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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No better than the bigots they claim to fight

Addendum: Ask an Atheist now has been added to the partners page. A shame it took a little public shaming to accomplish it, but for now, hold off on the email and Facebook abuse. Thanks.


Okay, try this on for size. And pay close fucking attention, because this shit is why we need Atheism+, in my not-so-humble opinion.

So the crew of Ask an Atheist up in Seattle host a 24-hour fundraiser for Washington United for Marriage, a marriage equality group. Because marriage equality is a thing atheists, in general, want to get behind.

After they have the money, what does Washington United say to Ask an Atheist? “Thanks for your wonderful support!”, perhaps? Or how about, “FUUUUCKK YOOOUUUUU!”

Come on. Guess.

Aw, how did you guess?

According to Mike Gillis at AAA, the response they got from the people they helped and supported was that Washington United “could not risk any negative publicity that may come from association with an atheist organization.” Because, of course, it is far more in the best interests of the LGBT community to pander to the theists who don’t fundraise for them, don’t support them, and would happily see them all die in a ditch for the greater glory of Jesus.

Seriously, people. Think long and hard on this one. Let it sink in.

Briefly to why this underscores and validates the Atheism+ concept: You might want to sit down for this, but there is a shit-ton of anti-atheist bigotry out there. People simply have this prejudice that, because we reject belief in an invisible magic man in the sky, we are thus irredeemable, immoral, corrupt and despicable monsters. Period. And this prejudice, as we can clearly see, extends even to the people you’d think were on the same side (and who apparently are, until the fucking check clears).

What Atheism+ seeks to do is counter this cultural bigotry through associating atheism with positive social causes. No, it won’t be an immediate mind-changing magic bullet. But, as Dawkins stated in The God Delusion, hopefully it will start to raise consciousnesses. Maybe you still think that’s a needless effort. I disagree, and present this situation as exhibit A. No, I’m not trying to guilt anyone who doesn’t want to adopt the A+ moniker into doing so if they still think it’s not for them. I just want you to understand why those of us who do want to adopt it find it useful to do so. That’s all.

As for Washington United, well, fuck them right back. Feel free to disagree, but I think the public shaming should be heavy on this one. They have a Facebook page. How about that? They also can be contacted here. Just a polite note to the effect of “Thanks for being total douchebags towards Ask an Atheist, that was really nice” ought to do. And if you’re a Washingtonian and still want to support equality in that state, apparently Equal Rights Washington are the good guys.

Trololololol

Hey! Want to piss off some homophobic fundie bigots? Of course you do!

So recently, a dearly beloved snack food came out in support of marriage equality. And there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth among people whose lives are filled with anger and fear, that they would never again be able to enjoy their favorite cookie. Truly, my heart bled. Did yours? I bet it did, you softie, you.

And now, a group of folks called Minnesota for Marriage, which is a curious thing for a group trying to prevent certain people from being allowed to marry to call themselves, are declaring war (which, I guess, is what you do when you’re all about love) against General Mills. Because General Mills supports love and equality and marriage for everyone, you see, and that is an evil Satanic homodevil thing to do. And MFM’s Andy Parrish, who wants all his loyal prayer warriors to know he can be reached at Andy@MinnesotaForMarriage.com, will have none of it.

Well, my my. For sure, General Mills definitely needs someone at their backs. So why not? After all, who doesn’t enjoy Count Chocula? (Okay, don’t answer that. But, good grief, Trix! Whose childhood wasn’t positively influenced by the Trix rabbit!)

So here are some fun ideas. You can send old Andy a note letting him know that you appreciate the information that General Mills have come out against the kind of bigotry by which Andy has chosen to define his life, and that you will certainly support their products in any way you can. Better yet, if you’re a gay couple, what fun could be had by sending Andy a photo of yourselves, posing with your favorite General Mills cereal. One of you could be feeding the other a spoonful of Cheerios in a sultry way. Or if you really wanted to make Andy’s head asplode, one of you could be licking flakes of Total off the other’s body with the note “You bet I’m getting 100%!”

Trolling. It is such an art!

Looking forward to seeing what shenanigans ensue.


Quick addendum: General Mills is not the company that makes Oreos. That’s Kraft. Thing is, they’re both proudly pro-equality, the bigots hate them both now, so we should give them our love.


Addendum the Second: According to PZ, this post appears on Minnesota for Marriage’s FB page.

Nothing about blended fabrics, though.

And they’re trying to disown it by saying it was put there by a hacker. (Here’s the proof that that’s a lie and desperate spin, and that they support the scriptural sentiment.) But they wouldn’t take it down until “Facebook’s forensics team” identified the hacker. (eyeroll) So it stayed up until the afternoon of Wednesday, June 27, getting all kinds of high-fives from MfM’s fellow fundie bigots.

But here’s the thing. You don’t get to do this. You don’t get to trumpet your bigotry with a fanfare of Biblical justifications, and then repudiate one of the principal passages from the very holy scriptures upon which that bigotry is founded, because you’re uncomfortably aware that by modern, secular, humanistic moral boundaries, its incitement to murder goes a little too far. If this book is the divinely inspired word of your creator, from whom you believe your “morality” comes, what basis you do have to pick and choose what “morals” he gets to teach you?

