Pence Was Right, Sort Of.

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U.S. Vice-President has recently claimed that Christianity is the most persecuted faith. At first glance it seems ridiculous that someone as privileged as Mike Pence would say that his religion is the most persecuted, but is it? The honest approach is to examine the truth of the statement. According the Pew research center Christianity is still the most widespread religion. (source)

How persecuted is each religion?

It’s hard to say, ‘religious restrictions’ are on the increase worldwide but depends on what part of the world you are talking about. The issue is complicated by the fact that Christianity is the most popular religion in the world. It is also hard to find reliable numbers but according to some estimated 90,000 to 100,00 Christians die in violent conflict each year but those numbers are skewed by armed conflicts in which Christians and other faiths are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.  When you crunch the numbers it is likely that around the same percentage of Christians are killed as any other religion but again hard to find solid evidence to support this. Assuming Christians do suffer more violence, what about quality of living?

Quality Of Living

This depends where you go. Obviously the more impoverished the country the more it’s population, religious, or other wise suffer a low quality of life. Like this study that shows the most religious restrictions are in African countries that are suffering from poverty and war. By comparing the countries that have the most Christians with standard of living they have we can get some insight into quality of life for Christians worldwide.

 1  United States 230,000,000 71.0% Quality Of Life Rank  19
2  Brazil 175,700,000 91.4%  Quality of Life Rank  46
3  Russia 117,640,000 83.6%  Quality of Life Rank  75
4  Mexico 113,500,000 93%  Quality of Life Rank  51
5  Nigeria 92,281,000 52.8%  Quality of Life Rank  119
6  Philippines 86,500,000 85.8%  Quality of Life Rank  68
7  Congo, Democratic Republic of 68,558,000 95.6%  Unranked
8  Ethiopia 54,978,000 64.5%  Quality of Life Ranking  126
9  Italy 54,070,000 91.5%  Quality of Life Ranking 24
10  Germany 50,000,000       Ranking: 15

(Courtesy of Wikipedia and Pewforums.org) and the 2016 Social Progress Index

Of the top ten countries with the most Christians only two ranked above 20 and three were 75 or lower and The Congo was unranked. The list seems to show the entire spectrum of living conditions for Christians around the world from very good (United States, Germany and Italy) to very bad (Nigeria and Ethiopia and the Congo).

Conclusion:

To say that Christians are the most persecuted is only correct if you also claim that it is likely because they are the most populous. Far more serious research would be needed to conclusively show that they are the most persecuted proportionately, as Pence and many others seem to claim.

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Dear Vatican, We Haven’t Forgotten

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With so much Trump, Syria, North Korea and so on it’s easy to forget why many call for the Vatican’s dismantling. Since it’s inception the Vatican has been a center of hate, greed and violence.

Historical Crimes:

  • Crusades: For more then 500 years militant Catholics waged war on Muslims, The Jewish, heretics and pretty well anyone different from them. Millions died, including innocent men, women and children.  The Fourth Crusade alone has a death toll in the thousands.
  • Inquisitions:  in 1232 Pope Gregory established a tribunal whose goal it was to suppress heresy and thus began another few hundred years of violence, subjugation and torture.
  • Pogroms:  In addition to the massacres of the Crusades of which the Jewish were a part of the Jewish also faced regular prosecution and violence from the Catholic church through the centuries. (religious tolerance.org)

the Jews, by their own guilt, are consigned to perpetual servitude because they crucified the Lord…As slaves rejected by God, in whose death they wickedly conspire, they shall by the effect of this very action, recognize themselves as the slaves of those whom Christ’s death set free…” Pope Innocent III, 1205 AD

Nazi Complacency: The Vatican’s relationship with the Nazis during WW2 is no secret.  In fact an agreement called ‘Reichskonkordat’  signed by both the Nazi Germans and the Vatican laid out a formal relationship between the two. The agreement between the them made no mention of the Jewish so it’s hard to say if the Vatican was turning a blind to increasing persecution of the Jewish in Germany at the time or if it just didn’t care. German schools were run by the Catholic Church around WW2. Many of the ways the Nazis persecuted the Jewish mirrored Catholic Church techniques used centuries before. Never once did the church ever officially condemn the Nazis. The Independent did a great piece on the increasing evidence of Vatican complacency of antisemitic Nazism.

