Atheism as Social Justice

Social justice is the view that everyone deserves equal economic, political, and social rights and opportunities.

Sarah Jones wrote a post yesterday about why, despite the fact that she’s an atheist, she is not a secular activist.  This made me think long and hard about how our movement receives wonderful activists who agree with us on the God question, and how we sell what our movement is doing.  I have a lot of problems with the atheist movement, and I’ve struggled with engaging with it recently. The level of hostility towards women and hatred for the social justice framework, especially online, makes it really unappealing at times, and almost always exhausting.  But Sarah, sort of ironically, reminded me that I got involved with atheism because of the social justice imperative.

Sarah says:

I care more about social justice than I do about atheism, and I think a person can be a strong ally for social justice causes without being an atheist. Your belief in God matters less to me than your position on gender equality. I don’t strive for a godless world. I would rather see a world defined by respect and tolerance than by spirituality or the lack thereof.

I very much respect Sarah’s greater interest in gender equality and agree with her that respect is a better goal than ending all theistic leanings.  She also has an interest in social justice in the south (particularly Appalachia), which is also close to my heart.  And there is nothing about being an atheist and an activist means you have to be an atheist activist, there’s a lot of causes that are worthy.  If you are someone who cares a lot about equity, racial and gender justice, and you don’t see religion as the primary root of these problems (which I do not), addressing individual issues nothing directly to do with atheism might be more appealing or important to you.  So I have no problem with Sarah’s choice of focus and I think it’s got nothing to do with how secular/atheist she is, and anyone who accuses her of being not atheist enough is being absurd.  And I think it’s a shame that she, justifiably, feels the need to define herself against atheism as a movement.  But I need to push back against the idea that social justice does not or cannot include atheism as a cause.  (The rest of this is not about Sarah, just inspired by her post.)

Atheist equality is very much a social justice cause.

Atheists are not treated as equals in the US.  I know that for my friends and colleagues in various causes I’m invested in, especially those who live in blue areas and big cities, this isn’t always as transparent as it is to those of us from rural, red, or very religious areas.  The amount of social isolation and judgment the non-religious face is shocking.  We are the most reviled group in the US, below Muslims and gay people, on par with rapists.  There’s a reason we borrow the term “coming out” to describe letting people know our non-religious status — because there’s a lot stigma involved in the label and family, work, and social strife comes with openness.

Religious people get special tax consideration. You functionally have to claim religion to be elected to public office.  There are states (including my own) with unconstitutional and unenforcible laws on the books to prevent atheists from holding public office as small as public notary.  We have prisons where only Bibles are allowed as reading material (also South Carolina).  Under God in the pledge, God on the money, court mandated religious drug/alcohol treatment, child custody being determined against non-religious parents because they’re necessarily seen as immoral, discrimination and forced religious events in the armed services, religion being pushed into public schools, inability for non-religious to get credentialed to perform marriages or funerals, and it goes on in ways big and small.

There are a lot of places in the US where it really sucks to be an atheist.  Where your boss will fire you if he finds out.  Where you can’t get jobs if it’s known.  This is not oppression olympics, a lot of people have it worse.  And it’s much harder when you are on the receiving end of multiple systems of oppression.  But a truly intersectional examination of these systems of oppression reveals religion as an important source of injustice, socially, politically, and legally and atheists as victims of the cultural majority.  I think a lot of the anger in the movement is drawn from feeling disenfranchised because of minority status and the evangelism comes partially from wanting people to also be “freed from the shackles of religion” but also so that there are more people like you to be around.

But the resistance to unfairness that drove me to fight for LGBT issues, to fight for women’s rights, to fight racial injustice, to fight economic injustice, to work for progressive causes, to work in reproductive justice, is the same drive that brought me to atheism and keeps me here, despite the high level of pushback from a vocal minority in the movement who are more interested in being mean and boundary policing than effecting change.  I can’t blame anyone for leaving, I can’t promise never to leave myself, but it’s good to know why I am here.

I get e-mail: Mitt Romney is super likable

Sometimes I get e-mail that I have to share.

Subj: FW: Why should we vote for Mitt Romney when he is such a despicable unlikeable guy?

