Saturday, November 01, 2014

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Conservative Christianity’s Effect on the Mind

It's a times a question of which came first: mental illness or extreme conservative Christian beliefs.  Stated another way, does one have to be crazy to fall into conservative Christianity's grips or does becoming immersed in conservative Christian dogma make you crazy.  A new study suggest that it may be the latter and that conservative Christianity does alter the mind, and not for the better.  Some of the symptoms?  Anxiety and paranoia among others.  Here are lengthy excerpts from a piece in Salon:
If a former believer says that Christianity made her depressed, obsessive, or post-traumatic, she is likely to be dismissed as an exaggerator. She might describe panic attacks about the rapture; moods that swung from ecstasy about God’s overwhelming love to suicidal self-loathing about repeated sins; or an obsession with sexual purity.

A symptom like one of these clearly has a religious component, yet many people instinctively blame the victim. They will say that the wounded former believer was prone to anxiety or depression or obsession in the first place—that his Christianity somehow got corrupted by his predisposition to psychological problems. Or they will say that he wasn’t a real Christian. If only he had prayed in faith believing or loved God with all his heart, soul and mind, if only he had really been saved—then he would have experienced the peace that passes all understanding.

But the reality is far more complex. It is true that symptoms like depression or panic attacks most often strike those of us who are vulnerable, perhaps because of genetics or perhaps because situational stressors have worn us down. But certain aspects of Christian beliefs and Christian living also can create those stressors, even setting up multigenerational patterns of abuse, trauma, and self-abuse. Also, over time some religious beliefs can create habitual thought patterns that actually alter brain function, making it difficult for people to heal or grow.

[W]e focus on the variants of Christianity that are based on a literal interpretation of the Bible. These include Evangelical and fundamentalist churches, the Church of Latter Day Saints, and other conservative sects. These groups share the characteristics of requiring conformity for membership, a view that humans need salvation, and a focus on the spiritual world as superior to the natural world.

Religion Exploits Normal Human Mental ProcessesTo understand the power of religion, it is helpful to understand a bit about the structure of the human mind. Much of our mental activity has little to do with rationality and is utterly inaccessible to the conscious mind. The preferences, intentions and decisions that shape our lives are in turn shaped by memories and associations that can get laid down before we even develop the capacity for rational analysis. . . . Religion derives its power in large part because it shapes these unconscious processes: the frames, metaphors, intuitions and emotions that operate before we even have a chance at conscious thought.

Some Religious Beliefs and Practices are More Harmful Than OthersWhen it comes to psychological damage, certain religious beliefs and practices are reliably more toxic than others. . . .
identifies three characteristics of religious groups that are particularly prone to harming children. Clinical work with reclaimers, that is, people who are reclaiming their lives and in recovery from toxic religion, suggests that these same qualities put adults at risk, along with a particular set of manipulations found in fundamentalist Christian churches and biblical literalism.

1) Authoritarianism, creates a rigid power hierarchy and demands unquestioning obedience. . . . Authoritarian Christian sects often teach that “male headship” is God’s will. Parents may go so far as beating or starving their children on the authority of godly leaders.

2) Isolation or separatism, is promoted as a means of maintaining spiritual purity. Evangelical Christians warn against being “unequally yoked” with nonbelievers in marriages and even friendships. New converts often are encouraged to pull away from extended family members and old friends . . . . Home schoolers and the Christian equivalent of madrassas cut off children from outside sources of information, often teaching rote learning and unquestioning obedience rather than broad curiosity.

3) Fear of sin, hell, a looming “end-times” apocalypse, or amoral heathens binds people to the group, which then provides the only safe escape from the horrifying dangers on the outside.  . . . .
Since the religious group is the only alternative to these horrors, anything that threatens the group itself—like criticism, taxation, scientific findings, or civil rights regulations—also becomes a target of fear.

Bible Belief Creates an Authoritarian, Isolative, Threat-based Model of Reality   In Bible-believing Christianity, psychological mind-control mechanisms are coupled with beliefs from the Iron Age, including the belief that women and children are possessions of men, that children who are not hit become spoiled, that each of us is born “utterly depraved”, and that a supernatural being demands unquestioning obedience. In this view, the salvation and righteousness of believers is constantly under threat from outsiders and dark spiritual forces. Consequently, Christians need to separate themselves emotionally, spiritually, and socially from the world. . . . Small wonder then, that many Christians emerge wounded.

The Bible-based Christian population however, might be considered a subset of the general population that is still within the old framework, that is, supernaturalism.

Children are Targeted for Indoctrination Because the Child Mind is Uniquely Vulnerable. . . .
Nowhere is the contrast of viewpoints more stark than in the secular and religious understandings of childhood. In the biblical view, a child is not a being that is born with amazing capabilities that will emerge with the right conditions like a beautiful flower in a well-attended garden. Rather, a child is born in sin, weak, ignorant, and rebellious, needing discipline to learn obedience. Independent thinking is dangerous pride.

Because the child’s mind is uniquely susceptible to religious ideas, religious indoctrination particularly targets vulnerable young children. Cognitive development before age seven lacks abstract reasoning.

When assaulted with such images and ideas at a young age, a child has no chance of emotional self-defense. Christian teachings that sound truewhen they are embedded in the child’s mind at this tender age can feel true for a lifetime. Even decades later former believers who intellectually reject these ideas can feel intense fear or shame when their unconscious mind is triggered.

