Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Raise Your Voices!

A woman in Iran had the audacity to try and defend herself while a monster was attempting to brutally rape her. In the process of her struggle she stabbed this beast, and he died (the world mourns the passing of a violent, misogynistic reprobate who has demonstrated that the only way he can receive pleasure is at the suffering and degradation of another … such is the tragedies that we must endure to see the advancement of our species … In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen … ah … the death of a rapist … okay, I’m over it).

As a result of the tireless work of former Miss Canada, who shares the first name of the victim, this victim has been spared further victimization at the hands of Shari’a law. At the interpretation of the law, Nazanin Fatehi was condemned to death … her crime? Murder. Nazanin Afshin-Jam, the former Miss Canada, became aware of this poor woman’s plight and took up her struggle – a seemingly hopeless cause – and she managed to change the hearts of the Iranian judiciary.

This is just to prove that the struggle for human rights must never be stopped. One person DOES make a difference and when we are at that point in time when we think that we aren’t doing anything useful all we need to do is remember that signing petitions and forwarding articles to people is an important part of the process.

Nazanin Afshin-Jam collected over 300,000 signatures on her petition, and found out about this case because someone she knew heard about a woman named Nazanin and forwarded the article to her … imagine if that hadn’t happened … the execution would have taken place.

Read the CTV article here.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

An End to Taxes ...

It has been said that the only thing that we can be certain of is death and taxes. While this may have been said in jest, the idea, proposed by Benjamin Franklin, has come to mean far more in these days where money has become the single most important force in the world (next to oil, which is purchased with … money). Money, or the lack thereof, has become the defining watermark for whether or not you are on the inside looking out or on the outside looking in. We now have an economically driven caste system where the distinctions are quite easily made: there are those with money and those without.

There are, of course, greater divisions amongst those with money, but the “have-nots” are essentially the new “untouchables” of the old, out of date and banned (though still used) Indian caste system. Living lives as one of the new “untouchables” is simply defined in terms of people living in, or even working in, a world in which they may look at those things that the modern world has to offer, the advances and technological creations abounding that can enhance our lives (dependence on electronica notwithstanding), seen completely from the outside, unable to access any of these magical things reserved for those with the money needed to pay the small ransom required to liberate the items from their stores and then have them activated.

There is, however, one way in which the great disparity between the wealthy and the poor can be breached: a way in which the wealth of the world may be used for the good of the people that truly need it rather than merely servicing an elite few who have become obscenely rich as a result of the sacrifices made by the poorest of the world. The plan is so simple and yet, at the same time, quite difficult: it is simple because it is merely asking for what is rightfully due (even according to the teachings of Christianity), and difficult for the simple reason that the love of money is the root of all evil (not money, mind you, the LOVE of money).

The plan, then, is to end the charitable status of all religions and require them to pay taxes for all monies received through donations as well as taxes for any and all property holdings. Let me make that as concise as possible: I am calling for the taxation of religion. All churches and religions, any ecclesiastical organizations, including the “Church” of $cientology, and all lands owned by religious organizations, will be subject to taxation like everyone else (as it is written, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s” cf. Matt. 22:17); and – most especially – all donations made to any religious organization will not be tax deductible. After all, why should the government be subsidizing the giving of monies to religions? It should be a matter between the individual and their conscience if they want to donate (it is also an issue of scripture, which will be addressed later), not because you get a tax receipt at the end of the year.

Please don’t take this the wrong way; this isn’t meant to come out as an attack on religion. On the contrary, the role of religious organizations, with the exception of the “Church” of $cientology, of course, is not to act as autonomous nation states, accumulating massive amounts of wealth that cannot even be articulated due to its massive scope. The fact that many churches provide something akin to extended social programs that are often not provided by, or complimentary to, the government programs indicates a certain truth about organized religion: it is designed to serve people, not itself. However, can you even begin to imagine how many more services could be provided if the immense wealth of the churches that have hitherto been untapped by the taxman were suddenly made available … an influx of wealth from the coffers that have been sealed for centuries, if not longer.

