How to be a Steve Stockman (R-TX) Patriot…

January 29, 2014

Wikimedia Commons. Author - Gage Skidmore.

Wikimedia Commons.
Author – Gage Skidmore.

President Obama played a tactful game at the State of the Union last night. There were subtle digs at the most unproductive Congress in history, but far less than we may have expected given how difficult 2013 had been for the President. The mention of climate change and minimum wage, was a clear message to the Democratic base ahead of the Congressional elections in November. Other that that, there were no surprises from either the President nor the opposition Party. This lack of surprise includes one particular publicity-seeking-prone, disrespectful Republican storming out of the chamber in typically over dramatic Tea Party fashion.

It was halfway through the President’s State of the Union address that Texas’s Steve Stockman left the chamber in a fit of outrage. After his tantrum subsided, Stockman told reporters that he’d stormed out because:

“I could not bear to watch as he continued to cross the clearly-defined boundaries of the Constitutional separation of powers.”

– Stockman often plays fast and loose with his understanding of the Constitution and of the framework of the United States in general. It was Stockman that was so excited to announce that he had invited Ted Nugent to the State of the Union Address, and noted:

“I am excited to have a Patriot like Ted Nugent joining me in the House Chamber to hear from President Obama.”

– Stockman called Nugent a “Patriot”. So then, perhaps you’re wondering what it will take for Steve Stockman to recognise you as a Patriot? Well, let’s investigate what he might mean:

In a 1995 interview, the great ‘Patriot’ Ted Nugent said:

“I’m on top of a real America with working hard, playing hard, white motherfucking shit kickers, who are independent and get up in the morning.”

– When told that African Americans were just as hard working as white Americans, Nugent said:

“Show me one”

– So that’s the “racist” box checked. In 2012, the ‘Patriot’ Ted Nugent offered his thoughts on the US civil war, and stopped vastly short of expressing his undying love for the United States in a way you might expect of a Patriot:

“I’m beginning to wonder if it would have been best had the South won the Civil War.”

So, that’s racism, with the nostalgia for the slave owning Confederacy box checked. In 2012, the ‘Patriot’ Ted Nugent said of Democrats:

“Pimps whores & welfare brats & their soulless supporters have a president to destroy America.”

– So far, to be a ‘Patriot’ in Steve Stockman’s World, you must be racist, still bitter that the states fighting to uphold the institution of slavery didn’t win the war, and to dismiss anyone struggling in life as “Pimps, whores and welfare brats”.

Steve Stockman was one of the Congressional Republicans to oppose the reauthorisation of the enormously popular and effective Violence Against Women Act. In explaining his opposition to the reauthorisation, Stockman ridiculously said:

“This is a truly bad bill. This is helping the liberals, this is horrible. Unbelievable. What really bothers—it’s called a women’s act, but then they have men dressed up as women, they count that. Change-gender, or whatever. How is that—how is that a woman?”

– It “helps the liberals” to protect minorities from abuse apparently. So Stockman opposed it. He was willing to put all women at risk, just to make sure we’re all aware that he doesn’t like the transgender community. So, that’s racists, those still bitter that the states fighting to uphold the institution of slavery didn’t win the Civil war, those who dismiss anyone struggling in life as “Pimps, whores and welfare brats”, and those who don’t understand biology and wish to continue to manifest that ignorance through bigotry and physical abuse.

In 2013, Stockman tweeted this little gem of wisdom:

babies-guns
– Apart from the threatening and insensitive absurdity of this hideous slogan, we should perhaps note that ‘National Association for Gun Rights’ and ‘Gun Owners of America’ are two of Stockman’s key campaign contributors, so this shouldn’t surprise us. This is a clear message to women everywhere that Stockman believes a woman’s body is not her own, and that Stockman is willing to use the most vicious language possible to make that point.

So, that’s racists, those still bitter that the states fighting to uphold the institution of slavery didn’t win the Civil war, those who dismiss anyone struggling in life as “Pimps, whores and welfare brats”, those who don’t understand biology and wish to continue to use their ignorance to abuse anyone that doesn’t match their own very narrow World view, and those who wish to restrict women’s health rights by using threatening language.

The First Lady’s guests at the State of the Union last night included Carlos Arredondo and Jeff Bauman; two survivors of the Boston bombs. By contrast, only four days after the the bombing, Stockman tweeted:

Screen-Shot-2013-04-19-at-5.20.47-PM
– An indescribably insensitive tweet, especially by a member of the United States Congress, at a time when citizens were being treated for the most horrific injuries, families had lost loved ones, and neighbourhoods in the region had undergone such an awful event. But he’s not new to such an insensitive publicity stunt….

Just a short few months after the Sandy Hook tragedy, Stockman tweeted this:

stockmangun
– You read that correctly. He raffled off the same make gun as the one used by Adam Lanza to murder children, if you signed up to his website. The obscenity of Stockman’s publicity stunt here is incomprehensible.

So, that’s racists, those still bitter that the states fighting to uphold the institution of slavery didn’t win the Civil war, those who dismiss anyone struggling in life as “Pimps, whores and welfare brats”, those who don’t understand biology and wish to continue to use their ignorance to abuse anyone that doesn’t match their own very narrow World view, those who wish to restrict women’s health rights by using threatening language, and those who believe it appropriate for a United States member of Congress to publicly joke about a terrorist attack four days after it took place, and raffling off the same type of gun used in the murder of children, for publicity.

Next to the gun lobby, Stockman is well funded by the oil industry, with Exxon a particular favourite contributor. So it’s no surprise that Stockman – member of the House Energy subcommittee and the House Environment subcommittee – would say this:

stockman
– He could have chosen the mountains of the Himalayas, or the Shenandoah Valley, or the misty and beautiful Vietnamese coastline, or the Scottish highlands, or the stunning rainforests of Brazil, or the diverse wildlife of the Serengeti. Instead, Stockman’s favourite thing about the beautiful planet that we inhabit, is finding oil. And when we do find oil, and it results in a massive leak near Santa Barbara of almost three million gallons, which in turn kills wildlife for miles around and threatens local habitats even further a field, Stockman then gets annoyed that regulations are introduced in an attempt to stop such abuses by oil companies in the future:

stockman2
– Stockman appears to be confused between the reality of climate change, and his duties as a representative for the oil industry. Pesky scientific fact (there’s around a 97% consensus on the anthropogenic causes of climate change) is naturally a liberal conspiracy, whilst the oil industry…… I suppose must be “Patriots”.

