Just An Idea


I had an idea, far from claiming it original or earth shattering; just a thought crossing my mind. One of those little moments of clarity, akin to that instant when Algebra makes sense or you understand “cereal box French” – for the first time in your life not having to flip to the English side.

I’m still bargaining with “promise” – I assured her I wouldn’t write about religion. Promises born of good intent are common – minuscule snippets of idea arrive when least expected. My apologies for a flippant promise – little ideas will trump every time.

Worn to my last nerve at the thought of defending my “Godless” views, sick of the label Atheist, and steadfast in belief that religion will be the death of us all – I had an idea. Instead of the “Godless” patting themselves on the back for cleverly debunking the faithful; they need to organize and form a recognized “religion”. Before fundamentalist Atheists vow to jump down my throat – hear me out. We pride ourselves on analytical thinking, minds open to possibilities and truth. The truth is – this idea has some merit.

Like it or not our world is based on religious bias. Values such as freedom of speech and religion become contentious when a segment of society is deemed void of religion. The Godless can justify their position till blue in the face – truth is, nothing less than official recognition will level the playing field. If the Godless stepped down from their fortified positions, organized, put their minds to good use and refused to take the bait dangled by fundamentalists mouth pieces – think of all the good we could do.

Wouldn’t irony rule the day if the Godless behaved with dignity, respect, inclusion and charity? How perfect would it be to exhibit virtues so many faithful overlook in their rabid agenda to eradicate the Godless?

No one will win a pissing match of egos, intellect, common sense or values.  I’m tired of the game.  A proposal to change the rules – more accurately a “game changer” set in motion by tactical planning aimed at putting an end to the madness strikes me as a refreshing summer rain.  Forming a “religion” isn’t hypocritical – it’s smart, decisive, and pivotal towards getting on with more important issues. Granted, the Godless might have to choose something to “worship”. I say – suck it up people, look at the big picture. Maybe we could worship “seeds”, the implications could vastly alter genetic modifications if we put our minds to it.

I could care less if my neighbour was waiting for the rapture or a reincarnated soul from the planet Xenu. As long as they don’t shove it down my throat, making the world a better place should come easily. It wouldn’t be difficult to find a qualifying niche. The link below is for the IRS rules regarding tax exempt/ non profit religious status. Following is an excerpt regarding the validity of religious belief. At least give it a ponder – somebody has to take the high road for the good of us all – why not the Godless?

http://www.irs.gov/irm/part7/irm_07-025-003.html

7.25.3.6.4  (02-23-1999)
Validity of Religious Belief

  1. In making a determination whether a religious organization qualifies for exemption under IRC 501(c)(3), the Internal Revenue Service cannot pass judgment on the merits of the applicant’s asserted religious belief.
  2. Accordingly, proof of entitlement to exemption does not include proving the validity of the religious doctrines or beliefs of the applicant or its members. It is the government’s duty to “make room for as wide a variety of beliefs and creeds as the spiritual needs of man deem necessary.” Zorach v. Clausen, 343 U.S. 306 (1952).
  3. This concept is also discussed in U.S. v. Ballard, 322 U.S. 78 (1943), in which the Court stated “The Fathers of the Constitution were not unaware of the varied and extreme views of religious sects, of the violence of disagreement among them, and of the lack of any one religious creed on which all men would agree. They fashioned a charter of government which envisaged the widest possible toleration of conflicting views…The religious views espoused by respondents might seem incredible, if not preposterous, to most people. But if those doctrines are subject to trial before a jury charged with finding their truth or falsity, then the same can be done with the religious beliefs of any sect. When the triers of fact undertake that task, they enter a forbidden domain.”

