Just a Little Common Sense

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Archive for the ‘Humanism’ Category

Vegetarianism: Older Than Christianity

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I get tired of people telling me that vegetarianism is just a fad, a passing trend. Here is one of the latest additions to my collection of quotes, from the writings of the greek philosopher Plutarch (46 – 120 AD):

Can you really ask what reason Pythagoras had for abstaining from flesh? For my part I rather wonder both by what accident and in what state of soul or mind the first man did so, touched his mouth to gore and brought his lips to the flesh of a dead creature, he who set forth tables of dead, stale bodies and ventured to call food and nourishment the parts that had a little before bellowed and cried, moved and lived. How could his eyes endure the slaughter when throats were slit and hides flayed and limbs torn from limb? How could his nose endure the stench? How was it that the pollution did not turn away his taste, which made contact with the sores of others and sucked juices and serums from mortal wounds? […] It is certainly not lions and wolves that we eat out of self-defense; on the contrary, we ignore these and slaughter harmless, tame creatures without stings or teeth to harm us, creatures that, I swear, Nature appears to have produced for the sake of their beauty and grace. But nothing abashed us, not the flower-like tinting of the flesh, not the persuasiveness of the harmonious voice, not the cleanliness of their habits or the unusual intelligence that may be found in the poor wretches. No, for the sake of a little flesh we deprive them of sun, of light, of the duration of life to which they are entitled by birth and being.

So yes, there already were vegetarians over 2500 years ago. Well known and ancient history even when Plutarch put these lines onto paper, phrasing quite eloquently one of the main reasons for which I abstain from eating flesh: The very idea of feeding on the carcasses of others simply disgusts me.

Written by Phil

November 4, 2010 at 22:43

Denver: Highway-Memorials Ruled Unconstitutional

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The Deseret News has an article on an interesting case this week: An Atheist group in Denver filed a lawsuit to remove memorial-crosses from the highway, and they won.

DENVER — The white, roadside crosses that currently memorialize the deaths of 14 Utah Highway Patrol troopers are unconstitutional, government endorsements of religion on public lands, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday.

“We hold that these memorials have the impermissible effect of conveying to the reasonable observer the message that the state prefers or otherwise endorses a certain religion,” the court wrote in siding with the Texas-based American Atheists, Inc.

In 2005, the atheist group sued the Utah Highway Patrol and the Utah Highway Patrol Association, a private entity aimed at supporting troopers and their families, to get the crosses taken off state lands.

On Wednesday, 10th Circuit judges David M. Ebel, Harris L. Hartz and Deanell Reece Tacha ruled the white crosses violate the Establishment Clause of the Constitution. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Phil

August 19, 2010 at 10:37

Iran: Over 70 People Executed in Mashad

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The following report was published yesterday, August 15th 2010, by the Human Rights House Of Iran, RAHANA.

RAHANA – It has been reported that some of these individuals arrested in relation to drug trafficking, had been handed down sentences that did NOT include the death penalty and had only been fined. Despite these sentences, they were executed suddenly and without prior notice based on a judicial order.

picture courtesy of iranian.com

Archive picture

According to reports by Iran Green Voice, the reason behind this sudden decision to execute has not been provided by the judiciary, however, there is speculation that the order was executed by Intelligence and Security Institutions. Previously, based on a similar case in the city of Mashhad at the start of the 1st term of Ahmadinejad’s presidency when ties between high-ranking security officials and a drug trafficking group were exposed, more than 60 people (mainly citizens of Torbat-e Jam and Taibad) associated with that case file were also suddenly executed. At that time, a number of the relatives of the security forces in question were also executed.

It is worth mentioning that based on received reports, this last round of executions included names of individuals under the age of 18.

Ahmad Eghbal, political activist arrested on December 21st, 2009 and released after 170 days in prison on June 10th, 2010, on approximately 48,000 USD bail made the following statement in court during his defense: “During my three-month incarceration at ward 6/1 at Vakil Abad prison, based on confirmed information I heard from the prison officials and crew, more than 50 individuals were transferred to ward 6/1 and later executed. However, at one point when 31 individuals were executed, the Justice Department and Information Ministry in Khorasan informed a news paper in Khorasan that only 5 international drug traffickers had been executed.”

The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran continues to execute its citizens despite international protests against such actions. The reported number of executions in prisons across Iran is still extremely high.

via freedomessenger.com

It is not even an exceptional story. The Iranian regime does stuff like this on a daily basis – just go to freedomessenger.com or the Rahana homepage to get a taste. And do keep in mind that these are only the fraction of the stories that the agencies and activists of Iran judge newsworthy enough to be translated into english. These are only the spectacular cases. What absolutely astonishes me is the utter disregard the regime shows for its international reputation. They just do not seem to care at all. The only thing that astonishes me even more it the complete lack of action from the west. There is not even a word of condemnation, and Iran’s seat in the UN Human Rights Council remains unchallenged.

