Fear leads to Anger…

I have written before about my dislike of the intolerant, so this article will not come as much of a shock to those of you familiar with my way of expressing myself. To those of you unfamiliar with me, brace yourselves: this could be a bumpy ride.

I am a huge fan of the Star Wars universe (well, excluding The Phantom Menace, anyway) and I am also a believer in LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) rights, so when a bunch of right-wing, religious lunatics like the Florida Family Association attack EA Games for including the option for same-sex relationships in Star Wars: The Old Republic, I find my wrath beginning to surface. The Florida Family Association, a non-profit charity dedicated to “[educating] people on what they can do to defend, protect and promote traditional, biblical values”, wrote an article that accused Bioware, EA Games and Lucas Films of bowing to pressure from “LGBT activists” to include non-heterosexual characters in their games. They claim that “there were no LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) characters in any of the Star Wars movies”.

"I beg your pardon?"

Have they seen the films? C3P0 is about as fabulous as you can get! Anyway, they are suggesting that LGBT pressure groups are forcing EA and their subsidiary companies to include same-sex relationship choices in the game. Jeff Brown, EA’s Vice President of Corporate Communications (which, in fairness, sounds like an Imperial job title), denies that any pressure was placed on them and denounces criticism as “political harassment”. Good for him! The American Decency Association joined the fight, claiming that the inclusion of LGBT options was an “attack on the hearts and minds of children” and accused Bioware of “social engineering”. They also state that the films were “family fare”, which they were – especially if you include incest as “family fare”.

Family Fun?

Quite.

The American Decency Association is also accusing EA/Bioware of “censoring” comments by parents who are opposed to the move, by removing them from the website. However, EA’s Jeff Brown simply said “we don’t tolerate hate speech on our forums”, which rather suggests that the complaints were not worded in an acceptable way. A quick glance at the American Decency Association or the Florida Family Association websites would certainly support this. Both websites refer to LGBT characters as “social agenda characters”, rather than focusing on the simple fact that the player can CHOOSE to play a homosexual character. This is not being forced on anyone, although the Florida Family Association does point out that Bioware will not ” create game rules that would allow regular players to prohibit entry into their games by these social agenda characters.  That would be discrimination (sarcasm.) [sic]” Helpful of them to point out the sarcasm there, we might have missed it otherwise. On the plus side, they won’t force you to play “social agenda” characters either. Because that would also be discrimination. They allow you to choose. Which isn’t.

The ESRB (Entertainment Software Ratings Board) has classified SW:TOR as T for Teen, recommending that only players aged 13 or over have access to it. This is because it may contain elements unsuitable for younger children, such as ” violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling, and/or infrequent use of strong language”. Hmm. No mention of steamy, man-on-man action there. Maybe they didn’t notice it. Or maybe they don’t consider homosexual relationships to be something that children need protecting from.

Won't somebody please think of the children?!

Either way, if their children are playing these games, it means that they are bad parents. Simple.

This is, of course, a load of right-wing, extremist nonsense. Children don’t need to be protected from homosexuals, they need to be educated about them. They need to realise that there is nothing wrong with homosexuality so that those who are gay don’t grow up feeling the need to pretend to be someone else, with all the psychological pressure that entails. Groups like the American Decency Association and the Florida Family Association need to have the language that they use exposed for what it is: attempted brainwashing. They knowingly use phrases like “social agenda characters”, or “trying to capture the minds of our children”, or “force this offensive content on a captured audience of hundreds of thousands of children”, or “LGBT…activists”, or “radical homosexual extremists”… I could go on.

In fact, I think I will.

“Electronic Arts would shatter that family quality”, or “harassing the game community”, or “a lot of them expressing anger that their kids will be exposed to this Star Warped way of thinking”, or “propaganda”, or “these LGBT activists are pummeling Florida Family Association” (which does at least conjure up images suggesting the real reason behind their fears!).

"You got a real purdy mouth!"

