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OK,  you are still here. Good stuff. This post is about religion and our attitudes to it and how you can dislike Islamic dress codes for women without being a fascist.

First let’s get some things straight. I am an atheist. I deeply believe that all religious belief is misguided and false. I understand the psychological reasons for such beliefs, their sociological, anthropological and political meaning. This does not make them true in my view. I also view most expressions of religious beliefs,  especially as regards dress and diet, as personal preferences, not otherwordly imperatives.

However, I am not Richard Dawkins and I will not try and convince you of the error of your ways (not in this post anyway). What I want to do here is to discuss the burkini ban.

I think French cities that banned the burkini have not expressed well their desire to protect the values of the Republic. A ban was not a very good idea, plus it was sloppily defended in court.

Yet I dislike the burkini and similar rules that affect women. Why do I dislike them?

I believe that things like dress codes and acceptance of religious based preferences are leaking out of the religious domain into general culture creating an environment of self censorship that threatens the secular basis of western society.

Let me try and explain this. In our effort not to offend and accommodate other’s preferences we refrain from doing certain things. This is only normal in polite society. When I have friends who do not eat pork, I will serve something else. When I am dining with vegans I will keep the chicken nuggets safe in the freezer.

Should I also advise my daughters to dress discreetly in the tube so as not to ‘offend’? Should I encourage my supermarket to stock only halal meat to ease complexity in supply chains? 

Of course not, you will say. This is silly scaremongering by the right wing tabloids. No one is going to force us to eat halal chickens or avoid miniskirts in the tube. Alright, I agree.

But the idea of the burkini still makes me uncomfortable. Why do women wear it? OK,  anyone can wear whatever they want on the beach.  Sure. But why this? Is it an expression of religious belief? An outward expression of religion is contrary to the constitution in France. As such the burkini is like the burka or massive crosses on the chest and would be banned in public places.

If it is not an expression of belief why do women chose to wear it? Is it to be modest? What does that mean? Does it mean not to excite the men? In that case it is a form of self censorship that is demeaning for women.

Should pretty girls dress modestly so that lonely young boys do not get impure thoughts and need a change of sheets in the morning?  We do not give a damn what the boys do or think, is the answer.

But giving a coating of religion to the self censorship makes such capitulation somehow defensible? I think not.

I think a healthy secular modern society needs to confront preferences even when they come dressed up as religion. The burkini ban may be a rough way to start a discussion, but it’s a start.

@iGlinavos

Questionable burials and necrophilia

I reckon there is something seriously odd with traditional tales. Take Snow White for instance. I just read a non-disney version to my kids and wish I had stayed with the movie version.

There are a lot of odd things here if you think about it, but this one takes the biscuit.

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The dwarves return home to find Snow White dead. What do they do then?  They bury her you ask? No they don’t, they place her in a glass coffin (Lenin style) and leave her in the open on top of a hill. WTF?

Guess what happened next… you know what happened next. A necrophiliac prince comes by. Sees the decomposing  (?) corpse in a glass coffin on top of the hill and thinks “I am having some of that”. He proceeds to unpack Snow White and kisses her. At which point she comes back Lazarus style and falls instantly in love.

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They agree to marry as is the custom when fondling a corpse and everyone lives happily ever after.

We read this crap to our kids and then we wonder why they grow up to believe nonsense.

@iGlinavos

Belief, unbelief and the school gate

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I had the following discussion with my daughters:

8 year old: you know daddy, we are all related at school.

Me: eh, ok, how so?

8 year old: we all come from the same people.

Me: eh, what?

8 year old: there were first a couple, and all people are related to them.

Me: Oh, that! Eh, some people say that, but it’s not true

6 year old: it’s like a legend, some people think it’s true, some think it’s a story.

Me: Yes, right, only it isn’t true.

– cue screaming, some further debate and then this –

8 year old: you can’t tell me what to believe, I can believe whatever I want.

Now, I have to note that my kids are in a secular school. However some of their fellow pupils go to catechism, where some of the above seeps into general discussion.

What can an atheist do when confronted with these debates? It may be socially unwise to take Richard Dawkins view and get in people’s faces. It sounds appealing to point out that for me ‘standard’ religious doctrine sounds like any other fairytale, but it will most certainly offend, and why would I want to do that to people that are my friends?

