The Sly Accusation of Islamophobia

COE SquareI think we’re all making a big mistake in defining “Islamophobia” as “hates Muslims.”

OF COURSE it’s wrong to hate people. But it’s not wrong to have serious reservations about a religion, a philosophy or a culture. It’s not wrong to judge IDEAS, and to find them wanting.

Because there really are inferior cultures and beliefs, cultures that deserve to be hated and stamped out. I grew up in one of them — a racist Southern culture which insisted that skin color should be the decider for acceptability, and which wasn’t above using extreme violence and terroristic threats to make the point.

Islam, in my view, is an inferior culture. For the way it treats its women. For the way it creates a one-way door — you can step into Islam, but you can’t leave it. For the way it brainwashes its people, stifling creativity and innovation. For the way it reacts violently to harmless humor.

Muslims themselves are victims of that culture. Most of them are trapped permanently within it — lacking the freedom to marry whom they want, to wear what they want, to observe or not observe their traditions. Lacking the freedom to LEAVE.
Having reservations about Islam — even hating it — is not the same thing as stomping down on some group of poor, downtrodden people who only want to live and love like everybody else.

And yet we’re being taught, every darned day, that it is. On some level, I’m pretty sure this is deliberate. To the extent that we unquestioningly accept this, I think we’re losing an important argument — allowing our natural compassion to be used against us. In an avid desire not to be seen as haters, we back away from inspecting Islam with open eyes, fairly judging it, and we end up welcoming it in, allowing it to invade our own culture with its lesser ideas and philosophies.

As for myself, I’m actually in favor of accepting — of WELCOMING — the Syrian refugees. Aside from anything else, the United States helped destabilize the Middle East.

But I’m not going to blindly assume that everything they’re bringing over with them is good. If they’re coming here, I expect them to have first allegiance to America, and not to Islam, or to Syria. I expect them to fit in with US, rather than insisting that we have to adapt to THEIR beliefs and traditions, or that they can permanently maintain a separate culture. And yes, I expect them and their children to learn English.

For the rest of us, you wouldn’t buy a horse or a car without the chance to look at it, to judge for yourself whether it was something you wanted to welcome into your life. And you definitely would judge it. Treat Islam — which is not a group of downtrodden, helpless victims but an IDEA, a philosophy, a religion and culture fully equipped to defend itself — with the same clear-eyed honesty.

Finally, it’s not enough to say, as some are, that the extremists in Islam are no different than Christianity’s KKK. When’s the last time the KKK openly rioted and burned and shot people? If the KKK burns down a black church here in the U.S., we have no doubt that the people who do it are criminals and racists who deserve to be caught, prosecuted, and treated harshly. Not one honest Christian would celebrate the burning of a black church. Our extremists are on their own – with no support from moderates.

On the other hand, the Islamic murder of staffers at Charlie Hebdo, the French humor magazine, came in the midst of violent demonstrations all over the Muslim world. People were assaulted and killed, churches and schools were looted and burned, death threats were made. All out in the open – as if the people involved had every right to be doing it – with no white hoods or secrecy in sight. And eventually, a couple of guys walked into the Charlie Hebdo offices and shot 11 people dead. Because of cartoons.

Never let anyone make that comparison. The KKK and Islamic extremists are in no way equivalent. Even if they were, we stopped tolerating the KKK more than 50 years ago. They wear those hoods because even their own neighbors would reject them if they showed their faces.

We should no more tolerate the threats of Islamic extremists than we do violence – or the threat of it – by anybody.

And we should JUDGE Islam for its content, for the acts carried out in its name, and for the effect it has both on the people caught within it and those forced to live with it in the larger world.

Reason Riders Barbecue

Reason Riders 2Press Release from Reason Riders Chapter President Brian “Bishop” Christian:


The Reason Riders Atheist Motorcycle Group Chapter 1 in Buckeye, Arizona is holding their first Rally on Sunday, November 15. It’s a BBQ Meet and Greet to introduce the sitting Officers to prospective new members and to honor the group’s special guest The Green Knights MMC Chapter 28 out of Luke AFB.

