era of the Islamic  Renaissance in North Africa, the Middle East & Spain. As a student of philosophy the works of Muslim thinkers & scholars have always grabbed my attention, particularly Abu al-Walid Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Rushd (known in the West as Averroes). I first encountered Ibn Rushed in a wonderful Philosophy class I took in college for my minor. My German born professor admired him & introduced us to the basics of his system of though. This passage from his book The Decisive Treatise stood out to me

The double meaning [of religion & philosophy] has been given to suit people’s diverse intelligence. The apparent contradictions are meant to stimulate the learned to deeper study.

What this has always seemed to mean for me, a non-believer of God, is that religion & philosophy often have the same goal: to understand the Universe, what takes place in it, our own place in it, and how to live with and understand one another. There is intrinsic difference between people of faith & people of freethinking philosophy, just slight variations in emphasis & ontology. We all live by moral standards, we all have family or communities, we all seek knowledge, we all seek to better ourselves & those we love & care for. The differences in how we come to understand ourselves & our world are not nearly as important as the fact we do all seek to know, to feel, to love, to explore. 

There are many paths to truth, to happiness, to wisdom. We do a great disservice to ourselves & our fellow human beings when we close off a path because it may not seem familiar at first. I have found that when one takes the time to take, as Frost wrote, “the path less travelled”, you see that what at first seems to your eyes and mind to be alien is in fact your own world made new again through difference; a tree is a tree is a tree again, and a wise thought is wisdom in any tongue or any culture. We translate our seeming differences by experiencing them, through a striving to see love in unknown places, and emerging from the path to a shared destination.

***

A beautiful building stands near my apartment in Bolingbrook, Illinois, a Masjib & community center. It represents to me the wonderful diversity of this country & its people, people who make our community stronger & more enlightened. I smile when I think of the young Muslim families I see at the library or at the store; how proud they seem, how kind & friendly they are. On a more personal note, when I was in college it was hard for me to make friends (I am autistic and social skills are not my forte) and many of my peers ignored me or did not take the time to try to understand my life or point of view. That is until I met a group of Muslims students, some of whom I worked with at the College library. They were warm, open, non-judgemental, invited me to sit with them at lunch, introduced me to new people & ideas. We enjoyed the time we spent together, and even though we saw the world differently sometimes, we never let these differences get in the way of caring for one another as human beings. Their friendship during this hard time in my life is not something I will ever forget.

***

Today many of our non-Muslim leaders in government, medias & culture are telling us to fear Muslims, to hate them, to shun them. They tell us Islam is an “evil” religion, one that has no intellectual tradition worth studying, no love for women or those outside of Islam. I know these are calumnies, blood libels told to benefit those with power & who want power, whose imperial aims thrive when Muslims and non-Muslims fight & terrorize one another. I know that the West has blood on its hands and has done much to earn the distrust of some in the Muslim World. I know that fanatics on both sides need this hatred & use it to wield power over people who just want to live safe, happy lives. I know that those who hate, who want us to hate, believe that there are two worlds at war. I know the truth. I know there is one world, one humanity. I know refugees are seeking what I seek: a home, love, education, enrichment, happiness, community. I know most Muslims know this too. We are not different, we have no reason to fear one another. We must love one another. I support Muslims, I support refugees, I support immigrants. I support my brothers & sisters. I reject Trump & his fascist ideology, his fascist programs. I stand with you, and I know many more stand with you too. We are not different, you and I. We are the same people making our way, sometimes on different paths, sometimes on the same path, all heading to the same destination.

yours in friendship,

Noah Mann-Engel

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anarchism, Atheism, Catholicism, Death, poetry, Religion, Socialism, Spain, Uncategorized

Heretic’s Benediction

Priests bless the perversions of the fascists

While condemning the sharing of the land

but no foul curate will thwart our demand

we have no fear of holy chauvinists

 

Mass is held with the flesh of socialists

While Fathers absolve the barbarous bands

The sign of the cross made with bloody hands

Having sold their souls to Nationalists

 

