Open thread for AETV #893: Russell and Tracie

Russell and Tracie take viewer calls.

Edit: Russell here, piggybacking on this post to say I’m going to be giving a talk at St. Charles Community College near St. Louis, MO next week. Here are the details to share on Facebook.

The even will be held on December 2 at 6 PM in the SSB auditorium in SCC, 4601 Mid Rivers Mall Dr. The place is booked until 8:30, and then the group will go hang out somewhere to be announced afterwards. See you there! If you know any Christians in the area, spread the word, since there will be plenty of Q&A time.

Godless parenting link collection

Because we get asked so often about parenting advice by atheists, I wrote a couple of posts a few years ago laying out some basic advice on the subject. Since then I have done two appearances with Dale McGowan, author of “Parenting Beyond Belief.” Now when anybody asks about the topic I provide a short list of links, which so far have seemed to thoroughly cover most questions people have. Because of that, I am reposting that entire list here.

Hope that helps you parents out there.

Mona Charen on Same-Sex Marriage

Mona Charen is a syndicated right-wing columnist who appears in the Austin American-Statesman. I usually find her pieces loaded with soft-peddled right-wing vitriol and poorly thought out. She published a piece on same-sex marriage on October 13, 2014 titled “Olsen Evades Gay Marriage Questions” in the Washington Examiner. In the Austin American-Statesman, it was titled “Give Acceptance, Without Undermining Marriage.” There is so much wrong in this editorial that it makes me wonder whether she really believes what she’s writing.

First, let me fix some framing that Charen doesn’t address in her editorial. Almost all opposition to same-sex marriage and to treating gays and lesbians as human beings in the United States comes from Christianity. In the 70s, Christian leaders figured out that selling hatred of gays was a big money maker. It was precisely the sort of red meat issue that got the “base” riled up and kept the money flowing. It speaks volumes about the actual morals of Christians that they have created this sort of market. When seen in historical perspective, anti-gay prejudice just another faith-based initiative like the Crusades, Pogroms, Witch Burnings, torture of infidels, slavery apologetics, and murdering of Jews that one might expect from a bunch of people who blindly follow an invisible genocidal maniacal thug whose only communication is a functional Rorschach test for the morally challenged. Today, the homophobia industry is in decline, largely playing itself out in the minds of people who are no longer taken in by the lies and hysteria. The die-hard peddlers of this product are screaming like scared children. The are terrified of having their power and wealth slip away.

To begin her piece, Charen points out the hypocrisy of Ted Olson, a politician who has previously won elections pandering to Christian hatred but who has now read the handwriting on the wall that his message will have to change or he’ll risk losing re-election. We can be overly generous and say he is just representing the evolving views of his constituents. Or we can just chalk it up to politicians being politicians.

After showing her warranted disgust at Olson’s seeming change of principles, Charen asks, “… why not leave the matter [of same-sex marriage] to state legislatures and voters rather than taking the question out of their hands?” The answer is simple: that’s not the kind of country the United States is. The Constitution protects the rights of the minority against the tyranny of the majority. Perhaps Charen missed the recent Supreme Court ruling on this very question. Maybe she is unaware of a variety of circuit court rulings striking down various marriage laws on the basis of equal protection. I recommend Charen go back to high school and get a civics refresher. A patriot would have a clue how the government works.

And Christians love majority rule, exactly when it allows them to advance their agenda. They claim to follow and have a “relationship” with a dead guy who allegedly said to “do unto others what you would have them do unto you,” but I have yet to meet a single believer who thinks that the marriage rights of Christians should be put up for popular vote by gays. Think about it. If the gays voted against marriage rights for Christians, it would be a delicious just desert for the Christian thugs. If instead they voted for it, it would show that gays own the moral high ground. Either way it’s a win. But that will never happen. Christian leaders wouldn’t allow following their own god-man’s words to get in the way of their political agendas.