This is the man who should be President of theUnited States!

A lot is being said in the media about Mitt Romney not being “likable” or that he doesn’t “relate well” to people.  Frankly, we struggled to understand why.

So after much research, we have come up with a Top Ten List to explain this “unlikablility.”

Top Ten Reasons To Dislike Mitt Romney:

1. Drop-dead, collar-ad handsome with gracious, statesmanlike aura. Looks like every central casting’s #1 choice for Commander-in-Chief.

2. Been married to ONE woman his entire life, and has been faithful to her, including through her bouts with breast cancer and MS.

3. No scandals or skeletons in his closet. (How boring is that?)

4. Can’t speak in a fake, southern, “black preacher voice” when necessary.

5. Highly intelligent. Graduated cum laude from bothHarvard Law School and Harvard Business School…and by the way, his academic records are NOT sealed.

6. Doesn’t smoke or drink alcohol, and has never done drugs, not even in the counter-culture age when he went to college. Too square for today’s America?

7. Represents an America of “yesterday”, where people believed in God, went to Church, didn’t screw around, worked hard, and became a SUCCESS!

8. Has a family of five great sons….and none of them have police records or are in drug rehab.  But of course, they were raised by a stay-at-home mom, and that “choice” deserves America’s scorn.

9. Oh yes…..he’s a MORMON. We need to be very afraid of that very strange religion that teaches its members to be clean-living, patriotic, fiscally conservative, charitable, self-reliant, and honest. 

10. And one more point…..pundits say because of his wealth, he can’t relate to ordinary Americans.  I guess that’s because he made that money HIMSELF…..as opposed to marrying it or inheriting it from Dad. Apparently, he didn’t understand that actually working at a job and earning your own money made you unrelatable to Americans. My goodness, it’s a strange world, isn’t it?

*****************************************************

Personal Information:

His full Name is: Willard Mitt Romney

He was Born: March 12, 1947 and is 65 years old.
His Father: George W. Romney, former Governor of the State of Michigan

He was raised in Bloomfield Hills , Michigan
He is Married to Ann Romney since 1969; they have five children.

Education:
B. A. from Brigham Young University, J. D. and M.B.A. from Harvard University

Religion:
Mormon – The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints

Working Background:
After high school, he spent 30 months in France as a Mormon missionary.

After going to both Harvard Business School and HarvardLaw School simultaneously, he passed the Michigan bar exam, but never worked as an attorney.

In 1984, he co-founded Bain Capital a private equity investment firm, one of the largest such firms in the United States.

In 1994, he ran for Senator of Massachusetts and lost to Ted Kennedy.

He was President and CEO of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games.

In 2002, he was elected Governor of the State ofMassachusetts where he eliminated a 1.5 billion deficit.

Some Interesting Facts about Romney:

Bain Capital, starting with one small office supply store in Massachusetts,

turned it into Staples; now over 2,000 stores employing 90,000 people.

Bain Capital also worked to perform the same kinds of business miracles again and again, with companies like Domino’s, Sealy, Brookstone, Weather Channel, Burger King, Warner Music Group, Dollarama, Home Depot Supply and many others.

He was an unpaid volunteer campaign worker for his dad’s gubernatorial campaign 1 year.

He was an unpaid intern in his dad’s governor’s office for eight years.

He was an unpaid bishop and state president of his church for ten years.

He was an unpaid President of the Salt Lake Olympic Committee for three years.

He took no salary and was the unpaid Governor ofMassachusetts for four years.

He gave his entire inheritance from his father to charity.

Mitt Romney is one of the wealthiest self-made men in our country but has given more back to its citizens in terms of money, service and time than most men.

And in 2011 Mitt Romney gave over $4 million to charity, almost 19% of his income….

Just for comparison purposes, Obama gave 1% and Joe Biden gave $300 or .0013%.

Mitt Romney is Trustworthy:

He will show us his high school and college transcripts.

He will show us his social security card.

He will show us his law degree.

He will show us his draft notice.

He will show us his medical records.

Mitt Romney’s background, experience and trustworthiness show him to be a great leader and an excellent citizen for President of theUnited States.