As a tiny example, let me offer the city of Ottawa. The Holy Roman Church owns the land upon which the University of Ottawa has been standing since its foundation, over 100 years ago. Now, when U of O (which also happens to be my alma mater) began it was a Catholic university (St. Josephs Seminary for Men), but that was a long time ago. It is now an international bilingual university with a medical and law school and graduate programs in several areas, including the music program of which I was a student. However, with all the buildings that the university has, including several new ones built in the last five years, the university still rents the land upon which their buildings sit, paying rent to the Holy Roman Church.

Currently there are even more new buildings under construction, but the land will always belong to the church, and they will never pay a penny of property taxes on land that is in the heart of the city, the most congested area of the national capital, an area where property values are astronomical and the taxes from the property would feed many of the homeless that the church purports to care so much about.

Would that care not be better demonstrated by contributing to the costs of caring for the citizens of this city rather than living as they do, completely separate from the real world, untouched by the realities of economic truths? Considering that the City of Ottawa is currently negotiating its budget for this New Year this issue seems even more important. The comment from one of the City Councillors was that they “would not support a budget that included the cutting of social programs.”

How many social programs would have to be cut if the taxes from religious organizations were able to contribute to the money available to the local budget? I dare say there would be quite a bit more for the city to spend than there is at the present time, but that is another issue to explore … in the mean time ….

The main reason that the idea of taxing religion is a necessary act is quite simple: it is a moral imperative. For centuries now, nay, for over a millennium, religions have been the direct cause of the deaths of millions of innocent lives and the sufferings of countless humans who have had the intestinal fortitude to stand against the dogmatic teachings being thrust down their throats by someone claiming to be an ordained “representative” of the Lord God Almighty; every one of them purporting to carry the message of truth that had to be accepted without question lest they face death.

Of course, the idea of facing a temporal death and facing eternal damnation for not having accepted the “gift” of salvation was something that was likely difficult to understand when the “representative” of God was speaking in tongues that were not understood by the savages he was trying to save. Thus, it was far easier to cast these poor savages into the judgment of blasphemy when they continued to worship their idols, rejecting those offered by the Jesuits and other missionaries who brought the savages images of Jesus and Mary to serve as idols in lieu of the more popular mages.

Using only well known examples such as the crusades, the importation of slaves (and the obvious working of said slaves to their deaths in conditions that were so inhumane they are beyond description within the scope of this brief exposition), and the efforts of other monotheistic religions to “spread their messages” with violent means, it becomes obvious that the necessity for reparations is beyond question, and for many it is far too late.

For the indigenous peoples of countless nations reparations are too little, too late. These people were exterminated, more efficiently than when Hitler tried to rid the world of the Jews and other untermenschen through the power of the Third Reich. They disappeared from the face of the earth not necessarily as a result of their opposition to accepting the beliefs of the “white man” when they had come to the “new world”, but because they could not always understand the message that was being offered to them. Genocide cannot be reversed, though there are some survivors of the white man’s attempt to rid Turtle Island of the Red man, the damage done in the name of God is something that money alone could never repay, and yet that is all that we are able to use as a means of punishment, as a means of allowing the religions that have caused so much suffering to begin easing the pain of others.

Atrocities committed in the name of God shall never be fully atoned for, there have been far too many, and they continue even today. That the President of the United States of Avarice would have the temerity to call upon God to bless the actions that he has undertaken against a sovereign nation should be enough to make any true believer feel nauseous.

So long as there are humans alive on this planet and any one of them uses religion as an excuse or a justification to abuse or violate the rights of another individual, then religion must be treated as nothing more than any other organization that exists to earn money and pay their due in taxes.

In a temporal world it is the things that are valued that, when taken away, offer the illusion of punishment; thus, the payment of taxes. While the world experiences the ravages perpetrated and supported by the fanatic elements of several religious movements (including extreme “fundamental” elements claiming to be Christians) these organizations receive the economic favours of the world by being allowed (in most countries) to exist in a state where the money flows in, but they never pay a penny in taxes.

