Blog Archives

An article you must read: Romney and Ryan – The Haters in Chief

 

This article by Hrafnkell Haraldsson is in PoliticusUSA today. I’m giving you the first couple of paragraphs, but this is a long, well-thought out piece which continues the thinking I started earlier about religion and politics. In fact I was startled to discover a quote from Jefferson from the same document!

As you read it you discover that in a Romney America, “my god is bigger than your god. And your god doesn’t get any First Amendment protections because, well, it really isn’t a religion in the first place, is it? It’s a cult. Cults aren’t protected.” That certainly puts Islam in the gut bucket.

Anyway – here’s the start:

Can you imagine a United States where the president and vice president hate the world’s second largest religion and invite into White House councils those who advocate military action against whoever we feel might be a threat, including, particularly, Iran.

That’s the scenario being faced, incredibly enough, by the people of the United States. President Obama’s pragmatic, sober approach to diplomacy has restored the reputation of the United States and we are on the verge of escaping both long wars embarked upon by the Bush administration.

But Mitt Romney wants to abrogate control of America’s foreign policy – to Israel – which wants to attack Iran. He may have noticed we just got done with a nearly-ten-year-long-war in Iran’s neighbor, Iraq. He may have noticed that we are still engaged in Afghanistan, a place even Alexander the Great could not entirely subdue, a place that was a graveyard and charnel house for the mighty Soviet Union.

And now he wants to involve us in an attack on Iran.

OK… read the rest of it HERE. You’ll be glad you did.

 

Advertisements

Is there too much religion in today’s politics?

38% of Americans think so (up from 18% in 2001) and would like to keep religion out of politics.

To break it down to a party level, Pew research says 46% of Democrats, 42% of Independents and even 24% of Republicans think there is “too much religious talk from politicians.”

Time Magazine in its Swampland section also points out:

In an article appearing in the March-April 2012 issue of Foreign Affairs adapted from their upcoming book, American Grace: How Religion Unites and Divides Us, Putnam and Campbell argue that the growth in the unaffiliateds has been fueled by a backlash against the religious right. There’s some debate whether the “nones” are really abandoning spirituality–most still believe in God but don’t claim ties to any organized religion–and whether culture warriors, secular indoctrination at elite institutions (as some conservatives dubiously argue) or pop evangelists (see Ross Douthat) are to blame.

But whatever the cause, the political implications of this bloc are plain: Unaffiliateds don’t like religious sermonizing in the public square. According to Pew, 66% of “nones” think the government is too involved in dictating morality; 70% think abortion should be legal in all or most cases; and 71% think homosexuality should be accepted by society.

Culture Wars…

We are entering another month of the ongoing political culture wars next week, without really looking at the concerns of jobs, economics, climate change or any of the other real problems that need to be addressed.

Tuesday will be the Michigan and Arizona primaries, so the TV pundits are focusing on those states and in so doing are revealing some new cultural phenomena. For instance, in Arizona they are considering a new law that bans college teachers from cursing but allows students to carry guns. Got that? Gun violence good, language violence bad? And then… what is a naughty enough word to get a teacher fired? Will they be listed in the law?

The biggest insertion of cultural conflict into the process is, of course, religion. Between candidates who have been spoken to by God and encouraged to run, to major religious groups protesting established birth control legislation but supporting the penetration of vaginas to discourage abortions, the promotion of religion over secular politics is frightening… and disgusting.

These politicians are ready to scrap what we know of the scientific proof for climate change in order to promote more industries that pollute the air (listen to the righties cheer) or to ignore what is necessary to reduce the unbelievable growth of population. Don’t they see what is going on here?

I turn to the world of intellectual comedy to backup my views of religion, science and atheism (a belief area that I belong to… but like most atheists don’t try to inflict my beliefs on other people using the replacement of secular law.) Here’s Eddie Izzard:

Even if you don’t agree with Eddie (or me), I hope you were at least entertained… and will think about how to get away from the culture wars and back to solving our real problems.

(BTW, Eddie Izzard will soon be appearing in a new version of Treasure Island playing Long John Silver. Can’t wait.)

Santorum says President Obama will crush the religious by cutting their heads off…

From Think Progress:

Santorum Remembers The French!

