ATHEISM ONCE MORE?

ATHEISM ONCE MORE:  WHY BOTHER?

It’s time for atheists to move past theoretical questions about the existence of God and onto more practical pursuits – like how to fight for justice.

The atheist community is quickly coming up against the limits of debating whether God is real. The New Atheist movement made a splash in the early 2000s with its brash assertion that the existence of God was a hypothesis that can be examined, debated and critically analysed like any other, and rejected if the evidence is found wanting. Its critiques, targeting both the feverish imaginings of fundamentalism and the stale platitudes of conventional piety, were as cleansing and welcome as a cool breeze in a stuffy room.

But while that stance can be the beginning of a philosophy, it can’t be the end. It raises the question: once you no longer believe the claims of religion, what do you believe?

For many, being an atheist makes this world and life infinitely more significant, since they’re all we have. Having seen so many examples of oppression, injustice and violence promoted by religion, atheists can and should have a strong reason to desire justice in society. That’s why atheist groups, especially atheist student groups, are increasingly joining forces with other social change movements and emphasizing how their goals and ours intersect.

The oldest and strongest example is secular groups’ support for LGBT rights, since we’ve long recognized that the primary opposition to them in America and other Western nations comes almost entirely from religion. In the pending US supreme court case that could establish same-sex marriage nationwide, two venerable national secular groups, the American Humanist Association and the Centre for Inquiry, submitted a friend-of-the-court brief urging the justices to rule for marriage equality.

At the thinnest end of the wedge, in places where equal rights for same-sex couples is a radical and fiercely controversial proposition, atheists are present too. Amanda Scott, a paralegal student and humanist celebrant in Mobile, Alabama, weathered a storm of harassment when she spoke up against a proposal to put religious plaques on government buildings. She’s also the founder of Mobile Equality, a non-profit group dedicated to educating the public on LGBT rights.

Beyond opposing homophobia, the atheist community has also been making common cause with feminism. In January, the SSA at Sacramento City College in California worked together with the Sac City Feminists and the Queer/Straight Alliance to present Sex+City, a week of sex-positive events that brought in speakers such as Laci Green, a YouTube star and sex education advocate, to give presentations on consent, relationships, body image, gender issues and more. Proceeds from the event were donated to local non-profits, including the Sacramento Gender Health Centre. As a follow-up, these groups joined forces to convince the college administration to include gender-neutral restrooms in all buildings on campus.

Last but not least, the Students for Free-thought at the University of Michigan-Flint have been taking on the whole spectrum of social justice causes. Among other things, they’ve hosted a dialogue on climate change, a die-in protest with the Black Student Union to call attention to police brutality and racially biased drug laws, a death with dignity roundtable discussion, and a speak-out for survivors of rape, sexual assault, stalking and harassment to share their stories in a safe space.

Projects like these from secular groups all around the country are emblematic of a broader shift in the movement’s priorities. The Secular Student Alliance, the national umbrella group representing these colleges and many more, recently retooled its mission statement to include an explicit focus on social justice and diversity.

As the atheist community becomes larger and more diverse, attracting a broader range of people from different backgrounds, this is a natural direction for our activism to take. It’s also a step that both atheists and people who care about social justice should applaud, because our alliance makes both causes stronger. Our opposition is largely the same: the socially conservative faction, bolstered by religion.

That’s why the more that the atheist community moves beyond purely philosophical debates to embrace the practical pursuit of justice, the more we can establish a reputation for ourselves as a force for good in the world.

FEMINISM AND FAMILY

Page 1 of 3 IS FEMINISM RECEDING TO FAMILY?
This month and year represents the freedom of women who are now independently earning their own income, and who are being re – numerated in funds and benefits equal to men; a situation which has been required for centuries. International Woman’s Day, was March 8, 2015, the day of U.N. Commemoration. It is an achievement to be proud, and to safeguard. More than this, to be financially independent, but is it being supported by all cultures? In some Islamic countries that employ foreign labour, women are insisting that they be allowed to work. It is perhaps, a culture of our times. A definition of culture is often too broad to be very useful ; for instance, we may think of culture as a body of shared knowledge, understanding, and practice. For our reasoning, a working definition that may prove more useful is to think of differences in culture as systematic variation There is no one feminism, there is no dogmatic position on issues. Feminism is and should be an ongoing dialogue among women — and men who are 50 percent of the population — on issues of special interest to women. Page 2 of 3 As long as the dialogue is civil, then disagreement is a sign of health. Dissent is a vital aspect of what keeps theory alive and true; dogma is its death. I am presenting a dissenting view: individualist feminism, or ifeminism, which is a deep and rich school within the movement.. The ideas of gender feminism are diametrically opposed to those of ifeminism, and the two schools form the extremes of theory that define the broader feminist movement itself. To illustrate this, you should ask of feminism the most fundamental question that can be asked of anything: what is it? What is feminism? Earlier I described feminism as personal liberation of women and equality with men. I now offer more formal definition. Feminism is the doctrine that states, ” Women are and should be treated as the equals of men.” It is the political movement that focuses on women and protests inequality between the sexes. “Women are the equals of men.” As simple as that statement sounds, debate is already enjoined: because what does “equality” mean? For example, does the term refer to equality under existing laws and equal representation within participating institutions, which requires only the reformation of current society? Or is the definition of equality more revolutionary? Does it require existing laws and institutions to be swept away and replaced so that society becomes different in a fundamental sense? The definition of “equality” employed is a litmus test by which various schools of feminism can be distinguished, one from the other. Page 3 of 3What has happened to the feminist movement in Jamaica? I have noticed that most women CEO’s in Jamaica, tend to employ other women in areas of trust and responsibility. Does this mean there is an instinctive desire not to trust men? Probably, only employ as far as their physical prowess is useful. Then there is a tendency for women to want children in their family, single parent or otherwise. This clearly takes away the time to manage the business, in true CEO fashion. This leads to a breakdown of discipline and management in most Companies. (543 words) © Ramesh Sujanani
3 of 3