We drink the pure water of righteousness

Boorish Priests are drunk on the holy blood

We sup as one on the bread of blitheness

While like cows with their host they chew the cud

they make a desert of faith with their weakness

Lo, and heed; after us will come the flood

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Religion, Satire

A Letter From Jesus to Josh Duggar

pissed jesus

Mr. Duggar

It has come to my attention that you are using my name and my ability to cleanse the world of sin with my holy blood to excuse and explain away your horrific crimes against little girls. I would just like to say: stop! Consider this a cease and desist notice. My lawyers (Darrow, Hand & Hand) have informed me that I am not allowed to reach down from heaven above and smack the ever-loving evangelical shit out of you, but I can do this: please stop worshiping me. Your status as a believer in my words and deeds is rather, well, let’s just say it is not in the interest of me and my followers. I am aware that you claim to be an ardent believer in my power and my love, but even I have my limits. Your SISTERS? REALLY? And your Dad brought you in to confess to a fellow child molester? Then again, I have never understood your family’s view of my “message”…If I had wanted to to procreate like rabbits I (or rather my dad…who is me…but let’s not get THAT started again) would have made you rabbits. Let’s put a hard limit at, say, six kids? 19…For the love of me…

Anyway, I hope you understand the position you have put me in as a savior. I don’t like having to cut people out of the whole “forever saved by my grace” thing, but, I mean, come on…your SISTERS? If you continue to find a need to believe in something I have heard that ISIS are recruiting and there is always the catholic priesthood…they tend to be understanding of people with your…proclivities.

Yours in Me

Jesus Christ

p.s. Tell Mike Huckabee to shut the fuck up already. He’s already on my bad side, and I don’t want to have to send my friend Lucifer after him…Job didn’t like that very much and I don’t think Mike would either. Just sayin’.

p.p.s And another thing, where the FUCK does Jim Bob Duggar get off saying his daugthers “weren’t aware” of what happened to them/was happening to them? And why the FUCK would you not report it? And what the FUCK does “he was just a juvenile” supposed to mean? HE MOLESTED HIS SISTERS, and his response was to “not let the kids play hide and seek” anymore? WHAT. THE. FUCK? That is all

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poetry, Religion

Bodhisattva

Kuan-yan_bodhisattva,_Northern_Sung_dynasty,_China,_c._1025,_wood,_Honolulu_Academy_of_Arts

quaeritur

where is a pleasant land

brundle and behest lee right to do that way of weight

 

dharma

towards a known blessed window

through a bodhi flesh blue

 

Amitabha

swarm on lilac hills Camponotus wroughtonii

Asuras vomiting up potent wine

 

han

sound flat and sharp

slapped note note upwards

 

Mara

bleeds his screams into Cetiya

drunk up by the disciples

 

Dorylus labiatus

the walls of existence vibrate

with the fervor of honey bees

a tree twisted by a cancer

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Atheism, Religion

Why Richard Dawkins & the New Atheists Do No Speak For Me

dawkins1

There is no “Atheist Movement”, there are only people who lives without the need for, or a belief in, a deity or “supernatural power” and who seek reason and peace. Movement “A”theists (and they desperately want that capital A) only seek to empower themselves and to find a place in the existing power structure. They want the same influence that Christians have had in the halls of power, the Universities and the boardrooms for generations and they are willing to cater to the worst impulses of their followers to achieve this.

Case in point, Richard Dawkins. Richard Dawkins, PhD, the biologist and scientific educator, has played his part in making atheists respectful and taken seriously by the establishment in Western cultural and governmental institutions. His scientific theories are interesting and have added much to the popular understanding of science. Richard Dawkins the man however, the leader of an atheist “movement”, is another matter entirely. He is just another in a long line of powerful, elite, rich white men who have decided that the gravitas granted them by their standing and education gives them the the right to pontificate on everything from torture to date rape. Richard Dawkins twitter (@RichardDawkins) is filled with “logic” based analyses of pretty much anything and everything that pops into his head.

Oddly enough this has recently been rape. He goes on about how terrible it is that men who rape women when they are drunk and cannot remember the whole incident have their “lives ruined”. He goes on about how date rape is not as serious as violent stranger rape and is generally an ass to anyone who would try to get him to see how his “logic” is anything but when applied to such a complex and painful topic as sexual assault. It is not so much the content of what he says, which is bad enough, but the fact that he feels that his position in popular culture and the New Atheist movement gives him the right to act as a moral arbiter of issues that will never affect him as a powerful rich white heterosexual man. It is the sort of privilege that he does not recognize he possesses and in fact does not even recognize as privilege. This is no different than the mindset of many men in various other movements, be they Christian, Jewish, Islamic or any number of secular fields.

