Hometown Girl Makes Good

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Hey, this is neat.

If you live in Chicago, get a copy of today’s Sunday Sun-Times. My piece on how same-sex marriage will, in fact, change marriage for everyone — and why that’s a good thing — is in their Sunday “Controversy” section. Practically a full page, according to my brother. (Alas, they don’t have the article up on their Website, so I can’t link you to it. It’s on my blog, the How Gay Marriage Is Destroying Normal Marriage — No, Really piece.)

This is my first piece in a major big-city daily newspaper (not counting letters to the editor, of course). So that’s very exciting. And it’s extra-neat that my first foray into a major big-city daily newspaper is in my hometown paper. I’m all a-twitter with girlish glee. Thanks to AlterNet for putting the piece on their site; that’s how the Sun-Times found it. Yay!

Friday Cat Blogging: Ginger on the Fence

And now, two cute pictures of our cat.

Ginger_1

Ginger_2

Okay, not our cat, technically speaking. Ginger is a feral cat who hangs out in our backyard; our upstairs neighbors feed her and shelter her and keep an eye on her, and for a feral cat she’s become pretty social — she tolerates our presence if we don’t come too close, and she makes for a very pleasant and decorative garden cat. Here she is sitting on our backyard fence, also known as the Great Wall of China.

On Jealousy

Women_who_love_sexAnd this piece is also about sex. Newcomers to this blog should note: I write about sex in this blog, rather a lot. In fact, this blog started out being largely a sex blog. I do usually begin my sex posts with a heads-up, so family members and co-workers and others who don’t want to read the sex stuff can go look at the cute cat pictures or something instead. This is that heads-up: I talk about sex in this post. It’s not particularly smutty as my sex posts go, but it does talk a certain amount about my own personal sex life. If you don’t want to read that, please hang up now.

This piece was originally published on the Blowfish Blog.

On Jealousy

OutsiderIt’s a little odd to be writing about this. I’m not naturally a very jealous person: I’ve had moments, but to some extent I’m writing this from an outsider’s perspective.

An outsider’s perspective can be useful, though. With jealousy in particular. When you’re in its throes, jealousy is a uniquely difficult emotion to have a rational perspective on.

MotelSo in my “used to experience it a fair amount, still get twinges occasionally, but mostly seeing how it affects others” perspective, I’ve broken sexual and romantic jealousy into three basic categories. (I’m setting aside for now the accurate, justified, “your partner is in fact screwing around behind your back/ without your consent/ in violation of your non-monogamy agreement” variety. I’m trying to get at jealousy over feelings and desires, not over actual broken promises and threats to the relationship. Although it’s important to note that these aren’t the same, as it can be easy to confuse them.)

Open_lustFirst: There’s the jealousy you get when your partner genuinely wants to screw someone else. They’re not planning to do it, mind you, but they’re pretty attracted to a specific other person or people, for a sustained period.

This, I understand. I don’t experience it much myself, but I get twinges, and I understand it. If your partner is sincerely yearning to do someone else, it can feel like a threat — what if they leave me for him/her? It can make you feel insecure, not just about the relationship but about yourself — what does that person have that I don’t? And it can just be hurtful, make you feel unwanted and left out. It’s not the most useful emotion in the world — if you’re with someone for long enough, this sort of thing is going to happen, and I think it’s a mistake to treat it as a crisis — but the emotion isn’t unreasonable.

EyeSecond: There’s the jealousy you get when your partner is attracted to other people. Not in an intense, “Every time I see this particular person I’m dying to fuck them” way, but in a casually swivel-headed, “Hey, you’re kinda cute” way.

It can be easy to confuse this with the first kind. But I think it’s vitally important to the health of a relationship to understand: these are not the same. And while the first kind of jealousy is reasonable (if not especially helpful), I think the second kind really isn’t.

BonoboIf your partner is casually attracted to other people, it doesn’t mean they have a serious desire to screw around on you. It just means that they’re, you know, alive. Human beings are animals, and a healthy human being with a healthy sexual appetite is going to get a hard cock/ wet pussy when they’re around other human beings who look like hot stuff.

In fact, I would argue that trying to shut down your sexual attraction to other people is a first-class way to shut down your sexuality altogether. Which, for obvious reasons, is a bad idea. “I only have eyes for you” is a pretty dream, but it’s not a reasonable expectation in real life.