I think we have the definitive guide on how to be a Patriot by Steve Stockman. You must be racist; experiencing great sadness that the slave states didn’t win the civil war; willing to dismiss anyone struggling in life as “Pimps, whores and welfare brats”; you must lack a basic understanding of biology and wish to continue to use that ignorance to abuse anyone that doesn’t match your own very narrow World view; you must wish to restrict women’s health rights by using threatening language; you must believe it appropriate for a United States member of Congress to publicly joke about a terrorist attack four days after it took place, and raffling off the same type of gun used in the murder of children, for publicity; you must see the planet as nothing more than one big playground for Exxon to dig wherever it likes. This is how to be a Patriot by the man who stormed out of the State of the Union last night. If I were the President, I’d be more offended if Stockman had stayed.


Futiledemocracy & The Shorty Awards

January 25, 2014

It’s rare that I write anything even slightly personal on here. But I figure once in a while isn’t too bad a thing. I’ve been blogging for quite some time now, and I’ve accumulated a wonderful and diverse readership across social media platforms, from over the World. From those who share most of my ideas and opinions, to those who thoroughly disagree with much of what I write, I appreciate every reader that has taken the time out of their lives to read any of my thoughts that end up on my blog. To know my ideas and thoughts are being read and shared, keeps me wanting to write, which in turn keeps me needing to learn, to trying to improve my understanding of the World, and the institutions that govern us. Most importantly for me, it is a creative outlet too. It works as a wonderful way to arrange my thoughts coherently and creatively in the only real way that I know how. I absolutely need that.

As a result of blogging, my thoughts on a lot of subjects have evolved but stayed relatively similar throughout the years though much more considered and rounded. Other times I have completely changed position. Sometimes I read over old articles on old blog pages, and I cringe. But it’s great to see how far I have progressed in my thought processes. This is almost entirely down to my desire to keep learning and writing, to which I owe my enjoyment of both – an enjoyment I never had at school – largely to this blog. An archive of articles over the years is a wonderful indication of one’s intellectual growth, and a perfect incentive to progress further. It’s difficult to describe how much I value this space, and those who have subscribed and/or read my thoughts regularly over the years. I appreciate it hugely. Thank you.

I have recently been nominated a few times for a ‘Shorty Award’ for blogging. This humbles me. Every retweet, every facebook post that includes my article, and every nomination for an award like a Shorty are all far more than I expect when I write a blog. I am not a journalist, nor a professional writer. I make terrible grammatical errors, and I can spend hours reading over the same paragraph not happy with how it reads, before editing the entire thing and eventually publishing. And still, people read! It got me thinking about those of you who I don’t know, who are complete strangers, who have your own lives, your own loves, your own passions, your own memories, and yet somehow in your daily life, you found this blog, you perhaps read it, took the time to comment on it, or you maybe even shared it with others. This is a connection I value hugely.

The Shorty Awards are now in their sixth year and honour the best of social media across a range of subjects. If you appreciate my articles, and believe I deserve your nomination for a blogging award, clicking the graphic below will take you to the nomination page! Thank you! And I hope I can keep you coming back and reading in the future!

Nominate Futile Democracy for a social media award in the Shorty Awards! Nominate Futile Democracy for a social media award in the Shorty Awards

The Secular States of America.

January 24, 2014

Constitution_We_the_People

The United States is not a Christian nation, any more than the United States is an Atheist nation, or a Hindu nation, or a Poseidon nation. The United States is a secular nation.

Whenever a debate is raised over the issue of whether or not the United States was a found a Christian nation, we are entertained with quotes from the founding fathers either professing their belief in a God or their secular credentials, both sets of quotes used to justify both positions. What we rarely see, are the lengths the founders went to in order to ensure a secular framework for the new nation, and the context in which they fought for it. Their personal beliefs in a God or an organised religion are irrelevant. The meticulous work and reasoned writings – of framers like Jefferson and Pinckney – to ensure the constitution was based upon secular principles, is what ultimately matters.

A year before the Bill of Rights was attached, the Constitution – a document that doesn’t mention the word ‘God’ once – made a very brief mention of religion. Brief, but extremely important for that moment in time.

Paragraph 3, of Article VI of the Constitution states:

“The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

– It is clear from this, that the civil duty of all public office holders, is to the constitution only. Religion is to play no part in the suitability of a candidate for office. The oath or affirmation for public service is to the constitution only. The idea of insisting on no religious test for public office was as much a fundamental part of the history of the United States as the idea of independence itself, though it had recently been lost to history by the time the constitution was under consideration. Indeed, the original colonists had fled in order to worship by the dictates of their own conscience rather than the dictates of the oppressive state. But the tyranny which they fled, they soon enshrined themselves. In Virginia in the 17th Century, certain laws penalised parents who did not baptise their children. The 1776 Constitution of Pennsylvania demands of all legislators:

“And each member, before he takes his seat, shall make and subscribe the following declaration, viz : I do believe in one God, the creator and governor of the universe, the rewarder of the good and the punisher of the wicked. And I do acknowledge the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by Divine inspiration.”

– Similarly, the Constitution of Massachusetts at the same time stated:

“As the happiness of a people and the good order and preservation of civil government essentially depend upon piety, religion, and morality, and as these cannot be generally diffused through a community but by the institution of the public worship of God and of public instructions in piety, religion, and morality: Therefore, To promote their happiness and to secure the good order and preservation of their government, the people of this commonwealth have a right to invest their legislature with power to authorize and require, and the legislature shall, from time to time, authorize and require, the several towns, parishes, precincts, and other bodies-politic or religious societies to make suitable provision, at their own expense, for the institution of the public worship of God and for the support and maintenance of public Protestant teachers of piety, religion, and morality in all cases where such provision shall not be made voluntarily.”

– The Constitution of South Carolina:

“That all persons and religious societies who acknowledge that there is one God, and a future state of rewards and punishments, and that God is publicly to be worshipped, shall be freely tolerated. The Christian Protestant religion shall be deemed, and is hereby constituted and declared to be, the established religion of this State.”

– Had the national Constitution included language like that of Pennsylvania, Massachusetts’ or South Carolina’s state constitutions, we may have had to conclude that the United States is indeed a Christian nation. But the framers didn’t choose any state constitution that included overtly religious tones, language, and intention. Instead they looked to Virginia, and specifically Jefferson’s “Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom” which noted:

“Be it enacted by the General Assembly, That no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.”

– Almost all State constitutions in the 18th Century (and many still today) demanded a religious test – most requiring a belief in Protestant ideals – for public office. The very fact that the national Constitution seeked to completely overturn those state constitutional religious tests, and refusing to acknowledge even the word “God” let alone Christian-Protestant beliefs, and instead specifically looking to Virginia’s declaration enshrining secular principles, was a revolutionary act in itself, and speaks volumes of the motives of the framers.