CLASSISM AND RACISM

CLASSICISM-RACISM, CONFLICTS

The incidents of disorder that occurred in Ferguson, Mo., a few weeks ago and indeed continue to occur, seemed to indicate more than racial profiling; there is a new mix in the checks and balances, considering that protests continue all over the United States.
In the midst of all this, Disney launched the new “Star Wars”’ thriller which in its trailer uses the N word quite irreverently. (The Force awakens). Then the former mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani comments that while he blames the Police for a lack of proper training, the “Responsibility is on the black community to reduce the reason why more police officers are assigned to their living areas.”
There now appears a change in community standards from Race to Class, with gender a variation among classes and races. Wider class division in work ethic, education, creates a difference in behaviour as much as racial trends. This class difference appear in both white and black poor, and mixed with racial profiling, more are class and race relations slowly becoming divergent.
In the height of the various incidents, FBI director James Comey, pointed out that some police officers of all races viewed black and white men differently, emphasizing that blacks grow up in environments lacking role models, adequate education, and decent employments. One of Comey’s remarks echoed the words of Dr. King,,
”We must all live to-gether as brothers, or all perish together as fools,””
That’s, in part, because we’ve moved from simplicity to ambiguity. The civil rights struggle was about as clear a conflict between right and wrong as we get in national life. The debate about Ferguson elicited complex reactions among the most sensible people.
But the other reason that the civil-rights era comparisons were inept is because the nature of racism has changed. There has been a migration away from prejudice based on genetics to prejudice based on class.
Let me explain with a reference. In 18th- and 19th-century Britain, there was a division between “respectable” society and those who lived in slums that were sometimes known as rookeries. The neighbourhoods reminded people of rock faces where thieving crows lived in little nooks and crannies; and the slums were filled with the small rat faced creatures, humans and animal life.
“Proper” people of that era had both a disgust and fascination for those who lived in these untouchable realms. They went slumming into the poor neighbourhoods, a sort of poverty tourism that is the equivalent of today’s reality TV, or the brawlers that appear on “The Jerry Springer Show.”
Today we once again have a sharp social divide between people who live in the “respectable” society and those who live beyond it. In one world almost everybody you meet has at least been to college, and people have very little contact with features that are sometimes a part of the other world: prison, meth, payday loans, a flowering of non-marriage family forms. In one world, people assume they can control their destinies. In the other, some people embrace the now common motto: “It don’t make no difference.”
This class prejudice is applied to both the white and black, especially the poor, whose demographic traits are converging in other respects. But classism combines with latent and historic racism to create a particularly malicious brew. People have now assigned a whole range of supposedly underclass traits based on a single glimpse at skin colour: Race and class merge when one gets poor enough.
During the civil-rights era there was always confusion what was a civil-rights issue and what was an economic or social issue. Every civil-rights issue is also an economic and social issue: Classism and Racism interlocked. It’s often said after events like Ferguson that we need a national conversation on race. That may help; we need to improve our respect for the understanding that other people’s experiences differ from our own.
In a friendship, people don’t sit around talking about their friendship. Through common projects and causes, integration of class and race can become feasible, and projects become a combined effort.
(683 words) ©Ramesh Sujanani

REPARATIONS OF SLAVERY; INCREASING ECONOMY OF JAMAICA

REPARATIONS: A NEW EXIT

I refer to Peter Espeut’s article on March 6, 2015, in which he championed the cause of reparations being a saviour to Jamaica’s economy. I am not sure that the Parliament of Jamaica has made the decision to recover funds being identified as “terrorist” funding in the matter of slavery, an issue which shortly will be 200 years old.

Mr. Espeut goes on to say that all of the enslaved Africans are long dead, postulates that their descendants will receive the compensation due to their family connections; which I doubt.  Property may be transferred by inheritance, but property does not include people, who are living flesh and blood. There is nothing in the laws that say that a living soul should receive compensation, and while we are aware what slavery entails, suffering and pain are not transferable  nor should their compensations be.

Further, what would the value of their uncertain heritage, their homeland Africa which amounted to a group of poverty stricken lands, and the loss of so-called freedom which never existed in the first place?

