Thing I would like to tattoo on Bill Maher’s forehead inre: Islam.

 

That in reply to this.

And if you’d like to see just a little of the endless stream of Muslim condemnation (to which no one seems to listen) of extremist violence, click here.

How to support Muslims.

UPDATE: The “Today I Am a Muslim Too” rally (see #6) is now behind us (read about it here) but all of the rest of the following suggestions are still a go!

UPDATE #2: Make sure you read this post, too — it’s essentially a guestpost, someone else’s most-excellent letter to his Congressman.

In recent weeks, I’ve produced a couple of  posts in which I call on folks to respond to the decision of Rep. Pete King (R-NY) to hold hearings into the “radicalization” of American Muslims, but as we saw yesterday, King’s hearings are not the result of a single, narrow mind, but are rather reflective of a broader wave of anti-Muslim bigotry and hysteria that gripped the nation on September 12, 2001 and has been roiling our society ever since.

I firmly, genuinely believe that the fight for the full inclusion of Muslim Americans into mainstream American society is one of the two defining civil rights struggles of our era (the other being the fight for LGBTQ rights), and I further believe that it is incumbent upon all Americans of good will to stand by their fellow citizens. So today, I’m going to make that a little easier for you. (more…)

The man who was a fool – part B.

I’m periodically blogging about Martin Luther King’s Strength to Love. Each post can be read independently, but if you’re interested, previous installments are here. Unless otherwise noted, emphasized passages are Dr. King’s.

Chapter seven – The man who was a fool (Section III).

As I wrote in my last MLK post, I was entirely of two minds as I read this chapter — or, rather, as I moved into its third section.

There I am, trundling along, wrapping myself in words like

the answer is simple: we can store our surplus food free of charge in the shriveled stomachs of the millions of God’s children who go to bed hungry

and

all men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny

when Dr. King — this man whose words I now quote daily, this man who I have come to not just admire but revere, this man who has become a spiritual guide and touchstone — starts to talk about materialists and nontheistic humanism, and well, breaks my heart.

Well, now, I suppose I shouldn’t say “breaks my heart.” That’s over-stating it by a long shot, and isn’t terribly fair, because the only reason my heart hurt was because my own need for him to be flawless was so high. And, if I were to be really honest, he didn’t so much break my heart as piss me the hell off.

Jesus called the rich man a fool because he failed to realize his dependence on God…. He had an unconscious feeling that he was the Creator, not a creature.

This man-centered foolishness has had a long and ofttimes disastrous reign in the history of mankind. Sometimes it is theoretically expressed in the doctrine of materialism, which contends that reality may be explained in terms of matter in motion…. Having no place for God or for eternal ideas, materialism is opposed to both theism and idealism.

This materialistic philosophy leads inevitably into a dead-end street in an intellectually senseless world…. Materialism is a weak flame that is blown out by the breath of mature thinking.

(“Mature thinking”? Mature thinking?)

Another attempt to make God irrelevant is found in nontheistic humanism, a philosophy that deifies man by affirming that humanity is God. [lists many ways in which humanity has tried to put its faith entirely in human achievement and “a sociological law of progress which is as valid as the physical law of gravitation”].

Man’s aspirations no longer turned Godward and heavenward. Rather, man’s thoughts were confined to man and earth….. Those who formerly turned to god to find solutions for their problems turned to science and technology, convinced that they now possessed the instruments needed to usher in the new society.

Then came the explosion of this myth. It climaxed in the horrors of Nagasaki and Hiroshima…. Why fool ourselves about automatic progress and the ability of man to save himself?

Without dependence on God our efforts turn to ashes and our sunrises into darkest night. [emphasis mine]

Ok, A) sorry for the extremely long block quote.

And B) holy crow, but the arrogance and the dismissiveness and the hubris!

Some of my best husbands are nontheist humanists, not to mention some of my best friends, and I am here to say: Their efforts will not turn to ashes, nor are they in need of mature thinking. Their thinking is, indeed, fully mature (well, most of the time) and they do good works because they know that they must. Not because they were told to by a God in whom they cannot believe, but because they know right from wrong.

I’ve written about this before, so I won’t belabor the point — in no small part because Dr. King was hardly the last guy to suggest that atheists are morally bankrupt. But the vitriol he expresses here is just striking, given his gentleness elsewhere, and his dedication to building the beloved community. Is there no room in the beloved community for moral, upstanding godless heathens?

I suspect that what we see here is, essentially, a reflection of the time in which Dr. King lived (much as is his constant —  and to 21st-century me, jarring — use of the words “man,” “men,” and “mankind”).

As a person of deep faith, as (indeed) a shepherd of the church, I would expect King to feel strongly that faith in the Divine is a crucial element of a life well-lived — but the sheer contempt with which he expresses his anti-atheism is, I think, a result of when he lived and died. I think that he might have worded all this differently had he had the chance to live long enough to do so.

It’s funny to think that, though he was a great man, King was, like the rest of us, an imperfect man, and at 30-something years old (or possibly late 20-something), still had room to mature and grow.

Like the rest of us.

On godless heathens.

Remember Lovely Friend? The friend with whom I had a lovely lunch and discussed hunger in America?

Well, she is not only lovely, in ways of both the mind and the flesh, she is also a deeply moral person, a person who knows her wrong from her right and acts on this knowledge in a multitude of ways in the course of any given day. I mean, come on: She feeds the hungry! How much more moral can you get?

