Icelandic Parliament passes life stance equality law

I got the following message from Thor Viðar Jónsson of Siðmennt.  We don’t hear about most of the cool stuff going on in Iceland, so I thought I would share.

Today, January 30, 2013, the Icelandic Parliament (Althing) passed a law which gives secular life stance organizations the right to apply for equal legal status with religions. The new law amends the current law about registered religious organizations. Thus, for the first time in Icelandic history, the government recognizes and guarantees equality between secular and religious life stances!

Sidmennt, the Icelandic Ethical Humanist Association has been lobbying for such a change for more than 10 years and celebrates this historic turning point. As soon as the law takes effect, Sidmennt will apply to the Ministry of the Interior for registration which will guarantee equal rights and freedom of conscience to its 300 members. Sidmennt is grateful to the Minister of the Interior, Ogmundur Jonasson, who introduced and championed this human rights bill and to all those members of Parliament who voted in favor of it.

An additional improvement provided by this law is that newborn babies will no longer automatically be registered into the religion of the mother, but rather according to the religious or life stance registration of both parents, and only if the registrations match. Sidmennt members and many other people in Iceland including many legislators feel that this does not go far enough and that it is a human rights violation for government to be involved at all in registering people’s religious affiliation and is especially abnormal to register newborn babies in a religion. The sponsors of the new law say they want to work towards abolishing this anachronism but think it can only be done in stages.

Although this law is an important step towards equality, the government is not changing the privileged status of the Evangelical Lutheran State Church, which enjoys both legal and financial privileges over all other life stance organizations.

This blog is moderated

Aron and I have been debating on the internet for years.  The best discussions even on Christian sites have been moderated.  In fact as a former Christian I changed my mind about evolution on a Christian site with Aron’s help.  The quality of the discussion is important. This is not YouTube.  Bad comments are not going to slip off the page within hours as new comments replace it. Legitimate disagreement and criticism are welcome provided they discuss the topic of the original post and engage in a dialogue not a monologue.  The following types of comments are widely recognized on the net, and degrade the quality of the discussion…

1. Bigotry including slurs.

2. Derailing the topic of discussion with repeated off topic comments or responding without reading the original post.

3. Ad hominems (especially abusive) intended to antagonize another person rather than address their argument.

4. Flaming -there are better places than a discussion on this blog to vent aggression.

5. Sockpuppet accounts.

6. Threatening or Harassing another person.

7. Arguing in bad faith

Most comments that degrade the quality of the discussion will receive a warning from Aron or Lilandra. The commenter has one post to respond to the warning if necessary.  If the warning is ignored and the commenter continues the behavior, they may be blocked.  Certain extreme behaviors will not be tolerated and the commenter may be immediately blocked without a warning.

A Short Response to Steven Novella’s “Bigfoot Skeptics, New Atheists, Politics and Religion”

Lilandra is a username from a little known comic book character.  In real life, I named my children after comic book characters, so my geek credentials cannot be questioned.   My husband is a large biker, cyber-viking ape, that opines about religion, and knows his place in a cladogram.

Lilandra is a username from a little known comic book character. In real life, I named my children after comic book characters, so my geek credentials cannot be questioned. My husband is a large biker, cyber-viking ape, that opines about religion, and knows his place in a cladogram.  Read the  comment policy before posting.

 

 

 

Dr. Steven Novella of JREF has posted in response to PZ’s post on skeptical consistency in defense of economic policies particularly libertarianism. The gist of Novella’s main contention with PZ is…

Perhaps I am misunderstanding what PZ is saying here, and if so please correct me, but this sounds an awful lot like a desire to purge the skeptical movement of those with a differing political outlook. I find it hard to see how this would be a good thing.

There is the “purge” accusation again.  I responded to his post with minor typo edits (in bold) here to make my point clearer…

A small point about your bone of contention with PZ. 1. His quote identified a very specific type of libertarian that espoused the ideas of Ron Paul. As you probably already know many of Paul’s ideas are in opposition to core skeptical values. He is a creationist who supports the government only funding specifically Christian based charities. I know that there are several flavors of libertarians even ones who support some form of limited government. However, mainstream libertarians as defined by their political party’s platform assign agency to the free market to correct society’s inequities without regulation. These sorts of claims are skeptical fair game because they are making some sort of truth claim.

