Archive for Human Rights

Inhumane and unnecessary

Posted in Faith, Human Rights, Islam, Religion, WTF? with tags , , , , on July 9, 2010 by Jay Vollmond

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If you’ve been paying attention to the media this week you’ve probably seen one or two articles related to the planned stoning of an Iranian woman who has been convicted of adultery. Here’s a basic summary of how her “conviction” went:

“In May 2006, a criminal court in East Azerbaijan province found Ashtiani guilty of having had an “illicit relationship” with two men following the death of her husband.

But that September, during the trial of a man accused of murdering her husband, another court reopened an adultery case based on events that allegedly took place before her husband died, the BBC reported.

Despite retracting a confession she said she had been forced to make under duress, Ashtiani was convicted of “adultery while being married” and sentenced to death by stoning.

Ashtiani, a mother of two, denies the charges. She has been in prison since 2006 and has already been given 99 lashes. She has lost appeals for clemency.

Under Iran’s Islamic laws, adultery is the only capital offense punishable by stoning. A man is usually buried up to his waist, while a woman is buried up to her neck. Those carrying out the verdict then pelt the convict with stones until he or she dies.” (MSNBC)

Okay, first of all, this is horrendous. Most people around the world will probably agree with me. The article states that many people have been up-in-arms lately about the possibility of this woman being stoned to death. I, of course, am one of them and appalled as well. However, what I noticed upon my first reading of the article is that what this woman has already gone through should have made many people shudder in disgust.

She has already suffered several years in an Iranian prison (I can’t imagine that it’s very clean), been torn away from her children, forced  into giving a false confession, and whipped, yes WHIPPED, 99 times. I view stoning as a vile and inhumane thing to do, probably one of the things that most shows the barbaric nature of the Muslim faith and culture. But I find it unfortunate that it took to this point for this woman’s story to reach public knowledge.

A major side-effect of this idiotic process is the damage done to her children, who now have had to deal with the murder of their father and the inappropriate imprisonment of their mother. The son also witnessed his mother’s lashings at the age of 17. We can add psychological distress to the list of effects that Sharia Law has on everyone involved.

“She’s innocent, she’s been there for five years for doing nothing,” Sajad told the Guardian. He described the imminent execution as barbaric. “Imagining her, bound inside a deep hole in the ground, stoned to death, has been a nightmare for me and my sister for all these years.”

Why is this happening in modern times?

One thing that frustrates me at every turn is the misogyny that occurs in the Muslim culture. To me, and anyone else who has had their consciousness raised and made aware, women are no less equal to men, and to treat them simply as birthers and sub-human is wrong. What’s even worse is that the sexual repression in the Islamic culture is always channeled towards the women like it is their fault life sucks. They view the women as temptresses who would otherwise draw all men to temptation. Such is the reason for women’s’ requirement of the burka, to prevent them from “dressing inappropriately.” Because the men apparently have no self-control (raping that lead to “honor-killings” are also common in Muslim-led countries) they oppress women at every level of life.

What occurs within lands under Sharia Law is seldom witnessed or made public to outsiders. I certainly hope that these types of human travesties reach the public eye more often so that the world can put more pressure on these countries to abide by human decency, not Islamic oppression. I don’t want this woman stoned to death, imprisoned, removed from her children, chastised, OR whipped for a false charge. Especially if this charge is for something like adultery after the death of her husband. The media is portraying very little but the stoning, and it seems every article I read quickly notes what she has already gone through, but does so matter-of-factly while skipping over it. Hopefully the whole story will be known widespread and the world come together to prevent this woman’s barbaric death.

I like that the media has started covering this. However, if I may ask a few things of the media… PLEASE relate to your readers that things of this sort can only come to fruition when barbarism and religion are allowed to reside within governmental processes. I’m not sure why the religious foundation of these atrocities is never spoken of. All we get is  “Under Iran’s Islamic laws…”. Can the media please explain this in further detail for those who are not as well informed on Islamic society? This is what happens when a theocracy is in place; when religion determines “morality” and “law” regardless of how a-moral the outcome is.