It was in the 1770s that Jefferson originally penned the ‘Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom’. It was Governor Pinckney out of South Carolina – a state that had established Protestantism of the state religion – that penned the no religious test clause for the national Constitution. This clause angered Christians of the time (less so the evangelicals, who, as a minority sect, generally supported a separation of church and state for their own protection), with one objection being raised in the ratifying convention in North Carolina:

“…those gentlemen who formed this Constitution should not have given this invitation to Jews and heathens.”

– Leading Protestants – mainly in the north, The south was the beacon of enlightenment thought in that period of the 18th century – feared that prohibition on religious tests for high office – in other words, the lack of Protestant privilege – would give Jews, Pagans, non-believers, Hindus, and Muslims the same right to seek public office as Protestant Christians and ultimately diminish their role and power over state affairs. Protestants were aware that the Constitution represented a complete break with the state constitutions that gave them a privilege not afforded to other faiths and sects until then. This was unprecedented in history. A gigantic step in secular governance. For Jefferson, Pinckney and Madison among others, this was a battle they had fought long and hard for. The realisation of enlightenment ideals.

Leaving the confines of the 18th Century for a brief moment, The Christian Post recently published an article by Eric Metaxxas, in which he says:

“So while the Constitution cannot be considered a religious document, many of our founders’ religious views deeply informed their thinking about the kind of government America should embrace. To suggest otherwise is intellectually dishonest.”

– This simply isn’t true. The remainder of Metaxxas’ article seems to be some sort of rescue attempt for subtly held theocratic views attempting to enshrine itself into the fabric of America. He seems to be arguing that the Constitution is not overtly Christian, but the Founders were (which they weren’t) and so it is REALLY Christian… if you think about it…. maybe? It is of course, nonsense. Given that the religious aspects of the United States Constitution use the Virginia Statute penned by Thomas Jefferson as its inspiration, we must seek Jefferson’s views primarily. In his autobiography of 1821, Thomas Jefferson wrote:

“The bill for establishing religious freedom [in Virginia], the principles of which had, to a certain degree, been enacted before, I had drawn in all the latitude of reason and right. It still met with opposition; but, with some mutilations in the preamble, it was finally passed; and a singular proposition proved that its protection of opinion was meant to be universal. Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word “Jesus Christ,” so that it should read, “a departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;” the insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo, and Infidel of every denomination.”

– There was a specific debate over including the words “Jesus Christ” and this was absolutely rejected. Jefferson’s “religious views” were not given any sort of privilege. In fact, by rejecting the words “Jesus Christ”, Christianity itself was consciously stripped of its attempted privilege. For Jefferson, matters of religion were to be open and free to all, and not in any way linked to the state. A line of equality of belief.

Further, George Washington – in a letter penned to the Jewish congregation of Rhode Island – gives us his thoughts on the equality of conscience, and civil rights:

“The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.”

– Washington notes that ‘tolerance’ is no longer spoken of. What he means by this is that the old world privileges of one religion to grant tolerance to another, are finished.

The Christian Post article goes on:

“They also considered freedom of religion so important that they enshrined it in First Amendment to the Constitution. This includes the right to bring our beliefs into the public square to influence our fellow citizens on issues like slavery, as antebellum believers did, and abortion, as Christians in Texas recently did, and as many are trying to do with marriage.”

– This in true, to a degree. As noted in my previous article on Madison, the ‘father of the constitution’ noted in his 1822 letter to Edward Livingstone, the limits of religious privilege in state affairs:

“I observe with particular pleasure the view that you have taken of the immunity of Religion from civil jurisdiction in every case where it does not trespass on private rights or public peace.”

– So, when it pertains to – for example – marriage, as noted by the Christian Post article, Madison would have considered this a time in which religion oversteps its power and trespasses on private rights. A heterosexual Christian legislator with the right to marry does not have an inherent right to limit that same right for others. You have no more right to insist that children learn creationism in science class, that I do to ensure children learn about the baby-bringing-stalk in biology class.

Jefferson elaborates on religious interference in state affairs – which Metaxxas seems to try desperately to justify – in his ‘Notes on the State of Virginia’:

“Statutory oppressions in religion being thus wiped away, we remain at present under those only imposed by the common law, or by our own acts of assembly. At the common law, heresy was a capital offence, punishable by burning. Its definition was left to the ecclesiastical judges, before whom the conviction was, till the statute of the 1 El. c. 1. circumscribed it, by declaring, that nothing should be deemed heresy, but what had been so determined by authority of the canonical scriptures, or by one of the four first general councils, or by some other council having for the grounds of their declaration the express and plain words of the scriptures. Heresy, thus circumscribed, being an offence at the common law, our act of assembly of October 1777, c. 17. gives cognizance of it to the general court, by declaring, that the jurisdiction of that court shall be general in all matters at the common law. The execution is by the writ De haeretico comburendo. By our own act of assembly of 1705, c. 30, if a person brought up in the Christian religion denies the being of a God, or the Trinity, or asserts there are more Gods than one, or denies the Christian religion to be true, or the scriptures to be of divine authority, he is punishable on the first offence by incapacity to hold any office or employment ecclesiastical, civil, or military; on the second by disability to sue, to take any gift or legacy, to be guardian, executor, or administrator, and by three years imprisonment, without bail. A father’s right to the custody of his own children being founded in law on his right of guardianship, this being taken away, they may of course be severed from him, and put, by the authority of a court, into more orthodox hands. This is a summary view of that religious slavery, under which a people have been willing to remain, who have lavished their lives and fortunes for the establishment of their civil freedom.”

– Here, Jefferson notes the problem of the religious using the legislative process to force their faith upon the population. He specifically calls it religious slavery. For Jefferson, this is where faith becomes overbearing. Your faith is yours personally, it is not to be used to infringe upon the liberty of others. Madison fought for this principle his entire life. Jefferson enshrined it in the Virginia Declaration. Pinckney made certain that it would outshine theocratic attempts to distort the secular nature of the Constitution.

It must be said that the genius of the founders was their ability to recognise that their own personal beliefs were not supreme, and did not have an inherent privilege above any other belief. For the founders, the United States was not founded a Christian nation, any more than the United States was founded an Atheist nation, or a Hindu nation, or a Poseidon nation. The men charged with constructing the new national Constitution worked tirelessly to ensure it was absolutely not a Christian nation. It is quite sad that in the 21st Century, there are numerous commentators, as well state and national representatives that haven’t quite grasped this principle yet.


James Madison: The Father of Secularism.

January 22, 2014

James_Madison
“During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution.”
– James Madison

The year was 1785 when Patrick Henry of Virginia worked tirelessly to push for the state to pass a law diverting tax dollars to directly funding “Teachers of the Christian Religion“. The oppressive nature of state sponsored religion so attached to the governing principles of the old world seemed to be one step closer to infecting the new world also. The genius of the American experiment in self government was put at risk in 1785. Had laws binding the state to a religion passed in Virginia, the Constitutional Congress may well have produced a document far different to the one that we all know today. The principles of the Enlightenment may not have been so beautifully enshrined, and the American experiment may have turned out very differently.