Harms Range From Mild to Catastrophic. . . . Religious Trauma Syndrome (RTS) is a new term, coined by Marlene Winell to name a recognizable set of symptoms experienced as a result of prolonged exposure to a toxic religious environment and/or the trauma of leaving the religion. It is akin to Complex PTSD, which is defined as ‘a psychological injury that results from protracted exposure to prolonged social and/or interpersonal trauma with lack or loss of control, disempowerment, and in the context of either captivity or entrapment, i.e. the lack of a viable escape route for the victim’.

Though related to other kinds of chronic trauma, religious trauma is uniquely mind-twisting. The logic of the religion is circular and blames the victim for problems; the system demands deference to spiritual authorities no matter what they do; and the larger society may not identify a problem or intervene as in cases of physical or sexual abuse, even though the same symptoms of depression and anxiety and panic attacks can occur.

Religious trauma is difficult to see because it is camouflaged by the respectability of religion in culture. To date, parents are afforded the right to teach their own children whatever doctrines they like, no matter how heinous, degrading, or mentally unhealthy. Even helping professionals largely perceive Christianity as benign. This will need to change for treatment methods to be developed and people to get help that allows them to truly reclaim their lives.
 Having been raised conservative Catholic, it took me years to get over the psychological damage.  And my upbringing was mild compared to what one sees in fundamentalist denominations.  As I've said before, raising children in evangelical/fundamentalist homes is a form of child abuse.  It needs to end.

British Columbia Lawyers Vote to Deny Accreditation to Christianist Law School

In a move that ought to be replicated in America, lawyers in British Columbia have voted to deny accreditation - which usually is a prerequisite for graduates to be able to sit for the bar exam - to a proposed law school that imposes a Christofascist statement of faith on students and faculty.  Here in Virginia, both Regent University and Liberty University impose statements of faith on faculty and students.  It goes without saying, one cannot engage in rigorous academics and legal analysis when everything must be viewed within the myopia of religious dogma and myths.  Yes, many students sign the statement of faith with a wink and a nod with no intention of truly following it, but it remains a cloud over one's head throughout enrollment.   The Vancouver Sun reports on the move to withdraw accreditation from a proposed law school at Trinity Western University.

Nearly 6,000 B.C. lawyers — about half the profession — have voted to have the provincial law society withdraw accreditation from a proposed law school at Trinity Western University.

In a historic provincewide poll conducted this month, 5,951 lawyers (about 75 per cent) voted to withdraw accreditation from the school, compared with 2,088 who wanted to maintain the society’s earlier approval of the new law faculty.

The Langley-based university’s spokesman, Guy Saffold, said it was disappointed with the vote.

“Trinity Western believes in diversity and the rights of all Canadians to their personal beliefs and values,” he said, noting gay and lesbian students attend and graduate from the institution.

The benchers originally endorsed the school April 11 but thousands of lawyers rose up in revolt and at a special general meeting June 10 demanded their governors reconsider.  At that passionate gathering, an overwhelming number of the lawyers — 3,210 to 968 — demanded the benchers reverse their decision.

They objected to the Evangelical institution’s practice of having staff, faculty and students sign a Community Covenant that among other tenets restricts sex to traditional marriage between a man and woman.

“The large return and clear result sends an important message about the core values of the legal profession that include upholding the legal rights of all persons. The clear message to TWU is this: if you wish approval from the legal profession in B.C. you will need to cease your discriminatory practices. The discipline or expulsion of students and staff for private sexual activity is unacceptable.”

Law societies in Ontario and Nova Scotia already have taken a stand against the proposed law school over its covenant, triggering litigation.

It is expected the Supreme Court of Canada will be the final arbiter of the dispute that brings under scrutiny the scope of religious freedom.
No one is attacking the school's religious freedom.  They are free to do whatever they want.  But that does not mean that others - in this case the legal profession - is required to endorse and/or approve of their batshitery.  If you want to be a legitimate university with degrees recognized across the profession, then be one and throw out the statement of faith requirement.  It is far past time the special rights and deference be given to self-anointed Christians.

What if the Republicans Win Control of the Senate?

Next Tuesday will decide which political party controls the United States Senate for the next two years.  I'd be lying if I said I did not want the Democrats to manage to retain control.  Up until now, the Senate has saved the nation from the batshitery of the GOP controlled House of Representatives and, if the GOP takes the control of the Senate, only a presidential veto will stop the worst of the insanity.  A piece in the Washington Post by partners in a Republican political and public affairs research firm somewhat sanely conjectures on what will not be accomplished by the GOP even if the Senate falls to the GOP. Don't expect the GOP base or the political whores of the Christofascists/Tea Party to make such a  rational analysis of what a win of control of the Senate would mean. In fact, a win of the Senate on Tuesday may set the stage for GOP defeats in the future because many in the GOP will close their eyes to the need to change.  Here are column highlights:
[M]ost models are predicting a Republican takeover of the Senate, as well as gains in the House, following Tuesday’s midterm vote.

Such a victory gives the Republican Party a significant opportunity to recast itself in the eyes of voters. But let’s be clear: Winning on Tuesday will not necessarily portend success in 2016. After all, big GOP wins in 1994 and 2010 did not lead to a President Dole or a President Romney in the subsequent elections. In fact, the Republican Party hasn’t managed to string together three successful elections since the 2000-2002-2004 political cycles.