Next in her editorial Charen champions the views in Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, an anti-gay hate group. To his credit, Mr. Perkins’s views are unwavering, but far from exemplary. Let’s be clear here. Tony Perkins, Ted Olson, and even Mona Charen herself are all making their livelihoods trading on the rights of other Americans. All three are despicable low-lifes whose ideas are unworthy of consideration, though I fully support their right to express their wrong-headed views. It makes me wonder why Charen even chose Perkins as some sort of champion. It makes me wonder if, were she was writing in the 1500s, would she be in full support of Martin Luther on the question of whether Jews should be able to live, worship, or have businesses.

Throughout her editorial, Charen decries the use of “emotionally laden expressions such as ‘dignity’ and ‘respect’ as if to say that those who resist same-sex marriage are opposed to those civilities.” What amazing irony coming from the defender of a movement that has championed the “sanctity of marriage,” that has insinuated at every turn that gays are out to “recruit” children, that AIDS is God’s wrath on gays, and that gays are out to destroy civilization. The same Christians seem to ignore the fact that, the Catholic Church is a de facto crime ring that molests children with impunity and even gets tax subsidies in the bargain. Does Charen realize how stupid she sounds?

For the record, I’m a married gay man who works hard and makes an honest living. And while I’ve never been a married straight man, I’m pretty sure I feel the same way about my marriage as others do about theirs. I have made a family that I care a lot about. Conservatives seem to feel it is their right to meddle in mine and others’ families. It isn’t their right at all. There isn’t a single person in their ranks qualified to do so. If conservative Christians want to persist in this sort of meddling, please forgive us if we start “doing unto others” and actively sabotage their marriages. We’d only be following their example.

And let’s face facts. Conservatives lie when they say they are for families, liberty, and religious freedom. What they really mean is that they are wanting to control others’ families, take away others’ liberties, and foisting their religion onto others. Religious freedom means that I can be free of the murderous fraud known as Christianity just as others are free to uncritically support it.

Back to the editorial, Charen goes on to assert that the rights of gays and lesbians are not worthy of support because they constitute only a small fraction of the population. What fraction of the population are Christian demagogues? What rights do they deserve? And do I get to take those away? What fraction of the population has sworn allegiance to the Pope (a leader of a foreign government / organized crime ring) while harming US citizens? What fraction of believers kill their children through faith healing, prayer, or though the anti-vaccination craze? Charen quotes CDC statistics on the population size of gays, throwing a bone to those in the base that still are convinced by Christian propaganda that homosexuality is a disease. But the groups I mentioned above have all done measurable harm while gay marriage does not harm anyone. Well, perhaps with the exception of those like Charen who peddle hate for a living. Gay normalcy takes food out of their mouths.

In a pathetic attempt to seem nice, Charen says that gays are worthy of “dignity” and “respect”, but not worthy of the right to build families, have legal protections, enter contracts, and have some measure of security in our later years. I guess to conservatives, they long for the day when they could suppress women, blacks and other minorities and not be called bigots. Perhaps if Charen does return to high school, she could also take in some history about the Jim Crow laws and how “separate but equal” worked out only to benefit the already privileged. I suspect Charen and her readers long for those days. I can’t see why I should be treated as a second class citizen when, quite frankly, I’m a better human being than those trying to oppress me.

Like many conservatives, Charen argues for something resembling traditional marriage, but she and they prefer to be vague about exactly what they mean. Traditionally, a man owned many wives who were his property. The wives had no rights as independent people. This is the concept of marriage in the Bible. I find it ironic that only Christians on the radical fringe think highly enough of their holy book to openly support such a crazy idea while the rest lack moral conviction. But this begs the question of why did the US already destroy traditional marriage by preventing Mormons from taking multiple wives just like Abraham, Solomon, and David did in the Bible? Why don’t Christian conservatives champion the legal framework of women as property, passed from father to husband, with no independent lives? Why do Christians tolerate divorce, especially as instigated by an unhappy wife? Which specific version of marriage do conservative Christians want? If we ever get an answer, let’s check the calendar to see how long this “tradition” has been in force. The perpetual vagueness on what “traditional marriage” means is nothing more than intellectually dishonest attempt at emotional manipulation–precisely what Charen criticized Olson for doing.