You may think that Romney may not be the best representative the Republicans  could have selected. At least I know what religion he is, and that he won’t desecrate the flag, bow down to foreign powers, or practice fiscal irresponsibility.

I know he has the ability to turn around this financial debacle that the current regime has gotten us into. We won’t like all the things necessary to recover from this debt, but someone with Romney’s background can do it.

But, on the minus side, he never was a “Community Organizer”, never took drugs or smoked pot, never got drunk, did not associate with communists or terrorists, nor did he attend a church whose pastor called for God to damn the US.

If you care about the United States of America– Send this to all your friends!

The difference between “atheism+” and humanism

I am an atheist.  I am also a humanist.  Being a humanist is actually far more important to my worldview than being an atheist is.  In fact, the reason I care about religion and atheism is because I am a humanist.  In my opinion, organized religion is responsible for many evils in the world, a lot of which come down to human nature and the nature of large organizations, but many of which are made far worse by the nature of religion itself.  I support gay rights, I am a feminist, I am against the drug war, I am for social support systems and changing the way the world treats the poor — all of these things I am because I live my life from a humanist perspective.  Imperfectly, no doubt, but that is where I am coming from.

And yet, if asked how I define myself, I say “atheist” rather than “humanist”.  Why would I choose to define myself as part of this newly christened “atheist+” movement rather than the “humanist” movement?

It’s a completely legitimate question — if you go look at the American Humanist Association, you’ll see a group that does almost everything I could want a movement to do (and I support the AHA gladly and whole-heartedly).  It’s just that it doesn’t do one thing that is really important to me: make it clear that I am an atheist.

I guess it could be a small thing for some people, but it’s not for me, because where I am from, being an atheist is not really OK.  People face serious discrimination, people in my local atheist groups fear for their jobs if they come out.  The emails from the local atheist billboard campaign were truly horrific.  And what many atheists face from their families, even families who aren’t extremely religious, it painful and can lead to lifelong rifts.

As a longtime participant in the gay rights movement, I have been taught that self-definition is incredibly important; it matters a great deal that you should be able to label yourself as gay or straight, male or female, somewhere in between, or to eschew labels altogether.  When those labels automatically mean you are going to be treated badly, it becomes an important political act to stand up and insist that you are not undeserving of equal treatment just because you don’t identify with a different label.  I am an atheist because I don’t believe in gods, but I call myself an atheist because being an atheist means I get treated like shit by some people and that is not OK.

The desire to hold on to “atheism” rather than use the term “humanism” isn’t from a fundamental difference of goals and beliefs, but from a difference of self-definition. I personally like “atheism+” because it’s more confrontational, embraces a minority position that is loathed by many, and it is more transparent about the belief that religion is one of the root causes of many social injustices.  My humanism is more than just secular, it is anti-religion.

Beyond that, the social justice issues that “atheism+” care about include issues specifically about atheists as a group.  We are committed to is the pursuit of equality for atheists, a public acknowledgement of our existence, and a political voice for the godless. It’s not that humanism doesn’t believe in equality for atheists, of course it does, but that’s not the focus.  “Atheism+” is not my favorite of titles, I’d have gone with Atheist Humanism, but I don’t think that humanism, secular humanism, and “atheism+” are the same thing. Huge overlaps? Yes, absolutely.  But so long as I’m going to be treated as a social pariah for being a non-believer, I feel it is important for me to not be afraid to be out of the closet and loud about that label.

There is a difference between a self-defined humanist doing something good for mankind and a self-defined atheist doing it, simply because of the massive amount of stigma associated with atheism.  Proving that atheists care about other people and making the world a better place is important.  I think that “atheism+” is a way to bring the philosophy of humanism more strongly to the fight for atheist equality, and vice versa.

Calling myself part of the atheist — +, humanist, or otherwise — movement is a meaningful political act, and one not worth dropping to join something incredibly similar, but different.

Religious Child Abuse — Special Rights for Religion means sexual, physical, and mental abuse

Sean Faircloth is the writer of the excellent book that I am currently reading on my kindle, “Attack of the Theocrats! How the Religious Right Harms Us All“.  He also has some very impressive speeches that he’s given over the past several years working with the Secular Coalition of America and the Richard Dawkins Foundation; and he’ll be at the Reason Rally this weekend.

