Archive for October, 2011

America- It Gets Better!

October 31, 2011

A lesbian couple in San Diego were just voted homecoming king and queen at Patrick Henry High School.* And a throw away line at the beginning of the article here indicates they aren’t the first in the country. This is amazing. The strides we are making in this country towards equality and acceptance are wonderful.

For equality between the sexes, pay is slowly (too slowly, but that is a post for another day) equalizing. For overcoming xenophobia, and racism and for allowing children without documentation to go to college and university when they grow to that age, California’s Governor Jerry Brown has just signed the Dream Act. Secularists are managing to successfully challenge some of the government actions which discriminate against everyone not in the majority, such as public school or assembly led prayers. Heck, we are even (finally) pushing back against the moneyed interests that have most of everything in this country, and which so often try to distract us from that by pitting us against each other for bigger shares of 1%.

But we as progressives should not become complacent. Regressives continue to threaten a woman’s right to bodily autonomy. Bigots in pulpits illegally funnel money to defeat the right to gay marriage. Conservatives practically foam at the mouth about the menace to “American culture” (Meaning White Anglo Saxon Protestant culture) of Catholic Mexicans ‘flooding in’ from the south. (There is already an effort to overturn the Dream Act) The government still illegally endorses god-belief, and favors Protestant Christian beliefs over all others. We have a long way to go, and a great many people who need to learn that women/same-sex lovers/people of color/people who don’t believe exactly the same things/the poor… are still people and deserve human rights just as much as people who have traditionally had privilege and power in society.

But back to the homecoming king, Rebeca Arellano. Here is a video of her talking about her experience, and for being part of a group that many religious types see as a subversive danger to America, the ending of her speech sounds rather like an after-school-special (1:17 onward):

Religion makes great use of tone

October 30, 2011

It’s an amazing thing that religion has survived so long without a shred of evidence to back up its claims. I was thinking about the way religion survives – the exploitation of human hopes and fears – and it occurred to me that much of this is a matter of tone.

You can state point by point the claims of a religion, entirely accurately, and make the proponents of that religion uncomfortable by so doing. That is amazing. All you have to do is not bend over backwards to make the indefensible sound like it might be okay if you tilt your head and squint just so.

If I was still religious, I would probably explain the Christian mythology like this:

A loving, omniscient and omnipotent god created the universe, and it was perfect. A man and a woman were granted stewardship of the perfect Earth, and only had to follow one rule: Do not eat of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil.

Now, god had no desire for slaves, so he had granted the humans free will and thus they had the ability to disobey him. And this they did, eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God was angry at them for their disobedience and cast them out of perfection. Their sin caused the earth to be less fruitful, caused the earth to be hard to plow and caused the animals to be set at odds with the people. They were cursed with hard work and painful and dangerous pregnancies and all their offspring after them. In addition they would all be doomed with death and sent to hell.

Until Jesus. Jesus is both god, and the son of god, born to a virgin girl. He, alone amongst all men is without sin and so could take upon himself the sins of all the world by his willing sacrifice for us. He died after performing many miracles of healing and going through many tribulations, including being rejected by those he came to save.  This allows people to avoid hell, if they believe in Jesus and ask for forgiveness.

As is, I would tend to explain the story like this:

The bible says that god created the universe and a perfect Earth, and god created man and woman to be curious. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was planted right where Adam and Eve would succumb to it, which god knew ahead of time, being omniscient. He then acted surprised when they walked into his setup, threw a pantomime of anger, and cursed them for being as he made them and acting as he made them act. He blamed this on them, of course. He cursed them and doomed them to an eternity of punishment called hell, (Hel actually being a concept stolen from the Greeks) which he made for the purpose.

He, being vain, still wanted to be loved, despite being an utter arse unworthy of the love of humankind. He sent himself to be his own scapegoat to sacrifice to himself, so that he would be able to forgive humankind for being how he made them, being constitutionally unable to forgive without a sacrifice.  However, you have to accept his abuse and injustice to be worthy of being shielded by the scapegoat of Jesus, so you need to take onto yourself the ‘fault’ of Adam and Eve.

Now, obviously there is no evidence for such a story, no matter whether you are spinning it for tithes or if you are scrutinizing the story for the (im)moral beliefs of the writers. But pointing out that the “Good News” sounds really shady even if you believed in a god might be a good way to get people thinking.

Sing it, Roy!

October 29, 2011

Roy Zimmerman sings about our past revolutions and our present ones.

The 99%

October 29, 2011

Ariah Noetzel's text reply to photo

I’m glad this person is doing well now. I’ve been there, I identify with the debt free working through college, taking jobs that pay not much at all and never give enough hours, and the managing to comfortably live despite that because my needs were few. Blaming myself for my own mistakes, hey that’s what I do – I got that, I own the shirt, I’ve sent the postcards.

But the scholarships they’ve gotten? No matter how good their grades, those won’t exist if the recession caused by Wall Street is allowed to continue. Colleges are continually having their funding cut, and government funding for scholarships is not a given. Fewer and fewer people are in a position to donate to scholarship funds. Where is the money going to come from? It doesn’t come from the good grades fairy, unless we are using code for “rich parents.”