Why should society be rewarding such behaviour with the benefits that true charitable organizations deserve? Can you imagine the reaction that Jesus would have today, having taught the parable of the old woman and her two pennies if he could see the opulence in which the Pope and his cronies live in the Vatican, one of the richest enclaves in the world (to read the complete article click here)? Considering the comments about rich men, eyes of a needle and camels going to heaven, I have a feeling that he wouldn’t be pleased (hey, I didn’t write it … “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven” cf. Matt. 19:24, but also v. 16-30 and 20:1-16).

Another reason, if one is needed, to end the tax-free status of religion, is that it has become a more of a comedic joke, and a convenient vehicle to have a tax shelter, as demonstrated by the “church” of $cientology, a “religion” founded by a bad science fiction writer. The very fact that L. Ron Hubbard wrote: “Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous. If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion.” This single statement is enough to prove that the scam of $cientology is nothing more than a business, founded on bad writing, psychotic adherence to idiotic concepts and brainwashing of the highest order.

The fact that any organization that slaps a cross (or some other symbol of worship) on their door and proclaims themselves to be a “church”, or a religious organization, entitles them to become “charitable organizations” under the law, allowing them to exist as money-sucking machines where paying taxes is a concept that doesn’t exist, is a scam beyond comprehension. That is not the reason religions exist, at least, it certainly isn’t the reason Christianity exists.

Even the Internet has expanded the scope of this issue, lending more credence to the necessity to end the tax-exempt status of religions. For many years it has been possible for anyone with the inclination (and the credit card) to receive an “ordination” from one of the many “Internet Churches” that exist solely for the purpose of generating money. In many cases, once “ordained” it is even possible for these “ministers” to receive State or Provincial licenses, permitting them to perform weddings and funerals, the two services for which a “freelance” minister can earn a fee.

Look in the Yellow Pages and you will find, if your city is large enough, listings for “non-denominational ministers” who are available to perform “weddings, funerals, baptisms and other services” for “reasonable honorariums”, or other such descriptions. Have Bible; will travel.

Now, I don’t want to sound as though I reject all members of the clergy (of any faith); nothing could be further from the truth. There are some very devout individuals who chose to enter the world of ministry because they felt called to do so, not because it seemed to be a good opportunity to make money. To be in ministry, as in politics, is to be in service to the people, but, alas, that seems to have been lost in the translation somewhere along the line.

Just as some people enter politics for the power, some enter out of a genuine desire to serve their community and help their fellow citizens. So it is with some people in the ministry – regardless of the religion – who made the decision to serve out of a genuine desire to help humanity.

From this point I shall limit the scope of my discussion (or diatribe, depending on your perspective) to the area with which I am most familiar: Christianity. That modern Christianity, particularly through the efforts of the Roman Church and their political influences throughout history, has become so accepted by the governments of the western world is indicative of an extraordinarily serious problem. It indicates that modern Christianity, as represented by institutional religion, has become a powerless, meaningless collection of forms and formalities: it is not that which it was ordained to be by its Creator. Christianity, as seen by the governmental view, has lost the thing that it was created to be, a vehicle to introduce people to the power of the Lord God Almighty through his Son.

Why is it, some may ask, that in the early days of the First Church the believers in this “cult” sect of Judaism, as many of the Pharisees and Sadducees saw the followers of the renegade teacher, Jesus of Nazareth, were persecuted unto their deaths? There are historical accounts, in histories not written by the church, of the martyrdom of the early believers that consistently demonstrates an irrational fear for this burgeoning new faith that became Christianity, but why this fear? What was there to worry about?

The fear was quite legitimate, for there was something different about these “Christians”: the cult didn’t fade away as expected by the Romans shortly after the death of their charismatic leader. This was the pattern of the day; cut the head off of the organization and the body dies, but in the case of Christianity, the head was cut off and the body – the Church – continued to grow, expanding beyond the borders with ever increasing speed.

These new believers were dangerous for the simple fact that they were unlike the other citizens of the day: they didn’t live like the others, they adhered to an entirely different moral view of life, and that went against the status quo within the Roman Empire, it could not be tolerated as they were rocking the boat. Of course, anything that upset the status quo was met with intolerance and had to be curtailed, but there had to be a reason for this strange change that was coming over the people who had been “exposed” to this new “Gospel” that was being preached throughout the Roman Empire.