The following is a speech about child abuse at the hands of the religious.

THIS IS WHY

This is why it’s absolutely necessary for secular people to make their voice heard, because it is not being heard by the government.  The government is so overwhelmingly controlled by the religious that they have carved out special rights that destroy people’s lives.  If adults want to throw their lives into the nonsense, that’s one thing, but harm perpetrated against children should be an offense to everyone.

So, I will see you at the Reason Rally.  This is our opportunity to demand a voice.  To speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.

(Another excellent resource about religious child abuse is “Breaking Their Will” by Janet Heimlich.  I read it last year and it was not only a very fair book, in terms of its approach to mainstream faith, but also a very disturbing and necessary book about child abuse and how cults and religions lead to it.)

Why does anyone like Ron Paul?

I’ve been trying to understand why smart people I know support Ron Paul and I just can’t get my head around it.  I get the sense that maybe the Ron Paul People I know just don’t realize what Ron Paul’s all about. That or they just don’t care.

The Ron Paul People I know are almost all straight, single, relatively young, non-religious, white men. Available demographics suggest that this is an accurate picture; there are others in Ron Paul’s camp, but it’s basically youngish white men.

They do not consider themselves to be Democrats or Republicans. Some of them hate the idea of rules, many of them hate the idea of having their money taken away in taxes, but none of them are stupid or without the resources to learn more about their candidate. And none seem to care about any of Ron Paul’s policies outside of cutting spending, regulations, and taxes.

Every Ron Paul Person I know comes out of the woodwork any time anything negative is said about the guy, no matter how true the statement and no matter how much that individual disagrees with Ron Paul’s position or behavior. I get the sense that libertarians are so excited to have someone on the national stage that they don’t want to see anything problematic with the guy, but he’s transparently a bad deal.

So, why are these people supporting a crazy, racist Christian fundamentalist?

Why People Love Ron Paul:

  1. He believes in reduced military spending
  2. Less taxes, less rules, less government
  3. He wants to end the “War on Drugs”
  4. He is “philosophically consistent”

That last one seems to be big — people seem to think that Ron Paul offers a coherent philosophy to deal with politics and that’s why they like him.

He’s very consistent on the whole taxes idea — he wants to get rid of the income tax, which apparently makes us all the property of the government, and his voting record shows this.  I can see the appeal, even if I totally disagree.

Ron Paul is Anti-Free Market:

But if we take this libertarian personal freedom thing to its logical conclusion, Paul would also be all for open borders and a completely open labor markets, right?  Yeah, but not so much — he’s very anti open borders.

The toughest part of showing any compassion or tolerance to the illegal immigrants … is the tremendous encouragement it gives for more immigrants to come illegally and avoid the wait and the bureaucracy.

So, bureaucracy good when it keeps the brown people out? Taxing the insanely rich is slavery! Letting foreign people work in America should be illegal!

He voted for building a fence on the Mexican border, reporting illegal aliens who go to hospitals, and for banning student visas from “terrorist nations”.  He’s all about reducing the military and allowing the free market, except when it comes to this for some reason.

Oh, it’s also great that he wants to get rid of the fed, I love this. You know who made the fed what it is today? A guy named Alan Greenspan. You know, Alan Greenspan, the most famous and powerful libertarian ever to work in the US government. He was a disciple of Ayn Rand and was part of the inner circle of her cult. Alan Greenspan almost single-handedly caused this recession. By all means, let’s fix the fed, but let us also acknowledge it was a libertarian that got us here!

Ron Paul Doesn’t Support Minorities:

He thinks the Civil Rights Act of 1964, you know that whole equality thing, was a violation of people’s rights and wouldn’t have forced anyone to lift the Jim Crow laws. He called MLKJr day “hate whitey day”.  According to Ron Paul supporters, this is OK because he wants to legalize drugs and end the death penalty, both of which would disproportionately go to help black men.

I don’t even want to go into all of the sketchy things that he’s said, I’ll just offer you this link and be done with it.  Suffice to say, the guy’s said some unkind things about minorities.

