Do dress codes imposed by societal norms, cultural pressures, religious rules and/or government laws hurt self esteem, equality, fairness and/or Justice?

Most of these photos are from the article at  this LINK .  <==It is a GREAT article and  I hope you’ll consider reading it.

The first photo is from the US in the fifties—police enforcing laws about women’s bathing suits.   Three are about the ban of burkinis  (and other ostentatious religious garb) in France.   And the last one is about business suit requirements.

The ban on burkinis in France has me thinking about dress codes.

Also I heard Professor Stuber on First Coast Connect talking about dress codes that target women and the possible effect on women’s self esteem.  You can hear that at this LINK

I grew up hearing how women’s dress caused men to rape them.   It angers me.   Why can’t men be trained?  I don’t think it is the woman’s dress that causes some men’s bad behavior.  Boys should be taught manners and respect and the difference between yes and no.

The choice of attire belongs to the individual.   People’s reaction to that dress is their own responsibility.

 

 

Do No Harm Act and Regulations to reduce gun violence

As most Americans were, I was horrified and saddened and angered by what happened in Orlando at the Pulse nightclub.   What do we do with our grief?   Might we use our anger and our sadness to try to understand if there is a way to prevent it from happening again?

California recently passed regulations to try to reduce gun violence.  Can Florida do the same?  Here is a summary of what California passed:

  1. Require a background check for the purchase of ammunition.
  2. Makes it illegal for a person to possess a magazine that holds more than ten rounds. Owners of magazines that hold more than ten rounds would have to sell them to licensed firearms dealers, turn them over to police or destroy them within a year.
  3. Expands the definition of “assault weapon” to include semi-automatic rifles with magazines easily detachable.
  4. Creates restrictions when it comes to lending someone a firearm

Details of the laws (to help reduce gun violence) that Governor Brown signed into law as well as the ones he vetoed can be found at this LINK

What can we do in Florida?   Increase regulations to reduce gun violence is one solution.    We could also increase access to mental health facilities in hopes that people can learn to deal with their anger and alienation without resorting to violence.

I was also outraged by some of the hate speech from so-called religious people who have the mind set similar to the Westboro Baptist Church.  Info about the Westboro Baptist Church as this LINK.  The USA is better than that.  Aren’t we?

Certainly Pastor Adkins is back peddling from his hateful statements. Link to Pastor Adkins’ back peddling

We need to make a strong statement.  Religion shouldn’t be used to harm others.  I am reading a book by Dr. Offit about people that use their religion to encourage others to withhold modern medicine from their children.  A woman –that withheld treatment (under the advice of her religious leaders) and allowed her child to die—- used her anger and sadness to start CHILD .    Let’s use our anger and sadness to pass the Do NO Harm Act.   You can find the bill at this  LINK

Quoted from this  LINK :  The NAACP strongly supports H.R. 5272, the Do No Harm Act. This seminal legislation guards the civil and human rights of every person while at the same time allowing an individual to pursue his or her “sincerely held religious beliefs.” It ensures the protection against discrimination and the promotion of equal opportunity, including those found in the Civil Rights Act of 1964; it guarantees that there is no denial of workplace protections or protections against child abuse; it makes certain there are no limitations on access, information, referrals, or coverage of healthcare items or services; it makes sure that services to beneficiaries through a government contract, grant, or cooperative agreement are not compromised in any way; and the legislation ensures that there is never any denial of accommodations or other benefits and services protected by the government.

Here is another statement of support from this LINK :  “As Christians, we are guided by Christ’s call to serve the poor, the vulnerable, and the voiceless amongst us.  Regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity, all are welcome at the Lord’s table and it is the call of our faith to bring justice and compassion to every corner of society without discrimination.  We support the Do No Harm Act because it will affirm RFRA’s role as a law that protects religious minorities without undermining civil rights.”

