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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Atheism, Religion

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

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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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Atheism, Feminism

Towards A Feminist Atheism

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I will start this post with a few simple statements of fact: society is and has long been misogynistic and many people within that society are personally misogynistic to one degree or another, knowingly or not. Atheists are part of that society, and the Atheist movement is a part of society…therefore some elements of the Atheist movement, and some individual atheists, will be misogynistic. It is not an condemnation of a movement of which I am a proud part to point out this fact.

I was not always as aware of misogyny and feminism as I am not, and I am nowhere near close to the end of my education on the topic. I can say that growing up with three incredibly intelligent and independent minded sisters and a very feminist father and an incredibly supportive and liberal mother really shaped my views of women, men, and society. I grew up without knowledge of patriarchal religion and I was never taught that being gay or trans* was in anyway different from my own sexuality. I was unschooled (i.e. I directed my own education at home with the help and support of my parents) until I started attending community college classes at the age of 16 so it was not until then that I even realized that people had a PROBLEM with other people’s sexuality. It had just never been something that seemed to me as a “difference”. People love. That is what I was taught. I know now how lucky I was to be raised this way, that most people do not get to go their entire childhood without encountering damaging hate of differences in people. I also know now how very naive I was. I think m autism had part in this…I tend to see people as uniform unless I really get to know them. It is literally almost impossible FOR me to see difference sometimes! That is one thing about my autism that I do like

I am now married to a wonderful, intelligent, gorgeous feminist atheist woman. She has also opened my eyes as to how women are viewed, and abused, in society. She is a pin-up model so I have seen firsthand how people, especially men who claim to be “open-minded” try to shame her for daring to be proud of her body and to take control of her sexuality. Her strength in the face of this sort of judgement, even at times from her own very conservative Catholic family, is inspiring to me and has moved me to look into more about feminism and issues of justice for women and for the rest of society.

I am a feminist not just because of the women in my life but because of myself, my own feelings, and the men in the world who are degraded and poisoned by patriarchal views. We raise boys to be rough and stupid and dense and to ignore their feelings and the feelings of others. We assume that any man who can express his emotions, admits when he is in pain, or stands up for women is a “pussy”. We also tell our young boys and men that gay, bi, and trans* men cannot, by definition, be masculine or strong and that masculinity is the ability to dominate and control others through physical power and manipulation. Women are the focus and the chief targets of the controlling grip of patriarchal mechanisms but both women AND men are the walking wounded; many men do not even understand how much their own minds and emotions have been hampered, even crippled by the social disease that is misogyny.

A case in point: the backlash against atheist blogger and activist Rebecca Watson when she dared to tell her story about being sexually harassed by a man (an atheist man) at a conference. Many male atheists, including one of the self-important “patron saints” of the “New” Atheism, Dr. Richard Dawkins, attacked her as essentially a whiner and  other claimed she was undermining the Atheist cause (whatever that may be) by DARING to suggest that any freethinker could be a misogynist. Dawkins even suggested it was NATURAL that women will be constantly harassed, propositioned and given unwanted physical attention in public, even at a place where the participants declare their moral superiority to Religious misogynists. Skepchick blogger Sarah Moglia even reported that Dawkins threw a temper tantrum and blacked-balled Watson from speaking at the popular Atheist conference The Reason Rally! ( http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2013/09/05/richard-dawkins-blackballed-rebecca-watson%EF%BB%BF-from-speaking-at-the-reason-rally/)

Needless to say Rebecca Watson (and many others who do not have her fame or name recognition) fought back and stood her ground and in her case she become a leading voice in the Atheist community. This was after hundreds of rape threats, death threats, and insults online and in person. The idea that Atheism somehow inoculates men against being misogynistic is absurd and dangerous: it causes freethinkers to believe in a sense of moral superiority that is unearned and also causes the real issues facing women in the Atheist community to be ignored, laughed at or dismissed. We claim to be better than the senseless, reason-free hate and prejudice of the religious world. That claim is made laughable and impotent if we continue to ignore the problem of patriarchal ideas and misogynistic tendencies within the Atheist movement.

