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Atheism is Not Enough

Atheism is Not Enough

Slavoj Žižek makes a very interesting defense of atheism in the editorial “Defenders of the Faith” (New York Times, 3/12/06). Certainly atheism deserves the restoration of the inherent dignity of its position. But his overall argument, at least in the context of our current realities, is flawed. It could be a readerly effect, since the article looks as though it might have been chopped up. (Boo-hiss to the editor if that is the case – Žižek deserves better.) Still, I read the piece and was surprised. So I’ll respond.

In the piece, Žižek proposes atheism as the (only?) position or standard that might offer a chance for peace.

Today, when religion is emerging as the wellspring of murderous violence around the world, assurances that Christian or Muslim or Hindu fundamentalists are only abusing and perverting the noble spiritual messages of their creeds ring increasingly hollow.

…the lesson of today’s terrorism is that if God exists, then everything, including blowing up thousands of innocent bystanders, is permitted — at least to those who claim to act directly on behalf of God, since, clearly, a direct link to God justifies the violation of any merely human constraints and considerations. In short, fundamentalists have become no different than the “godless” Stalinist Communists, to whom everything was permitted since they perceived themselves as direct instruments of their divinity, the Historical Necessity of Progress Toward Communism.

Very interesting comparison. Although he then nods in the direction of compassionate ethics as a mode of the religious (something I see in more progressive faith positions), he attributes to atheism the standing of being the only home of ethics in contemporary reality. Why should people act ethically, why should they do good, be good, strive for good? Doing so for reward (praise, salvation, paradise, heaven) or from fear of punishment (opposition, scapegoating, shunning, criminal punishments, hell) is a low moral standard – but it has often served as a starting place.

It’s true that you don’t need to believe in God to assess a situation and do what you think is the right thing. A moral deed doesn’t require God. One can do a good thing because you feel you should, or when your compassion rises, or when it increases your well-being, or even because it’s just not too inconvenient at the moment. You could do the right thing for the wrong reasons. You could do the right thing completely by accident. Or you could do the right thing because that’s the kind of person you have become – by habit, by inclination, by choice, because you like attention, or are turned on by sacrifice, because of a sense of noblesse oblige or solidarity, to gain some greater advantage, or just because your mamma told you to.

It’s the fixed idea of absolute authority, absolute truth that is more of a problem. The article even gives the idea of Communism that became a kind of “religion” as an example. One could add “manifest destiny” or “privatization” or “superior race” or any number of other ideas – when such an idea is ascendent, watch out!

So it seems to me that the alternative should properly be a kind of agnosticism, rather than atheism, which can be just another form of fanaticism (the zeal of the truly anti-religious).

I would go further than Žižek does here in this respect, and claim that religious systems of belief actually undermine ethical thinking and actions in very specific ways. Beliefs interfere by mandating rules that can and do silence narratives of experience, or cut some people off from equal consideration, or simpy reinforce existing power structures, no matter how oppressive they might be. Beliefs set up clusters of priorities that may have little relevance to the actual situation. Moreover, Zizek misses here his strongest argument, which is the tendency of some to claim authority (even the authority of the absolute – of God) as their own simply to take advantage of their apparent ability to do so. If God is in any sense within us, God is within us all.

However, I am not at all convinced that atheism is the solution. While atheists might (not always!) tend to be more tolerant of religion than the religious are of atheism, there are no guarantees that atheists are good, or will strive for the good, either. There are nasty horrible atheists, too. I don’t actually find that religious affiliation (or a lack of one) really has very much to do with what kind of a person someone is, or how they behave. Religion only creates a set of standards on what the community of believers will regard as good or bad. That creates its own effects, such as the thrill of transgression. Sometimes people will create a public persona to conform to the standard, while having a secret life that is quite different.

