Society

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Robin Hood Tax?

While I continue to work on my post on the Australian election, I thought I’d post this quickie. I’ve previously proposed a similar idea to this, and now the concept of a so-called “Robin Hood tax” is gaining traction. Of course, many of the people who would have to pay such a tax say it is “naïve” and “damaging”, but I really don’t think a tax as tiny as the one proposed (0.05%!) would have any significant impact on legitimate trading. It would however limit the sort of speculative trading that led us into the global financial crisis, and it would generate more than enough revenue to pay for the Wall Street bailout. And what fairer way to pay for it? The fact that we don’t actually have such a tax—and there isn’t any indication from our governments that it is even being considered—suggests to me that not much has really changed since the GFC, and that big business is still above the law.

9/11 Nine Years On

Well it seems we’ve managed to avoid a Koran burning, but we still had Christians ripping pages out of the Koran at the White House to protest “the charade that Islam is a peaceful religion”—what a shame these hypocrites don’t give the outrageous violence and intolerance in their own Bible the same scrutiny. The huge controversy surrounding the so-called “Ground Zero mosque” (which will actually be two blocks away and will be more of a Muslim community centre than what most people think of as a mosque) has only been inflamed by this year’s anniversary of September 11, however.

My own views on this issue are expressed very well by the video above—opposing this mosque is tantamount to equating all Muslims with Islamic extremist terrorists, which is the same as equating all Christians with Christian extremist terrorists. As critical as I am of the extreme violence and intolerance written into the both the Koran and the Bible, it is not reflective of how most Muslims practice their religion, just as it isn’t reflective of how most Christians practice theirs. And while it may seem strange for an outspoken atheist to preach religious tolerance, the fact of the matter is, without freedom of religion, there wouldn’t be freedom of no religion. Freedom of religion is one of the key things that makes us better than the terrorists—to deny this only brings us down to their level. Read the rest of this entry »

Possibly my favourite article on this blog so far is the Religion and Morality post. I was originally intending to conclude that article with some statistics on how atheists and theists compare on the sorts of issues people normally use to judge morality, but as the article was very lengthy already, I thought I should save it for another post. So here it is.

Before theists trot out their usual arguments that the greatest mass murderers in history were atheists—or that the communism is an example of how atheism leads to unhealthy societies—please read my Religion and Morality article, which covers these misconceptions thoroughly. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, check out the results of Vision of Humanity’s Global Peace Index. As is graphically represented in this Epiphenom article, the most atheist countries are the most peaceful—and the most religious countries are the most violent. These results may not mean religion makes people more violent though—it could mean violence makes people more religious. So to make these comparisons as meaningful as possible, we have to eliminate socio-economic factors as much as possible. Hence, it is most instructive to compare the US—which is by far the most religious western country—with other western countries. As can be seen when we do this, the US rates alongside such countries as China, and is behind (often well behind) other western countries. Read the rest of this entry »

Okay, so I’m not entirely sure what “refudiate” means (as the word doesn’t exist), but as it seems she meant repudiate, I’m pretty sure I’m using it correctly! Sarah Palin’s difficulties with the English language are of course now legendary, and a favourite subject for commedians. It is however very disturbing that some one whose native language is English can be considered a credible presidential candidate, when they have so much difficulty speaking it correctly. I am far from a perfect English speaker myself, as I learned it as an adult—I would never dare to publish my unedited text here. But Sarah clearly has no problem with doing this, and even likens herself to Shakespeare! Still, a native English speaker who is a potential president should be able to publish their unedited text—the fact that she can’t should be an embarrassment to all American conservatives. The fact that it isn’t says just as much about them as it does about her, and is deeply disturbing. In essence, they celebrate poor education, stupidity and ignorance. This isn’t about right or left—this is about right and wrong.

The other thing the far right celebrates, of course, is bigotry, which as this video says, should be getting as much attention as Sarah’s choice of words. The outrage over the building of a mosque two blocks away from “ground zero” effectively equates all Muslims with the perpetrators of September 11, as that is the only way a simple mosque can be considered “stabbing the heart” of the American heartland. Yet at the same time, they claim not to be anti-Muslim, and Palin even calls on peaceful Muslims to support her! Why should they? If they are peaceful, then there is nothing wrong with this mosque (or rather, there isn’t anything more wrong with it than any other place of religious worship).

Game On!

With Julia Gillard about to announce her new climate change policy (which I am sure will have to be better than the opposition’s!)—after last weekend setting a date for the next Australian election on August the 21st—I thought it would be appropriate to talk about the upcoming Australian election here, and Julia’s performance so far. If I could sum up her style of politics in one word, I would call it “pragmatic”. Unlike Kevin Rudd, she certainly isn’t over promising, which I think was his downfall: I still believe he was sincere in his stated intent, but when circumstances didn’t allow him to deliver on some of his promises, he was perceived as dishonest. Julia certainly isn’t falling into that trap—she has been very cautious indeed with her promises.