So what does a GOP win in 2014 mean for the coming presidential contest? Let’s start with what it doesn’t mean:

It doesn’t mean we’ve solved the GOP math problemDemocrats like to accuse Republicans of being bad at science, but in fact we’re really bad at math. Winning in a non-presidential-turnout year, when older and white voters make up a larger percentage of the electorate, should convince no one that we’ve fixed our basic shortfalls with key electoral groups, including minorities and younger voters.

Assuming that the Democrats replicate their 2012 electoral success with minority voters two years from now, and assuming that Hispanics grow as a percentage of the overall electorate, which they will, we calculate that Democrats will already have almost half (24 percent) of the votes they need to win a majority of Americans in 2016. To win 50.1 percent of the popular vote, we estimate, Republicans will need nearly 64 percent of the white vote . . . 

Further, there is little evidence that GOP prospects are improving with younger voters, especially younger women. We can no longer depend on voters 45 and older to carry Republican candidates to victory (Romney won voters 40 and older, but still lost the election.)

It doesn’t mean we’ve solved the GOP map problem.   Republicans can win in red states. Tuesday should bear that out pretty well. But the challenge for the GOP long-term is winning in blue or purple states. Our success in states such as Iowa, Colorado and New Hampshire on Tuesday may indicate that we’re getting back on track. That’s pretty important, because in 2016 we face the “Big Blue Wall” — the 18 states (plus Washington, D.C.) that have gone for the Democratic presidential candidate six elections in a row. They add up to 242 electoral votes, leaving the Democrats needing just 28 of the 183 electoral votes in the 18 toss-up states. 

It doesn’t mean we’ve solved the GOP image problemEven though President Obama is significantly less popular than he was two years ago, the GOP is not well positioned to capitalize because our party’s image has also gotten worse since 2012. In the most recent NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll, half of respondents had a negative image of the Republican Party — only the fourth time that has occurred in the past six years. (Reminder to Tuesday’s winners: Threatening impeachment or shutting down the federal government doesn’t endear you to middle America.)

Friday, October 31, 2014

A Day Where I'd Like to Paddle Out and Not Come Back - Ever.

UPDATED November 1, 2014:  The darkness has passed.  Thanks for the words of comfort from readers.

Sadly, the waves are small and the water isn't really cold enough yet, but it's a day that sucks, I'm sick of work and wondering why I bother to go on. I keep reflecting on the fact that I'm way out side the suicide clause in my life insurance policy.  I haven't felt this bad in a long time.

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Most Americans Oppose LGBT Employment Discrimination by Churches

The results of a new survey contain bad news for Christofascists who believe that they should be above non-discrimination laws: a majority of Americans oppose anti-LGBT employment discrimination even by churches and only 30% of respondents believe privately held business corporations citing "religious beliefs" should be able to discriminate against gays.  Thus, while shrieks of "religious freedom" and/or "persecution of Christians" may play well in Christofascist and professional right wing Christian circles - and, of course, among political whores in the Republican Party - most Americans are not impressed.  The survey also found support for a federal ENDA law.  A post at The New Civil Rights Movement looks at the survey findings:
Fifty-five percent of Americans believe no employer, not even a church, should be allowed to discriminate in the employment of LGBT people if a federal law, like ENDA, were passed. A new Harris poll which surveyed over 2500 people found that just 35 percent of Americans think religious institutions, like churches, should be allowed to discriminate on religious grounds. Even less, just three in ten Americans, think privately-held businesses should be allowed to discriminate. 

And about one in five people think publicly held businesses (21 percent) or small businesses (19 percent) should be exempt if they cite religious beliefs.

"Americans simply don't believe that employer exemptions are justified when it comes to basic workplace safeguards for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans," The Harris Poll reports.
The survey also showed continued support for federal policies that end job discrimination for lesbians, gay men and bisexuals, as well as transgender employees. Two-thirds (65%) of American adults agree that federal law should be expanded to include protection from job discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Also, when it comes to protections for transgender employees, more than half (54%) of all adults strongly agree that transgender workers should be treated equally and fairly as all other workers. 
 Hopefully, more and more Americans are coming to see far right Christians for the mean, self-centered, hypocrites that they are in fact. 

Why Republicans Keep Telling Everyone They’re Not Scientists

I writing frequently about climate change because as one living on a low lying coastal area, the impacts of rising sea levels as the ice caps melt is easy to see.  Meanwhile Republicans continue to put their heads in the sand - in Virginia, they won't even use the terms "rising sea levels" or "climate change" and idiotically only talk about "repetitive flooding - and when pressed will say that they are not scientists and cannot opine on the issue.  Once upon a time, the GOP valued scientific knowledge.  Now, with the GOP base controlled by a bunch of knuckle dragging, spittle flecked, religious fanatics and racists who revel in ignorance, it is too dangerous for Republicans to admit that science tells us what the GOP base doesn't want to hear.  A piece in the New York Times looks at the GOP's shameless self-prostitution to the ugliest elements of society.  Here are excerpts:
Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, a Republican who is fighting a Democratic challenge from former Gov. Charlie Crist, was asked by The Miami Herald if he believes climate change is significantly affecting the weather. “Well, I’m not a scientist,” he said.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who is locked in a tight re-election race, was asked this month by The Cincinnati Enquirer if he believes that climate change is a problem. “I’m not a scientist,” he said.