The same speculative markets that drive up the price of tech, housing, oil… are also starting to drive up the prices in global food markets. Will this person still be getting by when demand for food is artificially inflated and peanut butter costs $8 per jar?

And I hope that universal health care is ruled constitutional and expanded, because a broken bone at the emergency room costs $3000+, and that’s if you are “lucky” in which bone you broke. I remember when I was saving a couple hundred dollars a month and felt damn good about it – could I have afforded that bill? Never. I would have had to rely on family or suck it up and heal myself, because it would have taken more than a year to save up that kind of money.

The 99%, working their butts off to get by, to get through school, to get skills and knowledge that will help themselves and their communities… they should be able to do that without having speculative markets pick their pockets. They should be able to do that without insurance industry lobbyists undermining healthcare. They should be able to get scholarships for outstanding academic achievements and they should be able to trust that their infrastructure won’t be falling down around their ears because companies don’t care about the long-term when their CEO’s can be pocketing the difference:

The difference between the 99% living decently, and the 99% scrambling to get by at the first misfortune.

We are number 1 plus

October 28, 2011

Hemant reposted one of these charts by the Pew Research Center which shows that of the religiously “unaffiliated” 66% support gay marriage, which exceeds the number of supporters in the nearest affiliated group by more than 10%.

But many commenters suggested that doesn’t tell the whole story, that atheists and agnostics would have an even higher percentage of support if looked at as a subset- that many of the unaffiliated are religious people who don’t identify as members of a church but who still believe church doctrine- and they are right.

When you get into the numbers for “unaffiliated” there is a category named Atheists/Agnostic and it shows that 80% of us support gay marriage.

same-sex-marriage-10-06 10-10-06

Highest percentage of support: atheists and agnostics with 80%


Which leads me to say: hells yes, 80 percent! Number 1 as natural allies for oppressed minorities.

And, not to dwell on the negative, but: what the hell, you 20 percenters?

Occupy Wall Street

October 27, 2011

I am a liberal activist: I want equal rights for people, no matter what genitalia they have or what taste they have for genitalia in others, no matter whether they become the color of a lobster when they are exposed to the Evil Day Star or whether they ash at the knees. I want the state and religion to be separate, so that the power of the state can never be used to persecute all who do not believe the same way as those in power.

And I also want people to be compensated fairly for their work. If many work for years at jobs 40 or more hours a week and are below the poverty level their entire lives, while CEO’s crash their companies and the economy and are given billions in bonuses, that is not a matter of the poor not working hard enough or the rich being rich through their hard work and planning. That points to a broken system. A system that needs critique, evaluation and overhaul. Hopefully Occupy Wall Street will help start some of that discussion and lead to action.

I consider the speculative markets to be of less merit than a casino. At least when you go into a casino, there is no pretense that you are doing other than gambling. The house may rig the system before you ever walk in the door, but you have a choice of whether you walk in the door, and if you choose not to- it won’t affect you.

That is not true of the speculative markets. You can choose not to play and still have your fortunes change, your job lost, your house foreclosed on, because of someone else’s throw of the dice. Speculation in financial markets adds 20%-25% to the cost of oil and is starting to artificially inflate food prices.

The speculative markets do not create. They do not grow food, they do not make products, they do not transport goods to where they are needed. They do not research or build, they do not solve problems. They don’t even store money or give out loans like a credit union or bank. They don’t prime the pump of industry.

What the speculative markets do is move money from those who cannot afford the best investment firms to those who can, from those who do not have inside information to those who do. And worse, the financial markets lure away people from fields that could better use their talents for the good of people and society.

Speculative markets are thieves stealing talent, brains and money away from fields that actually serve some worthwhile purpose. And we should seriously consider how to prevent them from doing so.




November 14th: Thank an Extremist Day

October 26, 2011

I was watching Jon Stewart’s Daily Show and this caught my attention:—the-great-right-hope—the-180-club

As we all know, nothing makes an atheist like actually reading holy books. But what about 2nd place? How many atheists are atheists because of encounters with crazy religious people on the bus or on street corners, or by seeing or hearing one of the omnipresent megachurch pastors on Sundays?

How many of us started thinking about religion as something that deserves scrutiny because of a racist comment related to the “mark of Cain” or Noah’s offspring?

How many of us were given pause after someone said that God’s plan is for women to be subordinate to men?

Or when someone objected to someone else’s sex life because we were made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve?

And how much better off are we without god-belief? We should be thanking those nutty evangelistic crackpots! They are performing a public service, even if it isn’t the one they believe they are.

So this is what I propose:
November 14th should be “Thank an Extremist Day”

If you were startled out of complacency because of something stupid or infuriating that a religious celebrity said, send them a letter, an email, a tweet or comment on their blog thanking them for getting your feet off the road to religion and starting you running the other way.

If you were considering Scientology before Tom Cruise lost it on Oprah, thank Tom Cruise for being Tom Cruise crazy.

If you were a Catholic before Bill Donahue convinced you otherwise with pettiness and homophobia, thank him for making you not want to be associated with Catholicism and through it, him.

And there is no downside: either they will continue as they would have anyway and continue increasing atheist numbers or maybe- just maybe- they will tone it down, be less involved in politics and stop doing so much harm to women and minorities.