Žižek says that when he himself does a good deed, he does it “because if I did not, I could not look at myself in the mirror.” Fair enough, and it’s also a standard of my own. I judge myself a bit harshly (more so than I would judge others), perhaps as a holdover from having been a Jehovah’s Witness. It is difficult to judge oneself clearly and honestly, even when one really truly wishes to do so. There are also those (whether fanatical, religious, or without significant motivations based on systems of religious belief) who are not terribly concerned with honest, realistic self-evaluation or insight. It’s a completely separate topic from the one at hand.

The larger points – that it is better to do something out of love than because you have been trained to do it, and that atheism actually creates a “safe public space” for believers – really illustrates how far the religious world as a whole has fallen. Those are both religious concerns!

These weird alliances confront Europe’s Muslims with a difficult choice: the only political force that does not reduce them to second-class citizens and allows them the space to express their religious identity are the “godless” atheist liberals, while those closest to their religious social practice, their Christian mirror-image, are their greatest political enemies. The paradox is that Muslims’ only real allies are not those who first published the caricatures for shock value, but those who, in support of the ideal of freedom of expression, reprinted them.

However, allies are not always accepted (or seen as allies) if one feels disregarded or insulted – or when one of your own is whipping you into a frenzy. One has to look at how different people will prioritize the spheres of difference.

What does it really mean to respect the beliefs of another? What follows from that ideal?

If you take it seriously as a high value, then according to Žižek you are left with an aporia. Your choice then is either a patronizing tolerance (as toward a child – Santa Claus, the tooth fairy) or a relativist stance of multiple “regimes of truth” in which ultimate truth claims themselves become a kind of transgressive violence. The first choice has obvious problems. I lean toward the latter myself because I have come to believe that “Truth” is more of a goal than a possession, and that we project our truths as much – if not more so -than we discover them. Neither of these alternatives faces the actual situations he concerned with here, nor does the admittedly fascinating historical events he mentions.

We’re missing some pieces. I think there are other alternatives – alternatives that are not new, just not being activated. One is reciprocal dialogue (I agree to listen if you agree to listen, etc.), but this – and other options – depend on the will to dialogue, a will to the cessation of violence, a will to peace. Why don’t we have this, do this? That is the central question, and it is to some extent a religious question.

Critical analyses of belief structures show respect, treating even the most problematic of “believers” as adults, responsible for their beliefs. But is that really the issue? Why would a zealot feel he has to justify himself to an unbeliever anyway? Where is that going to go? In any case, I question whether the return of fanaticism and violence really has much if anything to do with beliefs. Atheism does provide a safer “space” in many respects, but it is still an absolutist “position.” How do you know that God does not exist – and what does that question really have to do with what is happening anyway? Is this what he means to argue here? Does he really mean something like liberal democracy? (If so, we could use it in America too).

I think a better strategy would be really to push for true public debates, debates that include more voices from within each tradition and viewpoint – and across traditions as well. We are talking past one another. Even in America we are subjected to outright propaganda from all sides. We hear fewer informed perspectives in the media with each passing week, in a country that used to be known for freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and public protest. Now we have biased reporting, “no-protest areas,” illegal surveillance, censorship, use of “propaganda assets,” and erroneous “terrorist” labelling of dissent/anti-war groups, even if they are pacifists!

Critiques of fundamentalist views from the position of atheism, “godless humanism” (and post-humanism) and so on are valuable. I agree that atheism should be afforded its former dignity and more (especially considering how many atheists there really are, even within religious communities). But I also think that critique and reasonable debate “from the inside” of communities is actually much more powerful – especially for adherents and members of a community. Even the simple display of events of such dialogue and debate would be a meaningful improvement. Let’s see the best minds grapple. Let’s fight with words – not fists, not bombs, not backroom deals. Such a series – broadcast all over the world – would be much better than American “Idol” (did they really think that one through?).