House Speaker John A. Boehner, when asked by reporters if climate change will play a role in the Republican agenda, came up with a now-familiar formulation. “I’m not qualified to debate the science over climate change,” he said.

“I’m not a scientist,” or a close variation, has become the go-to talking point for Republicans questioned about climate change in the 2014 campaigns. In the past, many Republican candidates questioned or denied the science of climate change, but polls show that a majority of Americans accept it — and support government policies to mitigate it — making the Republican position increasingly challenging ahead of the 2016 presidential elections.

Jon A. Krosnick, who conducts polls on public attitudes on climate change at Stanford, finds the phrase perplexing. “What’s odd about this ‘I’m not a scientist’ line is that there’s nothing in the data we’ve seen to suggest that this helps a candidate,” Mr. Krosnick said. “We can’t find a single state where the majority of voters are skeptical. To say, ‘I’m not a scientist’ is like saying, ‘I’m not a parakeet.’ Everyone knows that it just means, ‘I’m not going to talk about this.’ ”

For now, “I’m not a scientist” is what one party adviser calls “a temporary Band-Aid” — a way to avoid being called a climate change denier but also to sidestep a dilemma. The reality of campaigning is that a politician who acknowledges that burning coal and oil contributes to global warming must offer a solution, which most policy experts say should be taxing or regulating carbon pollution and increasing government spending on alternative energy. But those ideas are anathema to influential conservative donors like the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch and the advocacy group they support, Americans for Prosperity.

In the meantime, climate change has come up this year in at least 10 debates in Senate and governor’s races — including those in Florida, New Hampshire, Colorado, Iowa and Kentucky — forcing Republicans to respond to a growing number of questions about the issue.

A 2013 survey by USA Today and Stanford University found that 71 percent of Americans say they are already seeing the results of climate change, and 55 percent support limiting greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. 

While the politicians debate, the scientific evidence linking weather extremes to climate change continues to mount. . . . Major corporations, including longtime Republican donors like ExxonMobil, Walmart and Coca-Cola, have acknowledged the science of human-caused climate change and are planning for future taxes or regulations on carbon pollution.

For Mr. McKenna, the energy lobbyist and Republican adviser, the political future is clear. “We’re going to keep getting this question until we nail down a hard answer,” he said.
The Republicans continue to fiddle while Rome proverbially burns.  And they want to control Congress - a frightening prospect.

The Cretinization of American Politics

I sometimes say that Americans get the government deserve since so many voters are oblivious to what is going on a either a local, state, or federal level.  During the "straight phase" of my life, this might be exemplified by the so-called soccer moms of Virginia Beach who worried about kids' sport, squabbles and back stabbing on the local PTA front and other overall insignificant things but who could not have an intelligent conversation on any aspect of politics.  If asked, the typical response would be "I don't follow politics" or "politics is boring."  Never mind that every aspect of your life and that of you children is being impacted.  Multiply this phenomenon a million times over and we soon discover why American government is largely pluralized and why so many misfits get elected to public office.  A piece in The New Yorker looks at the abysmal state of politics with so many Americans who act as if they've had lobotomies.  Here are highlights:
At this late stage in the prostitution, cretinization, and putrefaction of the American political system, it’s hard to get worked up about anything, and that, doubtless, explains why most voters aren’t paying much attention to the midterm elections. Or, rather, they are trying to pay no attention. If you are unfortunate enough to live in one of the states or districts where there is a close contest, you can’t escape so easily. 

Some high-minded folks dismiss campaign ads like these as trivial and unimportant, but that’s an error. Most Americans don’t attend campaign rallies, or make political donations, or read much political coverage, or watch political shows such as “Meet the Press,” or even Fox News. To these sorts of folks, ads aren’t just an annoying sideline to, or a distraction from, the real issues in the campaign. To a large extent, they are the campaign: they represent perhaps the main source of information about candidates and issues. Which, if you think about it, is pretty alarming.

It’s not that all the ads lack a legitimate purpose. Health care is an important issue. So are law and order, gun control, abortion, and many of the other subjects featured in the thirty-second spots. If Congressman Gardner is still sponsoring a federal personhood bill that could lead to the banning of I.U.D.s—which, again, he is—Colorado voters deserve to be informed of this. Udall’s latest television ad does just that.

The problem with the ads, and with the campaign in general, is that they tend to twist reality, raising what is incendiary above what is genuinely important, and substituting political point-scoring for genuine debate. Take Obamacare. While it hasn’t dominated the midterms in the way that some people thought it would a year or two ago, it’s still a major issue. From New Hampshire to Louisiana and Colorado, Republican candidates are demanding its “repeal.” But what, if anything, are they offering in its place? On this, there is mostly silence or deliberate obfuscation.

[W]hat does the repeal pledge actually amount to? Beyond offering Republicans another opportunity to bring up Obama, not very much. The same goes for campaign discussions, such as they’ve been, about another topic sure to play a big role in Washington in the coming years: the budget. If Republicans take over the Senate, will they pass bills supporting a balanced-budget amendment, the replacement of Medicare with a voucher system, and the shifting of Medicaid back to the states, with a much-reduced federal contribution? The former policy is a long-standing G.O.P. demand. 

