Fellow practitioners tell me I am crazy for speaking out as an atheist in the social media. If I felt genuinely challenged by these caveats I might respond: It is the patriotic duty of all Americans to speak out with what they see as a scary -- Hallowe'en scary -- movement in this country ever so much toward theocracy, which as we all know is the very opposite, the contradiction of democracy, the very thing that brought many early Americans to our shores and in some ways at least distinguishes us from nations like Iran, where elections are merely pro forma expressions of opinion. Church wedded to State stifles anything progressive since the people are taught they only need to watch the tides coming in and going out and that is all one needs to know (Bill-O, with a #1 bestseller to back him up) or that evolution is OK, but when one looks at a lovely sunset, one must believe some superior being made it (John McShame, during a presidential primary debate )
I should have learned in law school when I edited the student newspaper and criticized a federal district judge for holding a young man in contempt of court for giving the judge what voir dire seeks: the truth. The words mean speak truth. The judge, a Republican who was senile and sleeping on the bench, sometimes through entire hearings with the federal prosecutor and all lawyers and miscreants present. He was known to nod off and not wake up until precisely when some young defense attorney had taken to his feet to address the court, to which the jurist would growl: "Will the defendant sit down!" My editorial concerned the judge's grilling of potential jurors (in federal court, and some state courts, the bench conducts the jury pool questioning).
One of the inquiries was into a perceived "drug problem," the "Drug War," and what the juror thinks of such matters. "Sir, I believe that drugs are a sociological problem and that they should be a part of the psychiatric or rehabilitation system, not the criminal justice system." When the federal judge released the pool that night, he added: "Except for you, young man. Bailiff, this person will spend the night in jail." Playboy made a huge brouhaha about the incident. I was not allowed to print my editorial. The law school dean said he would not sit by and allow a student to "attack" a sitting federal judge." I was in a Catholic law school. Go figure.
I just won't learn. The new issue of the State Bar's house organ, the Bar Journal, just reached my mail box today and I was immediately drawn to another attorney's take on the European witchcraft trials and how, in the earliest kangaroo courts involving accuser and witch, both parties were forced to appear pro se, but with time the rules of evidence and procedure crept into the system and eventually put an end to post hoc arguments and silly accusations mostly based on neighborhood enmities, covetousness, and like causes, including one the essay author too obviously left out. I wrote to the editor to point out certain things "overlooked" by the professional journal author. Read for yourselves if you wish:
I hope this gets published!
I'd choose pull quotes like these: (ellipses omitted)
Only in theocracies could such state-sanctioned witch pogroms have taken place.
Where misogyny rears its ugly head, clerics are not too far away. The Church instigated the witch-finding primarily to quell the most common “magic” of the crones: their administration of abortifacients.
This is the 21st century. Yet we have a United States Supreme Court justice who referred to Satan and claimed that this simple-minded bugaboo is quite real. The Founding Fathers framed our First Amendment to put an end forever to such kangaroo courts.
Here's your letter as plainer text. (People should read it, whether or not their computer/phone/whatever can handle Word documents!)
14 October 2014
Texas Bar Journal
P. O. Box 12487
Austin, Texas 78711-2487
As an amateur historian with a special emphasis on the occult and religion, I read with interest attorney Peter S. Poland’s account of the European witchcraft trials and the procedures by which the women were tried, found guilty, and either hanged or burned at the stake. Throughout the essay the spectre of an 800-pound gorilla haunted the pages of an issue cleverly devoted to spooky Hallowe’en-themed articles. The gorilla is theocracy. Only in theocracies could such state-sanctioned witch pogroms have taken place. Using fear of the unknown – this was post-Galileo but pre-Darwin – the ecclesiastical authorities persuaded the royal heads of state that God himself condemned almost all accused of practicing the Craft of the Wise Old Women.
Where misogyny rears its ugly head, clerics are not too far away. Mr. Poland might have informed your readers of some witchy practices having nothing at all to do with consorting with the Devil. My considerable reading into the witch pogroms convinces that the Church instigated the witch-finding and subsequent trials primarily to quell the most common “magic” of the crones: their administration of abortifacients. The Malleus Malefacarum and other anti-Wiccan tomes written by God-fearing monks invented Satanic sabbats to frighten the gullible pagani into accepting the trials as a necessary evil. (As every learned Freemason knows, similar charges of Satan-worship were leveled against the Knights Templar, Europe’s bankers at the time and owners of vast lands coveted by both Pope Boniface VIII and King Philippe-le-Bel. They simply invented a Satanic idol, the Baphomet, and accussed the Knights of worshiping it. This is how the last Grand Master, Jacques deMolay, met his end.)
Now, spring forward to present-day America, where the same post hoc reasoning (“My wife just died, and it was the witch/evil-eyed woman who killed her”) and perjured and inexpert testimony on demonology continues in courts almost unabated. (Remember the McMartin Preschool trials?) Marlowe said he regarded every religion as a child’s toy. One might think most Americans have put away their childish things; after all, this is the 21st century. Yet we have a United States Supreme Court justice who tells interviewers (New York magazine, for example) how Catholic dogma affects his jurisprudential reasoning. He even referred to Satan a time or two and claimed that this simple-minded bugaboo of Christianity is quite real to him.
The Founding Fathers framed our First Amendment to put an end forever, at least in America, to such kangaroo courts as the witchcraft trials. It is a shame Justice Antonin Scalia, a foe of church-state separation, not only fails to understand this but actually tells magazine readers he believes in a hellish equivalent of Michael Myers.
James M. Martin
... the Church instigated the witch-finding ... primarily to quell the ... administration of abortifacients.
"Birth Control Power", discussing and quoting from Sara Robinson's article "Why Patriarchal Men Are Utterly Petrified of Birth Control and Why We'll Still Be Fighting About It 100 Years From Now"
Male privilege has been with us for — how long? Ten thousand years? A hundred thousand? Contraception, in the mere blink of an eye in historical terms, toppled the core rationale that justified that entire system. And now, every aspect of human society is frantically racing to catch up with that stunning fact. ... In the meantime, we shouldn’t be surprised to be confronted by large groups of well-organized men (and their female flunkies, who are legion) marshaling their vast resources to get every last one of Pandora’s frolicking contraception-fueled demons back into the box