Thursday, May 31, 2012

There is just no nice way to say some things.

I ran across an interesting article over at skepchick today that I found interesting.

A Few Things To Stop Doing When You Find a Feminist Blog

The author poses several questions that she gets asked often and answers them, one question and answer in particular caught my eye.
Have you perhaps considered taking the oppressor’s face in your hands, gently smoothing back hir hair, softly and sweetly whispering your message in hir ears with lots of words like “maybe” “sort of” and “I’m not blaming you”? I think the people who treat you horribly would be very receptive to that. Just my two cents.
She answers this in the following way.  
I have considered this one! I have done this one. I have also tried not doing this. Funny thing: you get the same result either way. And that result is based on the person you are talking to. You know, based on the way they choose to react, instead of your tone of voice, kind smile, and Circadian rhythms at the time. Everybody has their own responsibility to choose how to approach the inequities of the world; many people choose to slough off that responsibility onto the messenger, because they can, because they have that privilege, because to listen to the messenger and agree with them means the immediate end of that privilege. 
Now, as a man I have to admit that in the past, even since becoming an atheist, I have said things that were rather ignorant on the topic of feminism.  Even in the last several years my views have evolved quite a bit, and I'm sure I am still less than perfect on this.  What made me realize I was wrong here was my own experiences as an atheist, and I think this answer is relevant to a lot of issues besides feminism.

As an I regularly hear much the same complaint from various people, not all of them are Christians or even religious, but they all say the same basic thing.  Perhaps people would listen if atheists were nicer.  In my experience, however, it rarely matters. I have written posts or had conversations where I have specifically said I am not saying something only to be accused of saying that very thing a few moments later, I have pointed out cases in society where religious people (often specifically Christians) are given special privilege or status in my country only to be told that by religious people that I'm wrong to complain or that this isn't a case of special privilege at all.  Any conversation about our national motto inevitably ends with Christians telling me that the national motto being "in god we trust" does not amount the government giving special status to the religious and I should simply stop complaining because my complaint is stupid.   This is often followed by complaints about how Christian rights are being trampled in the country because they no longer have the right to force children to pray in schools.

No matter how nice I am the reaction is mostly the same, and these aren't even conversations about beliefs.  These aren't conversations where I am trying to convince someone that their religious beliefs are wrong, only that having those beliefs result in special  privileges in much of our society.

The reality is that human psychology is to blame for quite a bit of this.  None of us want to admit our failings, or admit that we benefit from a system that is biased in our favor.  For a very long time when some feminist came along and pointed some example of sexism I often reacted by denying it in some way.

My rationalization usually worked like this:
  1. Sexism is bad.
  2. If I supported sexism, or even indirectly benefited from it in some way I would be bad.
  3. I'm a good person.
  4. Therefore whatever you are talking about couldn't be sexist.
It took me a long time to get over that line of thinking, I can't even say I totally am over it, but I can't help but think that many theists are reacting with the same line of reasoning, and insisting they socially privileged because of their belief sounds to them like I am saying they are a bad person.  I'm not of course, most people are generally pretty decent irregardless of their religious beliefs.  People usually support a system biased in their favor because they are so used to the privilege they are unaware they even have it, instead of special favor it is just the way things are.  Usually the hardest part of change is admitting to being part of the problem.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Pastor Charles Worley says that we should lock gay people in an electric fence.

Standing ovation greets Pastor Charles Worley, who made anti-gay statements

I don't even know what to say about this.  

Worley is met with cheers and claps when he says:

I figured a way out, a way to get rid of all the lesbians and queers but I couldn’t get it pass the Congress – build a great big large fence, 50 or a hundred mile long. Put all the lesbians in there, fly over and drop some food. Do the same thing with the queers and the homosexuals. And have that fence electrified so they can’t get out.
He seriously just advocated for concentration camps...and people wonder why the idea of a Christian theocracy scares the hell out of me.

He went on to say:
I tell ya right now, somebody said, 'Who you gonna vote for?' I ain’t gonna vote for a baby killer and a homosexual lover! You said, ‘Did you mean to say that?’ You better believe I did!
Clearly a reference to President Obama, which may, ironically, be the statement that gets him in trouble since churches as 501c3 organizations are allowed to lobby for causes but not allowed to directly support any particular political figures.

