left biblioblography: October 2013

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Special Privileges? Always The Religious Demand Exemption…

2angryturtlesCross-posted @ the Atheist Oasis
In my not-so-humble opinion, the religious tend to pretend to be persecuted, which is very much a display of pounding the floor with fists and feet while caterwauling about some imagined slight.

Case in point:

Christian care worker goes to appeal court over right not to work on Sundays

A Christian children's worker has mounted a test case at the court of appeal for the right not to work on a Sunday.

Celestina Mba, 38, said she was forced from her job at a children's home in south-west London after it refused to allow her to observe the sabbath as a day of rest.

In a case expected to have far-reaching consequences for faith in the workplace, three of Britain's most senior judges will decide whether employers have a duty to provide a "reasonable accommodation" for the beliefs of Christian workers.

Employment lawyers believe that a ruling in Mba's favour could pave the way for followers of other religions to not work on their holy day.

Speaking outside the court of appeal on Wednesday, Mba said: "I'm here hoping to have my individual right to worship. It's a relationship between me and God and no one can determine what that is between us.

"I think people have forgotten common sense and how to accommodate people. This shouldn't be happening. A reasonable accommodation of people's beliefs would make life so much easier."

Mba has become a cause célèbre for campaigners who believe that the courts have refused to protect "core components of Christian practice" in the workplace, while granting protection to other faiths.

Andrea Minichiello Williams, a barrister whose group, the Christian Legal Centre, is supporting Mba, said: "Celestina's case continues a trend where we are seeing secular courts ruling on core components of Christian practice.

"However, the courts have acted to protect the Kara bracelet, Afro 'cornrow haircuts', the wearing of the hijab and a Muslim's right to fast, but have refused to grant protection to the cross or the Christian Sunday.

"Celestina's offer to work for less and work unpopular shifts, even when others had offered to work in her place on Sundays, was clearly a reasonable accommodation that her employer could, and should, have provided."

Mba said she was forced to resign from her job at Brightwell children's home in Merton when the council declined her request to observe the sabbath as a day of rest.

Mba's employer, Merton council, is said to have refused to rule out rostering her to work some Sundays at the 24-hour children's home, despite Mba's offer to work night shifts and for less money instead.

Mba wants to use the judgment to overturn an earlier employment appeal tribunal ruling which decided that Merton council was justified in refusing to permit Sundays off.

There’s so much wrong with this. I don’t even have to address the supernatural folderol.

"However, the courts have acted to protect the Kara bracelet, Afro 'cornrow haircuts', the wearing of the hijab and a Muslim's right to fast, but have refused to grant protection to the cross or the Christian Sunday.”

None of those people demanded a day off.

"Celestina's offer to work for less and work unpopular shifts, even when others had offered to work in her place on Sundays, was clearly a reasonable accommodation that her employer could, and should, have provided."

It’s the employer’s decision. Leave. (Which she did.) I’d be willing to bet there’s dozens of facts that were curtailed in lieu of a sound-bite. Being a Christian is zero guarantee of being honest.

Mba said she was forced to resign from her job at Brightwell children's home in Merton when the council declined her request to observe the sabbath as a day of rest.

Anybody who knows their shit knows that ‘sabbath’ was originally on a Saturday, but got changed in order to blend in with Roman culture. Duh!

Mba wants to use the judgment to overturn an earlier employment appeal tribunal ruling which decided that Merton council was justified in refusing to permit Sundays off.

This thing wouldn’t even have had any legs, had the religious tripe been introduced. More whiny carping about having the expected free pass refused.

As I like to say: no free passes. The days of special dispensation should be over – someone’s superstition no longer be a mitigating circumstance.

Till the next post, then.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

More On The Madness Of Muslims: The Non-Sacrifice Honored

Cross posted @ the Atheist Oasis
Quran-health-hazardOctober 13th and 14th marked an Islamic event - Eid al-Adha. What does this mean, you ask?