Here is another statement of support from this LINK :    “Freedom of religion is a fundamental right that protects all Americans, but this freedom does not include the right to restrict or control the behavior of others,” said Nicholas Little, Vice-President and General Counsel for the Center for Inquiry. “At its inception, CFI was one of very few voices cautioning that RFRA would permit religiously motivated discrimination, whether against religious minorities, the non-religious, women, or LGBTQ Americans. Sadly, we were right. But this fix [Do No Harm Act] would help ensure that the law can no longer be used as a weapon to impose one person’s religious beliefs on other unwilling parties.”

Please write your rep and ask them to support the Do No Harm Act–  H. R. 5272

 

 

 

 

 

 

My comments about Earl’s invocation

I’d like to take issue with Earl’s use of the word secular. I ponder the question: Is anything that doesn’t mention God considered to be secular? I wish people would just use the word secular to mean church/state separation.

The below GREAT explanation of the word secularism was copied from this http://www.atheistrev.com/2015/04/what-does-secular-mean.html :

Despite widespread confusion, secularism is not synonymous with atheism. So what is secularism? The National Secular Society explains it quite well when they note that secularism “is a principle that involves two basic propositions.” The two propositions are as follows:

1.There must be strict separation between church and state, and

2.People of various religious beliefs (including those with no religious beliefs at all) must be equal under the law.

Right. Secularism is about the separation of church and state. Someone advocating secularism is seeking government neutrality on matters of religion. One can be a religious believer and support secularism. And fortunately, many religious believers do so. They recognize that secularism is good for them too.

Where things get tricky is when we stop talking about the principle of secularism and start talking about people. When a person identifies himself or herself as “secular,” he or she may be communicating one of at least two fairly different things. First, identifying oneself as secular may mean that one supports secularism as defined above. That is, I advocate secularism and therefore identify myself as being secular. As noted above, this does not necessarily mean that I am not a religious believer. Second, identifying oneself as secular may mean that one is not religious. Used this way, someone could be non-religious but support state intervention aimed at eradicating religion, which would hardly be consistent with secularism.

In my experience, “secular” is most often used by people to describe themselves or others as non-religious. Thus, one often hears the term used to describe atheists, humanists, freethinkers, and anyone else we might characterize as non-religious. But this is an interesting case where different uses of “secular” and “secularism” can lead to some confusion. Just because someone identifies as secular does not necessarily mean that he or she supports separation of church and state. And just because someone identifies as secular does not necessarily mean that he or she is not religious.

End quote

And here is a comment about another word Earl used:
I know some people say that labels are limiting.

Earl used the simple label atheist when he gave the invocation at the city council meeting. I felt he used the term to say that he knows he is different and part of a historically persecuted class and he was glad that he was still welcome to participate in the rotation of speakers.

It has me contemplating labels and specifically the term atheist.

Excerpt from http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2015/06/14/did-albert-einstein-believe-in-god-or-not/­:

So… if Einstein lived today, he’d say he’s not a “New Atheist.” He wouldn’t be trying to convince you to shed your faith. Instead, he’d follow the Neil deGrasse Tyson approach to religion, which is to say he’d stay away from labels… but even he’d admit the idea of a Christian God who listens to your prayers and watches over your life is just flat-out ridiculous. That said, Einstein really loved criticizing hard-lined atheists (despite sharing many of their beliefs, if you will). Biographer Walter Isaacson shared another letter Einstein wrote ripping on the Christopher Hitchenses of his day: “The fanatical atheists are like slaves who are still feeling the weight of their chains which they have thrown off after hard struggle. They are creatures who — in their grudge against the traditional religion as the ‘opium of the masses’ — cannot hear the music of the spheres.”