Christians and conservatives during the 60s made arguments against mixed race marriages that echo with same-sex marriage arguments today. Back then, the arguments were about God purposefully separating races and fake concern about how the mixed-race children would be treated by bigots as they entered school and public life. Ironically, the bigots were precisely the people making the false and self-serving arguments. Over and over again, history repeats with Christians marching under the banner of God in the wrong direction.

Finally, we get to the meat of Charen’s editorial. She argues that “… same-sex marriage [will send] the message to heterosexuals that mothers and fathers don’t really matter.” If I’m to understand correctly, the idea is that heterosexual couples are not bright enough to raise children without proper cultural meddling, and so the rights of others need to be trashed to set the right ambiance for baby making. I think life would go on splendidly without the Christian conservatives. Christians are obsessed about controlling reproduction for the simple reason that there is no god who can make babies who will grow up to become the next generation of gullible tithers and who will support the parasite class more commonly known as priests and ministers. Penises and uteruses must be co-opted for this lofty goal. If only the Christian god could “get it up,” there’d be no need to control anyone’s reproduction. The parasites have every interest in keeping their exalted place. It is true gay marriages aren’t about government control of reproductive parts in service to the majority religion. And yes, that poses an existential threat to those living of the fat of others. May I suggest that priests stop having sex with teenage boys, take wives, and make babies of their own. They could get then get honest jobs and raise those kids with their own money. Nobody is stopping them from doing this. Perhaps then they would be busy enough that they wouldn’t feel the need to meddle in the affairs of others.

Conservatives like Charen falsely conflate the concepts marriage and reproduction. I have yet to hear a single proposal from conservatives regulating child birth, which is what they really care about, yet they want to step in to regulate marriage as some sort of proxy. Perhaps Charen could help us pick a government agency she thinks should crawl up into her uterus and play traffic cop. With artificial hormones, women can carry babies well into their 60s and sperm is cheap and plentiful. Even conservatives know this is level of control a non-starter. One need only look at the horrors of the Ceaușescu regime’s Decree 770 birth control program that are still playing out today.

If we are really concerned about the institution of marriage, shouldn’t we be concerned about the fact that the divorce rate of conservative Christians is higher than, say atheists? In a jaw dropping leap, Charen blames the idea of same-sex marriage for high divorce rates. She claims that marriages based “only on love” are to blame. At the same time, Christians are using marriages as the only socially acceptable means young people can have sex (and only for the purpose of making babies). Charen even nods to this Christian entrapment tactic in her editorial. Have the conservatives stopped to consider the harm done to a child growing up in a home where the parents are miserable and the child know that they are the cause of the suffering? Next, if we are really concerned about the sanctity of marriage, shouldn’t we prevent a fraudulent religion from trying to co-opt the institution of marriage to perpetuate the fraud? Also, given that, belief in Christianity is correlated with a variety of social ills, shouldn’t we be actively preventing Christian marriages? Sadly, the arguments of conservative Christians more aptly apply to the ills of their marriages than to same-sex ones.

Yes, stable families are good places to raise children. And guess what? About one tenth of gay people are parents. When conservatives prevent same-sex marriage they actually penalize the children by inhibiting those families. Most people realize that such punitive policies demonstrate Christians to be uncaring thugs. Perhaps everyone but Charen is aware of the wealth of scientific evidence in support of same-sex child rearing (one article here). I think the real fear of conservatives is that gays will someday soon surpass conservative Christians at child and marriage longevity. It’s a relatively low bar.

