Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Economically Conservative, Socially Liberal

“I’m a fiscal conservative, but a social liberal”.  Is it an oxymoron to describe yourself as such?

How can one be socially liberal yet support a system (such as capitalism) that inherently devalues a working woman who needs to go on leave for two years to raise her children?

Essentially, we want the government out of our bedrooms and also out of our wallets.

Folks who like this description probably believe that they are taking the best parts of the two major political parties. Social liberalism from the Democrats/ALP, and economic conservatism from the Republicans/Coalition. My problem with this perspective is that it is based upon an incorrect assumption. The incorrect assumption is that economic and social policies and ramifications are mutually exclusive. They do not interact with each other. As far as I can tell, they do indeed interact. Socially progressive and fiscally conservative values are not mutually exclusive.

The reason for the interaction is simple. A growing number of the so-called social liberties are costing all citizens more and more real dollars. In other words, there is a price to be paid for the reckless and irresponsible choices that some people make. There would be far less linkage between social issues and economic issues if people were required to clean up their own social messes and not pass the bill on to others. This is not the case. We live in the era of the government solution. We try to solve problems by collecting money from everybody, and transferring it to the problem, which is often cast as a victim.

The key question becomes, when others choose to be socially liberal, are you willing to spend your money, via the government, to help them fix situations which they caused? These situations may often involve behaviours and choices which you might never even remotely consider appropriate for your own life. Is this being economically conservative?

As I look out on the number of divorces, unwed mothers, declining test scores, and the increase in violence by children, I can come to no other conclusion than we are simply taking too many risks. I do not want to tell or even suggest what people should do. But I also do not want to be handed the bill when their choices require a bailout.

Being in the era of government, we react to these trends with more and more programs. In the end, I believe that this is an approach that will not work. It has not worked to the extent that we have tried. Do you really believe that these disturbing trends will be slowed and even reversed by government programs? The government should not reward and subsidise risky behaviour. And even if you believe that the government is doing good, will you at least acknowledge that the money that the government spends comes from taxes extracted from families that may very well have far better use for that money - their money. On what moral basis can we extract money in order to fund risky behaviour?

I do not claim that raising children can be done without money. Far from it. I do not believe, however, that government should have a role in the raising of children. Historically and constitutionally it does not have a role. It is simply the wrong institution for the job of raising children. If a family needs financial help, the far more appropriate institutions are extended family, churches, and the large number of charity groups that exist for this very purpose. Getting government out of this function will provide substantial funds which can be redirected to these much better alternatives. Further, it would eliminate the discrimination against individuals and couples who choose not to have children.

There appears to be some tension between some “right” and “left” libertarians. There appears to be a rift between libertarians who lean socially liberal and the libertarians who lean socially conservative. There is no denying that many in the libertarian camp are both fiscally conservative and socially liberal. But that by no means insists that all libertarians are socially liberal. (Some even claim to be libertarians who are economically liberal – I just call them wrong). In fact, many libertarians are both economically and socially conservative. So how do we explain the compatibility of these socially liberal and social conservative fiscal conservatives? How can two groups of individuals who differ widely on social issues reconcile their differences? The answer is that both are libertarians, and being a libertarian is not about social liberalism or conservatism. Libertarianism is about social responsibility. The word means “a believer in liberty”. Libertarians believe in individual conscience and individual choice.

Regardless of what they believe about proper social behaviour, libertarians maintain that individuals and communities are responsible for social values, not the government.

The term social liberal/fiscal conservative represents an opinion about public policy. It represents your opinion about the proper relationship of one to the other, your view about the proper relationship of state expenditure to the various “social” needs of the population.

Social conservatives can still be libertarians. That is because it is individual responsibility that holds together “left” and “right” libertarians. Those who claim libertarians are merely “fiscally conservative and socially liberal” should therefore be corrected. Instead we should say that libertarians are “fiscally conservative and socially responsible”.

How do you reconcile fiscally conservative and socially progressive values? I think they’re both saying essentially the same thing – they just want government to spend their tax dollars wisely and get out of their private lives. Take the state out of private decisions. Abolish both halves of the welfare/warfare bureaucracy and liberate 90% of our wealth that’s currently soaked up by the costs of a bloated and ineffective government, to make us all richer and freer.

Government bureaucracies have no incentive to lift people out of dependency and every incentive to keep them in it. After all, more poverty means a bigger budget and more power for the bureaucrats. Instead, income tax should be abolished and people should be allowed to keep what they earn instead of taxing it away from them. The wealth freed up would go directly to the private sector, creating jobs for the poor, decreasing the demand on private charity, and increasing charitable giving. We should be promoting solutions that empower people rather than demanding government intervention. Start your own business and create your own wealth.

When I think of a fiscally conservative person, I think of someone who believes in free market principles in the form of less taxation, regulation and is a proponent of capitalism. When I think of someone who is socially liberal, it is a person who believes in social equality in the form of, perhaps, gay rights, feminism, and other issues.

In broad terms, being socially conservative means you value tradition and established conventions, while being socially progressive is about trying to change things for the better. Economically, conservatives advocate a small government, lower taxes and harsher stances on crime, while progressives advocate a government that provides services and regulates the economy.

If you're fiscally conservative (small government, low taxes) and socially liberal (generally for people having the right to do what they please so long as it isn't hurting anyone else), you're a libertarian (who supports free markets, low regulation and social policy). I consider myself in this category.

If you're socially liberal regarding a greater redistribution of wealth, a stronger welfare state, or other policies that imply a significant degree of government intervention (affirmative action and abortion can be hazy here), but are otherwise economically conservative (free markets, low regulation), you might qualify as a "moderate libertarian" or just as a moderate. I do not advocate the creation of a welfare state. The welfare system is flawed because it rewards people for being poor and deprives them of incentives to work.
It is the welfare system that has sucked individuals into the trap of dependency. The availability of government subsidies lures people away from the effort of work. The opportunity to get compensation for drug- and alcohol-related disabilities lowers people's resistance to these vices. Payments made to unwed mothers undermine the incentive to take precautions against unplanned pregnancies. The best escape route out of poverty is one that government cannot provide – motivation and hard work.

Almost everyone agrees that a job is better than any welfare program. Yet for years this country has pursued tax and regulatory policies that seem perversely designed to discourage economic growth and reduce entrepreneurial opportunities. In addition, government regulations such as minimum wage laws and mandated benefits drive up the cost of employing additional workers. Individual initiative and hard work should be rewarded, not punished. I believe that the system of a progressive tax is unfair. Why should I be required to pay more taxes because I happen to make more money? Percentages are equal for everyone, so if I make a million dollars and have to pay 20% for taxes then it is equally difficult for me as it is for the person who makes ten thousand dollars. Everyone earns money according to the amount of time, energy and education that they have expended, as well as the experience they have garnered. Capitalism has proven to be the most efficient way of creating and distributing wealth.

A national sales tax would be better than income tax. The rich would pay more simply because they would buy more products and the poor would pay less because they would buy less. By allowing the rich to make more and more money, we encourage them to do and invest in things that we want. In the short term, inequality is increased, but in the long term, everyone wins. Government should be in the business of making sure that the rules of the game are fair, not in redistributing the winnings. The perspective that a person should pay a higher rate than another is unjust in that it infringes on the personal freedom of an individual. Distributing a well-off person's money to everyone just teaches others how to be lazy and get money for not working. It discourages success. If the rich have less money to spend, there will be fewer jobs because the rich spend money, and create jobs. A poor person has never hired me for a job. Nobody should be forced to support another person entirely, nobody should be paying for another person's healthcare or whatever. Individuals who are unable to fully support themselves and their families through the job market must, once again, learn to rely on supportive family, church, community, or private charity to bridge the gap. In exchange for public assistance, the government is entitled to make demands on people. Benefits should be linked to socially accepted behaviours such as getting a job and refraining from having more children before a family can afford it.

My support for smaller, less intrusive government means that government should have less of a role in both the economic and social realms. Free trade provides economic growth and jobs, and is the best policy for economic development.