End quote

In order to clearly label people, do we need adjectives? Or do we need labels that are more specific? Is there an advantage to using labels that have a broad range of characteristics? Some atheists have a strong passion for church/state separation. Some atheists would like to disadvantage religion as an outdated dangerous belief system. Political parties are another label. What does it mean if you label yourself a democrat or republican or libertarian? Do some start to believe it means that you have the exact same passions as others that use a similar label? I guess that’s why many like to steer away from labels that might include attributes to which they don’t identify. What about the terms Muslim or Christian? All people that use one of those labels don’t have the same passions. Some Christians are huge defenders and crusaders for equal treatment or opportunity. And some Christians like Kim Davis think the label authorizes her to hurt others. Some Muslim women are speaking out against the hijab as an example of oppressing women. Other Muslims state that wearing the hijab is choice and feminism is about choice. But other Muslims would support laws that require all women to wear a head scarf. Certainly labels can be misleading.
By the way, Earl’s invocation is at his blog. The blog address is listed at the end of his opinion piece in Folio which can be found at this link:

http://folioweekly.com/FLOUR-SUGAR-EGGS-and-SUBTEXT,15233

Spiritual but not religious? What does that mean?

I recently read Sam Harris’ book Waking Up.

On page 6 of Waking Up, Harris makes the comment “Twenty percent of Americans describe themselves as spiritual but not religious.  Although the claim seems to annoy believers and atheists equally, separating spirituality from religion is a perfectly reasonable thing to do.”

Harris’ statement got me to wondering.  I posit that if you want to criticize or glorify religion, you must make a distinction between spirituality, religious doctrine and the benefits derived from a religious community.

Sam Harris has an active blog (samharris.org) which includes the controversial Bill Maher episode when Sam Harris states that we should be able to criticize any religion especially in a country with a free speech clause in its Bill of Rights.  The Bill Maher clip is in Harris’ October 7, 2014 entry in his blog.

On page 8 of Waking Up, Harris makes the claim “Nothing that a Christian, a Muslim, and a Hindu can experience—self transcending love, ecstasy, bliss, inner light—constitutes evidence in support of their traditional beliefs   …..”

I understand that for many people the spiritual, the community and the religious doctrine are all tied up in a bundle for what their religion means to them.   BUT I don’t think that means that we can’t unbundle it in a discussion.

What is a spiritual experience?   Are moments of quiet reflection considered spiritual?   Is breath taking awe spiritual?  Is the high one gets from certain physical maneuvers spiritual?  If that last sentence makes no sense to you then maybe it has never happened to you.  BUT just because it hasn’t happened to you, it doesn’t mean it isn’t a real experience.  Many people have an experience when they pray, when they look at something awesome in nature, when they hike in the woods, when they kayak on our lakes and rivers and creeks, when they sit quietly and listen to their breath.   Are those experiences similar enough to categorize them all as a spiritual experience?

Organizations have a set of doctrines.  What makes an organization into a religion? Certainly in this country, anything deemed a religion gets extra benefits.   Churches get benefits that other 501 (c) 3 organizations don’t get.  As the recent Supreme Court Hobby Lobby case proved, religious beliefs get elevated over other beliefs in the courts.

Alain de Botton is talking about the benefits in his book Religion for Atheists. He makes the claim that there are benefits to religious communities.   He says the belief in a god isn’t required in order to benefit from some of the social aspects of religions.  So what is a religion?

The danger of cults is that people are afraid to question the doctrine.  They are afraid that they will lose their community if they question the doctrine.  Sometimes they fear that their spiritual experiences will be lost if they don’t put up with the charismatic cultish leader’s dangerous rules.

For the reason of cohesiveness, I can see why a cult would not want its participants to separate spirituality from the doctrine.   BUT if you’re not a cult, what’s the danger?  Can the religious doctrine not withstand scrutiny?  Can it not adjust if the doctrine is found lacking?

On page 9, Harris makes the claim The landscape of human experience includes deeply transformative insights about the nature of one’s consciousness, and yet it is obvious that these psychological states must be understood in the context of neuroscience, psychology, and related fields.   Are people that can’t believe in the various religious doctrines (that are available today) to be left without these deeply transformative insights of which Sam Harris speaks?  I hope not.