2. I didn’t read his comment as a call to purge Paulites. He said that the discussion itself particularly if you challenge a prominent Paulite speaker would result in a backlash from their supporters that would result in them decamping from the movement. I don’t necessarily agree about that being a good thing. I do however wish that these differences could be discussed and debated openly and rationally within our movement.

I really do wish that there was a real time dialogue rather than encampment and exchanging volleys.  Evidently, there is way too much discussion of purges going on somewhere.

Finding courage to keep the darkness of ignorance at bay Part I

Lilandra is a username from a little known comic book character.  In real life, I named my children after comic book characters, so my geek credentials cannot be questioned.   My husband is a large biker, cyber-viking ape, that opines about religion, and knows his place in a cladogram.

Lilandra is a username from a little known comic book character. In real life, I named my children after comic book characters, so my geek credentials cannot be questioned. My husband is a large biker, cyber-viking ape, that opines about religion, and knows his place in a cladogram.

While there may be places on Earth that equal the darkness of Mordor of Middle Earth in terms of the very real evil of ignorance more than Texas this year; that won’t be from a lack of effort on the part of the Texas Legislature. Secularists here are already beleaguered trying to stamp out the encroachments on the separation of church and state and the religious-based war on women and science.

The amount of ignorance that sees the light of day all over the country’s state legislatures is a bit daunting. The real trolls are becoming quite bold. They have been sighted organizing even in overwhelmingly progressive states like Oregon.

New MexicoHouse Bill 206 was introduced by Republican lawmaker Cathrynn Brown.  The bill would make rape victims and the doctors, who help them obtain an abortion, felons for tampering with evidence.

Arizona: Rebecca Watson notes that Arizona Representatives Bob Thorpe, Sonny Borrelli, Carl Seel, T.J. Shope, Jeff Dial, David Livingston, Chester Crandell, and Steve Smith were each a bit hasty in including the phrase “So help me God” in a mandatory oath recited by graduating high school students. I disagree a bit with Watson over whether the bill as is can be characterized as simply stupid.  As a teacher, I have seen these types of pledges turn into litmus tests to ferret out non-christians  Rep Thorpe will be giving it a second look for revisions perhaps at the suggestion of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona.

The last bit of news from Arizona is a bit encouraging that shining the light of reason on figurative trolls like the Arizona Tea Party reps will stop them dead in their tracks.

"Dawn take you all, and be stone to you!"

“Dawn take you all, and be stone to you!”

 

On that note, I have a bit of encouragement for those of you who posted your opposition to the “Merry Christmas” bill on Texas Senator Dwayne Bohac Facebook page. The bill would allow religious symbols such as mangers scenes and menorahs to be displayed in public schools by religious minded school authorities.  Before some of you posted on his wall in defense of the minority religious views that would be crowded out by the Christian majority in this state; Bohac was getting unopposed comments like these…

Thank you for standing up for our freedom and our children’s rights to talk about Jesus publicly. If more politicians would stand for what is right the way you have, our country would not be in a mess the way that it is right now. Thank you for your heart for God and for this country

Now that excellent comments like this one are also posted…

Fiona Albini Jallings I feel sorry for my relatives and friends in Texas. We’re not Christians, and it sounds like you’ll be forcing them to participate in religious events that aren’t part of their own tradition or religion. It doesn’t matter if you have the majority, you’ll still be trampling on others’ right to free expression of religion by forcing them to express yours. Please rethink this bill.

This bill all of a sudden may not sound as much like a great idea as previously thought by this representative. In fact, it may not make it out of committee to see daylight on the house floor. However, in a more sobering bit of news there are two initiatives founded in religious ignorance that have stronger support that have already been taking a grievous toll on public education and women’s health and reproductive rights.

In order to do these two important pieces of legislation justice, I have decided to put them in a second post.  Also, if you have been wondering about my metaphorical references to The Hobbit, if you indulge me a bit further I will wrap that up in the conclusion of Part II.