The term libertarian is generally someone who has ecnomically conservative and socially liberal political views. Thus a libertarian is someone who is fiscally conservative and socially liberal, and against government intervention in economic affairs, and for expansion of personal freedoms. An individual who is liberal is one who is favourable to progress or reform. They are also one who is generally considered to be free from prejudice or bigotry and tolerant. Libertarians believe that every individual is entitled to equality before the law and fair treatment as an individual responsible for their own actions. We oppose racism, sexism and sexual preference bigotry, whether perpetrated by private individuals or (especially) by government. We recognise that there will always be bigotry and hatred in the world just like there will always be fear and stupidity. But one cannot use laws to force understanding anymore than one can use laws to force courage or intelligence. When people use bigotry as an excuse to commit force or fraud, it is the act itself which is the crime and deserves punishment, not the motive behind it.

It is not the role of government to negotiate maternity leave arrangements between employers and employees. Similarly, I want the government out of marriage. I do not support a government ban on gay marriage, a Constitutional amendment to define marriage, or laws that discriminate against people on the basis of sexual orientation. It is the place of individuals to decide whether or not a marriage can occur; the government should not be involved in the matter at all. I am also anti-drugs. So much so that I don’t even like to take pain killers for minor afflictions such as headaches and minor pain. So I am pro-drug war and anti-legalisation of drugs, right? Wrong! I believe that individuals are responsible for what they put into their bodies, not the government. That being said, I do support voluntary education and drug support groups. But I refuse to let the government be responsible for policing individuals’ drug use. Responsibility is for the individual, not the state. And like with marriage, it is also not the government’s place to legislate on abortion rights. The government should not meddle in a decision that should be private between a woman and her physician. Having said that, pro-lifers should not have to subsidise with their money behaviour they consider to be murder. I would also end all government funding of art. The label “artist” confers no special right to a living at public expense.

The problem which has been evident for many years now is the fact that the Australian Liberal Party are called so. The Liberal Party of Australia is a misnomer -  they are against more or less everything that liberals are for except for gun control, which they support.

How can a political party, a major national political party, call themselves Liberal if their views are counter to that adjective? How can a party, who’s members identify heavily with nationalism, conservatism and protectionism be named Liberal?

It is a great misnomer, one that would cause great embarrassment amongst those of us who are politically charged and sufficiently educated.

How do libertarians differ from conservatives? For starters, by not being conservative. Libertarians hold no brief for the right wing’s rather over militarist, racist, sexist, and authoritarian tendencies and reject conservative attempts to “legislate morality” with censorship, drug laws and obnoxious Bible-thumping.

The Liberal party, has at the moment, employed as their leader an icon of Australian conservatism. Tony Abbott is not a progressive and clearly not an advocate of personal freedoms and liberties. He supports a bottom line of policy based on religious belief which could in turn effect legislation if his party were to ever form government again under his leadership.

In the sane world, Liberal is a word which describes those of us who are progressive in our thought, opinions and actions. Those of us without bigotry or prejudice. It describes those in our society who support freedoms and liberties. This is a Liberal.

Tony Abbott is quite possibly, one of the farthest from that description right now in mainstream Australian politics.

So why does he lead the Liberal Party? Why has this party, or perhaps, how has this party been able to hang on to this name for so long? Even with a long line of recent men at the helm – John Hewson, Alexander Downer, John Howard, Brendan Nelson, Malcolm Turnbull (actually, Malcolm is one of the few MP’s in the party with slightly progressive opinions. Two such being the republican issue and on same sex marriage) the party has still kept its name.

Since the party was formed after the 1943 federal election after the destruction of the United Australia Party, the Liberal Party, who has historically held a coalition with the National Party when in government, the Liberal Party identified themselves as economic liberalists. Economic liberalism is not the same as being a liberal, as Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher were also quite the economic liberalists, however I would dare anyone to even call them remotely progressive.

The party has always identified socially with the conservative ideology. They have leaned towards the old policies of the now non-existent Australian Protectionist Party. There has always been a nationalist undertone to their ideals and their governmental policy-making. Their number of government coalitions with the Nationals – a slightly more right-leaning party, have produced more border control measures and have made it significantly more difficult for legitimate refugees to gain asylum and start a new life in Australia.

Social conservatism is the best way to describe the Australian Liberal Party. And despite their economic liberalism, this does not in fact, make them liberals in the slightest way.

Libertarians believe in open borders but given unrestricted immigration would attract a huge influx of welfare recipients, libertarians would start by abolishing welfare programs before opening the borders.

If a party’s name were fairly based on that party’s agenda, then the Australian Liberal Party would more realistically be known as the Australian Conservative Party.

I think conservatism is really a misnomer just as liberalism is a misnomer for the liberals. The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralised authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is. True conservatism, at its heart, is libertarian.

Thus it pains me greatly to see some self-proclaimed conservatives these days attacking libertarianism. Instead of true conservative beliefs – those of small government, individual freedom, and free markets, they preach social authoritarianism and government control. Casting aside the ideology of the ‘founding fathers’ of what is now considered conservative thought, they instead replace it with a statist regime little different to that of the socialists. Rather than trying to minimise the size and scope of government, they instead seek to use it to their own ends. Seeking to use government to achieve your desired aims is not conservative.

Indeed, while conservatives and libertarians certainly can disagree on some issues, these are at the periphery. It is our shared view on the size and scope of government that unites us.

The fact that there are now these faux-conservatives who argue for greater government regulation, greater responsibilities for the State and greater control over peoples lives, is nothing more than an insult to the memories of the true conservative heroes. It is not conservatism, but socialism in drag, and it is a disgrace.

If you want to be a social authoritarian statist, that’s fine. We live in a free country, and you have the right to be wrong. But please, please, don’t you dare call yourself a conservative.

What if I want to crack down on wasteful pensions and union spending on behalf of the taxpayer, but don't want to deny this country's gay citizens the equal right to marriage? What if I want to shrink the mind-numbing bureaucracy of government while continuing to allow women to make their own choices governing their body? Who do I vote for?

Herein lies the problem. If you want a fiscal conservative to represent you in Australia you have to accept an unacceptable amount of socially backward baggage. If you want a representative committed to human rights and personal liberty you have to accept a bloated government too close to the nation's unions and too willing to waste taxpayer dollars.

I am disappointed by the lack of a reasonable individual to rise from the right to save the Liberal Party from the religious hijacking currently besieging it. The Liberal Party has created a social litmus test that is impossible for people outside of evangelical Christianity to adhere to, and this is going to hurt them in the long run. As of now, those in my generation have nowhere to turn for a socially liberal fiscal conservative.

It is not married gays that keep the nation's unemployment rate high; it is not gays in the military that have mired us in Iraq and Afghanistan; it is not a woman's right to choose that has caused foreclosure after foreclosure; and it certainly has not been a lack of faith in Jesus Christ that saw nearly a trillion taxpayer dollars go to the very same companies that plunged this nation close to recession. Yet these social issues remain the priority of the Liberal Party supposedly focused on reining in government spending and getting our economy back on track.

Because my economic views don’t align with the Liberal Party’s social views, this leaves me politically stranded. If you feel that politics is broken, well you’re probably right. One should not have to compromise their opinions to fit into arbitrary pigeon holes because our country doesn’t offer an alternative party that values socially progressive and fiscally conservative policies. A true libertarian party.

This conundrum demonstrates the need for balance in our approach to governing. We must have visionary leaders with courage to move our country forward, but they must temper their exuberance with sound fiscal policies that support new initiatives in a responsible way. In this sense, we must learn to run government like a business and make sure our policies are both effective, and cost effective.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Cut her some slack - Gina Rinehart


Gina Rinehart is probably one of the most despised public figures.

Contrary to popular belief, her wealth was not an accident of inheritance. Few people realise Rinehart inherited a much indebted company after her father's death 20 years ago. Unlike many wealthy heirs, Rinehart has not just maintained her fortune but multiplied it many times over. When she made her debut on the rich list after her mining magnate father Lang Hancock died in 1992, her net wealth was estimated at $75 million. Now she is worth 386 times as much. At nearly 58, she remains the ceaseless entrepreneur.

Rinehart’s success is indicative of the changing role of women in our society and the positions of authority they now occupy, something that simply wasn’t possible let alone conceivable 40 years ago. It’s a cause for celebration that finally our society is in a position where the person who has the most drive, the brightest ideas and the tenacity to see something to the finish is the person who will succeed, regardless of gender.

Yet despite her enormous success, she is constantly mischaracterised as self interested, arrogant, selfish, greedy and cold hearted. Similar unfair criticisms have been made about other successful women like Hilary Clinton and Julia Gillard, who are constantly denigrated for their appearance. But these women (including Rinehart) are simply too modest and humble to hijack the feminist movements to attract sympathisers.

