The Impending Demise of Dobson’s Dynasty - Act I: Denouement

Wouldn’t ya know it? In last week’s post, which might have been read by 30 people worldwide, I praised a part of Obama’s 2006 “Call to Renewal” speech. I guess my praise upset James Dobson, the head of Focus on the Family (FotF) in Colorado Springs, because this week, he vehemently criticized the parts of Obama’s two-year-old speech that I had praised! I didn’t realize that my comments would be so powerful – or is it my readers?

Comments in Dobson’s radio broadcast (concocted as if Tom Minnery, a senior vice president of FotF, was interviewing Dobson) included:
He [Obama] is dragging biblical understanding through the gutter… I think he’s deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own worldview, his own confused theology… [He’s proposing to govern by the] lowest common denominator of morality… Am I required in a democracy to conform my efforts in the political arena to his bloody notion of what is right with regard to the lives of tiny babies?… What he’s trying to say here is, unless everybody agrees, we have no right to fight for what we believe.… [He’s pushing] a fruitcake interpretation of the Constitution.
Talk about “the lowest common denominator of morality”! Talk about “dragging biblical understanding through the gutter”!! Talk about a “fruitcake”!!! Okay, then, let me talk a bit about James C. Dobson.

If readers from other nations don’t know who he is, lucky you! During the past three decades, arguably he’s been the most powerful figure in “the Christian Right” (or, some say, “the Christian Reich”, while others say, “the Christian Wrong”). In an article in The New Republic entitled “The religious right’s new kingmaker”, senior editor Michael Cowley wrote:
… no one helped [George W.] Bush win [the 2004 presidential race] more than Dr. James Dobson. Forget Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, who in their dotage have marginalized themselves with gaffes… Forget Ralph Reed, now enriching himself as a lobbyist-operative, leaving the Christian Coalition a shell of its former self. Forget Gary Bauer, now known chiefly as a failed presidential candidate… Dobson is now America’s most influential evangelical leader, with a following reportedly greater than that of either Falwell or Robertson at his peak.
Actually, though, and to be fair, Dobson deserves credit for creating such a dynasty (using the original meaning for the word ‘dynasty’, from Greek dunasteia, meaning “lordship, power”), especially for creating it out of thin air – or actually, not so much “thin air” as “hot air”. He’s a real talker.

For example, he broadcasts a daily radio program called Focus on the Family, which his website claims is “heard daily on more than 3,000 radio facilities in North America… on approximately 6,300 facilities in 116 countries, and appearing on 80 [US] television stations daily”, having an “estimated listening audience [of] over 200 million people every day.” But, skeptic that I’ve become, I’d like an independent assessment of that estimate.

In his broadcasts, Dobson mixes together selected Biblical myths (probably picked up from his family; he’s the son, grandson, and great-grandson of Nazarene evangelists) with pop-psychology myths (mostly from the 1960s, especially those dealing with the then-popular “self-esteem” kick) to pollute and pervert people’s minds. I’ll provide some illustrations below.

Dobson is also a prolific writer, not only with his monthly Focus on the Family bulletins but also authoring or co-authoring 36 popular, pseudo-psychological, pseudo-theological, un-scientific, “self-help” books. He claims to have his Ph.D. in psychology, but in their book, James Dobson’s Gospel of Self-Esteem and Psychology, Martin and Deidre Bobgan state that he didn’t earn his Ph.D. in Psychology but in Education, with a major in Child Development.

In any case, Dobson is severely criticized both by psychologists and “theologists” for not knowing what he’s talking about. I don’t want to go into criticisms of his theology, since all such arguments (e.g., about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin) are pointless – or more accurately, data-less. As Bertrand Russell said:
When two men of science disagree, they do not invoke the secular arm; they wait for further evidence to decide the issue, because, as men of science, they know that neither is infallible. But when two theologians differ, since there [are] no criteria to which either can appeal, there is nothing for it but mutual hatred and an open or covert appeal to force.
Nonetheless, readers might be interested in at least glancing at why Dobson has such trouble with Christian theologians. For example, imagine how they cringe when they read Dobson’s idea in his book Hide or Seek,
What a concept! If Jesus is now my brother, then that puts me in the family of God, and guarantees that I will outlive the universe itself. And that, friends, is what I call genuine self-esteem!
As you might expect, not many Christian clerics agree that Jesus died on the cross to build the self-esteem of Dobson’s followers!

Truth be known, though, I agree with Dobson: above all, Christianity is an ego trip (as is Islam), in which believers obtain social sanction to imagine that they’re important to no less than the creator of the universe. As Robert Ingersoll said:
Think of the egotism of a man who believes that an infinite being wants his praise!
It’s self-esteem gone berserk – which, come to think of it, is quite an apt description of Dobson.

Anyway, instead of reviewing such religious nonsense, consider some of Dobson’s more general “advice” along with some of its criticism, starting with his ideas about morality – along with my own criticism [in square brackets, in blue]
…what we read in Scripture is not a series of suggestions but these are commandments. These are absolutes. [So, don’t try beating your slaves to death or selling your daughter into slavery by other than approved methods!] These are eternal truths [for closed systems, not for reality. It reminds me of H.L. Mencken's: "Moral certainty is always a sign of cultural inferiority. The more uncivilized the man, the surer he is that he knows precisely what is right and what is wrong."]. There is an immutable understanding of the nature of the universe, and this is the permanence of marriage, and this is the offense of premarital sex and extramarital sex – it’s all of these things. It’s the value system that comes out of this. [Isn’t it amazing that the first symmetry-breaking fluctuation in the total void, leading to the Big Bang and then this universe, finds “premarital sex and extramarital sex” so offensive? Yet, if Dobson says that such is the “immutable understanding of the nature of the universe”, then who am I to say that he’s a raving idiot who belongs in a loony bin.]
Dobson then goes on to describe the horrible concept of secular humanism, which I’ll call scientific humanism:
[Scientific humanism] begins with the assumption that God doesn’t exist [which actually isn’t correct; it begins with the assessment that the concept of ‘God’ has no meaning; it’s just an abbreviation for “I dunno”]; therefore there are no immutable truths and you make up your own rules as you go along. [Which is the way it should be, i.e., always use your brain as best you can!] The policies are set by what seems right… and in that whole understanding there are no absolutes [Well, that’s not correct: there is the ‘absolute’ that people should always use their brains as best they can] – you live on the basis of what seems right. [Which is a helluva lot better than living your life on the basis of pure unadulterated balderdash!] This is the culture of death [Gimme a break – it’s the culture of the scientific method]; this is abortion and infanticide and euthanasia and AIDS. [Riiiiiiight] This is death. [Because, doncha know, obviously black is white.]
And then, Dobson goes on to describe his glorious alternative to scientific humanism:
This is a grand strategy. This is a grand design. It may look simplistic but there’s really great wisdom in it, because it is saying, “As the world goes to hell, we’ve got to become even more of a beacon, not of psychological truth but of ultimate truth and continue to campaign for righteousness.” [Again, Mencken comes to mind: "The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it."] I want you to understand something. This is really important. You hear me talk about the evil of abortion, homosexuality, and safe sexology and all this stuff going on – and all these are very, very important – but there is a foundational issue below that. Those are all social and political issues that flow out of something that is more important to me, which is the defense of righteousness. [Happiness is defending ‘righteousness’ – if only the Christianists and Islamists could agree on what it means.]
Where the Christianists and Islamists apparently do agree, however (besides the need for people to pay them for pedaling such trash, so the clerics can avoid working for a living) is that children shouldn’t learn to think for themselves; instead, they’re to be indoctrinated in religious stupidity. Further, as I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, apparently many of them agree that, if necessary, religious rubbish should be beaten into children’s heads.

In fact, Dobson first “made a name for himself” by publishing his book Dare to Discipline, which apparently soothed the guilt of many parents who wanted to continue to abuse their children, just as they (and Dobson – and, for that matter, as I mentioned in an earlier post, Huckabee) had been abused when they were children. To sell his method of child abuse (and his books), Dobson doesn’t rely on his scientific capabilities (of course) but on his story-telling abilities. Thus, as stated by Martin and Deidre Bobgan in their book Psychological Savior: An Examination of the Teachings of Dr. James Dobson:
Dobson uses the story-telling mode, which not only keeps his readers interested but gives a seeming reality to everything he says. Rather than relying on research, which may actually prove just the opposite of some of his conclusions, he uses case histories which emphasize and especially dramatize the points he wants to make.
Some quotations from Dobson, along with refutations compiled by Eric Perlin, are the following:
James Dobson: “Contrary to what it might seem, [a child] is more likely to be a violent person if his parent fails to [spank him], because he learns too late about the painful consequences of acting selfishly, rebelliously, and aggressively.”

Psychologists Ronald Slaby and Wendy Roedell: “[O]ne of the most reliable predictors of children’s level of aggression is the heavy use by parents of harsh, punitive discipline and physical punishment… Parental punitiveness has been found to be positively correlated with children’s aggression in over 25 studies… [P]arental punishment is one important aspect of a general pattern of intercorrelated parental behaviors that influence the child’s aggression.”

James Dobson: “A spanking is to be reserved for use in response to willful defiance, whenever it occurs. Period!”

Protect Your Child by Laura Hutton: “Every child should be taught that he has personal rights that should be respected by all adults… ‘I have the right to say no if someone touches or wants to touch the private parts of my body’.”

James Dobson: “Two or three stinging strokes on the legs or buttocks with a switch are usually sufficient to emphasize the point, ‘You must obey me’.”

Protect Your Child: “I have a right to scream for help even if I am told by a molester to be quiet and obey… l don’t have to obey someone who hurts me or wants to hurt me.”

James Dobson: “By learning to yield to the loving authority… of his parents, a child learns to submit to other forms of authority which will confront him later in his life – his teachers, school principal, police, neighbors and employers.”

The Safe Child Book by Sherryl Kerns Kraizer: “We need to look at the ways in which we teach our children to be blindly obedient to adults and authority figures. Most children do not know they can say no to a police officer, a teacher, a principal, a counselor, a minister, a baby-sitter, or a parent when an inappropriate request is made.”

James Dobson: “Minor pain can... provide excellent motivation for the child... There is a muscle, lying snugly against the base of the neck... When firmly squeezed, it sends little messengers to the brain saying, ‘This hurts; avoid recurrence at all costs’.”

The Safe Child Book: “Young children tell me that some of the ways they don’t like to be touched are: kisses on the mouth, getting their shirts tucked in by grown-ups, being picked up, having their hair stroked, having to kiss Grandma and Grandpa or Mom and Dad’s friends... They can be unwanted touch, just as sexual abuse is unwanted touch... It is important to respect children’s preferences. By learning to say no to one type of touching, children learn to say no to the other.”

James Dobson: “An appropriate spanking from a loving parent in a moment of defiance provides [a] service. It tells [the child]… he must steer clear of certain social traps… selfishness, dishonesty, unprovoked aggression, etc.”