Religious traditions are a kind of transmission, meant to preserve the best of what has worked in the past – for stability, for group coherence, for common good, and even for human transformation and spiritual growth. Sometimes the transmission is garbled or misunderstood. Sometimes the conditions under which traditions worked for a long time no longer apply. Sometimes the rules become destructive, and sometimes they are problematic in the first place. The message means different things at different times and with different receivers (the people who hear, practice, mediate, interpret). Where the climate is cold, the vision of hell is colder. This is the time for prophets – they challenge, they teach, they realign, they reattune. Every one of us has something of the prophet within, but also something of the community that resists the prophet. Reattunement, at once longed for and feared, is a process that can never be finished. We find our way by tracing out paths, going off course, adjusting.

A loving, thinking community that argues and critiques itself from within is a stronger and more adaptive community. When communities can no longer do this – even while change is going on all around them – then I question whether the problem really has so much to do with specific beliefs. Does repression, silencing, inciting to violence, and self-righteousness (on any side) show honor to God? Yet there is an undeniable appeal for all of this among many people. What is the nature of the energy that is being tapped here? Can that speak and be addressed in some other way?

The substantial problems that we see have less to do with religious beliefs, practices or traditions than they do with other factors. Simple manipulation of the masses hasn’t gone away, nor have the old social dynamics like the ones that produce the myth of the “good old days” or the idea that diseases start elsewhere. There are economic and political factors. There are power grabs and clashes. There is greed and there is poverty. There is actual suffering and frustration. There are miscommunications and hostilies. There is powerlessness. There is love.

The ethical “accounting” for beliefs that Žižek would direct at violent believers is perhaps something like step 3 in a process that would ethically hear and respond to the multiplicity of issues involved (even supposing that a fundamentalist of any stripe would submit to being judged by anyone who did not share very deeply felt, shaping beliefs – my own modest experience suggests its unlikelihood).

Critical analyses, but also serious public discussion and dialogue across the positions, are lacking. When people are reduced to violence (there are many kinds of violence), it is not about religion – or not only about religion, although religion may be used as a tool. From almost all sides, the participants in conflicts involving religion/culture/nation/ethnicity/race/class/gender/… (almost ad infinitum) appear to lack interest in developing a consensual process to arbitrate disagreement and clash. There are significant power imbalances. Substantial discussion does not take place. Common ground is not found – nor sought.

  • Shame on us all for lacking the wisdom, courage and will to use the tools we have.
  • Shame on us all for treating anyone as subhuman, of treating anyone as unworthy of speaking or of being heard.
  • Shame on us all for turning against one another in hatred, whether in God’s name or in the name of any other.

The twilight space for safe meeting seems to have been taken or destroyed – and it needs to be rebuilt. Realistically speaking, I don’t think that atheism is a viable ground for discussion. I wonder whether we will have to find a common enemy of humanity before we can understand our common interest in our own survival. Is that the plan, to bring us to the brink of global destruction? That’s a dangerous game.

We won’t find solutions, and can’t find solutions, until we can gain consensus and wisdom on the actual problems – and summon the collective determination to face them together.

My reaction to the State of the Union Address

My reaction to the State of the Union Address

I somehow made it all the way through the State of the Union address last night. Much as I disagree with the Bush administration, I even found him unusually appealing.

I actually had the thought, “Well, maybe most of this administration’s ugliness is Cheney. Maybe Bush means some of what he is saying here.” I thought he really tried to appeal to our hopefulness at a very sour time – that showed some good leadership. But that’s about it.

So many platitudes, so little straight talk.

He opened with the death of Coretta Scott King. At least he kept his remarks short and honored her as best he could, considering everything.

Isolationist? I haven’t heard anyone advocating that America should be isolationist or retreating from the world. I guess everyone can get behind that – attack a position no-one holds. Actually, it seems that this administration might benefit from more open debates on how to engage with the rest of the world in more effective ways. The costs of our invasion of Iraq – all the costs (ethical, diplomatic, financial, etc.) – have yet to be justified. I sincerely hope that his view of Iraq is not as simplistic as his few comments suggest. Probably just dumbing down.

Ditto for terrorists, but this is even more troubling. He seems to view the terrorists as a singular force, when it is really a mutating, changing and global set of loose alliances. He hasn’t got at what it will take to defeat them if he is concentrating on nations.

