Nativity Display Controversy

A Christmas-themed controversy is currently brewing in Menominee, an town located in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. In numerous small towns across America, it’s customary to set up a nativity scene in the town square or in city hall during the holiday season. However, for this humble yooper settlement of eight thousand residents, this year will be different.

download-16The Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF), an atheist activist organization “dedicated to persevering the separation of church and state”, filed a complaint, on behalf of an anonymous Menominee resident, urging the town to discontinue their annual Christmas tradition. According to the FFRF, a nativity display on public property is a constitutional violation, contradicting the establishment clause of the First Amendment to the US Constitution. Since the launching of that complaint, residents of Menominee are now relying on a local parish to set up the nativity display.

Menominee is one of a myriad of towns and cities to be threatened by a lawsuit regarding the display of a nativity scene. For the last decade, organizations including the Freedom from Religion Foundation and American Atheists have become increasingly aggressive and emboldened in asserting the “separation of church and state”. Their public relations representatives have appeared on national television and defended their actions by claiming to fight for all religious minorities against what they perceive to be Christian domination of the holiday season. captu

Honestly, these types of news stories really distress me. They’re just examples of self-victimization and manufactured fake outrage in 21st century America.

I’m not religious. In fact, I’m actually critical of certain aspects of Christian theology. However,  I don’t feel threatened or marginalized by the slight of a nativity scene. In India, roadside shrines on public roads are ubiquitous and I’m not offended whenever I come across them while travelling from one village to another to visit relatives. I don’t feel compelled to convert to any religion. Religious displays simply have no impact on me, whatsoever.

Now, proponents for the removal of these nativity scenes point to the Constitution, specifically to the establishment clause which prohibits the establishment of a state-sponsored religion. To which I say “who cares?”. I’m not a legal scholar however, I don’t understand how a cheap, plastic exhibition of the nativity is an endorsement of any religion. No resident is being pressured to join a church or profess a belief in a deity. Nativity scenes are just nothing more than a fun annual tradition for numerous small towns and shouldn’t be discontinued over a complaint from one disgruntled resident.

It’s not often that I find myself siding with a religious cause. This is probably the only instance in which conservative Christians can rely on me as an ally. However, for me, this has very little to do with religious expression. My solidarity with the Religious Right (strictly on this matter) is a counterstrike against the hyper-legalistic culture overtaking America that promotes frivolous lawsuits and PC policing.

Oh Look, Another Rampage on Campus

Yesterday, in Ohio State University, it was reported that a third-year student named Abdul Razak Ali Artan carried out a knife attack on campus, injuring 11 people. The assailant has been killed by police and the 11 who are injured are now hospitalized under intensive care.

The motives of Artan’s attacks aren’t 100% clear. However, in a Facebook post before the rampage, Artan urged America to “to stop interfering with other countries, especially the Muslim Ummah”. He continued “By Allah, we will not let you sleep unless you give peace to the Muslims. You will not celebrate or enjoy any holiday”.

In addition, Artan was profiled by the campus newspaper where he expressed his fears of being a Muslim in America, claiming that he was “struggling to find a place to pray in peace in large campus but scared of everything going on in the media”.

Although a myriad of self-described liberals may disagree, Artan’s rampage was clearly motivated by his Islamic beliefs. At the moment, we don’t have a list of all the imams and sheikhs he subscribed to. However, he was blatantly influenced by a radicalized ideology which ignited a fire of rage urging him to stab those eleven innocent people.

However, contrary to the views of many, Islam is not the sole culprit. And although Abdul Razak Ali Artan is a refugee originally from Somalia, his refugee status has nothing to do with his actions. However, rather than digging through the layers of motives behind the rampage, most people would rather spout anti-Muslim/anti-refugee rhetoric to score political points. This is unproductive.

Mass attacks are becoming more commonplace in America. From the Columbine shooting to Eliot Rodger’s rampage in Santa Monica, California, the majority of these attacks have been perpetrated by young men between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five. Every time we hear of an attack, we instinctually blame video games, or violent TV shows, or music, or drugs.

However, in the majority of those attacks, social isolation and self-victimization are often the most significant factors. They often ferment an identity crisis, causing one to perceive the world in terms of us vs them.

 Artan was feeling isolated as a Muslim in America. He clearly stated that he was “struggling…and scared of everything”. Eliot Rodger was also undergoing a similar internal struggle, as he was constantly being rejected by co-eds and ostracized from social life. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were similarly deemed as outcasts during their senior year at Columbine High School.

By the viewing the world in terms of us vs them, a person would perceive his peers as his enemies. Enemies he needed to destroy. This mode of thinking becomes even more apparent when one embraces a radicalized ideology, which is often the case for socially-isolated young men who, being young, are easily impressionable. Eliot Rodger frequented PUA and MRA forums. The Orlando shooter was influenced by the activities of ISIS. Even Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were inspired by the Oklahoma City bombings carried out by Timothy McVeigh. Similarly, Abdul Razak Ali Artan may have been impassioned by a series of sermons given by some Salafi imam.

I’m not excusing the perpetrators of their horrific actions. However, if we really want to curb the instances of mass shooting and rampages, we have to seek out the multi-layered motives behind such actions.

The Folly of the Pro-Life Movement

So in light of a recent publicity stunt pulled by Frank Pavone, I want to discuss the so-called ‘Pro-Life Movement’.

On November 7th, Frank Pavone, a Roman Catholic priest and pro-life activist, posted a video of himself on Facebook placing an aborted fetus on an altar as an appeal to Catholics to vote for Donald Trump. When questioned why he undertook such a disgusting stunt, he claimed that “the only way America will ban abortion is if they see it with their own eyes”.