Child Sexual Abuse Prevention - Tips to Parents: “Other behavioral signals [that indicate a child may have been sexually molested include]… aggressive or disruptive behavior…”
As to where Dobson got his ideas about beating children, it certainly wasn’t from scientific investigations. Dobson frequently tells his listeners and readers that he has his “Ph.D. in psychology”, apparently trying to suggest that his scientific credentials and the scientific community support his wacky speculations, but he certainly isn’t a reputable scholar.

To obtain evidence to support that statement, if you’ll type “James Dobson” in Google Scholar, you’ll get 186 hits (mostly to his books and to references in which his books are criticized). In fact, at Google Scholar, there appears to be only one scientific publication that was co-authored by Dobson, with him a junior author: “The Concurrent and Congruent Validities of the Wide Range Achievement Test”, Kenneth D. Hopkins, James C. Dobson, and O.A. Oldridge, Educational and Psychological Measurement, Vol. 22, No. 4, 791-793 (1962), a copy of which is unfortunately unavailable “without further authentication”. Given the date of that publication, it might represent his contribution for his master’s thesis. Apparently he didn’t publish the results of his Ph.D. research, which is usually fatal for a future researcher. In fact, having one’s thesis accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed, respected, scientific journal is a not uncommon requirement for being awarded a Ph.D.

For contrast, if you’ll type “Carol Gilligan” into Google Scholar, you’ll get almost two orders of magnitude more hits, i.e., 12,600 hits. She’s the Ph.D. educational psychologist at New York University who, on 14 September 2006, was the first respected scholar to write to Dobson complaining that he had misrepresented her research results:
I was mortified to learn that you had distorted my work this week in a guest column you wrote in Time Magazine... What you wrote was not truthful and I ask that you refrain from ever quoting me again and that you apologize for twisting my work.
Thus, apparently, Dobson not only can't write scientific reports, he can't even read them! Further, Wayne Besen reports:
Other leading researchers who have taken issue with Dobson’s use of their work include: Dr. Kyle Pruett, Professor of child psychiatry, the Yale University School of Medicine; Dr. Robert Spitzer, Professor of Psychiatry, Columbia University; Angela Phillips, Professor, Goldsmiths College in London; Dr. Elizabeth Saewyc, Associate Professor, school of nursing, University of British Columbia; and Dr. Judith Stacy, Professor of Sociology, New York University. Never before has such an array of venerated professors courageously stood up and turned the ivory tower into a watchtower to protect scientific integrity. What each [scientist] has in common is that he or she was shocked and outraged when informed how his or her work was used and abused [by Dobson].
Instead of reaching his understanding via the scientific method, Dobson gained his understanding (that children should be beaten) from his experience beating his dog. For a full description, see the post by Bruce Wilson. I encourage you to read it all – and weep for all the children Dobson has harmed. In particular, Wilson quotes the following anonymous essay, which (based on its reference to Dobson’s comments on Obama’s speech) must have been written last week.
How Obama-Critic James Dobson Whipped The Mini Weiner Dog Rebellion

Lately there’s been a bit of a flap over Dr. James Dobson’s public declaration that Barack Obama has “fruitcake ideas” about the US Constitution and church-state separation. Although he has no degree in Constitutional Law, in choosing to go head to head with Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama, who taught Constitutional Law at the University of Chicago for twelve years, Dr. Dobson is at less of a disadvantage than it might seem at first. No intellectual lightweight, he is a pioneer and titan in the field of child-rearing. Dobson’s blockbuster books The Strong Willed Child, which sold over 1.75 million copies and Dare To Discipline, which sold a whopping 3.5 million copies, have informed an entire generation of parents and empowered them with Dr. Dobson’s core insight that, from a disciplinary standpoint, children are like dogs. But, Dobson’s revolutionary “child-whisperer” child-rearing methods did not arise from floofy navel gazing. Dobson’s theory was born from praxis and struggle, in an epic battle between Dobson and his 12-pound miniature Dachshund “Siggie” - to force the little Weiner Dog off its napping spot on a fuzzy toilet seat cover. For Dobson, the incident gave rise to a core insight into the need for parents, and society, to forcefully combat, overcome and whup those satanic urges which drive all rebellions and rebelliousness - against parental authority, against society, against President George W. Bush.

In The Strong Willed Child the nationally celebrated child-rearing expert and Christian family values champion James Dobson describes the titanic clash, between man and vicious, snarling miniature weiner dog - which led to Dobson’s breathtaking, radical insight into core, basic behavioral similarities between human children and Dachshunds or, more generally, dogs:

“That tiny dog and I had the most vicious fight ever staged between man and beast. I fought him up one wall and down the other, with both of us scratching and clawing and growling and swinging the belt.”

From that description would seem that in a certain stage of the struggle the Dachshund had wrested control of the belt, to whip Dobson, but that is almost certainly a stylistic flourish on Dr. Dobson’s part. The high pitch of the drama suggests the saga might be grist for a musical, even an opera, especially for the added complexity of the almost Oedipal cast of the narrative - which seems to concern what was, at base, a sexual and dominance struggle:

“The greatest confrontation occurred a few years ago when I had been in Miami for a three-day conference. I returned to observe that Siggie had become boss of the house while I was gone. But I didn’t realize until later that evening just how strongly he felt about his new position as Captain.”

Who knows what that dog had been up to while Dobson was away? To those inclined toward such crude perspectives (which is to say almost anyone, at least on a subconscious level) Dachshunds are in effect mobile phallic symbols, on legs. Dr. James Dobson was thus compelled, forced to reassert his Biblical and God-given authority over wife and family, and over his suggestively elongated mini weiner dog:

“At eleven o’clock that night, I told Siggie to go get into his bed, which is a permanent enclosure in the family room [sounds like a doghouse]. For six years I had given him that order at the end of each day, and for six years Siggie had obeyed.

"On this occasion, however, he refused to budge. You see, he was in the bathroom, seated comfortably on the furry lid of the toilet seat. That is his favorite spot in the house, because it allows him to bask in the warmth of a nearby electric heater. . .”

As any colonial power with staying power well knows, rebellions are to be put down with absolute, prejudicial brutality. In the movie Burn!, about a Nineteenth-Century Caribbean Island slave revolt, British Colonial authorities were too timid to put down the rebellion and had to call in Marlin Brando to take care of the mess. Which he did. But, by the time of the 1920’s British occupation of Iraq, the British had learned better and showed the Iraqis “tough love” - by bombing and strafing Iraqi villages for non-payment of taxes. Had the British lacked such disciplinary resolve it’s hard to even imagine what a mess Iraq might be in today.

As did Marlin Brando, Dr. James Dobson, faced with a similarly dire, even apocalyptic rebellion, rose to the challenge. Dobson, now head of the over $200 million dollar a year nonprofit behemoth, Focus On The Family, wisely made a tactical decision to integrate a force-multiplier (a belt that is) into his counterinsurgency battle plan:

“When I told Sigmund to leave his warm seat and go to bed, he flattened his ears and slowly turned his head toward me. He deliberately braced himself by placing one paw on the edge of the furry lid, then hunched his shoulders, raised his lips to reveal the molars on both sides, and uttered his most threatening growl. That was Siggie’s way of saying. “Get lost!”

“I had seen this defiant mood before, and knew there was only one way to deal with it. The ONLY way to make Siggie obey is to threaten him with destruction. Nothing else works. I turned and went to my closet and got a small belt to help me ‘reason’ with Mr. Freud.”

James Dobson seems to have been concerned that his rebellious miniature Dachshund “Siggie” (short for “Sigmund Freud”) might usurp Dobson’s spot as head of the family and the household, and the sexual danger and threat of mini weiner dogs is legendary - as is their tenacity in battle. A relative of mine has a miniature wire-haired miniature Dachshund that obsessively fetches rocks, even fairly big ones, thrown into the pond in her backyard. I’ve seen firsthand how single mindedly tenacious and fierce these wee Dachshunds truly are. One wouldn’t want to be on their bad side or allow them to get the upper hand - ever.

It was man against brute beast, touch and go:

“What developed next is impossible to describe. That tiny dog and I had the most vicious fight ever staged between man and beast. I fought him up one wall and down the other, with both of us scratching and clawing and growling and swinging the belt. I am embarrassed by the memory of the entire scene. Inch by inch I moved him toward the family room and his bed. As a final desperate maneuver, Siggie backed into the corner for one last snarling stand. I eventually got him to bed, only because I outweighed him 200 to 12!”

Dobson chose to showcase this gripping personal account in his book of child rearing advice, on how to cope with “strong-willed” children, and the saga fits perfectly - as many relevant experts, enlightened by Dobson’s bold insights, have come to appreciate, Dachshunds are remarkably like human children. Both are bilaterally symmetrical chordates, mammals with four limbs and relatively large brains, both are more or less omnivorous, both are highly social and travel in packs, both engage in dominance struggles. Both respond to operant conditioning. The similarities would seem endless.

As a recent episode of South Park has amply demonstrated, dog training techniques work marvelously well on troublesome children and James Dobson was an early pioneer and leader of this revolutionary, breakthrough school of child rearing:

“But this is not a book about the discipline of dogs; there is an important moral to my story that is highly relevant to the world of children. JUST AS SURELY AS A DOG WILL OCCASIONALLY CHALLENGE THE AUTHORITY OF HIS LEADERS, SO WILL A LITTLE CHILD -- ONLY MORE SO.” (emphasis Dobson’s)

Woof. Woof woof.

There’s a religious, metaphysical component to this as well, and it is that textual, narrative richness which could lend the story to the musical/opera format - moving past the mere mechanics of human/Dachshund mortal combat and also the realm of canine/toddler psychology, Dobson brings the discussion into the realm of deep metaphysical, theological inquiry:

“Perhaps this tendency toward self-will is the essence of ‘original sin’ which has infiltrated the human family. It certainly explains why I place such stress on the proper response to willful defiance during childhood, for that rebellion can plant the seeds of personal disaster.”

As with the invention of the wheel, or fire, or the principles of geometry and basic math, many revolutionary human breakthrough discoveries seem transparently obvious in retrospect such that all look back, in astonishment, with the same question: “Why didn’t I think of that?”

But, no one had grasped it before James Dobson and the insight may well place Dr. Dobson in the pantheon of greats such as Einstein, Fermi, Leonardo, Tesla, Madam Curie and other such pioneers of human inquiry. Dobson’s hypothesis, ventured in The Strong Willed Child, places blame for human conflict, wars and strife, historical evils of all sorts, stemming from the breakdown of the core human social institution, the family, squarely where it truly belongs: on toddlers.

Dr. James Dobson’s epiphany, his satori was the realization that because the family is the most basic, irreducible element and building block of the human social order, the very genesis of evil in human family life, the original sin, the first taint, has to therefore originate in the blasphemous refusal of very young children to toe the line and obey parental authority. That is why it is of such paramount importance to beat such inclinations out of children - with each and every mother and father who choose to mollycoddle their children rather than practice the discipline of tough love, the very social order and fate of the world as we know it are put at risk.

For James Dobson and a growing cadre of supporters armed with Dobson’s breakthrough theory and insight, the only sane approach parents can take towards childhood rebellion is to beat it out of them. Otherwise chaos, socialism and Satan will prevail.