Interesting that he went back and forth from inaccurate representations of Democratic views to words about bipartisanship and working together. He suggests that they are soft on terrorism? Please. In my darker moments, I wonder how far this administration would go to bolster those claims.

The Rule of Law – I can’t believe he’s trying to wrap his illegal surveillance of Americans in 9/11 again. The claims he is making on the NSA spying scandal are pretty much to be expected – and really it’s probably all he can do right now. Of course, everything he said is problematic from a variety of perspectives, but that’s all playing out elsewhere. Personally, I believe this president violated federal law, but feels secure enough about it to brag. Bad sign.

“Human-animal hybrids”? What? Is there some room from O Lucky Man hiding in North Carolina? Is there an island of Dr. Moreau off New York? Maybe they mean Plum Island?

Well, good to see the value of life expressed. I think about the lives of those people who died in the aftermath of Katrina, the lives of the people of Fallujah or in Gitmo or Abu Ghraib or in our huge domestic prison system which still carries out barbaric if sterile executions, or the lives of people around the world who get HIV for lack of real educational programs beyond “just abstain” and die from it for lack of support for generic drugs. It’s easy to see the values of “life” in cutting anti-poverty programs, in cutting education, in cutting healthcare. Or maybe the value of all our lives is measured in terms of profits and cannon fodder. I felt sorry for that military family standing there. I felt sorry for that soldier’s wife and his parents. What did he die for? Invasion and occupation wasn’t the only option. I’ve now heard rumours of dropping nukes on Iran. Evidently civilian killings are planned to represent our support of their liberty too.

I liked the “switch grass” – it added spice, although I’m not sure where the marshlands could be retrieved for growing it. Can you see the slogan? “Grow Grass for Bush.” Actually, I think the clean reliable and safe energy he’s planning on is primarily nuclear energy. Has that really registered? Do we really want to give terrorists even more underdefended targets here?

I’m not sure I can really believe that an administration so closely tied to oil and gas (and who always supports industry over consumers) will be the ones who will move us out of a petroleum-based economy. He said that the US would replace 75% of our Middle East oil imports by 2025, but only 20% of our imports come from the region anyway, and he gives it about 20 years to happen. The White House has been against efforts to tighten fuel economy standards, and the tax system actually gives SUV drivers an incentive. He pledged support for alternative fuel technologies in previous State of the Union addresses, too, just like every other President I ever remember. Let’s see how it pans out.

Line item veto? Maybe it was a joke? He did grin. Anyway, that power was granted to Clinton but then overturned by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional.

On the economy, let’s remember that he inherited a $281 billion budget surplus that is now a $400 billion deficit. The national debt is up 44% (trillions and trillions of dollars, folks), but he wants to keep those tax cuts to the rich. The gap in America between the rich and the poor grows.

We’ve created “more jobs than Japan and Europe combined”… and they are all at Halliburton. Seriously, I don’t know if the claim about job creation is true or not, but it is my understanding that in both Japan and most of Europe, there is healthcare whether or not you are employed, a free college education, weeks and weeks of vacation, and generous pension plans. Part-time jobs at Walmart don’t really compare. Let’s also compare the worker populations. I wonder how many new workers entered the market in that time? No mention of how many jobs India or China have created in the same amount of time…. Anyway, there was a reason he didn’t cite the figures from the beginning of his presidency – it would have cut his total by more than half. 2 million jobs over a five-year period isn’t really much to brag about, especially when you look at the jobs.

Healthcare. Again, Bush would rather cut Medicare than allow, for example, negotiated drug prices. A closed-door session just gave away another $22 billion benefit to insurance companies, and some $140 million was spent by drug and insurance companies to lobby Republicans on the Medicare drug benefit alone. How about looking at some of the systemic issues?

