Archive for the ‘Secularism’ Category

Today is the first SF Pride post DOMA and Prop 8

June 30, 2013

I expect it will be fabulous. (I am writing this to auto post while I am at the SF Pride Parade.)

I will be bearing my sign saying “Leviticus says… Crazy Shit” in bisexual colors (minus the pink since it doesn’t show up on signs) and marching with the Atheist/Humanist Contingent.

This is my favorite activist event every year, and the one which I never miss if I’m in the area.

There are loads of people who are intersectionally aware activists, who are not just gay rights activists, but also feminists, secularists, fair wage, pro immigrant, pro education, and civil rights activists as well. People who are aware that helping groups gain equal rights helps all of us, not just the one group, and who are truly interested in human rights, not just whatever aspects most directly effect them.

Sleep the night before is made difficult by excitement, sleep the night after is effortless from exhaustion.

I hope everyone enjoys this as much as I will.

Advertisements

What the little deal is about Ron Lindsay’s apology

June 25, 2013

Ron Lindsay has apologized and my reaction is in one way much the same as Jason Thibeault’s: the timing of his and my previous posts demand follow up. Beyond that, we tend to diverge.

Here is Ron Lindsay’s apology:

It has been a few weeks since I have said anything in public about the controversy over my remarks at the Women in Secularism 2 conference. As CFI announced via Twitter, this pause was to enable the board to have time to consider the matter. The board has issued its statement. It is now an appropriate time for me to make some remarks.

I am sorry that I caused offense with my talk. I am also sorry I made some people feel unwelcome as a result of my talk. From the letters sent to me and the board, I have a better understanding of the objections to the talk.

I am also sorry that my talk and my actions subjected my colleagues and the organization to which I am devoted to criticism.

Please accept my apologies.

Commenting is not available in this weblog entry.

My reading of the apology is actually very similar to that of Jason’s, but my reactions are much less accepting, possibly because I am more suspicious of calculation. The fact that weeks were allowed to elapse between the WIS2 Conference and the Board statement and then five days between that and Ron’s apology look to me as though they hoped everything would just blow over if they kept their heads down and mouths shut.

It didn’t blow over, and the CFI Board released the blandest statement they could possibly write. That backfired and Ron apologized.

Perhaps I am – in contrast with Jason- being uncharitable, but I can’t imagine what the Board was doing other than stalling in the month between the speech and their statement. Was their statement really the best they could come up with in a month? I can’t imagine that to be the case and- speaking of which- there needs to be a separate apology by the Board for that corporate-speak-pablum.

While I don’t think that the CFI Board’s statement forced Ron’s hand, I think concern for the fact that CFI was getting bad press -as well as bleeding speakers and donors- might have. I don’t say that wholly as a criticism: I think his concern for his organization is admirable, but I think a feeling of needing to do something to staunch the flow would be a greater inducement to action than the CFI Board’s cardboard condolences.

As for his apology, there is nothing there. I mean: yes, he apologized, but what for?  I’m glad he realizes he was the source of the CFI Board’s unnamed controversy, but does he know how he caused offense? Does he know how he made (many) people feel unwelcome? What is this better understanding he has, and is it actually better? How on earth can anyone tell?

The last part I won’t question: He seems genuinely dismayed that his organization and colleagues have been criticized. If he can and does elaborate on the ‘What’s and ‘How’s of his apology, I am prepared to believe those too.

Until then, if you put it all together, it looks like it was scientifically determined to be the minimum acceptable apology.

It was the least he could do.

Who must give up identity politics?

August 30, 2012

Joe Klein says Democrats must give up identity politics. Excuse me?

Was Todd Akin a Democrat when he attacked women’s right to bodily autonomy?

Was Alan Clemmons a Democrat when he wrote a law which would suppress the voting rights of minorities?

Was Jan Brewer a Democrat when she denied public benefits to young immigrants working in and to the benefit of this country?

Was Peter King a Democrat when he created a panel to persecute American Muslims?

And was the Republican Party Platform somehow hijacked by Democrats where it calls for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman?

No. Those were all Republicans playing to their monochromatic base of male Christians.

Those were Republicans treating women’s bodies as their property, deciding that the voting rights of poor people, dark people, elderly people and students were not as important as winning an election, deciding that working to make a life in the land of the free should be as hard as the government can make it for immigrants, pissing on the First Amendment by trying to create classes of citizen where Christians are above suspicion while those other religions are the focus of hate and fear, and deciding that the genitalia of an individual matters more than the relationship between two people.

And the same things that motivate those Republicans would motivate those who come after, to come after contraception once abortion was illegal. They would further reduce the number of people who have the right to vote until it is only a few white males with enormous pots of money, own land, and have the good sense to be of the majority denomination. They would profit off of the labor of immigrants while paying them pennies and blaming them for anything wrong in a community. It wouldn’t be enough for it to be a Christian Theocracy after a time: you would have to be the right type of Christian. Which denomination of Protestant are you? Lutheran? You are too quiet for the American Christendom. Better to have been Baptist. And as for gays? Have you noticed that when Christian Republicans quote Leviticus, it always seems to be the same verse?