Rinehart’s increasingly frequent forays into public policy should surprise no one. The media preposterously paint Rinehart as being in agreement with the Liberal Party, when the truth is that she is on one side, and both the Labor and Liberal Parties are on the other. And it’s no wonder that she refuses to engage with the media when they are unrelentingly left-wing in policy terms.


But despite her unpopular opinions, a lot of her comments are irrefutable.

“If you want to help the poor and our next generation, make investment, re-investment and businesses welcome. High-tax socialist policies don’t create jobs, business and investment do”, Rinehart said recently, pointing out Australia is mired in costly labour regulation, investment-sapping taxes and carping jealousy fanned by a pusillanimous political class. Her basic message was that the costs of business are running out of control and that the Government is not listening to the business people who know first-hand what it takes to employ a worker.

Her remarks drew vituperative rebuke from the Prime Minister down.

A seemingly self-serving economics lecture by one of the world’s richest women, whose fortune owes as much to progeny as to acumen, might not be a marketing triumph but it doesn’t blunt the truth of her message.

And the truth, backed up by a mountain of economic theory and evidence, hurts. Australia has become excessively expensive, with price increases concentrated in parts of the economy the government meddles most with (ie. health, education, and child care).

The Commonwealth parliament alone passed a farcical 7,100 pages of legislation last year, compared to 358 in 1958. The tax system requires 21,000 bureaucrats to enforce, and the federal departments of health and education, for example, employ almost 10,000 people without running a single hospital or school.

Far from being loopy, Rinehart’s remarks reflect standard, even boring, economic theory, entwined with a classically liberal philosophy that unwieldy government undermines national and individual prosperity.

Rinehart’s observation that Australian wages are high compared to Africa’s prompted fury, but logic points out higher minimum wages and laws hampering businesses hiring and firing decisions bolster unemployment.

The prime minister’s response that paying people $2 an hour “is not the Australian way’’ not only grossly misrepresents Rinehart, but is pompous, suggesting Africans pay each other miserly sums by choice, and ignorant, implying the costs of goods and services in Africa are similar to here.

Rinehart mentioned labour rates in Africa - she did not advocate $2 wages in Australia. Her comment on statistics was immediately manipulated by the Treasurer and most of what she had to say was soon lost.

When criticised about wishing to employ foreigners, this is also untrue. The government is right to assist mining companies — even those run by Gina Rinehart — to obtain foreign workers for constructing large projects. Australians are unwilling to work in remote locations – and they particularly don’t like to ¬settle thousands of kilometres from their family and friends to do hot, hard and dirty work for the resources sector. So we’re left with training programs and importing workers to fill the skills gaps that the rapid expansion of the industry have opened up, or major projects get delayed or cancelled. Preventing employers bringing in workers will simply delay projects and drive up the price of labour (which of course unions are happy to see). In 2011 there were more than 70,000 people in Australia on temporary employment visas. The maximum of 1,700 that would be employed at the Roy Hill iron ore project are a tiny addition to that.

Companies in WA are investing in low-cost highly resourced Africa as businesses need to sell their product on the world market and not at Australian prices.

Fortescue put off a thousand people recently and Xstrata has just announced another 600 job losses. Rinehart said Australia was becoming too uncompetitive. This is a statement of the accepted truth. It has been said by numerous business people for the past two years e.g. Jack Nasser, chair of BHP, and his CEO Marius Kloppers when announcing the deferral of the Olympic Dam.

Rinehart’s claim that Australian taxes are driving international investors away reflects the Government’s own Henry tax review, which argued global investment decisions are highly sensitive to differing international tax rates. Australia is slipping down the ranks of global competitiveness due to the carbon tax, red tape, new and increasing taxes and infrastructure that lags well behind the world’s best.

Even Rinehart’s admonition of excessive smoking and drinking channels Max Weber, the German political theorist who argued the relative success of the Anglo-Saxon countries rested on their relative monopoly on industry, thrift and abstemious living. “Our mines still produce great wealth, but it no longer will be enough to subsidise class warfare, complacency, overspending and an increasingly expensive bureaucracy’’ Rinehart says. When Australia’s boom becomes a whimper, her ideas will start to resonate more widely.

While the media continues to mischaracterise her, little is known about her charity work and her passion for helping young girls.

Rinehart could sell her mines and swan around the Riviera for the rest of her life. Australia is lucky to have a billionaire with an interest in public policy, with the resources to provide a potential counterweight to the tired chorus of vested interests in Canberra.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Don't shoot the media

For many of us, disasters are fortunately not things we experience first-hand. Instead, they are events we hear about, read about or see in mediated ways, be it in newspapers, movies or books, or on television or the internet. It’s true that if you only read the headlines on an issue, especially in a biased media element, you will be likely lead into thinking the way that media element wants you to think. Often, headlines are worded in such a way to grab attention, and only in the fine print will you find any reasoned, substantially accurate information on the topic. Such investigative journalism is right and proper however if it’s backed up with documents, interviews with responsible witnesses, and other reliable primary sources. Emotionally charged aspects can in fact be properly drawn out without providing the elements needed (such as pertinent background, investigative, or contextual information) for the audience to form its own opinions on the subject so long as critical thinking is applied.

What I believe in (Religion)

I believe that religion is a matter which ought to lie solely between each individual and their chosen God. I believe that each individual has a right to exercise their own religion so long as they do so within the parameters of the law. Religion should never be used as an excuse to do unconscionable acts or to discriminate against others.

I believe in an Australia where the separation of the church and state is absolute and our Federal and State Governments remain religiously neutral. No one should be compelled to support any religion nor should anyone be threatened with punishment on account of their religious beliefs. Religious leaders and religious institutions should not have any influence on public policy and similarly, should not tell their parishioners for whom to vote. Churches and religious schools should not be granted public funds or political preference. Similarly, public funding should not be used to fund school chaplains for public and private schools.

Inciting religious hatred should also be condemned. It is important to distinguish between encouraging hatred against individuals and hatred of a belief system. As religious people themselves might put it – you can hate the sin and love the sinner. Freedom of speech is one of the central values of a liberal democracy. But freedom of speech should not extend to religious hatred. We need to ensure that we distinguish our legitimate objections to religions from prejudice which threatens to tear our communities apart. It is a mistake to confuse disagreeing with religion, perhaps very strongly, and advocating discrimination against religious followers. If people are to be critical of religions, which they surely have a right to be, then it is irresponsible to do so without taking great pains to distinguish this from hatred of its adherents.

Having said all of this, throughout history, religion has been the single greatest source of human-caused wars, suffering, and misery. In the name of God, more suffering has been inflicted than by any other man-made cause. In addition to this, there are many other problems with religion. Most religions are heavily outdated and are incredibly contradictory.

And the most fundamental point of all is that all religions rest on the patently illogical, unproven premise that “what this book says is true because the book says it’s true”. That, unfortunately, is the best that religion has, and ever can offer, as a way of proving its God/divine authorship premise; an embarrassingly paltry, painfully childish claim that would be laughed out of any court, as well as any credible institution of higher learning.

Religious faith requires that we unquestioningly accept that the presumed very Creator of logic itself, as well as the laws of cause and effect, both of which are absolutely foundational to the operation of the entire universe and everything in it, capriciously violated (and commanded violation of) all of these laws, commandments and crucial moral and ethical standards and behaviours with no rational explanation. It therefore seems absurd to rely on all of the God-related premises, theories, etc., solely on belief, not real evidence, not reason, not logic, not true morality, not any rational thing at all – solely on belief and it’s senseless sibling, faith (as well as a good dose of fear).

It is common, of course, to say that all religions, or certainly most of them, teach some sort of brotherly/sisterly love, that all major religions have some version of the Golden Rule, and that religions therefore have acted to introduce love and compassion into the world. But once again, that flies in the face of historical fact - for every year of peace in humankind's history there have been fourteen years of war, 90% of which have been fought either because of, or under the banner of, God by whatever name.

Morals aren't begotten from religion, but secular moral philosophy, jurisprudence and dinner table conversations. So, as a non-believer, I find it personally insulting for religious individuals to suggest that people who reject the notion of a god are in some way morally "unjust". Especially considering the reality that religion has been responsible for more strife, death, suffering, ignorance, and atrocious injustices than free thought ever has.