Homophobia: The Church has a long and sordid history of homophobic hatred. Allowing, even officially sanctioning all forms of persecution, torture and death.(source). Even today the Vatican still views homosexuals as suffering from some kind of ‘moral disorder’.

HIV in Africa: Before 2010 the Catholic Church was vehemently against condom use in any situation. The preaching against and condemnation of condoms in Africa resulted in millions of Africans getting sick with the disease. They even went so far as to say condoms cause HIV by lulling people into a false sense of security.  Christopher Hitchens said this when he confronted a Vatican cardinal in 2011:

“I think it will one day be admitted with shame that it might have been in error to say that AIDS is bad as a disease, very bad but not quite as bad as condoms are bad or not as immoral in the same way. I say in the presence of his grace and I say it to his face the preachings of his church are responsible for the death and suffering and misery of millions of his brother and sister Africans and he should apologize for it, he should show some shame.” -Christopher Hitchens

Residential Schools: Shortly after settling in North America, violently stealing native territory and murdering, starving, kidnapping and torturing their men women and children the church setup residential schools. The schools stole children from native tribes and forced them into a program intended them to assimilate them into European culture.  This part of the effort to eradicate a culture they viewed as much lesser then their own was brimming with hate, violence, neglect and sexual abuse. Though the Catholic church oversaw three-quarters of Canadian residential schools, it was the last church to have one of its leaders officially address the abuse. (source and brief history)

Sex Abuse Scandals: Several years ago investigative reporting revealed a widespread problem with sexual abuse of children by priests and covering up by Vatican Officials. Typically once sexual abuse was reported the church would simply move the offending priest to another region. Even Pope Benedict himself was caught actively encouraging his bishops to make very effort to keep the scandal within the church. A Google search reveals the depth and scope of the scandal of which only recently did the Vatican begin changing it’s policy to properly address the issue and punish it’s offending priests.

Church Wealth: The Vatican is a multi-billion dollar organization. The entire Vatican city and all the Church property, valuables..etc is worth billions more. Praying for the poor and hungry is just immensely hypocritical while this fact is true.

The Vatican lost its moral authority centuries ago., if it  even ever had it. Throughout time it has been guilty of murder, torture, robbery, rape, greed, lust,hate, subjugation and all of the things it hypocritically preaches as immoral. The Vatican continues to be mired in homophobic hatred, misogyny, greed and other scandals. They come out with apologies far too late and do far too little make amends. The Vatican would like us to forgive and forget but no moral person can do that, its too late for that. The only right thing to do now is for the Vatican to shut its doors and spreads it’s wealth to those in need and until that happens we will not let them off the hook.

 

 

What Would Jesus Not Do?

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Ran across this great comic today:

This comes from a great comic called Life of Bria Comics. There is also this one I found a few a few years back:

They both make the same great point: Some modern Christians act in a way that is not consistent with what a loving prophet would do or want his/her followers to do. While there is a lot of reason to doubt that Jesus even existed but assuming he did would Jesus want people to hate one another? Of course not. There are passages in the bible in which Jesus explicitly forbids hate:

‘Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness.’ Jon 2:9-17

The Golden Rule: ‘Do onto other as you would have done to to you’ Mark 6:31

‘Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you’ Matthew 5:43-44

‘A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.’ John 13:34

There are dozens of examples even within the bibles of how acting with contempt, hate, greed and so on is not consistent with what Jesus would want from his followers. Believers who willfully hurt and discriminate and purposely make the life of other human beings more difficult are, in the blog’s opinion, hypocrites. People like this have no place in civil society and if you read the bible closely no place in heaven either.