Who needs to give up identity politics?

Hell, nobody on the side of equality until the actions in the list above are political poison.

A Rallying Point for Progressive Atheism

August 27, 2012

It seems pretty straightforward to me: once we dispense with systems designed to prop up existing power structures in the guise of “serving god”…

Then we can serve as friends and allies to each other without consideration for what a mythical man might mandate. We can work towards equal rights and equal pay, we can work to improve education and opportunity, we can work to lift humans to the stars rather than bombing each other back to the stone age where the beliefs of religious patriarchs are more at home.

But even within atheism, many people question religion without questioning the host of biases and prejudices that are packaged with it. And so we need A+. We need a rallying place for atheists to not just reject god, but to reject all that “god” was made to champion by self interested “prophets,” politicians and other swindlers.

We need a place for atheists to rally to support and fight for women’s right to bodily autonomy and to equal pay as well.

We need a place for atheists to come together to oppose xenophobia and racism, and to dismantle the biblical teaching of “Cain’s Mark.”

We need a place for atheists to show their support for and work towards equal marriage rights.

We need a place for atheists to work towards a more sensible mental health system that doesn’t have roots in a belief that you can prayer your neurochemisty better.

We need a place for atheists to discuss issues of disability or gender in a way that doesn’t reflect the larger religiously-inspired discomfort with and blame for any deviation from (socially created) norms.

We need a place for people to teach and learn about privilege and oppression and organize to fight the systems that perpetuate them.

And thanks to Jen McCreight, we have one: Atheism Plus.

Mike Huckabee describes the political debate I want to see.

August 26, 2012

“This could be a Mount Carmel moment. You know, you bring your gods. We’ll bring ours. We’ll see whose God answers the prayers and brings fire from heaven. That’s kind of where I’m praying: that there will be fire from heaven, and we’ll see it clearly, and everyone else will too.”

Mike Huckabee, rallying Southern Baptists to support Representative Todd Akin (R-MO) in his campaign.

This is very interesting to me even aside from the implication that “good Christians” should believe like Romney, Ryan, or Akin – and the Republican Party Platform – that abortion should never be legal, and like Akin and Romney that rape somehow isn’t rape if it results in pregnancy.


I mean, look at that quote: I am sold. I want to have these charlatans who claim to know the mind of god stand before the world and have a miracle competition. As the judges we can get The Amazing Randi, Penn and Teller and any other stage magicians willing to watch for fraud. To enter the competition, contracts must be signed saying that anybody who tries but can’t perform a miracle has to tithe to the National Center for Science Education for the rest of their lives.

Anybody who actually performs a miracle before all the world suddenly has a much greater reach and audience.

I can see no possible downside… except to charlatans.

 

Mike Huckabee quote found through Political Wire.

Atheism Plus Social Activism

August 19, 2012

Atheism Plus logo suggestions by Jadehawk

First, if you haven’t read Jen’s call to action, go read it and the follow up. I have to say: this is the movement I thought I had joined.

My reason for becoming an atheist- the reason I started losing my faith and questioning religion- was because of biblical passages that were anti women, anti homosexual, pro slavery and pro disproportionate response. Yes, I am an atheist because I don’t believe in god, but that is just the definition. I didn’t question the existence of god first. I questioned the morality of god:

I asked how could God kill children with bears just because they called someone baldy? Couldn’t the prophet have used a beneficial miracle or just good works to show that other things are more important than outward appearances? How could it be deemed appropriate by an omnibenevolent and omniscient being to create homosexuals and then declare homosexuality to deserve death by stoning? If it was a sin, why would God make some people have the urge and others without? And how could two adults being in love ever be a sinful thing?

I asked how God could make women the property of their fathers, to be bought for marriage. How could God decide that war and slavery was correct and that virgin women captured in battle were prizes for warriors? I asked how God could flood the whole world and kill everybody for being sinful when he made them to be sinful in the first place.

And the sick thing was, I wasn’t asking “how crazy is this god?” I was asking “how sinful am I that I can’t even begin to understand God’s Perfect Morality?” I was questioning God’s morality to understand it: and thought that it was evidence of my sinful state that I failed to understand.

But it wasn’t understandable as morality because it wasn’t morality. Even when I realized that, I didn’t stop believing in God. At first I simply decided that the bible didn’t properly record His morality. It took me a long time of exploration and questioning before I finally rejected the god hypothesis. But it was the immorality of the Christian Bible that started me questioning.

And it is my humanism that makes me blog as an atheist. My atheism itself might be just a conclusion about rejecting a premise because of insufficient evidence, but pointing out that lack of evidence is a means to an end: that of freeing minds from the shackles of religion, and undoing the social harms done in its name.