FatalattractionAnd you know what? Not everyone you’re attracted to is someone you really want to fuck. For me, this realization was one of the main benefits of non-monogamy. When I was in monogamous relationships, it was a major source of deprivation and angst every time I got the bad hots for someone else. Now that I’m non-monogamous, I realize I don’t actually want to fuck every person I get the hots for. Some people are cute but crazy; some people become less interesting once you get to know them; and sometimes I just don’t have time and energy for an extracurricular fling. Non-monogamy has paradoxically made my attraction to other people a much less big deal.

Aorta_schemeSo Important Observation #1: If your partner gets passing fancies for other people, it doesn’t mean they’re deeply pining to screw around. It just means they’re alive and healthy and sexual. Think about all the people you’ve had passing fancies for. Did you seriously want to chase them down, to the point where you’d break your promises to your sweetie? If not, then I respectfully suggest that you chill.

Ancient_historyThird and last, we have jealousy of people in your partner’s past. Plenty of people get angry or hurt when their partner talks about their exes, even in casual conversation. And plenty more don’t want their partners to have any contact with their exes, much less stay friends with them.

And this, I think, is the most unreasonable jealousy of all.

To be fair, my partner’s exes are about the last people on the planet she’d have sex with now. Even if I were monogamous and jealous, I’d still be entirely unconcerned about her exes. Ditto for her with mine.

Eye_2But I realize that’s not true for everyone. Some people do still hold a glint in their eye for an ex or two.

So much more to the point:

What did you expect?

Of course your partner has exes. If you’re grownups, if you’re not teenagers and virgins, your partner is going to have exes. Probably a fair few.

History_of_the_world_part_1And your partner’s exes are part of what makes them who they are, the person you love. Expecting them to not talk or think about their exes is like expecting them to not talk or think about their old jobs, their old schools, the places they used to live. It’s asking them to cut off a major part of their history and what shaped their character.

And you know, if they can get over past hurts enough to be friends with their exes, that’s not a threat to you. It’s a sign of sanity and strength. Not something you want to squelch.

Queen_victoria_1887In a way, I get it. This kind of jealousy can easily overlap with the first — your partner did have sex with this other person, it’s not wildly improbable to think they might want to again. But if you don’t want to live in Victorian England, if you want to be a sane grownup in a modern relationship, you need to accept that your partner has sexual attractions to, and a sexual history with, other people. If you don’t, you’re asking them to cut off a huge part of their sexuality — from you, and from themselves.

All I Really Need To Know I Learned From Porn — Or Not: The Blowfish Blog

I_dream_of_jennaPlease note: This post, and the post it links to, talks about sex. Not about my personal sex life so much — it’s more in the “social and political commentary” vein — but if you don’t want to read about the sex stuff, then please hang up now.

I have a new piece up on the Blowfish Blog, about kids and teenagers learning about sex by watching porn. It’s called All I Really Need To Know I Learned From Porn — Or Not, and it begins very much like this:

Porn is not sex education.

I’ll say it again: Porn is not sex education.

I’m saying this to everyone who’s reading this. But I’m especially saying it to parents: Porn is not sex education. So you need to make sure your kids are getting actual sex education. Because if you don’t, then all they really need to know about sex they’ll learn from porn — and they’re going to get it completely wrong.

To find out more about why using porn as sex education is such a bad idea, read the rest of the piece. Enjoy!

Atheists and Anger: A Reply to the Hurricane

Computer_keyboardWoof.

Okay. There is absolutely no way I can reply individually to everyone who commented on the Atheists and Anger post. The size of this thing took me by surprise. It’s still taking me by surprise. So please accept my apologies for this mass reply.

HeartFirst, I want to say to everyone who sent the love: Thank you so much. You have no idea. I’ve spent the last two days either bouncing off the walls with joy… or sitting at my computer on the sofa with tears in my eyes. I’m sorry if that sounds sappy, but I’m feeling sappy, so suck it up. The fact that this piece touched so many people, inspired so many people… that is huge. That is why I became a writer. That is the meaning of my life. Thank you for letting me know.

Thumbs_upAnd I’ve learned a lesson about commenting on blogs. I have a tendency to not bother commenting to a post when all I have to say is “Attaboy” or “You go, girl!” or “Thank you.” Especially when there are already dozens or hundreds of comments in a thread, and other people have already said what I was going to say. But I’ve read every single one of these comments, and I was touched by every “Attaboy” I read. So now I know: Even if all I have to say is “Attaboy,” I should say it anyway.