Complaints have been filed, so they may loose their tax exempt status over this, but we will just have to wait and see.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Going to ComiCon today.

Going to be out at ComiCon today so no detailed post but I'll leave you with a video some friends showed me the other night:

Shit Skeptics say:

I think I have easily said almost everything on this list.

I might post a few photos from comicon later.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

New Facebook page.

Just a heads up.

I created a Facebook page for this blog which I'm sure everyone will want to run over and "like" immediately.

It'll be a good way to get notifications of blog updates if you don't use twitter, which you can also follow if you want, just look me up as skeptimusprime on twitter.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Atheists are having an effect, even if theists like to deny it.

A couple of months ago I wrote a post detailing a review of one of the chapters in a book entitled "True Reason." This was put out by a Christian ministry in an attempt to argue that Christianity is actually more reasonable than non-belief.  Now, the arguments in the book were pretty far from rational, the entire book did nothing but rip on logical failures of atheists.  Some of those failures were real, some were imagined, but in either case the book failed to make strong argument for how Christianity was rational on its own merits.

Reading through this made me start mulling over something interesting.  Irregardless of how much of a failure this book actually was in terms of rational argument, I realized this is a book that would never have even been published a decade ago.  The reason is that Christians were not, by and large, concerned with being the most rational.

I spent a number of years as a fundamentalist and involved specifically in a student ministry called Student Mobilization.  We were not generally concerned with our beliefs being rational, in fact I can think of several examples of people speaking highly of our willingness to be irrational for our beliefs.

Once in a bible study the topic of the trinity came up and we all had to admit that would could not really explain or understand it and our leader spoke about how great is was that we were willing to believe in something that made no logical sense.

In another instance I was told by several leaders, including the one in the previous story, that when evangelizing someone I should avoid speaking about evidence and should instead focus on my own personal conversion story because people cannot argue with personal experiences.

These stories were hardly a-typical, in fact that were quite common, we generally accepted that our beliefs would appear to be crazy to anyone who rationally thought through them.

Fast forward to today, the atheist movement is growing and garnering attention, it is getting better organized, and many people point to various books written by atheists as catalyst that finally tipped them into non-belief.  It seems to me that Christians are becoming more concerned with arguing their beliefs are rational precisely because of the impact that our arguments have had on the discourse, suddenly religion is no longer being viewed as being beyond rational inquiry and debate, and what's more it is loosing that debate.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Heartland Institute loosing funding.

This billboard in case you forgot.
I wrote a while back about Heartland Institute's atrocious billboard.  Apparently people quite a few people were angry about the billboard, even groups that have been funding them up to now.

According to this press release heartland did pull the ads, but Heartland they seem to have lost over 800,000 dollars in support according to several articles I have read including this one.

The loss of money has cause them to accept money from a lobby of coal companies which adds further questions about the credibility of their claims.

They had already lost some funding after Peter Gleick got his hands on some of Heartlands documents last year.  Heartland has claimed that some of the documents were forged but evidence suggests otherwise, this billboard, however, made the organization look completely unhinged and so many companies have pulled resources, and some people have even left the organization.

Several of the people who left have spoke on the issue.

Ross McKitrick a Canadian Economist said: 
"You can not simultaneously say that you want to promote a debate while equating the other side to terrorists and mass murderers."
Eli Lehrer, former head of their washington branch had this to say:
"As somebody who deals mostly with insurance I believe all risk have to be taken seriously and there certainly are some important climate and global warming related risks that must be taken account of in the insurance market. Trivialising them is not consistent with free-market thought. Suggesting they are only thought about by people who are crazy is not good for the free market."
Hopefully this billboard will continue to cost them, here is to hoping that heartlands credibility is permanently shot.

SpaceX Launch Successful.

This is truly awesome.

It was just an unmanned test flight, but still it is quite an achievement.  It's proof that we no longer need to depend solely on governments to give us space flight.  I am super excited about this.

On a personal note I will be at TAM this year, already have my registration and hotel booked.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The post in which I beat up on liberal religion.

Most of my posts on religion naturally speak about more conservative or fundamentalists varieties of religion because those are the ones which tend to impact society the most, but my skepticism leads me to reject all religious claims including the more liberal types.