On the other hand I need to protect my children from an onslaught of antediluvian mumbo jumbo. I compromise by avoiding to flaunt my atheism (I am writing this post though), so long as people do not force me to accept their theism as a serious topic of debate.

I am not going to compromise to the point that I accept that science and physics are a matter of choice and belief. This is a slippery slope leading to intelligent design style obscurantism and Trump.

My answer to my 8 year old was:

Me: what happens if you drop a stone off the balcony? It goes down doesn’t it? Does it ever go up? No it doesn’t. Some people may choose to believe it could go up, but it won’t. Some things may be ‘legent’ but there is one reality.

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@iGlinavos

In the name of Haribo you die

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A long, long time ago, someone in a country far, far away developed a new sweet, lets call it Haribo. People were so impressed with the new soft delicacy they felt that they needed to tell everyone about it. By peaceful means a trend developed. Soon, the creator saw Haribo as means to power and domination. A leadership developed, devoted to the expansion of the sweet. Those who did not fancy it were put to the sword. Appreciation for it spread, by choice or compulsion.

Fast forward to the modern era. There are millions devotees of the sweet, billions even. As new flavours were developed factions appeared, some are devoted to the strawberry ones, some to the peach ones, there is a small minority of deviant cola lovers. While the vast, vast majority of Haribo devotees are peaceful in their enjoyment of the sweet, some are more forceful in their view that everyone should adopt it as their one and only desert choice.

Now, historically, things are way more complex than simple choices over your favourite flavour. Favourite sweets are laden with politics and sectional interests. There have been millennia of oppression, poverty, discrimination over one’s sugary delight choice. Yet a strange thing has happened. Young men, from counties where their love of Haribo is unrestricted, have become so upset about perceived injustice to other Haribo lovers that have decided to kill those who do not like Haribo. They have become radicalised it is said. To make matters worse, a lot of countries have elevated their love of Haribo to an official creed and seek to promote it. One of those is a radical band of very hard-core sweet lovers, who urge all Haribo devotees worldwide to kill those who fancy other sweets.

Radical Haribo lovers are now blowing up stuff left and right, in countries officially devoted to Haribo, and in others too. What is one to do?

After a series of recent attacks, non-haribo loving nations have declared themselves to be in a state of war with the Haribo lovers wishing to kill in its name.  But how does one wage war against a radical idea? Is it sufficient to say invade the most Haribo-mad nations and remove from power those who advocate sugary terrorism? How will that help, when the Haribo fighters abroad are actually natives of non-haribo nations?

Is this all a bit too convenient, people say? Why are we so outraged when some Haribo lovers blow up some kids (without asking them what is their favourite sweet moreover) in airports in marmite loving nations, and we are not equally outraged when Haribo strawberry flavour lovers blow up the kids of peach flavour lovers? Could this all be the conspiracy of ice-cream makers, to make us fight each-other while they take over the sweets market? Could it be the fault of those health food fanatics that admit no love of anything sugary?

Is this the fault of the Haribo loving community itself? Some say that all this horrible stuff taking place everywhere, all the damn time, is giving Haribo (as a sweet concept) a bad name. Admittedly if people are willing to come kill you if you write a book criticising Haribo, or draw a cartoon of the Haribo creator, or say you don’t like Haribo, or whatever it is that some Haribo lover despises, then there might be a problem with Haribo itself?

What to do?

Could we just say, in non-Haribo devoted countries, that enough with this shit, next time you damn crazy Haribo lovers kill someone on account of your obsession with sugary deserts we will damn drop an A-bomb on the headquarters of the damn Haribo obsessed shit-hole where your leadership is celebrating these atrocities?

This, sadly, would not work. It has been tried in the past. When groups of liberation fighters (incidentally also Haribo lovers) were sending missiles to their neighbours (jam lovers), the jam guys levelled their villages, even waged some intense war campaigns bombing the shit out of their schools and hospitals and the like. This seems to have led to no resolution to the regional Haribo-jam conflict.

A long time ago, a group of particularly nasty jackbooted marshmellow lovers almost conquered the world. They had the habit of executing everyone living in villages where an attack on their troops generated from. This sort of collective punishment however led to no end to marshmellow resistance, and resulted in the eventual demise of the mustachioned leader of that particular band of sweet lovers.