If anything, it's been my experience that religion is a detrimental control mechanism, as it forces people to adhere to strict, often impossible expectations that is just not reasonable for most. As a result, the person may be more prone to engage in "sins", as what religion deems a "sin", is in fact normal, appropriate human behaviour - behaviour which has been going on for hundreds of thousands of years before humans even developed religion.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Problems with the Bible

Upon a rather in-depth examination of the Bible (particularly the Old Testament which many churches conveniently ignore), God was a mass murderer, killing millions of people and also directing others to rape and kill for him. He also distributes sinister laws and explains what punishments will ensue if someone deviates from his wishes. What’s worse, the ultimate penalty for disobedience is hell - eternal torture of unfathomable proportions. This is the God that millions worldwide worship and follow who orders us to love one another.

God’s Genocidal Wrath

Starting with the book of Genesis, we learn of many of the atrocities committed by God. One of the first instances was Noah’s flood (Genesis 6:5) whereby God decides to drown the entire world, killing nearly every living person and animal on earth because he believes that people are evil and unworthy of existence. But if the people were evil, wouldn’t the fault lie with the manufacturer? Yet he drowns nearly all the men, women, and children on the face of the earth because he deliberately chose not to make us to his liking.

Even if those who were evil deserved to die slow and torturous deaths, couldn’t God have placed the innocent children and animals aside so that they wouldn’t drown? If not, how about a humane death at the very least? Drowning is a horrible way for people to die. Yet God did this to every man, woman, child, baby, and animal on earth because he supposedly made a mistake. To make matters disgustingly worse, the flood accomplished nothing! God realises after the flood that a man’s imagination is evil from youth (Genesis 8:21). Even if this was the sole immoral act carried out by God, I’m positive that I couldn’t bring myself to worship him. However, this is only the beginning of his mass-murdering spree.

Another genocidal operation courtesy of God takes place in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Above these cities, he creates a rain of burning sulfur to kill every inhabitant, save Lot and his family, because they’re deemed evil by the almighty judge, jury, and executioner (Genesis 19:24-25). Now, refer back to the points illustrated in the previous paragraph. God should have assumed the responsibility of taking measures to prevent these actions from somehow becoming necessary. He even remembered that men were evil by nature after the flood. Did he suddenly forget his opinion when he destroyed two entire cities of men, women, and children? Again, we should sincerely hope that this all-knowing deity would learn to take some of the blame in these situations. Like drowning, burning is not a quick and painless death.

In Exodus, we find God coercing Moses into becoming his spokesperson for freeing the Israelite slaves from the Egyptian Pharaoh. Moses initially points out that he’s a terrible speaker, but God’s reply to this passive resistance is a set of rhetorical questions in which he takes credit for making people deaf, dumb, and blind (Exodus 4:10-11). Some of these handicapped people are a burden to others, and many die without ever demonstrating independence. Nevertheless, God takes great pride in this achievement. Most of us typically find people who relish in the misery of others to be deeply disturbed. Instead of correcting these atrociously boastful deeds, God seemingly leaves it up to us to develop ideas for combating transcendentally induced handicaps. Ironically, with advances in medical science, we’re making genuine progress against God’s wishes. His yearning to make certain people handicapped is useless, evil nonsense. Evidently, it’s a successful argument because Moses decides to accept the offer.

In the meeting among Moses, Aaron, and the Pharaoh, God doesn’t want his Israelites to go free without a fight. Instead, God instructs Moses and Aaron on exactly what steps to take so that the Pharaoh will initially become too stubborn to allow the people to leave. Obviously, God only wants an excuse to “bring forth [his] armies” against Egypt in order to punish the entire country for the decisions of one man to hold his chosen people as slaves (Exodus 7:1-14).

The plagues that God carried out against Egypt as a result of Pharaoh’s decision were turning the river to blood; sending an abundance of frogs, lice, locusts, and flies; killing every cow belonging to the people; inflicting boils upon all the citizens; creating a hailstorm to destroy their crops; instituting three days of darkness; and killing the firstborn male child in every household across the country. The cattle slaughter, river of blood, and downpour of hail ruined the Egyptians’ sole water and food sources. Worst of all, God once again feels the necessity to eradicate thousands more innocent babies, children, and animals because one man was too stubborn to free his slaves.

On the escape route, Moses miraculously parts the Red Sea and crosses safely. When the Egyptian army pursues, the waters regroup to drown the soldiers and horses (Exodus 7-14). God could have easily freed the people and spared thousands of lives, but, of course, he doesn’t do things this way. One can only assume that he took sinister pleasure in murdering Egyptian soldiers for following orders from their superior officers.

When the Israelites were upset that Moses caused these people to die, God sends a plague to slay an additional 14,700 (Numbers 16:41-49). To close out the Pentateuch, God exterminates a number of his people who fall down and worship the gods of Baalpeor. A subsequent plague kills another 24,000 (Numbers 25:1-9).

God’s episodes of murdering innocent individuals for the faults of their leaders, fathers, or other ancestors are not uncommon in the Old Testament. Jephthah asks for God’s assistance in killing the children of Ammon and promises him the first person out of his house upon his return as a burnt sacrifice if he will agree to aid with the massacre. God concurs and lethally delivers the children of Ammon into Jephthah’s hands. When Jephthah returns, his daughter, an only child, makes her way outside to welcome him home. Two months later, Jephthah regretfully fulfills his promise by burning his daughter as a sacrifice to God (Judges 11:29-39). Why would God allow a man to offer an innocent person as a reward unless God also intended for certain people to be mere possessions?

While David is King, he decides to conduct a census: a horrendous sin in God’s eyes. As punishment for his poor decision, he is to select among seven years of famine, three months of fleeing from his enemies, and three days of pestilence. Unable to choose from the offered catastrophes, God picks the three days of pestilence that result in the deaths of 70,000 men. Women and children weren’t mentioned, not that the Bible considered them to have any real value in the first place. Again, God murders enough people to fill a sizable city for the “sin” of one man. David subsequently cries out to God and asks him why he wants to murder innocent people who had nothing to do with the decision to execute a census. Of course God doesn’t provide an impossible answer for this sensible question, but his reasons scarcely seem morally or ethically justifiable (2 Samuel 24:10-17).

David also desires a woman named Bathsheba even though she’s married to one of David’s soldiers. Driven by his lust, David orders her husband to the front lines of a battle so that the enemy will take care of his problem. God then becomes extremely angry with David for this relatively petty crime. Once the new couple has a child, God afflicts it with illness for a week before watching it die (2 Samuel 11, 12:14-18). Yet again, God exterminates an innocent baby for the actions of the father.

Instead of directly murdering people or using his followers to execute similar commands, the apparently insatiable God begins sending animals to kill those who displease him. On one occasion, he has a lion kill a man because he refuses to hit someone (1 Kings 20:35). God sends his lions out again to kill a group of people who were new to Samaria. The reason for this atrocity is their lack of worship, even though they were never informed of the proper worship methods (2 Kings 17:24-26).

In an exploit of inconceivable irrationality, God sends forth two bears to kill forty-two children for making fun of Elisha’s bald head (2 Kings 2:23-24). Why would God feel the necessity to have two bears viciously maul little children for acting like…children? This is supposed to be the same “wonderful” and “loving” God who promises us eternal life, but an entity capable of these inane activities could certainly change his mind and banish all of his worshippers to Hell. Christians never have to justify such passages because, of course, they never read them!


Since God commits scores of violent acts randomly throughout the remainder of the Old Testament, let’s look at a few examples. God causes the Midianites to kill one another (Judges 7:22-23). He confuses the Philistines and causes them to kill one another (1 Samuel 14:20-23). He inflicts a number of people with blindness because Elisha asks him to do so (2 Kings 6:18). He causes a seven-year famine without specifying a reason (2 Kings 8:1). God kills Nabal without specifying a reason, but it’s probably because David desires his wife and other belongings (1 Samuel 25:38). God sends an angel to kill 185,000 men in an Assyrian camp because they’re enemies of his people (2 Kings 19:31-35). He plagues Azariah, a man labeled as a good King, with leprosy for the remainder of his life because he allows people to burn incense in a location displeasing to God (2 Kings 15:1-5). This is another great example of an overbearing punishment for breaking an asinine law. Some of our fellow humans were obviously destined to meet death early in life without any chance of redemption in God’s eyes.