July 23 update: Well Julia has just announced her climate change policy, and while it certainly is better than the opposition’s, I think she’s taken the pragmatism a little too far this time, to the point where it looks like a bit of a cop-out. I’d really like to see her work together with the Greens (who will no doubt hold the balance of power after the election) to take decisive action on climate change.

Many people have dismissed Julia’s pragmatism as “backing down” and “not standing for anything”, but quite frankly, I think it is a good thing. This is politics after all: deals have to be struck and compromises have to be made to get anything done at all. As I’ve said here before, I often feel left wing/progressive voters are too idealistic—unless our leaders do a perfect job, we often don’t vote for them. But we have to face the reality that the nature of politics makes this virtually impossible. And it opens the way for conservative politicians to get into power, as conservative voters usually aren’t critical at all: they just believe what they want to believe (the facts be damned), and believe their politicians deliver on it, seemingly no matter what. We have to accept less than ideal solutions in the short term, so that more ideal solutions can be arrived at later. Otherwise, we are simply allowing the conservatives to turn back the clock. Read the rest of this entry »

We’ve been performing some major updates to my blog over the past week, so as I haven’t been able to post for so long, this post will be a bit of a grab bag. First of all, I’ve just posted my latest Bible reading (as always, along with an extended, super high quality fully nude version for my web site members). Secondly, as I mentioned we’ve performed some major updates to our blog software to bring it up to date, and we’ve made a few refinements to the design of the site at the same time—we want it to be the cleanest and most elegant blog on the net! And last, but certainly not least, I want to bring your attention to GodBlock (thanks to Joe Miller for the tip!). It has always amused me how hysterical people get about “protecting” children from pornography, when I am not aware of a single scientific study that shows it harms children at all—certainly, it is very difficult to understand how nudity could do any harm to children anyway. It seems to me that this widely held assumption is yet another form of sexual suppression brought to us by religion—which ironically, actually has been shown to have done serious psychological damage to children in many cases. So GodBlock turns the usual internet filter on its head, by protecting children from what could really harm them: religion.

When I first heard that the Australian Labor party had ousted Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister, I wasn’t happy. Labor wasn’t doing that badly in the polls, so I just felt they were panicking too much; indeed, I feel they’ve been doing this for some time now, which I think is the main reason why they ended up doing so badly in the polls in the first place. I think they’ve actually done a pretty god job of running the country under very difficult circumstances—for example, Australia survived the global financial crisis better than any other first world country. Yes, they’ve made some mistakes, but I feel their mistakes are vastly outweighed by their achievements. The problem is that their mistakes have all come in the last few months (with an election looming), and the electorate has a very short memory. Read the rest of this entry »

I am constantly astounded by Israel’s ability to commit outrageous acts of military violence against civilians, then cast themselves as the victims. The above video is a great example: it singles out attacks on Israeli soldiers, but for goodness sake—the Israeli military is conducting a raid on an unarmed vessel in international waters! The people on board are doing whatever they can to defend themselves—they have no guns, so they’re using what they have. In response, the Israeli military opens fire on them! The result is up to 19 people dead—and not a single one of them was Israeli.

So what terrible crime were the people on this boat engaging in to receive such treatment? They were trying to bring aid to Palestinians in Gaza. And why did they need to do that? Because Gaza has been blockaded from receiving aid from the outside world by Israel! So this is, in effect, one outrageous crime against humanity, that has come about as a result of another outrageous crime against humanity—both committed by Israel. Yet Israel still tries to claim that they are the victims!

As always, Israel’s actions have received the usual piss-weak response from western governments, especially (also as always) the US. While I have defended Obama’s performance in many areas, on Israel I’m afraid I have to give him the same score as every President who has gone before him: a great big fat zero. How many more atrocities will Israel have to commit before the west (particularly the US, who have always stuck by Israel through thick and thin) takes decisive action to stop them?

One of the most common questions I get in relation to my sexy Bible readings is if I do the Koran. I have already stated several good reasons why I don’t, but that certainly doesn’t mean I think Islam is better than Christianity—far from it. One of the most problematic and frustrating aspects of Islam is how any criticism of it is met with violence and death threats, often resulting in censorship of what would otherwise be free speech. Hence I wanted to bring everyone’s attention to this campaign (that I’ve only just found out about myself), which makes a stand against this practice: Draw Mohammed Day. Well known YouTube atheist Thunderf00t‘s video above clearly explains the rationale behind it.

UPDATE: I’ve had to change the original Draw Mohammed Day Facebook page link to their backup page, as the original has been taken down. Plus their WordPress page has been taken down as well!

Today was once again the National Day of Reason, and this year there’s something to celebrate: the National Day of Prayer (which was the original inspiration for this day) was ruled an unconstitutional violation of the separation of church and state by a federal judge. Sadly however (though given the political realities of the US, hardly surprisingly), President Obama will continue to observe it until all appeals are exhausted, and (like every President before him) ignore the National Day of Reason. It is very difficult to see how the National Day of Prayer could be constitutionally valid, however, so it seems inevitable that it will eventually be declared illegal. I hope this will make more Americans aware of the fact that the US constitution was not founded on Christian values, but secular ones.

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