Open Thread for AE #906: Matt and Jen

Last Thursday, a very lovely couple of 31 years got married in Austin. The Texas Attorney General, Ken Paxton, immediately set about trying to have their marriage declared void. His reason? They’re a lesbian couple. Yes, these two women who’ve been together for 31 years and who’ve raised two children are a dire threat to the institution of marriage in Texas. In case you were wondering, yep, Paxton’s a fundamentalist evangelical, as well as a craven political panderer. He’s also one of the most mean-spirited assholes on the planet.

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Open Thread for AETV #857: Message from a Deist

Welcome to the Open Thread for AETV #857.

A deist emailed us this week with a message for Christians and a request that we read his message on The Atheist Experience. I won’t take up air time for that, as I explain in my response to him, but I did think it was valuable as a discussion topic about why we reject deism as well as other flavors of theism.

For reference, deism is the belief that reason and observation of the natural world are sufficient to determine the existence of a creator. Deists generally reject organized religion (with some exceptions) and divine revelation as a source of knowledge about the nature of God.

Now, on to the deist’s message. I’ve left the spelling, capitalization, and punctuation as it is in the original.

 

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Open Thread AE 833: Religion & Depression

On the show I discussed the study published in Psychological Medicine that examined the relationship between religious beliefs and major depression. The prevailing view has been that religious belief provided some protective and/or mitigating effect on major depression. This study puts a serious dent in that view with its conclusion that “These results do not support the notion that religious and spiritual life views enhance psychological well-being.”

The study included over 8000 participants in seven countries and found that stronger religious beliefs were correlated with higher risk of depression. You can read the abstract of the study yourself here (unfortunately, you’ll have to pay if you want the full article), or you can read Tomas Rees excellent summary here.

Something I neglected to bring up on the show is the implication this research study has on the Army’s Spiritual Fitness program. As many of us foxhole atheists have known all along, religious belief is not some magic talisman that wards off depression, PTSD, or other mental health problems that may arise in humans exposed to traumatic events. In spite of this, the Army continues to promote a program that its own statistics show has, at best, had no effect on the suicide rate. At worst, this program may be exacerbating the suicide/depression rate among soldiers, if only by promoting something that doesn’t work over things that do work.

Anyway – open thread, so have at it.

A New Fan is “Concerned”

Our new fan, Pete, wrote to us to tell us we really need to consider the concerns he brings up about marriage equality, namely, that allowing gay people to adopt kids is a violation of the kids’ rights. When we consider his concerns, he admonishes us to be “unbiased and completely honest.”

Pete presents a fairly common argument among people who don’t grasp that marriage equality and adoption by gay parents are two separate issues, and his misplaced concern for children does not constitute a valid secular argument against either.

I don’t want to say much more, because Pete’s email really says it all. Here it is, in all its glory, with my replies:

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Open Thread – AE 805

Topic discussion focused on some emails from people who conflate marriage equality with adoption of children by LGBT people. The adoption issue is moot – we have over 40 years of research that shows that the sexual orientation of a child’s parents is not a relevant factor in how well that child does. The issue that’s before SCOTUS this month is whether or not to extend marriage to include gay and lesbian couples. If your argument against marriage equality is that you’re advocating for our children, let me assure you, you’re not helping anyone’s child. All you’re doing is arguing for second-class status for families like mine.

AE 771 Open Thread

Godparents, abiogenesis, resurrection, redefining words, and outing ourselves to political leaders. Have at it!

Reminder – no show next week! We don’t get the studio on a fifth Sunday of the month.

Open Thread on 727

Secular charities mentioned in today’s show include:

These organizations help real people in this life – the only one we’re sure to get. They’re transparent about what they do, and serve anyone in need.

As I mentioned on the show today, the idea that some reward awaits the faithful in the afterlife is one of the religious doctrines that impairs our ability to solve the problems that plague humanity. It makes it easier to ignore suffering if you think some people are better off dead. Well, it’s not okay with me for people to go without medical care because they’re poor. It’s not okay for people to go hungry in a country where obesity is a major health concern. It’s not okay for women to be pregnant year after year until they die of exhaustion. The organizations above are doing what they can to solve these problems. If you can help, please do, and thank you.

And now, open thread – have at it.

Another Battle Won

I’m sure everyone’s heard by now that California Proposition 8 has been struck down in federal court. Same-sex couples are on their way to being able to marry in California. The drama will play on for a while, unfortunately. The ruling has been stayed to give opponents time to appeal, something of a courtesy from the judge in the case. An appeal could drag it out for at least another year while it goes to the 9th Circuit court, and possibly up the Supreme Court. Wednesday’s ruling was the fatal shot to the California same-sex marriage ban, however. The defendants in the case had little going for them and they bungled the hearing. The ruling is thorough and Constitutionally sound. I think it has little chance of being overturned. At this point, the religious right might be wise to let this one go. If they appeal to the Supreme Court, it could make quick work of same-sex marriage bans in the remaining 44 states. It’s just a matter of time before that happens. America will eventually join the first world on this issue.

I spoke yesterday at a Prop 8 rally here in Austin hosted by the Equality Across America Texas Regional Network. I told them that the conservative Christians behind Prop 8 were organized, powerful, and take a long-term view. They’re not going away anytime soon. Spoke about the importance of church-state separation and the need to no believe propaganda and think for one’s self. For many in the audience, it was the first time they’d heard an atheist speak, but my message resonated with many. I know the Gay/Lesbian/Bi/Trans-gender/Queer/Whatever Else movement is anxious to win full equality. Those religious conservatives are not anxious to give up their power, however. I told the audience that the thing their enemy feared the most was the normalcy of gays. Without an enemy, they lose power and money. So many of those religious leaders wouldn’t know how to work an honest day’s if they had to.

Austin’s Proposition 8 Rally, City Hall, August 4, 2010

Part of me hopes that with this really lame attempt to defend Prop 8, we’re seeing the demagogues implode. I’ve often mused at how much the religious conservatives hate the judicial branch of the government. They can manipulate the elected branches easily. They have money and clout. They can move the masses with their lies, propaganda, and emotional manipulation. But the courts are largely beyond their grasp. The courts trade in reason and evidence, which are in short supply among apologists and other faith-based con artists. They have a tough time winning battles there.

Still, I’m surprised at just how lame the defense was. Check out this bit of pathos:

In the California campaign, gay marriage foes could set up a site called “ProtectMarriage.org.” But when Walker asked their lawyer what harm marriage would require protection from, ProtectMarriage’s lawyer said, “I don’t know. I don’t know.” When even their own “experts” couldn’t show any evidence of harm to marriage, their lawyer was reduced to arguing that the people could act without evidence, just on their inchoate fears alone. Inchoate fears are the stuff of political campaigns — not constitutional litigation.

I can’t imagine the any soldier from the army of religious-nut lawyers graduating from Liberty University School of Law doing as poorly as these defendants. They would have made something up, even if it was obvious bullshit. It’s hard to imagine how to read this. Maybe the lawyers were just too honest. How’s that for ironic?