In truth it’s the moral duty, the obligation of Christian parents who take their faith seriously, unlike those alleged Christians who merely mumble the tenets of their faith during their sporadic Sunday forays to degenerate liberal church services rife with pagan ritual and coded Satanic-sexual symbolism, to break the will of their children to resist and rebel much like torturers break the wills of prisoners to resist and rebel - in the end, it’s for their own, and society’s, best interest. The enterprise is, in a very real sense, the project of chasing out the devil, demonic spirits that otherwise can infest children and lead them into ruin, into future lives corrupted with iniquity and sin, drug and alcohol abuse, gayness and liberal political opinions, feminazi bigotry and eco-terrorism, into apartments in New York or San Francisco and the wearing of sexually suggestive or sexually ambiguous clothing, into the consumption of tofu and tempeh rather than proper sirloin, proper bacon, into seductive lifestyles leading inexorably to eternal torment in the flaming pits of Hell.

That cosmic battle of Good versus Evil, writ small, is one in which one party alone, you the parents, must come out on top; so give no quarter; crush their resistance! - if you don’t they’ll take over and through them Satan will rule. The family, society even, will break down and devolve into a Hobbesian war of all against all. Chaos will rule. Cannibalism and Buddhism will flourish, as will gay marriage. Teletubbies will proliferate on Television and gays in Black Helicopters will swoop down to seize our guns, take our property, sodomize us and teach our women and wives to talk back to our authority. . .

So, Dr. James Dobson had to conquer the little weiner dog. Thus was The Family, and perhaps even Christianity itself, saved on that day.
Kudos for the author, whoever you are!

Meanwhile, Dobson’s personal insights (of course with zero scientific support) for “curing” homosexually are no less stunning. He “believes” (so he says) that male homosexuality isn’t physiological but psychological:
…that it has to do with an identity crisis that occurs too early to remember it, where a boy is born with an attachment to his mother and she is everything to him for about 18 months, and between 18 months and five years, he needs to detach from her and to reattach to his father.
So the “cure” for male homosexuality, according to Dobson, is:
[T]he boy’s father has to do his part. He needs to mirror and affirm his son’s maleness. He can play rough-and-tumble games with his son, in ways that are decidedly different from the games he would play with a little girl. He can help his son learn to throw and catch a ball. He can teach him to pound a square wooden peg into a square hole in a pegboard. He can even take his son with him into the shower, where the boy cannot help but notice that Dad has a penis, just like his, only bigger.
And what’s more, the terrible homosexuals need to be cured, because according to Dobson:
Homosexuals are not monogamous. They want to destroy the institution of marriage. It will destroy marriage. It will destroy the Earth.
As for Dobson’s promoting the teaching of “Intelligent Design” rather than evolution, promoting only “abstinence only” sex education, and disparaging women’s liberation and concerns about global warming, let alone his nutty ideas about abortion, there’s not much point in my going into them. In summary, using his word, the guy’s a “fruitcake”.

But again, ya gotta give Dobson some credit: although he plays on people’s fears and sells his hate, he’s good at it. As Brian McKinley writes:
Playing on people’s fears is a great way to make money. Advertisers use it every day. If you don’t want dandruff, use this. If you don’t want to smell bad, use that. If you don’t want to end up sick or dead, eat our stuff instead of their stuff. And if you don’t want homosexuals [and those horrible secular humanists, women libbers, abortionists, etc.] taking over our schools, support our cause by sending in your donations. Fear sells. Whether intentional or not, the truth is the Religious Right rake in a great deal of money every time they claim homosexuals are threatening our nation’s families, or worse, our children. The former vice-president of Focus on the Family, a leading Religious Right organization, stated in his book, James Dobson’s War on America (Dobson is the founder and president) that when their donations went down, they could simply broadcast a scary special about the gay agenda (or the evil women’s movement or the even more evil abortion rights groups - but never remarried people since that would drive away nearly half of their listeners) and their revenues would increase substantially.
For example, as given in the most recently filed tax return, his tax-exempt Focus on the Family (FOF) “religious organization” raked in more than $120 million in “direct and indirect public support”. The same tax return doesn’t show how much of that money Dobson has been able to salt away for himself, but the President of the Board of FotF got a nice, neat annual salary of $197,224 (plus $11,619 in benefits), and in 2004, “the revenue from all Dobson-family material… [his personal business] was $781,000.”

Given the money that’s supporting him, you don’t want to get on Dobson’s hate list. Poor old John McCain is on that list: Dobson plans to withhold the presidency from McCain, because McCain seems to have taken “the wrong side” (i.e., not Dobson’s side) on the abortion issue. And Obama, of course, is on Dobson’s hate list, not only because of the abortion issue, but apparently Obama doesn’t show sufficient hate for homosexuals, women’s libbers, and for those horrible secular humanists.

Yet, there are welcome signs that Dobson’s dynasty is dying. The revenue from his sales of books and tapes are “down from $781,000 in 2004 to $307,000 in 2006”, and FotF “expenses have exceeded its revenues for two years… by $4.1 million in fiscal 2006 and by $9.9 million in 2005 (Figures for 2007 have not been released [as of 24 January 2008]).”

I expect that his dynasty is dying, in part, because some of his followers are tired of hearing (and paying for) the same old tripe. In part, too, there was the apology from one of the co-founders of FotF, grandfather Gil Alexander-Moegerle. At a press conference that he called, grandfather Gil humanely and bravely stated the following:
I have come to issue just such an apology for certain actions and attitudes on the part of the Christian Right in general and James Dobson and Focus on the Family in particular:
First, I apologize to the women of America for the sexist attitudes all-too-often displayed by James Dobson and the organization I helped found.

I apologize to African Americans and other ethnic minorities who are concerned by the continuing vestiges of intolerance in the land and by the dangerous role James Dobson, a wealthy, powerful, white, heterosexual male, plays in promoting intolerance.

I apologize to lesbian and gay Americans who are demeaned and dehumanized on a regular basis by the false, irresponsible, and inflammatory rhetoric of James Dobson’s anti-gay radio and print materials.

I apologize to Jewish Americans as well as Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and atheist Americans who are also victims of the dangerous words and divisive political actions of James Dobson, who claims quite falsely that this is a “Christian nation” that should be “ruled” by fundamentalist Christians and their doctrines.

I apologize to the American media, specifically to radio, television and print reporters, who have been ridiculed and demonized by Dobson and his staff and guests. I am ashamed of my former colleagues for their attacks on you and for their pattern of slamming the doors of reasonable access in your face. And I encourage you to bang those doors down, to investigate, and to report the truth about the threat James Dobson and other religious extremists pose to the American tradition of tolerance, inclusivity and the separation of church and state.

And I apologize to my fellow Christian Americans, many of whom have been misled by a man I once loved and trusted. I hope you will not make the same mistake I made in letting my personal loyalty to an old friend blind me to the unchristian and un-American words and actions of James Dobson and so many of his Focus on the Family guests.

I apologize to any American who has felt the sting of James Dobson and the Christian Right wagging their holier-than-thou fingers in your face, shrieking that because your views differ from theirs, you are ungodly, evil and unworthy of the rights of full citizenship.
And I expect that part of the demise of Dobson’s dynasty may simply be that it and Dobson are getting old: his dynasty is an old cling-on (or Klingon) empire, desperately trying to hold onto the “old ways” (of the 1950s). Meanwhile, thankfully, nature’s way is to push aside the old ones with their worn-out ways, and to welcome the new generation, more willing and able to adapt to change.

In any event, as a result of his falling popularity, Dobson’s political clout has weakened and seems to be floundering. Thus, Dobson first let it be known that he supported Romney as the Republican presidential candidate, but when Romney saw that he didn’t have a chance and bowed out of contention, Dobson publicly supported Huckabee. But then, Huckabee bowed out to McCain –who (as I already mentioned) Dobson says he won’t support. Many of us are pleased that the result is that Dobson is left out in the cold – but unfortunately, he can still try to clobber Obama.

Yet, this week, what an amazing reaction there’s been to Dobson’s criticism of Obama! Originally for this post I was planning to defend Obama’s speech. But not only have so many others done it so well, I don’t think anything more need be said than what Obama said about Dobson: “He’s making things up.”

Yes, Obama: he’s been “making things up.” As with all clerical leaders, Dobson has built an empire, gaining fame and fortune, by “making things up.” And let me add: if this has been an illustration of how you handle “fruitcakes” in the “gutter”, then Right On!

Further, now I see that you plan to visit Colorado Springs next Wednesday! Do you plan to…? I suppose it could be good experience should you decide to meet with Iran’s Ahmadinejad: the two are amazingly similar.

In any event, good luck to you in your bid for the presidency.


During the past six months I’ve been posting on this blog every week. The titles of the first two posts were “Ridiculing Romney’s Religious Rant” and “Huckster Huckabee Hawks his Hubris”; the titles of two most-recent posts were “McCain’s Christian Constitution” and “Obama’s Judeo-Christian Junk”. Yet, that evidence to the contrary not withstanding, not all posts (or even those posts) have dealt just with politics. In any event, I’ll call the posts to date, “Act I”, and this post, “The Impending Demise of Dobson’s Dynasty”, is the denouement of Act I.

In less dramatic and more descriptive language, my plan is to discontinue posting once per week. My reason isn't because I need a summer break (although that would be good) or because I’m discouraged that in total during the past six months this blog has received fewer than 1,000 hits (I know it takes a long time for even good blogs to become established) but because keeping this blog going is taking too much of my time as well as what little creative energy that I might have, which I need to redirect for a few years, to finish writing two appendices for my on-line book. Simultaneously, though, if some news-item moves me sufficiently, then I expect that I’ll post something about it (as part of Act II), but I doubt if it’ll be more frequently than monthly – and even then, I’ll try mostly just to call readers’ attention to the topic.

During the past two years, I’ve been sending my oldest granddaughter (and others) a chapter of my book every week. I chose that pace in part because that’s the pace I hoped she would read the chapters and in part because the book is a work in progress. The book is entitled Love Letters from Grampa – about Life, Liberty, and the Zen of Zero, and the chapters are labeled from A to Z. Eighteen months ago and on the same schedule, I started posting the chapters at my website, and next week, I’ll have finished posting the last of the X-chapters – all 35 of them! But if truth be known, I had most of the chapters in fairly-close-to-final form before I started posting any of them (after working on the book ever since I retired, more than a decade ago); so, not too much work was needed before posting them. Not so, however, with the Y and Z chapters; therefore, my need to redirect my energy. And besides, surely drama critics would agree that, this week, James C. Dobson provided a tremendous final scene for Act I!



Obama's Judeo-Christian Morality Junk

I’ve been trying to compare at least some aspects of the candidacies of McCain vs. Obama. Last week’s post didn’t get beyond McCain’s erroneous comment (made during an interview with Dan Gilgoff of belief.net): “Yes… the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation.” This week, to start, consider another of McCain’s incorrect comments made during the same interview:
On the issue of the war in Iraq and the conduct of it and President Bush’s public statements about it, let me just go back. We were founded as a nation on Judeo-Christian principles. There’s very little debate about that.
As Bill Cosby would say: “Riiiiiiight.” But before commenting on why “there's very little debate about that”, I want to demonstrate that Obama made a similar, ill-considered statement.