While these comments are not in themselves openly homophobic, they do use the persuasive techniques and biased language in a blatant attempt to influence their audience. As their audience is largely comprised of (dare I say it) ill- or under-educated, right-wing, knee-jerk fundamentalist Christians, this kind of ‘subtle’ manipulation is often very effective. Political activists of all shades of opinion have been using these techniques for centuries – look at the speeches of Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, John F Kennedy, Margaret Thatcher, George Bush, Mao Zedong, Che Guevara. It is particularly effective among those who traditionally do not ask questions, such as fundamentalist religious groups (and I’m not deliberately having a go at religion again, just those who abuse their power over those less well-educated, such as politically motivated religious leaders and pressure groups). Of course, the pro-gay side has the right to use such tactics as well, but they face an uphill struggle, as they are going against the ingrained teachings of generations of homophobic morons. The fact is that homosexuality hasn’t been seen as a bad thing for as long as most people think. Plato (424-328BC) wrote about the way that same-sex relationships were a healthy part of any young man’s love life, although he changed his views later in life, possibly as a result of changing societal norms. Roman rulers were almost all bisexual and openly took male lovers and it wasn’t until Emperor Theodosius I (a Christian ruler) that homosexuality was banned. East Asian countries have long accepted homosexuality and transgender as equal to heterosexuality, especially in Thailand (the famous ‘ladyboys’) and Japan, where samurai warriors would often engage openly in same-sex relationships.

Samurai: Well gay.

It is almost always religion that suppresses, criminalizes and persecutes those people who do not conform to their expectations or belief systems. This includes followers of other sects, ideologies or lifestyles. Religious institutions see themselves as the moral and spiritual guides to society, even if (especially if) that society does not want them to be. Homosexuality is illegal in most Muslim countries, and frowned upon by extremist Christian groups in the West. It is these extremists that are attempting to force their narrow view of loving, and sexual, relationships on the general populace once again. I am by no means tarring all Christians with the same brush. It is not my intention to attack any religion for its attitude to homosexuality. I know some Christians who support same-sex marriage. I even know at least one openly gay clergyman. It is the fringe groups, like the Florida Family Association, the American Decency Association, the Westboro Baptist Church, that are trying to force their petty, narrow-minded and bigoted ideologies on the rest of us. They accuse EA and Bioware of giving in to pro-gay pressure groups, a minority that was trying to prevent the First Amendment rights of the anti-gay movements, which obviously ignores the First Amendment rights of the pro-gays. It’s all a bit confusing, isn’t it!

Well, no. It shouldn’t be confusing. It’s a fairly simple situation. Let’s go through it step-by-step.

Step 1: If you are offended by homosexual content in a video game, don’t play the video game.

Step 2: There is no Step 2.

Oh, well, I guess it’s not that confusing after all!

So, if you find yourself complaining about something that isn’t being forced on you, there is a simple solution: Shut the fuck up. The LGBT community has had your bigotry and hate forced on them for years – they have a right to complain. You have noticed that you could choose to have a gay relationship in a video game – you have the right to silence, please exercise it.

 

Sickening examples of belief

Christmas Day, 2010. Police are called to a flat in East London. They find a fifteen-year-old boy dead in a bathtub. He has over 100 injuries. He has been starved, beaten and tortured over a period of three days by his sister and her boyfriend.

RIP Kristy Bamu: Victim of his sister, Magalie, and her boyfriend, Eric Bikubi.

Why?

Because they believed that Kristy Bamu, a fifteen-year-old boy, was trying to hurt them with magic.

Take another look at that date. 2010. 21st century Britain and people are still being murdered because someone else thinks they are a witch. It all stems from Kindoki, a belief system associated with the Christian faiths of Subsaharan Africa, especially D.R. Congo. D.R. Congo, which is where Kristy Bamu and his family originated, has a population of over seventy million people, almost half of which are Christian. There are a large number of Christian sects that incorporate traditional beliefs into their methods of worship, including a strong belief in Kindoki. This has led to thousands, if not tens of thousands, of people (usually children) being abused in the name of God.

This is, frankly,unacceptable in this day and age. There is simply no excuse for people to be so poorly educated that they subscribe to these barbaric practices. I do not hold with the idea that ‘traditional beliefs should be respected’, not if those beliefs include torture and murder of others, especially children.

Do we really need to spell it out? Ok, I will: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS MAGIC! Sorry to break it to you, but there it is. If you believe that there is, then the burden of proof lies with you, not me. Prove to me, unequivocally, that magic exists and can have a solid, physical effect on the world and I will happily change my tune. I will proclaim it from the highest buildings. I will go on national television and declare my faith in magic. I will cut off my genitals with a rusty hacksaw and nail them to my head. That’s how completely sure I am that no-one will ever be able to  prove it.

Sadly, not all victims of witchcraft get better.

I know some people who describe themselves as Wiccan and believe in magic. I respect their belief, but cannot accept that it is anything except absolute horseshit. If it gives them comfort, fine, but I am reasonably sure that they would never torture someone to death because they thought he was using magic against them. The worst that they might do is mutter a vague hope that their enemy hurts himself in some way and wait for an accident so that they could claim a victory. Hardly worth burning them at the stake, is it?