Dawkins has made Ayaan Hirsi Ali in particular, and anti-Islamism in general, one of his pet causes. He has tended to attack and shame any atheists or secular group that has any problem with Mrs. Hirsi Ali’s anti-Muslim and Western Imperial apologist tendencies. This recent tweet shows how he takes his position of authority rather too seriously, to the point of almost seeming to “excommunicate” secular groups that do not toe the Anti-Islamic line:

“Inviting a speaker [like Ayaan Hirsi Ali] is not “disrespecting” anybody. I, however, hereby disrespect Yale Atheists, Humanists & Agnostics” (https://twitter.com/RichardDawkins/status/511279615844048896

Dawkins seems to have little time for feminists unless they are explicitly anti-religious or anti-Islamic. The fact that Mrs. Ali is the partner of fellow white pro-Western Imperialism master of the Universe Niall Ferguson may have something to do with his affinity for her cause.

Dawkins has also defended and played apologist for philosopher and New Atheist fixture Sam Harris. Harris has some interesting things to say in the fields of philosophy and neuro-biology but his views on Muslims and civil rights are troubling to say the least. Mr. Harris has stated that

“torture may be an ethical necessity in our war on terror”, (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sam-harris/in-defense-of-torture_b_8993.html

Mr. Harris has also posed extensive thought experiments about the nature of torture in a crisis that have more in common with a plot from the show 24 then anything approaching reality or scientific understanding of torture. Mr. Dawkins has not been shy in his defense of Mr. Harris, a man who believes as he does that Islam in general is a threat to the “West” and secular society. This sort of support for the apologists for big government programs that violate civil liberties is troubling and betrays a sense of moral superiority that is troubling and odd in someone who wishes to reject the power and influence of religion in public life. The New Atheists, including the late Christopher Hitchens and his defense of the brutal US/UK invasion of Iraq, seem to have an affinity for Neo-Liberal and Neo-Conservative policies, especially regarding the so called “war on terrorism”. It leads me to wonder if they realize that they are defending the institutions that are most infiltrated and influenced by the same messianic and power-based religious ideology they attack in other forums? Writer and moral philosopher Chris Hedges had this to say about the New Atheists

“I was stunned at how the very chauvinism and bigotry and intolerance that they condemn in the Christian Right they embrace under the guise of atheism […] they also create a binary worldview of us and them.” [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMcd_yWL2DM]

When reason and logic are used in furtherance of the same goals that are espoused by the religious, cultural and governmental powers that be then it may be time to question if what these men are trying to popularize is in fact free-thought at all, or merely another way for the powerful to couch their ideology, misogyny and power aims in a new and more up-to-date form of moral apologia. People who seek out an alternative to the dogmatic, chauvinistic, misogynist and violent religious sects that dominate the world do not need more heavy-handed and morally superior musings from men who benefit, knowingly or not, from the privilege they make their bones attacking. Why do atheists need leaders at all? Why can’t we have a community of freethinking, privilege defying, open-hearted people who do not wish to impose a secular religion of unquestionable “logic”? Why must the same rich white faces keep on telling us what is in our own interest? These are questions we must all struggle with and find our own answers to.

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Christianity, Reason, Religion

Pro-Choice Mary

Sassoferrato_-_Jungfrun_i_bön

Mary is visited by an angel who tells her she will give birth to the savior of all mankind

She smiles and says “No, I don’t think I want to have an all powerful desert god’s child right now”.

So the next day she goes to the local midwife and asks for some herbs to cause her to miscarry

She takes the herbs and the pregnancy is aborted

She throws the remains of this unwanted savior into the sty for the pigs. They love it!