Ask yourself, would something like this happen in a civilized country? Do we hear stories of this nature from Denmark or Norway (unless it’s from a Muslim or religious extremist)? Does a secular society allow human rights to be trampled on in such a way? No, only faith and religion have the power to destroy the progress of society in such a quick and simple way. Sarah Palin, I’m looking at you…

*As an American I have to say this with a bit of tongue-in-cheek since a large portion of my country’s citizens are ignorant and don’t approve of (or in fact fight against vehemently) gay marriage and universal health care. So to some Europeans, America probably looks just as ignorant as Iran in this situation. Sorry world, many of us are trying!

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What the Ten Commandents Should Have Been

Posted in Human Rights, Religion, Social Causes with tags , on June 30, 2010 by Jay Vollmond

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I’m always awestruck at the incredible support of the biblical Ten Commandments as some sort of ultimate moral code. What puzzles me is the view that this archaic “written in stone” baloney is something to actually live by. Now, of course, there are some decent points: no killing, lying, stealing, perjury. Unfortunately those who hold these ten articles as the impeccable moral code from some supernatural being believe that they have the best way to live morally. Really? I mean, really?

Have they not read other historical documents that were written before Moses? Just research a few of Siddhartha Buddha’s sentiments. Ever heard of the Jains? They’re just as dogmatic as the rest of the religious, but at least their dharma includes peace and the effort to never hurt another living creature. There is very little that would support any claims of these sorts by Christianity and Islam in the bible or Quran. The Golden Rule and the Ten Commandments were the best Christianity could offer? It’s really pathetic when you actually READ these ten rules as set by the supposed creator of the universe. The first few are examples of a jealous idiot-deity showing how insecure he really is. If the Judeo-Christian god does exist, he’s a cry-baby bitch. Yes, I said that the god of the bible is an insecure bitch. What type of personality sets apart three of the ten “most important” rules for humanity as self-preservation and prevention of serving other gods? A man (yes, it was certainly a human man) who needs to control the masses.

Now I’m sure everyone has heard the Ten Commandments at least once, if not memorized it due to childhood indoctrination. After all, how can you miss the giant stone representations of the Ten Commandments that religious zealots somehow get placed on our secular government’s courthouses? These blatant offenses to the separation of church and state are continuously being fought against by secular organizations such as the Secular Coalition for America (www.secular.org). Unfortunately a lot of elected officials subscribe to the same delirious beliefs that their constituents do.

Personally, I had to memorize the Mormon Articles of Faith (which I will attack at some point in the near future, these are less known by the general public) growing up. So in reality I don’t need to go through them all and dissect each one. Christopher Hitchens’ revised version has already done an excellent job of this, and has shown the amoral aspects of the Decalogue. There are many other alternative versions of the Ten Commandments that have shown modern human initiative into what would work more effectively (and less barbarically) than the Ten Commandments of the bible. Here is my take, and a revision of what I feel would be a MUCH better set of ten suggestions (mostly from a positive aspect and not the negative “Thou shalt not…” variety) to live by… Oh, and they would be suggestions, not commandments from a bearded man in the sky. In no particular order:

1.       Refrain from causing suffering unto others in any way (this includes rape, torture, killing, and slavery among others), especially through physical, mental, or sexual abuse.
2.       Live life in a way that ensures happiness for you and those around you, so long as it does not cause suffering unto others.
3.       Humans and animals are all creatures worthy of respect; Humans are in a unique position to make the world a better place for themselves AND animals.
4.       Attempt to uplift everyone around you with positive words of encouragement, support, love, and laughter.
5.       Support education, critical thinking, science, music, the arts, and learning in general; Without education we are lost.
6.       Everyone is equally free to find consensual love, companionship, and happiness so long as it does not cause suffering unto others; What people do (safely) in private is no one else’s business.
7.       Do not waste precious resources and time fighting against the rights of others. Fight FOR rights, not AGAINST them.
8.       The Earth is our home – Treat it with respect.
9.       Small gestures go a long way; A simple “Please” and “Thank you” or holding a door open for someone shows basic respect and is positively contagious.
10.    Be cognizant of how your actions affect others; Will your actions improve the quality of life or degrade it?

This is a quick list that I compiled. Imagine if the great thinkers of the world got together every decade or two and analyzed the state of the world. We could create a living, breathing ‘Human Document of Ethics’ that could adjust to the needs of the world.