In the meantime I appreciate your comments on Part I, and if you are so inclined you can follow me on Twitter.  Perhaps, it will improve my writing’s succinctness to work within a word limit.

 

Gay man’s love is more powerful than his father’s religious hate.

Lilandra is a username from a little known comic book character.  In real life, I named my children after comic book characters, so my geek credentials cannot be questioned.   My husband is a large biker, cyber-viking ape, that opines about religion, and knows his place in a cladogram.

Lilandra is a username from a little known comic book character. In real life, I named my children after comic book characters, so my geek credentials cannot be questioned. My husband is a large biker, cyber-viking ape, that opines about religion, and knows his place in a cladogram.

This man’s story from NPR’s “Story Corps” brought a tear to my eye. Bryan Wilmoth and his 7 siblings were raised in a brutally religious family.  Upon finding a love letter from another boy to Bryan, his father abandoned his 15 year old son in the middle of a field with a 5 dollar bill. Rather than transform his father’s hatred into more hatred aimed at different targets, Bryan chose to grow up into a loving man instead.

Bryan missed his siblings most of all and attempted to contact them.  He learned that their father was beating them so they didn’t “catch gay” from talking to their brother. He then contacted all of them as they became estranged from their spiritually abusive father either by running away, being kicked out or moving away from the family home.

His brother Micheal at first admittedly didn’t want to learn anything about gay people.  He says he had “fear based beliefs” from his father.  But gradually Bryan won him over.  He became so proud of his brother that he would introduce his brother to any gay person that he met.

The most touching part of Bryan’s story was when he met his youngest brother Luke for the first time.  He had never met his brother before because he was born after Bryan was abandoned by father.  He helped his brother get started in college. His brother mouthed the words “I love you” to him when he left his dorm room after helping him get moved in.  Bryan called his brother Michael crying that he got to be a big brother.

fam

Love can build bridges.
All of the siblings at Bryan and Michael’s sister’s wedding in June 2007. From left: Jude, Mike, Pam, Bryan, Amy, Curtis (groom), Chris, Luke-Henry and Josh.

Bryan’s story shows how difficult it is to maintain prejudice and bigotry once you to get to know a person you have been raised to hate.  Love is more powerful than hate.  Hate, intolerance,ignorance, and fear broke this family apart. Bryan’s love rebuilt his family. Stories like his give me hope that humans are loving by default.  Hate dehumanizes both the hater and the hated.  Bryan wasn’t treated like a human being because of his father’s hatred of homosexuals.  His father’s hatred transformed him into an inhuman monster.

As a survivor of spiritual abuse, I think it is good to see stories where the survivor goes on to lead a loving, productive life.  It detracts from the stigma that abuse victims may be scarred by their experiences, and negates stereotypes.  If you would like to read more inspiring stories from survivors of spiritual abuse, Vyckie Garrison started a blog network for women recovering from spiritual abuse. She escaped the “Quiverfull” movement. In a search for other secular resources on this topic, I found that there are a number of religious-based resources on the topic even one by CBN. Unfortunately CBN runs a worldwide ministry that helps people on the condition of proselytizing.

There is of course, Darrel Ray’s Recovering from Religion, which is focused on people transitioning from religion to non-belief. It would be nice to know if they have support specifically for survivors of spiritual abuse.

 

 

 

One of these days, I’m gonna say something really stupid.

We all do eventually.

When I was in Ireland, I shared a stage with Rebecca Watson and Richard Dawkins.  Later that evening, Watson stepped into what may now be the most famous of all elevators.  We all know that after that Watson said something that was blown way out of proportion.  This was largely because Dawkins said something that, well, wasn’t his most brilliant commentary. This lead to a whole bunch of other people saying a lot of shit I wish they hadn’t said, escalating a series of wholly unnecessary flame wars.

The videos of mine, Rebecca’s, and Dawkins’ participation on that panel are available on my channel.  But there was a fourth person on that stage with us, Tom Melchiorre, then editor of Secular World magazine.  His part of that speech is not available, because he said things there that were shown to be factually inaccurate.  So he asked me to take his portion down.  OK.  I understand and respect his decision, because he doesn’t have control over my video, and what he said there might mislead someone else.  We don’t want that.