Mary goes on to live a long life into her late 40’s before dying of the plague

James was none the wiser

The End

 

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Atheism, Philosophy, Reason, Religion

Persona and Power: Religion in Civil Society

hannaarendtsudomenica16ye8

Today two citizens of a town called Greece took their case to the Supreme Court. These two citizens, one a Jew and the other an atheist, have experienced intimidation and hate at the hands of their Christian neighbors for daring to protest the theocratic imposition of an opening, Christian, prayer at every community town meeting. They had brought their business to this civic institution but felt intimidated and scorned by their fellow citizens and the officials elected to serve them when they refused to participate in a prayer that, in violation of the Constitution and the philosophical foundations of this nation, cast the entire proceeding in a Christian light. According to the two citizens, Susan Galloway and Linda Stephens, and the facts presented to the court very prayer for nearly a decade was given by a member of Christian clergy, with mentions of “our saviour” and “lord” and have included passages from the Bible and the Lord’s Prayer. This incantations often end with a chorus of amens.1

Every citizen of the United States should be appalled by this sort of subtle violence perpetrated against fellow citizens who do not conform to what the (ever shrinking) majority see as immutable reality. The women have said they have received threatening letters, ominous phone calls, have experienced acts of vandalism on their property and homes. They have even been told to stay away from future town meetings. The message sent is one of hate and intimidation and is one step below physical violence. In many ways this sort of theological violence is even more damaging and insidious as it attempts to claims as it s own the very mechanisms that are meant to guarantee freedom from fear, intimidation, and equal access to the services offered by a government that is paid for by all citizens.

This violence attacks at the very consensus at the center of the United States experiment in secular governance. Of course this consensus has always been tendentious at best and often the veneer of secularism disappears the farther one travels from centers of national power and federal government reach. Christians see their influence in the wider society slowly eroding around them, crumbling into the dust that can easily be swept into that oft mentioned bin where such systems of control are destined to rest. Fanatics are most powerful when they are attempting to shore up the crumbling foundations of an established owner. They are able to appeal to the sense of fear and panic that comes when the customary levers of control begin to stick and fail to bring about the same results that become familiar and therefore expected. The opening prayer at the Greece town hall meetings is a relatively recent invention, brought about most likely as a token response from the Christian powers that be that they were indeed still in control. There is no tradition in this act. There is not even the half-hearted attempt to include other religions in the theocratic and political power display after the fashion of the US Congress. “Our Saviour” blessed what can only be seen as “our” meeting in “our” government. And if you do not believe or do not choose to participate in this arbitrary display of power and prejudice then you will be excluded and alienated from the very government you help to fund and create.

The early whispers from the Supreme Court are not promising for those who wish to see the secular consensus preserved. The self and media styled moderates hem and haw about process and difficulty in compromising, the liberals sit alone and impotent, and the conservatives pontificate about the plight of public religion and the kooky sects that hilariously wish to be involved in civil discourse and society. Scalia chuckles about how to accommodate “Devil Worshipers” and “Pagans”, convenient and mocking stand ins and for the real issue at hand, which is the real and violated opinions and rights of a Jew and an atheist.

But why are we, and our dark, id like reflection the media, surprised that this is going on? There has never been a moment in US history where the rights of religious minorities or non-believers have gone uncontested, unviolated. Christianity in the US, first Protestantism and increasingly Catholicism and Fundamentalist iterations of both, is not so much a simple religion as a system of power. It is a convenient mask for the plans and schemes of business interests, government powerbrokers, and entrenched class prerogatives. Hannah Arendt, a philosopher who chose to largely withdraw from the public sphere and its constant set of contradictions and violent betrayals, spoke to a Danish audience on the occasion of her being awarded the Sonning Prize about the concept and origin of the term persona. She relates how it originally referred to both the voice of the actor in a Greek theatrical production sounding through the mask they were assigned as a part of their role on stage, and the mask itself. Arendt explains how the Romans took this concept to mark as true and fully represented citizens those who would wear the persona of one who would adhere to the norms and the beliefs of the society at large. To participate in this civil masquerade was, and remains, to acknowledge its power and its prerogative. To perform the role expected of you is the only route to complete and total acceptance into society and its obligations and opportunities. She goes on to say that her only wish, as a person deserving of rights, liberties, protection, is to move about in society without this required persona in her “naked thisness”, herself as she is to herself and without reference or compliance that declare themselves to be in control of the access to society and its systems.2

We can only hope that the court will see that the best interests of society are served only when the persona demanded by the prevalent religion or political powers that be is set aside in favor of a equal and benevolent silence on all matters theocratic. We can hope, but we must not pray.

1. “Town Divided As Prayer Case Heads to the Supreme Court” http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/06/nyregion/town-divided-as-prayer-case-heads-to-supreme-court.html?_r=0

2. Pages 12-14, Prologue, Responsibility and Judgement, Arendt, Hannah, Random House, 2003

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