The Reason Riders will be providing free BBQ hamburgers and hotdogs cooked by “Pit-Master Don” to all in attendance and will be holding a low speed rodeo for riders.

Reason Riders Chapter 1 has been gathering new members and solidifying their place in the motorcycling community in Arizona this past year, and has been gaining real momentum in the Atheist community.  They have joined hundreds of riders in their mission to raise funds for Phoenix Children’s Hospital through the “I Ride 4 PCH” campaign! They also met with many Motorcycle Clubs at Bob’s Biker Blast in Scottsdale AZ. Chapter President “Bishop” made great connections with other groups and clubs and has pledged the Reason Riders’ help in many upcoming holiday events. The upcoming “Birds on Bikes” hosted by the Modified Motorcycle Association (which the Reason Riders are now members) that benefits the less fortunate by supplying a local charity with turkeys and sides for full Thanksgiving meals will be the start-off point for the Holiday season.

Also coming up is the “Frozen Hands and Asses Ride” just following the New Year.

All events will be reflected on the Reason Riders Website at

Anyone wishing to contact the Arizona Chapter please use


Bishop tells me they have more than 40 RSVPs at this time. Reason Riders is gaining momentum. If you’re up for it, now’s the time to get aboard.


Mona Lisa tearsThere’s a storm of media coverage happening, lots of talking heads talking. I’m waiting for information to accumulate, hoping to get some sense of the big picture.

I do see the assholes are already blaming Obama for … whatever. I’m sure there’ll be plenty more of that tomorrow.

But my initial reaction is … Damn. Just damn.

Starbucks, Part Deux: Chasing the Red Dot

Watch the video.

The cats are you and I. The guy holding the laser is the media. The red dot is the Starbucks coffee cup story.

I’m going to call them Red Dot Stories from now on.

They don’t mean anything. They’re not significant in any way. And yet we still leap excitedly to follow and talk about them. Just like cats, we allow ourselves to be jerked around by that irresistible fascination with the red dot.

Beta Culture: Beyond Veterans Day

Salt Day copyI confess to mixed feelings about November 11.

I have a number of fairly conservative friends, and you can count on Veterans Day to kick off a massed booming v0lley of flag-wavery — heartfelt prayers, cheers, and best wishes for the men and women in uniform, those gallant, selfless warriors willing to give their lives for our freedom.

I can never join in with such fervent abandon. I mean, I GET Veterans Day. But still, considering some of the things the U.S. military has done … mixed feelings.

I also have this thing about calling anyone wearing a uniform as a “hero.” My definition of hero is apparently somewhat different from the average American. Here’s a hero:

11-year-old boy pushed sister out of way before being struck, killed by car

La’Darious Wylie was waiting at the school bus stop with his little sister, Sha’Vonta, on Oct. 27 when a car came careening toward them.

That’s when La’Darious pushed his sister out of the way.

She was fine. He died. Here’s this ordinary kid doing something extraordinary. Saving the life of his little sister. Losing his own life in pursuit of it. THAT’s a hero. Not just somebody who wears a uniform. Just my opinion, but …

Cops are not heroes until …
Firemen are not heroes until …
Soldiers are not heroes until …


I honor the willingness of these people to put themselves in a position of danger. They’re still not automatically heroes.

For many years, I’ve made an effort to interject this point into the flag-waving on Nov. 11: There are plenty of OTHER people responsible for American freedoms and way of life — farmers, mathematicians, suffragettes, civil rights activists, philosophers, writers. Hell, doctors. Plumbers and electricians. Sanitation workers.