Nuking places in reprisal to Haribo atrocities is such a powerful image, and so appealing, someone might sooner or later actually do it. It will nonetheless lead many, many more Haribo fanatics to carry out more and more of the damn Haribo related atrocities that we are trying to prevent in the first place.
Lets do this instead.  We will not ban love of Haribo, in all its flavours, in non-Haribo nations. But we will expect Haribo lovers to finally do something about the fanatical elements of their community. We will make sure that when whole states who love Haribo celebrate the atrocities in its name against us, we will remove from power the sugar crazies. We will try to do this without vaporising everyone around, but shit will get nasty for our troops and their citizens.

We need this to stop, really. We are sick of reading about Haribo and worrying about getting killed every time we get out of the house because some god-damn crazy sweet fanatic may think this is a good day to blow up some piece of public infrastructure. And hear this Haribo lovers, unless this shit stops, someone less accepting of different flavoured sweets will come along and start dropping the bombs, and we will all be in a worse place, sugar lovers or not. Take your sense of bloody injustice and your fanatical sugar opinions someplace else, don’t blow my kids up because you are a medieval loving, half retarded, sweet obsessed lunatic.

 

@iGlinavos

PS. Haribo™ had nothing to do with the writing of this satirical piece. I in fact don’t like them, maybe the cola ones, just a bit.

I woke up in Elladistan

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Greek army personnel will be allowed to sew images of military patron saints onto their uniforms, according to a report in To Vima newspaper this week.

This is the latest in a series of interesting entanglements between Church and State in Greece under the ‘First Time Left’ government of Mr Tsipras and his far right side-kick Mr Kammenos.

I have complained a lot recently on this blog about the nationalist religious mania that seems to be overtaking the government after the re-election of Syriza-ANEL in September. This found expression both in education and in doing favours to the church in relation to capital controls. The disease is now spreading it seems.

What is actually the position of the church in Greek law? The economist in an article explaining the possible consequences of a left (ha!) government in Greece with an atheist (ha, ha!) as its head on the state-church relationship had noted the following. Severing the connection between church and state would presumably mean: i) stripping the Orthodox church of its constitutionally guaranteed role as the “prevailing religion” in Greece; ii) ending the arrangement where priests and many other people who work for the church are on the state pay-roll; iii) tidying up and in some cases sequestering the church’s vast and ill-defined property portfolio; iv) putting a stop to the prayers and confessional instruction which are part of the daily diet for almost all pupils at state schools; v) ending all tax exemptions for religious institutions.

Alas, the church had nothing to fear. With Mr Kammenos running the nationalist/orthodox bastion of the Ministry of Defence there is indeed little to be worried about, unless of course you are a Jew, or a Muslim or god forbid, an… atheist!

Is there a problem with saints on uniforms? To Potami (a parliamentary party) complained that after all the fuss about removing religious affiliation from ID cards, it is ridiculous that people’s beliefs will now be emblazoned on their army uniforms. I agree that it is ridiculous, but it goes beyond silliness, it is a gross violation of human rights. You may argue that the inclusion of the saint is voluntary, so it is not a problem? Sure, in the same way that opting not to have Christian Orthodox written on your ID card would lead everyone to ask every time you produced it, oh you are a Jew?

The Ministry of Defense replied with a press release that reads (see above):

«η ανακοίνωση που εξέδωσε το Ποτάμι για τις στολές των στρατιωτικών επιδέχεται απάντηση μόνο από τον Πνευματικό και τον Θεό τους, αν έχουν Θεό».

“The announcement issued by Potami about army uniforms deserves an answer only by their spiritual guide and their God, if they have a God.”

Mr Kammenos little antics are a violation of the ECHR, they are stupid, they are wrong, they belong in Iran, not in a European Greece. It is hilarious that it is the members of ANEL who fret about ISIS infiltrators arriving as refugees, while they are working full throttle to turn Greece into a theocracy.

Greece had to withstand 7 years of nationalist, religious, fanatical idiocy at the hands of the Junta colonels. Please gentlemen of SyrizANEL, spare us a re-run.

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@iGlinavos