As it turns out, Patrick Henry had one very formidable foe in his attempts to directly establish a church-state binding link. James Madison – Father of the Constitution – existed at the moment in history, and in the exact place he was most needed, to argue so eloquently for the establishment and enshrining of secular ideals. Madison had astutely recognised the difference between tolerance, and liberty. Tolerance, in matters of state, he was certain, was the opposite of liberty. His words and brilliance worked to define secular ideals that permeate to this very day.

In the same year, Madison penned “Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments”. A beautifully articulate and concise declaration of religious freedoms, in response to the Bill forwarded by Patrick Henry. In it, Madison states his reasons for opposing the Bill:

“Because we hold it for a fundamental and undeniable truth, “that religion or the duty which we owe to our Creator and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence.” The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate. This right is in its nature an unalienable right. It is unalienable, because the opinions of men, depending only on the evidence contemplated by their own minds cannot follow the dictates of other men.”

“…If “all men are by nature equally free and independent,” all men are to be considered as entering into Society on equal conditions; as relinquishing no more, and therefore retaining no less, one than another, of their natural rights. Above all are they to be considered as retaining an “equal title to the free exercise of Religion according to the dictates of Conscience.” Whilst we assert for ourselves a freedom to embrace, to profess and to observe the Religion which we believe to be of divine origin, we cannot deny an equal freedom to those whose minds have not yet yielded to the evidence which has convinced us.”

– In two short paragraphs, Madison sets out the secular ideal. He makes clear the point that no single religious doctrine should be considered superior to any other, that the state should not promote dogma over reason, and that an individuals’ right to believe according to his or her own conscience is negated the moment the individual restricts the same right for another. For Madison, religious power over state had had its opportunity, and it was abused. For centuries religious power had fostered nothing but religious tyranny. With the minds of Jefferson, Adams, and Madison, the new World was not going to reflect the mistakes of the past when it came to religious power over state.

Further, Madison’s belief that no single religious doctrine be recognised as ‘official’ by the state, nor restricted therein is reflected in his support of Thomas Jefferson when establishing the University of Virginia. Both Jefferson and Madison believed religious theology had no place at the university, and Madison worked hard to ensure that the library books at the university contained moral philosophy, but no specific doctrinal teachings, so as to ensure a level playing field. The argument was simple, either the state has the right to invade and attempt to restrict the conscience of the individual, or it doesn’t. Madison’s response to Henry was a key factor is Henry losing the battle to divert tax dollars to the establishment of a religious order.

After the defeat of Henry’s Bill, Madison worked to ensure Jefferson’s ‘Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom’ passed through the Virginia Assembly, completely breaking the ties between the state government, and the Church of England. Indeed, Jefferson was so proud of penning the Statute, that he insisted on having it remembered on his tombstone. A tombstone that doesn’t even mention that he was President. Jefferson was in Paris on diplomatic orders as the Statute was up for discussion back home in Virginia, and it was James Madison who worked tirelessly to ensure its passage through the Assembly. The Statute states:

“Be it enacted by the General Assembly, That no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.”

– Not only does this ensure freedom of religion, it enshrines freedom from religion. No individual shall be compelled to support any ministry whatsoever. This is what was important to freethinkers and deists alike. Further, the statute makes clear that the beliefs of individuals should not affect their civil capacities. A line of equality drawn unequivocally. Virginians were to be considered equal in conscience, with no single faith or sect preferred in matters of state. This is reflected in a statement found earlier in the Statute:

“That our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions any more than our opinions in physics or geometry”

– During the debate in the Assembly, a motion to include the name of Jesus Christ in the wording of the Bill was easily defeated. Once passed, the Bill was translated into several European languages and became a beacon for secularists across the old continent. The revolutionary importance of the Virginia statute is difficult to overstate. Indeed, in the US it took another 30 years before Catholics were permitted to hold public office in the state of New York. For Madison – as for Jefferson – liberties such as that of the freedom of conscience, fought so hard for during the revolutionary years, with a basis in reason rather than Christianity, were essential for the experiment in republican ideals and civil rights to succeed.

In 1776, Madison had amended George Mason’s Virginia Declaration of Rights, and specifically, article 16. The vision of liberty as opposed to tolerance became a reality in the words that Madison had so beautifully penned:

“All men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion according to the dictates of conscience.”

– At this time, Madison – still in his mid-20s – was now the voice of secularism and freedom of conscience in the Virginia House of Delegates.

In the Federalist Papers, Madison argued that by levelling the playing field, and equalising belief whereby one faith or one sect of one faith is not permitted to rise above another, nor recognised by the state, fosters an environment for open debate, free thought and discourages oppression. We must note how revolutionary this concept was. The preceding centuries were centuries of religious war. Indeed, Christians spent an awful amount of time killing other Christians, for being the wrong type of Christian. In England alone, the Tudor monarchs were at odds with each other, murdering religious supporters of their rivals, simply for not adhering to the correct ‘sect’ of the same faith. By 1850, new Christian sects – such as Mormonism – with their own interpretations, were springing up everywhere, without fear of oppression. Separation of church and state is absolutely beneficial to the religious. Far more so, than when one sect controlled the reigns of power.

Madison had also argued that attempts to compromise between religious sects whilst still holding onto the state-church connection – the Elizabethan settlement was simply a compromise – failed, and that only complete liberty of conscience under a state framework neutral in matters of personal belief, could ensure the protection of all. This isn’t to say that religious tension was forever banished from society, far from it, simply that it created an atmosphere preferable to the religious tyranny and the climate of fear that leads to such vicious oppression, and the stifling of progress of the preceding centuries.

In 1822, Madison expressed another key secular concept, in a letter he wrote to the Jurist, Edward Livingston. In it, Madison expresses his belief that whilst religion should ordinarily be free from state interference, the state should interfere to limit religious power if that power attempts to infringe upon civil rights:

“I observe with particular pleasure the view that you have taken of the immunity of Religion from civil jurisdiction in every case where it does not trespass on private rights or public peace.”

– Practically, this thought process can be seen in 21st century America. After the decision in 2013 of the Supreme Court to deem the Defence of Marriage Act unconstitutional, President Obama made this statement:

“This was discrimination enshrined in law. It treated loving, committed gay and lesbian couples as a separate and lesser class of people. The Supreme Court has righted that wrong, and our country is better off for it.”