Stories like this one do not even make the news over here. There we have a regime that didn’t even bother trying to cover up the rigging of its election, which is bad enough in itself, and a few days ago they executed over 70 people – few of them under the age of 18, most of them without even a justification, all of them without proper trial – and the rest of the world just looks on and does nothing.
And no, I’m not one of those calling for an invasion. But I do ask that we display the minimum of concern and put some political pressure on the regime. We cannot let them go on spitting in the face of the very idea of Human Rights like that. Condemn the actions that are taking place, ask for justification, acknowledge the reports of human rights organizations. I urge everyone to raise awareness of the situation. Spread the word, write to your political representative and news stations and ask them to take a stand.

Burning the Candle at Both Ends

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Hitchens talks about death, and I haven’t yet heard anybody talk about this topic in a way that resonated so strongly with me.

Even undergoing chemo-therapy that already cost him 7 pounds and most of his hair, Hitchens is as strong as ever. There is no denial, but no fatalism either. He knew about the possible consequences of his lifestyle from the very beginning – it was a risk he took consciously. Of course he isn’t exactly happy when contemplating that he might not live to see his children married, or that the plans he made for the next decade probably just won’t happen. “But”, he writes, “I understand this sort of non-thinking for what it is: sentimentality and self-pity. […] To the dumb question ‘Why me?’ the cosmos barely bothers to return the reply: Why not?”

Under the following link you’ll find a video of Hitchens getting interviewed by CNN’s Aderson Cooper.

He is not resigned, but at the same time he remains realistic. He knows that his chances are slim, but he also knows that there is no point in whining and self-pitying. I think it’s an admirable serenity. Here is a man who has come to terms with his mortality a long time ago. “I knowingly [burned] the candle at both ends”, he says, “finding that it often gives a lovely light.”

Written by Phil

August 6, 2010 at 19:05

Posted in Humanism, Opinions

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Orwell’s “Two Minutes Hate”: Uganda Made it Real

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On Happiness

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The internet is brimming with new-agey blogs providing endless lists with how-to-become-happy-instructions, such as this one from the blog of an Australian counselling service called Reach For The Sky.
It’s a neat list, common wisdom, but some of it rings true. In the end, most people reading it will already agree to some extent, but a list like this is not likely to convince anybody who has not gained these insights for himself already; to a great many people this will sound like a bunch of simple platitudes and empty phrases. Anyhow, it makes a neat read for the new-age hippie clientél it is directed at, and that’s all that really matters on a blog that is essentially an advertisement for a small service-provider. I could have picked any such list, but this one is fairly representative of them all, so I’ll just have a go at this.

1. Happiness is accepting “what is” and getting on with life. Recriminations or regrets have no place in happiness.

I perfectly agree with this part. Accepting a mistake for what it is and learning from it is better than regretting not having made a different choice and dwelling on how things could have been. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Phil

July 20, 2010 at 12:44

Female Gay Atheist Prime Ministers

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I came across two great stories today. Both are about Female Prime Ministers, namely the ones of Iceland and of Australia. Both of them are pretty much the pope’s worst nightmare come true: Women in positions of political power, who are not ashamed of their sexuality and even worse, are open apostates.

Yesterday, the Telegraph published a story about the marriage of Johanna Sigurdardottir, Prime Minister of Iceland. She married her long time partner Jonina Leosdottir on last Sunday, the day gay marriage became legal in Iceland after the legislation was unanimously passed on june 12. They had been in a civil union since 2002, which has now been formally transformed into a marriage.

The other story has been covered already, but it’s so great that I’m gonna share it again anyhow: Australia’s PM Julia Gillard openly talked about her lack of faith on a radio interview with 744 ABC Melbourne at 9 am this morning. The Interviewer asked her straight out whether she believed in god, and her reply was an unambiguous “no I don’t, John. I’m not a religious person.” She then elaborated on her upbringing in a Baptist family but said that she chose to “pursue a different path in my adult life.” The interviewer also asked her about how she was going to attract the “vital christian vote”. Her awesome reply was that she was “not going to pretend a faith I don’t feel”. She gained some points on my  authenticity-scale with that one. Her clear message was that she was concerned for Australia as a whole and was not going to suck up to a particular group in order to gain votes. I like that. You can find the interview here, the bit about religion starts at 6:30 min before the end of the segment. (it’s got a weird backwards-counting timer, hence my odd phrasing)

I think this is great news. It is an indicator that there is some change happening. Public perception is shifting, on the topic of homosexuality as well as on the topic of religion. It’s awesome to see it moving into the right direction.

Written by Phil

June 29, 2010 at 13:54

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