The Dissemination of Thought

Just because it's in print doesn't mean it's intelligent…

Posts Tagged ‘the Bible

It’s time to call game, set and match on airtime for Margaret Court

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Sexual abuse can cause innumerable physical and psychological problems to those subjected to it, including homosexuality, if you subscribe to the views of tennis racquet-waving representative of God, Margaret Court.

In her interview in today’s The Sunday Mail, the three-time Wimbledon winner suggests that one of the things that causes gays and lesbians to be as such is sexual abuse, because, from her experience, “many, many of them have been abused.” Them? They’re people, Margaret, not carnivorous plants intent on overtaking the planet. As well as sharing this nugget of genius, Pastor Court has previously alluded to a belief that homosexuality can be cured, as if it was some influenza-like affliction.

As twisted and ludicrous as her views are, we shouldn’t be surprised: after all, this is the woman who tells us that the Bible “is our TV guide to life”. Really, a television guide? Can it tell me what’s on at 8:30pm on Monday? It is The Simpsons or Dexter?

I recently published a piece called ”When should free speech and personal beliefs take a back seat to the greater good?”, in which I defended Margaret Court’s right to free speech. That post was about freedom of expression and when the line should be drawn, not what she actually said. This article is about her opinions and what she’s said. Game on, my serve.

Television guide, or bible in disguise? Does the Bible show cleavage and have a crossword? Source: adrants.com

Why are the mainstream newspapers continuing to devote so much column space to this woman and her skewed views? Not only are they continually reinterviewing her and getting updated comments (Author’s note to media: her views will never waver, even in the face of evidence and common sense), the Herald Sun published her 975-word rant that’s about as balanced as me attempting a handstand. It isn’t an insightful, engaging piece. It’s nothing more than a sermon: a one-dimensional, religious vociferation that should have been trapped inside the walls of her church, and serves no benefit to the wider audience than to demonstrate just how unaccepting and uncompromising Margaret Court is. To the editors: are the increased sales and website hits generated by the controversy that she spews forth worth making your publications look like the personal journal of a bigoted, Bible-wielding sexagenarian? That’s right, Margaret, I said sex. While I’m not married. I also masturbate and count several of them homo folks as my friends. Strike me down.

In her article, she affirms that “a person’s sexuality is a choice”, and that the Bible states “homosexuality is among sins that are works of the flesh”. Is that the same Bible that says women shouldn’t speak in the church? I guess one way around that little doozy is to start your own church. Is there a chance I’ve misinterpreted the scripture? Yeah, the Bible’s funny when it comes to interpretation and ignoring the parts that don’t align with your personal agenda.

Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.

1 Corinthians 14:34-35 (New International Version)

My favourite part of the piece is where she suggests that, if Australian society continues on its wicked path (a path that apparently includes wanting to treat people equally, regardless of their sexual preference) into damnation, “God will take his hand off our nation and the lights will go out”. No, Pastor Court. The Almighty doesn’t make your lights go out: that’s the lovely people at Synergy when you fail to pay your electricity bill.

With this publication in the Herald Sun, Margaret Court has gone beyond expressing herself freely. She’s now publicly preaching to the masses, aided by newspapers that seem happy to print narrow-minded, prejudicial and discriminatory opinions in the guise of newsworthy stories.

Here’s the thing, Margaret: you aren’t the self-appointed beacon of light for humanity. Those of us who believe that someone’s sexual orientation or lack of religious conviction doesn’t make them less of a human being are sick of you using your public profile pulpit* to continually tell us we’re all damned. Sure, we recognise your right to voice your opinion, but please use your inside voice. Inside your church, where people want to hear your views. Hell, I’ll even throw $10 at the Victory Life Centre if you just shut the fuck up.

* Author’s note: try saying that five times quickly while drinking vodka and juggling kittens.

Yeah, that's the face of someone with a rational perspective. Source: Herald Sun

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When should free speech and personal beliefs take a back seat to the greater good?

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In 2012 Australia, you can affirm anything you like, even if it’s unjust, narrow-minded or based on a belief that may be less than sound. Unfortunately, there’s no rule that dictates free speech needs to be well thought out and factual. When this is considered in the context of the free speech of a private citizen versus that of an elected official, it raises a pertinent question: should the personal beliefs of politicians take a back seat in order to champion the causes of the people who elected them, even if the causes don’t align with their individual faith or opinions? Should free speech apply to politicians while they are acting on behalf of the greater population?