Now my replies to the critics. I suppose I shouldn’t bother, I suppose I should just let it go and focus on the love. But I seem to be constitutionally incapable of letting unfair or inaccurate accusations just slide. So here are my replies to some of the critical comments’ common themes.

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A Quick Note on Comments

Computer_keyboardJust a quick note on comments in this blog, since they’ve kind of gone Foom with the Atheists and Anger post:

I am not censoring or deleting comments in the Atheists and Anger post. Typepad has recently “improved” their comments format by splitting comments on a longer thread into chunks that you have to page through… thus making it harder to see the comments at the end of a long thread. (In addition, this “improvement” has caused a glitch in the system, so that clicking on a comment in the “Recent Comments” list won’t take you to that comment if it’s at the end of a long thread.) I’ve written to Typepad to ask if this “improvement”can be un-improved, but I haven’t heard back from them yet.

In the meantime: If you’ve posted a comment at the end of a long thread (such as the one in Atheists and Anger) and want to see it, or if you just want to read the comments at the end of the thread, you have to keep hitting the “Next Comments” button at the end of each chunk of comments. Keep doing this until you get to the end (or until you get to the chunk you want to see.) If you’re still having problems commenting or seeing all the comments, please email me and let me know.

I do occasionally delete comments in my blog, if they’re abusive, grossly off-topic, or obviously trying to pitch a commercial product or service. But I don’t delete comments simply because I disagree with them. And I have not deleted a single comment in the Atheists and Anger thread. Not even the duplicates. In fact, I’ve left comments up that I would normally be inclined to delete. I don’t promise that I won’t delete any comments in the future; but as of this writing, I have left the entire thread exactly as it is. My apologies of behalf of Typepad if their comment formatting has made it difficult to either read or post comments. Thanks.

How Can You Have Meaning Without… ?

Oddly, this is something about religion that I’m not furious about.

MosquitoIt’s the “How can you experience any meaning to your life without God?” trope. And yes, okay, it bugs me. It bugs me a lot. It’s a patronizing, clueless, irritating thing to say.

But I don’t think it’s limited to religion. It’s an extremely irritating blind spot — but I also think it’s an extremely human one.

Buffy_1I hear it from parents. Hobbyists. Political activists. Artists. Fans. “How can you experience any meaning to your life without kids? Without art? Without political involvement? Without folk dancing? Without Buffy the Vampire Slayer?”

BabyI hear it from parents a lot. Hoo, boy, do I hear it from parents. Parents can be relentless on the subject of how all of life’s essence is distilled into their adorable little poop machines. “I didn’t fully comprehend my profound connection with humanity and the true meaning of life until I replicated my DNA.” (For the record, I like kids — I just don’t plan to have any myself, and I don’t think I need to in order to have a happy, meaningful life.)

Ecd4And I suffer from it myself. I am, for instance, utterly baffled by people who can try English country or contra dancing without being overwhelmed by its glory and wanting to do it every week. I am baffled by people who can watch longsword dancing and not be blinded by its radiant beauty; not feel instantly compelled to run up to the sword team, fall on their knees, and beg to be permitted to join.

Three_kinds_of_asking_for_itMore seriously: I am completely mystified by people with no creative outlet in their lives. Not so much by people who aren’t Professional Artists — not everyone can or should be a Professional Artist, somebody has to mind the store. But people who don’t do any sort of art, even as a hobby? No dancing, no blogging, no macrame, no customizing of hot rods, no barbershop quartet — nothing? I absolutely do not get it. Writing is the Number One way that I feel connected to humanity as a whole, the Number One way that I feel myself to be part of a link in a human chain extending back into history and forward into the future. How can anyone not want that in their life?

Women_who_love_sexAnd I am utterly bewildered by people who say they don’t want or need sex in their life. Not only am I bewildered by them — I don’t believe them. My reflex is to think that they’re fooling themselves; they’re afraid of sex, they’re afraid of the intensity or intimacy or whatever, and so they convince themselves that they don’t really need it or want it. I mean — it’s sex! It’s the best idea evolution came up with, ever! Make the animals want to replicate their DNA by building a mechanism for ecstasy and joy that gets triggered when they do it! How could you possibly not want it?