Should religious groups be allowed exemptions from the law?

In June SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) used RFRA (Religious Freedom Restoration Act) to grant Hobby Lobby an exemption from a current law. The case http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/13pdf/13-354_olp1.pdf might cause you to ponder these basic questions:

  1. Do you think religious groups should be allowed (based on their religious beliefs or practices) special exemptions from laws that the rest of us must follow?
  2. Does your answer depend upon whether or not anyone (other than the religious practitioner) is harmed?
  3. Do you believe a strategy that allows a woman to choose between pregnant or not-pregnant is a necessary component of a woman’s health? And if yes to that question, do you also believe that the decision for the best form of birth control should be between a woman and her doctor? Certainly family planning and the emotional consequences of sexual activity and sexually transmitted diseases are important but here I am merely asking about one health issue as it concerns a woman.
  4. Do you believe a cohesive group has a moral obligation to make available medical care for its group members? It is not a question about how to achieve the goal.  Of course, we would have to define group (family, country, city, state, etc) and we’d have to define “available” once we decide whether or not a group has the obligation. I am trying to ask if you think an evolving community should want (as a group) to formulate a plan so that the medical needs of the group members can be met?  Is treatment and prevention of health problems important enough to be given special consideration by a community/society/country?

 My answer to question #1:

At one time, Justice Scalia didn’t want to allow an exemption from laws for religious reasons.  He is quoted as saying ( http://blog.constitutioncenter.org/2014/06/what-is-rfra-and-why-do-we-care/ ):

“….. would open the prospect of …. exemptions from civic obligations of almost every conceivable kind.

 Shortly after Scalia made that statement, Congress passed RFRA.  Here is an article about RFRA:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2014/07/01/dont-blame-alito-for-ruling-against-womens-health-blame-congress-first/

I think RFRA should be modified. I don’t mind if someone challenges a law if the law violates anyone’s first amendment rights.  In the spirit of Kant’s categorical imperative, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Categorical_imperative) let the First Amendment benefit everyone. If you are fighting for civil rights, then fight for everyone.

My point is two fold

  1. RFRA should only allow an exemption from a law if no one (besides the religious practitioner) is harmed.
  2. If RFRA will benefit the religious practitioner then modify the law (that RFRA is attacking) so that all citizens can take advantage of the benefit IF there is no valid reason for the law.  If the law was a mistake, then it should be modified for everyone.

For example, RFRA was passed in reaction to consumption of peyote in a religious ritual.  If you want to allow peyote consumption in certain situations, then outline WHEN it is OK. Outline the ritual and make it available to everyone not just certain religious sects.

It is interesting that Scalia ruled against the use of peyote in a religious ritual but he seems to be fine when it comes to restricting benefits to women if a religious group has an objection.  I don’t want religious nuts holding our country back. What’s next?   Schools will be forbidden from teaching evolution because a religious nut doesn’t believe evolution is supported by the evidence? I don’t think religious groups should be allowed to skirt the law.  It is scary enough when a majority (that has it wrong) passes laws that are not based on evidence.  It is even scarier to allow a minority to change laws that affect others. Please let a woman make her own choice about her own body.

My answer to question # 2:

Allowing Hobby Lobby to skirt the law hurts their female employees. Before the Hobby Lobby case, the female employees of Hobby Lobby had a certain benefit. After the Hobby Lobby case, they don’t have that benefit. A decrease in benefits is one definition of harm.

My answer to question #3:

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, emphasized preventative care. Part of preventative care for women is prevention of unwanted pregnancies. The decision should be between a woman and her doctor as to what is the best strategy for preventing unwanted pregnancies.

We don’t want to go backwards to the time prior to Margaret Sanger. “During Margaret Sanger’s work among the working class of immigrant women she was revealed [exposed] to graphic examples of women forced into frequent childbirth, miscarriage, and self-induced abortion for lack of information on how to avoid unwanted pregnancy.”  That is a quote from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret_Sanger#Social_activism .

