Passing the book

One thing I’ve noticed in connection with the Duck Dynasty brouhaha is a tendency for believers to defend their anti-gay remarks by passing the book. Passing the book is a lot like passing the buck: instead of taking responsibility for the things you do and say, you pass the blame on to someone or something else. In the case of passing the book, that “something else” is the Bible.

[Read more...]

Speaking of moot

In May of 2012, the ACLU and Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit challenging the Illinois ban on same-sex marriage. Now that same-sex marriage is legal in Illinois, the Thomas More Society, representing the defendents, filed a motion to have the lawsuit dismissed as moot. The response from the ACLU and Lambda Legal was predictably reasonable: they also filed a motion to have the suit dismissed as moot, since there was no longer any problem requiring a remedy. But even though the Thomas More Society was happy with this outcome, their response shows a certain failure to recognize what “moot” really means.

“We’re pleased that the ACLU and Lambda Legal agree with us that their lawsuits are now moot and thus should be dismissed,” said Peter Breen, vice president and senior counsel of the Thomas More Society. “Because the concerns of people of faith were ignored by the Illinois General Assembly when it redefined marriage under state law, we now turn our attention to the protection of the religious liberty rights of Illinoisans who object to being forced to participate in same-sex wedding ceremonies.”

They’re pleased that the ACLU and Lambda Legal will not pursue remedies to a problem that no longer exists, and that means the Society is now free to pursue remedies to a problem that never has existed, does not exist now, and never will exist. Good job, guys.

Hustling the Gospel

Writing for the Huffington Post, Pastor Rick Henderson explains Why There Is No Such Thing as a Good Atheist.

While it is true that there is no definitive atheistic worldview, all atheists share the same fundamental beliefs as core to their personal worldviews. While some want to state that atheism is simply a disbelief in the existence of a god, there really is more to it. Every expression of atheism necessitates at least three additional affirmations…

What follows is another one of those arguments where morality is supposed to come from God, and therefore without God there can be no good or evil, and therefore atheists can’t be “good” because they’ve denied the existence of good and evil. What’s interesting is the way Pastor Rick introduces this particular scam.

For those of you who are eager to pierce me with your wit and crush my pre-modern mind, allow me to issue a challenge. I contend that any response you make will only prove my case. Like encountering a hustler on the streets of Vegas, the deck is stacked, and the odds are not in your favor.

The atheist is talking with the pastor, but he’s being hustled, because the pastor has stacked the deck. I’ve seen believers pull this particular hustle before, but Pastor Rick is the first one to openly admit he’s using dishonest tactics to achieve his goal. But let’s lay all our cards on the table and check out his “three additional affirmations” and then see who deserves to win this particular hand.

[Read more...]

The Anti-Golden Rule

Possibly the best, most elegant summary of morality is the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have others do unto you. It’s short, easy to understand, and easy to apply. And likewise, we can summarize immorality handily as the opposite of the Golden Rule: immorality is when you do harm to others who have done no harm to you.

Homophobia and discrimination against gays is exactly that. Homosexuality just means you fall in love differently than heterosexuals do. You have done no harm to heteros, but heteros seek to do harm to you. In fact, you’ve done no harm to any god, either. Those who seek to do you harm, when you have done none to them, are doing the exact opposite of the Golden Rule.

This is how we know that prejudice against gays is immoral, and is a discredit to any person, mortal or divine, who promotes it.

Paranoid

As the saying goes, it’s hard not to get paranoid when the whole world is out to get you. We sometimes make fun of believers for complaining about how persecuted they are when they’re the dominant religion in the West, with a hefty political clout and a vast media empire to match. But in a way, they have a point. The whole world is out to get them. Or at least, get their faith. Every time they turn around, something in real life is contradicting their beliefs. They’re the majority, but they can’t find security in numbers, because no matter how big they get, there’s always something bigger and more powerful opposing them.

It’s called “Reality.”

It’s no different than when you think you’re a millionaire, but the bank insists you’ve only got twenty-two dollars in your bank account. Start writing checks for thousands of dollars, and see how long it is before you start feeling persecuted by the bank (and the police, and the merchants you wrote the checks to, and so on). Believers want to make atheists the scapegoats for their paranoia, but atheists can’t do anything about it. Reality is opposing believers because believers are opposing reality, and until that conflict is resolved, the “persecution” isn’t going to get any better.