The strange change was quite easy to explain, and it has a direct bearing on what was being said earlier regarding taxation and the church. Those individuals who decided to join the early church were taught about how one man had stood in a garden and asked others to not raise their swords to protect him when it would have been possible to do so. They learned that this man allowed himself to be captured by those who would eventually torment, torture and execute him, all to fulfill the plan of salvation that had been prophesied to them.

They also learned, from the apostles and others who had been in contact with the founder of this new belief, that there was a different way to live and to think. They were told that being defiled was something that happened through what came out of their mouths, not through what they consumed: it isn’t what one eats, it is what one says and does, and yet, that is not what they were told they would be judged by.

Faith. The First Church was told to preach the message of the Gospel and that signs and wonders would follow. They were taught about faith. They were taught that faith would grow if treated like a living thing, tended like a plant and watered with the food it needed, the Word. With faith the First Church grew beyond their wildest imagination.

Believers in the First Church would also learn that this same Man had taught them that it was right to pay the taxes that were due each of them as He himself paid them (cf. Matt 17:24-27; 22:15-22; & Rom 13:1-7). This isn’t something that is mentioned casually in the New Testament, it is brought up directly on occasions that support the payment of taxes. It isn’t that the payment of taxes is to be considered particularly Godly as an action, but rather that it is reflective of the fact that one of the tenets of Christianity is the submission to authority. We are not only called to be submissive to the Word made Flesh, but to the temporal authorities that exist around us (this is reflected in 1 Peter 2:13-15).

Why should it be important that Jesus paid taxes and it is taught that Christians should do the same? For the simple reason that the Church is part OF the world and is supposed to provide an example for others IN the world. How, I ask, is anyone supposed to have any respect for an organization that brings in hundreds of millions of dollars a year (as a very low estimate) from its share of global collections, yet doesn’t pay a penny in taxes when someone working forty hours per week, desperately trying to make ends meet, IS paying taxes?

When did the individual become less important than the Church? Why should families have to struggle to survive because of their tax burden when massive tracts of property and funds go untouched? This is, in a word, an injustice that is a perfect example of being diametrically opposed to the tenets of Christianity (and Judaism, and, from my understanding of the giving of funds to the poor, of Islam as well).

As for the other aspect of reparations, due to the religious involvement in violent conflict, I refer to the primary teachings of Christianity which are the archetypes for non-violent demonstrations and have been used to inspire some of the most prominent examples of its use through the history of unarmed conflict: neither Gandhi nor Martin Luther King, Jr were the creators of civil disobedience. We do not like to focus on this concept in the modern church for the principal reason that it makes the modern individual feel emasculated, unable to defend against an attack or any violent acts.

How is modern Christianity supposed to expect anyone to truly believe that one of the central tenets of our faith is that you do not answer violence with violence? The concept is not only central in the teachings of Y’shua, of Jesus, it is what makes the true church, and what had made the First Church, so dangerous. By not using violence but changing the hearts of the people the First Church effected genuine change within individuals who had been dedicated to destroying this new “cult”. The most famous example being the conversion of Saul of Tarsus whilst on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-30) during his persecution of early Christians; instead of killing the members of the Church that he was seeking out he ended up being one of the most prominent leaders of the First Church, and, one could argue, the most important of the apostles (considering his position as evidenced through the New Testament Epistles).

It is well past the time to put into practice the idea promoted by the United States of Avarice, that being the separation of church and state. Our modern nations are not mono-cultural, nor do they consist of populations that practice the same religious beliefs. Providing economic favouritism for religious organizations is not only an out of date mode of thinking, it puts an undue amount of fiscal stress on the most disadvantaged in society who are the ones that are forced to make up what the churches should be paying as their share of the tax burden.

With the ease with which certain organizations such as $cientology have been able to become tax-exempt groups it only demonstrates that the system is susceptible to widespread abuse, and that is exactly what is happening. So long as religions enjoy tax-free status and avoid paying their fair share, we will continue to see and hear about the abuses that occur behind closed doors. There have been too many secrets kept for far too long: it is time to open up the coffers and air out the belfry of all its dust.

Beware, the taxman cometh.