If it were me who said something embarrassingly wrong, and I have control over the video, I would probably have left the up at least for posterity.  I would have posted annotations of course, admitting my error, but I don’t think I would take it down.  Personally I would rather own the mistake publicly.  In fact, I’ve already done that at least once already.

Eventually though I’m gonna say something that’s gonna piss off a buncha people.  Eventually we all have that moment where we say, “Dear Muslima, it’s more of a guy thing” or we express an unpopular opinion that results in a “clearing out of the friend cabinet”.  At every conference I’ve been to, someone said something that a lot of the audience objected to.  Myself I probably don’t agree with anyone 100% to begin with, but I think how we recover from such incidents is important.  Can we or should we defend a comment or controversial stance to the point that it divides or excludes our own resources?

In recent controversies, I have seen a couple people whom I respect admit that their first reaction was inappropriate.  Dillahunty is one such example.  He quickly corrected his behavior -on his own cognizance- and apologized accordingly.  This is why I like him so much.  However a few others haven’t been quite so self-reflective.

For example, Michael Shermer used to be a climate change denialist where he is not anymore.  Before that, he was religious.  So I know he can concede major positions, or even his whole life’s perspective when he should, but he doesn’t do that every time he should.  So he said something dumb.  The moment I read it, I realized it, and I winced.  He should have realized it the moment he said it. Once it was pointed out, (I think) he should have said, “Yeah that was dumb; let me retract or rephrase that”.  Instead what he did was to double-down his defense of an indefensible comment and start crying persecution to the point that he even evoked Nazis.  (sigh)  That was not the way to respond to what should have been a trivial human gaff, a momentary lack of eloquence.  Now he reportedly thinks he’s being ‘purged’ from the community.  If so, he’s doing that to himself, and he has the choice to stop doing that at any time.

Since then, he has only made it worse.  Most recently it seems he has decided that ‘liberals’ [me] are at war against science.  In which, -among other things- it seems we’re opposed to all forms of energy, including solar, wind, and advances in electric power.  Well, Shermer has thus far wasted only a handful of breaths speaking to me, but he should really take the time to hear me, before he pretends to speak for me, especially if he’s going to make such broad generalizations.  Remember all generalizations are wrong.  :-)

I wish he wouldn’t turn this into Libertarians versus Liberals, an argument he’s welcome to lose at another time.  I’m sick of the controversy over feminism, and all the other petty flame-wars too. What Shermer -and the rest of us- should be conscious of is that -as atheism grows as a movement- we’re only going to become more diverse.  That means much more conflicted opinions on a wider range of subjects.  But different sub-groups does not mean different groups.  We still have the same common enemy and same ultimate goal with regard to religion’s influence over science, education, politics, human rights, and so on.  That’s why there is a movement to begin with.  We’re outnumbered, out-funded, and out-gunned by a well-established and under-handed opposition.  At the risk of sounding like a hippie (which I am not), we’re not gonna make any progress with all this in-fighting and simulated persecution.  We shouldn’t be banning, blocking, trolling, or blacklisting each other either.  It would be best to talk directly to our detracting allies instead of talking about them in public posts…. like this one.  Shit, now I’m doing it too.

Constant Attacks on Education

Sometimes the research I have to do is nothing short of disheartening.  This weekend that that included Mark Chancey’s report on problematic religious studies in Texas public schools.

http://www.tfn.org/site/DocServer/TFNEF_ReadingWritingReligionII.pdf?docID=3481

As if that weren’t already bad enough, some Texans also want to blindly follow Louisiana’s misdirection in their attempts to undermine public education, by adopting the Religious Right’s voucher program.

“>

If you take the time to watch the video above, imagine how deeply deceived you would be if you were raised with the type of education these people provide.  They lie almost constantly and control the opinion of the reader continuously.  It is insidious.  Even with all that brainwashing, I am still personally mystified at how so many people can back such blatant propaganda, and why anyone would advocate an factually erroneous education based on prejudice by deliberately deceptive sources funded by hate groups.  This is why I became an activist in the first place, but the situation only seems to be getting worse.  Any suggestions?

