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Austin Cline

Carnival of the Liberals #9: Ask And Ye Shall Receive

By March 29, 2006

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When putting out calls for submissions for this ninth edition of the Carnival of the Liberals, I requested that people try to write about religious and philosophical issues in order to help me keep this "on topic" for my site. My trust in the community of bloggers was well-placed because I received quite a few submissions dealing with religious and philosophical topics in the context of liberal politics. I've picked out ten which I hope you'll enjoy as much as I did...

The Adventures of the Scientologist Pharmacist: Christian pharmacists want the authority to refuse to handle prescriptions when the use of such medication violates their religious beliefs. What if the same exemptions were extended to other, less... uh... “mainstream” religions? Can we place our trust in them to make medical decision for us? Rey on the Hill describes a possible dialogue between a woman seeking a simple pain reliever and a Scientologist Pharmacist.


Jesus is My Pharmacist: Speaking of pharmacists, The Blue Republic has an editorial about making Jesus everyone’s pharmacist: “But if Cleveland Steamer (the pharmacist) can impose his moral code on Maria Teresa Spermatozoa (the high school slut), or Willie B. Hardigan (a victim of the dreaded ED)...then what is to stop Peter Gozinya (local “One Hour Martinizing” dude) from refusing to dry-clean the clothing of the neighborhood Amish hooligans.”


Theocracy Watch: Using the religion of some to construct the basis of public policy for everyone is an important ingredient of theocracies, and Daylight Atheism discusses the recent resolution of the Missouri House as a further sign of how some far-right Christians are pushing this concept:

[R]egarding the “positive role” that Christianity has played in United States history, this verdict is a highly slanted and selective version of the truth. Without a doubt there have been Christian individuals and groups who have done tremendous good, but dedicated, pious Christians have been on both sides of every important political controversy and social-rights movement, from the emancipation of slaves to the granting of women’s suffrage to the ending of segregation.

There were people quoting the Bible and warning of the wrath of God who stood on the wrong side of every one of these controversies. To gloss over this ugly truth, as the religious right would like to do, is to present a deceptive and distorted picture of the history of the United States of America to serve their partisan ends — and this, after all, is the religious right’s stock in trade.

I’ve been doing a lot of research on the relationship between Christianity and Nazism in Germany, and anymore references to the “positive role” of Christianity in America makes me immediately think about Nazi discussions of “Positive Christianity,” a concept recorded in the original Nazi Party platform. Obviously Christianity has inspired people to do genuinely good things, but attempts to declare America a “Christian Nation” are not among them...


President Bush’s Secret Plan for Winning the War in Iraq: Religion doesn’t have to be a force for oppression, though, it can also be a force for selflessness. Jon Swift suggests that perhaps Bush has a secret plan for Iraq: get everyone there so angry at America that they unite their efforts against us rather than squabble amongst themselves:

There is something noble and Christ-like in this sacrifice. In fact, Bush’s plan has Biblical antecedents. The ancient Hebrews would conduct a ritual during Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, in which all of their misfortunes would be transferred to a goat, called a scapegoat, which would then be driven off into the wilderness or pushed over a cliff. By taking on all of the problems of the Middle East, we are the goat.

I’m not sure I want to be the goat, but perhaps we should just trust that Bush knows what he is doing...


Are These Your Moral Values?: Complaints about using the government to impose religious doctrines should not obscure the fact that, as Alonzo Fyfe, Atheist Ethicist, explains, a good government must by definition be a moral government. Governance and morality cannot and should not be separated — all laws and all government policies must reflect moral values of some sort. What sorts of moral values are being reflected by the current actions of the administration?

President Bush repeatedly said that his administration would not spy on Americans without a warrant, while at the same time he was repeatedly renewing a secret executive order authorizing the NSA to spy on American citizens without a warrant.

President Bush has his advisors rewrite papers produced by government scientists, turning those documents in a pack of lies then using those lies to defend administration policies.

President Bush said that nobody could have foreseen the destruction to New Orleans just days after he was told to expect the possibility that Hurricane Katrina would flood New Orleans.

These are not “gray areas” that are open to interpretation. Saying that he will always get a court order before spying on Americans while he has staff members spying on Americans without a court order is a flat-out lie.

Well, I guess maybe we shouldn’t just trust President Bush after all...


How Trustworthy are Journalists? If you can’t trust President Bush, who can you trust? Not journalists, it seems — Mark A. Rayner writes about a survey in Canada showing that people “trust” journalists more than lawyers (barely), but less than “senior public servants.” Journalists are still well above politicians, but what kind of recommendation is that? They are also probably trusted more than prison snitches, but I wouldn’t put that on my resume.


Religion As Addiction: Most of the criticisms of religion might be better framed as criticisms of particular forms of religion the Republic of T. notices over the span of a couple of days many stories which relate to how religion can be an addiction, noting “though, upon further examination, fundamentalism-as-addiction would probably be a better name for the phenomenon.”

I would go a bit further and say that perhaps we dealing with an “addiction” to authoritarianism. Fundamentalism can be thought of as the authoritarian impulse applied to religion to an extreme degree, and one of the articles cited by RoT is the study of what sorts of kids are more likely to grow up to be conservative. Whether our criticisms focus on politics or on religion, we might all do well to go back and to read up on studies of authoritarian mindsets and start look at how some of these different social phenomena relate to each other.


Likeness of Muhammad: The riots over the caricatures of Muhammad which appeared in European newspapers raise the question of what qualifies as a “likeness” of Muhammad such that it is forbidden. Martin Rundkvist at Salto Sobrius has posted a “likeness” of Muhammad, but which Muhammad? Can we trust him to have posted the right (or wrong) one?


From the Book of Genesis: When it seems like we can’t trust anyone or anything in our lives, perhaps it makes sense to turn to the old, traditional favorites like the Bible. Of course, scripture isn’t what it used to be, so Vince LiCata at The Science Creative Quarterly has a “misplaced chapter” from Genesis:

And lo, God, who had created all the world in only six days, had created mankind on the fifth or sixth day (He could never remember which, because eight beers is a lot, even for God). After this great achievement God decided to devise elaborate falsehoods to hide His accomplishments. [...]

Some men and women really made God’s head hurt. These humans, who called themselves scientists, made God’s life a living Hell. Here He was, a supreme being of love and truth, who commanded all mankind to seek perfection in love and truth, and He had to stay up late almost every bloody night of the week, and most weekends, fabricating increasingly elaborate lies to keep these so-called scientists thinking that He did not exist and that the Earth and all its living beings came about via a slow, semi-random process they called “evolution”.

It looks like we can’t trust God and God’s revelations in the Bible, either. What is the world coming to?


Come out, come out wherever you are! Maybe we should just try to trust in ourselves. Writing at Neural Gourmet, Modem Butterfly discusses the recent survey finding that atheists are the least trusted of all American minorities and argues that atheists need to start having the self-confidence necessary to stand up, publicly acknowledge that they are atheists, and demand that they be treated with dignity, respect, and equality.

Before we can organize, we must identify ourselves. We have to come out of the closet and be open about being atheists. We have to be honest with our friends and our families, tell the truth about ourselves and our lives. We need to meet and get active with other atheists. We need to form a community. [...] [E]veryone knows that you can’t treat a person as though they are a type based on their race, and everyone knows this because decades ago types of people started standing up and demanding to be treated as equal individuals. Atheists can, and must do it too.

The only ones stopping us are ourselves.

The only ones stopping us are ourselves. Wise words, no matter what the subject.


The next Carnival of the Liberals will appear on April 12 at Pharyngula.

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