[I’ve suggested more than once that a Conscience Memorial would be a perfect addition to the National Mall in Washington DC.  As I’ve said elsewhere, there are scores of huge monuments to war and death in Washington, but not one single memorial to conscience or whistle-blowing or principled resistance. We have difficulty even recognizing that conscience and resistance is heroic, or that it can be braver in some ways than following along with the killing and dying.]

I guess when you get right down to it, I consider Veterans Day justified, but … incomplete. I have no problem with Veterans having their special day, or the rest of us celebrating it. (I do sort of wonder why there also has to be Memorial Day, which is essentially the same holiday.) The problem I have is all those others who deserve a day of recognition but don’t get it.

We have Mothers Day, and that’s fine. We have Fathers Day, and that’s fine (despite the legions of twits who leap in and tearfully demand equal time for single mothers, as if honoring fathers for one day out of the year is somehow an attack on poor neglected single mothers).

I’ve had in mind for all the time I’ve been thinking about Beta Culture that there would be special holidays or occasions indigenous to Beta. Of course the final roll of holidays would be crowd-sourced, but I’ve thought of several I’d toss into the hat.

For instance, Memory Day (NOT Memorial Day) could be one of them — a day to remember and honor departed friends, relatives, loved ones, and beloved pets. We’d get together and share stories, show pictures, or just smile and quietly enjoy refreshing our own warm memories.

But another cultural holiday, something of a counterpoint to Veterans Day (and held in a completely different part of the year — how about a half year later, on May 11?), is a day to honor some of those OTHERS who sacrificed and gave and lived and died to lay the foundations of the modern world. I call it SALT Day.





‘S’ honors all those who did and do science, not just the cutting-edge research, but everything short of it. Every tiny bit of modern civilization, we owe, on some level, to scientists.

‘A’ takes in visual artists, musicians, movie-makers, sculptors, dancers, novelists — every person in any field of art. They make life worth living and celebrating.

‘L’ is for librarians. I consider books one of the best things ever invented, libraries one of the cheapest and best things civilization has to offer, and those sterling beings who collect and catalog and treasure all those books in all those libraries to be the true shepherds of civilization.

‘T’ is for teachers, and I doubt I could ever say enough good stuff about them. Teaching is one of the noblest professions on Earth, and every one of us save the utterly ignorant owes a massive debt of gratitude to teachers … which never arrives. So why not include them in a cultural holiday?

Of course there are other people who deserve honors. But these, to me, are some of the most profound and worthy.

SALT Day would be a day to honor, to give gifts, to send cards, to call, to visit, to REMEMBER some of the non-military movers and shakers (pun intended) of civilization.



Starbucks Cups: Yeah, Get Angry … Suckah!

starbucksAnd so the annual “War on Christmas” begins — the viral claptrap that comes out every year like Christmas lights, earlier and earlier. Here’s this year’s volley.

A number of articles from mainstream news sites — New York Times, Washington Post, Time Magazine, New York Daily News — say “some Christians” or “Christian evangelists” take exception to Starbucks’ new plain red cups … but they never actually name the “some Christians” they’re talking about. Is it the Catholic Church in all its might? No. The Southern Baptist Convention? No. It isn’t even Pat Robertson.

Apparently it’s this one guy, Joshua Feuerstein, a “public figure” who does stuff like this to promote his own video rants on Facebook and elsewhere. Obviously Starbucks is getting massive amounts of free publicity, which makes me wonder if Feuerstein is getting paid to play out this song and dance on screen. But mainly, Feuerstein is an instant media celebrity on CNN (CNN MYSTERIOUSLY CUTS AUDIO WHEN FEUERSTEIN SAYS >>THIS<< ABOUT OBAMA!!!) etc., and will probably go on to write books and scam his way into lots and lots of money through the empty fame machine. He’s now famous for … well, for being a loud and insistent ass, with no real point other than artificial — MANUFACTURED — outrage.