Perhaps once gay marriage and marijuana are legal all around the world Number 6 on my list will seem like a no-brainer. I say that with a bit of a laugh, however, since many of these on my list seem like a no-brainer already. Unfortunately the poisonous faith of religions causes this to be untrue to the majority of the world’s population. Here’s to hoping that this list will seem archaic someday. If so, that means we’ve made the progress that we need to.

– Jay

Texas Republicans want a theocracy

Posted in Bigotry, Human Rights, Rant'n'Rave with tags , , on June 23, 2010 by Jay Vollmond

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When I first saw the Texas Republicans’ 2010 platform, I honestly thought that maybe they had dug up a platform from some long-ago time in America’s infancy. I think the only thing missing is a call for the repeal of the Emancipation Proclamation. But seeing as the document is in .pdf format and the title actually contains the year 2010, we have the unfortunate privilege of witnessing religious discrimination and ignorance in all it’s political glory.

The platform document reads like a battle plan on how to ensure that the fallacy of the US Constitution being founded on Judeo-Christian values continues to exist. It states this view clearly in the Texas Republican Platform. What struck me as particularly short-sighted is the fact that they state the US was founded on Christianity, but maintain that it’s still okay to have religious freedom.

“Judeo-Christian Nation – As America is a nation under God founded on Judeo-Christian principles, we affirm the constitutional right of all individuals to worship in the religion of their choice.”

This may be me coming from a completely different idea of religious freedom, but does that not sound like “Hey, you can worship your own false gods, just remember that you live in a Christian nation and will follow OUR guidelines to what is moral and what is not…”? This Palin-esque misrepresentation of the founding documents and leaders does not lead to MORE personal freedom, but instead results in an attempted theocracy. Did the early settlers and patriots (since Republicans regard patriotism so highly) really want to set up a government that imposed religious laws on its people? Of course not! That’s why they left England; to get away from the Anglican Church and the theocracy/monarchy.

“Safeguarding Our Religious Liberties – We affirm that the public acknowledgement of God is undeniable in our history and is vital to our freedom, prosperity and strength. We pledge our influence toward a return to the original intent of the First Amendment and toward dispelling the myth of separation of church and state. We urge the Legislature to increase the ability of faith-based institutions and other organizations to assist the needy and to reduce regulation of such organizations.
Religious Liberties Abroad – We urge Congress to sanction any foreign government that persecutes its citizens for their religion”

Now, wait a minute… These two articles were consecutive in the platform document. How does one go about stating that the separation of church and state is a “myth?!” I like how they snuck in some BS about deregulation so that faith-based organizations can “assist the needy.” Yeah, like that’s what regulations are in place to prevent. They are in place to prevent greedy fuckers from fleecing people and injecting their bronze-age mythology into our political system. Oh, but wait! They also want Congress to sanction OTHER countries if they persecute their citizens for religious reasons. Now, I know this may be a bit of a stretch for someone who actually BELIEVES that there is a creator of the universe and such deity actually despises gays, but wouldn’t the Christian/Muslim views of homosexuality be persecution?

The blatant bigotry is displayed in the section on homosexuality, “the family”, and other wacko religious incursion into people’s personal lives. According to the Republicans, gays should never receive equal rights for marriage, adoption, health benefits, and “pursuit of happiness”, among others. Plus, we MUST shield the children from the ‘dangerous’ gays that would otherwise infect people with communicable diseases, teach children that everyone should be gay, and sodomize anything in sight.

“Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans.”
“We oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction, or belief in traditional values.”

They actually want it to be LEGAL to openly discriminate against gays! Do any of these assholes wake up in the morning and stop to think about what it is they are saying and trying to enact in our society?

“Texas Sodomy Statutes – We oppose the legalization of sodomy. We demand that Congress exercise its authority granted by the U.S. Constitution to withhold jurisdiction from the federal courts from cases involving sodomy.”

Where is the “Texas Double-Sided Dildo Statute”? Apparently they haven’t been told that straight couples enjoy anal sex as well. Oh, and for the record, do you walk around wondering exactly how every person you meet has sex? Does it matter if someone only fucks doggy-style, or doesn’t get oral except on birthdays and holidays? Is it really any of your fucking business? NO! What happens consensually between two adults in private is exactly that: private. There are no gays going around to schools teaching children how to engage in risky sexual behavior. Stop watching FOX Not-really-News and listening to fear mongering.