Yes, we need to have a debate on healthcare, one that bases decisions on the common good of all Americans – is he really going to have that debate? I hope so. We need everyone’s ideas on this one. He didn’t really make any move toward fixing the current mess that privatizing the drug benefit (or is it “penalty”?) has caused. There seems to be no move (while he’s in the mood to cut needed programs all over, like Pell Grants and Medicare), to optimize or reform the healthcare system or to watchdog the health/drug/insurance industries. Any administrative assistant at any healthcare facility in the country can tell you where the fat is, where the corruption is. How about this as one small measure – insurance companies have to pay bills within 30 days, like the rest of us. Don’t wait around to hear such measures suggested by the Bush administration.

The Patriot Act? How about if we lose some of these provisions, such as the criminalization of protesters (carrying punishments of up to ten years in prison)? Or perhaps the Congress should consider cutting back on the wholesale authority to wiretap your phone, monitor your e-mail and demand your medical, financial and student records from banks, vendors, doctors‚ offices, and libraries – those required to turn over your records are prevented from ever telling you, even if the records turn up no wrongdoing.

The Bush administration has worked hard – to subvert America’s laws regarding open government while it infringes on your constitutional rights. This administration has done everything in its power to block and stall and hide from investigations into 9/11, the way we entered into the Iraq war, the Katrina aftermath, and the outing of Plame. It is a very very secretive administration. It has promoted cronyism at such levels as to have become actual security threats to our nation, and blocked meaningful debate by simply shutting down the conversation.

Just the little detail that adds insult: Cindy Sheehan was arrested and taken away in handcuffs for the crime of wearing a teeshirt that said “2245 How Many More?”. She was an invited guest. She wasn’t the only one in trouble either. Beverly Young (wife of Rep. C.W. Bill Young of Florida, chairman of the House Defense Appropriations subcommittee) was removed from the gallery for another teeshirt considered to be a “protest.” It read, “Support the Troops — Defending Our Freedom.”

So while I feel the President has, with practice, improved on his speech delivery skills, we’re still just being had.

Of course, I wasn’t that impressed with the Democrat’s response either, which had a few good points but was dumbed-down wayyyy too much.

I did like the brief comments I saw from Barack Obama. Maybe he should run in 2008. I’d vote for him over anyone else at this point.

So here’s his statement, which makes me a lot more hopeful than any words from this President’s speech:

Tonight, the American people know our union should be stronger. They know we can defeat terror and keep our shores safe. And they know that we can be competitive in a 21st century economy where every hardworking family prospers, not just some.

But the American people are wondering if this Administration can lead us there. Because after five years of the same timid solutions to great national challenges, Americans are more anxious about their future and more uncertain about the direction of the country we love.

They’ve seen their wages go down as their medical, gas, and tuition bills go up. They’ve seen jobs go overseas and wonder if our children will be prepared to compete in a global economy. And they’ve seen scandal and corruption take hold of a Washington that helps high-priced lobbyists at the expense of hardworking families.

Americans everywhere want a leader who speaks to their hopes for a better future and then acts on them.

But tonight, the President barely mentioned his health care plan for people who can already afford health care, ignoring bold, bipartisan proposals that can guarantee affordable and available health care for every American.

He identified America’s addiction to oil, but ignored his Administration’s addiction to oil-industry giveaways that won’t free us from our dependence on fossil fuels.

And after forty-six minutes of speaking, the President used less than sixty words to tell us how he’d clean up Washington and restore the American people’s faith in a government that works for them, not just big donors.

We can have this kind of government in America, face the future with hope, and move our country in the direction of progress. But we need strong leadership to get there – leadership that isn’t afraid to think big, try new ideas, and reach out to Americans of all political stripes. This is how we will restore the American people’s faith in our union and truly make it stronger.