If God is your “absolute moral authority,” and he says do this, you can’t say “Yes God, you’re my moral authority, except when you tell me to kill someone.” Because aren’t you then placing your “relative” moral values over those of the “absolute” lawgiver?

Think for yourself. Make your choice. Millennia-old religious edicts or modern enlightened thought? In or out?

Because Photoshop is more fun than doing responsible adult stuff

With the recent anti-gay vote in North Carolina, followed by Obama’s belated “sure, why not?” pronouncement of same-sex marriage acceptability, a number of Christians are doubling down on the hate, and this photo of a billboard is making the rounds on Facebook today.

Being white with perfect teeth is presumably optional.

Wag that I am (check my name), I couldn’t resist firing up Photoshop to create some of my own variants of the message. (Politically incorrect yet bluntly accurate interpretations of scripture and religious patriarchalism below the fold.)
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Why marriage?

A viewer from Thailand writes:

My friend is a big fan of your show and would like to know why, given your Atheism, you still believe in marriage. His point of view is that marriage is a religious institution, so why would an atheist have anything to do with it? He asks if it’s for a tax break, or if polygamy is somehow wrong for an atheist?

As a guy about to be married for the second time, I support the institution of marriage — both gay and straight. I recommend you start by reading this article on Wikipedia:

Rights and responsibilities of marriages in the United States

Marriage carries with it a host of federal benefits assumed to be conferred automatically on each spouse. These prominently include:

  • Numerous tax benefits, as you mentioned, including the right to file jointly
  • Legal status with stepchildren
  • joint parenting rights, such as access to children’s school records
  • family visitation rights for the spouse and non-biological children, such as to visit a spouse in a hospital or prison
  • next-of-kin status for emergency medical decisions or filing wrongful death claims
  • Survivor benefits on death
  • Automatic recipient of life insurance for some jobs
  • Tax-free transfer of property between spouses (including on death) and exemption from “due-on-sale” clauses.

This is only scratching the surface, but I hope you get the idea. Is it possible for all these legal issues to be settled by signing a few hundred individual contracts? Naturally. But what’s the point? Two people committing to living together is an incredibly common arrangement, and it’s a reasonable assumption that a couple would want these legal rights explicitly spelled out in one big contract. That contract is called “marriage.”

Your friend is simply misinformed when he says that marriage is a religious institution. It isn’t. Marriage existed long before religion got its hooks in it, and the fact that religious people today are going around demanding that their views of marriage ought to be “protected” is simply bunk, and pointless entanglement between church and state. A church can “marry” you in the sense that they can perform a ceremony, but unless you sign those legal papers that are recognized by lawyers (or in some states, meet various other requirements that make you married), you’re not married in the eyes of the law, and that’s where it counts.

As for polygamy: I’m on the fence about it, along with many other atheists. Legally, a contract between three people is much more complicated than a contract between two. For instance, what happens if person A wants to divorce person B, but still loves C, while B and C wish to remain married? Because it’s so complex, I’m not pushing for legal polygamy. There is also the concern that polygamy as practiced is often used as a smokescreen for coercion and sex with minors, as in the recent case of epic scumbag Warren Jeffs. That’s not okay, since it doesn’t involve consenting adults who are in a legal position to make their own large life-changing decisions.

Having said that, I’m not particularly morally opposed to polygamy, as long as it’s between consenting adults and as long as I don’t have to sort out their legal affairs. I wouldn’t do it, but other people can for all I care. In the absence of legal polygamy, I’m also not opposed to people being polyamorous. (Hat tip to Dan Savage‘s excellent podcast and column, where he discusses this regularly.) Fool around with other partners as much as you want, as long as nobody in the arrangement is deceived about what they’re getting into.

Note that my description of it as legally acceptable doesn’t amount to my recommending it as a good idea for anyone in particular. In the worst case, miscommunication could occur, jealousy could pop up, feelings could be hurt, and relationships could be broken. But as long as everybody’s aware of that going in… you’re adults, I’m not responsible for your therapy bills. :)

About Last Weekend

The rumor is true.

I got married on May 1st. Wedded, actually. Texas doesn’t yet allow same-sex couples to be married, but it won’t be too long before that changes, I think.

I married my partner of almost 12 years, Elton. We are lucky to be together as we complement each-other well. I’m the practical techie guy. He has more of a people person with a big heart. He’s a believer, so we’ve had to work through some tension with my being such an atheist advocate. We are doing well, though, otherwise we wouldn’t be making a lifetime commitment.

We had a grand (mostly secular) wedding ceremony with vows, exchanging of rings, and an old African tradition of jumping the broom. We have so many friends that we had to make very painful cuts to the invitee list, so only a few AE and ACA folks were invited. I apologize to anyone that feels slighted. If I could, I would have invited the whole gang. Tracie Harris was one of my grooms maids and she looked stunning. More than a dozen people have told me it was the most beautiful wedding they’ve seen. Elton organized most of it, so it has been a real labor of love.

We did not have a show last weekend because I had a critical number of people at my wedding. Thank you for sharing them with me.