In my own personal experience, mostly in the Atheist groups I am part of online, I am constantly seeing some men, not all by any means, attack and belittle women who dare raise issues about patriarchy or who even use the word feminism. It is as though some atheist men think of themselves as beyond such petty concerns. I believe the truth is that when a woman brings up issues of misogyny and feminism it scares some men and forces them to confront the prejudices within themselves that they want to, need to, believe they do hold. Atheism is not served by believing that atheist are a priori morally superior in all issues or beyond the prejudices that infest and poison society as a whole. One of the major Atheist groups I was once a part of on Facebook, AANR (Atheists, Agnostics, & Non-Religious) is positively FILLED with people who harass women, degrade them, demand nude photos and even actively proposition them through messages and in person. Women were often ridiculed or appreciated only for the physical attributes that these men found desirable. There was even a supposedly “tongue and cheek” meme on the site where if someone brought up an issue, especially women, they would be confronted with this not too subtle misogynistic threat: TOGTFO. What does that mean? “[show us your] Tits Or Get The Fuck Out”. This misogyny was one of the reasons I left what was once the largest atheist related group online. This sort of vile misogyny is not limited to AANR buy any means; all around the internet and in groups in the real world, women are gaslighted, harassed, sexually objectified and taken less seriously just because of their gender. This has got to stop.

I am writing this not because I think I am immune to misogyny or patriarchal thinking. I am not. I am sure I have abused my privilege in the past and I probably will in the future. But at least I am aware of my own failings and want to overcome them. I want all atheists, men and women, to overcome this issue too. We are a remarkable community of intelligent, activist, largely kind and empathetic people who can have an enormous influence on society for the better if we choose to. Far too many atheist men have bought into the easy moral capitulation that is the MRA movement. NO MORE. Let’s decide that we are NOT yet past the demons that haunt the rest of society. Let us instead aim to lead by example and try and take on misogyny and patriarchy as a unified and progressive movement. We can create a better future for all of us. Feminist Atheism should not be a bad word.

NO MORE shaming women

NO MORE using slurs against women

NO MORE dismissing the concerns of women because they are women

NO MORE assuming that we are morally superior by virtue of our atheism

NO MORE using atheist groups, meetups, and conferences as a way to try and get sex from women

NO MORE supporting atheist luminaries like Richard Dawkins who refuse to confront their own prejudice

NO MORE treating feminism, patriarchy, and misogyny like they are four letter words

No. More.

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poetry

Victor

vectorpaint

The tongues we speak are oh so subtle things

One jumps to the fore as another fades

Words and things are oft the property of

Authors, Kings and those who tease poetry

From the cruel alphabetical maw

A word is a word, true, but a verse is

another entity altogether

A verse on the page is worth its weight in

Condemnation and illumination

What is it then that Vicar Victor did?

He took the words of the father and turned

Them into declarations of the son

Such a simple and insidious thing

The betrayal of so noble a tongue

And the coronation of the vulgar

Pretender to her glories and fortune

Can the world be the same when the name

Of Χριστόςis turned blithely to Christus?

In the end Victor made a fool of Paul

When he wrote in the new holy language

And made unwitting converts of us all

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Atheism, Christianity

Pax Christiana Part I

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Christianity famously started its long and fascinating history as one of many persecuted minority faiths in the lands of the Roman Imperial state. That this religion based around the words and (supposed) deeds of an itinerant preacher and son of a carpenter came to partner with and eventually usurp the power of the Roman authorities that hemmed them in at every turn was no surprise to the true believers. But it must have been a truly terrifying and earth shattering turn of events for all those unfortunate enough to not be washed in the blood of the savior. Those who hoped that this new religion based on the philosophy of a millenarian pacifist would be any less violent and imperialist than the last set of theocratic rulers would soon find that this hope was sorely misplaced. Of course there were the occasional beneficent Francis of Assisi’s and monks who vouchsafed reason against the all encompassing tide of faith and fear, but for the most part the powerful or wannabe powerful used the Christian religion as the Romans had used their Pagan beliefs: as a hammer to crush the bodies and minds of those who stood in the way of their authority. The Pax Romana gave way to a Pax Christiana, and to those who wished to live their lives free from coercion or absolutist terror there was hardly a difference to be seen between the two.

