Why I am an atheist – Lyn M.

There are quite a few reasons as to why I am an atheist. My father decided he was, after being raised in a fundamentalist household. My grandfather was a believer. To me it seemed my father was reacting to his upbringing and taking a lot of pleasure from aggravating my grandfather. Even so, atheism made sense to me.

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Minnesota’s own Professor Hollywood

There goes Jim Kakalios, the University of Minnesota’s official consultant to big Hollywood movies. He got recruited to add math to the new Spiderman movie.

This is good news! Less of that silly CGI web-swinging, and more chalkboards full of equations…that’s a good movie!

The Great Oreo War

We Minnesotans have a constitutional amendment coming up in our November elections — certain anti-human, regressive elements in our state are peeved that anyone would dare to give equal legal protections to icky gay people, so they want to have us vote on this uncivil question:

“Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota?”

The correct answer, of course, is NO, written in tall bold letters with a flaming sword. You’ll probably have to settle for punching a ballot, but do it with fury, anyway.

So I’m pleased to see that General Mills, a major employer and creator of mass-market foodstuffs, has come out against the measure. Their CEO gave a $10,000 donation to opponents of the bill, and they also put out a lovely ad (I have been corrected: Kraft made the ad. So there are two companies to praise!):

Now the patriarchs and theocrats of the odious Minnesota for Marriage organization have declared war on Oreo cookies, an action as doomed to failure as declaring war on cute kitten pictures on the internet (wait, hang on, I should try to think of a better comparison…) There is now a campaign to show support for General Mills, which is a good thing to do when corporate America does something good.

But don’t underestimate the cunning of the Minnesota for Marriage folks! They are fighting back. After declaring a cookie the incarnation of Satan, smart move number one, they have made smart move number two: sentencing gays to death! From their facebook page:

Brilliant! There is a tactical genius behind all this, I’m sure. And he or she is probably gay.

The latest drama comic opera

No, not that one over there. This one on twitter.

I have deeply offended a small group of indignant skeptics. But here, I’ll let you read their side of the story first, although I’m sure that while they have been complaining about not getting my attention, now they’ll start complaining about the horde of vicious winged monkeys I just flung at them.

Now my side of the story. On my twitter account, I get a daily barrage of comments, mostly welcome, but there are idiots and spammers everywhere, and I block them. It’s easy: I click a button labeled “block”, and boom, they can’t write to me anymore. I probably block, on average, one or two pests a day.

So some guy writes to me yesterday and says, hey, you blocked my friend. I said I didn’t know that I had (not surprising, there’s a gigantic pile of bodies trapped in the filter; also, sometimes I do make mistakes and block the wrong person). So I checked. I don’t have a record of who I blocked, but I can at least check the guy’s blog out and see if there was a reason.

And oh, boy, but there was a good reason. His friend was one of those toxic privileged dimwits who was totally unhinged by the idea that a woman might turn down a guy’s proposition in an elevator. He really, really despises Rebecca Watson (I think I want an amulet with her face on it — it would make an excellent asshole detector and moron repellent). Also, what do I see in the comments but the usual slew of misogynist slimepit denizens who show up everywhere someone criticizes Watson, and there’s the blog owner agreeing with them and cussing out those annoying feminazis who are tainting the one True Skepticism™.

It was a righteous block, man, a clean kill. I want nothing to do with this clown and his sleazy associates.

And then Rebecca Watson lets me know that this is a guy who begged her to unblock him before, and called her a rude name. Yeah, that all fits. No, I’m not going to unblock him.

Only now he’s all upset: he didn’t call her that specific rude name, he claims, and it was unjust and unfair that I blocked him over that. You know what? I don’t care. That wasn’t part of my decision. I saw just another boring deranged anti-feminist, and saw no reason to unblock him. I don’t know what all the slighted blog owner said to Rebecca, but I do know that “feminazi” is a damned good tell.

But of course now it has escalated: he and his friends are whining that I wasn’t fair, that I didn’t look at the evidence, I should unblock him. No, I’m not fair, I did look at the evidence, I judged him to be an ass I don’t want to listen to. Done.

So now, to add to the fun, I’m blocking all these privileged twits who are popping up on twitter to whine at me more. With no regrets or remorse, since I even warned them all that I was just going to block anyone who tried to tell me who I must listen to. Also, the ERVites are having a grand time joining in, and I do love pissing them off.