On top of this, he wants English to be the official language of the US and thinks government shouldn’t offer services in any other language.  How’s that for federal bureaucratic overhead?

A lot of people respect his position on gay marriage, which is that it shouldn’t be the federal government’s business even though he personally is opposed to it. It may not be the federal government’s business, but he’s certainly voted to enshrine homophobic behavior in federal law. He voted against including “sexual orientation” as a protected class in ENDA, meaning he thinks it’s OK to fire people for being gay, and he voted to ban gay adoptions in DC.

Ron Paul is Against Church/State Separation:

Ron Paul has a 17% rating with the AU, meaning he almost never votes in favor of a bill that would be promoting the separation of church and state.

The guy is crazy fundamentalist, no lie. It informs most of his political positions, including right to life stuff that I’ll address in a minute. But it also includes something that maybe some of my libertarian friends agree with. Ron Paul is one of the few politicians in DC willing to say anything negative about Zionism or Israel, and I know a lot of libertarians think that we shouldn’t be Israel’s protector anymore. But do you know why he doesn’t support Israel?

Despite the fact that many Fundies, known as Premillenialists, support Israel because their end-time theology tells them that it is necessary for the return of Jesus, Christian Reconstructionists like Paul have a different view, basically that the Israeli government isn’t the right one for the end of days and the right sort of Christians are now the chosen people of Revelations.

“I think of the Israeli government as different than what I read about in the Bible. I mean, the Israeli government doesn’t happen to be reflecting God’s views. Some of them are atheist, and their form of government is not what I would support… And there are some people who interpret the chosen people as not being so narrowly defined as only the Jews — that maybe there’s a broader definition of that.”

He and Sarah Palin can get into a fight over whose Christian end of days attitude towards Israel is the right one!

He often gets accused of being anti-Semitic because he’s anti-Zionism, and he may well be, but his position on Israel is all about religion. He’s generally isolationist anyway, so it works with the rest of his shtick.

And, while his faith isn’t his number one talking point, he sure does have a statement of faith on his website and includes a reference to it in his debates.

And, despite the fact that he thinks the education department should be dismantled, he also thinks that public funds should pay for private Christian educations and supports a constitutional amendment in favor of school prayer.  Again, not a libertarian stance at all.

Ron Paul is Rabidly Anti-Choice and Anti-Science:

This goes hand in hand with the crazy religious stuff, it’s all related.

This man, who is a doctor, does not believe in evolution.

This man, who is a doctor, believes that life begins at conception.

He has a somewhat complex view on abortion in that he believes that it, like murder, should be tried and controlled at the state level, not the federal one. That said, he has voted repeatedly for national bills that promote the pro-life cause and introduced a bill that would say that life begins at conception.

He voted not to authorize embryonic stem cell research multiple times. He has a 0% by NARAL, meaning he votes 100% against abortion rights. He voted yes on the Stupak Amendment to prevent health insurance companies from offering abortion coverage. Voted to prevent funding from going to schools that make the morning after pill available and to provide funding for abstinence only education.

He cosponsored a bill to take funds from a needy family benefit program to go to support non-governmental groups that counsel people not to have abortions.

Again, how is this not federal interference?

Ron Paul Helps Billionaires Not the Poor

This section, I know, is where a lot of libertarians are going to agree with his votes, but I have to say I think they don’t reflect well on him.

He is completely against environmental regulation and trying to find alternative energy sources.  Despite his claims that he’d rather have unions control the market than a minimum wage, he voted for legalizing union busting more than once.  Despite his supposed belief in the free market, he voted to ban shareholders from weighing in on executives’ compensation.  Extended the Bush tax cuts for the rich, expanded them, and undermined Social Security by changing the standards.

Voted against the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act to feed children and voted against a measure to ensure children had health insurance.Voted yes on a measure to prevent federally funded laborers to be paid the prevailing wage of the area, so that people making less than a living wage could be reduced even further into poverty!

Ron Paul is a Hypocrite

He is completely inconsistent, not just philosophically as a libertarian, but also on very specific issues like federal funding to local areas.  Which brings us to his response to Katrina.  You’d think someone who was so waffley about his own philosophical convictions when it comes to women’s rights and immigrants would be willing to waffle a little to save lives, after all he’s all sanctity of life, right?