Obama’s blunder is contained in his keynote address to the 28 June 2006 “Call to Renewal” meeting. Videos of his address are available, in full or in part, and the full text is available at the “Obama for President” website. Later in this post I’ll show some of the context of Obama’s remark; for now, consider just his raw (and rancid) statement:
Our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition…
Gimme a break! For McCain to say that “we were founded as a nation on Judeo-Christian principles” and for Obama to say that “much of our [morality is] grounded in Judeo-Christian tradition” is like saying that the 120th floor of a skyscraper is “founded” or “grounded” on the 96th and 101st floors! In contrast to such descriptions, human morality is like a range of mountains, with different cultures climbing different peaks, with different religions causing varying degrees of difficulty in climbing the mountains (e.g., causing avalanches, forest fires, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, lava flows, etc.), and yet, with the entire mountain range resting on a solid bedrock of evolution.

In particular, the morality of most Americans (and most “Westerners”) has advanced substantially during the 24 centuries since Ezra and co-conspiring clerics cobbled together the Old Testament and during the 20 centuries since Paul and co-conspiring clerics cobbled together the New Testament. For example, think of the substantial progress associated with representative governments, religious freedom, human rights, the anti-slavery, women’s suffrage, labor, anti-monopoly, and women’s liberation movements, environmental protection, and recently, progress toward realizing a global community. In addition, before Christianity and Judaism polluted the world, humans developed their personal and interpersonal moral senses during the ~100 centuries of “civilized” life and during at least 1,000 centuries of tribal life. And as I’ll outline below, before any of that, morality evolved with life itself.

To appreciate the long history of our moral development, first realize the obvious fact that moral values (as with any values) are meaningless unless referenced to some objective. For example, if your objective is to live in a shelter that can withstand wind and rain, then there’s relatively low value in building it out of straw (a value of, say, minus 8 on a scale of –10 to +10), whereas there’s a relatively high value (maybe, a plus 6 on the same scale) in building it out of stone bricks. Therefore, to assess moral values (as with any values), first it’s necessary to define the objective (or objectives).

In addition, realize the obvious fact that the objective of all life is to live. What we call ‘life’ started on Earth about 4 billion years ago, probably when a molecule in some organic goo near a heat source “discovered” how to reproduce itself, i.e., it became “alive”. The life that “chose” to live obviously had a much better chance of continuing to do so than did the life that chose not to live! Thereby, by natural selection, life chose as its prime objective: to live. The basis of morality, then, is not any Judeo-Christian (or any other religious) “tradition” (or better, “concoction”); instead, the moral value of any act is judged against its value to life. Albert Schweitzer saw some of it, with his: “Reverence for life affords me my fundamental principle of morality.”

To promote life, to act (as we now say) ‘morally’, cooperation was found (and is still found) to be highly useful (highly moral). Thus, molecules “learned” to cooperate within cells; in time, cells learned to cooperate between and among cells; in time, groups of cells learned how to cooperate within organs; in time, organs learned how to cooperate within bodies; in time, social beings such as we humans learned how to cooperate between and among individuals; in time, groups of individuals learned how to cooperate within families, tribes and nations, and as a global community of humans develops (with the help of the wonderful internet!), it’s hoped that all people, all groups, and all nations of the world will learn how to cooperate with one another.

Thus, cooperation (at ever increasing spatial scales) has been an act that’s justifiably described as “morally good” (insofar as it promotes life). Similarly with all acts: they can be judged relative to the goal of promoting life and, if desired, they can be put on some convenient “morality scale”, ranging (say) from –10 (extremely immoral) to +10 (extremely moral, i.e., extremely valuable for our survival).

Such morality wasn’t developed by humans: it was started by replicating molecules and was highly developed by dolphins, elephants, apes, monkeys, and other social animals. In an earlier post in this blog (and elsewhere), I’ve shown many examples studied by evolutionary biologists. The one example that frequently comes to my mind is of dolphins that swim beneath a wounded cousin, periodically lifting it to the surface to breathe. As Michael Shermer wrote in his 2204 book The Science of Good and Evil:
Hundreds of such examples exist in the scientific literature, and thousands more in popular literature. The following characteristics appear to be shared by humans and other mammals, including and especially the apes, monkeys, dolphins, and whales: attachment and bonding, cooperation and mutual aid, sympathy and empathy, direct and indirect reciprocity, altruism and reciprocal altruism, conflict resolution and peace making, deception and deception detection, community concern and caring about what others think about you, and awareness of and response to the social rules of the group…
Similarly and unsurprisingly, continuing the ~4 billion-year-old evolutionary trend, primitive humans were highly moral – or they wouldn’t have survived.

With the invention of writing by the Sumerians of Mesopotamia (~5,000 years ago), written records of human moral codes soon became available. For example, consider the following “Instructions to Zi-ud-sura from his father, Curuppag”, found on clay tablets in Mesopotamia dated to be written ~4,600 years ago. In what follows, I quote (and show in blue) those few “lines” of the Instructions (of a total of 280 lines) that are similar to the indicated (red) quotations from the Old Testament’s Ten Commandments – written approximately 2,000 years later! Interested readers can find the full Instructions from Curuppag (and translations of a thousand-or-so other Sumerian clay tablets!) at the tremendous website: “The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature”, hosted by The Oriental Institute, University of Oxford.
You should not speak improperly… You should not curse strongly…
Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain…

You should not speak arrogantly to your mother… You should not question the words of your mother… The instructions of the father should be complied with.
Honor thy father and thy mother.

You should not cause a quarrel… You should not pick a quarrel… My son, you should not use violence…
Thou shalt not kill.

You should not buy a prostitute… You should not play around with a married young woman… You should not commit rape on someone’s daughter… You should not have sex with your slave girl…
Thou shalt not commit adultery.

You should not steal anything… you should not commit robbery…
Thou shalt not steal.

You should not… [tell] lies…
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

You should not serve things; things should serve you…
Thou shalt not covet…
Therefore, the clerics who concocted the Ten Commandments didn't report any communications to Moses from some giant Jabberwock in the sky; instead, they obviously just recorded the thoughts of earlier people.

Similar moral codes were recorded in Ancient Egypt. For example, ~4400 years ago (again ~2,000 years before the Old Testament was written), the Egyptian city governor Ptahhotpe wrote:
Let the love thou feelest pass into the heart of those whom thou lovest…
Another example from Ancient Egypt, this one from ~4100 years ago, is by the author (whose name is lost) who wrote in The Teachings for Merikare (his son):
Do justice, that you may live long upon earth. Calm the weeper; do not oppress the widow, do not oust a man from his father’s property… Beware of punishing wrongfully… Instill the love of you into all the world, for a good character is what is remembered.
Thus, such moral codes (e.g., as summarized in the Egyptian Book of the Dead) were highly developed thousands of years before the Old Testament was cobbled together, almost certainly by Ezra and his fellow priests and who, in the main, simply plagiarized available moral codes.

Moreover, as I show elsewhere, not only did the Old Testament “authors” plagiarize available moral codes, they mixed them with myths that had been diffusing orally throughout Africa and the Middle East for thousands of years e.g., the Egyptian genesis myth that starts “In the beginning…”, the Persian genesis myth about creation in “six periods”, the Egyptian myths about the first man, Atum, and “the tree of knowledge”, the Mesopotamian myths about “the rib woman” and the “eternally living snake”, the Sumerian myth about “the Great Flood”, etc. This mixing was done, however, not to define any “Judeo” moral code, but to create and establish another, damnable, parasitic priesthood.

Similarly with Christianity: the vast majority of the sayings attributed to Jesus by the authors of the New Testament are simply restatements of sayings that were well known in the “wisdom literature”, derived from Egyptian, Greek, Jewish, Persian, Indian, and other sources and available at the amazing library that existed at Alexandria. As illustrations of available statements of “the kindness principle” (e.g., “the Golden Rule”, the most famous statement attributed to Jesus) consider the following examples (references for which I give elsewhere).

From Hinduism, which predates Christianity by at least 1,000 years:
Do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you… Let no man do to another that which would be repugnant to himself… One should not behave towards others in a way which is disagreeable to oneself. This is the essence of morality.
From Zoroastrianism, which predates Christianity by at least 500 years (Zoroaster may have lived from perhaps ~630–550 BCE, but perhaps he lived as early as 1200 BCE, in what is now Iran):
Nature alone is good which refrains from doing unto another whatsoever is not good for itself.
From Lao-tzu, who lived from ~604–531 BCE in China and who, in some ways, was the founder of the philosophical system known as Taoism or Daoism, although its origin can be traced back to the Book of Changes or I Ching, written in about 1200 BCE:
Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss. Whoever is self-centered cannot have the love of others.
From the Buddha [Siddhartha (or Shakyamuni = The sage from the tribe of the Shakyas) Gautama], who lived from ~563–479 BCE in India and founded the philosophy known as Buddhism:
Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.
From Confucius [Latinized from “Kung the master”, i.e., Kung (or K’ung) Fu-tse (= the master)], who lived from ~555–479 BCE in China and founded the philosophy known as Confucianism:
What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others… Recompense injury with justice; recompense kindness with kindness.
From Aesop (who lived ~500 BCE, but the wisdom in his fables almost certainly is from much earlier, e.g., from during the time of the Seven Sages):
No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.
From Pittacus (~650 BCE):
Do not do to your neighbor what you would take ill from him.
From Thales (~464 BCE):
Avoid doing what you would blame others for doing.
From Sextus (~406 BCE):
What you wish your neighbors to be to you, such be also to them.
From Plato (~390 BCE):
And may I do to others as I would that others should do to me.
From Aristippus (~365 BCE):
Cherish reciprocal benevolence, which will make you as anxious for another’s welfare as your own.
From Aristotle (~340 BCE):
We should behave to our friends as we would wish our friends to behave to us.
From Isocrates (~340 BCE):
Act toward others as you would desire them to act towards you.
Thus, certainly the Golden Rule (allegedly promoted by Jesus in the form “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”) wasn’t first proclaimed by Jesus. In fact, and as might be expected from the Greek authors of the New Testament, what’s claimed to be Christ’s Golden Rule is essentially a restatement of Plato’s formulation of the kindness principle.

Furthermore, the Golden Rule is an unwise interpersonal moral code, since following it, “you” presume too much. Instead, as Edward Babinski points out, better than the Golden Rule is the Platinum Rule:
Do unto others as they would have you do unto them.
“In other words,” as Babinski explains, “take time to learn about your neighbor’s tastes, their mood, their nature, and their temperament, before you start ‘doing’ things ‘unto them’. Treat others the way they want to be treated.”

