Thursday, August 19, 2010

Thoughts on a Bullshit Controversy

What will the summer of 2010 be remembered for? The flooding in Pakistan? The capping of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico? It sure seems like it's been the Summer of the "Ground Zero Mosque". You'd think after the phony Death Panels, the Breitbart hoaxes, Birtherism, etc., we might have some kind of Bullshit Scandal Fatigue. But, no. Every damn day it's another "Ground Zero Mosque" debate.  Considering:
  1. It's not exactly a mosque
  2. It's not actually at Ground Zero
  3. The United States of America is (still, I think) a free country -- the First Amendment has not been revoked
  4. Muslims were among the innocents killed in the terror attacks
  5. Nobody cares about the Japanese Cultural Center near Pearl Harbor, nobody cares if there are Christian churches near the Oklahoma City bombing site, and we let Catholic churches continue to stand next to playgrounds

Just as the KKK doesn't represent all of Christianity, radical Islamic terrorists don't represent all of the Muslim faith. It should make every Muslim and every Christian who fancies themselves a moderate, enlightened, modern practitioner of their faith sick to their fucking stomachs that the radicals within their respective faiths are reading the same Word of God/Allah as they are, and they have perfectly defensible interpretations of the same scriptures. Religious moderates and extremists are cherry-pickers. The faithful need to own up to the fact their scriptures are not perfect. And, recognizing their imperfection, acknowledge their provenance. They are the words of men, not gods, and as such should be judged for by standards like truthfulness and logical validity.  It has been amply demonstrated, they are lacking in both.

If you want to debate the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque" go ahead. But if you're afraid of it, or your feelings are hurt by it, you should really take a good long look within and ask yourself why you're such snivelling hypocrite before you say one more word about it. You can't argue against it for those reasons without being against a boatload of other stuff that you've already shown you're not against.

I have no doubt there are people who lost family and friends in the 9/11 attacks who still grieve, deeply, for their lost loved ones. These people, with all due respect, do not get tell other people how or where to practice their religion. We have a Constitution, federal and state laws, local zoning boards, and what have you to set the rules on where houses of worship can or can't be built. If we love the rule of law, and we should -- really, we should -- then we look those people who want set aside the laws to govern based on fear and anger in the eyes and explain that their recourse is to make a reasonable case to change the laws, not to hassle the people who are following the rules. Alternately, if we're changing the rules so that the most radical, deranged, and violent practitioners of a religion determine how we tolerate all practice of even the mainstream versions of those religions ... well maybe then we're on to something. Oh, mainstream Christians don't want to take responsibility for the right-wing militias, the Christian Identity movement, the KKK?  I guess that argument is a non-starter then. Until that's the case, we don't get to paint all Muslims with the terrorist brush.

Look, in case it wasn't already clear, I'm against every church, synagogue, mosque, temple ... what have you ... any building that celebrates any religion that endorses violence against anyone. Sure, there's some beautiful architecture out there, and I'm all for people getting together in the spirit of community to help each other out; but, organized religion is a spectacular failure at promoting tolerance, peace, and community.  It's all a tragic waste of the human spirit. I wish every community center were secular; but, wishing doesn't make it so and I wouldn't change the laws to forbid their construction. I'll argue the case for not wasting another cent, another minute of human labor, on superstitious bullshit and I'll keep losing the argument and that's just how it is. Why am I surprised it seems like it's largely up to secular progressives to remind the faithful that (until we finally win freedom from it) we have freedom of religion in this country. Idiots.

It wasn't the best episode of the The West Wing, but Sorkin gives Josh the right words in "Isaac and Ishmael":

Learn things. Be good to each other. Read the newspapers, 
go the movies, go to a party. Read a book. In the meantime, 
remember pluralism. You want to get these people? I mean, 
you really want to reach in and kill them where they live? 
Keep accepting more than one idea. Makes 'em absolutely crazy.

These ideals move us forward: pluralism, liberty, the rule of law, reason, and compassion.

Irrationality, hatred, fear, and intolerance (in a word: religion) will be death of us.

The world's too small, and getting smaller everyday, for us to not be able to live side by side peacefully on account of our inability to reconcile differences of opinion on entirely made-up bullshit. There's real work to do.
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