“Rick Santorum continued to rail against President Obama’s so-called war against religion during a town hall in Plano, Texas Wednesday night. The former Pennsylvania senator — who has spent the last several days criticizing the government’s requirement that insurers provide contraception coverage and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision striking down Proposition 8 — accused the administration of “crushing” religion and setting the United States on the path towards executing religious people by decapitation…”

Just go HERE and see what he said in his own words.

That may not be so bad, however. Newt Gingrich said that if Obama is reelected, on his first day of the new term he will destroy the Catholic Church.

Why is it that a Repub will say anything?

A quote for the day… another view of the Religion conflict

When did the 1st Amendment change from basically saying that you can practice whatever religion you want and you won’t be burned at the stake as a heretic and we’re not going to form or recognize a national religion like the Church of England? When did it change to “everyone everywhere has to do what a bunch of old catholics in funny hats wants, because otherwise it hurts their feelings?” And why does it only apply to certain religions?

– John Cole at Balloon Juice.

I’m not sure what the government is ready to do for non-religionists (like me). My thought is that they would be totally unconcerned with the beliefs of atheists (like the belief that women should control their own lives and have the absolute right to protect their bodies and maintain their reproductive activities… or reject them entirely.)

If you listened to the Republicans (mostly male) at C-PAC in their comments on opposition to birth control and abortion or maintenance of some religious beliefs applicable to EVERYONE, then you know who people like me can’t help to support and vote for.

I can’t bear to write about this…

…but you should click on the headline below and go to Think Progress and read this for yourself. I don’t know if it cuts into my disgust with Republicans or with Religion…probably both.

Virginia lawmaker: Children with disabilities are God’s punishment to women who previously had abortions.

Here’s another reason why I think religion needs to be stamped out…

‘Sinner’ singer given 39 lashes by rabbis
By JERUSALEM POST STAFF
08/27/2010 02:45

Punishment for performance in front of “mixed audience.”

clipped from www.jpost.com

RABBI AMNON YITZHAk (left) listens to Rabbi Ben Zion Mutsafi as he speaks of the leather strip with

A singer who performed in front of a “mixed audience” of men and women was lashed 39 times to make him “repent,” after a ruling by a self-described rabbinic court on Wednesday.

Rabbi Amnon Yitzhak, founder of the Shofar organization aimed at bringing Jews “back to religion” (hazara betshuva), has made it his recent mission to fight against musical performances for both men and women.
His “judicial panel,” with Rabbi Ben Zion Mutsafi and another member, sentenced Erez Yechiel to 39 lashes in order to “rid him of his sins.”
In a video clip of the court posted on the Shofar Web site, Ben Zion said that those who make others sin (mahtiei rabim), such as artists who make men and women attend performances or dance together, have no place in the world to come.
blog it

Yechiel, who said, “I accept upon myself the lashing for my sins,” was ordered to stand by a wooden poll with his head facing north (“from whence the evil inclination comes”), his hands tied with a azure-colored rope (“a symbol of mercy”), and served his “sentence.”

A remarkable essay on our current National Panic…

There is a remarkable essay over at Brilliant At Breakfast which sums up the current brouhaha over the “Mosque” at Ground Zero, Obama’s secret Muslim faith, the preying of the Right on American Stupidity and more. Below are the first 5 1/2 paragraphs… I urge you to go in and read the rest (as well as the comments).

-Bill

The Republican Area 51

(By American Zen’s Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari.)

Nazis don’t have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust museum in Washington.” – Erstwhile alternate historian Newt Gingrich in opposing the Cordoba Community Center on Fox

In a paraphrase of the old bromide against the Irish, it can be said that God invented Koolaid to prevent Americans from running the world for too long.

When people of other countries put their lives on the line in the act of defending their democracies and addressing real life or death issues, about the most I can expect of my fellow Americans is to color their Twitter avatars green and change their time zone to Tehran’s. At the end of the day, however, we find ourselves on the couch with a Red Bull in one hand and the remote in the other and tuning in to Fox “News” and ensuring that Rupert’s funhouse mirror dimension remains the highest-rated cable channel. And people wonder why I criticize my country so much.