Sure liberal religious people aren't actively trying to take dismantle church state separation or tech creationism in schools, but they usually have plenty of strange ideas. They usually keep those ideas to themselves, but  every so often I run into a liberal religious person who likes to take jabs at the atheist position, usually by accusing us of throwing out the proverbial baby with the bathwater.  

Which brings us to this article: 
Most of the article is fairly innocuous, the writer seems to be just waxing about some of his experiences of fundamentalist religion and some of his criticisms of it.  I think some of his criticisms are wrong here too but where this persons thoughts go completely off the rails is when they start to address atheism.

Here is the opining paragraph: 
Of course, for some the whole issue of faith is resolved by flipping to the opposite side of the same coin—atheism, the belief that there is no such actuality as God in any sense. Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens have many followers these days, but their arguments are as silly and superficial as those that Catholics use for Jesus as God.
Now I automatically wonder if he has read any arguments by people like Dawkins or the late Christopher Hitchens, and he certainly gives no indication of why he feels the arguments are silly, though usually this criticism is leveled by liberal theists because they think that atheists are unaware of the liberal theology usually discussed by groups like the Jesus Seminar and other academic theology groups.  This seems a fair assumption given some of his criticisms of fundamentalist religion earlier in his article.  The problem is that this is false, I can't speak to Dawkins' knowledge on the subject but I studied under a lot of liberal religious professors during my undergrad, including a proponent of process theology.  The problem is that liberal theology often makes even less sense than the conservative variety.  Look no further than his next paragraph for an example.
There is not ‘a God,’ but there is God, if we non-intellectually understand God as an immanent intelligence, an infinite awareness within and beyond the material universe, rather than some kind of separate ‘Creator.’
Non-intellectually understand?  Immanent intelligence?  Infinite awareness?  If his way of describing god makes you go crossed eyed you aren't alone.  It seems like his is advocating for some form of panentheism, but it seems like he is trying to make it sound like something new and deeply intellectual instead of a belief that has been around for thousands of years, and often held by people who were not even able to read.  You will want to hold onto your brains because it is about to get worse.
But what was Jesus’ relationship to that intelligence? Wasn’t Jesus’ mission, at the crossroads of people and place of the known world of his time, to bring about a radical change in the human heart? If he had succeeded, such an inner revolution would have complemented the one Siddhartha ignited in India a few hundred years earlier. Then Eastern and Western worlds would have developed in harmony and taken a very different course. Instead we got the world we got.
There is a common line of fallacious thinking that I most often notice coming from liberal groups where they seem to think that whatever group that isn't us had a culture superior to ours. One of the biggest ones I often see in regards to religion is the notion that eastern religion is much better than those stuffy regulation filled Abrahamic religions of western culture.

The reality is that this is nonsense.  For instance, In Hinduism most people still practice what amounts to a form of social slavery called the caste system, (even though the caste system is now illegal in India).  This system is perpetuated by the notion of reincarnation, people argue that the lower classes deserve their lot because of actions in a previous life.

Also, Buddhism, often has many sexist notions (women are often not viewed as capable of enlightenment) and some Buddhist cultures have engaged in human sacrifice.

Then look at a lot of the so called eastern medicine like acupuncture which people in the U.S. seem to think is good stuff despite it's inability to prove its effectiveness in medical trials.

The truth is that the founders of these religions were no more enlightened than the founders of any other religion, and there are plenty of examples of abuses of human rights and stupid choices by their followers.

Anyway, the article continues:
Christianity seems to have gone wrong from the beginning, but religions deteriorate into meaningless rituals and divisive beliefs because they lose their original insight and impetus, becoming mechanical and repetitious. That’s no reason to slide into indolent atheism however.
In a sense I actually agree, a particular religion's practical failings is not actually a reason to stop believing in any gods.  The reason not to believe is the lack of any evidence for any god.  I don't think this makes me indolent though.

He ends with more gibberish:
There is an inexpressible and inextricable wellspring of infinite intelligence, but religious insight is always new, arising from the awakening and direct experiencing in the individual every day. Yesterday I may have run with the gods, but today I crawl with criminals.
Inextricable wellspring of infinite intelligence? Seriously? Is there a book of pretentious pseudo-philosophical catch phrases that he gets these from?