As chaos spread in the Roman world the official practice of pagan belief grew ever more important and the persecution of unsanctioned (and therefore dangerous) minorities religions kicked into high gear. Christians bore the brunt of this fear and fury but soon they found themselves beneficiaries of the pragmatism of the fearful and desperate Roman elite. It was either oblivion and a collapse of aristocratic authority, or the cross. The choice was easy and fateful for the entire world. Using the mechanisms and tradeways of the Roman state Christianity was able to spread from West Asia to Europe, Northern Africa, Southern Asia and beyond. The faith of the cross became the faith of the sword and thousands of cultures and millions of people were consigned to the flames in its ever expanding wake.

A Pax Christiana demands a clean slate, the casting away of all other beliefs and modes of thought. Where the Roman pagans allowed other faiths to flourish if only they paid homage to the basic idea of Roman superiority, Christianity would broker no disagreement, no alternative but the cross and the blood of Christ. When the faith spread to the New World a cataclysm the likes of which had not been seen and would not be seen again until the 20th century battlefield of political ideologies was unleashed. 100 million or more died in the name of Christ, and hundreds of proud and vibrant cultures were sacrificed to appease the followers of the most meek and mild Christ. The Taiano, The Aztec, The Maya, The Navajo, The Pueblo, The Sioux, The tribes of the Eastern Seaboard…this is but a short list of the victims of the Christian disease. While these cultures were far from ideal or even enlightened in many senses, the Christian Empire would take the failings of mankind and amplify them into persistent and established systems that would carry on into the modern age. Slavery, sexual repression, patriarchy, institutionalized cover-up of the sexual abuse of children, hatred of secular thought and philosophy, unfettered capitalism and material exploitation, everything was justified in that name of the Lord, as long as it was the servants of the Lord who profited. Morality became dependent upon belief, the blood of Christ cleansing the guilt and the culpability of even the most craven and evil of men and women.

The Empire that preserved and expanded the Pax Christiana was an empire of the mind as much as of the body and the earth; every man, woman and child was a slave of the redeemer, even if they did not yet know it. Thought crime, the most vicious of all methods of control and abuse, came into being and proliferated all over the world. It is not as though Christians invented vice or excuses for it but never before has a religion been based on the notion that all mortal trespasses can be forgiven with the trespasser going without punishment in the secular realm. The ultimate judge is God so there is no need for earthly justice, at least not for those entrusted with the authority to interpret the word of God and to bestow upon the huddled and worthless mass of humanity his graces and his favor. Christianity was not a religion localized in one culture or dependent upon certain systems of governance and control. Christianity was adaptable in a way paganism, Judaism, and Hellenism never were. It behaved like a pathogen that bore itself into the body politic and the body cultural of a given society and usurped and reshaped its shared morality and truth claims. Good was now only good within the auspices of Christian ontology and law, evil was only evil if in opposition to Christian dogma and authority, truth was only truth if it was bathed in the corrosive and transformative blood of the lamb. Christianity was a pathogen that could and did spread all over the world in a way that no other religion had or has. Islam could conquer, Judaism could influence, and paganism could inspire, but Christianity could subsume. Giordano Bruno, Galileo, Capernicus, and countless thousands of artists, free thinkers, writers and scientific thinkers and philosophers have suffered direct persecution at the hands of Christian authorities or the thugs and soulless technocrats they give aid, comfort and moral absolution.