Charen closes her editorial with the claim that gays only want social acceptance, not really marriage. I personally have no desire for “social acceptance” by bigots. They have chosen me as their enemy and I welcome their hatred and bigotry. Celebrate it and imbue your institutions with it. It is your God-given right to do so. God is on your side. Go ahead and return to witch burning and Jew murdering. Be honest for once about the history of your religion and embrace the harm you have caused. Then I want to separate that evil from civil society like a callus around a wart. Let Christian leaders be marginalized like the KKK and the Westboro Baptists. I want conservative pundits and religious leaders to be held accountable for lying and fomenting hate in the public arena. I want all institutions that have sold hatred of gays to forever lose any tax exempt status as they have proven themselves unworthy of public support. I want the money that such groups have made selling the hatred of gays to be paid back tenfold–not to gays, but for the benefit of society. Then, I want the United States to honor its separation of church and state and forever separate the legal rights and privileges of marriage from whatever irrelevant rites may be performed in churches. Churches don’t own marriages and they should have their noses rubbed in that fact. Oh yeah, I also want the same rights and responsibilities that everyone else has. (How selfish of me, I know.)

Charen still seems to think that the marriage rights of gays is still up to debate and she and her pals can make a decision not to “undermine marriage.” I’m already married and the “decisions” of conservatives is nothing more than self-serving noise.

ReasonCon 2015 Coming in April

Hey, Tracie here. I’ve agreed to speak at the 2015 ReasonCon, since I had such a fun time speaking at the one this year in May! That being said, I feel a little obligated to share out some of the promotional materials for the event as part of my due diligence as someone who has agreed to be involved. That being said, here is the link to the promotional video, and here is some information on the initial press release (shared with permission), for anyone interested in attending:

Hickory, North Carolina – November 1, 2014 –“It was beyond anything I would have imagined for such a small town.  To see what these groups pulled together–created for themselves–was an inspiration.  In fact, every time I turned around, I felt inspired this weekend.  The people, the event, the attitudes and dedication-were all inspiring,” Tracie Harris, speaker at ReasonCon One in 2014.

ReasonCon is an event to showcase the existence of a secular community in the southeastern United States.  It is a gathering of atheists, agnostics, secular humanists, believers, and everything in between to join the conversation about what it means to be secular, and the benefits for all in the continued and vigilant separation of church and state.

This is also an opportunity for people in the Hickory area to learn more about what it means to be an atheist, agnostic, secular humanist, etc.  This year, ReasonCon 2015 is being hosted by the Hickory Humanist Alliance, a local chapter of the American Humanist Association with 2 affiliate groups of their own, which gather in the Hickory area once a month.

Over 400 people attended ReasonCon One, as it was called, in May of 2014.  The event took place in the Crowne Plaza Hotel and featured a day full of speakers talking about everything from using analogies in explaining secularism to the question of the authenticity or existence of an historical Jesus.

ReasonCon 2015 will take place on April 24th and 25th, with a VIP dinner on Friday night at which attendees can meet, chat, and dine with the event’s guest speakers, and then a full lineup of speakers and other events throughout the day on Saturday.

Guest speakers will include: Tracie Harris and Beth Presswood of the Atheist Community of Austin, both of whom frequently appear on The Atheist Experience television show; Ryan Bell, the pastor who decided to try a “year without God”; Heina Dadabhoy, a feminist secular humanist author and blogger; Phil Ferguson, founder of Champaign Urbana Freethinkers and investment advisor; and David Fitzgerald, author, activist, and co-founder & director of the world’s first Atheist Film Festival.

Tickets for ReasonCon 2015, as well as official ReasonCon 2015 T-shirts, will go on sale beginning at midnight on November 1, 2014 at http://www.ReasonNC.com.  Early Bird prices will last between November 1 and December 20, 2014, and give attendees a discount for purchasing tickets early.  (All ticket prices will be listed on the website.)  Those who purchase tickets after December 20, 2014 will pay full price.  In the meantime, follow @HickoryHumanist on Twitter, or Hickory Humanist Alliance on Facebook to get further updates, watch for #ReasonCon2015, see the ReasonCon 2015 trailer, and see sneak previews of the events.

Contact:

Rachael Allman or Gene Elliott
HickoryHumanist@gmail.com
PO Box 294
Claremont, NC 28610
Phone: 828-548-0294