Counting just the flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, the Red Sea incident, the ark gazers, the plagues, the census, and the battles in which God directly participated, I estimate that this terrible creature claims to have murdered one to two million people. Regrettably, we still haven’t discussed any of the instances in which God orders his people to kill others or when he “delivers armies” into the hands of the Israelites to be annihilated in battle. By this point in our discussion, God has already joined the elite company of Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, and Zedong as the largest mass murderers in history.

Following God’s Alleged Commands

When God wished certain people dead thousands of years ago, he was never confined to his own powers. You might even agree that God was at his worst when he recruited others to assist with the scores of slaughters in the Old Testament. As initially difficult as it might be to accept, God often provided his followers with orders leading to outcomes even more horrific than before.

God encourages the Israelites to beat their slaves and rape women captured in warfare. God advises Moses on a number of matters related to his appointed leadership. He is to cast any menstruating or leprous person out of the camp because God doesn’t want to be around those “dirty” people when he descends for a visit (Numbers 5:1-3). In other words, God wants no association with those who are more likely to need assistance, medical or otherwise.

In a series of ethnic cleansings, God delivers Jerusalem to Judah and the Israelites. They kill 10,000 Canaanites and Perizzites in Bezek (Judges 1:2-8). Later, God accompanies Judah when he destroys the cities and kills the inhabitants of Zephath, Gaza, Askelon, Ekron, and Luz (Judges 1:17-26). When Ehud announces that God has delivered the Moabites into the hands of his chosen people, they march to Moab and slay 10,000 men (Judges 3:26-29). God delivers Sihon and the Amorites to be murdered by Jephthah and the Israelites (Judges 11:21-23). God delivers twenty men to be slaughtered by Jonathan (1 Samuel 12:14). As God orders David to exterminate a few Philistines delivered into his hands, David does so and takes their cattle as well (1 Samuel 23:2-5). As God orders David to kill more Philistines recently delivered into his hands, David accepts God’s gift once again and kills more Philistines in two additional battles (2 Samuel 5:19-25). God delivers the Syrians to the people of Israel in order for them to murder 100,000 foreigners. Twenty-seven thousand Syrians escaped but were killed when a wall fell on them (1 Kings 20:28-30). Likewise, God delivers the Moabites into the hands of Israel once again. The army of Israelites destroys the city of Moab along with an unknown number of its inhabitants. When God witnesses certain members of Israel turning from him, he decides to assist the tribe of Judah. God then kills the King of Israel and enables Judah to kill 500,000 Israelite men because the Judeans “relied upon the Lord God of their fathers.” God later becomes angry with his followers when they ridicule his messengers. As punishment, he sends the army of Chaldees to kill all the occupants of Jerusalem.

As you may have already guessed, God didn’t confine the impact of his seemingly perpetual rage solely on humans. Animal sacrifices seemed particularly important to this fiendish character. Strangely enough, this is one deity out of many that seems pleased with aromas emitted by burnt flesh (Genesis 8:20-21). In fact, Leviticus chapters 1-9 are thorough instructions on how to perform animal sacrifices.

For every category of sin, God has a specific ritual that he wishes us to perform. His authors tell the readers how to break animal necks, what parts of the animal to burn, what organs to extract, where to sprinkle the blood, how much God thoroughly enjoys the spectacle, etc. Numbers 18:19 further declares that animal sacrifices should be performed forever. Have Christians finally appreciated the insanity of God, or do they just not read their Bibles anymore?

An estimate on the number of victims who paid the ultimate price in wars that are claimed to be instigated by God is hard to determine, but I would imagine it’s somewhere around two or three million. All together, God may have been personally responsible for as many as five million needless murders. I’m sure there are several battles and/or plagues that I omitted, but I trust you get the general message. The Hebrew god is a mass murderer, plain and simple. Moreover, these estimates still don’t include all the deaths resulting from petty religious bickering that continues to this day.

God’s Rules And Regulations

In addition to all the previously mentioned atrocities, God hands down a nightmarishly inhumane code for his creations to live by. In fact, there would literally be millions of murders committed every day if God still had his way. I’ll certainly admit that a few of the more sane guidelines are acceptable, but many are definitely not within the bounds of justice and humanity. Those are the ones in need of a serious impartial review. A few examples allegedly handed down by God follow.

Anyone who goes uncircumcised is to be exiled from his people (Genesis 17:14).
If a man has sex with a menstruating women, both are to be exiled (Leviticus 20:18).
A man who marries a mother and daughter must burn in a fire (Leviticus 20:14).
If two men have sexual relations, both must be put to death (Leviticus 20:13).
If a mother and son have sexual relations, both must be put to death (Leviticus 20:11).
If a man and daughter-in-law have sex, both must be put to death (Leviticus 20:12).
If a man has sex with an animal, both must be put to death (Leviticus 20:15).
If a woman has sex with an animal, both must be put to death (Leviticus 20:16).
Anyone who attacks his mother or father must be put to death (Exodus 21:15).
Anyone who curses his mother or father must be put to death (Leviticus 20:9).
Anyone who commits murder must be put to death (Leviticus 24:17).
Anyone who commits adultery must be put to death (Deuteronomy 22:22).
Anyone who commits perjury must be put to death (Deuteronomy 19:18-19).
Anyone who commits kidnapping must be put to death (Exodus 21:16).
Anyone who disobeys a judge or priest must be put to death (Deuteronomy 17:12).
Anyone who works on the Sabbath must be put to death (Exodus 35:2).
Anyone who does not worship God must be put to death (2 Chronicles 15:13).
Any strangers approaching a sanctuary must be put to death (Numbers 17:7).
Any prophet who tries to turn you against God must be put to death (Deuteronomy 13:5).
Any prophet who makes a wrong prediction must be put to death (Deuteronomy 18:20-22).
Family members who tempt you with other gods must be put to death (Deuteronomy 13:1-5).
If an ox gores someone, the ox and its owner must be stoned to death (Exodus 21:29).
Anyone who claims to talk with spirits must be stoned to death (Leviticus 20:27).
A stubborn and rebellious son must be stoned to death (Deuteronomy 21:18-21).
Any woman who has had premarital sex must be stoned to death (Deuteronomy 22:21).
Anyone who worships another god must be stoned to death (Deuteronomy 17:2-7).
Anyone who curses or blasphemes must be stoned to death (Leviticus 24:14-16).
Break the neck of your donkey’s firstborn or kill a lamb instead (Exodus 34:20).
If a city worships other gods, kill everyone in it and burn it (Deuteronomy 13:12-16).


As you can tell from the list provided, God wants you dead for just about anything you do. Of all the worthwhile messages that God could have included in the Bible to help us through life, he settles on a number of nonsense rules and regulations that he knew hardly anyone would still follow a short while later.

God’s Psyche

“He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins” (Joshua 24:19). God becomes jealous when we do not pay him enough attention or when we like other gods better than him. If you are guilty of either of these transgressions, he won’t forgive you for making him angry. His behavior is the quintessence of a spoiled child throwing a tantrum when you won’t look to see what he’s doing. This fair assessment is undeniably consistent with the remainder of God’s curiously immature actions throughout the Old Testament. Even so, the Bible does an about-face in the New Testament and says that the now silent creator does forgive you for anger-inducing infractions. This notion exemplifies qualities of a more respectable and desirable deity, thus the New Testament creator is the one on which Christians tend to place their focus. Well, which interpretation of God should we accept as the truth?

God places “the iniquity of the fathers upon the children…unto the third and fourth generation” (Exodus 34:7). As you read the Old Testament, you should take careful notice of the aforementioned recurring theme of God forcing children to pay for the sins of their ancestors. I’ve probably worn the topic out by now, but this cannot possibly be considered a fair way of treating people. God undeniably admits that he creates an unfair system in which the righteous are not guaranteed freedom from his wrath due to the contingency of him punishing us for our ancestors’ actions. Thus, we can only conclude that God receives a sense of sadistic enjoyment from punishing people for things they didn’t do because there’s no true justification for anyone, deity or not, to treat others this way. Proverbs 16:4 even confirms this hypothesis by telling us that God made evil people so that he could punish them at some point in the future. It’s an incomprehensibly evil undertaking for God to make people behave a certain way just so he can entertain himself by torturing them for eternity. Furthermore, the excessive boasting and power flaunting by God literally adds insult to injury. In addition, the author of the second letter to the Thessalonians says God will cause wicked people to disbelieve the truth about Jesus so that he can send them to Hell (2:8-12).