He apparently gets his writing style from Calvin and Hobbs.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Arizona High School Forfeits Baseball Final over Female Player

Saw this today, now why would a group forfeit a game because the other team has a female playing for them? Unsurprisingly it is because the school is a conservative Catholic religious school. They had this to say on fox news.
Teaching our boys to treat ladies with deference, we choose not to place them in an athletic competition where proper boundaries can only be respected with difficulty. Our school aims to instill in our boys a profound respect for women and girls.
I've written about this before but Conservative Christians usually don't respect women, they think they do, but clearly have no idea what respect actually is.  What they respect is an idea or concept they have about women, not the women themselves.

It really is not that hard, respecting women works the same way as respecting men, you have to treat each person as an individual, but this school is not seeing this baseball player as an individual, they only see her as a woman.  It is not enough to respect women in general, in fact that is not even a useful concept.  If you want to respect women you have to respect each woman as an individual.

This is not respect, forfeiting this game was extremely disrespectful of her because they chose to see her as nothing more than her gender.  It is clear that the only thing they respected is their religious regulations, and that is fine, they have a legal right to do that, but Our Lady of Sorrows should not disrespect our intelligence by pretending they did it out of a respect for women.

White Supremacist Runs for Sheriff in Idaho

White Supremacist Shaun Winkler Burns Cross, Runs for Sheriff in Idaho 

Shaun Winkler

At first  I thought this had to be made up, the guy is just running though, hopefully he has no chance of winning.

My favorite disturbing quote from the article:

"Most people don't know that we don't just oppose the Jews and the negroes," he said. "We also oppose sexual predators and drugs of any kind."
Oh, yeah the opposing sexual predators thing really makes up for all the racism.  At least most racists this day an age realize their views won't be pandered to enough to keep quite about them.  This guy apparently wasn't around for the last 50 years of politics.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Foamy The Squirrel weighs in on gay Foamy The Squirrel weighs in on gay marriage.

Well, I don't agree with everything he says in this video, you already know my take on the ten commandments if you read through my blog but all in all I liked what he had to say on the issue.

Anyway, here you are:

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Family Research Council Pres. Tony Perkins Explains Why his Kids Won't be Gay

Perkins said: 
“I doubt that would happen with my children as we are teaching them the right ways that they are to interact as human beings. We’re not allowing them to be indoctrinated by the education system.” become gay because they are secretly trained to be gay by teachers......that was sarcasm for those untrained at recognizing it.

Of course I already knew the Family Research Council wasn't exactly a bastion of rationality and progressive thinking, but this is pretty bad.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

God doesn't exist: Indonesian atheist faces 11 yrs in jail

Saw this today:

If you didn't hear about it before, this guy said god didn't exist on his Facebook page and now he could spend over a decade in jail for it.

Not really much one can say about this, its pretty ridiculous that there are still countries in the world who think it's totally cool to put someone in jail for having an unpopular opinion on anything.  The fact that this person is an atheist just shows the kind of discrimination we have to face.

I often hear from people trying to explain away the more extreme behaviors of certain Muslim groups by saying it's not Islam, it's the middle eastern culture that is so despotic, anti-women, and xenophobic.  I've never understood exactly what this explanation was supposed to accomplish, but it is little better in Indonesia from what I can tell.  The government there still gives absolutely zero shits about the civil rights of it's citizens.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Arizona passed a law banning funding to Planed Parent hood.

So a law was just signed into law banning any funds from going to places preform abortion including Planed Parent hood.

Sometimes I am so disappointed in my state, all they have done is cut funding that helps many poor women get health care.

I particularly like the part where Jan Brewer says:
By signing this measure into law I stand with the majority of Americans who oppose the use of taxpayer funds for abortion.
This is a complete misrepresentation since there are already laws in place that prevent public funds from paying for abortions, the money given to planed parent hood by the state went to other services, but way to go supporting your narrow interpretation of your religion over the needs of the people in the state you serve.

Climate denial group starts contest to see who can use the worst logical fallacy in an argument.

So Heartland Institute just put up this billboard:

There really isn't much to say here except what the hell people really?  I have no idea if Ted Kaczynski believes in climate change but even if he did who the hell cares?

Are you guys serious trying to bait people with a guilt by association fallacy? Is this what you guys are willing to stoop too?

Of course given creationists tendency to say evolution is false because Hitler believed in it by falsely equivocating eugenics with evolution, I'd say they are still ahead, though not by much.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Going to TAM

I've got my ticket for TAM 10, its gonna be my first TAM so I'm looking forward to it.