– The President is right. He was politically wise not to mention that the only reason same-sex couples are so viciously discriminated against, their rights trampled, treated as second class, is because of the supremacy of religion over the state. To paraphrase Madison, the court was absolutely right to step in and limit the power of the religious, when that power attempts to infringe upon the rights of individuals. The decision to overturn the Defence of Marriage Act represented the very essence of secularism.

Madison was convinced that the only way to ensure the freedom of inquiry, the freedom of expression, and the freedom of conscience for all, was to break the chains of church and state and enshrine reason and liberty into the founding framework of a nation. His vision for America – predicated largely on secular ideals – was the vision that won out. It is no surprise that Madison’s chose the first Amendment to the Bill of Rights to ensure this principle, enshrining religious freedom, and forever inhibiting the state from establishing a religion in the United States. The secular ideals that I base much of my political beliefs upon, derive from the works of James Madison. I reflect on his writings often, and they work to solidify my conviction that secular freedoms for all upon a democratic framework, are the only possible way to ensure the civil rights of all. To this day, Madison’s clear, concise, and rational arguments are far more persuasive than any other system of governance thus conceived. We owe many of freedoms and protections to James Madison: The Father of Secularism.


Meet Joshua Black.

January 21, 2014

Time ago, calling for the murder of the democratically elected head of state was entirely the realm of those on the watch list of intelligence services. The extreme fringes that plagued Kennedy on his trip to Dallas. Apparently that time has passed, and now includes those running for State legislatures.

We are all fully aware that Republicans have been getting progressively violent and irrational with their rhetoric since the President was first elected. From subtle hints at secession, to happily and effortlessly shutting down the government and protesting the shutdown alongside people waving Confederate flags. But yesterday – Martin Luther King Day in the States – Republican candidate for Florida’s 68th district of Florida’s State House, Joshua Black took the violent rhetoric to its natural conclusion when he tweeted this:

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– When questioned on Twitter about the implications of what he was actually suggestion, Black responded with a plain as day clarification:

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– Joshua Black – when he isn’t spending his time at church, as his website tells us – is calling for the hanging of the President of the United States. Let that sink in for a second. A candidate for public office in the US, and a member of one of the two major political parties, has just called for the execution via hanging of the President of the United States.

Once the shock of that utterly crazy situation sinks in, examining the rest of his I’m not sure what the reference to Benedict Arnold was. Arnold wasn’t executed after the revolutionary war, and after his defection to the British. Gout ended his life in England years later. So not only is Black calling for the execution of the President, he’s justifying it with completely invented history.

Of course, Black isn’t new to over-the-top statements:

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– This, he posted the same day as his desire to see the President of the United States hanged. In one day, a Republican candidate for office had compared Bill Clinton to Mussolini, and called for the execution of President Obama. But that’s not all:

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– That’s right. Joshua Black compared women who value the right to their own body, as Nazis. Joshua Black – a Republican candidate for public office – has just compared the systematic slaughter of 6,000,000 Jewish people, to a woman’s right to her own body. This is insulting on so many levels, it’s difficult to know where to start. And he’s not finished with the extreme statements yet:

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– Here, it seems that Joshua Black would also abolish the minimum wage, striking a major blow to the most vulnerable people in the country already struggling. But that’s not all!

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– Joshua Black openly insists that those of us who do not believe in a ‘creator’ have no place in public office. He is vehemently anti-secular, a religious supremacist who believes that he has an inherent right to decide who does and doesn’t qualify as ‘fit’ for public office. He therefore does not accept that atheists share the exact same citizenship and legal rights as himself. He echoes numerous state constitutions that seek to prohibit public office for those who do not affirm a belief in some sort of divine dictator. This horrendous tendency toward Theocratic rule and thus, anti-constitutional religious supremacy is prevalent on the Republican and Christian-right. It seeks to completely override the founding enlightenment principle of secular governance. And the picture that he posts to highlight this, is predictably from Freedomworks.

To summarise, Republican candidate for Florida’s 68th District in Florida’s State House, compared Bill Clinton to Mussolini, those who believe in a woman’s right to regulate her own body as Nazis, insists non-believers should not be allowed to run for public office, and called for the execution via hanging of the President of the United States.

If ever one candidate embodied everything that has gone horribly wrong with the Republicans in the 21st century… it’s Joshua Black.

Provocative and extreme anti-Obama statements, and comparisons to dictators of old, made by those like Joshua Black have been growing horrifically for the past several years. When given credit by candidates to public office, they add fuel to the fire of violent far-right sentiment that sweeps the US. It is viciously dangerous rhetoric. Joshua Black – considered and endorsed by the Republican Party – as a serious candidate for public office, is the natural product of the past five years of the Republican Party moving further to the right with increased vitriol and the fact that the Republican Party has not ended its association with Black speaks volumes about the sinister and dangerous direction that particular Party has taken.

With Florida’s 68th incumbent Dwight Dudley (D) narrowly winning the seat in 2012, it must be said that for the safety of the President, and many many other people, I would hope residents of Florida’s 68th do not elect extremists like Joshua Black to any position of public power.

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Support the Mosque in Bendigo.

January 20, 2014

Sacred Heart Cathedral. One of many Christian temples in Bendigo.  Source: Wikimedia Commons.  Author: Xxplosiv.

Sacred Heart Cathedral. One of many Christian temples in Bendigo.
Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Author: Xxplosiv.

Secularism is a concept that some tend to struggle with, especially if it appears to conflict with their own prejudices or fears. There is often a consistency issue. Secularism is of course a system that has no equal yet conceived, in the guarantee of fundamental rights. It ensures that no belief has a place of privilege above any others, nor violates the liberty of others. It is a line of equality, separating the framework of state from the individual’s right to believe, worship, and express unharmed. It is my right to congregate, express and to worship (if I suddenly decided to convert) according to my conscience, as it is yours. It is my right to build a private place of worship, as it is yours.

The city of Bendigo in Australia – a city I spent some time in a couple of years back – is about to begin building its first Mosque. Until now, Muslims in Bendigo have worshipped in small rooms at La Trobe University, that are becoming too crowded. The planned Mosque is privately funded by the Australian Islamic Mission, and will have prayer rooms, a sports hall, will include community relations meetings, and conduct weddings and funerals. I see no reason why anyone would oppose this. But predictably, a lot do.

The council and planners approved planning, because there is absolutely no reasonable grounds not to. It was approved along with a new Church built and funded by “Catch the Fire Ministries” a ministry run by young earth creationist Daniel Nalliah. Nalliah is an interesting chap. He insisted he felt “sick to the stomach” watching former Prime Minister Julia Gillard shake hands with former Greens Leader Bob Brown, because Gillard was “living in sin” for not being married and yet living with her partner, and because Brown was a “practising homosexual”. Those two shaking hands, made Nalliah “sick to the stomach”. In similar bouts of crazy, Nalliah once claimed that the Black Saturday bushfires were God’s wrath for Australia decriminalising abortion. Nalliah also once called on his followers to pull down Mosques, Temples, Brothels and Gambling spots because they were “Satan’s stronghold”. He has also stated that children should be protected from gay people, and he opposes gay marriage (another right that he wishes for himself, yet not for others). There seems to be very little opposition to a mad, offensive, creationist cult leader building a religious centre in Bendigo.