7.25.3.6.5  (02-23-1999)
Religious Belief Defined

  1. The term “religious” as used in IRC 501(c)(3) is not subject to precise definition. The leading interpretation of the term was made by the Supreme Court in United States v. Seeger, 380 U.S. 163 (1965), in which the Court interpreted the phrase “religious training and belief” as used in the Universal Military Training and Service Act, 50 U.S.C. section 456 (j), in determining an individual’s eligibility for exemption from military service on religious grounds. The Court formulated the following definition: “A sincere and meaningful belief which occupies in the life of its possessor a place parallel to that filled by the God of those admittedly qualifying for the exemption comes within the statutory definition.”
  2. The Court elaborated upon the Seeger definition in Welsh v. United States, 398 U.S. 33 (1970), stating that “[i]f an individual deeply and sincerely holds beliefs that are purely ethical or moral in source and content but that nevertheless impose upon him a duty of conscience to refrain from participating in any war at any time, those beliefs certainly occupy in the life of that individual a place parallel to that filled by… God in the lives of traditionally religious persons.” Thus, religious beliefs include many beliefs (for example, Taoism, Buddhism, and Secular Humanism) that do not posit the existence of a Supreme Being in the conventional sense.

7.25.3.6.6  (02-23-1999)
Actions Distinguished from Beliefs

  1. The constitutional protections afforded religious beliefs do not prevent government from regulating conduct or actions when it has a compelling interest to do so. Thus, the First Amendment does not prevent the government from requiring compliance with general laws designed to effectuate an important governmental policy or objective even though compliance may be contrary to an individual’s sincerely-held religious beliefs.
  2. In Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145 (1878), the Court upheld a law passed by Congress that made the practice of polygamy by persons residing in United States territories a crime. The Court interpreted the constitutional prohibition in this way: “Congress was deprived of all legislative power over mere opinion, but was left free to reach actions which were in violation of social duties or subversive of good order.” Finding that polygamy had long been considered an offense against society in all the states of the union, the Court held that the statute under consideration was constitutional and valid as prescribing a rule of action for all those residing in the territories. In holding that religious belief did not except persons from operation of the statute, the Court said: “While they [laws] cannot interfere with mere religious belief and opinions, they may with practices.”
  3. In Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296 (1940), the Court endorsed Reynolds, stating that “the [First] Amendment embraces two concepts, freedom to believe and freedom to act. The first is absolute but, in the nature of things, the second cannot be.” See also Davis v. Beason, 133 U.S. 33 (1890), and Mormon Church v. United States, 136 U.S. 1 (1890), where the Court grappled with the same issue. While continuing to affirm the right of freedom of religious belief, the Court nevertheless held that legislation for the punishment of actions “inimical to the peace, good order and morals of society” did not violate the First Amendment.
  4. A notable recent application of this doctrine is Bob Jones University v. United States, andGoldsboro Christian Schools v. United States, 461 U.S. 574 (1983), in which the Supreme Court upheld revocation of the exemption under IRC 501(c)(3) of religious and educational institutions on the grounds that its religiously motivated policy forbidding interracial dating violated a fundamental public policy against racial discrimination. The Court concluded that educational institutions that practice racial discrimination based on religious beliefs are not charitable in the generally accepted legal sense and thus do not qualify for federal tax exemption.

What is Hate?


Pondering hate has my head in a spin, who decides what is or isn’t hate? The sobering fact being; my views of right and wrong are considered equally hateful by millions of people who see things differently. Last night I wrote about Christian Kerodin, the convicted felon behind plans for “The Citadel” – a fortified city accepting applications from prospective residents who want nothing more than to live with “like minded” people. Like minded in this case meaning an insular society free from “liberals”, city government or taxes, recycling, and criminal or background checks. All “The Citadel” asks in return is that you arrive with your own weapons, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, and the attitude needed to use them.

As repugnant as I find this, the reality is – Kerodin has served his time for extortion, isn’t breaking any laws, and under his constitutional rights can say anything he pleases. Stock piling guns and ammunition, wilfully excluding those who don’t fit your “mould”, and building a utopian society in a remote corner of Idaho are completely within the law.

Strictly speaking I have no right to criticise or condemn his actions. The flip side being that I wouldn’t want my voice or opinions to be squashed just because others didn’t agree. All of which takes me back to pondering hate.

I wonder at what point freedom of speech crosses the line? Are we so consumed with freedom of speech and religion that we allow hate to poison society? Is there anything wrong with a fundamentalist preacher attacking homosexuals; does that fall under freedom of speech or is it a hate crime? Are my pro-choice views hateful, and if so who decides? Freedom of speech appears to guarantee racist organizations the right to spread  hate, at what point if any does that become a hate crime?