Let me impress upon you one inescapable, incontrovertible, ineluctable fact: We are simply the stupidest and most willfully ignorant nation on earth. We’re the world’s biggest racial, national and religious melting pot yet the most bigoted. As Maureen Dowd reminded us yesterday, we panic in herds yet come to our senses, if we ever do, one at a time. Our eyes snap open like a doll’s when we’re alarmed yet when we awake from one soporific or another, we need to rub those eyes for a few minutes. Stupidity and ignorance has a much longer half life than truth and the facts. If stupidity was made of hydrogen and oxygen, our country would look like New Orleans the day after Katrina. And if racial or religious bigotry was gold, there’d be a rush of grubby Republican prospectors every year or so.

And need we look any farther than the biggest news story of the day, the “controversial” “mosque” at “Ground Zero” for a glimpse of how stupid we are? If you throw enough money for ink and pixels to convince an entire nation of something, even one as rich in colleges and universities as ours, you will sway public opinion at least temporarily. When the media blitz subsides, people slowly, very slowly, come to their senses. We see it with every election cycle because we depend on people to tell us what to think and for whom to vote as well as what buy, eat, drink and even how to fornicate. It’s hard to believe but it seems almost as many Americans are as ignorant as to what’s going on at Park51 as they are of Area 51.

Frank Rich also reminded us yesterday of the wildly vacillating poll numbers regarding the very religion of our president. A recent Pew poll showed that 18% of us still persist in believing that President Obama is Muslim, a number that was as low as 11% at his inauguration (long after McCain and RNC money stopped telling us what to think). Barely over a third of us know that Obama is Christian, down from nearly half in March ’09. And the day after Pew published its results, Franklin Graham, who should never be put on television even to pitch juicers on QVC, told John King that Obama is both and “born a Muslim.”

(Go HERE to read the rest…)


Quote of the Day…

“There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, [and] science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works.”

– Stephen Hawking (being interviewed by Diane Sawyer.)

Thanks, Professor Hawking… there are some more important comments at the interview. Go HERE.

Why the religious folk of America will prevent us from really fighting Global Warming…

If you want to read a depressing but true book on the changes in our planet and it’s environment… not changes coming in a generation, but the changes that are HERE NOW, then pick up a copy of “Eaarth” by Bill McKibben (who 20 years ago tried to warn us with “The End Of Nature.” The spelling of the planet’s name is not a typo… McKibben wants us to see that our planet is somewhat familiar to us, but has changed enough to be not quite the same… and we will have to get used to it.

One of his scariest points is that, even if everyone in the world were given an electric car tomorrow, changed all our lightbulbs to the low output variety, grew all our own food and collected our own water from rain, ended all wars we are involved in and brought everyone home, it would still be hundreds of years before we recovered the world of the mid 20th Century, if at all.

Here’s a video of McKibben on the book:

To me, starting the change in how we live, what we eat, how we power what we do must begin now, even if it is my grandchildren’s grandchildren who start to see the results. But, as McKibben points out, change has to be complete and worldwide, either voluntarily or by political force, for anything to really matter. Of course, this brings up the conflicts of economics, progressive growth of economies (which must end…especially in huge countries like China and India as well as with us), and views of climate change moving faster than all predictions by politicians and scientists.

And it brings up the problem of religious belief.

For instance… there is reason why some extreme right leaning Christian fundamentalists might do nothing to help change our ways of living”

Many Christian fundamentalists feel that concern for the future of our planet is irrelevant, because it has no future. They believe we are living in the End Time, when the son of God will return, the righteous will enter heaven, and sinners will be condemned to eternal hellfire. They may also believe, along with millions of other Christian fundamentalists, that environmental destruction is not only to be disregarded but actually welcomed — even hastened — as a sign of the coming Apocalypse.

-Christian-right views are swaying politicians and threatening the environment

Then there are those who take a Biblical view that there is no change which is going to effect our climate and therefor our lives. God’s promise to Noah:

“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” (Gen 8:22)

… and if you think intelligent people do not take this seriously, then you miss the views of members of our own Congress:

-IL Rep John Shimkus tells us how climate change is bullshit via the theological argument. March 2009

Well, some of us see this, and try to get the word out, but I’m not sure it works. For instance:


– Rachel Maddow April 2009

And major religions, like the Lutherans, are assuming that God is behind everything and will keep radical change from destroying us.

From God, Creation and Climate Change:

Despite all the negativities—such as the disruption and destruction occurring due to climate change—we still trust that God is at work in this world, often hidden beneath its opposite.