Kim Burell is a Hypocrite

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Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control. -Timothy 2:11-15

womenbibleThe Bible has oppressed woman for centuries. It left them without any rights and susceptible to abuse or worse at the hands of men and with little or no way to escape it. In fact there are still many places in the world where this is the case.

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.  -Ephesians 5:22-23

So if it is Kim Burell OK with using the Bible to make gay men and women sinners then it should be OK for her spouse to deny her rights and abuse her? She is a Christian after all. Of course that is not OK and neither is her attitude about another human being’s feelings.

This whole issue should be to the forefront the bigger issue of religion and equality.

Either way any woman using the Bible to justify anti-gay sentiment is at least guilty of cherry picking. However if miss Burell truly understands her religion then she is a hypocrite and deserving of the backlash she is getting.

2017 is Here And We Have a Lot of Work To Do

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With all the celebrity deaths, a Trump presidential victory and the usual chaos and turmoil in the world and our personal lives many people are talking about how bad 2016 was. Last year was, as usual, full of the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s worth reflecting on so we know what’s important going forward.

  1. Human Rights:
    1. libertyData from the CIVICUS Monitor  3.2 billion people live where freedoms are badly repressed or nonexistent.
    2. The radical alt-right will soon control the most powerful country in the world.
    3. The U.N has turned into powerless money pit.
  2. Politics:
    1. Even in thriving democracies governments continue to repress freedoms .
    2. Millions still live below the poverty line.
    3. War wages in Syria. In fact, there are least 10 different armed conflicts ongoing into 2017.
  3. bokoReligion: There are still close 6 billion people who identify as a specific religion worldwide. Different religions still wage war like the Shia and Shiite Muslims always have always have or the Burma conflict or The Boko Haram in Nigeria. This is a list of religion based violence five pages long and that’s just for 2016.

Clearly work to be done and there is always hope. This blog won’t allow the mass media and the naysayers to destroy that. Humanity, despite all of the problems, continues to push forward. Here are some examples from 2016:

Human Rights

Michael Jordan donated two million to try and help bridge the connection between police and the community.

Harriet Tubman is going to replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill.

In February, Ontario announced a $100 million initiative to curb violence against indigenous women.

Female Genital Mutliation in Africa won a major battle 

Germany took on rape culture.

The gender gap between girls and boys in school narrowed in 2016 too.

transDenmark  no longer defines transgender as a mental illness, and Canada announced a ban on transgender discrimination.

Following the end of conflict in Colombia in 2016, all of the war in the world is now limited to an arc that contains less than a sixth of the world’s population.

Politics

Homelessness in the United States declined by 35% since 2007, and Los Angeles committed to $1.2 billion to help get more people off the street.

Gambia and Tanzania banned child marriage.

victoryOpponents of female genital mutilation scored a major victory when the Pan African Parliament endorsed a continent-wide ban. 

Standing Rock Sioux stopped the pipeline construction that threatened their water supply.

Science

Gene editing became a reality

Sri Lanka is now malaria-free . Global malaria deaths have declined by 60% since the year 2000

New medicine has been shown to increase melanoma survival rate to 40%

Religion

The Anglican church now performs same sex unions.

The Rabbinical Assembly issued a resolution affirming the rights of transgender and non-conforming individuals.

ISIS started falling apart and even Muslims clerics declared a fatwa against them

Religion is still on the decline and affluence is on the rise

A few other great lists
99 reasons was 2016 was a good year.

2016: It Was A Very Good Year, Despite What The Pundits Say

People Really Love This List Of Good Things That Have Happened In 2016 Inspired by a really great Reddit thread

It was a good year but going forward we must all keep on fighting the good fight against hate, violence and suppression of democracy and our human rights that happens even right here at home. This blog sure as hell will and so should you.

Cherry Picking

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Something I have noticed across all belief systems (yes, even humanism) is cherry picking. This is the act of selectively choosing to follow some parts of a belief system but not others. For example, if my religion said not to work on Sundays and to never swear I might choose to work Sunday but I never swear. In this case I would be cherry picking. The same applies moral or political beliefs like how to be kind or what stand you should take on social issues. This happens so frequently it seems prudent to explore whether or not this is acceptable.