We’re all talking about those Starbucks red cups, though. I’m sssooooooo proud of us for, you know, CARING so much about the color of Starbucks cups. We may not have a point, but man, we’re ANGRY. We’re INTERESTED. We have OPINIONS. Bully for us, right?

I don’t care about the color of the cups. I don’t care much about Feuerstein. I do care that so many of us are getting sucked into this as if it’s some critical issue that MUST consume our attention.

I care that there’s a mechanism for putting us in this situation of being interested in nothing.

It’s a little bit like a magic act, where the magician does some vigorous waving with his left hand to distract our attention while he does the magicky stuff with his right. Only in this case, there’s no magicky stuff — it’s just that  distracting left hand up there waving.

But hey, Earth People, do your thing.

I’ll just stand over here feeling very alien.


UPDATE: Oh, good, Donald Trump weighs in. Starbucks has gone presidential!

Beta Culture: The Poison of Stories

Bracket copyI’m having this idea. Haven’t worked it out completely, but … here’s the main part.

First, let’s go back to earlier in the year and look at this post: Beta Culture: Seeing the Brackets. (Its illo is just to the right here.)

This is a sister post to that one, and to me clarifies and expands what I was really getting at back then. So:

A great deal of what we humans do in day-to-day living is creating stories to live by.

Some of them might be stories of personal identity – Faithful Believer, Obedient Daughter, Dangerous Rogue, the Funny Kid, Tough Guy, Wild Girl, Smarter Than You, Scary Biker Dude, Poor Little Mistreated Thing, Compassionate Liberal, Staunch Conservative, or so many other roles to define oneself.

Some of them are ways of viewing the world or the people around us – You’re Wrong About Everything, Barack Obama Wants to Take Our Guns, Everything Will Be Okay Because I Have Jesus, The Bilderbergers Run The World, GMOs are Totally Safe and Anybody Who Doesn’t Think So is a Hateful Luddite, All Men Are Just Waiting For Their Chance to Rape and Abuse Women.

It’s this second one, the bit about ways of viewing the world, I kinda want to talk about.

As a writer myself, I know how to write a story and make it interesting. You’ve got these conceptual elements, or this idea, and you turn it into a story. You emphasize certain parts, leave other parts out. You create a narrative, and carve out everything that doesn’t fit. You embellish it, you add tweaks, to make it interesting. Not true, but interesting. More than informing your chosen audience, your goal is to attract and hold their attention. (Ha. Suddenly FOX News comes to mind.)

You fictionalize deliberately in order to capture interest.

In entertainment-type storifying, you do it for that simple reason: to entertain. But other types of storifying have much less innocent aims.

Storifying is yet another of the things that bothers me about religion. Religion is harmful not just because it’s factually false, it’s harmful because it causes you to accept its STORY. Worse, it conditions you to accept not just its own story, but stories themselves.

And here’s the thing: If I tell you certain things and say they are facts, you may or may not accept that those things are facts. You can reject or critique those items. You might be moved to do your own research to find out if they really are facts.

But if I tell you a STORY and get you to accept it, you will thereafter reject or accept additional information ALL BY YOURSELF — depending on whether or not it fits the story. In other words, you yourself become a defender and supporter of that story and all that goes with it.

You can be presented with information which is verifiably factual, and yet reject it because it doesn’t fit the story. You can discover other information which is easily proven false, and yet accept it because it does fit the story. Once you buy into the story, nobody has to argue to convince you of additional parts of the story – you yourself will include and exclude the facts that fit or don’t fit.

You will reject things, ignore things, that fly in the face of the story. You will step totally outside real reality, which is lumpy and uncertain and chock full of facts that don’t fit, and you will cleave to the story.

Jesus wasn’t born in the middle of winter? Doesn’t matter. No way Noah could have gotten two of every species on the ark? Ain’t important. Geology proves the Earth is billions of years old? Says who?