A ‘Stop the Mosque in Bendigo’ page sprung up on Facebook recently, with over 3,500 supporters. I was expecting a reasoned argument, perhaps evidence that Muslims in Bendigo were hoping to use the mosque for radicalisation purposes. That would have been rational grounds to oppose it. Indeed, I would have opposed it. But as it turns out, much of the opposition to the mosque is based solely people’s objections to Islam itself. They don’t like the faith, and so they believe the Mosque should be stopped. This strikes me as wholly anti-secular in itself. By this logic, Australians who happen to be Muslims may dislike Atheists meeting up, and so seek to stop it by appealing to the council. They have as much right to do that, as those hoping to stop the Mosque from being built. I can imagine the outcry would be tremendous if that were to occur.

Those against it, seem rather ironically to be offended by the idea of a mosque in Bendigo. Ironic, because using ‘offense’ as a weapon to oppress, is very much out of the religious – and very recently, the Islamic – playbook itself. Instead of engaging critically, and working to ensure transparency within religious buildings – with education, and content, for example – they instead choose to aim their opposition at the right to worship freely in a private setting itself.

For what it’s worth, I take issue with most faiths – including Islam, as regular readers of my blog will perhaps note – but I recognise the incredibly important right for all private citizens to believe whatever they choose to believe, and their secular right to choose where to worship, as long as they abide by the rule of law and do not harm the freedom of others. The state should not prevent that right. Secularism guarantees freedoms and protection for all under the law. Like every other organisation, if they do not abide by the rule of law, they may be shut down. It their members do not abide by the rule of law, they may be imprisoned. And rightfully so. But we must – if we are to call ourselves secular, and if we are to abhor supremacy – recognise that religious folk have the right to set up a private place of worship. I recognise those rights, because I hold sacred those very same rights for myself. If I were to begin an Atheist Group, or a Secularist Group, and if I wished to privately fund and build a Hall where we met up, I cannot imagine too many religious folk would object nor try to prevent my Atheist or Secularist Hall from being built. The ones that did, would rightfully be condemned for attempting to infringe upon my liberty. The same is true when applied the opposite way.

Muslims already live in Bendigo, they already worship in Bendigo. They are as much a part of Bendigo as Christians. A Mosque is simply a more comfortable place for them to worship, than a cramped university space. There is no faith-based reason reason for a council to not accommodate this. It shouldn’t even need to be said, but it’s also true that muslims work in Bendigo, they contribute, they save lives in hospitals, and educate children in schools, they are citizens with the same rights as every other person. Those rights are not negated by their choice of God. This is equally true for Christians in Bendigo. Whilst Muslims currently have no temple of worship in Bendigo, Christians have twenty Christian temples and centres in and around Bendigo, as far as I can tell. Anglican churches, Greek orthodox churches, Assembly of God, Catholic churches, and the massive Sacred Heart Cathedral, the beautifully constructed building in the photo above. And now with one more on its way run by a creationist dedicated to restricting the rights of anyone he doesn’t particularly like. Close to Bendigo, is the Atisha Centre, a Buddhist centre. If you support the right for Christians and Buddhists to build places of worship, but you would happily restrict the building of places of worship for other faiths simply because you don’t like what it is they believe, you are severely anti-secular. You advocate oppression.

The Facebook group dedicated to opposing the Mosque (but not the Catch the Fire Ministry) says:

“We live in a democracy and we are exercising OUR right to say NO to what happens in OUR country.”

– They’re quite right, they live in a democracy and they have the right to oppose. That’s absolutely correct. But I take issue with the phrase “OUR country”. This subtly hints that their right to oppose should be considered more important – as non-Muslim citizens of Australia – than the secular right of Muslim citizens of Australia – whose country it also is – to worship where they choose. This group therefore, are attempting to place themselves above the line of secular equality mentioned earlier, without anyone’s approval. Perhaps all planning permissions should be sent to this group, before any private building is erected in Bendigo. Pushing for the council – the state – to prevent Mosques being built, is forcefully restricting a particular belief. Again, this is oppression.

According to the Bendigo Islamic Association, one of the aims of the Mosque in Bendigo is to:

“Play a central role in encouraging dialogue and harmony amongst the multicultural and multi-faith
society of Bendigo.”

– This must be welcomed, and it certainly isn’t on offer from anything Daniel Nalliah has ever produced.

To deny others the right to worship freely where they choose, and to develop property that they are as entitled as you to develop, denying them purely on the basis of what they choose to believe is an act of supremacy. If we apply it to other fundamental rights, we see the sinister nature of it. Indeed, if you were to wish the right to speak freely and to criticise a faith, whilst at the same time petitioning to prevent those with faith from speaking freely about their faith or from criticising your beliefs, you would be condemned, and rightly so. If, as a white person, you were to permit yourself the right to go to certain colleges and universities that you would not permit non-white people the right to attend – as in pre-civil rights America – you are a supremacist. This is no different. Denying a right for others, that you yourself have always had, and to couple this with believing you have the inherent privileged right to block the right of others to worship in their own privately run and funded temple, according to their own conscience, despite the absolute fact that you are equal to those people according to the law and citizenship, is the very essence of anti-secularism. However, If you wish to preserve rights that you enjoy, you must defend those rights for others, whether you like their beliefs or not.

If you wish your particular gender, or sexuality, or race, or religion to deviate from that line of equality, or to push others below it, you are going to have to work particularly hard to convince the rest of us to bow down in unquestioning subordination to your new found desire for supremacy. You must provide a reasonable argument as to why you think your dislike of a certain faith puts you in a unique and privileged position in which you’re willing to permit Christians – including creationists with incredibly offensive views – the right to build 20+ temples and centres, but not others. If your argument stands up to scrutiny, it will be accepted, otherwise, it fails.

As someone who values secularism, and respect for fundamental rights, I fully support the establishment of a Mosque in Bendigo.


Mo Ansar ‘offends’ me.