Homophobe? Anti-gay? None of the above?

Writing in The Atlantic, Brandon Ambrosino has some serious misgivings about broad-brushing opponents of marriage equality and defining them all as homophobic and anti-gay.

As a gay man, I found myself disappointed with this definition—that anyone with any sort of moral reservations about gay marriage is by definition anti-gay. If Raushenbush is right, then that means my parents are anti-gay, many of my religious friends (of all faiths) are anti-gay, the Pope is anti-gay, and—yes, we’ll go here—first-century, Jewish theologian Jesus is anti-gay. That’s despite the fact that while some religious people don’t support gay marriage in a sacramental sense, many of them are in favor of same-sex civil unions and full rights for the parties involved. To be sure, most gay people, myself included, won’t be satisfied until our loving, monogamous relationships are graced with the word “marriage.” But it’s important to recall that many religious individuals do support strong civil rights for the gay members of their communities.

It’s a longish piece which he obviously put a lot of thought into, and he makes some points worthy of consideration. On the other hand, he also published an earlier article in The Atlantic, entitled “Being Gay at Jerry Falwell’s University,” and I can’t help but wonder how much his thinking is colored by whatever background led him to Lib U in the first place.

[Read more...]

Much better

Now this is a refreshing change.

I’m a developer. A few years ago, I moved to a new city and met some new friends who talked about racism and sexism more than I had ever thought about before. At first I was uncomfortable and didn’t like a lot what they were saying – and I definitely didn’t like when they told me something I said was racist or sexist. Then I remembered that I’m a developer, and I’m good at figuring out unfamiliar systems. So here’s what I did.

via Epicodus — How a Developer Learned Not to Be Racist and Sexist. Nicely done.

Senator seeks to “protect” churches

Oh, hey, there’s a cute story in TheBlaze.com.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) plans to introduce a bill Wednesday that would prevent the Obama administration from pressuring churches into recognizing gay marriage.

Yes, it’s very important to “protect” churches from having the president violate the First Amendment in ways he has no intention of doing. And while we’re passing frivolous, grandstanding laws, why not also pass a law protecting women and babies from Republican cannibalism? Yes, I know that doesn’t exist either, but you do oppose allowing Republicans to commit cannibalism right? If we’re going to protect things that aren’t in any danger, let’s at least be comprehensive.

What happens when God is wrong?

Pastor Rick Warren recently appeared on Piers Morgan’s show and discussed his stand on gay marriage.

Warren claimed that he believes in equality, but admitted he cannot support same-sex marriage because, he said, “I don’t get to change what God says.”

I’ve pulled out just this one quote because I think it exemplifies one of the most fundamental and unresolvable problems with religions like Christianity. They’re based on “revealed” authority, the idea that “God said it, I believe it, and that settles it.” You never have to learn anything new or adapt to anything that changes, because nothing is allowed to change. Once God speaks, that’s the way things are and must be, always and forever after.

But what happens when God is wrong?

[Read more...]

Two wrongs don’t make a right?

You may have heard the moral principle that two wrongs don’t make a right, but you’ve never read it in the Bible. I was thinking of that in connection with the creation/evolution debate, and specifically in connection with the YEC argument that a merciful, loving God would never use millions of years of death and extinction to create the rich variety of life on earth.

This God, you remember, is a God who wants to “mark” baby boys as His by taking an unsterilized knife to their genitals. This is a God who would snuff out the life of every firstborn child in Egypt, down to the tiniest baby of the lowliest (non-Jewish) slave, just to make a point to Pharoah. This is a God who allegedly produced all the fossils in the ground not over the natural course of eons, but in a sudden fit of wrath that destroyed 99.9999% or more of all life on earth, even in places where there weren’t any of the men He was mad at. This is the “merciful” and “loving” God who is supposedly too nice to use evolution to produce biological diversity.

But this isn’t even the half of it, because in pointing out the above Scriptural stories, we haven’t even mentioned animal sacrifice. And that’s where “two wrongs don’t make a right” comes in.

[Read more...]