Moreover, in the erroneous labeling of our moral principles as Judeo-Christian, even the most outlandish (and traitorous) statement attributed to Jesus by Matthew, namely, “love thy enemies”, is an incorrect interpretation of older, wiser counsel. For example, as Babinski reports, there’s the following from the Akkadian Councils of Wisdom (from the ancient Babylonian civilization that existed ~2,000 BCE):
Do not return evil to your adversary. Requite with kindness the one who does evil to you. Maintain justice for your enemy. Be friendly to your enemy.
Further, as is illustrated below, similar wisdom was contained in other religions/philosophies, whose founders lived ~500 years before Jesus:
Taoism: “Return love for hatred.”

Zoroastrian: “… may I strive to make him who is our enemy, a friend; to make him who is wicked, righteous; to make him who is ignorant, learned.”

Buddhism: “Let us live happily, not hating those who hate us. Let us therefore overcome anger by kindness, evil by good, falsehood by truth… In this world, hate never yet dispelled hate. Only love dispels hate. This is the law, ancient and inexhaustible.”
Such examples show far more wisdom than the ill-advised Christian principle “love thy enemy” (which is commonly called 'treason'): the wisdom literature didn’t promote pacifism (as did the clerics who wrote the New Testament); instead, the goal of such advice was to get one’s enemy to smarten up!

In general, then, Christian clerics didn’t create a new moral code; they didn’t put the finishing touches on some new, enlightened Judeo-Christian moral code; instead, they created still another, damnable, parasitic priesthood – which has now been polluting humanity for almost 2,000 years. Similar occurred with all clerical concoctions, of course including the abominations known as Islam and Mormonism.

In sum, morality isn’t based on any religion; it’s based on life. No god dictated any moral code; life did. “We the living” decided to describe living as ‘good’, or alternatively, that living has a high moral value.

Even religious kooks such as the Muslim maniacs who say “we love death” put an extremely high value on life, but in their insanity (similar to earlier Egyptian, Zoroastrian, and Christian insanities), Islamists pursue what in their delusions they consider to be “the ultimate good”, namely, the oxymoronic idea of “life after death”. But sane humans, those whose brains are still functioning, recognize that the act of highest personal morality (a +10 on a moral scale from –10 to +10) is to use their brains as best they can, i.e., evaluate. At the other extreme, the act of lowest personal morality (a –10 on the same scale) is to do what all clerics and dictators demand, i.e., don’t evaluate; obey.

Further, using their brains as best (i.e., acting morally), sane humans then see that the highest interpersonal morality can be expressed in many ways, such as those given above or as given by Ayn Rand, “Give equal value for value received.” An alternative that I prefer is: “Everyone has an equal right to claim one’s own existence.” All such sane, interpersonal moral codes follow because of the truth in the folk wisdom: “What goes around, comes around.”

So, getting back to McCain and Obama, first I’d say that McCain should consider the possibility that the reason why “there’s very little debate about that” [that “we were founded as a nation on Judeo-Christian principles”] is because the statement is so absurd that it’s not worth debating! Next, with respect to Obama’s ill-advised statement that “our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition”, I wonder how he managed to get his law degree and to teach Constitutional law! I wonder if he’s ever heard of a fellow by the name of Thomas Jefferson. I wonder if he’s ever examined the basis of our common law. If not (as seems to be the case), I’d recommend that he’d start by reading Thomas Jefferson’s 10 February 1814 letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, which includes:
For we know that the common law is that system of law which was introduced by the Saxons on their settlement in England, and altered from time to time by proper legislative authority from that time to the date of Magna Charta, which terminates the period of the common law, or lex non scripta, and commences that of the statue law, or lex scripta. This settlement took place about the middle of the fifth century. But Christianity was not introduced till the seventh century; the conversion of the first Christian king of the Heptarchy having taken place about the year 598, and that of the last about 686. Here, then, was a space of two hundred years, during which the common law was in existence, and Christianity no part of it.
Besides that, though, would Obama (and his wife and daughters) really want our laws based on the good old “Judeo-Christian moral traditions”, such as slavery and denigration of women, including Biblical rules for the proper ways to beat your slaves to death and how to sell your daughters into slavery?!

But enough of that. Now (and in contrast to Obama’s promise about using only public funds for his presidential campaign), let me keep my promise (made earlier in this post) to show you the context of Obama’s comment. The context follows, which I’ve interrupted in places with some notes in “square brackets”:
In fact, because I do not believe that religious people have a monopoly on morality [well said!], I would rather have someone who is grounded in morality and ethics, and who is also secular, affirm their morality and ethics and values without pretending that they’re something they’re not. They don’t need to do that. None of us need to do that. [Well, that certainly is debatable: it obviously needs to be done if one wants to be elected to a public office, and some of us feel that it’s necessary to remain anonymous to protect our families from harm perpetrated by religious kooks.]

But what I am suggesting is this – secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square. [No, Obama, you’re the one who’s wrong: when people enter the public square, civility demands that opinions be supported by evidence; in contrast, when people enter the public square claiming that their positions are supported by an invisible friend in the sky, then we secularists claim the right to say “Put up or shut up”.]

Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Williams Jennings Bryant, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King – indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history – were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause. [A part of that statement is supported by evidence; however, just because our grandfathers used buggy whips doesn’t mean that our grandchildren should. Furthermore, though, what a myopic sample of “the majority of great reformers in American history”! What about Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Adams…? How about Abigail Adams, Ernestine Rose, Elizabeth Stanton, Susan Anthony…? How about Gibbs, Michelson, Morley, Hubble, Bardeen, Cori, Pauling, Feynman…? How about Edison, Ford, Carrier, Carnegie, Kaiser, the Wright brothers, Boeing, Douglas, and so on, out to including maybe even Bill Gates and certainly Steve Jobs? And for that matter (looking again at your list and wondering who the devil “Dorthy Day” was!) what about Doris Day and all the other actors, writers, entertainers, artists, educators, philosophers…? What are you: another damn politician who thinks that the only “great reformers” are politicians?!]

So, to say that men and women should not inject their “personal morality” into public policy debates is a practical absurdity. [I doubt very much that anyone is expecting that! What we hope for is that the essence of everyone’s personal morality will be something similar to “always use your brain as best you can” or simply “evaluate”, rather than people parroting clerical absurdities, with the fundamental goal of such people being their greed for “eternal bliss”, claimed by the clerics to be attainable if the people will just “obey” (or more completely, “pray, pay, and obey”).] Our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition… [Riiiiiight]
Yet, I admit that the rest of Obama’s speech is, for a politician, amazingly good:
While I’ve already laid out some of the work that progressive leaders need to do, I want to talk a little bit about what conservative leaders need to do – some truths they need to acknowledge.

For one, they need to understand the critical role that the separation of church and state has played in preserving not only our democracy, but the robustness of our religious practice…

Moreover, if we progressives shed some of these biases, we might recognize some overlapping values that both religious and secular people share when it comes to the moral and material direction of our country…

Moreover, given the increasing diversity of America’s population, the dangers of sectarianism have never been greater. Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.

This brings me to my second point. Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God’s will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.

Now this is going to be difficult for some who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, as many evangelicals do. But in a pluralistic democracy, we have no choice. Politics depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality. It involves the compromise, the art of what’s possible. At some fundamental level, religion does not allow for compromise. It’s the art of the impossible. If God has spoken, then followers are expected to live up to God’s edicts, regardless of the consequences. To base one’s life on such uncompromising commitments may be sublime, but to base our policy making on such commitments would be a dangerous thing…
In fact, such statements by an American politician are so refreshing that I’m tempted to vote for him! But it’s best not to get carried away: the highest morality is to use one’s brain as best one can. Let’s evaluate his ideas about how to strengthen our schools, science, and economy. And besides, don’t forget that he’s a politician – and if that’s not damning enough, he’s a Chicago-area politician!



McCain's Christian Constitution

In our family of five, finally we can talk freely about religion, now that our younger son has broken free from his 20-year entrapment in Mormonism. He jettisoned the junk when he saw that Joseph Smith’s Book of Abraham was a total hoax. Now I’m pleased to say (in fact, I’m proud to say), we’re all secular humanists (in fact, scientific humanists).

Unfortunately, though, our poor grandchildren are still trapped in their mother’s religious delusions. We hope that, as they mature, our grandchildren will be able to see all religions for what they are (namely, silly speculations by schizophrenics and ignoramuses, promoted by fools and power mongers), but experience has shown that gaining such insight can be very slow.

Thereby, experience has also shown that at least one of Christ’s “prophecies” was valid, namely, his alleged statement in the New Testament at, for example, Matthew 10, 34:
Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a son’s wife against her mother-in-law…
Similar is reported in the Gospel of Thomas (16):
Jesus said, “Perhaps people think that I have come to cast peace upon the world. They do not know that I have come to cast conflicts upon the earth: fire, sword, war. For there will be five in a house: there’ll be three against two and two against three, father against son and son against father, and they will stand alone.”
Such evil promoted by Jesus prompted me to write one of the “Christian limericks” that I relayed in an earlier post:

Although Christ claimed that he was all heart
Filled with love, which he'd love to impart,
I say it's untrue:
The worst thing to do
Is to work to break families apart.

In contrast to our open communications about religion, however, our family of five has learned to constrain our comments about politics and politicians. The trouble is, we’re split “down the middle” – which, come to think of it, is actually quite a feat, given that there are five of us! My wife and I are proud that our older son was elected as a delegate for Hillary (not necessarily for his choice, but for his commitment, effort, and success); I admit that we’re always proud of our daughter, who supports Obama; so, that sums to two Democrats. My wife and younger son repeatedly vote Republican; so, I expect that they’ll vote for McCain. And me? Well, in principle at least, I’m a Libertarian.

I admit that, being a “welfare brat” when I was a kid, I support the Democrats' emphasis on cooperative communities. I also support their liberal ideas. Yet, it really gets to me to see how the Democrats essentially “buy votes” by promising so many “goodies” to so many lazy consumers (by pilfering the producers via exorbitant taxes), as well as the Democrats’ continued emphasis on government “solutions” to problems best solved by free markets. And on the other hand, having worked hard and having been influenced during my early career by Ayn Rand’s philosophy, I admit that I support the Republicans’ commitment to individualism and their desire to see that the producers keep the rewards that they honestly earn. Yet, it also really gets to me not only to see how the Republicans use corporate money to essentially buy votes (especially, by spreading rumors about opponents) but also – and especially – their horrible entanglement with “the Religious Right” (or better, “the Religious Wrong”).

As Isaac Kramnick and Laurence Moore write in their book The Godless Constitution (p. 85):
The religious right today wants only half of the laissez-faire ideal to which the founders of this country adhered. They accuse those we call liberals today [i.e., the Democrats] of abandoning the founders’ faith in economic laissez-faire, and there is much truth to this accusation. But they themselves [and therefore most Republicans] have abandoned the other half of our founders’ ideals, religious laissez-faire, in the name of a restored religious tyranny, the religious correctness of a revived Christian commonwealth.
Only the Libertarian Party maintains commitment to both religious and economic laissez-faire; unfortunately, though, the Libertarian Party hasn’t yet developed sufficient “marketing skill” to generate widespread support.