We also understand that God wants Christians to suffer through life (1 Peter 4:12-19). Why doesn’t he make it less painful to follow him in order for more of us to understand the “true” way of being saved? If that’s not bad enough, God even hurts the people he loves (Hebrews 12:6). Now we have even more evidence that God doesn’t want to save some people from his punishment of eternal, perpetual damnation. However, let us not forget that this is the same deity who created his son to die an agonising death on the cross in order to pay for everyone else’s sins. If God were human, psychiatrists would certainly have him locked in an asylum.

God goes so far as to place equivalent monetary values on human life for an offering that he requires everyone to provide (Leviticus 27:1-8). This is another prime example of the total disregard God reserves for his creations. We may not be omnipotent and omniscient, but most of us would never attempt to place a specific price on the value of a human life. Incidentally, we’re worth very little to him. This notion is especially true when you consider how readily he commands thousands of us to our deaths in the Old Testament. If you’re interested, men are worth approximately $100 while women are only worth about $60 in modern currency equivalents. If you want to know why women are less valuable than men, you’ll find out in the next equally disturbing chapter.

Job is an odd book in an odd place. While it’s believed to have been written in an era concurrent with the Pentateuch authorship, the fable appears much later in the Bible with the books of poetry. Regardless, Christians insist that we accept it as a literal work rather than a figurative one, thus we will review it as such. As a literal work, it’s a wonderful glimpse into the mind of the most primitive form of the Hebrew god. In the ridiculous tale, God allows Satan to torment the innocent Job by utilising various methods of torture. All of this is just to prove to Satan that he couldn’t make Job curse the name of God. How nonsensical is that? God’s ego drives him to watch a good man be tortured because he feels the need to prove a point to an inferior entity of evil.

The authors of Psalms often glorify God for a number of despicable acts. The authors exalt God for giving knowledge on how to kill enemies in battle (18:34-42) and for literally bashing people who don’t worship him (2:9). The authors admire God for his plans to burn some of his creations to death (21:9-10) and for the murder of every firstborn male child in Egypt (135:8, 136:10). The authors praise God for his intentions to tear disbelievers into pieces (50:22) and for making a spectacle out of people who worship other gods (52:5-7). Why would anyone sing praises of such abominations except to score points out of obvious fear? This thought reminds me of the Iraqi government officials who started praising Saddam Hussein in July of 1979 as he read a list of traitors who were to be executed. Because members of the audience obviously didn’t want to be among those facing an imminent death sentence, they publicly demonstrate their loyalty to Saddam by shouting praises in order to preserve their own lives. The method works wonderfully now, and it seemingly worked many centuries ago.

Guidelines on how to secure a place in Heaven are finally set in the New Testament, but they remain inherently unfair and contradicting. Christians across the board believe that you’ll burn in Hell forever if you don’t accept Jesus as your personal savior (Mark 9:42-48). If we assume this belief to be factual, is it truly fair to a radical Muslim who has had the exact opposite notion drilled into his head since birth? Of course not. All God has to do for the Muslim is show him the error of his ways. Instead, the combination of God’s present silence and his Old Testament approval of violence lamentably provides the radical Muslim with the notion that it pleases God when people fly airplanes into buildings. The murdering Muslim simply hasn’t been instructed otherwise.

Just Empty Threats?

God invariably makes threats that if you do this, he will counter with that. Let’s look at a few Old Testament examples and determine if his retaliations are justifiable. The first of which would be to not harass any widows or orphans because God will kill you with a sword (Exodus 22:24). As in the previous section, we see a continuity of God administering unfit punishments for minor crimes. If you try to rebuild Jericho, your oldest and youngest son will die (Joshua 6:26). While such an extreme measure of revenge could hardly be warranted, God affords everyone ample opportunity to avoid his insane wrath in this instance. If you don’t worship God, he’ll sever your arm, revoke your eyesight, and curse you with a premature death (1 Samuel 2:31-33). Similarly, he’ll wipe you off the earth if you observe other gods (Deuteronomy 6:14-15). If you take it as far as hating God, he’ll totally destroy you (Deuteronomy 7:10). I think these punishments are starting to creep over that arbitrary boundary known as “fairness.”

However, we see a small incongruity in making these threats. If God’s orders were to kill anyone who disobeys these divine commands, why would he personally need to administer these punishments? Better yet, why isn’t God making good on these threats? Incidentally, shouldn’t God be angry with his followers for not killing people with different viewpoints? Regardless of the answers to these questions, we’re about to see God leap past any hope of inconspicuously remaining in the background.

Have a look at Leviticus 26:14-39 (reworded in Deuteronomy 28:15-68). That’s quite a punishment for not believing in God. You’ll go blind; you’ll become sorrowful; you won’t be able to grow food; your enemies will become your leaders; you’ll run for no reason; you’ll have no pride, power, or strength; your land will go bad; your children and cattle will be killed by wild animals; your cities will empty; you’ll be struck by a sword; you’ll receive a pestilence; your hunger won’t be satisfied; you’ll eat your children; your places of worship will be destroyed; your enemies will take your land; you’ll become terrified; you’ll live with injustice; and then you’ll perish.

Thankfully, we can safely conclude that there’s no connection between reality and these transcendental threats because it’s obvious that God isn’t currently enforcing these punishments. Since unfortunate episodes perpetually manifest across the religious spectrum, it’s also safe to conclude that they aren’t transpiring due to the absence of God in the victims’ lives. Since the Hebrews contemporaneous with these threats lived in an unscientific and superstitious era, they gullibly but wholeheartedly believed that these events had a divine cause and effect relationship. As an obvious consequence of that unenlightened belief, the population rarely challenged these frightening warnings. What can we surmise about these intimidating statements? Two words: scare tactics.

In Leviticus 26:14-39, God yet again exposes his childish behavior by listing a long series of punishments for failing to follow his commandments and not paying him enough attention. He sends his only son to assist us in carrying out what he feels is a positive lifestyle, yet he threatens to torture us for eternity if we don’t listen to him and follow his advice. Why is God overly concerned with how we act and how we choose to worship? Since this cruel deity supposedly made us exactly how he anticipated, he should definitely know what actions we’re imminently going to take. One would presumably think that an all-powerful and all-knowing god would have little regard for the opinions of his insignificant creations, turning instead to hobbies that one would think are more productive. It’s now obvious that our existence is nothing but a game to him, and it should leave the reader to wonder why he would subject us to this exhibition when he already knows the outcome.

The God Of The Future

It would be quite negligent for me to approach a somewhat comprehensive piece on this perspective of God but not include references for the hundreds of evil operations that the prophets claim he will implement sometime in the future. There’s such a wealth of despicable activities carried out or silently observed by God that I must once again force myself to share only a small portion of the most horrendous, inventive, or entertaining ones. Common examples of Godly justifications usually fall into one of the following categories: he has angry desires for revenge, people will turn their backs on him, or his followers will sin by finding new gods to worship. While most of the foretold events are yet to come, apologists must accept the prophecies as part of an unchangeable future because the passages are part of the inerrant, unalterable word of God. Since these promised catastrophes are imminent in their arrival, we can treat these events as though they’ve already materialised for the purpose of analyzing the moral justifications, or lack thereof, that God offers for his actions.

God will kill men, have their children smashed, and have their wives raped (Isaiah 13:15-16).
God will punish children for the iniquities of their fathers and distant ancestors (Isaiah 14:21).
God will lay waste to entire cities and make the lands desolate (Jeremiah 4:7).
God will set people, animals, and even plants on fire because of his anger (Jeremiah 7:20).
God will send so much evil that people would rather be dead than suffer (Jeremiah 8:3).
God will give away the property of men, including their wives, to other men (Jeremiah 8:10).
God will kill young men, and their children will die from a famine (Jeremiah 11:22).
God will cause everyone to become drunk so father and son will kill one another (Jeremiah 13:14).
God will not hear the cries of the people or acknowledge their sacrifices (Jeremiah 14:12).
God will make people hungry enough to eat their own children and friends (Jeremiah 19:9).
God will burn entire cities with the inhabitants still inside (Jeremiah 50:32).
God will break people’s bones and knock their teeth out with stones (Lamentations 3:1-16).
God will force fathers and sons to eat each other and scatter their remembrance (Ezekiel 5:10).
God will be comforted by killing everyone with pestilence, plagues, and swords (Ezekiel 5:12-13).
God will lay dead bodies around idols and spread their bones around the alters (Ezekiel 6:5).
God will kill righteous men and forget their good deeds if they ever turn to sin (Ezekiel 18:24).
God will turn daughters into whores and wives into adulterers (Hosea 4:13).
God will kill children when they come out of their mothers’ wombs (Hosea 10:14).
God will tear people apart and devour them like a lion (Hosea 13:8).
God will kill children and unborn fetuses because their parents worship other gods (Hosea 13:16).
God will sell the children of Israel into slavery in a far away land (Joel 3:8).
God will kill inhabitants of entire cities if they have a corrupt government (Micah 3:9-12).
God will consume every living thing from the face of the earth (Zephaniah 1:2-3).
God will send people to steal Jerusalem, rape the women, and enslave the rest (Zechariah 14:2).
God will send plagues on people and animals to rot away tongues and eyes (Zechariah 14:12-15).