There isn’t an easy answer – I wouldn’t want my voice silenced any more than a fundamentalist radical would want their views snuffed. That said – what is hate and where do we draw the line?

The Citadel


Call me a silly Canadian but I’m inclined to think building a fortified town, populated by heavily armed citizens in a remote corner of Idaho borders on treason – America on the other hand calls it “The Citadel”.

According to an article that appeared in the Idaho Statesman in January of this year, convicted felon Christian Kerodin is the promoter behind the “fortress”. Kerodin, convicted in 2004 of extortion, posed on-line as a security expert with knowledge of malls in danger of terrorist attacks. He then demanded $122,500.00 from a mall executive to release the names of an additional 14 targeted malls. Mall executive turned out to be a homeland security officer and Kerodin served 30 months. A pay-pal account set up under his wife’s name is collecting the $208.00 application fee from prospective residents – people of like mind, drooling at the prospect of living behind a wall with enough rounds of ammunition to sink a battleship.

http://www.idahostatesman.com/2013/01/22/2421922/group-taking-citadel-fees-tied.html

According to The Citadel website, this planned community will house between 3,500 – 7000 patriotic families willing to prepare for any emergency, people who are proficient with “the American icon of liberty – the rifle” They promise no home owners association, recycling,city hall, taxes, or credit/background checks.

http://www.iiicitadel.com/

With all due respect – what is wrong with you people? Have you taken leave of your senses, or is this all a big joke? The fact that this man was even given the time of day by – surprise, surprise – Glen Beck makes my blood boil.  Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness doesn’t translate into convicted felons promoting hate, fear, and weapon caches. Holy crap America; you’re losing your grip. Snap out of it.

Quebec Values


The province of Quebec is unique in Canada; many non Canadians know that Canada has two official languages – French and English – how many people know Quebec has it’s own legal system based on French civil law? It’s complicated; for anyone wanting to learn more the link below gives a good overview,

http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/csj-sjc/just/03.html

Quebec values is a term given to a bill expected to be introduced in parliament this fall by the Parti Quebecois – aimed at regulating religious symbols. If you worked at a government office, police station, public school or daycare, university or hospital you would be forbidden to wear a burqa, turban, hijab, yarmulke, or cross. Some exceptions would be allowed under the amendment to the Quebec Charter of Rights; a crucifix in the National Assembly would be considered an “icon of cultural heritage”,  as it was a gift from the Catholic Church in 1936. The Marois government is also considering an exemption for staff at institutions such as hospitals, with a clause specifying the exemption be reviewed every 5 years.

Bernard Drainville, Quebec’s Minister of Democratic Values is the driving force behind the bill he originally called the Charter of Secular Values. The debate was sparked in 2007 when the Bouchard-Taylor Commission took a look at “religious accommodation” in Quebec. Last week Charles Taylor spoke in a televised interview saying the bill far exceeds  recommendations of the commission.An excerpt of Taylor’s comments from a CTV news story….

“They are proposing such strict restrictions that it will create problems… People will feel rejected by Quebec,” said Taylor.

He said that widespread bans against religious icons would end up creating ghettos in Quebec.

“It tells a category of citizens ‘you are excluded, we don’t want you here.’ It doesn’t make any sense.”

While conducting their commission, professor Taylor and historian Gerard Bouchard found, early on, that Quebecers were almost paranoid with fear that Muslims were taking over society. Taylor and Bouchard found those fears were not rooted in reality, and said that Quebec should work to integrate all citizens.

“The rules we proposed were very clear: institutions are neutral, individuals are free,” said Taylor.  ridiculous –

I’m still pondering “Quebec Values” –  I believe it’s a step in the right direction, perhaps being taken a little too far. Asking a woman to remove her hijab when entering a government building seems a bit much. Then I remember I live in a country whose federal employees are forbidden to say “bless you” after someone sneezes – I’ll take attempts to extract church from state, however feeble or silly over the Tea Party any day.

http://montreal.ctvnews.ca/proposed-quebec-values-could-ban-all-religious-symbols-in-public-buildings-1.1418860

What Are We Afraid Of?