– published by the Lutheran World Federation, 2009

And then there are the people who, while not in Congress anymore, are the big pushers of the Tea Bagger’s movement:

What I’m suggesting is we have a sort of an eco-evangelical hysteria going on and it leads me to almost wonder if we are becoming a nation of environmental hypochondriacs that are willing to use the power of the state to impose enormous restrictions on the rights and the comforts of, and incomes of individuals who serve essentially a paranoia, a phobia, that has very little fact evidence in fact. Now these are observations that are popular to make because right now its almost taken as an article of faith that this crisis is real.

Let me say I take it as an article of faith if the lord God almighty made the heavens and the Earth, and he made them to his satisfaction and it is quite pretentious of we little weaklings here on earth to think that, that we are going to destroy God’s creation.

– Dick Army

I guess I am, and McKibben is, and Rachel Maddow is a pretentious little weakling…I believe that all of “creation” can be destroyed.

Believe what you want…but think about changing at least one element of your energy consumption or carbon output. And think about who you vote for and will they end the war, or will they promote conservation of water and air, or will they stop our economy from growing–since growth increases consumption.

And read McKibben’s book if you don’t do anything else.

A Statement on Goldman Sachs

Here’s a brief clip from a Matt Taibbi article in the Guardian:

Last summer I wrote a brutally negative article about Goldman Sachs for Rolling Stone magazine (I called the bank a “great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity”) that unexpectedly sparked a heated national debate. On one side of the debate were people like me, who believed that Goldman is little better than a criminal enterprise that earns its billions by bilking the market, the government, and even its own clients in a bewildering variety of complex financial scams.

On the other side of the debate were the people who argued Goldman wasn’t guilty of anything except being “too smart” and really, really good at making money. This side of the argument was based almost entirely on the Randian belief system, under which the leaders of Goldman Sachs appear not as the cheap swindlers they look like to me, but idealised heroes, the saviours of society.

I think I have a stronger agreement with the criminal enterprise… for what you may think, go in and read the whole article HERE.

Why I think religion turns people into loonies…

The Chicago tribune says: Iranian cleric blames women’s immodest dress, promiscuity for earthquakes, urges repentance.

Here’s a clip (go into the whole article and find out what the Minister of Welfare and Social Security says is the best system to prevent earthquakes):

clipped from www.chicagotribune.com

Iran is one of the world’s most earthquake-prone countries, and the cleric’s unusual explanation for why the earth shakes follows a prediction by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that a quake is certain to hit Tehran and that many of its 12 million inhabitants should relocate.

“Many women who do not dress modestly … lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes,” Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi was quoted as saying by Iranian media. Sedighi is Tehran’s acting Friday prayer leader.

Women in the Islamic Republic are required by law to cover from head to toe, but many, especially the young, ignore some of the more strict codes and wear tight coats and scarves pulled back that show much of the hair.

“What can we do to avoid being buried under the rubble?” Sedighi asked during a prayer sermon Friday. “There is no other solution but to take refuge in religion and to adapt our lives to Islam’s moral codes.”
  blog it

Easter… Bunny or Belief?

Here we are at the height of Christian religious observation… Easter, or the application of state-decreed capital punishment to Jesus, followed by his rising three days later (on Easter Sunday, apparently) to show everyone that belief has a factual base. Considered history by believers and illusion by others, it sets the basis for the development of churches (especially those run by older men who have a taste for young boys.)

America over the decades has given us a delightful alternative to the celebration of recovery from state execution by one believed to be God;s son, that being the Easter Bunny. Behold, a rabbit who brings eggs (many made from candy) in baskets to children on Easter Sunday morning. This, of course, is one of the joys of Capitalism, spurring industries ranging from Jelly Bean Production to Greeting Cards to the manufacture of imitation grass filling for baskets.

No matter what one believes or doesn’t believe about Easter, to many of us it is the thing which hammered the final nail of rejection into participation in the holiday… or in religion in general. The fact that, over two milennia of belief, proof and disproof so many need something still to believe in.

Anyway, Here’s Obama’s Easter message. It is sad to me that we expect politicians to be believers.

Have you noticed that Congress gets a lot of time off?

