About That “Honor” of Yours

I’ve wondered for a while now what kind of a thing called honor could possibly be restored by killing someone. Honor is an abstract concept, so we can only really understand it by viewing its effects, and this particular abstract has had me perplexed for decades.

The existence of duels taught me that honor isn’t something integral to a person. I know that it’s supposed to be. All the stories tell me so. They tell me that so-and-so is a man or woman of honor, that this protagonist or that historical figure behaved with honor.

However, when honor can be taken away by a word and only returned on the point of a sword or the ball of a pistol, it can’t be internal. You can behave bravely and altruistically, and your honor can still be lost–to a lie, no less! Then it can only be returned by public contest. So honor, as it turns out, is really just petty reputation.

Then there is honor killing, or should we call it “reputation killing.” [Read more...]

A Merry Little Christmas

A repost/remix for the day. Original here.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
Next year all our troubles will be out of sight
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the yuletide gay
Next year all our troubles will be miles away
Once again as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who were dear to us
Will be near to us once more
Someday soon we all will be together
If the fates allow
Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now

I prefer this version of the song to the newer, cheerier lyrics. [Read more...]

Non-Atheists “Whine” About Christmas Too

Flickr looks like just a photo-sharing site to anyone who doesn’t use it much (like me). To photographers (like my husband), however, it’s a sophisticated social media site. Think Facebook before whatever particular change you really hated, with the bonuses of not getting friend requests from relatives and better ways of keeping track of things you’re interested in. In other words, people invest their personalities in their interactions there.

That’s why it was disturbing to see this:

So it’s distressing when someone puts Christmas lights on my virtual home. I’m not a Christian. I don’t care how secular the holiday is nowadays. I know about the holiday’s Pagan roots. None of that matters. The fact is, Christmas lights on a home are a signifier that the occupant is a Christian, the same way a mezuzah is a signifier of a Jewish occupant. These symbols have power, which is why we use them.

It’s not just that Flickr is smearing Christmas “cheer” all over itself. As a non-Christian in a Christian country, I’m grudgingly used to that. (Though it would be nice if clicking that “[x]” set a cookie that prevented it from loading on the next pageview.) It’s that my Flickr stream is my personal identity in the Flickr community. That’s my face there at the top. Flickr has added a Christian signifier to my virtual home and I have no way to remove it. In the eyes of the rest of the community, Flickr has turned me into a Christian.

Comments are predictably atrocious.

[Read more...]

Dear “Deep-thinking Hebephile”

Jesse Bering, whose evo psych musings I’ve previously demonstrated to be…well, sloppy, has decided to become an agony aunt. The first question he’s chosen to answer? It’s a doozy.

Dear Jesse,

I am a non-practicing heterosexual hebephile—and I think most men are—and find living in this society particularly difficult given puritanical, feminist, and parental forces against the normal male sex drive. If sex is generally good for both the body and the brain, then how is a teen having sex with an adult (versus another teen) bad for their mind? I feel like the psychological arguments surrounding the present age of consent laws need to be challenged. My focus is on consensual activity being considered always harmful in the first place. Since the legal notions of consent are based on findings from the soft sciences, shouldn’t we be a little more careful about ruining an adult life in these cases?

—Deep-thinking Hebephile

Since Bering whiffed most of the answer, more or less as I would have expected, I’ll give it a shot myself.

[Read more...]

The Alternatives to Confrontationalism

Chris Stedman has one of those posts up at The Huffington Post today. You know the sort: “But I’m the good kind of atheist. Not like them.”

The first “them” in this case is the set of the American Atheists No God Blog, PZ Myers, JT Eberhard, and Al Stefanelli. Their crime? Not mincing words in calling Islam particularly violent, cowardly, and misogynistic. The problem?

None of these are reasonable critiques of any specific Islamic beliefs. They are broad generalizations and they do nothing to further the discourse on ethics — atheistic or Islamic.

What Stedman cites as objectionable are (except for Stefanelli’s, which is in the middle of a post that cites relevant passages from the Koran, making it rather bizarre that Stedman would level that particular criticism at it) offhand remarks in blog posts about things like threatening the lives of cartoonists who have depicted Mohammed or condoning forced child marriage and rape. The actions being condemned are, in fact, spurred by specific beliefs with their basis in the Koran, even if the bloggers don’t stop to cite chapter and verse.

I’m not sure what Stedman thinks would be a “reasonable critique” of these situations that would “further the discourse on ethics.” Perhaps a nice roundtable discussion of the various accepted interpretations of the passages in question? We could have a fundamentalist representative or two, a few more liberal members who think this sort of behavior should be reserved for Allah only (who could argue amongst themselves whether it was also acceptable for the prophet or whether his flaws merely proved his humanity), and someone who insists it’s all poetry, highly suitable for meditation.

This is, of course, the problem with much of the accommodationist set. They purse up their lips and flutter their fingertips in the general direction of all that strife, but they never tell you what the alternatives are.

[Read more...]

An Apology from the Gay Community

For those of you who don’t follow Minnesota politics, you’ll have missed that our Republican Senate Majority Leader, one of the forces behind our upcoming vote on enshirining marriage discrimination in our constitution, stepped down a week ago.

There’s no hidden agenda behind her decision, Koch said. She decided to step down because it’s time to try other things.

Then we found out from others in the Republican leadership that this wasn’t true.

Republican leaders in the Minnesota Senate today said Amy Koch stepped down as Senate Majority Leader yesterday after they confronted her about allegations that she engaged in an inappropriate relationship with a male staffer.

The statement from Interim Senate Majority Leader Geoff Michel suggested they had just found out about the relationship. Then we found out from the person who reported it to them that this wasn’t true either.

Sheehan is also the first person to report an inappropriate relationship between Koch and a male staffer. He said he first learned of the relationship on Sept. 21.

In the meantime, we discovered that the person widely rumored to be the “male staffer” in question (he lost multiple positions with Republican leadership just after Koch’s resignation and with no other explanation offered) may not be such a sweetheart either.

Sarah reported that Michael had thrown a kid’s toy — though it wasn’t aimed at her — during the dispute, and stormed out of the house. Michael “slammed the door causing a frame to break.”

Sarah Brodkorb called 911 because “the level of anger in Michael’s voice scared both her and their three children,” according to the police report.

But it is only today that we discover who the true villains of the piece are.

[Read more...]