With many Democrats also reluctant to focus on the substance rather than on the caricature of the Obama agenda, we have an election with no clear theme, no overriding trend, and, inevitably, no clear mandate. If the Republicans do eke out a majority in the Senate, which remains the most likely outcome, they will return to Washington determined to make life even more difficult for the President. But what sort of achievement will that be? We’ve just lived through four years of gridlock, during which we’ve seen very little in the way of significant legislation. More of the same won’t change anything, it will just make voters feel more powerless, disgusted, and alienated.
And the American dream which can now best be found in Canada will continue to evaporate in America.  In large part due to complacency and laziness on the part of Americans.  We may be getting exactly what many of us deserve. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

More Thursday Male Beauty

Bobby Jindal Angles to Lead the Stupid Party

As would be leaders of the Republican Party jockey for position to jump into the 2016 GOP presidential contest, it seems that it's in many ways a race to the bottom - something that has sadly become necessary as the GOP base has increasing gravitated toward the celebratory embrace of ignorance, religious extremism and open racism.  Joining in this race to lead the "stupid party" is Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, an admitted dark horse given his Indian descent.  And irony of ironies, he has totally forgotten his admonish from just two years ago that the GOP needed to cease being the "stupid party."  Salon looks at Jindal's willingness to prostitute himself to the ugliest elements of the GOP base.  Here are excerpts:
Following the Republican Party’s humiliating defeat in the 2012 elections — a loss that polls indicated was coming but which nevertheless stunned no small number of Republicans — Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal was scathing in his assessment of the state of the GOP.

It was high time, Jindal told Politico, for Republicans to discard its “simplistic” sloganeering and knee-jerk opposition to President Obama — time, the governor said, for the GOP to “stop being the stupid party.”

“We’ve also had enough of this dumbed-down conservatism,” Jindal added. “We need to stop being simplistic, we need to trust the intelligence of the American people and we need to stop insulting the intelligence of the voters.”

Of course, boastful ignorance and anti-intellectualism largely define the modern American right, so Jindal’s summons for a more level-headed, ideas-based GOP never stood any chance of success. And Jindal himself refused to specify what would substantially differentiate a non-stupid Republican Party from its stupid iteration.

But Jindal, eyeing a 2016 bid for president, has completely abandoned his anti-”stupid party” crusade, desperately doing all he can to burnish his Know-Nothing credentials.

Some of the latest evidence emerged Wednesday, when his administration issued a letter asking Ebola researchers who had recently traveled to afflicted west Africans not to attend an upcoming conference of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in New Orleans. Experts have condemned such sweeping bans as not based in science, noting additionally that travel bans and other restrictive measures targeting health workers and researchers may well discourage other professionals from traveling to Ebola-stricken countries. But Republicans, happy to demagogue the Ebola issue ahead of the forthcoming midterms, have little interest in the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and public health advocates. And Jindal is happy to join in.

Jindal’s latest forays into right-wing rhetorical red meat come on the heels of other public statements that put the lie to his self-fancied image as the GOP’s ideas man. He was among the first conservatives to rush to the defense of homophobic “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson, alleging Robertson’s critics were engaged in a “war on religion” and suggesting that pushback against anti-gay remarks somehow threatened free speech. Meanwhile, the Brown University biology major and Rhodes Scholar won’t say if he accepts the theory of evolution or climate science, putting him to the right of the pope on those issues.

So Bobby Jindal, recognizing that thought and ideas are anathema to the contemporary GOP base, no longer has any interest in eradicating the stupid from the stupid party. Instead, he’s angling to become its leader — once he’s gained a little more weight.

Homophobia - A Residue of British Colonial Rule

Click image to enlarge
At times I want to pull my hair out over the ignorance of those in Africa, India and now Singapore who claim that the acceptance of homosexuality is a western trait that threatens indigenous social mores.Why don't this homophobes have "I'm an ignorant cretin" tabooed on their foreheads?  The truth is that homophobia is a western import that traces back to British colonial rule.  As noted in treatise, The Origins and Roles of Same-Sex Relations in Human Societies, opposition to same sex relations was low across the globe until the arrival of Christian missionaries.  Now, American Christofascists are working diligently (with corrupt politicians and parasitic churchmen) to follow in the footsteps of their equally bigoted ancestors and dupe local populations into embracing homophobia.  A piece in the Washington Post traces all of this back to British colonial rule.  Here are highlights:
During the past half-century, many countries have eliminated criminal laws against what are variously called “homosexual offences”, “sodomy,” “unnatural acts” or  other terms used to describe consensual sexual relations between people (often specifically men) of the same sex.

Yet, the decriminalization of homosexual conduct is an uneven process and several countries are moving in the opposite direction. 

Among such criminalization cases, a common narrative is that acceptance and tolerance of homosexuality is a foreign, or alien, Western imposition on indigenous cultures.  For example, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has called homosexuality an invention of the West that will “disturb the African moral fabric.”

Here stands one of the biggest ironies.  The idea that the so-called tolerance towards homosexuality somehow sprang from a western source doesn’t hold.  As our research shows, this narrative is not only wrong-headed but the opposite of the historical facts.  Instead, for many countries, including some of those mentioned above, criminalization laws were based on British imperial legal instruments, like the Indian Penal Code Section 377A, introduced and imposed on these countries by Britain when they were colonized.