In 2013, the black president of the USA ,  Barack Obama, addressing a Graduating class of Morehouse College students had this to say: “I understand that there’s a common fraternity creed here at Morehouse: ‘Excuses are tools of the incompetent, used to build bridges to nowhere and monuments of nothingness,'” Obama said.

“We’ve got no time for excuses — not because the bitter legacies of slavery and segregation have vanished entirely; they have not. Not because racism and discrimination no longer exist; we know those are still out there. It’s just that in today’s hyper-connected, hypercompetitive world, with millions of young people from China and India and Brazil — many of whom started with a whole lot less than all of you did — all of them entering the global workforce alongside you, nobody is going to give you anything that you have not earned,” he said.

In an intense moment he continued: “the special obligation I felt, as a black man like you, to help those who need it most, people who didn’t have the opportunities that I had — because there but for the grace of God, go I. I might have been in their shoes. I might have been in prison. I might have been unemployed. I might not have been able to support a family. And that motivates me.”

Just making the point, that the most outstanding president of our time, a black man, says ” don’t make slavery an excuse for not working harder. ” That is what will happen.  Then when reparations money is received (if it occurs), it will go to the Government of Jamaica to share,  who will lose it in a hole spiralling down into the earth; and no benefit will ever be realized.

BENJAMIN NETAYANHU SPEECH PLANNED TO US CONGRESS

BIBI : PRIME MINISTER, ROGUE OR RATIONAL?
The nick-name “’ BIBI’’ is used by the American press for the prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netyanhu, who is shortly planning a visit to the United States. This would be two weeks before general elections in Israel. Apparently this is against U.S. Policy to entertain a visiting head of State prior to elections in that country, simply be-cause it may seem to appear that support is being garnered.
Bibi’s request was made to the Leader of the opposition John Boehmer, who approved the visit. I believe this action is out of order; how can a country invite another head of state, without the leader of the country’’s permission? Many arrangements have to be made, security, entertainment, military matters, and other political negotiations.
At this time clearly this meeting is important to BiBi, because the P.M.’s political position in Israel is weak, and there are constant complaints against his leadership. Many persons believe his time has come to an end, because all that has occurred in his term is more death and violence, with no improvement in peace processes. So BiBi needs support for his actions for the election campaign, and also with negotiations with Iran over Nuclear weapons development.
The U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice remarked that BiBi’’s actions in coming to the USA without a formal invitation from the US Government in power, has harmed the US in that it has hurt the fabric of US/Middle East relationships.

Since Netanyahu did not arrange his visit through the White House, Obama said that he will not meet with him, and Vice President Biden has made plans to travel abroad. Then other senators have commented;
“This puts Democrats in a position where they have to choose between their support for Israel and their Democratic president — and do it in a very visible way,” said Martin Indyk, a vice president at the Brookings Institution and a former U.S. ambassador to Israel.
“There is no reason to schedule this speech before Israeli voters go to the polls on March 17 and choose their own leadership,” Kane said in a statement Wednesday. “I am disappointed that, as of now, the speech has not been postponed. For this reason, I will not attend the speech.”
According to an unofficial estimate by one Senate Democrat, about 30 members of that caucus are expected to attend the speech and nearly 15 others are still deciding whether to boycott One such Democrat is Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a freshman who serves on the Foreign Relations Committee.
“It’s really offensive, but I think it’s a protocol breach, not a policy break,” he said. Generally an ally of Israel, Murphy said his biggest concern was the spectacle occurring so close to the Israeli elections. “I don’t want to be part of a campaign speech,” he said. “It makes the whole thing look more politics-based.”
Leaked details of Iran US Nuclear talks have made many more Senators interested in what Netyanhu has to say: How to get there is what separates them.” Foxman initially called Netanyahu’s speech “ill-advised” but now says he will attend.
Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), one of Obama’s strongest allies on the Hill, plans to attend Netanyahu’s speech. “I’m interested in what the prime minister is going to say,” Reed said. “I think it’s already been made an unnecessarily complicated political issue, but there is still this need to learn as much as we can about the situation.”
Yet there is still troublesome advice from the MOSSAD which is Israel’s secret service. Israel’s Mossad spy agency in October 2012 had a less alarmist view of Iran’s nuclear program than an assessment delivered by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the United Nations just a few weeks earlier, according to a purported secret cable published Monday by two media outlets.
But in the document published Monday by The Guardian and Al-Jazeera, the Mossad is quoted as saying “Iran at this stage is not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons.”
The news organizations said the document was an assessment shared with South African intelligence, part of a trove of leaked spy cables sent by several different intelligence agencies, including the CIA and Russian intelligence.
The British newspaper said the documents detail an attempt by the CIA to establish contact with the Islamic militant group Hamas, South Korean intelligence targeting the leader of Greenpeace, and South Africa spying on Russia over a joint satellite. The paper said it had “independently authenticated” the cache.
So we now have to ask is BiBi correct to make the address to the US Congress, when it appears that speech is likely to be a “fraud?”
(779 words)
27/02/2015
©Ramesh Sujanani