You might counter that the preventative package in Hobby Lobby’s health insurance policy does include some forms of birth control.  However (after the ruling) their health insurance package now excludes the IUD and the morning after pill. Shouldn’t the decision be between a woman and her doctor? There are many examples of why the IUD might be the best choice for some women. Google it and you’ll see. What about extreme instances (such as rape)? Wouldn’t you want the woman to have access to the morning after pill?

Contrary to Hobby Lobby’s owners’ mistaken beliefs, those two methods (IUD and morning after pill) prevent the sperm and egg from uniting. They do not abort the merged egg and sperm. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/02/upshot/how-hobby-lobby-ruling-could-limit-access-to-birth-control.html?_r=1

In the majority SCOTUS opinion (see link in first paragraph), Alito said it didn’t matter that Hobby Lobby’s owners’ beliefs weren’t supported by the scientific evidence.  All that mattered to Alito was Hobby Lobby’s owners’ “belief”. How absurd!!!!

My answer to question # 4:                              

Society has a moral obligation to provide medical care for its citizens. We want to encourage clinics, doctors, and research. We want affordable medical care to be available to every citizen. This is the problem we want to solve.

The creation of the ACA was a series of compromises. Here is a link to an article discussing the difficulty of trying to solve the problem of citizens being unable to obtain medical care:

http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/29/6/1112.full

Excerpt from that article:

“Political pragmatism carried the day as reformers made compromises on a range of additional issues…in order to pass legislation.”

One of the solutions to the problem is to pool our money. Require that everyone pay into the pool, ie insurance.

Preventative care was a vital part of the ACA.

Conclusion

Religious groups should not be exempt from any part of the requirement to offer preventative care in their health insurance package.

I thought the satire in the Borowitz Report (http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/borowitzreport/2014/06/supreme-court-majority-calls-case-a-dispute-between-women-and-people.html) encompassed the spirit of how Alito’s SCOTUS majority opinion felt to me.  Alito did seem to dismiss the rights of women.  I think this SCOTUS decision puts women’s rights below the rights of religious nuts.  It is very sad.  Please know that I do not consider all religious people to be nuts.  I am using the word “nut” to single out a specific group that wants to ignore evidence in support of some archaic point of view

Invocations before City Council Meetings

The United States is firmly rooted in the principle of religious freedom.  No American should be made to feel like a lesser citizen because of what he or she believes (or does not believe) about religion.

Nearly one-quarter of Americans say they do not want any prayer of any sort before government meetings.   Even many people of faith find it demeaning to their beliefs when a deeply personal action like prayer is turned into a public spectacle in government meetings.

If the City Council wants something before the meeting, let’s call it a solemnizing message.  It could be something inspirational or something motivational or it could be a prayer.  Calling it a solemnizing message would allow representatives from more groups to feel welcome to give the message.

Our city is not small like the Town of Greece. We have atheist groups, Hindus, Buddhists, Orthodox Jews, Reform Jews, etc.  We have LOTS of diversity.  And if the City Council wants to have a solemnizing message before their meetings, then it MUST reflect the diversity of the community.

Clay Yarborough (who is to become Jacksonville City Council President July 1st) was quoted in an article (http://members.jacksonville.com/news/metro/2010-07-22/story/different-faiths-cast-eager-or-wary-eyes-jacksonville-council-prayers#comment-770336): “If city leadership embraces pluralism and tries to validate all religious viewpoints, it indicates that the spiritual, financial, educational, emotional … health of Jacksonville is at greater risk. “With no moral absolutes and no defined value system, decay is the result.”

There is a section for comments after the article. Here is one of the comments: “If Mr. Yarborough is deeply offended at the possibility of hearing a prayer in Council Chambers from a believer in a religion he does not accept, please let him imagine how others might feel when he puts them in the same situation with prayers of his choosing, that might be contrary to their own doctrines.”