Is bailing out people that chose to live on the coastline a proper function of the federal government?

But at least his congressional district in Texas doesn’t rely on tons of federal funding, right? Oh, no, it’s one of the top in Texas. Federal government using money to save people’s lives is apparently not OK, but him earmarking funds for his district is cool. More important than Katrina victims? Removing a sunken ship from a harbor and sending a few million dollars to Texan shrimp fishermen.

Ron Paul is a Little Nuts

But of course, my favorite part about Ron Paul is that he thinks the executive branch shouldn’t have very much power. The problem with that is that if you elect Ron Paul, he can’t do anything without violating his own philosophy because he would be the executive branch of the federal government.  Ron Paul just doesn’t make sense for anyone.

He thinks we should go back to the gold standard, which I think is pretty crazy, but that’s hardly the only place he goes a bit weird. On The Daily Show he said the following, I guess suggesting that he’s for regulations after he’s against them:

The regulations are much tougher in a free market, because you cannot commit fraud, you cannot steal, you cannot hurt people, and the failure has come that government wouldn’t enforce this. In the Industrial Revolution there was a collusion and you could pollute and they got away with it. But in a true free market in a libertarian society you can’t do that. You have to be responsible. So the regulations would be tougher.

And then there’s this:

I’ve been told not to talk, but these stooges don’t scare me. Threats or no threats, I’ve laid bare the coming race war in our big cities. The federal-homosexual cover-up on AIDS (my training as a physician helps me see through this one.) The Bohemian Grove–perverted, pagan playground of the powerful. Skull & Bones: the demonic fraternity that includes George Bush and leftist Senator John Kerry, Congress’s Mr. New Money. The Israeli lobby, which plays Congress like a cheap harmonica.

If people know this about Ron Paul and still want to vote for him, that’s obviously their choice, but I can’t help but feel like the only way you could vote for him would be in ignorance or denial of these facts.

Derren Brown vs Faith Healing

There are few things more difficult for the skeptic to let go of than their faith in their own intelligence.  After all, recognizing the untruth of something lots of people believe in (gods, psychics, bigfoots) does give one a sense of intellectual superiority.  I've certainly been guilty of a sort of mental vanity that is borderline absurd — not because I'm not smart but because no one is smart enough to overcome the inherent fallibility of the human mind.  Smart people are often just better at tricking themselves into believing whatever it is they wish to be true.

And this is why I so appreciate the work of Derren Brown, a mentalist and magician who captivated me last year when I read his book "Tricks of the Mind".  He reminds me of Stephen Fry — brilliant, funny, atheist, gay and charming — like something from an Oscar Wilde play, not of this time.  Derren's schtick is to do magic tricks while explaining why the mind falls for them — he's sort of like a psychologist of magic.  It's similar to Penn & Teller, but his tricks are less sleight of hand and more sleight of mind.  He has gotten some flak in skeptic circles because he usually has a trick or two he doesn't explain, retaining some of that appeal to mysticism that he's otherwise debunking, but it's all part of the show.

If you share with me a love of the horrifically compelling documentary "Marjoe" or the delightful Steve Martin film "Leap of Faith", or if you just hate swindlers, especially those abusing religion to take advantage of people, then you'll be interested in Derren's latest TV Special, slated to air in the UK on C4 Monday night at 9.  It is called "Miracles for Sale" which is a rather tame title considering the subject matter.

The special will follow Derren's attempt, which one assumes was successful since it's airing, to turn an average Joe from the streets into a faith healer, using only tricks of the mentalist trade.  Basically, he's going to see if people fall for obvious fraud.  Derren claims that this is not about God, but about exposing fraud, though it can't help but paint religion and the entire idea of faith healing in an intensely negative light.

Although I don't hide my own lack of religious belief, my repulsion at this scam comes as much from my days as a Christian as it does from simply being a human being observing ego- and money-driven fraud.