Notes on “Feminazi”

Notes on “Feminazi”

Rush Limbaugh defends his use of the term “feminazi” as “right” and “accurate” in response to a June 22 Washington Post article on Sen. Richard J. Durbin’s (D-IL) controversial floor statement that referenced Nazis. The Post article mentioned Limbaugh’s use of the term “feminazi” as well as other examples of recent political debates in which Nazism has been invoked. From the June 22 broadcast of The Rush Limbaugh Show:

In The Washington Post we get a little story: “Tips for the Democrats, Hint: Next time don’t compare anybody to Hitler.” And by the way, the only reason they’re doing it is because Rush Limbaugh invented the term “feminazi.” That’s the sum total of the Washington Post story — Durbin did it because I popularized it first with “feminazi.” I haven’t used that term on this program in years. But it still gets to ’em, doesn’t it? And you know why? [chuckles] Because it’s right. Because it’s accurate. [laughs] And I’m not going to apologize, but I will apologize if it hurts your feelings. But you know what? I think if you’re offended, it’s your problem. It’s not mine.

Interesting that he claims he hasn’t used that term in years – I have heard him use it on several occasions while trolling across the dial. Media Matters notes that Limbaugh referred to the National Center for Women & Policing and the Feminist Majority Foundation as “feminazis” on his May 27, 2004, broadcast, for example. And here’s another where is is reminscining about an event at New York’s 92nd Street Y also attended by CNN senior analyst Jeff Greenfield:

It was a frosty evening that night. It had to be, what, back in 1992 or ’93? And I’ll tell you what got me in trouble. Greenfield said, “You really used the word ‘feminazi’? Do you not think that’s an upsetting word to Jews?”

I said, “Well, I don’t think it should be. I mean, if you look at what abortion is, it’s almost comparable to what happened in World War II.” Pfft! Man, you could have felt the ice…”

What is a feminazi? Wikipedia defines: A feminazi is a neologism and invective term of the words feminist and Nazi, used predominantly in United States conservative political rhetoric, to characterize women whose ideas they disagree with as misandrous. That is as having a hatred of men. The term was popularized by prominent broadcaster Rush Limbaugh, who credited his friend Tom Hazlett, a professor of economics at the University of California, Davis, with coining the term. In the extreme formulation, feminazis are seen by conservative commentators as women who persecute men. The term “Feminazi” is not self-applied by any feminist movement or group. The term is often used as a derogatory term for feminist.

Trivia: A similar term Femnazi was coined earlier as the name of the male hating female inhabitants of the fictional planet, Femnaz, in a Legion of Super-heroes story from a 1964 issue of Adventure Comics written by Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel.

What is missing from this definition – fine as far as it goes – is that the hard pseudoreligious right attaches the “Nazi” part of the word to condense a framing of abortion as genocide. Feminazis are defined as pro-abortion, although the term seems to be applied to all feminists, regardless of the topic, as well. That’s already a significant spin of rhetoric. It implies moral bankruptcy and invokes the familiar thought-constellation of “baby-killers, destroyers of life, murderers.”

I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone who was truly pro-abortion. I don’t know anyone who would not prefer that abortions were completely unnecessary in all circumstances. Abortion rates (legal or otherwise – you don’t really think there are no abortions when they are illegal, do you?) go down when there is family-planning, birth control, sex education, and honest discussion – when there is less rape and incest and poverty, and so on. The religious right doesn’t seem much concerned about these issues, in contradiction to their claims of moral superiority. How many of the poor are consigned to death or misery under the grand plan of their pro-rich policies? Who wants to cut social programs? No – it’s not about life. It’s about controlling women. They’ve even got some women on board with this. Sheesh. What a classic projection to accuse women of hating men in order to support attitudes that are intended to control women, their bodies, their sexuality, and their choices.

The “knocked-up” women of the rich have always had the option of abortion at the convenience of their men, but I am more concerned about people whose lives can be destroyed rather than Vanessa missing a semester at Yale or disappointing her soon-to-be hubby Biff or whatever. I’d not like to see a return to the days of backalleys and wire hangers. If this were really about “life,” the children born would be welcomed, healthcare would be provided, and so on – not to mention that such folk would have to be opposed to the death penalty. Some of these folks want to bring back stoning (don’t believe me? do a little research of your own). It’s interesting that there are few vegetarians among the hard right – a cow is much more sentient than an 8-week old fetus that doesn’t even have any brainwaves (i.e no consciousness of any kind).