BrainNow, none of this is very nice of me. And in my heart of hearts, I don’t really believe it. Or maybe I should say in my brain of brains. In my heart of hearts, I really am pretty mystified by people who don’t care about the things I care about. But my brain knows better. In my brain of brains, I know that people can live rich, full lives without sex, without artistic expression, without contra dancing even.

BroccoliSo I’m just saying: Perspective is hard. It’s hard to understand that people love broccoli when you find it so repulsive; it’s hard to understand that people hate broccoli when you find it so delicious. And when it comes to the things that are central in our lives, the things that define us and give us meaning and purpose, it’s especially hard to understand how anyone could look at them, shrug, and go, “Ehn.”

ContraWhere I think religion falls down, I think, is when it treats its bafflement as a moral imperative. It’s one thing to say, “Boy, I really do not get people who don’t like contra dancing.” It’s another to say, “People who don’t like contra dancing are wicked and sinful and will be tortured and burned forever unless they change their evil, non-contra-dancing ways.” There certainly are religious believers who think atheists are cool, who get that you don’t need religion to live a good, happy, meaningful life… but it sure seems like they’re in the minority. And I think there’s something about the “not based on any evidence whatsoever” nature of religion that makes believers unusually insistent that everyone around them share their beliefs.

RattlesnakeBut again, religion isn’t alone in this. Parents can be very guilty of this attitude. Have you ever watched a talk show featuring people who are childless by choice? It’s brutal. The level of venom, of almost violent condemnation, that parents can level at people who don’t want kids is frightening. Clearly, the tendency to lash out with righteous moral indignation at people who don’t find meaning in the things you do is not limited to religious believers.

AthiestuniverseNow, it does seriously tick me off when believers who actively troll in atheist blogs still say shit like this. I mean, you can’t spend fifteen minutes in the atheosphere without seeing people talk — passionately and at great length — about the meaning and value in their lives. Visiting atheist blogs and still asking how atheists can find meaning without God… that’s not just cluelessness or lack of perspective. That’s putting your hands over your ears and going, “I can’t hear you, I can’t hear you, la la la la la.” That’s willful ignorance. And willful ignorance has no excuse.

Im_with_stupidBut in general, when religious believers say things like, “How can you have meaning in your life without God?”, I have to acknowledge that it’s not just religious stupidity. It’s human stupidity. And while it’s a form of human stupidity that definitely ticks me off, I have to acknowledge that it’s also one I share.

Atheists and Anger

ScreamI want to talk about atheists and anger.

This has been a hard piece to write, and it may be a hard one to read. I’m not going to be as polite and good-tempered as I usually am in this blog; this piece is about anger, and for once I’m going to fucking well let myself be angry.

But I think it’s important. One of the most common criticisms lobbed at the newly-vocal atheist community is, “Why do you have to be so angry?” So I want to talk about:

1. Why atheists are angry;

2. Why our anger is valid, valuable, and necessary;

And 3. Why it’s completely fucked-up to try to take our anger away from us.

So let’s start with why we’re angry. Or rather — because this is my blog and I don’t presume to speak for all atheists — why I’m angry.

*****

GraphI’m angry that according to a recent Gallup poll, only 45 percent of Americans would vote for an atheist for President.

I’m angry that atheist conventions have to have extra security, including hand-held metal detectors and bag searches, because of fatwas and death threats.

I’m angry that atheist soldiers — in the U.S. armed forces — have had prayer ceremonies pressured on them and atheist meetings broken up by Christian superior officers, in direct violation of the First Amendment. I’m angry that evangelical Christian groups are being given exclusive access to proselytize on military bases — again in the U.S. armed forces, again in direct violation of the First Amendment. I’m angry that atheist soldiers who are complaining about this are being harassed and are even getting death threats from Christian soldiers and superior officers — yet again, in the U.S. armed forces. And I’m angry that Christians still say smug, sanctimonious things like, “there are no atheists in foxholes.” You know why you’re not seeing atheists in foxholes? Because believers are threatening to shoot them if they come out.

George_h_w_bushI’m angry that the 41st President of the United States, George Herbert Walker Bush, said of atheists, in my lifetime, “No, I don’t know that atheists should be regarded as citizens, nor should they be regarded as patriotic. This is one nation under God.” My President. No, I didn’t vote for him, but he was still my President, and he still said that my lack of religious belief meant that I shouldn’t be regarded as a citizen.

