Discussing Religion Tends To Bring Out The Stupid

I mean, seriously:

Here, let me fix that for you:

Churchgoers ‘just as ethical as atheists’

Because, you know what, the last time I checked, the people who

  • pilot planes into building
  • try to blow themselves up on planes in various ways
  • ran a pedophile ring called the Catholic Church
  • insist on the subjugation and oppression of women and girls
  • would love to have us all lived in their imaginary medieval world
  • try to legislate their hatred of women, LGBTs and sex

are not atheists. They’re churchgoers. But somehow, the assumption, explicit in this title, is that, BY DEFAULT, religion = morality.

Oh, and this is interesting too:

Wow, geez, I guess they don’t read Durkheim in psychology classes.

And while it certainly is true that “criticism targeted at religion is experienced as a fundamental threat to our moral existence” (never mind the power it takes to have criticism of what one holds dear cast as “a fundamental threat to our moral existence”… somehow, that is never examined as if religion is simply an individual characteristic rather than an institutional structure as well as a set of groups with various kinds of power and privileges), one could perfectly argue that religion itself IS a fundamental threat to our moral existence.

2009 in Pictures – Displacement, Environment, Protests

Great 3-parter from the Boston Globe, lots of protest movements, refugees and displaced peoples, and environmental catastrophes… kinda says it all. Pick your “favorite” as in most striking and representative.  Mine? (click on the image for big version) Shelling of a UN schools in Gaza by the Israeli army:

And also because the world would not be what it is without some religious barbarism: Death by stoning in Somalia…

Two Tales of The Patriarchy

Both involve the issue of control of women’s lives in the context of patriarchal religion.


Note the very patriarchal photograph. The article itself is interesting in that it reveals a mix of religious fundamentalism and nationalism. The women themselves may reclaim suicide terrorism as a form of regaining control over their own lives but it is clear that these operatives function completely under the control of men… only to be arrested by more men (the smiling guys in the photo) when they fail to blow themselves up. Moreover, as the article notes, it is only once the US and Iraqi military started suspecting pretty much every man of being a potential suicide bomber that the insurgent groups turned to women.

Another ultimately futile attempt at regaining control has to do with the ever-so-important-to-the-patriarchy virginity of girls… Meet the artificial hymen, made in China:

In both cases, ultimately, these women end up submitting to the patriarchy.

In case you’re wondering:


Artificial Hymen Kit via kwout

Religious Hysteria… Somehow, It Almost Always Turns Against Women

Video here.

Now might be a good time to revisit Kai Erikson’s Wayward Puritans for an interesting study of how accusations of possession and witchcraft are almost always directed at women and involve both symbolic and materials issues:

In highly patriarchal societies, women without men (orphans, single women, and widows) are more vulnerable to stigmatization that reinforce patriarchal norms (women with men – fathers, brothers, or husbands) are safer through ritualized violence. The collective punishment of “witches” reminds all other women of what their place and status is in society. At the same time, it permits good ol’-fashioned dispossession as well. In a typically Durkheimian fashion, the public denunciation and sanctioning of deviance reminds the entire community of the norm and unites them against an enemy that is powerless to defend itself.

Moral Panics and Religious Fundamentalism

One could argue that religious fundamentalist movements need and use moral panics as recruiting tools as well as a way of keeping their membership agitated about supposed wrongdoings of certain categories of people or dark conspiracies from various groups. One can certainly see that with the  American evangelical movement with its constant apocalyptic predictions, no matter how absurd.

Another version of such moral panics as recruiting and motivational tools, but also as powerplay in secular regimes is visible in the oppression of homosexuals in the Muslim world. This two-parter in Der Spiegel is a must-read:

Part 1

Part 2:

Society of Sociopaths

The whole health care fiasco has certainly revealed the nastiness of a segment of the American society. And yes, they may be bought and bussed to town hall meetings by big industry groups, but that does not change the fact of the existence of infantile Randoids and just plain ignoramuses who think they own nothing to the government and should not pay taxes. Basically, these are people who do not see a need for the social contract and do not have a sense of being part of society. The only community these people seem to recognize is their family or religious / political in-group. As much as they bandy copies of the Constitution around, they lack a sense of collectivity and keep themselves busy defining themselves narrowly as the only “real” Americans and everyone else as anti-American.

It also seems that most of the behavior seen on TV (I know, I know) is (pardon me the pop Freud) id-driven: rage that can hardly contain itself, absent logic and contradictory stances, mob behavior.

What I see in this is the absolute triumph of neo-liberal philosophy boiled down to infantile elements (and I would argue that the extreme religiosity of the American society fosters such infantilism of thinking in black and white) to be shouted out at public events. Politicians on that side of the political spectrum have played on, when not actively promoted, such mob behavior. It has all come at the expense of knowledge of political ideas (be they conservative or liberal or else) and have filled that void with a combination of extreme individualism (slightly extended to family) and religious fundamentalism which leads to a form of sociopathy that is toxic to civil society.

When these two elements are combined, they replace political ideas with a moralizing and punitive outlook on policy: public policy should sanction and punish deviant behavior: don’t let the sluts get away with their sluttitude through contraception or abortion, don’t let the gays be gay, no health care for fatties and other people with disgusting behavior and so on and so forth. No government assistance for all these freaks, only for the “good” people, and even them can be taken care of by their neighbors or Christian charity.