I am also very concerned that fewer doctors are receiving the training to do the basic procedure, which has other uses (as most women know).

Abortion is a complex and ethically-fraught topic. To rhetorically conflate those pro-choicers who are perhaps more familiar with the raw edges of human experience – and who wish to allow women the space for more control over their own bodies and futures without the intervention of patriarchal government structures – with “Nazis” is dishonest, more so than Durbin’s remark. Such women for personal choices in these areas are nothing like Nazis – the ultimate “anti-choice” and “anti-freedom” power structure of the last century. Let’s not forget the men who are for choice either – how many men are forced into shotgun weddings anymore?

Hard-liner anti-choicers consider my ruptured ectopic pregnancy (that nearly killed me and for which there was no hope whatsoever of the survival of the fetus) as an abortion – tell me, what was the alternative?

Roe v Wade was the compromise on a very controversial topic. If you don’t want an abortion, don’t have one. If your sister is raped by your dad, you work it out as best you can using your own decision-making process, with your own network of advisors, and within your own relation to the sacred. And if your child is slated to live three years in horrible pain before dying – and you decide that such a life is better than no life, it is your decision. If your child is born into abject poverty, and that’s ok with you, go for it. If you’ve not raised your children with an understanding about sexuality and their responsibilities because you fear that talking about sex makes it happen, if your boy doesn’t carry a condom because he is in denial that anything will happen, if your daughter enters a fugue state in which she denies she is even pregnant….and you will support and welcome such children to such unprepared parents – that is also your choice. But all the feel-good religious talk in the world isn’t going to matter so much when you and friends and family members are actually confronted with some of the very difficult possibilities surrounding sexuality and reproduction. Talk to your parents and grandparents, look around you. In such cases, there is often no right answer, and the question is who makes the decision? I think that people should be able to make decisions about ethics and religion themselves, especially when it has to do with their own body – and yes, the women has the primary decision-making authority (unless the man wants to carry the pregnancy to term). Besides, in this day and age, education is not only about pregnancy – it’s also about disease. To be uninformed and uneducated and in denial is not only stupid, it’s dangerous.

As a former evangelist and a religion scholar, I know that there is not much in the way of biblical support for being against sex education or birth control. The example of Onan – used against both birth control and masturbation – was an example of someone disobeying God’s weird command (in the circumstances) to have sex and produce a child with his dead brother’s wife. Really read that narrative and then try to justify the arguments! He “spilt his seed upon the ground” (Genesis 38:7-9), but it was the reason and motivation for doing so that was – in the context – wrong. The sin was disobedience – refusing to give his brother’s wife an heir. How many people would accept the surrounding circumstance – that you should marry and have sex with your dead brother’s wife?

In any case, pro-choice views do not imply hating men at all – but only resisting those structures and those men who view women as property, with bodies to be controlled by them. I don’t hate men. I’m a married mom – and my husband values my feminism, and shares my views as part of human rights. There are men-haters, of course (although I suspect not nearly as many as women-haters) but the two groups of “men-haters” and “feminists” are not identical.

Still, “feminazi” is a clever twist of rhetoric. It’s catchy. And it certainly has been effective. Fewer and fewer women self-identify as feminists anymore. Many don’t even realize that there are dozen of kinds of feminisms. All that subtlety and complexity and public discussion – gone. I think that some of the feminists moved on too quickly from real social issues into language politics – and got sidelined at a crucial moment. The messages have not reached popular understanding. I still run into folk who believe it’s all about not shaving or about burning bras!

We are becoming barbaric again – and it isn’t even in the service of any recognizable religious values. The judeo-christian values – caring for the poor, compassion, forgiveness, grace, communion, and so on – are not in evidence – only the ancient controls over the people, and these taken out of context.

All of this for Mammon – money, power, corruption – and supported by the most spectacular examples of repulsive false prophets I could have imagined.