I’m angry that it took until 1961 for atheists to be guaranteed the right to serve on juries, testify in court, or hold public office in every state in the country.

CreationismI’m angry that almost half of Americans believe in creationism. And not a broad, “God had a hand in evolution” creationism, but a strict, young-earth, “God created man pretty much in his present form at one time within the last 10,000 years” creationism.

And on that topic: I’m angry that school boards all across this country are still — 82 years after the Scopes trial — having to spend time and money and resources on the fight to have evolution taught in the schools. School boards are not exactly loaded with time and money and resources, and any of the time/ money/ resources that they’re spending fighting this stupid fight is time/ money/ resources that they’re not spending, you know, teaching.

Condom_packageI’m angry that women are dying of AIDS in Africa and South America because the Catholic Church has convinced them that using condoms makes baby Jesus cry.

I’m angry that women are having septic abortions — or are being forced to have unwanted children who they resent and mistreat — because religious organizations have gotten laws passed making abortion illegal or inaccessible.

GalileoI’m angry about what happened to Galileo. Still. And I’m angry that it took the Catholic Church until 1992 to apologize for it.

I get angry when advice columnists tell their troubled letter-writers to talk to their priest or minister or rabbi… when there is absolutely no legal requirement that a religious leader have any sort of training in counseling or therapy.

And I get angry when religious leaders offer counseling and advice to troubled people — sex advice, relationship advice, advice on depression and stress, etc. — not based on any evidence about what actually does and does not work in people’s brains and lives, but on the basis of what their religious doctrine tells them God wants for us.

FistI’m angry at preachers who tell women in their flock to submit to their husbands because it’s the will of God, even when their husbands are beating them within an inch of their lives.

I’m angry that so many believers treat prayer as a sort of cosmic shopping list for God. I’m angry that believers pray to win sporting events, poker hands, beauty pageants, and more. As if they were the center of the universe, as if God gives a shit about who wins the NCAA Final Four — and as if the other teams/ players/ contestants weren’t praying just as hard.

I’m especially angry that so many believers treat prayer as a cosmic shopping list when it comes to health and illness. I’m angry that this belief leads to the revolting conclusion that God deliberately makes people sick so they’ll pray to him to get better. And I’m angry that they foist this belief on sick and dying children — in essence teaching them that, if they don’t get better, it’s their fault. That they didn’t pray hard enough, or they didn’t pray right, or God just doesn’t love them enough.

And I get angry when other believers insist that the cosmic shopping list isn’t what religion and prayer are really about; that their own sophisticated theology is the true understanding of God. I get angry when believers insist that the shopping list is a straw man, an outmoded form of religion and prayer that nobody takes seriously, and it’s absurd for atheists to criticize it.

Virginia_techI get angry when believers use terrible, grief-soaked tragedies as either opportunities to toot their own horns and talk about how wonderful their God and their religion are… or as opportunities to attack and demonize atheists and secularism.

BlanketsI’m angry at the Sunday school teacher who told comic artist Craig Thompson that he couldn’t draw in heaven. And I’m angry that she said it with the complete conviction of authority… when in fact she had no basis whatsoever for that assertion. How the hell did she know what Heaven was like? How could she possibly know that you could sing in heaven but not draw? And why the hell would you say something that squelching and dismissive to a talented child?

I’m angry that Mother Teresa took her personal suffering and despair at her lost faith in God, and turned it into an obsession that led her to treat suffering as a beautiful gift from Christ to humanity, a beautiful offering from humanity to God, and a necessary part of spiritual salvation. And I’m angry that this obsession apparently led her to offer grotesquely inadequate medical care and pain relief at her hospitals and hospices, in essence taking her personal crisis of faith out on millions of desperately poor and helpless people.

I’m angry at the trustee of the local Presbyterian church who told his teenage daughter that he didn’t actually believe in God or religion, but that it was important to keep up his work because without religion there would be no morality in the world.

Hellfire_2I’m angry that so many parents and religious leaders terrorize children — who (a) have brains that are hard-wired to trust adults and believe what they’re told, and (b) are very literal-minded — with vivid, traumatizing stories of eternal burning and torture to ensure that they’ll be too frightened to even question religion.