For me, consequently, it comes down to judging the capabilities and personalities of the Democratic vs. Republican candidates. Gerald Ford wasn’t in the White House long enough for me to reach a judgment about him, but I learned enough about the others so that, for president, I don’t want another God-nut like Eisenhower or Carter, I don’t want another crook like Nixon, I don’t want another narcissist-bully like Johnson and Reagan, I don’t want another womanizer like Kennedy and Clinton, and I sure as hell don’t want another fool like both the Bushs. In fact, during the past 50 years, the only two occupants of the White House that I remember admiring are Barbara and Laura Bush - save for their choices of husbands!

Which then brings me to McCain vs. Obama. Could either be another Truman? Certainly I’m impressed by McCain’s record of service, courage, perseverance, willingness and capability to work with others, and his desire to help his country. I’m not overly impressed, however, either by his knowledge or his intelligence, and his comments during the interview conducted by Dan Gilgoff of beliefnet.com really turned me off.

For example, consider the following exchange:
Gilgoff: A recent poll found that 55 percent of Americans believe the U.S. Constitution establishes a Christian nation. What do you think?

McCain: I would probably have to say, yes, that the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation…
Gimme a break! Is McCain that stupid, that poorly educated, or is he just pandering to the Religious Wrong? I hope someone includes in his “summer reading list” not only Kramnick and Moore’s The Godless Constitution but also Robert Boston’s book Why the Religious Right is Wrong.

That 55% of Americans believe that “the U.S. Constitution establishes a Christian nation” isn’t surprising, given that (as I review and reference elsewhere):
  • In 1988, 94 million Americans didn’t know that the Earth went around the Sun and took a year to do so,
  • In 1990, 47% of adult Americans thought that UFOs are real and 27% though that aliens have visited the Earth,
  • In 2004, 60% of Americans said they believe in ESP and 41% thought that astrology is at least somewhat scientific,
  • In 2005, 51% of Americans believed humans were created in their present form by God, with only 15% accepting that “humans evolved from less advanced life forms over millions of years.”
  • In 2006, 60% of Americans of ages 18 to 24 couldn’t find Iraq on a map of the Middle East, 48% were unable to find Mississippi, and 47% couldn’t find India on a map of Asia.
But surely someone (such as McCain) who aspires to be the American president should know something about American history and its Constitution!

Didn’t McCain ever read in some history book about Roger Williams (1603–83) who founded the colony of Rhode Island? There, Williams established the principle of separation of Church and State, maintaining that “a pagan or anti-Christian pilot may be as skillful to carry the ship to its desired port as any Christian mariner or pilot in the world and may perform that work with as much safety and speed”, concluding:
All civil states, with their officers of justice, in their respective constitutions and administrations, are proved essentially civil, and therefore not judges, governors, or defenders of the spiritual, or Christian, state and worship.
As a politician, doesn’t McCain know anything about John Locke (1632–1704), his political philosophy, and his theory of rights, which were foundational in the formation of the American republic? Doesn’t McCain know anything about how Jefferson and Madison extended Locke’s and Joseph Priestley’s ideas not only about “life, liberty, and property” but also to establish similar rights for all Americans, not just “god believers”? Such ideas led Jefferson to state:
The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither breaks my leg nor picks my pocket.
Has McCain never seen Jefferson’s explanation about why the Virginia legislature rejected the attempt to insert the words “Jesus Christ” into his and Madison’s bill for religious freedom? Jefferson wrote:
The insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they mean to comprehend within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and the Mohometan [Muslim], the Hindoo [Hindu], and the infidel of every denomination.
Or if unaware of the ideas of Jefferson and Madison, surely the military man McCain should have learned about General Washington’s instructions to his general (and subsequent traitor) Benedict Arnold on 14 September 1775:
…as far as lies in your power, you are to protect and support the free exercise of religion of the country, and the undisturbed enjoyment of the rights of conscience in religious maters, with your utmost influence and authority.
Or if not that, how about what President Washington wrote to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island:
…happily the government of the United States… gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance… Everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.
And if not even that, I’d suggest that McCain consider President Washington’s response to Tench Tighman on 24 March 1784 when asked what type of workman to get for Mount Vernon:
If they are good workmen, they may be from Asia, Africa, or Europe; they may be Mahometans [Muslims], Jews, Christians of any sect, or they may be Atheists…
Or failing even that, surely Senator McCain should at least consider the Treaty of Tripoli, negotiated by Washington, approved by the Senate on 7 June 1797, and signed by President John Adams on 10 June 1797, whose Article 11 starts:
As the government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion…
But if McCain has studied neither history nor politics, shouldn’t he at least have studied the Constitution, which if he’s elected as president, he’d be required to take an oath (or affirm) to “preserve, protect and defend”, but NOT (as can be seen in the Constitution) by adding the words “so help me God”? Where in the Constitution does it establish that America is a Christian nation? The Constitution not only doesn’t mention Christianity, it doesn’t mention any religion (or any god). Its Article VI states, “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States”. And as if that weren’t enough, clearly displayed with banners and flags on the wall between religion and the new secular, republican government is the Constitution’s First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of [any] religion…

As a former military man, McCain should know that the long war between those who wanted a theocracy and those who wanted a republican government separated from religion was won during America’s birth, more than two hundred years ago, by the secularists. Declaring his allegiance to the side that lost may help McCain garner some votes from the Christian Wrong, but if he desires to be president of all Americans and if he’s willing to swear on his honor that he’ll protect the Constitution, then he’d be well advised to read it, understand it, and withdraw and apologize for his atrocious statement: “Yes… the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation.”

And if that ill-considered statement weren’t enough, there’s more from McCain in the Gilgoff interview (dealing with the nonsense that America was founded on “Judeo-Christian principles”), but since Obama has recently been promoting the same errors and their refutation should be extensive, I’ll set them aside for a later post.



Some new "old wives' tales"

At the outset, I should admit that I’m skeptical of many “old wives’ tales”, in part because I don’t know if that expression means “old-wives' tales” or “old wives'-tales” but mainly because I doubt the wisdom allegedly contained in many of them. For example, there’s the old wives’ tale: “You can’t teach old dogs new tricks.” My experience is: “It depends.”

I should also admit at the outset that psychology isn’t my strong suit. [I like to say it that way, potentially leaving the impression that I have one or more other strong suits still in reserve.] Yet, if one goes around the block enough times, it’s almost impossible not to pick up a few odds and ends about psychology, useful (for example) in training dogs.

For example, of late I’ve been teaching Heidi how to roll over. My Heidi is undoubtedly the world’s best and smartest dog. [I'd add that she's also the most beautiful, but I don't want to leave the impression that I'm biased.] She's quite old – I’m not sure how old, but probably more than 13 years. Even more than tromping through wild flowers, she loves lawns. When she’s finished sniffing lawns, she lies down on the fresh green grass, and within a minute or so, she rolls over on her back, back and forth, as if trying to wiggle even closer to the great green grass. I know the feeling.

With that introduction, maybe you already see how I’ve been training Heidi to roll over. I take her to the lawn at a local park and without permitting her to go through her sniffing routine, I instruct her to lie down. (She’s good at that: someone earlier in her life took the responsibilities for looking after and training her; now, I just point down, say “lie down”, and she will.) Then, after she lies down, I roll my pointed finger around in a circle and say “roll over” – and sure enough, she does!

As animal trainers advise, I reward her with a treat when she does what I desire and ignore her when she doesn’t. She seems to be catching on. Soon, I’ll try to teach her how to roll over on other than grass (!) and then, how to “play dead”. So, old wives’ tales to the contrary notwithstanding, I say that some old dogs can be taught new tricks, if enough time, patience, and treats are invested.

All of which, I suggest, is relevant to the recent inauguration of a Saudi conference on the issue of domestic violence by the charming Princess of Saudi Arabia, Princess Adella. In her story about the conference in the 2 June 2008 issue of Arab News, Basma Al-Mulaq (who earned her Ph.D. from London University in comparative and feminist literature in the Middle East) wrote the following:
This is a noteworthy and promising event. The importance of this step lies in the fact that the government took the initiative on an issue that directly relates to women – a bold shift in its relatively prolonged and oft-aborted journey toward the reform of women’s rights. This strategy of introducing new policies and legislation would be the ideal way of enabling women in Saudi Arabia to overcome historical impediments to their self-empowerment, particularly since the 1980s. Previous strategies of testing the water and the inevitable subsequent appeasements of so-called “religious sensibilities” have resulted in nothing but the failure to launch any progressive programs. Nor has waiting for the peoples’ consensus on laws relating to women’s rights proved feasible. The hosting of an important forum is a vital step in the thousand-mile road Princess Adella (who is active in philanthropic and social work) and others like her must travel to build up the support and arsenal needed to demolish the high wall of taboos that has for so long surrounded and hidden from view generations of familial abuse. This is because the issue touches upon “shame” and “tradition”, ideologies that have a grip on the Arab mentality. For many years, countless women in the Kingdom have had to mutely endure all sorts of physical and verbal abuse, powerless themselves to protect their children from further abuse.

There is a direct correlation between notions of shame and the prevalence of violence. When a beast is born in the home of a family, rather than proudly fighting or fleeing it, “shame” locks the woman and her children into a silent and futile tussle with the beast, and prevents her from seeking outside help. In Saudi Arabia there have been a few domestic violence victims who have come out of their seclusion and made the headlines in the past few years. Rania, Rahaf, Samirah, Rana and of course Ghosoon are only some examples that are still alive in the collective memory of Saudis.

These women’s dilemmas mirror the near-impossible situation of women in the Kingdom. The story of Ghosoon was just the tip of the iceberg, and if one looked closely at her life, one would see that it followed a familiar pattern with all the attendant pathologies. After her mother was divorced from the father Ghosoon lived with her mother for nine years, after which following the Shariah law, the father won custody over Ghosoon.

The young girl was physically abused during the course of one year living with her father and eventually murdered at his hands. Although the father and the stepmother were sentenced to death in 2006, one still questions how a father can get away with violently abusing a young girl in his care for so long without any of the authorities intervening. He surely realized that he could act with total impunity, and only when it was too late, and the girl lay dead did the law of the land pass sentence on his crimes. What use to the victim is punishment without prevention?

No one would have known about the abuse endured by Ghosoon if it weren’t for the fact that she was eventually taken to hospital suffering from severe injuries inflicted by her own father in the presence of his second wife. This was in spite of the fact that the young girl’s uncle had time after time reported the incidences of brutal abuse to the police, who refused to take action. This should make the police themselves culpable of and accomplices to this abuse, in the eyes of the law.

Such incidents bring us face to face with issues we might rather ignore: They are discrimination against women in this male-dominated society, and the erroneous interpretation and teaching of some of the Qur’anic texts.

While I find a father’s physical abuse of his daughter abhorrent, I am just as sickened by the hypocrisy discernible in our system based on tradition and honor. The lie must be given to the idea that there is any “honor” in abusing members of one’s own family.