We investigated whether and why there is variation in laws regulating and punishing homosexual conduct around the world.  Looking at a variety of data on 185 countries, we found that former British colonies are much more likely to have laws that criminalize homosexual conduct than former colonies of other European powers, or than other states in general. 

It seems that when the British Empire was introducing legal systems around the world, one of the laws they included was the law against sodomy, which was not decriminalized in England and Wales until 1967. By this time, most of the “Winds of Change” wave of decolonization had left former colonies independent of changes in British legislation.  By contrast, after the French Revolution, the French Empire decriminalized sodomy between consenting adults, and spread this Enlightenment legacy among its colonies.

Highlighting the colonial origin of anti-gay legislation is an important way to counter the narrative that tolerance of homosexuality is a neo-colonial imposition. . . . Another strategy is to publicize the numerous examples of accepted homosexual practices and relations in various pre-colonial African cultures.
 What is sad is that the original British colonials played upon the ignorance of native populations in introducing anti-gay laws.  Now, American Christofascists are engaging in the same toxic conduct.   As for leaders who claim to be rejecting foreign influence by enacting anti-gay laws, all they ultimately prove are they they are ignorant asses.  Are you listen, Mr. Putin?

Apple CEO Tim Cook: I'm Proud to Be Gay

Many have long conjectured the Apple CEO Tim Cook is gay, but Cook has always refrained from publicly "coming out" or discussing his sexual orientation.  That is until now.  In a piece in Business Week, Cook not only comes out, but goes on to say that he is proud to be gay.  It's a feeling I understand having shed all of the religious brainwashing that had damaged me growing up and made me feel ashamed of who I am. Our enemies seek to marginalize us and make us feel shame.  We must resist that temptation and stand up proudly for who we are.  Here are highlights from Cook's essay:

Throughout my professional life, I’ve tried to maintain a basic level of privacy. I come from humble roots, and I don’t seek to draw attention to myself. Apple is already one of the most closely watched companies in the world, and I like keeping the focus on our products and the incredible things our customers achieve with them.

At the same time, I believe deeply in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, who said: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’ ” I often challenge myself with that question, and I’ve come to realize that my desire for personal privacy has been holding me back from doing something more important. That’s what has led me to today.

For years, I’ve been open with many people about my sexual orientation. Plenty of colleagues at Apple know I’m gay, and it doesn’t seem to make a difference in the way they treat me. Of course, I’ve had the good fortune to work at a company that loves creativity and innovation and knows it can only flourish when you embrace people’s differences. Not everyone is so lucky.

While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven’t publicly acknowledged it either, until now. So let me be clear: I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.

Being gay has given me a deeper understanding of what it means to be in the minority and provided a window into the challenges that people in other minority groups deal with every day. It’s made me more empathetic, which has led to a richer life. It’s been tough and uncomfortable at times, but it has given me the confidence to be myself, to follow my own path, and to rise above adversity and bigotry. It’s also given me the skin of a rhinoceros, which comes in handy when you’re the CEO of Apple.

The world has changed so much since I was a kid. America is moving toward marriage equality, and the public figures who have bravely come out have helped change perceptions and made our culture more tolerant. Still, there are laws on the books in a majority of states that allow employers to fire people based solely on their sexual orientation. There are many places where landlords can evict tenants for being gay, or where we can be barred from visiting sick partners and sharing in their legacies. Countless people, particularly kids, face fear and abuse every day because of their sexual orientation.

So if hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with who he or she is, or bring comfort to anyone who feels alone, or inspire people to insist on their equality, then it’s worth the trade-off with my own privacy.

The company I am so fortunate to lead has long advocated for human rights and equality for all. We’ve taken a strong stand in support of a workplace equality bill before Congress, just as we stood for marriage equality in our home state of California. And we spoke up in Arizona when that state’s legislature passed a discriminatory bill targeting the gay community. We’ll continue to fight for our values, and I believe that any CEO of this incredible company, regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation, would do the same. And I will personally continue to advocate for equality for all people until my toes point up.

Kudos to Cook.  Each of us can make a difference by living openly and honestly.  I does open minds and change hearts - and save lives.  I can imagine that spittle flying in Christianist circles.  We had best brace ourselves for an Apple boycott by the One Million Bitches Moms and other hate merchants.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Working to Protect Others from "Ex-Gay" Harm

Despite the unanimous positions of every legitimate medical and mental health association in America that "ex-gay" or "reparative therapy" doesn't work and, in fact, is harmful, the Christian right continues to market the myth that gays can "change" and become heterosexual.  To me, it is part of the incessant campaign of lies disseminated by the "godly folk" who in my experience are perhaps the most dishonest people one will ever meet.  If the lies further their theocratic agenda, then they give themselves a pass from the strictures of the Commandment against lying and bearing false witness. Anything to avoid facing the reality that their world view is based on myths and fairy tales.  Thankfully, some who have fallen victim to the "ex-gay" myth are admitting that the "ministries" are bogus and speaking out.  One such individual is Tim Rymel who once worked for the charlatan organization "Love in Action."  Think Progress looks at the message that Rymel is seeking to broadcast.  Here are excerpts:
“The religious right continues to tout, ‘We have thousands of ex-gay people,’ and they don’t exist. The thousands do not exist.”