I’m angrier when religious leaders explicitly tell children — and adults, for that matter — that the very questioning of religion and the existence of hell is a dreadful sin, one that will guarantee them that hell is where they’ll end up.

I’m angry that children get taught by religion to hate and fear their bodies and their sexuality. And I’m especially angry that female children get taught by religion to hate and fear their femaleness, and that queer children get taught by religion to hate and fear their queerness.

I’m angry about the Muslim girl in the public school who was told — by her public-school, taxpayer-paid teacher — that the red stripes on Christmas candy canes represented Christ’s blood, that she had to believe in and be saved by Jesus Christ or she’d be condemned to hell, and that if she didn’t, there was no place for her in his classroom. And I’m angry that he told her not to come back to his class when she didn’t convert.

PopeI’m angry — enraged — at the priests who molest children and tell them it’s God’s will. I’m enraged at the Catholic Church that consciously, deliberately, repeatedly, for years, acted to protect priests who molested children, and consciously and deliberately acted to keep it a secret, placing the Church’s reputation as a higher priority than, for fuck’s sake, children not being molested. And I’m enraged that the Church is now trying to argue, in court, that protecting child-molesting priests from prosecution, and shuffling those priests from diocese to diocese so they can molest kids in a whole new community that doesn’t yet suspect them, is a Constitutionally protected form of free religious expression.

911I’m angry about 9/11.

And I’m angry that Jerry Falwell blamed 9/11 on pagans, abortionists, feminists, gays and lesbians, the ACLU, and the People For the American Way. I’m angry that the theology of a wrathful God exacting revenge against pagans and abortionists by sending radical Muslims to blow up a building full of secretaries and investment bankers… this was a theology held by a powerful, widely-respected religious leader with millions of followers.

I’m angry that, when my dad had a stroke and went into a nursing home, the staff asked my brother, “Is he a Baptist or a Catholic?” And I’m not just angry on behalf of my atheist dad. I’m angry on behalf of all the Jews, all the Buddhists, all the Muslims, all the neo-Pagans, whose families almost certainly got asked that same question. That question is enormously disrespectful, not just of my dad’s atheism, but of everyone at that nursing home who wasn’t a Baptist or a Catholic.

I’m angry about Ingrid’s grandparents. I’m angry that their fundamentalism was such a huge source of strife and unhappiness in her family, that it alienated them so drastically from their children and grandchildren. I’m angry that they tried to cram it down Ingrid’s throat, to the point that she’s still traumatized by it. And I’m angry that their religion, which if nothing else should have been a comfort to them in their old age, was instead a source of anguish and despair — because they knew their children and grandchildren were all going to be burned and tortured forever in Hell, and how could Heaven be Heaven if their children and grandchildren were being eternally burned and tortured in Hell?

AisleI’m angry that Ingrid and I can’t get legally married in this country — or get legally married in another country and have it recognized by this one — largely because religious leaders oppose it. And I’m angry that both religious and political leaders have discovered that they can score big points exploiting people’s fears about sexuality in a changing world, fanning the flames of those fears… and giving people a religious excuse for why their fears are justified.

I’m angry that huge swaths of public policy in this country — not just on same-sex marriage, but on abortion and stem-cell research and sex education in schools — are being based, not on evidence of which policies do and don’t work and what is and isn’t true about the world, but on religious texts written hundreds or thousands of years ago, and on their own personal feelings about how those texts should be interpreted, with no supporting evidence whatsoever — and no apparent concept of why any evidence should be needed.

I get angry when believers trumpet every good thing that’s ever been done in the name of religion as a reason why religion is a force for good… and then, when confronted with the horrible evils done in religion’s name, say that those evils weren’t done because of religion, were done because of politics of greed or fear or whatever, would have been done anyway even without religion, and shouldn’t be counted as religion’s fault. (Of course, to be fair, I also get angry when atheists do the opposite: chalk up every evil thing done in the name of religion as a black mark on religion’s record, but then insist that the good things were done for other reasons and would have been done anyway, etc. Neither side gets to have it both ways.)

Jesus_fish_eating_darwin_fishI’m angry at the believers who put decals on their cars with a Faith fish eating a Darwin fish… and who think that’s clever, who think that religious faith really should triumph over science and evidence. I’m angry at believers who have so little respect for the physical world their God supposedly created that they feel perfectly content to ignore the mountains of physical evidence piling up around them about that real world; perfectly content to see that world as somehow less real and true than their personal opinions about God.