And have you noticed that even when they are “in Session” they throw away most of Monday and Friday with traveling? And have you noticed that from Tuesday to Thursday Senators are rarely on the floor, so they are spending more time having Quorum Calls than they are debating?

Have you noticed that when they are debating neither side ever seems to be actually “debating” with the other side… like they don’t respond to each others’ comments and queries? And have you noticed that even when they do comment on a question from the other side they never really provide an accurate answer?

Have you noticed that religious holidays (like Good Friday) are observed as National Events, despite the separation of Church and State? And have you noticed that NO political party actually represents the declining Middle Class? And have you noticed that Health Care legislation should be renamed Health Insurance Company Preservation legislation?

Have you noticed that our government, our media, our students and, well, everyone else, have become more and more illiterate (misspellings on CNBC bottom-screen trailers pointed this out to me as well… or as my wife said “…but it’s CNBC!” as if that implied that a major financial network should not mistake “hole” with “whole”… as in “Secretary Geithner is getting us out of a whole”)? And have you noticed that no attention is paid to this increased illiteracy at all? By anyone?

There’s more… oh yes, there’s much more to notice, but most people are more concerned with carrying guns to public events, or paying no taxes for demanded services, or not missing Desperate Housewives. You can argue with me and say all this is not true, but could you prove it?

Atheists to meet with Administration at the White House – BUT NO OBAMA!

Speaking as an atheist, this really bothers me. The President seems to have time for every religious group out there – despite the fact that their beliefs, and hence their political causes, are based on unprovable mythology – but not with those of logical and provable ideologies.

A clip from McClachy:

clipped from www.mcclatchydc.com
President Barack Obama has burnished his Christian credentials, courted Jewish support and preached outreach toward Muslims. On Friday, his administration will host a group that fits none of the above: America’s nonbelievers.
The president isn’t expected to make an appearance at the meeting with the Secular Coalition for America or to unveil any new policy as a result of it.
Instead, several administration officials will sit down quietly for a morning meeting at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House campus with about 60 workhorses from the coalition’s 10 member groups, including the American Atheists and the Council for Secular Humanism. Tina Tchen, the director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, and representatives from the Justice and Health and Human Services departments will participate.
On the agenda are three policy areas: child medical neglect, military proselytizing and faith-based initiatives.
  blog it

If you’ve got an hour to spare…

…and want to read a great, long article by Thom Hartmann, GO HERE and take a gander at

Two Santa Clauses or How The Republican Party Has Conned America for Thirty Years.

It starts back with Goldwater’s loss and take us up through the takeover of the Religious Right, among other things… but it really helps us understand how all you have to say is “we’ll cut taxes” and you hypnotize the American Public.

Anyway, go in and have a nice read.

Cartoon of the Week

Ben Sargent in the Austin American-Statesman:

What can I say? This brings me back to my working year in Texas for CSC… and everytime I got beyond the liberal bastion of Austin, I ran into the heart of monstro-religious America.

Why Religion and Garbage Share a Common Identity

Did anyone hear Pat Robertson today? Did you know Haiti’s earthquake was a result of the country’s dealings with the Devil? No, really. Here’s Pat giving us the word:

Do you remember that in 2005, Robertson suggested that Hurricane Katrina was brought on by the legalization of abortion?

As I recall, Robertson was a big “spiritual advisor” to George W. Bush. It figures.

Apparently, Oral Roberts is Dead

Here’s where to go to read a summation of the man’s life and mistakes:
http://iranianredneck.wordpress.com

You’ll excuse me if I don’t say any more here, except for the blog entry put in by The Aristocrats:
Oral Roberts Dies; Anal Roberts Lives.

Thoughts on Education, Religion and Our Culture

There is an article in Salon this morning about Home Schooling which I though was quite good, as it was written from the point of view of a Brooklyn Liberal father whose twins are being schooled at home for, what seem to be, non-religious reasons. I think that’s great, but it doesn’t jibe with what most of us think about when we consider Home Schooling.

A couple of years ago, home schooling was pushed by the religious right in order to avoid the teachings in public schools which were closer to Darwinism and scientific method. This was the major thrust of “Creation Science” as an educational discipline.