Freedom fighters and hard working men and women in the exploited and enslaved regions of the world from the Philippines to Indonesia to Congo to Mexico to India have felt the combined might of Christian morality in the form of “civilizing” missionaries and imperial officials who sought to introduce shame of self and hatred of culture and the human body. There is no room for individual expression or cultural pride in a Christian world. There are only the servants of the lord and their humble and simple minded slaves. Thousands of years of thought, creativity cultural exploration and imagination have been erased or subsumed by the tired, morose and shaming Christian moral mythology. There is no room for creativity or radical reinterpretations of theology or cultural heritage when only one belief is valid and all the rest is made a postiori profane.

Billions of women have been made to feel less than human and have been condemned to a status in society that ignores their intellectual and moral potential. The patriarchal world upheld and nourished by Christian patriarchy denied us the talents of Maria Anna Mozart, and countless other unknown women who could have joined the ranks of the great and the celebrated. Christianity, while cultivating some forms of education and limited philosophical inquiry, has also retarded the biological and human sciences and also vilified and combated philosophies of social progress like Marxism, Utilitarianism, existentialism and humanism. The world is seen as the domain of men who would exploit and consume it, and if in the end the earth is ravaged beyond repair there is at least heaven to look forward to for the twisted and sickly remnants of humanity that cling to life on the barren rock that is the legacy of Christian supported capitalist exploitation.

And this creed, this imperial system, has not yet reached its apogee.

The potential for total power comes when the potential for the dissolution of the established contemporary order is at its greatest. Christianity faces that existential threat in the form of enlightened philosophy and scientific reasoning. Ever since the first monks began to read and record the all but destroyed heritage of Hellenic Greece, Ancient Rome, and The Islamic Renaissance, there has been an outpost of freedom in every educated mind. This was and remains the greatest threat to complete Christian hegemony.

[To be Continued in Part II]

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Atheism, Philosophy, Reason, Religion

Persona and Power: Religion in Civil Society

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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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Philosophy

20 Aphorisms On Materialism

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1. That which is material is all that is intuitively, acutely and empirically experienced, understood and contemplated and acted on by the human being

2. Materialism is the system of thought and frame of understanding that allows the human being to explore the meaning and operation of the world in which he inhabits, experiences or contemplates

3. There is nothing of the metaphysical in the material reality of nature and existence.

4. The metaphysical is the fearful postulation of unmoved movements and uncaused causes and formless forms as the essence of what is real and experienced.

5. If things unseen (by which we mean the metaphysical, the things that are only as thought or as postulation) are seen then they must of course be material.

6. The metaphysical can never be the basis or the cause of the material. Whatever is metaphysical can only be material, as it does exist as an appeal to the creation of the material.

7. The metaphysical is a fear of the material as the material is in and of itself a confirmation of the mortal and the temporary nature of human experience and existence.

8. “Here we have this and there is something else entirely.” This and there are tied together irrespective of prejudices of human fear. This is the material as we experience or contemplate it in the moment. That is the beyond postulated by human fear of the material, the real, and the moment in which both are experienced and understood.

9. This and That is a false dichotomy. This is That. The metaphysical is the corruption of the material into an abstraction that can be used to justify fear becoming hatred of the material and existence.

10. When what is assumed to be metaphysical is shown to have a part in the material as experienced by the human being then the metaphysical is of course material

11. What is material is perishable and mutable

12. What is material will change overtime or through interaction with other material things or through natural atrophy or other such processes inherent to the material world

13. What is metaphysical cannot change and cannot interact with material things. That which changes or interacts with material things is material

14. That which is metaphysical cannot create or interact with that which is material

15. What a human being experiences in the material world is real insofar as its substance or the effects of the same can be acutely and empirically experienced, understood and contemplated on by another human being

16. The realm of thought, imagination, dream and theory is in no way metaphysical as such experiences find their origin in human interaction with and contemplation of the material world

17. Our senses are the faculties that allow us to experience and interact with the material and therefore are themselves entirely material

18. Our senses are limited by our natural capacities as animal beings and therefore may be unable to experience fully every aspect of material reality

19. The inability to perceive or fully experience the material world does not allow for the existence of the metaphysical

20. The material and perishable and mutable nature of the world does not imply descent from a once more “perfect” metaphysical nature.

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