As a former Evangelical, Derren manages to have street cred with Christians, although many others see his de-conversion as some sort of personal insult or, typically, a sign that he was never really a Christian in the first place.  And of course he's already getting the kind of braindead responses you'd expect from the faith healing crowds.  "U say there's no proof of genuine miracle?  Where have u been looking??  I've personally SEEN the blind SEE the Deaf hear and many other miracles…" "Jesus heals people all the time.  It is not faith healing though.  When Jesus speaks to someone they get healed.  Everything he does works."

So much for helping those in need.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-O9aNl2Xrk&feature=related

Emotions Are Not The Enemy

When I was an adolescent, I really wanted to be Mr. Spock. I thought that being hyper-logical and unemotional would be far better than being hyper-logical and hyper-emotional. I think there is a particular kind of self-loathing that kids develop when they’re far more intellectually developed than they are emotionally developed, like I was, and it can result in an extreme distrust of emotions and things that are not strictly logical. It took me going through and coming out of an extreme depression to realize that treating emotions as the enemy wasn’t only kind of stupid, but it was also really unhealthy.

Sci-Five!

I think that there is a lot of this in the atheist/skeptic community. I don’t want to fall into the fallacy that women are more compassionate than men, but I do think that the lack of large numbers of women doesn’t help. The association of emotions with women is so strong that it seems many people are uncomfortable with thinking of emotions as important empirically, or important in comparison with logic. It’s not just men who don’t want to be seen as weak, women are also afraid of being seen as stereotypically female and not as rational as men.

Today, Hemant at The Friendly Atheist posted about a woman who, at the hands of her religious upbringing, was taught to be so ashamed of her body that she was unable to breastfeed because she was so uncomfortable with her breasts. Hemant made a real effort to give a feminist response – women have the right to choose what to do with their bodies and it’s not his place to make those decisions for someone else – but he also said “It’s ultimately her choice, but I think I’d feel more comfortable about her decision (as if it matters what I think) if there was a more scientific rationale behind it.”

I recognize in blogging you often say things off the cuff that, given a little more thought, you probably would have worded differently, but I have to say I was a bit flabbergasted that Hemant would dismiss dealing with trauma as lacking in “scientific rationale”, as though any decision made based on emotion is necessarily irrational and therefore bad. And I should say I’ve no reason to think that he wants to change the language, but I’m trying to give him the benefit of the doubt. I love Hemant, I love his blog, I can only assume the best of him, so I hope that the way he worded it wasn’t the way he meant it.

Stop Being so Illogical!

I feel like the atheist/skeptic community does a lot of dismissing of people’s feelings. It happens whenever a woman brings up feeling uncomfortable, underrepresented, or underserved by the community. It happens whenever people point out the small number of minorities, or being uncomfortable by perceived racism. There’s something about emotions that seems to really bother people. If nothing else, I think it isn’t useful to dismiss someone’s feelings as invalid, no matter how wrong you’re sure they are.  Perhaps it’s too difficult a line to walk, but treating people’s emotions as something they should be embarrassed by isn’t only cruel, it doesn’t serve any useful purpose. Ideas and behavior are things worth critiquing, but someone’s emotions cannot be invalid, you cannot argue with someone that they can’t feel something, that’s not how it works. How they respond to their feelings? Yes, that’s fair game, but that they have feelings at all isn’t something you get to say is bad.

Cheer Up Emo Kid!

I can’t help but look at the traditional associations of emotion with women and children and logic with men and be a bit bothered by all this from a feminist perspective. I don’t think it’s conscious, but it seems like because emotions are seen as girly they are also seen as unimportant and weak. And if something is logical or rational, it is manly and strong and important. It’s not limited to this community, but also a lot of my friends who are interested in film, a group that is dominated by men as well. When a movie is technically impressive, it is important, but if a movie relies on emotions, it is not. The King’s Speech shouldn’t have won the Oscar because it’s just a story about emotions, not a technical feat like Inception or The Social Network, because emotions aren’t important.  That’s why some movies go to Lifetime and some go to Spike TV.

I ultimately decided that Spock was more irrational than people because he treated the emotional experience as invalid. Although dedicated to logic, Spock never took the extra step and accepted that human emotion was rational, and existed for rational reasons, and that to dismiss it was very limiting. Ignoring the importance of emotion and emotional health isn’t actually a rational way to deal with people. To pretend that human emotions don’t matter or aren’t important, to dismiss mental health as a non-scientific reason for pursuing a course of action… it is most illogical.