If you don’t know what Creation Science means, here is a number by Roy Zimmerman:

OK, this is America and people can believe anything they want. And they can make sure their children learn the things they believe as well. But it is worth considering why a majority of Europeans (the last figure I saw was 83%) are non-believers as opposed to 9 to 12% of Americans, and they are amazed at the fundamentalist beliefs that affect our country’s education and politics. One of the sources of these European opinions are expressly brought out by a pair of TV comics called The Chasers. A sample (called “Do you believe he Bible is true?):

I think what made much of Europe believe (or not believe) the way they do was the effect of World War II in bringing folks to the real truth: there was no God there to protect them as their cities were devastated and their civilization was destroyed. We, on the other hand, with the exception of Pearl Harbor, were left intact and wealthy by the war, which supported the God-is-on-our-side concept (as well as the time between capitalism and religion as a money making prospect).

Anyhow, to sum up, education, religion and home schooling have developed quite a few links in our culture which often works against us… and has a lot to do with whether or not we can put up a real fight against all the political stuff affecting us now.

Jimmy Carter Loses His (Baptist) Religion…

This is an article Carter revealed on the 15th of July:

Losing my religion for equality

* Jimmy Carter
* July 15, 2009

Women and girls have been discriminated against for too long in a twisted interpretation of the word of God.

I HAVE been a practising Christian all my life and a deacon and Bible teacher for many years. My faith is a source of strength and comfort to me, as religious beliefs are to hundreds of millions of people around the world. So my decision to sever my ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, after six decades, was painful and difficult. It was, however, an unavoidable decision when the convention’s leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be “subservient” to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service.

This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths. Nor, tragically, does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple. This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women’s equal rights across the world for centuries.

At its most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities.

The impact of these religious beliefs touches every aspect of our lives. They help explain why in many countries boys are educated before girls; why girls are told when and whom they must marry; and why many face enormous and unacceptable risks in pregnancy and childbirth because their basic health needs are not met.

In some Islamic nations, women are restricted in their movements, punished for permitting the exposure of an arm or ankle, deprived of education, prohibited from driving a car or competing with men for a job. If a woman is raped, she is often most severely punished as the guilty party in the crime.

The same discriminatory thinking lies behind the continuing gender gap in pay and why there are still so few women in office in the West. The root of this prejudice lies deep in our histories, but its impact is felt every day. It is not women and girls alone who suffer. It damages all of us. The evidence shows that investing in women and girls delivers major benefits for society. An educated woman has healthier children. She is more likely to send them to school. She earns more and invests what she earns in her family.

It is simply self-defeating for any community to discriminate against half its population. We need to challenge these self-serving and outdated attitudes and practices – as we are seeing in Iran where women are at the forefront of the battle for democracy and freedom.

I understand, however, why many political leaders can be reluctant about stepping into this minefield. Religion, and tradition, are powerful and sensitive areas to challenge. But my fellow Elders and I, who come from many faiths and backgrounds, no longer need to worry about winning votes or avoiding controversy – and we are deeply committed to challenging injustice wherever we see it.

The Elders are an independent group of eminent global leaders, brought together by former South African president Nelson Mandela, who offer their influence and experience to support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity. We have decided to draw particular attention to the responsibility of religious and traditional leaders in ensuring equality and human rights and have recently published a statement that declares: “The justification of discrimination against women and girls on grounds of religion or tradition, as if it were prescribed by a Higher Authority, is unacceptable.”

We are calling on all leaders to challenge and change the harmful teachings and practices, no matter how ingrained, which justify discrimination against women. We ask, in particular, that leaders of all religions have the courage to acknowledge and emphasise the positive messages of dignity and equality that all the world’s major faiths share.

The carefully selected verses found in the Holy Scriptures to justify the superiority of men owe more to time and place – and the determination of male leaders to hold onto their influence – than eternal truths. Similar biblical excerpts could be found to support the approval of slavery and the timid acquiescence to oppressive rulers.

I am also familiar with vivid descriptions in the same Scriptures in which women are revered as pre-eminent leaders. During the years of the early Christian church women served as deacons, priests, bishops, apostles, teachers and prophets. It wasn’t until the fourth century that dominant Christian leaders, all men, twisted and distorted Holy Scriptures to perpetuate their ascendant positions within the religious hierarchy.

The truth is that male religious leaders have had – and still have – an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world. This is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions – all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God. It is time we had the courage to challenge these views.

OBSERVER

Jimmy Carter was president of the United States from 1977 to 1981.