21 September 2010


Never has a person said to my face "I think all people of the ____ race should be put to death" or worse yet "Let's go kill all of the ______ people". At least, not exactly. In the weeks following the tragedies of 11 September 2001 more than a few times I overheard strangers, acquaintances, friends, and parents of friends suggest that perhaps "their whole desert" should be "nuked". People were angry, ready for a fight, and quite frankly irrational. For some it was deep seeded hates coming out and for others purely ignorance and a desire to have a large living target for their anger. Not that these sort of statements haven't been uttered at other times, but I lived through that particular one.

If the question was put to them as "Is genocide morally right?" I'd guess that next to none of them would say "Yes". I also wouldn't and couldn't agree and that brings us to something I saw on Facebook from an acquaintance of mine.

I've signed a petition to the UN asking that Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad be prosecuted for the crime of incitement to genocide. Please join me in signing the petition.
3 hours ago · Comment · Like · Share ·Flag

Ahmadinejad, as a political leader, is quite polarizing and so is the Israel/Palestine debate especially in how it involves religion and ethics. So, naturally I was curious and clicked the link Which led me to a page with the petitions text::

To the Honorable Ban Ki-moon,
Secretary-General of the United Nations
To the Honorable Susan Rice,
United States Ambassador to the United Nations
We, the undersigned, urge you to immediately call upon the United Nations Security Council to refer the case of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, to the International Criminal Court for prosecution of the crime of incitement to genocide. An application of international law to Ahmadinejad’s statements and actions demonstrates the urgent and compelling case for such a prosecution.
After the Holocaust, the nations of the world decided that they must never again allow such an atrocity to occur. In 1952, they passed the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. To date, 138 nations including Iran have ratified this most important agreement. This Genocide Convention outlaws not only the commission of genocide, but also the direct and public incitement to commit genocide. By so doing, the Genocide Convention empowers the international community to prevent future genocides by prosecuting the very actions that make genocides possible.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has a clear record of incitement to genocide as defined under the Genocide Convention and its application to date. He has sought to dehumanize Israelis and demonize Jews. He has repeatedly called for Israel’s destruction in direct and stark terms. He is getting close to acquiring the nuclear arms with which to make good on this genocidal threat. And, through his active support of Hezbollah and Hamas, he has clearly demonstrated that he is prepared to turn his talk of killing Israelis into deadly action.
The International Criminal Court has jurisdiction over violations of the Genocide Convention. And the United Nations Security Council has the power to refer such violations directly to that body. We therefore urge you to call upon the Security Council to act immediately to refer Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s dangerous pattern of behavior to the International Criminal Court before it is too late.
Had the world listened to Hitler’s words and watched his actions, the Holocaust could have been prevented. The same goes for the words and actions of those who perpetrated the more recent genocides in Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. The time has come to learn from these tragedies. The time has come to apply the wise legal measures adopted to prevent such atrocities. The time has come to indict Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for incitement to genocide.

Even as I chose not to sign to petition mostly because of the sponsoring organization, I agreed with the idea that (1) incitement to genocide, just as the act itself, shouldn't be tolerated and that (2) the cited UN convention seems to warrant Ahmadinejad's, among others', prosecution.

Presently I am taking a course called "Ethics: Belief and Action". In our first few weeks covered, what were framed as, stumbling blocks to true ethics. Chief among them for a culture haunted and pervaded with religion and spirituality was Divine Command Moral Theory. DCMT asks if it is ok to ground ethics in religion? Its most basic question is whether God tells us to do things because they are already moral or whether God MAKES them moral by asking us to do them (or by doing them himself). This question leads us back to Ahmadeinejad, incitement to genocide, and the petition.

With DCMT in mind I responded to my acquaintance's post:

I actually agree with this idea. Too bad we can't have the same sort of public display for anyone, leader of a nation or not, saying such vile and immoral things.

One snag is that the Yahweh of the Bible might also get brought up on the same charges. Quite a sticky situation.

It made me uncomfortable typing that but it is true if we apply the same standard. Yahweh, the Hebrew God of the Old Testament and the historic God of the literalist Christian, not only commanded genocide many documented times but also committed it with His great powers.

Where do we, the religious, the Christian, go from here?

04 September 2010


Working in a natural food store and being surrounded by many people in my life who are skeptical about one thing or another, the topic of childhood vaccinations has come up many many times. I have overheard many quips about the "money-hungry" and "corrupt" pharmaceutical companies that make vaccines as just part of their plot to keep people sick and in the dark about it. Some of the same and others voice concerns of possible side effects including autism. I knew little of the issue so I generally just listened and tried to learn what I could.

Growing up, the brother of a friend of my mother was said  have suffered mental retardation with autism after his first DPT [diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), and tetanus] immunization. With that idea firmly implanted, I believed for most 
of life that vaccines were generally bad and that I wouldn't allow children I may potentially father to receive them

In February 2010 NPR reported that the evidence most often cited by anti-vaccine advocates and organizations as their rational, by Dr Andrew Wakefield, had been retracted by its publishing journal. Outrage on the anti-vaccine side was apparent and finally a fuller version of the public debate over the common good benefit versus the possible side-effects was getting widespread coverage. My interest was piqued.

FRONTLINE: THE VACCINE WAR, first aired on PBS in April 2010, includes the new Wakefield development as well as the opinions and science on the issue from doctors, celebrity spokespeople, scientists, and parents. I found the reporting to be pretty balanced and in depth for a one hour running time. It is availabe now via Netflix, their on demand option, and for free at Frontline's website.

By the way, I'd include myself as skeptical even if the categories of skepticism may differ from the typical. 

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