Pavone’s stunt is the apex of everything that is wrong with the Pro-Life Movement. It seems that this movement, once devoted to protecting the sanctity of unborn life, is now more interested in scoring political points and garnering attention for themselves.

Before I proceed to break down the Pro-Life Movement, I must emphasize that I have nothing against anyone who espouse anti-abortion views, nor do I hold resentment towards religious people in general. Everyone has their own reasons for their beliefs, opinions, and values, and I can accept that. This post is merely an indictment of the cringeworthy tactics employed by Pro-Lifers.

‘Crisis Pregnancy Centers’

Crisis Pregnancy Centers are disgustingly deceptive in their strategy of luring unassuming, yet frightened young women. Vice News did a brilliant undercover expose of these centers. Basically, these Crisis Pregnancy Centers advertise themselves as a typical women’s health clinic on their website. If a woman calls them, seeking information on abortion procedures, rather than being straightforward about the services they actually provide, these crisis pregnancy centers invite these women to their clinic, giving them the impression that they provide abortions. 

However, upon arriving at the crisis pregnancy centers, these female patients are subjected to emotional manipulation by the employees in order to dissuade them from going through with the abortion.

I have no problem with a clinic willing to offer alternative services to abortion. After all, there are pregnant girls who, while reluctant to terminate the pregnancy, are worried about the prospects of their unborn child. 

I think it’s laudable for centers to provide counseling and financial support to reassure a pregnant girl with limited resources. However, deceit only hurts the Pro-Life cause. You can’t stop everyone from going through with an abortion.

“Doesn’t this picture touch your heart”

It’s typical to see pictures of aborted fetuses hoisted up in one of many pro-life rally. Apparently, the disturbingly gruesome image of a bloody dead fetus is meant to reach the hearts of bystanders. As Frank Pavone stated, “America won’t reject abortion until it sees it”. 

Don’t these pro-lifers realize that holding up those gory, cringeworthy pictures makes them look psychotic and deranged? No one wants to see that shit! And attempting to garner attention through those pictures is crude and emotionally manipulative 

“Condoms will make your penis fall off”

I will never understand why the staunchest opponents of abortion also happen to be the most vocal critics of contraception and comprehensive sex education in high schools. Abortions are normally the results of unplanned pregnancy. Contraceptives are designed to prevent pregnancies during sexual intercourse. I think you get the picture. 

Prolifers unrealistically expect any teenager to remain abstinent until marriage. However, since the dawn of man, teenagers have been recklessly hooking up, unmindful of the potential consequences. A one night stand could not only result in an unplanned pregnancies but also the potential contraction of an STD. This is why it’s so crucial for people, especially teenagers, to have access to information on contraceptives. 

“If you’re pre-born, you’re fine. If you’re preschool, you’re fucked!”

The Democratic Party has continuously been denounced and demonized by Pro-Life organizations for their unwavering support for abortion rights. Therefore, in our two-party system, Pro-lifers usually endorse or advocate for Republican politicians, who have been pandering to the conservative Christian voting bloc since the early 1980s.

However, Republican politicians are aggressively hawkish in foreign policy. Some are even connected to private military contractors. In addition, Republicans are typical supportive of the capital punishment and they advocate for  public spending cuts, which involve depriving funds from government programs which the poor rely on. 

Pro-lifers have a very narrow perspective on being “Pro-Life”. They would rather vote for a man who stated he would “carpet bomb the Mid-East”, rather than a politician who merely seeks to uphold a 40-year old Supreme Court ruling. 

The Pro-Life Movement needs to approach this delicate situation in a compassionate and practical manner. Instead of attempting to score political points through hyperemotional rhetoric and blatent misinformation, Prolifers should seek to educate and inform the public. And they should understand that ultimately, the decision concerning abortion is up to the woman, herself b 
 

 

 

 

Loki’s Wager and the Folly of the God Debate

By a show of hands, how many of you are familiar with Loki?

And no, I’m not talking about the Marval character….

Loki was one of the countless players in the celestial pantheon of Norse mythology. According to the Scandivanian legend, Loki made a bet with a group of dwarves. The conditions were agreed that if Loki lost the wager, he would be forced to relinquish his head. As a result, Loki was defeated. When the dwarves arrived to claim their spoil, Loki was more than willing to gave up his head, however, he insisted that the dwarves not extract any part of his neck. The dwarves conceded to Loki’s request.

However, there was one problem. The dwarves couldn’t pinpoint the line that separated the neck from the head. They agreed that certain parts were obviously the head and certain part were the neck, but where one ended and the other began was an unresolvable conundrum. In conclusion, Loki, through his shrewd request, managed to keep his head.

The story of Loki reminds me of debates and discussions revolving around the existence of God. As a lapsed Catholic-turned-Pastafarian, I think those debates are utterly pointless. I’d rather watch grass grow.

The problem with the God debate is the vague, incoherent definition assigned to this entity called ‘God’. Theists repetitively assert that ‘God’ is beyond all space and time. That ‘He’ is an ‘supernatural’ being dwelling outside the boundaries of logic, reason and science.

I don’t see how anyone could engage in a rational discourse centered on proving the existence of an entity that allegedly exists ‘outside the boundaries of logic, reason, and science’. It just seems to be a convenient  tactic of moving the goalposts in order to prevent a logically-sound argument from potentially poking holes in the existence of that entity.

I have no problem with anyone harboring a steadfast belief in God, whatever god that might be. In a world rife with natural disasters, diseases, wars, and orangutans running for political office, it’s comforting to seek refuge in an omnibenevolent celestial superhero. However, an emotional inclination should never be confused for rationality.