(Note: The litany of specific grievances is now more than halfway over. Analysis of why anger is necessary and valuable is coming up soon. Promise.)

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Carnival of the Godless #77

Carnival_1Carnival of the Godless #77 is up at The Skeptical Alchemist. My piece this time around: Why Religion Is Like Fanfic. My favorite other piece in this carnival: My biggest problem with Biblical morality by C. L. Hanson at Letters from a Broad. (Pertinent quote: “Let me be very clear: There is no context where genocide is right. Even if God is standing right in front of you offering you eternal paradise as a reward for murder and hellfire if you refuse. There may be just causes for going to war, but ‘I want their land and my God wants their treasure’ is not among them.” I loved this — especially given my recent adventures with Senor McGenocide Pants.)

And I’m hosting the next Carnival of the Godless! I lucked out and got the coveted Halloween edition, on October 28. Godless bloggers who want to get in the carnival, please use the submission form. Thanks!

Humanist Symposium #9: Illustrated Edition

RubaiyatHi, and welcome to the Humanist Symposium #9. After the bang-up job Elliptica did with the last Symposium and the whole Ruba’iyat of Omar Khayyam theme, I had a seriously tough act to follow. So after trying in vain to come up with some extremely clever theme or twist for my edition of the Symposium, I decided to just relax, be myself, and do what I always do with this blog.

No, I’m not doing a dirty version of the Symposium.

Although I did seriously consider it.

Instead, I present to you the Humanist Symposium: Illustrated Edition.

HUMANIST ETHICS
We have them. No, really.

We’ve all heard the refrain: without God or religion, people would have no morality, no decency, no reason to follow a code of ethics or treat one another well, no reason not to act on every selfish desire and impulse that pops into our pointy little heads. And yet this is the largest category in the Symposium. I’m just sayin’, is all.

Dangers_of_technological_adolescenc The Dangers of Technological Adolescence, by Eric Michael Johnson, at The Primate Diaries. A brief history of scientific “progress” in human experimentation. Eric discusses how experiments on human subjects have changed over the centuries, how they haven’t… and why it matters.

Why_you_should_show_appreciationWhy You Should Show Appreciation, from INTJ Personal Development. Why you should show appreciation for the little things people do — and how to go about doing that. In other words, reasons for being nice to people that have nothing to do with God.

SelfownershipSelf-Ownership, by Shaun Connell, at Reason and Capitalism. A discussion of why self-ownership is the foundation of liberty. Shaun theorizes that without the concept of self-ownership, liberty, freedom, and any non-totalitarian type system of government are philosophically impossible.

Hope_in_weaknessThe Hope In Weakness (Morality II), by Ian Welsh, at The Agonist. Ian argues here that most human beings are easily influenced by others, both for good and for evil — and he argues that this is actually a good thing, a thing that offers hope for humanity.

Individual_vs_group_responsibilityIndividual vs. Group Responsibility, by Alonzo Fyfe, at Atheist Ethicist. Why a just and peaceful society needs to hold individuals responsible for their actions, rather than giving credit or blame to everyone in the groups they’re part of — and why atheists need to be watchful about this.

THE HUMANIST MEANING OF LIFE
Another common trope of anti-atheist rhetoric is that a life without God or religion is not only without morality, but without meaning. Piffle, say I, and yet again: Piffle. All the pieces in this Symposium address the question of life’s meaning in one form or another; this piece takes it on directly.

Meaning_of_life The Meaning of Life. Or, do theists ever even talk to atheists?, by Ben D, at Principles of Parsimony. An essay examining why theists accuse atheists of lacking meaning in their lives — and why, contrary to this assumption, atheism is a philosophy that offers hope, liberation, consolation, joy, value, and great meaning.

THE VALUE OF SCIENCE
Secular humanism and a love of science often go hand in hand, and atheist writers devote scads of writing to the transcendent wonders of the physical universe… and to the astonishing ability that the scientific method has to uncover said wonders. Here is one such scad.

Scientific_theory_and_philosophicalScientific Theory and Philosophical Idea, by Mike White, at Life According To Mike White. Mike highlights the differences between scientific theory and philosophical idea, and discusses why, although philosophy is important in understanding the world and our lives, it ultimately needs science to provide a foundation of facts — and to truly question and explore the unexplainable.