January 18, 2014

Quilliam Founder Maajid Nawaz took an unfathomably brave step yesterday when, as a Muslim, he posted a cartoon on Twitter of the Prophet Muhammad (The fact that this can be described as a brave step, is deeply troubling in itself). Predictably, the cartoon sparked a storm of feigned outrage (self-pity, as the rest of us call it) across social media. Immediately threats were sent, and anger registered. The sort of anger that Christians registered at the opening of “The Life of Brian” for much the same reasons; they don’t like what they consider to be “blasphemy” and that we should all play by their rules (whilst they themselves wish the freedom to criticise and mock ‘the West’, democracy, homosexuality, and anything else they relentlessly disapprove of).

It is important to note that it is not my place to tell you what is and isn’t offensive to you. If you find a cartoon of Muhammad offensive, then I have no place to tell you that you shouldn’t. You are entitled to be offended by anything that, well, offends you. It would be wrong of me to claim otherwise. You’re also entitled to complain. No one wishes to take that right away from you (except, perhaps, Islamists and a few Nationalists… both of whom have a lot more in common than they realise) However, this is just as true for you, as it is for me. For example, I am offended by almost every chapter of the Qur’an opening with a vivid description of how as a non-believer, I deserve eternal torture, for simply not believing. For example, chapter 3 gives us this lovely little tale:

“As to those who reject faith, I will punish them with terrible agony in this world and in the Hereafter, nor will they have anyone to help.”

– It offends me that billions of people believe this violent horror story, and consider me therefore inferior, deserving only punishment for the terrible crime of saying “I’m not sure I believe this“. This offends me. But I don’t call up the BBC every time they drag Mo Ansar on as a ‘moderate’ face of Islam in Britain, to complain that he’s showing support for a book that openly offends billions of people with threats of severe punishment. I have the right to complain and hope for him to be disciplined for that. But I don’t. Because I’m a grown up.

Equally, I am offended by ‘moderate’ Muslims like Mehdi Hasan insisting that we non-Muslims are unthinking, and that we live like animals:

“The kuffar, the disbelievers, the atheists who remain deaf and stubborn to the teachings of Islam, the rational message of the Quran; they are described in the Quran as, quote, “a people of no intelligence”, Allah describes them as; not of no morality, not as people of no belief – people of “no intelligence” – because they’re incapable of the intellectual effort it requires to shake off those blind prejudices, to shake off those easy assumptions about this world, about the existence of God.”

“We know that keeping the moral high-ground is key. Once we lose the moral high-ground we are no different from the rest of the non-Muslims; from the rest of those human beings who live their lives as animals, bending any rule to fulfil any desire.”

– This offends me. Hasan doesn’t know me. He’s never spoken to me. And here he is summarising an entire group of people (not our beliefs or ideas… but we as people, as human beings) as living like animals. But I do not then write to the New Statesman to complain in the hope that Mehdi Hasan will be sacked, or disciplined. I don’t do this, because I’m a grown up.

Mo Ansar – a grown up – had such a tantrum over the posting of a cartoon by Maajid Nawaz yesterday (as did Mohammed Shafiq), that he tweeted the Lib Dem complaint form (Nawaz is a Lib Dem candidate) for others to fill out and complain… about a cartoon. This is a very passive aggressive way to silence people, and I find it offensive. A very sort of Daily Mail reader response to something they dislike. A lot of Islamists took to twitter to outright threaten Nawaz. Ansar’s method was similar though far more passive aggressive; threaten to report people to their superiors, in the hope they’ll be disciplined and shut up in future, by threatening their career simply because Mo doesn’t like blasphemy:

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It is therefore easy to play Mo at his own game, and to turn this around and aim his own hideous anti-secular logic back at him. For example, I am offended by Mo’s underhanded suggestion that we non-believers are uncharitable. Why post this? For what purpose was he serving? This seems nothing more than a “get one up on the Atheists” game he’s playing. It’s offensive. But I didn’t report him… because again, I’m a grown up.

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– Mo Ansar, who I consider to be a religious supremacist, doesn’t take kindly to those challenging religious supremacy. With that in mind, I am offended by Mo Ansar showing his support for the protests in Bangladesh that called for the hanging of Atheist bloggers:

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– ‘Protesting blasphemy’. No, they were calling for blasphemy laws, and the punishment of those who “offend” Islam. The bloggers; Asif Mohiuddin, Subrata Adhikary Shuvo, and Russell Parvez, had their lives threatened, with chants of “Hang the atheists”. I cannot imagine Mo would be so quick to defend EDL supporters if the chants were “Hang the Muslims!” and those same protesters demanding all those who happen to be Muslim, be punished by new anti-Muslim laws. It is often the case with religious supremacists – as with all supremacists – that they tend to be very hypocritical. Indeed, supremacy is hypocrisy.

Atheists bloggers in Bangladesh had already been murdered for blaspheming. This is the reality of religious fascism and what Mo chooses to ignore – or in this case, gloss over – in his war on secularism. Hefazat-e-Islami is the group that took a large role in the Bangladesh protests. Their demands included:

  • “…abolishment of all laws which are in conflict with the values of the Quran and Sunnah.”
  • “…death penalty as the highest form of punishment to prevent defamation of Allah, Muhammad (S.A.W).”
  • “…Immediate end to the negative propaganda by all atheist bloggers.”

  • – For Mo Ansar, the media referring to – what he calls “Orthodox Muslims” – as “Islamists” is nothing more than media propaganda. It’s a predictable response from Mo. In the same way that the EDL claim the media always pick on them, when they’re smashing up shops. The protest in Bangladesh was not a peaceful protest, nor did it have any peaceful motives. It was a violent fascist movement demanding the establishment of an Islamic state full of oppression for those who don’t fit its narrow spectrum of what is decent and correct. Mo Ansar defending these people and completely ignoring their totalitarian demands, offends me. But I haven’t clicked the “report” button on twitter. Because I’m a grown-up.

    I am offended that Mo Ansar see’s fit to not only defend ritualistic genital mutilation, but summarises anyone who might take issue with the chopping up of a child’s genitalia, as a “militant secularist”:

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    I am offended that one cannot post a cartoon on a social media channel without receiving death threats from self-pitying, religious supremacist thugs, desirous of a World run according to their dictates, in a secular country. This offends me.

    It offends me to know that both Mo Ansar and Mohammed Shafiq are intelligent enough to understand that their feigned-public outrage would both fuel and lend credibility to a threatening and violent backlash, and yet they did it anyway. This is utterly grotesque of two grown men.

    I am offended that Mo Ansar openly supported gender segregation in secular institutions:

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    – Contrary to what Ansar seems to be suggesting, UCL did not tell Muslim women that they MUST sit next to men. There was no “dictating” to Muslims at all. It was Muslims attempting to dictate to everyone else, and then complaining when people weren’t going to stand for that nonsense. UCL simply have a free seating policy. Sit where ever you wish. They do not base seating, or any other policy, on religious demands. There is no infringement of any right going on here. if UCL were forcibly telling Muslim women that they must sit next to a man, that they have no choice, then yes, rights would be abused. That wasn’t the case. Ansar is manipulating the situation, to appeal to the victim mentality espoused by the faithful when they don’t get to force their principles upon the rest of us, and that offends me.