I could go on and on about the unthinkable stances these politicians (elected by the ignorant among us) take on issues that affect the lives and happiness of citizens. It’s the usual:

  • No stem cell research – Despite the incredible advances in medical abilities from only scratching the surface of this most promising field of medicine. Apparently a small group of cells with no sense of feeling or pain receptors is more important than the suffering of children and adults throughout the world. Bullshit I say!
  • No women’s rights to their own bodies – Of course… “Look ladies, we know they’re your bodies and all, but our God says that what you’re doing is wrong. So we would rather have an unwanted child to be born to people who are not prepared (mentally or economically) to have a child than to dare upset our God by you removing a fertilized egg from your body before it has a chance to develop.” After all, chances are high that the fertilized egg will result in miscarriage. If there was a god, He/She/It would be the most accomplished abortion doctor of all time…
  • Evolution is “just a theory” so we need to teach Creationism as an alternative theory – Yeah, evolution is a theory; like the “Theory of Gravity” or “Germ Theory of Disease”. Read a single book on evolution you idiots. It’s not that difficult to understand. Same goes for global warming. YES, we as humans are poisoning the Earth. Now stop fighting us who DON’T believe Jesus is coming back in our lifetime to magically fix everything. If you care so much about your children, teach them the TRUTH about the world.

Oh, and I’m wondering who put the document together. I would have expected a uniform font and weight throughout the document. I’d think that an organization would be able to find at least ONE undergrad to proof-read their official platform.

– Jay

Review – “8: The Mormon Proposition”

Posted in Bigotry, Human Rights, Religion, Social Causes with tags , , , on June 19, 2010 by Jay Vollmond

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On Friday, June 18th, 2010, I went to see a documentary entitled “8: The Mormon Proposition.” I first heard of this documentary through a friend’s magazine, and later on a poster. This poster was on view at an art-walk in downtown Phoenix aptly named “First Friday.”

For over a month I waited with anticipation to see this film. For those who are not aware, my childhood took place in a Mormon household. That is, of course, a book in itself… However, this definitely brought a personal aspect that made me even more intrigued. Typically, Mormons keep a low profile because of the public’s less-than-favorable view of them (at least, compared to other major monotheistic religions). It was a surprise to see that someone FINALLY had the courage to show this cult’s back-room dealings, especially with irrefutable documentation.

The opening scene was speech over a fuzzy background with subtitles. The words were eerily confusing at first, but ultimately explained further later into the film. This opening definitely left me feeling eager to know more about where this speech was coming from.

The film’s mood relayed the extremes of emotions that California gays went through after finally receiving the right to marry and then having it taken away. There were scenes of lines of partners lined up outside courthouses awaiting marriage certificates and ceremonies. The look of happiness on their faces was unmistakable. The film introduces the audience to partners as they exchange vows and enjoy their first day as a married couple. Interviews show the partners reflecting back to that day.

Of course, this ends up being the build-up to what eventually shows the incredibly malicious agenda of the Mormon (LDS) Church. See here for just a simple example of some of the documents the church never intended to reach public eyes. From official documents obtained by one of the men interviewed in the film, we find that the church had worked against gay marriage in Hawaii before the California Proposition 8 even started. There was very little time spent on the Hawaii incident, but showed that to the church, Hawaii was a “practice run” for other states.

The main issue with the way the church went about this is that they distanced themselves from the actual “camp” that worked to push against gay marriage. They did this by creating coalitions and working with many other religious bodies to conceal that it was an LDS-led push. Specific sentences of the documents shown in the film describe how church leaders were fully aware and updated on the progression of the initiative.

The anguish felt by those whose marriages took place before Prop 8 passed (and those who had hoped to marry in the future) was palpable. The subjects interviewed in the film explain their stories with true passion. They are simply trying to live in happiness with their partners in no way different from heterosexuals. The fear mongering, fallacies, and rhetoric used by Mormons and other religious institutions are utterly revolting to me. These lies are often discredited, but generally, this is after the fact (especially with Prop 8 ) and no one seems to remember that they were lied to.

There was also a very interesting interview in the film with a man who had been “outed” as gay by a fellow Brigham Young University student. The man explained a series of meetings that were explained to him as “therapy to cure him.” Let me just say that what the man experienced is similar to a failed type of therapy in the cult-classic movie “A Clockwork Orange.” I felt disgusted and cannot believe that someone would treat a fellow human in such a way.