HUMANIST LIVING
This high-falutin’ philosophy is all very well and good… but how do we actually get along and be happy in the practical day-to-day world? Without, you know, God? These bloggers offer both broad theories and practical household hints on everyday atheism.

Brain_wellnessBrain Wellness: Train Your Brain to Be Happier, by Alvaro, at Sharp Brains. Reflections on brain, mind and happiness. Since self, mind, and awareness come from the physical brain, how can we use the knowledge gained from neuropsychology to make ourselves happier?

On_atheist_janitorsOn Atheist Janitors, by Ebon Muse, at Daylight Atheism. Is atheism a worldview that anyone can take up, or does the majority of society need religion to keep them happy and pacified? Ebon looks at how atheism can work in the lives of everyone — for janitors and sewer workers as much as for famous authors and scientists.

HUMANISTS ON RELIGION
If you want critiques of religion, you won’t find them here. In the Humanist Symposium, bloggers offer positive explorations of our humanist/ atheist/ etc. philosophies, not snarky rants about how religion is corrupting our children and poisoning our well-water and making our vegetables go all soggy. (We go to the Carnival of the Godless for that — and a rip-snortin’ good time it is, too.)

But humanists do have to live in a world of religion. So how can we do that in a constructive way? I asks ya. And so does this blogger.

Creationism_in_the_classroomCreationism In The Classroom: Is Ignoring It Worse?, by Genwi, at Big Ideas. Genwi takes a look at a specific aspect of this “how do we live in a world with religion” question that’s on many of our minds right now — namely, how should biology teachers deal with creationist beliefs in their students?

META-HUMANISM: HUMANIST COMMUNITY AND PHILOSOPHY
Thus far we’ve had humanists on ethics, science, religion, the meaning of life, and just getting along and being happy. So we wrap up this Symposium with a series of writings by humanists on, you know, humanism. (“Navel-gazing” is such an ugly word. I prefer to think of it as “community building.”)

Metadebunking_the_empirical_ratio_2Meta-Debunking the Empirical Rationalists, by Genwi again, at Big Ideas. How different are the different philosophies and approaches to atheism, secularism, humanism, skepticism, etc.? Genwi is back, arguing that rationalism and empiricism are, in fact, fundamentally contradictory, and that in any theory of life and truth one must take precedence over the other.

Umbrella_of_atheismThe Umbrella of Atheism, by Spanish Inquisitor. A response to the controversy surrounding the Sam Harris speech at the recent Atheist Alliance conference. S.I. argues that atheism is a useful term: an umbrella that can encompass rationalism, secular humanism, naturalism, and other positive non-theistic philosophies of life.

Options_for_uniting_nonbelieversOptions For Uniting Nonbelievers, by vjack, at Atheist Revolution. This is the second post in a multi-part series designed to explore community-building among nonbelievers. In the first part, vjack argued that uniting the secular community is a worthy goal. This post considers some of the options for bringing nonbelievers together.

Galileo_fallacyFinally, we have my own contribution to this symposium: The Galileo Fallacy, and the Gadfly Corollary, by Greta Christina, right here at Greta Christina’s Blog. No, it’s not one of the pieces about my cat (although she has been known to succumb to the Gadfly Corollary). It’s a discussion of some of the pitfalls involved in skeptical thinking — specifically, the idea that having an unpopular idea that everyone disagrees with automatically makes you a genius.

Thus concludes this week’s Humanist Symposium. We’re having a casual get-together in the lounge afterwards; please feel free to peruse our library, explore our laboratory, and engage in lively but civil political discussion in our, uh, political discussion place. Further readings and discussions on humanism and atheism are available in our godless pit of doom and damnation. And, of course, please feel free to disport yourself in our tasteful and well-appointed orgy room. (Adults only in the orgy room, please!)

Many thanks to Ebon Muse, of the exquisite Daylight Atheism blog and Ebon Musings website, for organizing this esteemed gathering and for setting me loose on it. The next Humanist Symposium will be held on November 4, 2007, at Letters from a Broad. Bloggers who are interested in participating should check out these guidelines and use this submission form. Thanks for reading, and until next time, may the blessings of Poseidon be upon you.