Well, one more fact about Lovely Friend: She’s an atheist.

I know! Almost impossible to believe, what with all that moral behavior and whatnot!

No, seriously, apparently many, many Americans still have a really hard time believing that you can be literally godless, and a good person. Many, many Americans still believe that if you are the latter, you cannot — truly — be the former. You might think you don’t believe in God, but — you believe in God.

She and I, and a smattering of our equally lovely and equally godless (or nearly so) friends (some of my best friends are atheists! etc.) were discussing this just the other day, and I thought I might write about it — only to remember that I already have! It was a couple of years ago, but little appears to have changed* in that time, so I thought: What the hey! I’ll run that piece. It appeared in the Dallas Morning News on April 1, 2007.

*Actually, in his inauguration speech, President Obama said this: “We know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth” — and when he said “nonbelievers,” this believing Jew teared up (well, I was probably crying already. I cried through the whole damn speech, I seem to recall. But I know I cried harder!). Because he was recognizing some people who I happen to love very deeply,  and I was more grateful than I can say.

**********************

‘Godless’ people deserve tolerance, too

America shouldn’t rush to judge atheists, says EMILY HAUSER

12:28 PM CDT on Sunday, April 1, 2007

Congressman Pete Stark of California made national news earlier this month simply by confessing his atheism.

I’m sorry. What? The fact that a man doesn’t believe in God is news? Well, in a country where 55 percent of the people wouldn’t vote for such a man (according to a recent Gallup poll), I suppose it is.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m Jewish, and personally, I’m all for God. I pray, I keep kosher, I’m a believer born. My relationship with the Divine plays an enormous role in my life.

But my husband – not so much. Eran is an unwavering atheist. He’s also Jewish, though, and because Jews do a lot that can really just be about heritage, we’ve found a fairly easy middle ground. For me, lighting Shabbat candles consecrates the day; for Eran, it’s a nice thing to do with the kids. Tomato, tomahto.

Yet I will be the first to admit that the margins of the middle ground are broad, what with me seeking guidance from a Creator whom Eran believes is all in my head. Furthermore, I’ve begun to realize is that as broad as the margin is on my side, Eran’s is equally wide.

He’s argued with me for 14 years that there’s little room in Western culture for nonbelievers – and I say “argued” because, through he’s never been anything but supportive of me, I’ve mostly not taken him seriously. No room? Please. I have spiritual struggle; he gets to eat bacon.

Like a constant drip on rock, however, his comments have begun to wear away my ignorance, and I’ve had to take notice. Americans hold to an unspoken understanding that is so deeply ingrained, it appears to be natural law. A belief in God, we think, is the well from which all morality springs.

Consider, if you will, the word “godless.”

The cadences of Scripture run through American thought. We read that “the fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, their deeds are vile” (Psalms 14:1), and our highest officials regularly make clear that they believe it.

At our dawn, Thomas Jefferson wrote: “While I claim a right to believe in one God, I yield as freely to others that of believing in three. Both religions, I find, make honest men. …” Much later, President Dwight D. Eisenhower echoed Jefferson, saying that belief in God generates “honesty, decency, fairness.” More recently, Sen. Barack Obama, seeking to reassure nervous Red Staters, declared that we in the Blue States “believe in a mighty God.”

Rabbi Harold Kushner, author of the seminal When Bad Things Happen to Good People, took this approach to its logical conclusion in his 1995 book When Children Ask about God: “The person who is good because he believes that certain things are right … need not take literally the image of a divine person in Heaven,” he wrote. “[He] believes in God and is acting on that belief.”

That is, even if my husband, a real peach of a guy, doesn’t believe in God – he believes in God. He’s good, isn’t he? In the words of one member of my synagogue: “Oh, don’t worry. He’ll come around. They always do.”

Living with Eran – one of the most truly ethical people I know – I find I can no longer accept these things at face value. Our beloved American respect for all creeds is revealed as just that: for the creed-ed only. The creed-less need not apply. Even the separation of church and state becomes suspect, as it presupposes, by definition, a church.

When pressed, Eran will grudgingly admit a vague possibility that Something created the universe, but he can’t accept that said Something has anything to do with history or humanity’s ability to reach its highest ground. We live, we die, certain things are right, others are wrong, and we can find them without being told.

This approach to ethics is supported, in fact, by recent discoveries in evolutionary biology suggesting that the faculty for developing a moral sense is a genetically designed feature of the human brain. Now I might argue that God created that faculty in humanity, but I can’t know, in any verifiable sense, that Eran is wrong when he disagrees with me. That’s why we call it faith.

Like most Americans, I live my life in the belief that I’m guided and comforted by a being outside me and all human experience – but the bald truth is that on this side of death, I can’t know for sure.

I can, however, look to Eran’s works and see his goodness, look to his heart and see his honesty, and concede the point: There might not be a God. And my husband is no more prone to corruption and vile deeds than the next guy for thinking so.

What I do know is this: If there’s a heaven, Eran’s a shoo-in. The mighty God in whom I believe is far too great to care if my husband’s righteousness was born in Torah study or his own precious soul.

As a country, we would do better to leave matters of faith to the recesses of private hearts and measure the integrity of our leaders by their deeds, rather than their affiliations. Take it from the wife of a godless man. I’ll bet Pete Stark isn’t all that bad, either.

Emily L. Hauser is a freelance writer living in Oak Park, Ill. Her e-mail address is elhauser@hotmail.com.

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