The reference to charity has the neat benefit of not only pretending to be kind but hides the fact that in a charitable relationship, the donor can set criteria as to whom to help and make demands on recipients (stop smoking, give up your child for adoption, etc). In this view then, truth does not matter. Reality does not matter. What replaces it is a thoroughly moralized view of the world where everything and anything is assessed based on its acceptability to the moral standards based on a nonexistent substance and simple binary oppositions and a catastrophic view of the world (not surprising from people who believe in the Rapture and anxiously await it).

No one should be surprised by this in a society awash in childish religiosity (has anyone forgotten such TV gems as Touched By an Angel and pretty much everything made-for-TV movie on the Hallmarks channel?), refusal of the most basic scientific tenets. If you don’t believe in evolution but believe in black helicopters, it is not a big leap to believe in death panels. Childish religiosity fosters not just ignorance of internal matters but also of other realities of the world, such as the well-functioning health care systems that other developed nations enjoy and how social democracy produces healthy societies without fear of God.

In combination with extreme individualism, this produces a very structurally violent society leading to high levels of interpersonal violence and punitive policies targeted as undesirable categories. Indeed, what is often deplored by such mobs is the fact that some people are NO LONGER being punished for their deviance, or at least less stigmatized (such as single mothers and LGBTs). The laments of political correctness simply mean the frustration of no longer being able to stigmatize perceived deviants through discourse and action.

The aforementioned ignorance is also on display by the lack of awareness of what the government does, exactly. Anyone stating that the government does nothing because they are self-sufficient should be told that they can no longer do the following:

  • Turn on the tap to get water… buy all your water (drinking, washing, showering) in plastic bottles
  • Flush… find another “individual” mechanism to get rid of your waste
  • Flick the switch to get electricity… buy your own private generator
  • Use the roads
  • Use the US dollar… use IOUs with merchants, see how that works out
  • Enjoy public parks
  • Use only private systems for education and health care (and even those should get their own water, power, etc…)

Better yet, get to a state and secede as Governor Perry suggested a while back, as a remedy against the evils of federal monies. Once you’ve seceded, then the US government should do the following:

  • Cut that state off the power grid
  • Cut that state off the water mains
  • Destroy of the interstate highways that criss-cross the state along with rail tracks
  • Destroy all other infrastructure such as bridges, power plants, water sanitation plants, etc.
  • Impose taxes and tariffs on trade with the state, if that state wishes to acquire foreign currencies (such as the US $$) and see if any non-state company will do business with the state
  • Require visas from state denizens if they wish to come to the US and make sure these bastards don’t come illegally
  • Remove all public schools, colleges and universities and public health care facilities
  • Close all government offices

And when the state’s population is plagued by dysentery and lives in the dark  and the cold with no Internet access or cable or satellite (but guns!), they can smoke signal the UN to receive humanitarian aid, to which the UN should reply “F!@#$ you!”.

The Patriarchy Continuum – Agency Denied

Patriarchy operates at all level of social organizations: globally, nationally, organizationally, interpersonally, individually / bodily. But it all boils down to the denial of feminine agency at the structural level combined with the denial of masculine / hegemonic agency as power. For instance, Melissa McEwan, over at Shakesville has documented over and over how portrayals of rape usually use passive voice that eliminates the agency of the rapist or male perpetrators of gendered violence.

It is as if these things just “happened”. This is an argument one finds, in a different form, in Thomas Friedman’s writing on globalization: no one controls globalization. It just happens. Such a discursive device has the neat effect of eliminating any social mechanism of power involves in social relations. Power operates all the more thoroughly that it goes unmentioned, unexamined and unquestioned. Something familiar for anyone who has seen Tough Guise.

Which is why it is especially refreshing and, yes, groundbreaking to read this:

This passage reinstate the agency of the perpetrators and the multi-level consequences of gender-based violence.

So, hiding one’s agency is a mark of power so that structural violence visited upon the socially-disadvantaged categories of people appear to “just happen” and not as inflicted by the socially privileged.

At the same time, in a patriarchal society, the goal of norms and rules, sometimes legally codified, is to deny agency to the socially disadvantaged, something often presented as “for their own good” or as culturally unacceptable or social disruptive.

I shall file this item as another example of “Islam is a progressive religion that promotes peace and equality.” Snark aside, the idea here is to protest a law that would give women more agency.

And note the false equivalency “a man must protect his wife. A wife must obey her husband” as if the two side of the equation were, well, equal, as if there was no power differential involved. It makes it look like both husband and wife have equal duties but this forgets that in reality, a woman has to protect herself for fear of bringing shame to the family and the husband is supposed to protect the family, at the expense of the wife when necessary. And the duty to protect foes not involve the abdication of one’s personhood, freedom and agency to the power of another individual.

To present this gross inequality as “A has to do X and B has to do Y” as if X and Y were equivalent completely ignores the fact that X in this case imposes much less restriction on one social status and agency than Y. And it also falsely assumes that A and B are equal to start with, but just different (see also: “separate but equal”).