The prophets warn us of the Old Testament God’s frightful, futuristic return to the earth, at which point he’ll initiate every category of curse imaginable on the people who ignore his commandments, refuse to worship him, or commit acts that he arbitrarily deems evil. It’s remarkable how he can randomly dish out such unfathomable punishments for reasons a typical person would consider lacking in foundation, yet he becomes terribly enraged when one of us follows suit.

God brings people into this world without a choice in the matter and expects us to do certain things, otherwise he’ll punish us severely without rest for an eternity. God’s omniscience must necessarily allow him to know which names will not be included in his book of life. Therefore, we can only conclude that he purposely brings people into the world with zero chance of avoiding Hell. Any deviation from this predetermined course would make God wrong, but since God cannot possibly be wrong, it’s impossible for us to deviate from the absolutely unalterable plan that he has already envisioned. Thus, Christians can only logically claim that we are exclusively involuntary pawns at the mercy of God’s whimsical decisions as to where we will spend our ultimate eternal destinations. This heartless exercise of brutality can only be the single most hateful crime any being could ever commit.

Now that I’ve had time to reflect upon these considerations, if I believed for one moment that it was possible for this god to exist, I would be the first person in church on Sunday morning and the last person out the door Sunday evening. I would swallow my disgust and worship the deity that I detested in order to accept the slightly more agreeable punishment of eternal praise over eternal agony. In our universe bound by reality, however, such a personality can only be a ridiculous creation from a deceitful set of individuals who were sadly unaware of the vicious monster they created.

The God Worshipped By Two Billion

God barbarically killed millions of people in the Old Testament because they weren’t “fortunate” enough to belong to the Israelite tribe. Had these alleged victims belonged to the lineage of Jacob, they obviously wouldn’t have suffered the full wrath of God. However, what chances did they realistically have of converting to worship the Hebrew deity when their own parents conditioned them to think according to their local customs? Even today, God’s evil demands require us to murder billions of non-Christians because their parents unknowingly continue to practice this same form of powerful conditioning. The consequences of obeying God’s directions should give us the presence of mind to refrain from following such orders without first analysing the morality of the demands in question. Widely distributed directions from a fair god should be moral or have a satisfactory explanation. Otherwise, we may be repeating the same evil accomplishments of our ancestors.

What logic is there in the fact that the being who promises us eternal life because of his love for all humankind is the same entity who orders us to kill a variety of people for morally bankrupt reasons? The biblical god is not “wonderful” and “loving” as Christians claim because these unenlightened followers base such crude assessments on the more positive New Testament. The God of the Old Testament, on the other hand, is pure evil and full of perpetual anger; he even admits as much. No one who creates and needlessly kills millions of people can honestly be called “wonderful” and “loving,” deity or not. Certainly, most people wouldn’t think it was fair if they saw their fellow man being tortured just because his parents raised him with a different version of the creator. God even takes enjoyment in the fact that many people will never make it into Heaven. Regardless of your position on the issue, I believe we can all agree that God has quite a unique character about him, to say the least.

We’ve also come to realise that we can observe the following qualities of God: he exhibits immature rage when no one pays attention to him; he makes people suffer for what others have done; he has no regard for human life; and he tortures decent people for such reasons as winning bets with Satan. If we were to extract this behavior into human terms, we would most likely draw a comparison with that of a spoiled child. Because of an obvious state of fear and panic over similar reports heard by authors of the ancient Hebrew scriptures, they wrote and sang praises to this terrible creature thinking that such measures might assist in helping them escape his unconscionable wrath.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Gay Marriage

The reaction by conservative religious leaders and political commentators to the decision by the ALP on gay marriage has been that this tilt will imperil the party at the next federal election. It may well do. But the reasons supplied are shocking arguments against a call for legitimising gay marriage.

I am not a member of the left-wing intelligentsia and I am not standing for office. But I am a believer in clear reasoning, and what has been written on the subject cries out - if not to heaven, then to the intellect - for a response.

The case for gay marriage has been advanced by various parties and it is not my business to defend their specific arguments or their political ideologies. But surely one might make the following argument for such a move, without regard - for the moment - to the moral prejudices of religious conservatives or the electoral analyses of the pundits.

Sexual orientation is not a matter of ''sin'', but of biochemistry. Gays are a minority that have long been persecuted and vilified in conservative religious societies.

This has too often forced much of their love underground and rendered its practice furtive, undignified and opportunistic. Making marriage possible would be a step in the direction not only of dignifying homoerotic relations, but of making them more moral.
It is surely important here to get a few elementary distinctions clear.

First, there is a sanctimonious claim by conservative Christians and Muslims, and perhaps Jews, that their "holy scriptures" confine marriage to heterosexual relations.

But the idea that any of us should still have our moral reasoning overshadowed by these arcane and morally dubious books is highly challengeable. Especially when it is my understanding that Jesus was on the side of the marginalised and the oppressed. And also that God is love. So if anything, the Christian faith should be advocating for marriage equality.

Surely a liberal, secular society will assess the merits of moral arguments on a more rational basis.

Such a basis might be that there is simply nothing inherently objectionable about homosexual relations and that making it legally and morally possible for homosexual lovers to form a lasting bond would be a constructive step in our society. Let those who insist that they derive their morals from ''holy scripture'' live their moral code without hypocrisy. But there is no sound basis for permitting them to dictate standards of morality in a liberal and tolerant society.

Second, it is argued that the ALP has been self-destructive in espousing a right to gay marriage, since this may cost it heavily in the polls. Cardinal George Pell has been quoted, from faraway Rome, as declaring that ''any Australia-wide party'' that supports gay marriage ''does not want to govern''. Perhaps.

But whether the ALP will suffer at the polls on account of its support for a right to gay marriage has no bearing on whether such support is morally sound or rationally defensible.

One could not, for a century, have hoped to win office in many southern states of the US if one stood for desegregation and civil rights. Did this make these causes morally wrong or intrinsically indefensible? One would not have thought so.

There are many issues, moral and practical, on which it is difficult to win the consent of a majority of our fellow citizens for a wide range of reasons. This may make it politic to avoid espousing them on the hustings.

Yet many of us decry the lack of courage and imagination shown by the political class. They are too driven by opinion polls and concerns in marginal electorates and the single-issue lobbying of special interests, it is again and again lamented.

Well, we have a case study right here. Let it be conceded that the ALP may have miscalculated electorally in this matter. This does not mean that those who support gay marriage are in moral error. It may simply mean that too many of our fellow citizens are narrow-minded, fearful, bigoted and led astray by clerics of one kind or another.

If those who have called for gay marriage are in error, let the case be argued on rational and empirical grounds and not on the grounds that such a moral and legal reform would be inconsistent with Deuteronomy or the Koran.

Those who are not gay, do not have gay friends or do not know gay couples are not well placed to have a sensible opinion on this subject; for it is the freedom of such lovers and couples to live open and dignified lives that is at stake here. Is there anything about actual heterosexual marriages that makes them the gold standard of morality and decency and fidelity? Surely not.

Love and fidelity in marriage are ideals we don't always live up to. Yet if those who see themselves as the moral guardians of our society - an office to which none of us elected them, incidentally - wish to see higher standards of love and fidelity in homosexual relations, might not marriage be a way of signifying precisely that?

And if they recoil from such an appeal, perhaps they need to be reminded that many of us - even if we might still be a minority - have long since repudiated their religious beliefs and claims to moral authority.