Are atheists more compassionate than religious people?

So there’s another study implying that the most compassionate people also tend to be atheist or barely religious, while the more religious one is, the less compassionate they’re likely to be.  Now I don’t like to reinforce negative stereotypes, but I have also seen studies implying that the more deeply religious someone is, the more likely they are to be violently abusive under-educated chemically-depentant bigoted child molesters calling for the torture and execution of prisoners.  I’ve also seen peer-reviewed articles showing similar patterns with cerebral atrophy in the hippocampus or under-developed pre-frontal lobes.  I could show all these studies if I wanted to take another ten minutes to gather all the links again, but is that really necessary?  What do we really think is the case here?

That Dubious Dutko

Some months ago, I was on Bob Dutko’s young-earth creationism radio show.  He tried to argue that if any non-avian dinosaurs were ever discovered, that would somehow disprove evolution.  He doesn’t know how it would disprove evolution.  I think he thinks that evolution is just a story, like his own belief system is, and that the story has to be ‘just so’ the same way his own story has to be. 

Like so many of his ilk, he tried to cite weird and often laughable anomolies -misunderstood and misrepresented- as if these could or would count as evidence that non-avian dinosaurs once co-existed with men. 

When he presented his stegosaurus in a Cambodian temple, I pointed out that stegosaurs didn’t have hooves, external ears, or whispy little tails, and that he couldn’t tell dinosaurs apart from barnyard animals, because he was actually looking at a pig.

The temple “pig-o-saurus” at Angkor Wat

He told me I was fooling myself.  But he gears immediately swapped evidence and said he didn’t need that or the fraudulent Ica stones either.  He had many other examples he could cite.  So I challenged him:

You give me one single example that you will announce on the air that can be scientifically verified to be authentic and be a human -pre-Columbian- human representation of a dinosaur. 

Are you ready for what he came up with?

I can give you over thirty of them right now. I could give you over thirty of them. Let me give you, oh just one or two. For example, in the Arizona Historical Society, ancient swords were excavated near Tucson Arizona, they were excavated in 1924. The swords are referred by the way on page 331 of the book, Lost Cities of North and Central America, you can look it up for yourself, they have various artwork designs carved into them. One sword has an exact brachiosaurus carved into it. If you look at this, you can show it to anybody, it looks exactly like it came out of a Jurassic Park movie. The Arizona Historical Society owns the sword. You can look at that picture of the brachiosaur There is nothing ambiguous about it at all. You can’t say, “Oh the ears aren’t right”, nothing along those lines. That’s one of example of thirty of them I could give you right now. I would encourage you to look that up.

a lead sword showing Dino Flintstone with a forked tongue.

Dutko should never encourage anyone to look into his claims.  What we saw was just too funny.  He’s referring to a collection of home-made sword replicas made out of lead.  That’s right, lead (Pb).  Not steel or bronze or iron, but something that would be utterly useless as a sword.  On one of these fireplace decorations is an image of what was either meant to be a very fat monitor lizard, or a dinosaur drawn back when people thought dinosaurs were lizards.  Note the forked tongue.  This trait only occurs in monitor lizards and snakes which are their closest cousins.  Lizards are on the wrong side of the reptile family tree from dinosaurs, who would not have had forked tongues. 

But it gets funnier than that because of all those other markings which can’t be read in this image.  Apparently that is writing, and what it says belies the fraud.  The next quote is from the Encylopedia of Dubious Archaeology by Kenneth L. Feder:

Tucson Artifacts

It was difficult to explain how artifacts with a depiction of a dinosaur and Latin and Hebrew writing, perhaps dating to 800, came to be cached in an early twentieth-century lime kiln located just outside Tucson. But this was clarified, sort of, once all the writing had been translated. It appeared that the writing on the artifacts told the story of an ostensible ROman-Jewish colony in Arizona, dating from 775 to 900.
When experts in Latin, Roman history and archaeology, and Southwest prehistory examined the Tucson artifacts, they declared them to be complete nonsense-not just fakes, but bad ones at that. When a University of Arizona professor and highly respected Latin scholar, Dr. Frank Fowler, pored over teh inscriptions, he discovered, taken together, the writing made no sense. The inscriptions did not represent a comprehensive or comprehensible message, but were instead a jumble of largely nonsensicle and disconnected, discontinuous phrases. But the argument for fakery seems to have been cinched when Fowler discovered that all of the individual Latin phrases inscribed on the artifacts had been lifted verbatim from three Latin textbooks -Harkness’s Latin Grammar, the Latin Grammar of Allen and Greenough, and Rouf’s Standard Dictionary of Facts. The earliest publication date for any of these works was 1864, which is rather more recent than the dates inscribed on them. Fowler went on to state that, when whoever inscribed the Latin on the Tucson artifacts attempted to in any way change the phrasing from what appeared in those publications -to change the tense, for example -he or she betrayed the lack of even a rudimentary knowledge of Latin. As a result of Fowler’s analysis, it is clear that none of the artifacts can date to before 1864, and therefore none of them date to the purported period for the Roman-colony they mention.
Byron Cummings, director of the Arizona State Museum, was an eyewitness to the removal of at least one of the artifacts. He stated that the artifact in question was embedded in an already existing hole -that it had, in other words, been planted in a hole in the sand and gravel which had then been only imperfectly tamped down around. Cummings included his testimony in a report he presented to the University of Arizona, which at the time was considering purchasing the Tucson artifacts for a substantial sum of money. Geologist James Quinlan maintains that ti would not have been difficult to have planted the artifacts in the gravel and suggests that the artifacts were placed there afer the lime kiln was abandoned.
The Tucson artifacts are another example of attempts made to connect an anceint Old World culture to America long before the voyages of Christopher Columbus. Like so many of the others, the Tucson artifacts are frauds.

Further Reading
For a thorough and extemely well-written debunking of the Tucson artifacts, see the article published in 2009 in the Journal of the Southwest titled *Romans in Tucson.

I am now looking for the more detailed article. 

Seriously Dutko?  I asked you for one example on which you would stake your reputation, and this was it?  Do you see why I say that creationists have no credibility whatsoever?

on the Israeli atheist convention

A couple weeks ago, I posted to this blog a promotion for an atheist conference called MA-HA-R, “Tomorrow”, described as an Israeli Reason Rally in Tel Aviv.  One never knows how these things will turn out in advance, and I had my doubts.  When I went to the World Atheist Convention in Dublin, there were less than 400 attendees and we had Dawkins with us.  How well could Isreal possibly do?  Well by the time I posted my blog promotion, they had already sold more than 400 tickets.

Their conference center had four lecture halls with a total of 700 seats.  When Hitchens was booked to speak at the American Atheist convention of 2011, that venue would have been more than adequate, and the Isreali Atheist Association only expected to draw around 500 people with their couple dozen speakers.  That event went went down last Thursday, the 10th of this month, and the report I got was that they had filled all four halls.  More than that, they had to turn away hundreds more after they had already exceeded their capacity.  Outstanding.

Now I must confess my ignorance of the demographics in their country.  All I knew of Israel growing up was that they’ve been the hot-bed of militant violence forever. Abraham’s god of infinite love, forgiveness, and mercy spawned three major faiths, all of whom have been at war with each other, each since their inception, and it seems that God’s spyglass of magnified torment was usually focused right there.  This should come as no surprise to anyone who has read the Old Testament and noticed the patterns therein.  If YHWH promised a holy land to his chosen people, they should expect more damnation than paradise.  That would be consistent with the Bible’s blood-stained stories, and that’s the way we’ve always seen it on the news in my country.  There would be less milk and honey, and more uprisings and explosions, especially when it means mixing or displacing so many fundamentally polarized religious and cultural groups.  If I have not been completely mislead by the media, then maybe that’s why there are so many atheists in that area now.  In any case, even if the environment is not as severely charged as I had imagined, seeing such a turnout of activists interested in a securely secular government is encouraging.