Honestly, I do not want to give away too much, and would much rather have people go see the film (or buy it when it comes out on DVD in mid-July 2010). However, be prepared to see the way that the Mormon Church runs much like a corporation full of ignorant old men. One member in particular that is exceptionally intolerant is Utah Senator Chris Buttars (start video at around :30).

The church used its powerful influence over its members to garner initial votes for the initiative early on, and then funding once the initiative was on the November 2009 ballot. The amount of person-hours spent going door-to-door, calling, and distributing materials by members of the church was unprecedented.

What truly upsets me about the situation is that one group is working diligently to PREVENT another group from having equal rights. I just do not understand this level of thinking, even when taking into account the ridiculous beliefs of their faith. However, the film does an excellent job of explaining that the Mormon’s idea of heaven is such that gay marriage is a monumental disruption of this “plan” for the afterlife. Oh, well, that makes it okay I guess

For those that do not know, the LDS religion is one of utmost patriarchal and misogynistic bullshit. Sure, Mormon women are not forced to wear burkas like Muslim women, but they are certainly subservient to their husbands and are treated as birthing centers, cooks/maids, and as though they are UNEQUAL to men. The Mormon plan for the afterlife is loosely based on how the man’s family (with as many children as possible) follows his lead blindly and unquestioningly. The man and his family are also required to do the same of the church’s leaders. Questioning the prophet and doctrine is not allowed in the church… Therefore, when the church leaders called its members to action in a political movement, the members did so with fervor.

Over 30 million dollars was raised for the support of the Prop 8 campaign by the Mormons within only a few months. During the campaign, they hid behind the veil of vaguely named coalitions and organizations to limit their visibility.

However, once the bill passed and the dreams of thousands of our fellow humans were dashed, the Mormons ultimately received most of the credit for the passing of Prop 8. Large demonstrations occurred outside of Mormon temples all around the country in protest to their involvement in the US political system. While this received some media coverage, it was not enough to give the Mormon Church the giant gaping wound it deserves.

I refuse get into some of the ignorant and hateful things that were said in the film by Mormons and those who supported Prop 8 (except the video of Buttars above, that guy is just such a douchebag I had to share it). It is disrespectful for me to even quote them here. One thing that continues to give cause to the religious (of any religion) to persecute LGBT’s is that they believe that being gay is a “choice.” That’s a bold statement considering how many have never truly sat down with a gay person and listened intently to their life stories: growing up confused, even very early in life before any “social factors” could have influenced them, having to face persecution and rejection from family and friends, etc. Unfortunately, the religious try to make a debate out of anything that contradicts their god’s plan, whether the results of such harm others or not. There is good research here that may offer some additional insight.

My hope is that everyone, including Mormons and people of other faiths, will see this film. Maybe those who previously supported Prop 8 or who are against gay marriage will see the damage that this viewpoint does to other families. Many of the subjects interviewed in the film had family members who supported Prop 8, despite knowing fully how that decision would affect their gay family members.

The dogmatic beliefs that are held by the religious are affecting the opportunity for society to progress and give equal rights to our fellow citizens. Some say that giving gays “civil unions” is enough, but that marriage is some sort of sacred right reserved for a man and a woman. This should be plainly obvious that it is not giving gays equal rights. It is saying, “Okay, we’ll give you this, but you’re still not getting the same rights we have.” We are conscious humans, and deserve the same equal rights regardless of petty differences. Your religious freedom does not give you the freedom to persecute and lobby in the political realm to further your agenda! It is also freedom FROM religion (www.ffrf.org).

One of the conclusions that I drew from the film is this: the Mormon Church should no longer be eligible for tax-exempt status. They have invested heavily in the political movement in the US and have affected innocent people with their bigotry. This cannot be tolerated any longer. In my view, the sheer deception (see videos here) displayed by the religious and the Mormons (see actual Mormon broadcast here) during the Prop 8 campaign shows that their ludicrous religious beliefs will continue to impede human civility and progress.

Please see this documentary, as it exposes an aspect to the Mormon religion that rarely shows its face in public. You may feel that Mormons are “kind-hearted” people who are family-oriented. This is typically true, unless you get in the way…

–          Jay