Monday, May 30, 2011

The Whole Enchilada

It's pretty clear that secular, progressive citizens of Louisiana will not have any "wins" this year. What am I talking about, you ask? Here's the big four bruises, so far, for this year:

CREATIONISM: The repeal of the Louisiana Science Education Act did not make it out of committee despite Baton Rouge high school graduate Zach Kopplin's most valiant efforts and the support he generated from forty Nobel Laureates. Here's one example of the blow back our state can expect:
“The lawmakers of Louisiana are a laughing stock as far as the scientific community is concerned,” Harold Kroto, a Florida State University scientist who won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1996, said in an email to The Associated Press. He added, “The present situation should be likened to requiring Louisiana school texts to include the claim that the Sun goes round the Earth.”
WOMEN'S RIGHTS: Rep. John Labruzzo of Metairie continues his hateful assault on women's reproductive rights and may just succeed in banning abortion, even in cases of rape and incest and to save the life of the mother. This is so bizarrely evil that I'm unsure how he and his followers can face the public. But as I always say, the wives, mistresses and daughters of men like this probably aren't too worried about their medical needs, so the rest of us can be ignored with impunity.

TEN COMMANDMENTS: Who would have thought that someone in the 21st century would propose to place the Ten Commandments as a monument on the State Capitol grounds, but they are and it most likely will succeed. Who in this overtly religious legislature can vote against it without fear of political repercussions?

PRAYER IN SCHOOLS: And the cherry on top of this bloated sundae is Bastrop High School administration who thumbed their noses at the Establishment Clause of the Constitution during their recent graduation. This despite the embarrassment of making national headlines for ostracizing and threatening the student who made the complaint. Not to mention that they are in violation of the law.

It's enough to make you cry, cuss or laugh. Is there anything we can do to push this religious zealotry back even just a tad? That's the question I think everyone who calls themselves a humanist, atheist, freethinker or any other category of a church/state champion should ask themselves.

One suggestion I'd like to put out there is that where prayer in school is concerned (and has a high potential come graduation season) would be for every major public high school in the state to be petitioned by their local Muslim, Buddhist, Mormon, Jewish and Humanist "congregations" for the opportunity to make a similar statement alongside the Christian version, especially if there has been prior notice given that they will include a prayer in the ceremony. This no doubt would create quite the problem for a public institution to deny a local student (representing these groups) the opportunity to speak. It might even invite a legal challenge that would be costly and shameful on a national scale.

I call this making them "eat the whole enchilada." If they absolutely must flaunt the law, then they must accept the consequences of allowing other prayers. It would provide very teachable moments to people who aren't as concerned about it and who adopt the "....well, why can't they say their little prayer, it's not hurting anyone?" attitude. It might also educate students that there are other families in their community who feel as passionately about their religions and philosophies. Now getting the students and religious groups to agree to this is the hard part. No one wants to be singled out and bullied for standing up for their civil rights.

But, honestly, if we don't start standing up now, we might find we don't have the guts, balls or other body parts to fight back. And that's a reality I and others simply can't swallow. So serve up parity, hot and steaming, with a side of salsa and remind them of how good it will taste.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

To Mock or Not to Mock...

That is the question. And it seems to be a question of the minds of people who were concerned that our "Left Behind" activities would send the wrong message to the public about NOSHA and what we stand for. Are we mocking people and how does that promote respect and harmony? It's a valid question even if you don't feel we are doing anything to be ashamed of. (Which we aren't IMHO.)

A friend of mine, Jim, wrote a very thougtful piece that is worth sharing because it does a very admirable job of explaining what mockery is and how it is an important part of a society that is open and vibrant.
On Mockery:

I’m not surprised that some have reacted negatively here to what they see as ridicule of a particular religion, or of religion in general.  I point out that the real objective of this party is to celebrate our own freedom from fear and superstition.  Since it is impossible to celebrate freedom from fear and superstition without labeling something “fear and superstition,” that might come across to some as ridicule.

That being said, I would amplify Susan G’s quite cogent remarks made earlier in these posts: those who ascribe to the philosophy of Secular Humanism have at least a right, and probably an obligation, to mock religious beliefs of this type.  This party is being organized in reaction to a particular group who loudly proclaim that on May 21st true believers will be Raptured into heaven, an earthquake will shake the whole world, and the dead will rise from their opened graves.  Such ideas deserve mockery at several levels:

*  Most self-identified Christians reject ideas of a literal and physical rapture, bodily resurrection, and Second Coming.  This is not to say it is OK to mock an idea just because it is held by a minority, but to say that even most Christians think this is nonsense.  How much more ridiculous must this seem to outsiders?

* It is ridiculous to believe that one modern-day person, without any special training in ancient cultures or languages can rummage through the Bible, connect disparate passages as he sees fit, choose an obscure and unsupported dating scheme, throw in a dash of numerology, and  on that basis come up with the one true date for the beginning of the End.  Yet this is exactly what Harold Camping and his supporters claim.

* It is ridiculous to believe that this particular date proclaimed for the End is any different from the vast array of failed predictions that precede it.  History is littered with Great Disappointments, and to believe that this prediction is any different from hundreds of other abject failures is gullibility beyond measure.

This is not about anybody’s privately held religious beliefs.  This is about a small but well-funded group who have vigorously sought publicity for their monster-under-the-bed stories, both nation-wide and right here in New Orleans.

Agnostics, atheists, and Secular Humanists have wide and varied opinions on such matters.  But a key point of Secular Humanism, at least for those who ascribe to that philosophy, is that if we want to have better society now and in the future, then we must  leave the supernatural and superstitious behind so we  can apply human logic and human reason to solving our shared problems.  That principle is in direct conflict with the kind of deference to religion a few on this blog think we ought to show.  It is perfectly fair that religious believers had the right to proclaim their ideas to the public.  But it is neither fair nor reasonable for the religious to demand that nobody point out their irrationalities, once they’ve made a public issue of their beliefs.