It is specifically, the

Eid al-Adha (Arabic: عيد الأضحى‎ ʿīd al-aḍḥā, "festival of the sacrifice"), is also called Feast of the Sacrifice, the Major Festival, the Greater Eid, Kurban Bayram (Turkish: Kurban Bayramı; Albanian and Bosnian: kurban-bajram), or Eid e Qurban (Persian: عید قربان‎), is an important religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide to honour the willingness of the prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his young first-born son Ismail (Ishmael) as an act of submission to Allah's command and his son's acceptance to being sacrificed, before Allah intervened to provide Abraham with a Lamb to sacrifice instead. In the lunar Islamic calendar, Eid al-Adha falls on the 10th day of Dhu al-Hijjah and lasts for four days.

Or to put it more frighteningly:

According to Islamic tradition, approximately four thousand years ago, the valley of Mecca (in present-day Saudi Arabia) was a dry, rocky and uninhabited place. Allah instructed Abraham (ʾIbrāhīm in Arabic) to bring Hājar (Hāǧar), his Egyptian wife, and Ismā'īl (Ishmael), his only child at the time, to Arabia from the land of Canaan.

As Abraham was preparing for his return journey back to Canaan, Hājar asked him, "Did Allah order you to leave us here? Or are you leaving us here to die." Abraham turned around to face his wife. He was so sad that he could not say anything. He pointed to the sky showing that Allah commanded him to do so. Hājar said, "Then Allah will not waste us; you can go". Though Abraham had left a large quantity of food and water with Hājar and Ishmael, the supplies quickly ran out, and within a few days the two began to feel the pangs of hunger and dehydration.

Hājar ran up and down between two hills called Al-Safa and Al-Marwah seven times, in her desperate quest for water. Exhausted, she finally collapsed beside her baby Ishmael and prayed to Allah for deliverance. Miraculously, a spring of water gushed forth from the earth at the feet of baby Ishmael. Other accounts have the angel Gabriel (Jibrail) striking the earth and causing the spring to flow in abundance. With this secure water supply, known as the Zamzam Well, they were not only able to provide for their own needs, but were also able to trade water with passing nomads for food and supplies.

Years later, Abraham was instructed by Allah to return from Canaan to build a place of worship adjacent to Hājar's well (the Zamzam Well). Abraham and Ishmael constructed a stone and mortar structure —known as the Kaaba— which was to be the gathering place for all who wished to strengthen their faith in Allah. As the years passed, Ishmael was blessed with Prophethood (Nubuwwah) and gave the nomads of the desert his message of submission to Allah. After many centuries, Mecca became a thriving desert city and a major center for trade, thanks to its reliable water source, the well of Zamzam.

One of the main trials of Abraham's life was to face the command of Allah to devote his dearest possession, his only son. Upon hearing this command, he prepared to submit to Allah's will. During this preparation, Satan (Shaitan) tempted Abraham and his family by trying to dissuade them from carrying out Allah's commandment, and Ibrahim drove Satan away by throwing pebbles at him. In commemoration of their rejection of Satan, stones are thrown at symbolic pillars signifying Satan during the Hajj rites.

When Ismā'īl was about 13 (Abraham being 99), Allah decided to test their faith in public. Abraham had a recurring dream, in which Allah was commanding him to offer up for sacrifice – an unimaginable act – his son, whom Allah had granted him after many years of deep prayer. Abraham knew that the dreams of the prophets were divinely inspired, and one of the ways in which Allah communicated with his prophets. When the intent of the dreams became clear to him, Abraham decided to fulfill Allah's command and offer Ishmael for sacrifice.

Although Abraham was ready to sacrifice his dearest for Allah's sake, he could not just bring his son to the place of sacrifice without his consent. Ishmael had to be consulted as to whether he was willing to give up his life in fulfillment of Allah's command. This consultation would be a major test of Ishmael's maturity in faith; love and commitment for Allah; willingness to obey his father; and readiness to sacrifice his own life for the sake of Allah.