Some pictures have been posted on Facebook and we have received an amazing number of well-wishes. It’s humbling and very flattering to have so many people cheer us on as a couple. The gang of us that put on The Atheist Experience are very fortunate to have such loyal and devoted fans. Thank YOU!

I haven’t been particularly open about being gay or opening up my personal life on the show. It’s not that I’m closeted or anything. I used to run a gay and lesbian student group back in the ’80s. I’m so “out”, I don’t even think about it anymore. I don’t bring it up on the show because so much of it isn’t relevant to the content of the show. It can too easily be a distraction. With the wedding, it’s out in the open for all our fans. Let’s keep the show focused on atheism, though.

When things quiet down a little bit and the red lights stop going off every time I make a credit card purchase, we’ll take a vacation/honeymoon to Massachusetts and get legally married there. The marriage won’t be recognized in Texas until the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) falls. It’s just a matter of time, though, as challenges have already been made at the federal level.

Again, thanks for the warm wishes. Please don’t send gifts. Donations to the ACA would be very welcome, however, but don’t feel obliged.

I’m just happy to have so much support and love in my life.

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?

Cal-irony-fication

The California Supreme US District Court is currently hearing a case over whether 2008 Proposition 8 (which bans same-sex marriage in the California State Constitution) is itself constitutional. If the court rules that it is not constitutional (by the state’s US constitution), then same-sex marriage would revert to being allowed in the state. This is a pretty important case as many people feel that California is a cultural leader for the entire US–not to mention its sheer size.

There has been a recent side-show as to whether the hearing would be (video) broadcast to the public. One can make an argument that public interest is served by transparency, especially in such an important case. This little debate went all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States that decided today that there should be no such coverage. The 5-4 decision (with the conservative Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, Kennedy, and Alito in the majority) was ostensibly decided on a technicality. Not too interesting so far; but let’s look under the hood, shall we?

The very fact that SCOTUS even heard the case and issued a decision was based on an urgent claim of “irreparable harm” to someone. According to one source, “The Court also found that the high-profile nature of the trial might intimidate witnesses and cause irreparable harm if the rule were not stayed.” However, the dissenting justice wrote (page 24-25): “I can find no basis for the Court’s conclusion that, were the transmissions to other courtrooms to take place, the applicants would suffer irreparable harm. Certainly there is no evidence that such harm could arise in this nonjury civil case from the simple fact of transmission itself.” (This article has a good analysis.) Perhaps a broadcast on YouTube would cause irreparable harm to their cause.

So what’s going on? The religious supporters of Proposition 8 are wanting have their free speech rights to make false and emotionally manipulative claims, but they are crying persecution when it comes to taking responsibility for them. Consider defendant Hak-Shing William Tam, who wrote, “On their agenda list is: legalize having sex with children,” and that, “other states would fall into Satan’s hands,” if gays weren’t stopped from marrying in California. A successful advertising campaign during the Proposition 8 election claimed that homosexuality would be taught in public schools. They want to perpetrate thuggery on gays, but they’re playing the persecution card when it comes to taking responsibility for their lies–and the conservatives on the Supreme Court are backing them up. Apparently, taking responsibility is irreparably harmful to the religious.

The irony is so thick here you could build a church with it. Some supporters of Proposition 8 have gotten harassing phone calls and e-mail messages. I can’t say I feel any pity for these people. They are being subject to much milder versions of the same tactics they have done to gays and others over the years. (Religious readers are referred to Exodus 21:22-25 and Matthew 7:12 for a little morality lesson and some tasty just desserts. I long for the day when the majority of gays vote on the Christians’ right to marriage, just as the Christians have done to gays.) Christian death threats are a common intimidation tactic and the religion has plenty of people who are willing to carry them out. Gays have been subject to (real) hate crimes for years, most of which have been religiously motivated. Christians have made a big business out of persecuting gays. Proposition 8 itself is just part of that business. If same-sex marriage becomes normalized, they will have a much harder time vilifying gays and their red-meat lovin’ constituency will turn to other pursuits and take their tithes with them.

Same-sex marriage in the US will happen eventually, but we can count on the religious fighting unfairly every step of the way.

Another konk on the head with the Reality Mallet

Okay, so you know how the homophobic Christian Right clutches its pearls and bleats that if teh gayz are allowed to marry for realz, it will, like, totally destroy the institution of marriage for everybody, forever? So we have to keep gay marriage illegal because the sanctity of traditional straight marriage simply won’t survive otherwise?

Well, it turns out that in the big wide real world that the fundies like to pretend they don’t inhabit, things actually seem to work a little differently.

Now of course, correlation is not causation, and you couldn’t say that if the states with gay marriage bans were to allow gay marriage, then overall divorce rates would start to reverse. I think it’s more of an indicator that many of the states with gay marriage bans have a high fundamentalist demographic, and the rigidly patriarchal marriages that exist in that culture are not exactly the portrait of perfect connubial bliss they want everyone to believe they are.

But it does tend to throw a bit of cold water — like, enough to fill Lake Erie — on the claim that gay marriage is some kind of heterosexuality killer. One has to wonder what folks who say things that stupid are so desperate to suppress.