What we look for is an enlightened and open society, not a theocratic and reactionary one. We do not see the Bible or the Koran as having any weight in serious matters, moral, historical or scientific. Consequently, we applaud those who raise challenging issues and are prepared to stand up for reforms in the face of conservative reaction and popular prejudice.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Butch/Femme and Labels - are they really necessary?

If the straight world has defined lesbians falsely, even maliciously, then lesbians have, to some degree, acquiesced, by forgetting the I and playing themselves into stereotypes. Lesbians have labels for everyone, it seems: bull dyke, granola dyke, baby dyke, power dyke, butch, stone butch, soft butch, faggot butch, femme, stone femme, high femme, power femme, soft femme, futch, lipstick lesbian, chapstick lesbian, boi, androgynous, top, bottom, switch. It goes on and on, and these are the same labels that make it easy for straight people to misrepresent lesbians. We, as lesbians, have amassed names, symbols, and behaviors, and they are designed to tell us and the rest of the world who we are.

Some people take these labels pretty seriously. Others like to joke about them.

Can anyone really fit into one box? After all, the right to define ourselves is what we lesbians and feminists have been fighting for for so long! And if people force you to choose, then what does that say about our community and our acceptance of our own members?

These labels we so often put on ourselves generally reflect the dynamics of our relationships. A lot of women who identify as butch will claim that you're not a *real* butch unless you exclusively date femmes. Conversely, a lot of femmes will claim that you're not a *true* femme unless you only date butches. But what about all the butches that don't identify within the butch/femme dynamic? What about butches who date other butches? Why aren't they allowed to be called butch just because their preferred partners in this gender crime are not femmes? Who gives anyone the power to confer or deny whatever label they want?

Why is it assumed that all butches should be attracted to femmes? Maybe you're a faggot butch, did they even consider that? Everyone understands butch/femme because it seems familiar. Faggot butches on the other hand seemed to get scorned and derided and constantly questioned. A person can still be a butch without opening doors for girls or even fucking girly girls.

And what about femme on femme? Otherwise known as a lipstick lesbian. Generally, the term lipstick lesbian is used to describe a stereotypical feminine woman who is attracted to other feminine women. How come the heterosexual world can understand femme on femme? How come no one's threatened by two long haired pretty girls kissing in public? Yet why doesn't it read queer?

What *really* makes a person butch or femme anyway? Who made you (society) the Nazi police?

The concept of butch and femme identities have long been hotly debated within the lesbian community, yet even achieving a consensus as to exactly what the terms "butch" and "femme" mean can be extraordinarily difficult. In recent years, these words have come to describe a wide spectrum of individuals and their relationships. It is easiest, then, to begin with an examination of butch-femme culture and meaning from a historical perspective.

Butch and femme roles date back at least to the beginning of the 20th century. They were particularly prominent in the working-class lesbian bar culture of the 1940s, '50s, and '60s, where butch-femme relationships were the norm, while butch-butch and femme-femme were taboo. Those who switched roles were often the butt of jokes... women held strong opinions, that "role distinctions needed to be sharply drawn," and that not being one or the other earned strong disapproval from both groups.

However, in the 1970s, feminists started pronouncing "butch-femme" roles as politically incorrect, because they believed that all butch/femme dynamics by necessity imitate heterosexist gender roles, leading to butch-femme relationships being driven underground. Many lesbians of this era critiqued butch-femme as capitulation to oppressive patriarchal standards.

Androgyny became the lesbian ideal. Criticism of butch-femme was usually based on the claim that these identifications are an attempt to replicate heterosexuality by designating one member of a couple as male (the butch) and the other as female (the femme). Even today this argument is frequently aired. However, it is highly problematic because of its own underlying assumption of heteronormativity - that is, the tenet that heterosexuality is normal, and that all other forms of sexuality are only weak imitations of it. Butch-femme need not be an imitation of anything; it is a unique way of living and loving.

A resurgence of butch-femme identities and relationships in the late 1980s brought this dynamic back to the forefront of lesbian culture. The resurgence of butch-femme may be due in part to the fact that gender fluidity has become much more acceptable in recent decades. After all, butch and femme are related not only to sexual orientation, but also to gender expression.

In recent years, "pansexual" and "polysexual" have joined "bisexual" as terms that indicate women's attractions to more than one gender. Another indication of that fluidity is the fact that one cannot always tell simply by looking whether a lesbian identifies as butch or femme. Butches are not necessarily tops; femmes are not necessarily bottoms; and butches and femmes are no longer expected to date only each other.

However, in spite of butch-femme's renewed visibility, many women now argue that "butch" and "femme" are labels that oversimplify, generalise, or pigeonhole complex identities into false dichotomies. Femmes have been dismissed both within and outside of lesbian communities as being "too pretty to be 'real' lesbians." And a common refrain among lesbians and bisexuals who do not understand the appeal of butch women is "If I wanted to be with someone who looks like a man, I'd be with a man!"

Inherent to butch-femme relationships was the presumption that the butch is the physically active partner and the leader in lovemaking....Yet unlike the dynamics of many heterosexual relationships, the butch's foremost objective was to give sexual pleasure to a femme. The essence of this emotional/sexual dynamic is captured by the ideal of the "stone butch," or untouchable butch....To be untouchable meant to gain pleasure from giving pleasure.

Stone butches, as described extensively in Leslie Feinberg's 1992 novel Stone Butch Blues, do not permit themselves to be touched intimately. They instead derive pleasure from making love to their partners, who often identify as stone femmes. Some butches may also choose to use male first names and pronouns (ie. hym and hys or ze and hir) because while they do not identify as men, neither do they consider themselves women. Yet often they still identify very strongly with the lesbian community.

Femmes are perhaps best described as lesbian, bisexual, and queer women whose manner and style falls along the lines of what is traditionally considered feminine. Whereas butches are sometimes accused of trying to be men, femmes are sometimes accused - by other lesbians--of donning accoutrements of traditional femininity to pass as straight in the mainstream world. Actually, however, femme lesbians subvert prescribed sexual and gender roles by co-opting conventional "womanly" traits to indicate their attraction to other women.

The label femme is often confused with lipstick lesbian in that femme women also have typically feminine mannerisms and characteristics. The difference is that a femme woman is often, but by no means exclusively, attracted to a typically butch lesbian, characterised by having strong male attributes in their physical appearance as well as their behaviours.

Another major difference is the notion that the femme stereotype doesn’t just apply to appearances; it also encompasses political feminist ideals and rejecting patriarchal values.
I personally think the term femme also describes a gay woman who has feminist ideals. It is about the choice to either abstain from typically feminine principles or to embrace them. I don’t think being femme is restricted to the application of make-up or anything; it is something deeper.

Butches may cross-dress and crop their hair not because they want to be men, but because they are expressing a different way of being a woman, or simply of being gendered. Rather than attempting to replicate traditional masculinity and heterosexuality, butches present a challenge to both in their rejection of how the dominant culture has decided a woman should look and act.

Some young people today (in the homosexual community) eschew butch or femme classifications, believing that they are inadequate to describe an individual, or that labels are limiting in and of themselves. Other people within the queer community have tailored the common labels to be more descriptive, such as "soft stud," "hard butch," "gym queen," or "tomboy femme."

It is important to note that those who identify as butch and femme today often use the words to define their presentation and gender identity rather than strictly the role they play in a relationship, and that not all butches are attracted exclusively to femmes and not all femmes are exclusively attracted to butches, although this was traditionally the norm.

Behaviours not sanctioned by lesbian codes of conduct are suspect in the "lesbian community," because they smack of conformity to straight life, and so called patriarchal (an absurdly over-used word) notions of womanhood. Lesbianism, for many, has become a lifestyle, complete with its own vocabulary, food, clothing, politics, medicine, and psychology. Dissent is no laughing matter. The cause is paramount, goodspeak the lingua franca.

Perhaps it’s part of human nature to stereotype and put people in a box. With the 90's came a genderqueer revolution where GLBTIQ people created new and innovative labels to describe themselves, while older labels were given new definitions. It can be argued that this is a positive step towards evolving language to be inclusive, or that embracing labels is a backward step.

Today, gender roles are a lot more fluid, hence why people may not be comfortable identifying with one label. Who cares if you can fit into a label or not? Most women I know, whether gay, bi, straight, transgender seem to have a little bit of all the gay stereotypes in them. Why should it matter?