Abraham presented the matter to his son and asked for his opinion about the dreams of slaughtering him. Ishmael did not show any hesitation or reservation even for a moment. He said, "Father, do what you have been commanded. You will find me, Insha'Allah (Allah willing), to be very patient." His mature response, his deep insight into the nature of his father’s dreams, his commitment to Allah, and ultimately his willingness to sacrifice his own life for the sake of Allah were all unprecedented.

When Abraham attempted to cut Ishmael's throat, he was astonished to see that Ishmael was unharmed and instead, he found a dead ram which was slaughtered. Abraham had passed the test by his willingness to carry out Allah's command.

This is mentioned in the Quran as follows:

"O my Lord! Grant me a righteous (son)!" So We gave him the good news of a boy, possessing forbearance. And when (his son) was old enough to walk and work with him, (Abraham) said: O my dear son, I see in vision that I offer you in sacrifice: Now see what is your view!" (The son) said: "O my father! Do what you are commanded; if Allah wills, you will find me one practising patience and steadfastness!" So when they both submitted and he threw him down upon his forehead, We called out to him saying: O Ibraheem! You have indeed fulfilled the vision; surely thus do We reward those who do good. Most surely this was a manifest trial. And We ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice. And We perpetuated (praise) to him among the later generations. "Peace and salutation to Abraham!" Thus indeed do We reward those who do right. Surely he was one of Our believing servants.

As a reward for this sacrifice, Allah then granted Abraham the good news of the birth of his second son, Is-haaq (Isaac):

And We gave him the good news of Is-haaq, a prophet from among the righteous.

Abraham had shown that his love for Allah superseded all others: that he would lay down his own life or the lives of those dearest to him in submission to Allah's command. Muslims commemorate this ultimate act of sacrifice every year during Eid al-Adha.

To put it all in a nutshell: what a load of horse manure.

For one thing, it is highly unlikely that old pimp Abram ever actually existed at all (horrors!). Secondly, the origin story featured Isaac not Ishmael. Thirdly, the whole narrative is derivative syncretism – it borrows willy-nilly from the original, and injects piles of horseshit into it. The original also stipulated that Isaac would be a king, and the seed of kings would spring from him, so the likelihood that good old Abe was a raging psychotic just hearing bloodthirsty voices (let me qualify that, at all times), and even if prophecies were ever real, it’s a solid-state contradiction in terms. If indeed Ishmael ever existed, he was an idiot for being willing to proffer his throat to dear old demented dad.

I was raised (as most of you were, I suspect) to be in awe of this story (in whatever incarnation), to see this as some sort of inspirational milestone in the bible (or whatever), but the truth of the matter, it’s horrific and scary instead. A deity asking for child sacrifice? Never mind the imaginary sky daddy in question reneged (something today’s Republicans would term ‘flip-flopping’) – the mere suggestion should send civilized shudders down anyone’s spine.

Allah, Jehovah, Jesus – it’s all a load of bullocks, as our cousins across the pond would say.

Till the next post, then.


Saturday, October 05, 2013

Allegories Gone Wild: To Russia, With Hate

Cross posted @ the Atheist Oasis
religi-freedomThere is just no excuse for this horseshit:

Anti-Gay Riot In Tblisi Tests Balance Between Church, State

While gay rights have been gaining ground in the West, they've been facing a strong backlash in many countries of the former Soviet Union.

Russia recently passed a law that makes it a crime to give information about "non-traditional sexual relationships" to minors.

Gay-rights advocates say the wording of the law is so vague that it can be used to ban gay-pride parades or, in fact, any public discussion of same-sex issues.

Homosexuality was a crime in the former Soviet Union, and it remains so in former Soviet republics such as Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

The former Soviet republic of Georgia is contending with the aftermath of an episode of mass violence that took place in May. In Georgia's capital city, Tblisi, a mob of thousands attacked a small group of people who were staging a protest against homophobia.

The leaders of the attack? Georgian Orthodox priests.

The episode raised issues about human rights in a religiously conservative country, as well as questions about the balance of power between church and state.

Priests Among Violent Attackers

The incident began when members of Georgia's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and their supporters obtained a permit to hold a vigil on the steps of parliament.