Tolerance, and how atheists still can't win.

Dan Savage is in hot water thanks to some statements he made during a anti-bullying speech.  The two things most complained about were the following statements

We can learn to ignore the bullshit in the Bible about gay people… the same way we have learned to ignore the bullshit in the Bible about shellfish, about slavery, about dinner, about farming, about menstruation, about virginity, about masturbation. We ignore bullshit in the Bible about all sorts of things.
And, when some of the students decided to walk out, presumably because they were Christian:
It’s funny, as someone who is the receiving end of beatings that are justified by the Bible, how pansy-assed some people react when you push back
Now, while I think his statements are factually correct, in context, I think he may have gone a bit too far, especially since these were high school students but it is not as if Savage has hid any of his ideas ever, and he did apologize for the "pansy-assed" statement, which I think was the correct thing to do.

However, I have read several responses to this that reminded me of a post Greta Christina wrote a few years ago entitled how atheists can't win.

A lot of Christians who comment on this seem certain of two things:

1. Christianity and Christians are not the cause of the bullying of gay children, when people cite the bible or their Christian upbringing as reason for this behavior they are not "real" Christians.

2. Dan Savage "bullied" those children because he is godless, liberal, horrible, possibly communist, hates Christians, etc.

Now, I don't always agree with Savage, but he is human, and not perfect, people get angry or overreact.  So why are Christians so quick to blame the failures or imperfections on our atheism but Christianity gets a free pass when ever a Christian does something wrong?

If we attack the unethical teachings found in the bible we get accused of being narrow minded bigots AND fighting for a world in which there are no moral values where anything goes.

One of the more interesting things I read while going through the comment sections of the articles on this is something that I can no longer find, but was a Christian basically saying that it is not bullying to tell gay people they are living a sinful lifestyle because it is the truth and because they have a civil right to offer there opinion on the subject and don't like it when liberals try to silence their opinion.

I actually mostly agree with this, the thing I find funny is that when Christians say that gay people are behaving immorally or say they shouldn't be given the right to marry they get offended when we push back by telling us they are excising their right to free speech, but when we exercise that same right to say we think THEY are the immoral ones we get accused of being bullies if not outright accused of being agents of the devil bent on destroying society.

Many of the statements by Christians on this issue reveal a very deep seated fear that their view on this is being increasingly marginalized, they cannot voice their opinions about homosexuality and gay marriage without getting criticized for it.  I will actually admit that this is a valid concern.  The problem is that I don't think that it is meaningful to refer to most of this criticism as bullying, unless you are of the opinion that telling anyone they are wrong about anything EVER is tantamount to bullying.

Let me give you an example, it will no doubt offend fundamentalists but lets look at racists.  There are, in this country today, still people around who think that interracial marriage is bad.  Like it or not there are still active chapters of the KKK in this country, but if one of them was employed as a teacher would we allow them to tell students that interracial marriage is bad?  We would not.  No doubt, if you are a racist you may feel that your views on this issue are marginalized in the U.S. of today, and you would be right.  After all, laws against interracial marriage were declared unconstitutional in the 1960's.

The point is that our cultural mores change over time and it is not unexpected that people who were once in the majority find their views no longer accepted by culture.  People criticizing those views does not equal a violation of your rights nor does it amount to bullying necessarily.  This is why I find much of what Christians say on this so absurd.  Others criticize them for their views and we are bigots.  However, when they not only criticize homosexuals, atheists and others they also actively lobby for laws that limit the rights of those people they are just defending their way of life or "telling the truth."

Meanwhile, the accusations are flying and usually look a bit like this one I found here:
It's amazing how the secular, leftwing liberals like this clown who claim to promote "tolerance" and "anti-bulling" are the most anti-tolerant, close minded and hypocritical of them all
Now I agree that savage went to far, and probably lost his temper a bit.  However, even if he had not apologized, to describe him as the "most anti-tolerant" is rather crazy.  In a world where women are being stoned to death for wearing the wrong clothing in some countries, or where Uganda is trying to pass a bill which would make homosexual behavior punishable by death to refer to Dan Savage as the worst offender of tolerance there ever was because he called a couple of high school students a name is plainly absurd.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012