Dear Catholics,

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Flag burning

Somebody at an Occupy location in Maine burned an American flag on his way out the door today. I’m glad. But my joy has nothing to do with the Occupy movement.

I’m all for flag burning. It irritates me to no end that we’re suppose to pledge allegiance to some piece of fabric in grade school, to show it respect before sporting events, and that everyone gets all up in arms when someone sets it ablaze. It’s an abstract symbol with which some people are going to disagree, whether in part or whole. The fact that they want to express that disagreement via theatrical means shouldn’t draw anyone’s attention any more than a person standing on the street corner gets anyone’s attention (except insofar as it may be prudent to not stand close to burning fabric).

As much as PZ likes to Maloney-censor, I still agree with him on the Catholic cracker ‘incident’. There is no good reason to pretend as if anything is really all that sacred. Of course we are going to place value on various things, whether ideas or material, and we should want to defend those things – but in proportion. Vehement disagreement with ideals one holds should garner the same response no matter how that disagreement is expressed, bar violence. I have read epic disagreements which make flag burning look like nothing special, yet high-end prose rarely inflames passions like symbolic fabric in flames.

I find all this devotion to flags downright absurd. The only way I can see a person being offended by its destruction is if they have values which border on nationalism – values which are themselves almost always arbitrary. Who doesn’t believe that the average flag-totting American wouldn’t gladly tote the ol’ green, white, and orange if he was from Ireland instead of the U.S.? It’s as happenstance as the majority of religious beliefs.

People don’t hold their particular flag in high honor for very many rational reasons, if any. They hold it in high honor for the same infantile reason people think their daddy is better than your daddy.

Catholics, adoption, intolerance, and non-acceptance

A friend recently made a post on Facebook where I felt she did not distinguish between intolerance and non-acceptance. I’ve written about the issue before, so I naturally responded. I think it’s more than a mere semantics issue: If we conflate intolerance with non-acceptance, we bring everything into a false equivalence, often causing us to overlook actual issues of intolerance. Let’s take the issue of Catholic adoption agencies in Illinois:

Roman Catholic bishops in Illinois have shuttered most of the Catholic Charities affiliates in the state rather than comply with a new requirement that says they must consider same-sex couples as potential foster-care and adoptive parents if they want to receive state money.

This is blatant intolerance. Rather than continue placing orphaned children into loving homes, these Catholics are actively seeking to impede the rights of others by way of shutting everything down. If they weren’t legally bound, there is no doubt they simply wouldn’t allow gay adoptions at all – ya know, since that’s the sort of intolerance they had been practicing for decades.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, look at the gall of these people:

“In the name of tolerance, we’re not being tolerated,” said Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield, Ill., a civil and canon lawyer who helped drive the church’s losing battle to retain its state contracts for foster care and adoption services.

I suppose the Bishop is technically right. No one is willing to tolerate his bigotry, so that is itself a form of intolerance. Of course, this is nothing more than a caveat: Intolerance is unacceptable except where it has a compelling reason. I think that much is implied, assumed, and understood. The Bishop is trying to exploit an unspoken yet implicit issue in order to gain pity for discriminating Catholics. It’s pathetic.

It should be obvious to any thinking person that this really isn’t a matter of mere semantics. If we’re going to allow people to run around, without challenge, claiming they are facing intolerance, as if connotations and implied meaning have no place in language, then real issues of intolerance – such as gays not being allowed to adopt – will have far less impact in the public mind when they are identified and pointed out: the dilution of language is always the dilution of meaning.

via Friendly Atheist.

A response to the pope

Those hateful atheists

The Obama administration invited the Secular Coalition for America to the White House for a meeting on national policy.

President Barack Obama was not scheduled to make an appearance at the meeting, nor were any policy changes to be announced, McClatchy news service reported.

But that didn’t stop a number of religious conservative groups from attacking the meeting as a sign the president has an anti-religious agenda.

Really? This holds as much water as claiming Obama was born in Kenya or that he’s a Muslim. The U.S. presidency will be held by pro-religious administrations for a long, long time to come, despite this encouraging meeting.

The title of the article I found is Right wing slams White House for meeting with atheist ‘hate groups’. Here are some quotes.

“It is one thing for Administration to meet with groups of varying viewpoints, but it is quite another for a senior official to sit down with activists representing some of the most hate-filled, anti-religious groups in the nation,” said Council Nedd, chairman of the religious advocacy group In God We Trust.

“People of faith, especially Christians, have good reason to wonder exactly where their interests lie with the Obama administration,” Donohue said in a statement. “Now we have the definitive answer. In an unprecedented move, leaders of a presidential administration are hosting some of the biggest anti-religious zealots in the nation.

And from this article,

The fact that this meeting is happening at all is an affront to the vast majority of people of all faiths who believe in God.”

You hear that? Secular, largely atheist organizations are filled with hateful zealots and it’s offensive that they would even get a voice in public policy. Why don’t those damned atheists just shut up?

This is one of the biggest problems facing atheists; the religious feel they have a right to use offensive, derogatory language at will, whether justified or not, and they aren’t afraid to apply it towards atheists – without fear of political fallout. And the truth is, they do have that right. The problem, however, is that they believe only they have that right. Anyone who says religion is bad should just sit down and shut up because their very existence is offensive.

Oh, and all those hate-filled comments from the atheist group?

“We are committed to the separation of church and state and to equality for non-believers in the political arena. Religious speakers must not continue to be given special privileges.”

Equality? HATEFUL!

“I have witnessed firsthand how [military] service members who are openly non-theist have been harassed by their commanders, leaders, and peers, and have been disrespected by their subordinates for failing to hold certain religious beliefs,” said American Atheists vice president Kathleen Johnson.

SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP! ZEALOT!

Johnson called on the Obama administration to make non-theists “a protected class throughout the Armed Services on par with the protections afforded to women, minorities, and those belonging to minority faith groups.”

What? They want equality for themselves and for faith groups? THAT’S SO ANTI-RELIGIOUS!*

*No special privileges for Christians = anti-religious.

If they want tax exemption…

Catholics add $86,000 vs gay vows

Catholics in Maine gave about $86,000 to fight same-sex marriage through collections at Masses in September.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland said Friday that parishioners put $41,000 into baskets during collections supporting the campaign to repeal Maine’s new law legalizing same-sex marriage.

Donations made in envelopes weren’t opened by the churches but sent directly to Stand for Marriage Maine, the political action committee organizing the repeal effort.

This seems like such a clear issue. If any given religion wants tax-exempt status, it should effectively remain a-political. In this instance, preaching a lack of acceptance should be legally acceptable (and expected of religion), but donating to political campaigns is out of the question. Telling followers how to vote should not be allowed. It’s bad enough that these organizations are allowed to influence their parishioners towards bigotry; they should not be allowed to do it without paying taxes.

As we should have learned from Kent Hovind, Jesus does not put one above the law.