They planned to mark the International Day Against Homophobia on May 17.

When some leaders of the Georgian Orthodox Church heard about it, they urged their congregations to come to a counterdemonstration, which was promoted as a peaceful and family-oriented event.

When the day came, it was anything but peaceful.

Led by Orthodox priests, the crowd overwhelmed the police barrier around the small group of anti-homophobia demonstrators. Video from the clash shows a priest brandishing a stool as a weapon; other priests are heard to curse and yell "Kill them! Kill them!"

Nino Kharchilava was part of a small group of demonstrators that never even made it to the parliament steps. They were surrounded by counterdemonstrators and threatened until police hustled them into a minibus in an effort to get them away from the mob.

Kharchilava is a project assistant for the Women's Initiatives Supporting Group in Tblisi. She says the bus, too, was overwhelmed by attackers, who smashed most of the windows and thrust their hands through the broken glass to get at the demonstrators inside.

"One guy was like, hitting [at] me, and I just tried to communicate and tried to say 'What are you doing?' " she recalls. "And when I saw the blood around, and I couldn't figure out whether this blood is mine, or not, and then I realized it's not my blood, it's their blood."

"You know, they were ready to kill themselves [in order to kill] us," Kharchilava says. "It was really insane."

Church Does Not Punish Participants

The Rev. Mikael Botkovali, a spokesman for the Orthodox Church, brought members of his own congregation to the demonstration.

On a recent day, he sits in the calm baptistery of his church, surrounded by saints painted in the Byzantine style.

Botkovali says the church opposes homosexuality, but it doesn't seek to interfere with what gay people do in private. Where the faithful must speak out, he says, is when LGBT people seek to spread what he calls "homosexual propaganda."

"Religion obliges us to talk to these people and to show them that they're wrong, they're sinners," he says. "Even in the Bible, it's written about these people that, all of them, they will go to hell."

But Botkovali condemns the violence and says the priests who led it were rightly punished under civil and church law.

When pressed, he concedes that the church punishment consists only of suspending the priests from serving for a while and sending them to a monastery outside the city until they confess their errors.

After the violence, Georgia's prime minister, Bidzina Ivanishvili, said that those who promoted the violence would be punished.

A Test For The Rule Of Law

But gay-rights activist Irakli Vacharadze says that so far, the civil punishment hasn't been strong enough to show that Georgia's new government is willing to apply the rule of law to such a popular and powerful institution as the church.

Vacharadze is the executive director of an LGBT organization called Identova, or "Identity," and he was at the May 17 demonstration. He says that key members of Georgia's parliament, including the head of the Committee on Human Rights, have declared themselves subservient to the patriarch of the Orthodox Church.

"What does it mean," Vacharadze asks, "when the chair of the human rights committee says that 'our statement on the human rights violations will not go over what the patriarch has said'? It's a theocracy. It's quite dangerous. We don't want to turn Georgia into next Iran."

Lasha Bakradze, the head of the Georgian Literature Museum in Tblisi, helped organize an online petition against homophobic violence. He says more than 12,000 people signed the petition in its first two days online.

The mass violence on May 17 isn't just about sexual orientation and traditional values, Bakradze says, it's a demonstration of power by extremists who have made their way into the higher levels of the church.

"I think that the church in Georgia has shown to the government how powerful [it is] ... and it's dangerous, and it's against Georgian statehood," he says.

But Archil Kbilashvili, Georgia's chief prosecutor, says the case is not over, and that priests who were involved in the violence still face charges that could require them to serve jail time.

And, he says, no matter what the outcome, the case will serve as a key precedent.

"We cannot remember when our prosecution office introduced charges against some spiritual leaders," Kbilashvili says.

LGBT rights groups say they're still waiting for proof that the government will hold those spiritual leaders to account under the law.

These people sicken me. As always they mask their hypocrisy behind piety, claiming it’s for ‘souls’, hollering about love and gawd, but their true colors are there for all to see, uneducated, xenophobic little pissants hiding behind the ultimate bullshit: religion.

Till the next post, then.