So where does the Christian fear of witchcraft come from? Because it IS a Christian influence, even if it is tied in with pre-Christian belief systems. Well, the obvious answer is Exodus 22:18 – Thou Shalt Not Suffer A Witch To Live. Here we have a problem, however. the King James Bible (from which the quote is taken) is clearly about witches, but relies on the translation of the Hebrew word kashaph, which means sorcery – specifically evil magic, designed to do harm – or possibly even poisoner. This distinguishes it from magic like parting the Red Sea, bringing people back from the dead, walking on water and so on, which are all clearly GOOD magic.

You see my problem?

I’ve ranted about religion before in my blog, but I feel I am going to need to do so again, just to vent some of these feelings of pure rage that are bubbling away inside me since re-reading about the Kristy Bamu case. So here goes:

These people are evil fucks. Anyone who supports a religion that explicitly orders that other human beings should be put to death, such as Protestant Christianity, Catholicism, Islam, Judaism and so on, are actively supporting the murder of innocent people. You are giving this religion power, therefore you are to blame for the evil done in its name. I know some will argue that the evil acts are done by individuals and that they are not following God’s teachings, but one simple glance through the bible will shatter that argument. Eric Bikubi was following God’s teaching to the letter: he was not suffering a witch to live. The fact that there is no such thing as witchcraft is neither here nor there (after all, there’s no such thing as God either), he was doing EXACTLY what his God had told him to do. He was being a good Christian.

That’s the rant over for now, but I want everyone to remember Kristy Bamu. Remember how a fifteen-year-old boy spent three days being beaten, tortured and debased. Remember how a fifteen-year-old boy was drowned in a bathtub. And remember that it was all done in the name of a loving, forgiving God.

“‘You’ve got to let Jesus into your heart!’

I Wouldn’t let him into my fucking garden!” – Dylan Moran

Religion – Shit it!

I have no objection to any person's religion, be it what it may, so long as that person does not kill or insult any other person, because that person doesn't believe it also. But when a man's religion becomes really frantic; when it is a positive torment to him; and, in fine, makes this earth of ours an uncomfortable inn to lodge in; then I think it high time to take that individual aside and argue the point with him - Herman Melville

Religion is always going to be a dangerous subject to discuss openly. People get very defensive when they think that you are attacking or denigrating their deeply held beliefs, but should they? Shouldn’t their faith be strong enough to withstand a logical and frank discussion? You would think so, wouldn’t you?

I am an atheist, an admission that is fairly meaningless to me. The majority of my friends are atheists too. I was raised in an atheist household but encouraged to be respectful to the beliefs of others and I have tried (not always successfully) to do so. To not believe in God, or a god, or gods, seems to me to be the logical choice. I see no evidence in any sort of divine creator, and the idea that this world was brought into being by a loving god would be laughable if it wasn’t so tragic.

I like to think that I have a fairly scientific mind. I like things to be explained, measured and categorised. I also like asking questions and that seems to be anathema to those of a more religious mindset. To ask questions seems to be the opposite of having faith, and to test faith is to weaken it apparently.

The Science Vs Religion argument is an old one, first really rearing its ugly head with the Catholic Church disagreeing with Galileo over the theory of heliocentrism first put forward over fifty years previously by Copernicus, whereby the Earth and the other planets revolve around the sun. This appeared to be a direct contravention of the Bible, and so Galileo was convicted of heresy and placed under house arrest for the rest of his life. An early and well-known example of the Church persecuting those who voice ideas that are true.

This has gone on throughout history and continues to this day with the Evolution Vs Creationism arguments. As we all know, evolution is only a theory. But ‘theory’ doesn’t mean ‘guesswork’. Scientifically, theory means that something is a ‘comprehensive explanation of some aspect of nature that is supported by a vast body of evidence… so well established that no new evidence is likely to alter them substantially’ (according to the United States National Academy of Sciences). It is not a hypothesis. It is not a guess. It is a scientifically tested and supported system that is accepted as fact.

Creationism, on the other hand, is just making up fairy stories. Fairy stories that some Christians want to be taught exclusively in schools and others want taught alongside evolution in science classes.

No. Creationism can certainly be taught in Religious Education lessons, but Science classes are for science. You know, things that can be examined scientifically. With evidence.