A great many words have been, and will be, written about tennis champion Margaret Court’s views on homosexuality, especially in the lead-up to the Australian Open. Gay rights activists are planning on using the arena that bears her name as a quasi protest site during the event, and have called for it to be renamed because of her outspoken opinion. I’m sorry ladies and gentlemen of the protesting persuasion, but she’s entitled to express her views, however ludicrous and bigoted they may be.

I’m an advocate for equality and same-sex marriage. I’ve written numerous pieces centering on the subjects, but I think Margaret Court should be allowed to speak. I believe her opinions are that of a narrowed-minded zealot and based on irrational religious beliefs, but I also assert that she is entitled to have and air them. Does hearing her purport that same-sex marriage would “legitimise what God calls abominable sexual practices” anger me and make me want to smack my head against a wall? Absolutely, but it’s her individual point of view. I’ve got mine. You’ve got yours. While I’d relish the opportunity to debate our differences of opinion, I learnt a long time ago that arguing with any sort of fanatic is futile: trying to have a rational, intellectual discussion with someone who isn’t flexible in their beliefs or accepting of facts and new ideas is never going to work. That said, providing we don’t incite hatred or endanger public safety with our opinions, we should be free to express them, whether privately or publicly, without fear of condemnation or reprisal.

There has been limited media coverage about the annual neo-Nazi Hammered Music Festival, most of which has focused on why this hate-filled, disgusting celebration of white pride is allowed to take place. As abhorrent as this event may be, it’s being held on private property, presumably out of sight and earshot of those who don’t want to hear it. Whether you wish you acknowledge the fact or not, attendees and performers are just as entitled as the rest of us to think and believe what they want. They aren’t spewing propaganda or spouting their preposterous views to the masses, and they aren’t airing their personal opinions publicly, unlike many who use the spotlight to constantly reiterate their beliefs.

Margaret Court has used her celebrity to broadcast her beliefs and faith, as well as raise the profile of her church, but is there really a problem with this? While some of her statements, including the affirmation that homosexuality is a choice, may be insensitive and not based on fact, she is free to say it. She’s not provoking violence or abuse against the gay community, and she is not acting on behalf of a group, nor is she an elected official.

What if Margaret Court was in a public position of power? What if she was a Member of Parliament? What about Premier of Western Australia? If she was Prime Minister, should she be free to express her deepest and most closely held beliefs while in that position? In my opinion, no. Someone who has been entrusted to act on behalf of a large, diverse group needs to be able to forgo their personal agenda and take their narrow-minded views, be they religious or not, out of the equation when making decisions that impact the community as a whole.

Source: tracker.org.au

In Australian politics, there are currently several high-profile elected individuals with very strong religious views who have no qualms about letting these beliefs guide them while acting in their official capacities on behalf of the Australian people. Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, a practising Catholic, was quoted in December 2009 in the Herald Sun as saying, “I think it would be impossible to have a good general education without at least some serious familiarity with the Bible and with the teachings of Christianity.” While he has, on several occasions, suggested that politicians should not rely on religion to justify decisions or a specific point of view, his comments make it clear that his faith plays a very strong part in his thought process and rationale. Independent MP Bob Katter is on the record as stating that marriage equality is a stupid idea that “deserves to be laughed at and ridiculed”. I’m not disputing that they have the right to harbour these beliefs, where’s the line at which the personal views of politicians are required to take a back seat to a more broad-minded, progressive and socially acceptable perspective that’s representative of the views of their constituents?

Tony Abbott and Bob Katter are not alone in expressing their dogmatic views while acting on behalf of the people. In 2011, John Murphy, Labor MP for the seat of Reid in western Sydney, kicked the political hornet’s nest when he advised members of the Australian Labor Party who support same-sex marriage to ”join the Greens”. Is this petulant “my way or the highway” approach reflective of the attitude of his electorate? I think not. One person’s obstinate, black or white view should not be allowed to take precedence over the collective view of the almost 90,000 constituents in the electorate of Reid.