I would suggest then that while the forum is a welcome initiative, addressing domestic violence issues in isolation from other forms of officially sanctioned and systematic abuse of women’s rights will prove futile, because women are trapped in a system that is prejudiced against their needs and rights, and it is only once they can claim these basic rights, without fear of intimidation, condemnation and prosecution, that they will be able to stand their ground and face not only their male abusers but the whole world.
I agree with much of what Dr. Mulaq has written, but not all – for reasons that I’ll mention below. First, though, I want to display an article with which I disagree even more and which appeared (in Arabic) on the reformist website www.aafaq.org. The tremendous website MEMRI provided the following translation of excerpts of the article, written by the “Saudi reformist and human rights advocate” Wajeha Al-Huwaidar:
Last April, a 17-year old Iraqi girl named Du’a Khalil Al-Aswad fell in love with a boy from a different [religious] sect. By this act, she violated the ‘honor’ of the men in her sect, causing them to go mad with the boiling [rage] of hellfire. Their male [egos] swelled like cancerous tumors, and their minds locked into the primitive madness of ‘honor.’

They filled with restless madness, and in order to relive their anguish, they hurried to sentence poor Du’a to death, and then decided to carry out their sentence in the ugliest possible imaginable, i.e., by public stoning. They killed her with the utmost cruelty and depravity.

Du’a Al-Aswad is a victim of the wild male madness called ‘honor.’ This concept is prevalent throughout the Greater Middle East [Al-Sharq Al-AwsatAl-Kabir], or perhaps I should say the Greater Filthy East [Al-Sharq Al-AwsakhAl-Kabir], since it is worthy of this label from every perspective – in particular [when it comes to] the treatment of women. From Pakistan and Afghanistan through Iran, the Middle East, and all the way to Morocco, this entire part of the world [is full of] defeated and dejected men, whose only way to gain some sort of victory is by beating their women to death.

The depraved men who participated in the stoning of Du’a – all of them [guilty of] premeditated and deliberate murder – were raised to believe that the lives of their women are theirs to control. That is why they competed with one another at stoning Du’a, and fought to film her as she gasped out her last breaths. These horrible men conspired to kill a young girl who had committed no crime and hurt no one. Each of them picked up a boulder and hurled it at her. [Feeling] prideful and glorious, they bashed in this young [girl’s] head, and her blood pooled on the ground as she lay there dead...

But killing her was not enough for them. After she was dead, they mutilated her young body, kicking her and piling more rocks on top of her. Then they broke out in cries of ‘Allah akbar,’ and ‘there is no god but Allah’ as though they had just won a strategic battle.

Not one of them felt pity for her, not one of them lifted a finger to help her, and not one of them [even tries to] speak in her defense. They were like the stones they hurled at her – frozen and devoid of all compassion.”

Had Du’a been an animal, someone would have [probably] taken notice and tried to rescue her from these inhuman men. But she was a woman, and in the Greater Filthy East, the life of a woman is worth far less than the life of an animal.

According to the norms of the East, [the concept of] ‘honor’ relates only to the behavior of women. Women have become easy prey for men, who murder them in order to restore their threatened sense of honor.

Du’a is a victim of both men and women – she is a victim of her entire society. In a region that fosters its men’s hostility until it becomes a raging demon, [men come to] feel that the women in their family are their property, to be treated any way they want.

[This mentality is common among all Middle Eastern] men – Muslim and non-Muslim, Arab and non-Arab, rich and poor, educated and ignorant, great and small, those living in the West and those who have remained in their homelands – as long as they were raised in this region... that is riddled with the disease of ‘honor,’ or are of [Middle Eastern] origin. [All these men] have the potential to turn into raging beasts, especially if they were raised [to believe that] a woman’s body and [her behavior] in her private life have a [direct] bearing on their honor and on the honor of their family, clan, nation, sect and all their ancestors throughout the ages.

All those who believe that honor [resides] in the woman’s body are potential murderers, and [could] someday murder a woman when their false sense of honor is aroused. All those who agree that a man has the right to murder a woman, or to cause her physical harm [for the sake of preserving] his honor, are potential killers.”

Those who believe that men have more rights than women, and raise their children to believe the same, are raising [more] men who will kill another Du’a in some other place. All those who believe that they have the right to hit a woman in order to ‘educate’ her or ‘correct her ways’ might be involved in the murder or harming of a woman.

Any legislator who passes a law dealing leniently with ‘honor killings’ is just as culpable as those who actively participated in the murder of the victims – [just as culpable as] the murderers who have the blood of Du’a and of other women on their hands.

All governments that discriminate between men and women in rights and duties, that shelter the perpetrators of ‘honor killings,’ and that give men either partial or complete control over women’s lives... collaborate with the perpetrators of these despicable crimes...

On the anniversary of the death of the innocent Iraqi girl Du’a Khalil Al-Aswad, murdered in cold blood and in heinous male ferocity in front of eye witnesses, I say to the women of the Greater Filthy East: “Good for you for managing to raise beasts who delight in harming you and in shedding your blood and the blood of your daughters.” [And] good for the countries and governments that attribute more importance to the lives of animals than to your lives and the lives of your daughters.

“Good for you for defending your beastly men and supporting them on political [issues]. Good for you for supporting their failing movements and wars, and their hostile thinking that allows [them] to humiliate and beat you.”

“Good for you for creating your own executioners, and for supporting and aiding them. You know full well that many of them regard you as worthless beings existing [solely] for their pleasure.”

“Good for you for [tolerating] these inhuman men, many of whom yearn to drink your blood and the blood of your daughters whenever the drums of revenge and ‘honor’ start beating in their rotting and petrified brains.”
For a more recent example of such horrible “honor killings”, one of thousands if not millions, see a 1 June 2008 report at The Observer.

Now, readers might wonder how I could disagree with Basma Al-Mulaq about the desirability of promoting Saudi women gaining “their needs and rights” or how I could possibly disagree with Wajeha Al-Huwaidar for her tirade against the “heinous male [Muslim]… beasts” with their “rotting and petrified brains”. My reason is simply this: what’s important, I maintain, is not the needs and rights of women but their responsibilities. That is, the women (the mothers) are responsible for the results that their girls have been trained to be docile sheep and their boys, mad dogs. Therefore, Muslim women must change: they must take responsibility for training their children differently. In contrast to Basma's claim, no human baby is born as a beast; humans become beasts by training, for example, by beating them.

But again I admit that I lack sufficient competence in psychology to advise Muslim women about specific ways to proceed, save for the following obvious recommendation. Rather than convene a workshop about women’s rights, it would be wise if someone such as the Saudi princess were to convene a series of workshops (for Muslim women, at which the world’s leading psychologists would meet with leading advocates for the protection and advancement of Muslim women and children) to define goals, strategies, and tactics for how to proceed and to develop a series of methods for measuring progress toward identified goals.

Surely foremost among the tactics to be developed would be to define methods (e.g., by advertising in newspapers and magazines, on billboards, and on radio and TV) to teach as many Muslim women as possible about how to train dogs, children, and men. And in spite of my admitted incompetence in psychology, surely it’s obvious that the basic method is similar for training all such animals: reward what they do right; ignore what they do wrong. In time, to get what they desire, all such animals will learn to obey the women in their lives, because women can provide (or withhold) what such animals desire: love, food, and attention.

Yet, in spite of my incompetence to provide realistic details, perhaps it would be useful if I tried to illustrate potential outcomes of such efforts by listing some hypothetical examples of the types of assessments and recommendations that might be produced by such workshops. In that spirit, consider the following potential goals and possible tactics.

1. Eliminate prejudices against female babies

As the psychologist Lloyd deMause relays, it’s common in Muslim families that: “When a boy is born, the family rejoices; when a girl is born, the whole family mourns.” According to Islamic law, there are legal factors that might stir such emotions (dealing with inheritances), but on the one hand, cultural demands will always, eventually, overcome legalities, and on the other hand, obviously females are more important than males! Thus, any society could continue (and even flourish) if there were only one male for every hundred-or-so females, but any society will quickly flounder if there is only one female for every hundred-or-so males.

Consequently, to counteract the horrible prejudice in most Muslims families against female babies, campaigns should be initiated by Muslim women to celebrate births of daughters. I don’t have sufficient knowledge about Muslim societies or about how to manipulate public opinion to suggest useful details about such campaigns, but perhaps those more competent at the proposed Workshops would consider “spreading slogans” (e.g., maybe in the form of some new “old wives’ tales”) such as “Having a single daughter is more important than having a hundred sons”, “A son means war; a daughter means peace”, “A daughter means life; a son means death”, “Girls are gifts from heaven; boys are punishments from hell”, and so on – guided by the overriding principle that in this case, the end (welcoming equally the birth of either a boy or girl) does justify the means.

2. Rectify imbalances in parental treatments of male vs. female infants

In what is now (as of 28 May 2008) a fifteen part series, the psychoanalyst who writes at the blog ShrinkWrapped has provided the world with a valuable glimpse at “The Arab Mind”. In Part II of the series, he details differences in parental treatments of male vs. female infants:
Arab boys are typically breast fed for 2 to 3 years while girls are weaned after only 1 year. There are complicated reasons for this including the folk mores that support pampering the nursing infant and the belief (which has some truth to it) that the mother will become pregnant more easily (in order to have a son) after the infant is weaned. Arab mothers practice demand feeding. The girl is thus weaned well before the development of significant language and once weaned, her needs are relatively neglected. The young boy, on the other hand, continues nursing until long after the establishment of language. He is able to verbalize his desires and is instantly gratified when he desires the breast, which comforts and arouses as well as nourishes. As per Patai (p. 33) [Raphael Patai, author of the book The Arab Mind]:

"... the verbalization of the one major childhood desire, that for the mother’s breast, is followed, in most cases at least, by instant gratification. And, what is psychologically equally important, the emphatic verbal formulation of the wish carries in itself, almost automatically, the guarantee of its fulfillment without the need for any additional action on the part of the child. This experience, repeated several times a day for a number of months, cannot fail to leave a lasting impression on the psyche of the boy child. It may not be too far-fetched to seek a connection between this situation in childhood and a characteristic trait of the adult Arab personality which has frequently been observed and commented upon: the proclivity for making an emphatic verbal statement of intention and then failing to follow it up with any action that could lead to its realization. It would seem that – at least in certain contexts and moods – stating an intention or wish in itself provides a psychological satisfaction which actually can become a deterrent to undertaking the action that is averred."

In addition, we now know that insufficient frustration in early life, i.e., imperfect and occasionally delayed gratification, is an essential component of a healthy character. Children who receive too much gratification, just as those who receive insufficient gratification in early life, are prone to developing narcissistic and borderline character traits, such as, among others, poor frustration tolerance, poor affect control, and over-reliance on the environment to help regulate internal mood states.
In Part IX of his series, the author adds:
The young boy who is always gratified does not develop the necessary ability to tolerate reasonable frustration; at the same time he develops an exaggerated sense of self, a grandiose self. The young girl who is deprived of gratification develops a deeply impaired and damaged self, what has been called in its extreme form “soul murder” and what in more attenuated forms can evidence as poor self-esteem. In the cases of extreme gratification and extreme deprivation, the parent responds to personal designs and needs as opposed to the Western ideal of responding to the child’s infantile needs. Such needs include a deft dosage of deprivation and a reasonable amount of gratification; at the extremes, narcissistic vulnerability is the result.
To correct this imbalance, to avert self-aggrandizing in males and poor self-esteem in females (or in worst cases – and apparently, in perhaps the majority of Muslim cases – to avert pathological narcissism in males and “soul murder” of females), Muslim mothers need help. Again, I don’t know what the proposed Workshops would recommend, but I would have them consider stimulating development of additional new “old wives’ tales” such as: “If a boy isn’t weaned by one, then he’ll be a slave to women’s breasts for the rest of his life”, or “If a girl doesn’t suckle as long as a boy, then her own breasts will never develop”, and so on. And to obvious objections, I’d repeat that, in this case, for the healthy psychological development of both boys and girls, the end justifies the means – since it needs to be understood that, in general, most Muslim societies are so backward that it’s not yet possible to use straightforward (logical, scientific) methods to promote their developments.