The attorney for the City told me that the City Council President can decide the invocation policy.  I hope that the attorneys for the City will advise Clay Yarborough that he should do away with the prayers at the government public meetings if he doesn’t want to allow all the religious groups to take a turn.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State has developed a suggested policy for City Councils’ solemnizing messages.  You can find the suggested policy by following the links to Operation Inclusion at the AU.ORG website.  Here is the link: (https://au.org/files/pdf_documents/OI_Model-Policy.doc).

I think we need to encourage our City Council to set a good example.  They should either do away with the invocations or include everyone as the majority opinion stated in the Greece v Galloway case.

Prayer

This is in response to Earl’s recent post about prayer in the Freethinker.

All people aren’t the same. Do you agree or do I need to provide scientific studies to prove that to you? Some people flourish with more alone time. Some people flourish with more interactions with people. Prayer can help both types if used properly. Perhaps you are asking “how can delusion ever help?” If you are sitting on your laurels thinking some outside power is going to do the work for you, then I agree that delusion can be harmful. It might prevent you from taking action yourself. Don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting that you pray to a god in whom you don’t believe. I am merely suggesting that others might gain strength from their prayers. I am not talking about “Oh God, please buy me a Mercedes Benz. My friends all drive Porches.”

But think of someone like Martin Luther King Jr.

http://ncronline.org/blogs/road-peace/prayers-martin-luther-king-jr

Quote from above link:

This is what I hear in Dr. King’s prayer — a cry for strength to carry on the work of peace and justice; for courage to be nonviolent, come what may; for blessings on the movements for civil rights, justice and peace; for healing for the oppressed and the oppressors; and for…….

Those types of prayer inspire. Another type of prayer might comfort. Here is a quote about prayer from Alain De Botton’s book Religion for Atheists:

I

in these sanctuaries the desperate will glance up at the Virgin, light candles, say prayers … The apposite point is not whether the virgin exists, but what it tells us about human nature that … Our focus should be on what the Virgin Mary reveals about our emotional requirements. … to be held and reassured … Though such longings go largely unmentioned in adult society, it has been the achievement of religions to know how to reanimate and legitimate them.

It doesn’t bother me so much that prayers are given before City Council meetings. I know eliminating prayer in government meetings is the position of many that offered briefs in the Greece vs Galloway case before the Supreme Court. And I see their point about the problem with the rotation scheme.

The Bill of Rights mentions free speech in addition to freedom of/from religion. John Stuart Mill speaks a lot about free speech. I think it is scariest when you try to shut people up.

What bothers me about the prayers at the City Council meetings is the lack of diversity. We are a diverse community. Why isn’t there a plan to include ALL the groups in Jacksonville? There should be a published list that shows the efforts at diversity. And the list for the upcoming 24 meetings should include a Humanist because there is a large group in Jacksonville that don’t believe in any of the gods. Please write Cheryl Brown demanding that she include a Humanist in the upcoming months. If enough people write, then they will know we are here. Perhaps the Humanist will invoke the spirit of the good in humanity. Or perhaps the Humanist would prefer to call her talk an Inspirational talk rather than an invocation. That is just semantics. Humanist should be included in the rotation scheme.

Excerpt from email I received from City Council President Gulliford:
You are welcome to forward any suggestions you might have or anyone else can do the same. Ms. Cheryl Brown, council secretary, will accept those.

Her email address: CLBROWN@coj.net

I

In a 5-4 majority opinion in Town of Greece v. Galloway, the US Supreme Court wrote that official Christian prayers before meetings of local government are permissible.   But there are conditions as stated in the majority opinion:

Our Government is prohibited from prescribing prayers to be recited in our public institutions in order to promote a preferred system of belief or code of moral behavior

The town at no point excluded or denied an opportunity to a would-be prayer giver. Its leaders maintained that a minister or layperson of any persuasion, including an atheist, could give the invocation.

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