It may sound ridiculous and incredibly hypocritical to promote free speech in one paragraph and then suggest in the next that elected officials need to look past their own personal views in order to take a stance that, while not aligning with their own beliefs, fairly reflects what the community stands for and wishes to see achieved. Perhaps there is an element of hypocrisy to it, but politicians need to recognise that we have entrusted them to be our collective voice, and for this voice to be clearly heard, they have to look at the big picture, which often falls outside the line of sight that their bigoted or conservative blinkers allow.

For Australia to transform into a genuinely modern and forward-thinking society, we need to be led by free thinkers who can accept that personal religious views have don’t have a place in 21st century politics. We need strong leaders who make decisions based on fact and community sentiment, and who don’t feel compelled to constantly promulgate their individual beliefs and agendas; they need to remember that as a politician, they are the mouthpiece for twenty-two million voices, not just one. If our current politicians are unable to separate state from the church, mosque or synagogue, they need to step aside and make room for people who can.

When it comes to a group of individuals who have been empowered to represent the people and make untainted, logical choices based on fact for benefit of the collective group, there are occasions where free speech and faith are going to have to ride shotgun.

Creationists get on the floor, everybody Walk the Dinosaur

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Another day, another attempt by Christians to push their ideologies on the general masses. Nothing new there, right? I’m surprised I’ve managed to make it almost a full week without vociferating about a religiously themed topic that’s pissed me off in the news. What makes the story different this time, however, is that Creationism is being taught in public schools, and students are being fed scientifically inaccurate, absurd explanations to justify the theory. Worse still, the information is being primarily provided to the students by volunteers with no formal teaching qualifications or experience – just an ingrained belief that Christianity has all the answers, even if the answers are about as credible as the existence of the Easter Bunny. Have you ever wondered why carbon dating puts dinosaurs on Earth so long before any form of humans? If you listen to Tim McKenzie, one of the Religious Instruction (RI) teachers interviewed for the story, it is because the great flood must have “skewed” the data. Are you fucking serious Tim?

PhD researcher Cathy Byrne found in a NSW-based survey that scripture teachers tended to discourage questioning, emphasised submission to authority and excluded different beliefs. She said 70 per cent of scripture teachers thought children should be taught the Bible as historical fact.

When looking from a scientific perspective, the Bible could hardly be classed as an historical text, given that it is open to incredible individual interpretation, and the validity of some of the information contained therein – such as the whole able-to-rise-from-the-dead concept – is somewhat dubious at best. But I will get to the feasibility of zombies shortly. A fact is something “that is known or proved to be true”, not something that is believed to be true by a specific group. That being the case, for these individuals to assert that the Bible provides historical fact and should be used in schools as an historical text is incredibly condescending and narrow-minded – is it the Christian way or the highway?

One of the facts apparently taught to the students was that Adam and Eve were not eaten by dinosaurs because they were under a protective spell, which seems about on par for Christians from a perspective of rationality, considering that their faith is based on the premise that Jesus rose from the dead after being crucified. One would have to suppose that if the concept of a zombie makes sense to these people, then the notion that dinosaurs could be held at bay by some sort of Hogwarts-type incantation seems perfectly reasonable. According to the The Courier-Mail article, when one Year 5 student was told that all humans had descended from Adam and Eve, she questioned how this was possible, given the scientific acceptance of DNA. The teacher – and yes, I have used substantial creative licence with that description – responded to this by stating that “DNA wasn’t invented then” and essentially dismissed what was a genuine, very valid question. This riposte affirms the position that if you question any aspect of a religion you are automatically labelled as trouble and a non-believer. That sort of approach isn’t that conducive to encouraging individual thought or tolerance, is it? Why the hell is it being allowed in our public schools?

Is it time to forego any form of religiously themed learning in our public schools, if for no other reason but then to ensure that the inquisitive, malleable minds of these children are filled with actual scientific fact, and not the unsubstantiated, nonsensical beliefs of self-appointed (and undoubtedly intransigent) instructors? If RI is to continue, how does one decide on what is taught? All religions have differences in their beliefs – be they small or immense – and the very unyielding nature of religion ensures that any faith that differs is seen as wrong. How is the point of difference to be worked around? Why not replace the RI with learning to encourage free thinking, as well as respect for other cultures and philosophies, and leave the pontifical teachings to the home of the individual parents and to their place of worship?

Why do I get the feeling that David Barker has had a stint as a purveyor of religious instruction at some stage?