Earlier this year, a group of former ex-gay leaders — individuals who made a career at some point in their lives promoting or administering ex-gay therapy — published an open letter decrying all forms of sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE). “It is our firm belief,” they wrote, “that it is much more productive to support, counsel, and mentor LGBT individuals to embrace who they are in order to live happy, well-adjusted lives.” The letter helped launch the National Center for Lesbian Rights’ BornPerfect campaign, which calls for more laws protecting people from the harms of reparative therapy.

Among the signatories was Tim Rymel, who at one point in his life was an evangelical Christian minister and a vocal advocate for ex-gay therapy, offering his own personal testimony to support his cause.
Rymel now identifies as gay and is working against the harms of ex-gay therapy. He details his journey of self-acceptance in a new book called Going Gay, and he spoke with ThinkProgress about what he learned along the way and what he’s now trying to teach others about homosexuality and Christianity.

He’s been writing about his journey out of ex-gay therapy to correct “20 years of silence.” He said it took that long to come to terms with what had happened — including not only coming (back) out, but also divorcing his wife and the mother of his two children. In turn, he’s mostly been hearing from others who’ve gone through a similar process. “The audience seems to be the middle aged — late 40s, early 50s — people who are saying, ‘That was my experience,’ or, ‘That’s what happened to me in the church.’”

Still though, Rymel is committed to having these important conversations with his detractors.

Perhaps the most compelling aspect of Rymel’s story is the juxtaposition he draws between his understanding of his own sexual orientation and the very different process of understanding who gay people are culturally.  . . . “When you come from that [church] environment and you step into the gay community, there is no place that you feel more insecure,” he recalled, . .

He unequivocally now says, “I feel bad about the message we gave out. We were wrong. I was wrong.” And he also wants people to know that he takes responsibility for the harm he might have perpetuated, adding, “I certainly apologize to people who have been affected by my words or what we have done in the past. I hope that they’re able to pick up and move on and pull their lives back together as we have tried to do.”

Rymel opposes any ex-gay therapy for minors: “I have no qualms about saying that’s wrong and that that needs to be stopped,” because he worries about “a parent forcing a child into something that is ultimately going to harm them.” Laws have already passed in New Jersey and California protecting young people from being enrolled in the treatment, and conservatives’ attempts to challenge those laws have failed.

“There is no such thing as ex-gay,” Rymel now asserts, but he acknowledges that beliefs don’t change so easily. He hopes that conservatives can they see themselves in his story: “I was one of you… I was as far right as you can get as a Republican, so I completely understand religious liberties, I completely understand where you’re coming from and faith and all of those things, but this doesn’t work.

I spent 37 years trying to "change" without success.  Much of those years was filled with self-hate and inner unhappiness I shared with no one.  "Ex-gay" therapy is soul killing and, given the impossibility of really changing, has the danger of convincing some that death is the only solution, hence my two suicide attempts as I tried to come to self-acceptance.  I survived the ordeal, but not everyone does, and these "ex-gay" advocates have blood on their hands in my view.

Racial Politics and the 2014 Midterm Elections

Like Millenials mentioned in a post yesterday, black voters too often stay home in non-presidential elections.  The result?  Here in Virginia we have a Republican controlled legislature that basically longs for the days of segregation or worse, seeks to disenfranchise minority voters, and panders to Christofascists and hate groups like The Family Foundation whose ancestors - and many current members - used the Bible to justify slavery and segregation.   The phenomenon is not unique to Virginia and, in fact, is even worse the farther one ventures into the Deep South.  As the New York Times reports, Democrats seem to have finally waken up to the need to galvanize blacks to get out and vote with ads that use race to underscore the agenda of the modern day Republican Party where white supremacists are welcomed with open arms.  Here are some article highlights:

In the final days before the election, Democrats in the closest Senate races across the South are turning to racially charged messages — invoking Trayvon Martin’s death, the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., and Jim Crow-era segregation — to jolt African-Americans into voting and stop a Republican takeover in Washington.

The images and words they are using are striking for how overtly they play on fears of intimidation and repression. And their source is surprising. The effort is being led by national Democrats and their state party organizations — not, in most instances, by the shadowy and often untraceable political action committees that typically employ such provocative messages.

In North Carolina, the “super PAC” started by Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, ran an ad on black radio that accused the Republican candidate, Thom Tillis, of leading an effort to pass the kind of gun law that “caused the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.”
In Georgia, Democrats are circulating a flier warning that voting is the only way “to prevent another Ferguson.” It shows two black children holding cardboard signs that say “Don’t shoot.”

Democrats say Republicans need to own their record of passing laws hostile to African-American interests on issues like voting rights. The decision to use such overt appeals reflects just how much they are relying on black voters in the states in the old Confederacy, where key Senate races could decide which party controls the chamber.

One way to hang on is to increase the share of the black vote that typically turns out in a midterm election. To do so, Democrats are seizing on racial mistrust and unease, the same complicated emotions often used against them in the South.

The attacks have been most aggressive in North Carolina, where Democrats have said they need to raise the share of the electorate that is African-American to 21 percent, from 19 percent in the last midterm election in 2010, to prevail over Republicans . . . 