I really don’t mean to be rude, but a literal interpretation of Genesis is idiotic. To believe, in the face of overwhelming evidence, that the earth is only 6000 years old and was created in a week by a divine being is insane. It also suggests that you believe God is messing with our heads, trying to fool us and thus earn us a place in eternal torment for believing in evolution. Loving God, my arse…

I don’t want to fall back on the standard anti-religion arguments. I could write for hours about the fossil record, geological ages and so on. I could argue that religion has been the cause (or at least the excuse) of more conflict than anything else in the history of mankind. I could point out the horrors inflicted by religious extremists (from all religions) throughout history. But that seems somehow lazy. Instead, I’ll post this picture:

Pigf*ckers

Ah yes. The Westboro Baptist Church. I realise that it is unfair to tar every Christian with the same brush as these bigoted scumbags, but I’m going to. Let us not mince words: these people are shits. They preach a message of hate and intolerance based on their twisted and morally deficient belief system. ‘God hates fags’? If so, I’m fairly sure I don’t want to meet the fucker. If they are right, I will gladly lead the march into Hell with pride (or possibly Pride).

It is the silence of the moderate religious majority that allows these extremists to exist and spread their messages of hate, the vast majority of religious people being generally sensible and normal (despite their crazy belief in big beards in the sky and so on). And obviously it isn’t just the Christians who exhibit these anti-social, borderline psychotic tendencies. Jihadist Muslims, the far-right Jewish Kach party and so on, all willing to insult, dehumanize or murder in the name of their own religious ideology.

The fundamentalists and extremists often pervert their religion for their own ends. The message not to kill tends to run through most religious teachings, and yet it seems to be acceptable if you are killing non-believers, heretics or just people who are somehow different to you. In the West, we tend to hear mainly about Islamist fundamentalism and extremism, so we develop an inherent prejudice. Our media seems to largely ignore the actions of Christian extremists, a tacit approval of their actions. We need to fight this. The War in Iraq had its roots in Christian versus Muslim conflict, but it was the Islamists who tended to make the news as ‘the bad guys’, rather than the right-wing Christian governments (AKA ‘the good guys’) that were busily bombing civilians. The Isreali-Palestinian Conflict is essentially a conflict between Judaism and Islam, with a little Christianity thrown in for good measure.

I could go on, but I will withdraw from this section of my rant while I still have a little dignity (largely because I have pretty much exhausted my knowledge of the religio-political situation in the Middle East).

Intelligent design is another ‘theory’ that pseudo-scientific religious ‘thinkers’ often put forward. Basically, this runs that some things (usually the human eye is inserted here as an example) cannot have evolved a little bit at a time and must therefore have been created in one go by an intelligent creator. It is described by its followers as “an evidence-based scientific theory about life’s origins” despite being, quite clearly, not scientific in the slightest. It was thought up to try to circumvent American laws about teaching Creationism in schools and was about as successful as its predecessor.

Perhaps one of the most well-known, and certainly the most outspoken, atheist is Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion and The Selfish Gene. He has been a critic of creationism for years (check out his various TV series and interviews). He has said that ‘The list of things about which we strictly have to be agnostic…is infinite. If you want to believe in a particular one of them — teapots, unicorns, or tooth fairies, Thor or Yahweh — the onus is on you to say why you believe in it. The onus is not on the rest of us to say why we do not. We who are atheists are also a-fairyists, a-teapotists, and a-unicornists, but we don’t have to bother saying so.’

"By all means let's be open-minded, but not so open-minded that our brains drop out." - Richard Dawkins

So why is religion still so popular, despite the fact that it ignores fact? Probably because it ignores fact. An atheist has to face the simple truth that life is all there is: there is no paradise, no pearly gates or seventy-two virgins waiting on the other side of death. This is all we get. That is a scary notion, but also an enormously liberating one. What we do while we are alive matters! By working together for the good of all we can change the lives of many, rather than waiting to be rewarded after death for not being bad. The ‘dangerous notion that death is not the end’ (Dawkins again) allows the religious to sidestep their responsibilities in life, or worse be prepared to end their life and the lives of others to make a religio-political point.

Shortly after the horrific events of 9/11, Bill Maher said that ‘we have been the cowards, lobbing Cruise Missiles from two thousand miles away. That’s cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building, say what you want about it, that’s not cowardly. Stupid maybe, but not cowardly’. I agree in part, except that to the terrorists, it was the beginning of a beautiful afterlife, according to the garbage that they had been fed by people who were quite clearly not on the plane with them! Perhaps that should have been a warning sign to them.

Religion messes with people’s heads. It divides them. It makes them small-minded. It can make them bigoted, murderous, evil. We have outgrown religion. We don’t need it any more. We need to move on.

Scientia non habet inimicum nisi ignoratem