Just let it be known: I can and will block whoever I want on Twitter, just as I can ban anyone I want on my blog. It’s not as if I have a shortage of participants in either medium, and I think it helps to cull out the stupid. And one thing that marks you as especially stupid is when you bother to complain that I don’t want to listen to you. Where does this sense of unfounded entitlement come from? Because it just makes me laugh harder at you.

The Texas Republican Party platform for 2012

I heard about the Texas Republican Party platform on the Atheist Experience last night, and today Zinnia Jones has a post about it. Have you seen this thing? The Texas Freedom Network has a breakdown of its contents.

  • Declares separation of church and state is a “myth” and calls for Congress to withdraw federal court jurisdiction over cases involving religious freedom and the Bill of Rights

  • Calls for teaching creationist arguments in public school science classrooms

  • Opposes the sale and use of emergency contraception and backs the Legislature’s war on women’s health programs

  • Rejects “any sex education other than abstinence until marriage” in public schools

  • Adopts a radical position that would essentially bar abortion even in cases of rape, of incest or to save a woman’s life

  • Advocates for the repeal of the Voting Rights Act, minimum wage laws and the Endangered Species Act as well as the abolishment of the Environmental Protection Agency

  • Attacks LGBT Texans as a threat to families and objects to laws that would protect them from job discrimination and hate crimes

  • Calls for further funding cuts for public schools following draconian cuts by lawmakers in 2011

  • Seeks to change the 14th Amendment to limit citizenship by birth only to those born to a U.S. citizen

  • Threatens federal judges with impeachment if they don’t toe the far right’s line in controversial court cases

It also says we should end the Social Security program, arm college students, requiring presidential candidates to submit a birth certificate, and a return to the gold standard.

You know, though, this is just the Texas Republican’s idea of a better nation. These party platforms at the state level are hammered out by the ideological extremists of the party; when it gets to the national level, the rough edges and spiky knifey bits will be smoothed out and puttied over by apparatchiks who know they have to win over a majority of the country, so most of this will go away or be buried in cryptic language and dog-whistles.

But the thing about these state platforms is that they expose the primal id of the party. I’ve been to local Democratic caucuses, for instance, and I see the extremists of that party at work — and also most of their ideas get pared away at the state and national level, too, smoothed out to a blander, more conservative muddle. You can see better where the party faithful want us to go, while the party leadership always steers a more middling course.

At the Democratic caucuses, you see people exposing the real dreams of their group. And at Democratic events, they want things like: free education for everyone; free healthcare for everyone; more open immigration policies and education and healthcare for immigrant children, legal or otherwise; an end to all wars; reduction of the defense budget; more support for labor unions; protection for endangered species; more environmental restoration; full civil rights for gay people; closing Guantanomo Bay; and just generally making the universe a friendlier place. They’ll also toss in some nonsense about organic herbal medicine or increasing subsidies for corn ethanol production, so they aren’t perfect, but one thing they are is idealistic.

Contrast that with what the dedicated Republicans propose. Sure, Democratic dreams are too often impractical, but they at least value human beings, every one of them, and want all of us to live safely and securely, with hope for personal improvement. The Republicans always sound so sour and stupid, dedicated to shutting down everyone who isn’t a white heterosexual male; it’s an “I got mine” attitude that seeks to influence the state to enhance their privileges.

This is why, even when we’re saddled with a moderate conservative jerk for a president, I have to hold my nose in November and pull the lever for the asshole with a (D) after his name. I don’t like him, I think he betrays our values at every turn, but I like the people of the Democratic party far more than I do the people of the Republican party. I’m not going to vote for Obama, ever; I’m going to vote for that guy at the Minnesota caucus who suggested that we cut the defense budget in half and spend the money on universal health care instead, and I’m going to vote against the guy in the Texas caucuses who thinks our most pressing concern is preventing gay couples from having a happy life.

Why I am an atheist – John Hamill

I think that my journey away from religion has been a reasonably uncommon one, since I had to guard against confirmation bias for atheistic arguments, rather than those for the Roman Catholic faith in which I was raised. That is to say, when I first had doubts about the Christian story, I already earnestly hoped that the God I had been taught about did not exist. I was wary that my doubts about Christ rising from the dead had been driven by my instinctive desire that I didn’t want this guy to be the Son of God, rather than from any objective consideration of reality.

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