    I am offended that my gay friends are called ‘unnatural’ and ‘haraam’ by Muslims who know nothing of nature, and seem to believe that if bigotry is cloaked in the word ‘faith’, it is acceptable and must be respected. Mohammed Shafiq – a Lib Dem – was another yesterday who had a tantrum over the cartoon and announced his intention to complain to the Lib Dems. The same Shafiq who would withhold the right for two people in love to marry, based entirely on his own personal belief:

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    – “Protect religions”… as if religions have been the victims of persecution by the gay community over the centuries. I think Shafiq is a little confused here. Shafiq is not a liberal by any stretch of the imagination. Shafiq and Ansar have far more in common with the right wing, than they’d ever care to admit.

    In fact, I am offended that Shafiq calls himself liberal. It is insulting to the traditions, the ideals and the great philosophical minds that have defined liberalism, that a homophobic religious supremacist has the nerve to place himself in the liberal camp. This offends me.

    Nothing happens when you’re offended. You’re just offended. That’s it. It makes you say “I’m offended”. You might argue your case, and you have a right to do that, and that is in most cases, a sensible reaction (you may also wish to just ignore it and walk away, also a sensible option). It provokes debate and it encourages others to understand and perhaps challenge their own thought processes or ideas. Encouraging discussion is good. That is how grown-ups deal with being offended. Mo on the other hand, has decided that if you say something he doesn’t like, about his own beliefs, he will try to have you punished for it. So stay quiet. Or else.

    Secondly, much of what we deem to be a feeling of “offense” tends not to last very long. Whilst yesterday Mo was outraged and offended by a cartoon being posted, it seemed to have passed by this morning:

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    – To put this into perspective, Mo posted a link to the Lib Dem complaint page, in order to have Maajid Nawaz disciplined for blasphemy; an ‘offence’ so terrible, that it hurt Mo’s feelings for about an hour. Islamic superiority complex hidden behind the very typical victim mentality, nothing more.

    To reiterate; Mo Ansar suggested others complain to the Liberal Democrats, about blasphemy. He wants a political party in the UK – with the name ‘Liberal’ in their title – to punish what he considers to be blasphemy. In the 21st Century. It isn’t the right to challenge or the right to complain that I have an issue with. Both of those are essential in a secular democracy. It is the vacuous mentality that drives people like Mo Ansar to complain like a child, in the hope of silencing others, disempowering others, for the sake of the perpetuation of the supremacy of their belief that both irritates me as someone who values secularism, and, as it turns out, offends me.

    It offends me that Mo Ansar then retweeted this ridiculous comment by George Galloway:

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    – Predictable child-like Galloway response “we’re not going to love you again ever ever ever ner ner!” It is perhaps prudent at this point to remember that in 2009, Galloway delivered this address in Gaza:

    “I, now, here, on behalf of myself, my sister Yvonne Ridley, and the two Respect councillors – Muhammad Ishtiaq and Naim Khan – are giving three cars and 25,000 pounds in cash to Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. Here is the money. This is not charity. This is politics.”

    – £25,000 in cash to Ismail Haniyah. The same Ismail Haniyah who referred to Osama Bin Laden as a ‘Muslim warrior’ whose soul ‘rests in peace’. Haniyah is also imperialistic, believing the entire region Islamic by divine right. He believes that peace with Israel can only come about, if they agree to give up Jerusalem, for no other reason, than being under the delusion that his particular fairy-sky man divinely ordained it for Muslims. Another key member of Hamas, Dr. Mahmoud Zahar described gay people as being:

    “…a minority of perverts and the mentally and morally sick.”

    I am offended that Mo Ansar would show his solidarity with anyone who openly supported and funded such a hideously fascist and oppressive regime.

    Ansar then complained that secular progressives are focusing too much on trying to ‘reform’ Islam. Here, Mo is very wrong again. Secularists – like myself – believe all beliefs and ideas should be treated equally. This is healthy. To deviate from this, is to advocate supremacy. This is unhealthy. Mo’s very anti-secular attempts to silence Nawaz by encouraging reporting him, proves the point Nawaz was originally making; that reform is necessary. And secondly, if you do not wish to see your faith reach a point where it is considered universally unacceptable to demand punishment for blasphemy (aggressively or passive aggressively… and including all ideas, such as holding negative opinions about ‘the west’), nor to reach a point that your faith is not considered supreme and inherently deserving of a special dispensation from the rules that allow us to criticise and mock all other concepts and ideas – be they religious or political – and indeed, you help to perpetuate that state of affairs with feigned outrage over cartoons, then you’re going to have to deal with the rest of us challenging that regressive and sinister position, by posting cartoons perhaps. We disagree with just how important you think your religious beliefs are for the rest of us. You will have to cope with that. Because you’re a grown-up.

    I am quite certain that it isn’t those of us who happily critique, satirise, or mock Islam that fuel anti-muslim hate and anger. We treat Islam no differently than we treat all authoritarian ideas. We advocate a line of equality by which no concept is permitted to rise above. We believe it is so incredibly vital and necessary that all ideas – especially authoritarian ideas – be open to all forms of criticism and that the critic be free from threat. This is how you combat extremism that arises when ideas – like Islam – become so far removed from the treatment all other ideas are open to. It is therefore those like Ansar, who wish to form a protective layer around Islam as a concept, free from mocking, free from blasphemy, free from critique or attempts at reform, free from satire, whose actions and words work only to make a taboo out of Islam, which in turn creates an atmosphere of suspicion and disunity across the country. To shut off criticism perverts the idea, it makes it appear superior to its adherents who react sensitively whenever that superiority is challenged, and it creates an air of suspicion, with those overly defensive and suspicious few – with groups like the EDL – tending to react with putrid anti-muslim rhetoric and violence. It is therefore essential for the health of humanity, that all authoritarian ideas be as open as possible to mocking, criticism, and satire – this includes my own ideas. This is the goal we must progress. To react passive aggressively when just one idea is challenged, – and yet remain silent when satire or mockery or criticism of other ideas (say, ‘The Book of Mormon’ musical or ‘The Life of Brian’) are challenged – and to attempt to silence the challenges to that one idea, is vastly sinister, and dangerous, and offensive. It is this that perpetuates the idea that Islam is somehow different, and that is so incredibly dangerous for so many reasons. This is what Ansar is perpetuating. For that alone, Mo Ansar ‘offends’ me. But I’m not going to encourage complaining about him to the BBC in the hope that they might discipline him… because I’m a grown-up.