If you think that humans deserve equal rights, that women and men are equal, if you think that death sentences by stoning or otherwise deliberately carried out slowly are barbaric, and that love between consenting adults is something to be celebrated rather than to be opposed, if you think that distinctions in pigmentation are trivial and the social differences that result are profoundly terrible and that slavery and rape can never be justified, then you should oppose religion. But you shouldn’t stop at religion.

These wrongs exist outside of religion as well: religion is merely a transmission device that causes the ideas within to be more resistant to change. But we need to oppose misogyny and racism, homophobia  ableism and xenophobia wherever they may be. And while we are at it, we should fight the undervaluing of labor and the overvaluing of capital. Opposing these things helps everybody, whether you are privileged or oppressed on any particular question doesn’t change that: as a white person, it is in my interest to oppose racism just as it is in the interest of a straight person to oppose homophobia.

This especially goes for the situation of social movements focused on achieving progress in one facet of human rights: ignoring the other facets doesn’t work. You can’t claim to be working for human rights, and then say “Yes, but not for those people.” Just as the gay rights movement had to reform to include lesbians, the atheist community has to embrace women, the LGBTIQ community, people of color and has to embrace their issues as well. This should be a natural fit – as I pointed out, those issues are our issues – but I know we are going to have to work to make up for those activists who only care if an issue effects white straight males.

Romney’s Tax Policy “Mathematically Impossible”

August 7, 2012

The Republican nominee- Willard Mitt Romney- has yet to release his tax returns, but has given two details about his tax plan. He promises to reduce the deficit, but also to cut marginal tax rates by 20% across the board.

When the nonpartisan group Tax Policy Center (whose work was previously described by the Romney campaign as “objective, third-party analysis”) conducted analysis of Romney’s tax policy while giving it the benefit of every doubt and implausibly favorable conditions, they found that his tax policy was “mathematically impossible” without tax increases on the middle class.

Now that it objects to the Tax Policy Center’s conclusion, the Romney campaign is describing their work as “just another biased study from a former Obama staffer.”

When religion is a test for political office.

August 3, 2012

In the Constitution of the United States of America, there is this to say about religious tests for office (emphasis mine):

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

But religion has become a de facto test in campaigns as the Christian majority is pandered to by politicians trying to out Christian each other, even when it involves attempts to infringe on the right to free exercise of religion of others.

In Tennessee, two candidates in a Republican primary are in a contest of who opposes the construction of a mosque more. In 2010, district lines were redrawn and so the mosque isn’t even in the district they are running in, but hey: these are Republicans and we can’t expect facts to get in the way of demagoguery.

So, they are opposing the Constitution they are bound to serve, in order to have an unconstitutional de facto test for office which, if more than rhetoric would infringe on the free exercise of religion of a minority group, if the mosque were still in the same district, which it isn’t.

It’s nice that sometimes stupid renders itself impotent.

But what about the underlying issues: the rights of the individual and minorities against possible tyranny of the majority, the right to build religious institutions, the tax exempt status of those institutions?

The Constitutional approach works better than we allow it to: the free exercise of religion including the building of places of worship, the protection of the rights of minorities and individuals is why we haven’t historical had problems with large groups of radicialized extremist minorities.

But- to pick a high profile example- Rep. King with his anti-Muslim panels wants to trample those rights and would increase the likelihood of radicalization, whether he desires that outcome or not.

And in the Bill of Rights this phrase “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” was used by Jefferson in the sense of a wall of separation where Congress could not pass- not to create a religion, not to create ties to a religion, not to either support or oppose a religion. Madison famously called that wall “absolute.”

I would argue that making churches and other religious organizations tax exempt is in effect a subsidy by the government which violates the Constitution, and is an imposition on all- whether Muslim, Christian, atheist or Buddhist- who don’t want to pay higher taxes to support other people’s churches.

There may be an argument to be had against that mosque- or at least its tax exempt status- but it is the same argument that would apply to churches, and so you won’t ever hear it from someone rallying their Christian Soldiers to vote.

Links found at Political Wire.

Youtubers Get It, So Can You.

August 2, 2012

 

Note the difference between that and the sort of thing Hemant argues against? I know it is subtle but I think if the above was the common approach everybody would be a lot happier, and our government wouldn’t be trying to get into its citizens’ bedrooms.

Secularism: For The Win.

Marriage equality supported by Democratic Party’s national platform

July 31, 2012

Over at The Hill, Daniel Strauss writes that the Democratic Party’s national platform will include support for same sex marriage and full equality of rights attendant on marriage.

My feeling is: It’s past time. Didn’t we already have this fight about consenting adults being able to marry who they love? It was called Loving v. Virginia. The decision in that case- that marriage is a basic civil right, intertwined with those of liberty and the pursuit of happiness- should  apply equally to this one, despite that fight being about racial difference and this one about sameness of sex.