Ms. Hagan’s campaign has often referred to remarks in which Mr. Tillis appeared to equate reparations for slavery with social welfare programs. Governments created such public assistance programs, he said in 2007, based in part on the “belief that we should provide additional reparations” to those whose ancestors were enslaved.

In Arkansas, voters are opening mailboxes to find leaflets with images of the Ferguson protests and the words: “Enough! Republicans are targeting our kids, silencing our voices and even trying to impeach our president.” The group distributing them is Color of Change, a grass-roots civil rights organization.

In Georgia, the state Democratic Party is mixing themes of racial discrimination with appeals to rally behind the only black man elected president. “It’s up to us to vote to protect the legacy of the first African-American president,” one flier reads.

For many African-Americans, feelings of persecution — from voter ID laws, aggressive police forces and a host of other social problems — are hard to overstate. And they see no hyperbole in the attacks.  “It’s not race-baiting; it’s actually happening,” said Jaymes Powell Jr., an official in the North Carolina Democratic Party’s African-American Caucus.

My late father-in-law was a retired Baptist minister.  As a result, Republican and far right groups inundate the mail with mailings which are overtly racist and anti-black and anti-minority in general.  We thrown the foul materials in the trash.  I for one am happy to see the Democrats calling out the GOP for what it has become.  Better late than never. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Matt Barber - Still a Hate Merchant and Advertisement for Leaving Christianity

Yesterday this blog an others noted that Matt Barber - Assistant Dean at Liberty University's toxic law school - was promoting a columnist who advocated the execution of gays base, naturally, on the "literal word of God" found in Leviticus and a few other phrases in the Bible.  In apparent reaction to the firestorm that resulted (or perhaps the disclosure that the promoted "columnist" had a lengthy criminal record), Barber took down the post advocating for the murder of gays.  Now, Barber seems to think that he is exonerated from all his promotion of anti-gay violence.  This, of course, is anything but the case given Barber's ugly anti-gay history.  Indeed, if Barber is typical of "godly Christians," then decent people should be hastening to flee Christianity entirely.  A piece at Right Wing Watch reminds us of Barber's true role as a constant hate merchant and the ugliness that he promotes daily. Here are some highlights:
[Philip] Stallings’ column has disappeared, and today Barber tweeted at us, “Wow! Thanks for the tip. We obviously weren’t aware of that & find the position appalling. The answer is life in Christ.”
Well. It’s good to have Matt Barber say he finds the idea of executing gay people appalling. We agree.

But if that’s the case he ought to consider vetting the material he promotes a little more carefully. Just over a week ago we noted that BarbWire had run a column praising Pastor Steven Anderson, who has called for the execution of gays, and has said, “You want to know who the biggest hypocrite in the world is? The biggest hypocrite in the world is the person who believes in the death penalty for murderers and not for homosexuals.”

And given how much anti-gay extremism is promoted by Barber and his Religious Right allies, that got us wondering if anything else short of calling for the killing of gay people would cross the line for Barber.

We collected some other statements that Barber apparently doesn’t find appalling, because they’ve all been in columns promoted on his site:

·       * Gays are degenerates.
·       * Transgender people are demonic.
·      *  Gays “have your children as a target”
·       * Pastors who marry same-sex couples are “servants of Satan.”
·        * “The homosexual leaders are the most vile, vicious, and vitriolic people in the world.”
·      *“ISIS is truly the manifestation of the purest form of the homosexual agenda: sodomizing men as both torture and pleasure, and killing those who disagree with them.”
·      * “The fictional ‘rights’ based on homosexual deviance and the genuine, God-given, First Amendment-protected rights of the vast majority of Americans cannot coexist.”
Here are some other things we find appalling that Matt Barber seemingly does not:
Jeff Allen, a BarbWire editor, compares the gay rights movement to “a malignant cancer” and says, “Each victory for the homosexual activists represents another nail in America’s coffin.”  Allen has supported brutal anti-gay laws in Uganda, Nigeria, and Ethiopia, which include imprisonment not only for sexual conduct but also for joining social clubs or advocating for equality. Allen was upset when criticized for his “innocent mistake” of calling a fake photo of “NAMBLA for Obama” an example of “the undeniable link between homosexuality and pedophilia.” More Allen: “Satanism, sodomy, and slaughter are each part of the Devil’s sinister agenda to destroy America.”

This spring, BarbWire published a column by former Indiana lawmaker Don Boys recounting his attempt to recriminalize homosexuality. In a similar column a few years earlier, Boys had explained that he wanted to make homosexuality a crime punishable by up to twelve years in prison.

Robert Oscar Lopez wrote for BarbWire that almost every situation “involving a same-sex couple with exclusive custody of small children is adult misconduct at best or a crime against humanity at worst.”

BarbWire publishes notorious anti-gay activist Scott Lively, who wrote this summer that the US and its State Department had become “The Great Satan” of the world for opposing anti-gay legislation overseas. Lively has promoted anti-gay policies in Uganda and around the world.

And that’s just a sampling of the anti-gay extremists who have found a home on BarbWire. Not to mention Barber himself, who says he has been “called by God” to “sound the alarm” about the fact that gay sex is always sinful, and “The wages of sin is death.”
Barber is indeed a foul piece of work.  It is individuals like Barber that make me increasingly not to even the moniker of being a Christian.