3. Counteract the crushing authoritarianism in the Muslim world

For those readers familiar with the emotional phases through which most Western children evolve to reach adulthood (e.g., Erikson’s model of psychosocial development), the inhibitions to which most Muslim children are subjected are shocking. In general, as described by Arlene F. Harder:
Our personality traits come in opposites. We think of ourselves as optimistic or pessimistic, independent or dependent, emotional or unemotional, adventurous or cautious, leader or follower, aggressive or passive. Many of these are inborn temperament traits, but other characteristics, such as feeling either competent or inferior, appear to be learned, based on the challenges and support we receive in growing up.
For Muslim children, the challenges (in particular, the mental, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse) are so formidable and the lack of parental support experienced by both girls and boys is usually so glaring that I expect most psychologists would be astounded if any Muslim ever reaches emotional adulthood.

I’m incompetent to provide a full description. I’d encourage interested readers to study the already referenced articles by “ShrinkWrapped” about the Arab Mind and then compare his descriptions with that of Erikson’s insights as given by the psychologist George Boeree. From that comparison, I suspect that readers will agree that, in every one of Erikson’s “eight learning phases”, Muslim children suffer severe maladaptations: in the “trust vs. distrust” phase of infants and the “autonomy vs. shame and doubt” phase of toddlers, boys are pushed to one extreme (too trusting and too much autonomy) while girls are pushed to the other extreme; in childhood and adolescent years, especially because of authoritarian fathers, boys are again pushed to one extreme and girls to the other extreme of the ranges of “initiative vs. guilt”, “inferiority vs. industry”, and “identify vs. role confusion”, a common manifestation of which is fanaticism; as a result, it’s common to find most adult Muslims in the final three phases identified by Erickson (“intimacy vs. isolation”, “generativity vs. stagnation”, and “integrity vs. despair”) trapped in states of isolation, stagnation, and despair. No wonder that so many Muslims become jihad terrorists.

To counteract such terrible wastes of the potentials of so many humans, perhaps the proposed Workshops could recommend still another set of new “old wives’ tales” and ways to promote their dissemination and adoption throughout the Muslim world. Again I admit that I don’t know enough to make meaningful recommendations, but perhaps the following suggested set might stimulate identifying a better set: “A father who beats his son is a coward and will have a coward for a son”; “A father who damages his daughter’s ego damages his own soul”; “A man who hurts a child will be hated forever.”

4. Stop sexual abuse of Muslim children

As bad as are the physical, mental, and emotional abuses of Muslim children, their sexual abuse is even worse: it’s rampant, it’s a combination of physical, mental, and emotional abuses, and it’s essentially continuous (starting when children are infants and continuing until especially the abused males are sufficiently mature sexually to start abusing younger children). It’s difficult to obtain reliable statistics about the extent of sexual abuse of any group of children: in his online book the Emotional Life of Nations Lloyd deMause provides evidence suggesting that approximately 50% of even Western children are sexually abused (e.g., about 60% of all North American girls and 45% of all North American boys); reliable data for the Near and Far East don’t exist; I expect that essentially all children in these areas are sexually abused; deMause concludes “children who had not been sexually molested by their caretakers were a recent historical achievement, experienced by only a minority of children in a few places in the world.”

In Muslim countries, sexual abuse of children starts when they are infants, by parents (and others) massaging the infant’s genitals “to quieten them”, “to make them sleep”, or in the case of boys, “to make their penises grow longer”. As toddlers, children are used essentially as sex toys by both men and women. In later years, boys suffer painful circumcisions, a huge number of girls are forced to have horrible, criminal, beastly genital mutilations, men use children for oral, anal, and vaginal sex (many apparently preferring to have sex with children rather than with women), many boys are forced into the street to earn money for the family as prostitutes, and a horrible number of girls are sold by their families like cattle. In his book, deMause describes some of the physiological, psychological, and social consequences of such childhood trauma; as a result: “When these abused children grow up, they feel that every time they try to self-activate, every time they do something independently for themselves, they will lose the approval of the parents in their head.” They’re then ripe for picking by clerics, to use as pawns in clerical “holy wars”, so the clerics can continue their parasitic existences.

It will obviously be a horrendous task to correct such abusive behaviors and eliminate terrorism. And although my inclination is to suggest that all such abusive parents and parasitic clerics be shot, perhaps the Workshops can identify less extreme measures. I’m reluctant to suggest that concocting new “old wives’ tales” would be sufficient, but nonetheless, I’ll throw out for consideration a few pithy suggestions: “The man who has sex with a child is a coward”, “A man who has sex with a child isn’t man enough to have sex with woman”, “People who play with a child’s genitals are too afraid to play with their own”, “Any single person who doesn’t masturbate regularly will soon go insane”, “If you love yourself, give yourself an organism; if you love someone else, give your partner some”, “If you’re married and your partner doesn’t frequently tempt you to have sex, then you need to see a marriage counselor or get a divorce.”

5. Transform collective honor into personal honor; eliminate “honor killings”

The four pathologies outlined above are at the foundations of not only terrorism but also the primitive “honor system”, which leads Muslim males to murder "their" women. Because of their poor training by their mothers and their beatings and rapes by those in authority, the majority of Muslim males fail to become individuals. Instead, most consider themselves as just “part of the collective” (be it the family, the tribe, or the ummah). Collective ‘honor’ then dominates, while individual honor is essentially unknown and unfathomable. As described in detail by other authors, instead of a “guilt culture”, most Muslim cultures (like other primitive cultures) are “shame cultures”.

To help more Muslim males to become individuals, it’ll be necessary to first accomplish the four objectives listed above, which, however, will obviously take at least a generation. Meanwhile, for the current generation of Muslim males, given the failures of Islamic laws to stop “honor killings” of women, I would recommend that the Workshops consider establishing a secret network to deliver difficult-to-detect toxins throughout the Muslim world (for women to poison the food of such “heinous beasts”) and consider promoting such new “old wives’ tales” as: “Men who kill their wives or daughters are sick and soon will suffer”, “Men who can’t see that it’s wrong to kill women will soon not see at all”, or “Any man who kills a female family member is finished.

And once again I should probably address the old wives’ tale that “the end doesn’t justify the means”. Certainly that’s true, since the means are ends in themselves. The resolution is this. In each case, it’s necessary to judge which are the most important ‘ends’: the goal for which the means are used, or the means, themselves. And in the cases outlined above, with the goal being to turn Muslim “beasts” into men and to stop them from murdering women, my view is that essentially any means are acceptable, given that the prime moral code for all life is to try to continue living.

From all of which, maybe it’s now obvious why I disagree both with Basma Al-Mulaq (about the desirability of promoting Saudi women gaining “their needs and rights”) and with Wajeha Al-Huwaidar (for her tirade against the “heinous male [Muslim]… beasts” with their “rotting and petrified brains”). First, and in contrast to what Basma Al-Mulaq suggested, women aren’t entitled to any rights. Jefferson’s flowery language notwithstanding, people aren’t “endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights”. Instead, people must always wrestle what they consider to be their rights from whoever claims to have the power to withhold them.

Also, what Basma neglected to emphasize is that women have a huge responsibility, laid on them both by nature and by history. Nature provided women with what men and children want – even “need”; therefore, women have the potential to control both their men and their children. Further, history shows that competent women have exercised such control. For example, if Muslim woman would read the Epic of Gilgamesh (e.g., the version written in Babylon by Sin-eqi-unninni approximately 2200 years before Muhammad was born and about 1200 years after Gilga had died), then they’d see how, approximately 5,000 years ago, the Temple priestess Shamhat used her “womanly wiles” to civilize the “beast of a man” Enkidu – all with the approval of the chief cleric of the city of Uruk, namely, Gilga’s mother.

As for Wajeha Al-Huwaidar’s mistake, it’s not that I disagree with her descriptions of the “heinous male [Muslim]… beasts” with their “rotting and petrified brains” or even with her “good for you” sarcasm of “the women of the Greater Filthy East… for managing to raise beasts who delight in harming you and in shedding your blood and the blood of your daughters.” Instead, I disagree with her implicit method for trying to improve Muslim societies. To train animals, such as dogs, children, and men, it’s essentially pointless to scold them for failing to do what’s desired; such animals seek to do what the trainer desires (because they seek the favors that the trainer can bestow), but generally, they’re too dumb to understand why their favorite person sometimes scolds or even punishes them. An effective trainer essentially ignores bad behavior and rewards good behavior. Thus, I wish that, instead of her writing her rant, Wajeha had written in praise of those who are trying so hard to civilize the Muslim world.

Recall that the first civilizations (those in Mesopotamia and Egypt) were created by women, by overcoming patriarchal tribalism. But because of overpopulation (that is, inadequate birth-control methods) and resulting wars, males regained control – and cemented their control by retaking control of the priesthoods, which then claimed control over their society’s culture. Thereby, all clerics of the world became women’s enemies: the clerics, with their linear, hierarchical, left-hemisphere-dominated minds, try to gain (and in the case of Islamic clerics, have gained) control over their society’s customs, replacing women’s natural, holistic, compassionate worldviews with the clerics’ rules and regulations as specified in their “holy books”. Muslim women should realize, for example, that the clerical fools who have specified 70 rules and regulations for urinating and defecating almost certainly never once changed a baby’s diapers.

Therefore, Ladies, it’s up to you. It’s your responsibility – to your children, to your societies, and to the future – to regain control of your culture. Wrestle that control from the damnable patriarchs and clerics in whatever way works. If you’d ask me, I’d recommend that you both use available birth-control methods to take control of your reproductive powers and utilize your innate resources to train your children and retrain your men (and if necessary, to incapacitate the “heinous beasts” who are beyond training). Eventually, with your animals trained, I suspect that, if you just roll your fingers, the clerical dogs will roll over.

Be forewarned, however, that unless you are patient, persistent, and diligent, the parasitic clerical dogs will just pretend to be dead. Therefore, as you progress, work to entirely eliminate all clerical parasites from your societies. For example, instill your children with the new "old-wives' tale": "All clerics are the scum of the Earth."

In summary, I'd recommend that old wives, young wives, and all Muslim women frequently repeat the line from the poem praising motherhood by William Ross Wallace (1819-1881), "The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world", and act accordingly, as the rulers that Nature gave them the responsibility to be.