There is no hard evidence on how often people cherry pick their beliefs and so logically no one can say how common this is but it can be safely said if someone did document this in some way the results would be that it is a least somewhat common. So why do people do it?

  1. It’s Lazy: Cherry picking your beliefs from a system is lazy. It’s just easier to follow some beliefs than others. To be fair some beliefs systems are so vast it may be just too hard to remember all the beliefs, tenants and so on. However cherry picking is just easier and so it can be intellectually lazy.
  2. Convenience: Cherry picking is also more convenient. By cherry picking your beliefs from a system you can tweak a religion or ideology to suit your lifestyle. In this case it is only cherry picking if you could decide to do otherwise. For example a religion may say it is noble to be accepting of foreigners but you choose not to be because your political beliefs on immigration are stronger. Sometimes you have no choice like in my example above I might be choosing to work Sundays despite my religion saying it’s not allowed because I am scheduled for it and risk dismissal missing them, this wouldn’t be cherry picking.

Cherry picking can also be immensely hypocritical. A recent example of cherry picking would be the Kim Davis marriage license controversy that occurred last year. She choose not to issue marriage licences to gay couples saying it violates her religious beliefs while at the same having been divorced 3 times already, something the bible forbids. In fact as of 2014 divorce rates were highest among conservative Christians.

Cherry picking also opens up the possibility of the no true scotsman fallacy.  This allows people to dismiss anyone else who practices their religion that has done or said something wrong or socially unacceptable.

Cherry picking is not necessarily bad. As we grow as a person and as a society we learn new things and come to a better understanding of right and wrong and so we let go of antiquated beliefs. There are a multitude of examples of this from extremes like human sacrifice to small daily things remembering not to yell at the kids. So it then becomes a question of how many beliefs in a particular system do we reject before we aren’t really practicing the religion or ideology anymore? This may be a matter of opinion but sooner or later when you water something down enough it ends up just water.

In summary cherry picking is only acceptable when it is part of the learning process. In all other cases, especially those that cause others some kind of suffering (i.e. denying a couple’s right to be married) cherry picking is not a respectable act and so therefore can be rejected.

 

Sindr

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It is  has become widely known that religion is on the decline in the most affluent countries. and this decline shows no signs of changing. So it makes sense that various religious institutions have made great efforts to rejuvenate memberships. Churches and religious organizations have done everything from offering more convenient service times, to more comfortable seating to rock bands in place of choirs to liberalizing their policies and being more accepting of alternate views and lifestyles in an effort to try and bring people back the fold.

The latest attempt to reach out is an app called Sindr. Bearing a name similar to a widely popular dating app its purpose is to locate nearby confessionals. A clever attempt to reach a younger generation of Catholics and make it easier to practice their religion. Especially smart when one considers that it is the younger generation that is practicing religion the least and as such the app makes sense if your goal is to rejuvenate dwindling numbers.

Confessions are OK in the sense that it feels good to express what you feel guilty about and get a sense of forgiveness after the penance.  The trouble lies is what religions like Catholicism can make you feel guilty about, which is a lot. Here is a short list of sins or if that’s not convincing that the bible is relentless in its ability to guilt a person here is a list of well over 600 sins. The bible even goes far as to say we are born in sin, we are sinners by default. ‘for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, ‘ Romans 3:23. Indeed it is a demoralizing belief system for which you must constantly work to gain God’s approval. As such this app is a merely a modern way to propagate a system of guilt from which, unless you let go of the faith, there is no escape.

The app itself is mostly harmless but the belief system it is promoting is not. However if numbers continue to their current trend it may well be too late for Catholicism, and religion in general, in affluent countries and so apps like this can safely be viewed as desperate and laughable. In fact, I confess, I laughed. I even thought of a great tagline ‘Tired of Tinder but still feeling sinful? Try Sindr!’