As a little girl I remember chanting “eeny meeny miney mo, catch a n****r by the toe”, it was the early sixties, I was 3 or 4 and hadn’t the slightest concept of what it meant. Somewhere along the way the “N” word became “Tiger” – I can’t recall an explanation, all I knew was we had to decide whose turn it was to go first, so tiger it was. There wasn’t a hateful bone in my body; my family – decent hard working people who never spoke ill of anyone. It wasn’t the deep south, this was rural Canada  in 1963 – parents passing along rhymes  they learned as children – nary a thought to meaning.

I believe that “Tiger” was Martin Luther King Jr. Fifty years ago today, close to a quarter of a million people marched on Washington, D.C. Gathered at the Washington Monument, Martin Luther King spoke for nearly 20 minutes, delivering his iconic I Have a Dream speech. Powerful, articulate, compelling – I can’t think of words that do justice to this moment in history.

MLK was a proud American; a man who asked only that people uphold the American constitution, the promise of emancipation, the pursuit of life, liberty and freedom for all citizens. He calls for tolerance, understanding, and peace. He asks that the black community forgive white America and proceed in a spirit of understanding. If you do nothing else today – take 5 minutes out of your life –  click below and listen to the words of Martin Luther King Jr.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nFcbpGK9_aw

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

Listen then ask yourself what it is you’re afraid of. Ask yourself what good it does to sabotage every move the Obama administration makes. Ask yourself if a “tiger” is just as capable of settling things as any other animal you could name. Ask yourself why you’re filled with contempt, ask yourself to snap out of the past and think for yourselves. Stop being afraid and ask yourself if America is worth fighting for. One of the greatest Americans in history answered that question 50 years ago today – to think his life was in vain breaks my heart.

Lester Chambers Attacked


I’m going to let this video do most of the talking. Taken at the Hayward-Russell City Blues Festival in Hayward California shortly before the Trayvon Martin verdict. Seventy three year old blues legend Lester Chambers dedicated Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready” to Trayvon Martin. Without warning, 43 year old Dinalynn Andrews Potter climbed on stage, knocking Chambers down while beating him. It’s hard to make out in the clip but witnesses reported her shouting “it’s all your fault”. Potter has been charged with assault – Chambers was treated in hospital.

While completely understanding American perspectives – not wanting to stir up trouble; I find it fascinating the incident received little or no coverage in the U.S. Most news coverage comes from the UK or foreign press. I ponder how many Americans were even aware of this racial out burst.

Bad History


Would it surprise anyone to learn that Hurricane Katrina ranks second in a survey by Sony as the most watched moments in TV history. Nestled between #1 – 9/11 terror attach and third place verdict for O.J. Simpson, Katrina made history for all the wrong reasons. Katrina falls to 15th place on the list of the top 20 worst moments in American history, but then it has strong competition from assassinations, massacres, and atomic bombs.

http://shareranks.com/1678,20-Most-Infamous-Moments-in-U.S.-History

Katrina was just another hurricane before the levees broke. What happened next was so astounding, so unbelievable, Hollywood couldn’t have scripted a more fantastic tale. I’ll never forget calling my husband at work when news broke that thousands of survivors were trapped at the Convention Centre.  Katrina played out like a bad disaster movie; on what planet would it not have occurred to anyone that the Convention Centre was packed with desperate people. As FEMA struggled to decide which was their left or right hand, Canadian search and rescue teams were among the first responders. Utterly bizarre. Hours became days, tempers flared, fingers were pointed, and still thousands suffered or perished. Without question the biggest screw up in American history.

Globally the worst moments in history make a little more sense than the Katrina fiasco. According to listverse the top ten come with religious book ends. Number 10 being Catholic sexual abuse, and number 1 the Crusades. In between are two world wars, famines, genocides, 9/11, and the plague. Far from thinking any of these moments actually make sense, black death aside, these moments were the result of conscious decisions or planning.

http://listverse.com/2012/03/02/top-10-worst-moments-in-human-history/

We could ponder and debate bad history for hours, the world has no shortage of horrific moments to crowd top ten lists. In fact anyone who can narrow it down to ten is doing a lot better than I ever could. Instead I’m pondering a slightly different bad history; a history that could have been spared the lists had it been taken seriously.