The Bible is not just dangerous because of false facts, it’s dangerous because it turns the entire universe into this story. And such stories are seductive not just because they’re entertaining and, perhaps, internally consistent (which reality may not always appear to be), but because they’re easy to swallow and understand. And once you accept a story, you can feel like you’re there, you understand, you KNOW.

Because I write, because I’m familiar with the storifying process, I’m probably more aware of stories than the general public. But only recently have I started to understand the hazard. This is DANGEROUS, kids, because it turns you into a permanent ally of people who have a vested interest in lying to you, in manipulating you. Once you get caught by their story, you’re an unwitting team member, pretty much forever.

Because anybody can tell you a story. They may not even know they’re making up a story. And you certainly may not realize you’ve accepted it. But if you buy into it, you’re trapped. You have to accept everything presented to you that fits the story, and you have to reject everything presented to you that does not fit the story.

Is Barack Obama a secret Muslim? Oh yeah. Which means he wants to destroy America. Which means EVERYTHING he does must be inspected for its hateful real purpose.

Is Hillary Clinton a manipulative, murderous bitch? Well, of course. That decency and compassion stuff is all just an act, and the part where she looks presidential, it’s a viciously deceitful pose. Every smile and laugh, every expression of calm confidence, is a poisonous trick.

Is there a “liberal media” that’s out to get all the GOP candidates? Absolutely. Which means every question is a sly attack, meant to destroy this panel of good, honest, Christian men who would all make perfect presidents. Have they made Sarah Palin look like an utter fool? That must mean she’s an intelligent, poised statesman, a rich well of wisdom from which every American could benefit.

Is Al Gore a tool of the secret cabal that wants to enslave and disenfranchise us all? Well, sure he is. Therefore global warming has to be an utter hoax.

But also: Are all men vicious rapists, just waiting the chance to brutalize women? Yes, this is known. Therefore, any man who argues with a feminist about any issue whatsoever does it because he’s a mansplaining hater of women who supports Rape Culture and the Patriarchy.

And also: Are all cops malignant racists, and every shooting of a black man is deliberate murder? Totally. Therefore, all black men shot by cops are harmless victims who cannot possibly have done anything wrong. (And don’t you fucking dare accuse me of not knowing about real racism.)

And again also: Are all homeless people simple honest victims of a bad economy? Yep. Therefore ANY attempt by a city to keep homeless people from congregating in city parks, or sleeping in apartment entryways is a hateful attack on the innocent.

Speaking of my own experience, I’ve had countless run-ins with people who are so caught up in the story of GMOs that they’re willing to say that nobody should be allowed to even know if a food contains genetically modified ingredients, that consumers MUST NOT be given the choice, because otherwise children elsewhere in the world will starve and go blind. And these are people who consider themselves staunch advocates of science and reason. Yes, I know there’s more to the subject. But this STORY keeps them from being able to admit there are rational views on the subject that might simultaneously be critical of GMOs, or pro-labeling, and yet not be coming from hateful screaming-insane luddites.

Every movement that storifies is guilty of trafficking in the same sort of dangerous socio-cultural acts as religion. Hell, we probably learned it from religion.

I know there’s a great deal more that could be said here. I sense that there’s a major field of study that someone smarter than me has already discovered and examined at length. But the idea that stories can be dangerous is new to me. And because of that, damned scary.

Because the real world is not a story. It isn’t even a collection of stories. It’s facts. Real-world phenomena. Data. All mixed up in a confusing, ultra-complex mess that can be bewilderingly deep, scarily unpredictable.

Surfing reality’s swirling patterns is a job for a rational being, not a consumer of stories. For every story you buy into, you become that much less capable of understanding the world around you, that much less able to be a free and independent thinker.

For every story you reject, you become that much more able to see the array of facts hidden behind them, that much more able to reach trustworthy, accurate conclusions about how things really work.

I would want this to be one of the most basic teachings of Beta Culture – that stories exist, that they’re dangerous, and that you have to constantly work to recognize and steer clear of them in order to be a rational being.