I don’t understand religion part 923

How can a person hold these two thoughts in their head?

1. The universe is too complex to simply exist, it must have been created

2. God, something so complex it can create and control universes, doesn’t require a creator

It seems to me that you can have two viewpoints that are internally consistent.  You can believe either:

1. Complicated things can exist without a creator, allowing the possibility of a universe without a creator and the possibility of God or

2. Everything complicated requires a creator, demanding a creator of the universe but denying the possibility of God at the same time

I just had this question with someone who is not a stupid person.  I know that atheist readers sometimes have difficulty grasping that not stupid people can believe in God, I myself have that difficulty at times, but I just cannot understand the complete lack of logic there.  Not only that, but the inability of the person in question to grasp the logic fail of saying that “everything must have a cause, except God” which means that not everything must have a cause, which means there’s no need for God.

Here is a place where it is laid out in much fuller detail, but if anyone can explain to me how those two thoughts exist inside the head of a not stupid person, please do, because he sure couldn’t.

Bishop Gene Robinson to Retire Early

Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly non-celibate gay bishop of the Episcopal Church is going to retire early because of the non-stop death threats he continues to get from Christians.

You know, there are always calls for Muslims to speak up against terrorism, but I’d like some Christians to publicly come out supporting the Bishop and denouncing the people sending him death threats. You want to complain that there aren’t enough moderate muslim voices? Then show me some moderate Christian ones.

Gene Robinson is an incredibly decent human being who is being terrorized because people who believe almost exactly the same thing he does, don’t like who he loves. Things like this make me find the appeal of Christianity completely incomprehensible.

And for those of you who say that that is not the behavior of a True Christian, I’d like to point you to the No True Scotsman fallacy as well as Leviticus. For those of you who think the appropriate way to deal with someone you don’t like is to threaten to murder them, you need help.

For the Christians who don’t particularly like the death threats but are glad that they’ve gotten this homosexual to step down, your tacit support is the moral equivalent of approving of Al Qaeda and Imams calling for death threats. You don’t have to agree with his lifestyle, but you should be at the front of the crowd denouncing the people using terrorism to get their(your) way.

African American Freethinking

As a relatively rare woman in the humanist/atheist/freethinker etc. movement, I have an interest in the demographics of said movement.  There are many, many thoughts as to why there are so few women and so few people of color and I always find it fascinating to hear the stories of difficulties coming to terms with being different.

Mercedes Diane Griffin Forbes at Unscripted has written a very interesting post on her transition from Christian to humanist, the particular challenges and benefits of humanism to African Americans, and how the complete integration of Black Life and Religious Life is a contributing factor to the difficulties African Americans face.

I asked myself, “Why were people so hell bent on worshipping a god that justified their enslavement?….in worshipping a god that justified the stealing of their land and the displacement of their people?” “Why could so many I encountered not even conceive of a morality not based on religion?” Racism affects the very reality upon which one values him or herself within the given societal paradigm. Living in America, it is easy to become consumed with self-hate and defeat. So many of Black and Brown people give up on their lives before they really ever begin! Because of this, the promise of life ever-lasting can be extremely appealing and religion continues as a most effective mechanism for perpetual bondage, keeping the masses intellectually and emotionally enslaved.

Culture can be broken down into three main concepts. The cultural seed, which is the determinative and explanatory aspect of a culture that puts into perspective the cultural manifestations of a people in reference to their historical and cultural evolution; the way a people must think in order to manifest its cultural seed; and the will of the culture, purpose, and collective behavior of a people.

I believe humanism can be the new cultural seed, upon which we build a stronger sense of our humanity, a deeper understanding of our connection to each other and to the world in which we live. The more I learned and the more I observed, it became obvious that the very seed from which African American culture had been shaped was fertilized by Christianity. And as is always the problem with toxic fertilizers, it cannot simply be washed away because it now a part of the fruit itself. Black life and church life have become synonymous, and the only way to adjust for this is by planting a new cultural seed, one fertilized with concepts of freethought!