Monthly Archives: February 2013

Marriage March

You know who deserves a march in defense of their rights? People who already have the right to marry, obviously! On March 23 (or March 26 – these people aren’t good with numbers), the Family Research Council will join likeminded buffoons in marching through Washington, D.C. in support of California’s Proposition 8, the constitutionality of which will be evaluated in the case of Hollingsworth v. Perry beginning that same day.

On March 23, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court will be hearing arguments in the Hollingsworth v. Perry case, which will determine if California’s Proposition 8 measure is constitutional. This will determine whether “same-sex marriage” will become recognized and whether Americans will have the right to protect marriage.

With the legal arguments being heard, FRC has various resources available on marriage from religious, legal, and cultural perspectives. Visit our Why Marriage Matters site to learn more and to find out how you can educate others about the importance of traditional marriage.

Additionally, FRC will be joining other organizations to promote traditional marriage through participating in the Marriage March on March 23rd. Marriage March 2013 will feature various speakers that will empower and motivate you to promote the values of traditional marriage within your community. Click here to learn more about the Marriage March and to find out how you can get involved.

What a pathetic bunch of bigots. I went through and read their arguments for “Why Marriage Matters.” It’s the same nonsense we’ve been hearing this entire time (and the type of crap that is thankfully dying out in American society): society will disintegrate, morality will be compromised, God will send his wrath, and of course, what about the children!? The Family Research Council is having a really hard time pushing their vile message as they slip into irrelevance, and I’m sure they hope this march will increase their visibility.

This stunt is comparable to racist white people marching to condemn desegregation, or more recently, Glenn Beck’s rally for idiots on the Washington Mall. I hope the crowd that shows up for this laughable little event is as small as their minds.

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Mother Nature don’t care

A really cool picture from 2009 resurfaced on Reddit today.

Image credit: NASA/ISS/Expedition 20 Crew, Scientific American

Pictures such as this one remind me of two things:

1. The world – nay, the entire universe – doesn’t care a wit for our species. It doesn’t owe us happiness or security or meaning. It just is, and we owe it respect in that regard.

2. In its infinite hostility, the world provides us daily with beauty that surpasses our imaginations. Science sheds light on that beauty. Knowledge isn’t just power; knowledge is elegance.

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A very confused argument against homosexuality

On my last post, in which I chastised Rob Schwarzwalder for his dimwitted argument against homosexuals in the Boy Scouts, I received a comment that contained only a link. I clicked the link, and I was taken to a very short blog post. The person who posted the comment left no context to indicate the meaning of the link, so I will have to assume that it was meant as a rebuttal to my argument. I would like to take this opportunity, then, to break down the argument I found in this little blog post, here on my own blog.

It starts:

To the advocates of homosexual marriage: what is the purpose of sex? “The expression of love between two people in a committed relationship.” Wonderful.

Whoa there. You don’t get to answer the question that you posed to someone of an opposing viewpoint. If you’d like to debate, you have to address the points they make; not the points you imagine they would make given your question. That’s called attacking a straw man, and it doesn’t bode well for you.

As for your assumption, I take issue with all three points. First, sex does not have to be an expression of love. In many cases it is simply an expression of attraction. In others it is an expression of love. And in the case of rape, it is an expression of power. Second, sex is not limited to people in committed relationships. One night stands are just as legitimate a form of sex as is marital sex. And finally, sex is not confined to only two people – to which the adventurous among us can attest.

It sounds to me as though you have simply defined where you find meaning in sex. It’s a perfectly acceptable stance for you to take, but do not assume that your definition is representative of the entire human population.

This means you find prostitution immoral. It contravenes the purpose of sex.

Do I? Maybe I do, maybe I don’t. You don’t know, because you’re making up an argument that is totally unsubstantiated by the words of your opponent. In my case, I do find prostitution immoral in most situations, but not because it violates your narrow definition of sex. When I philosophize to determine whether or not I find something to be immoral, I take into consideration a number of factors – foremost whether the act causes any type of harm to a person or a group of people. In the case of prostitution, many woman and men are harmed because of the act. In some cases, they are forced into it. In others, they are abused by their pimps. One could also consider the implications prostitution has on women as a group – does it lend to the continuing objectification of women? Does it create a system in which some women feel the only way to provide for themselves is by selling their bodies? These are the questions I ask, rather than does it contradict my view for how sex should take place.

Now, do I find prostitution immoral in all cases? I doubt it. If a consenting adult pays another consenting adult money to teach the first adult something about sex, is it prostitution? In countries such as the Netherlands, where prostitution is a unionized profession, do the women choose the job voluntarily? These are complex questions to which your binary test cannot be applied. It is foolhardy for you to think such dilemmas are so simple.

Does this, therefore, make you unscientific, hate-filled and whorophobic? You’d likely reply, “No.”

What we have here is a false comparison. Opposing homosexuality because of religious reasons is by definition unscientific. My approach to the question of prostitution must be carried out scientifically, and I am not relying on my subjective morals to come to a conclusion. Furthermore, though I’m opposed to men (by and large) taking advantage of prostitutes, I’m not attacking the rights of the prostitutes in order to solve the problem. See the difference?

You would contest such a description because you understand the following: (1) moral judgment requires man be free, no matter what the Calvinists and philosophers say; (2) any behavior could be said to be partially induced by genetics, especially having a mistress; and (3) the moral vision that supplied you with the purpose of sex is not a matter or product of scientific inquiry.

Such convoluted reasoning (again coming from the viewpoint of your absurd strawman) is difficult to follow, but I’ll give it my best shot. (1) If I understand correctly, you’re proposing that in order to determine something to be moral or immoral, humans must have the ability to make decisions, which can then be judged to be good or bad. I would probably agree, but free will is a tricky subject that you have again condensed far too much. (2) If you’re going to propose that behavior could be the result, even if partially, of genetics, why emphasize having a mistress? That seems an odd non sequitur. (3) No, the moral vision that you supplied for the purpose of sex is not the product of scientific inquiry. I think that determining the purpose of sex is definitely a matter of scientific inquiry. And, as I have mentioned, I think that determining whether or not something is moral must be done scientifically as well.

If the Fool were to say that the purpose of sex was fun and babies, you might grow worried over where such a philosophy would lead.

Are you referring to yourself in the third person as “the Fool”? Anyway, if you were to say that the purpose of sex was fun and babies, I’d say you likely would have a healthier understanding of sex than you do currently, but that’s really a subjective personal issue. I would have no quarrel with that definition of the purpose of sex (such a silly concept in the first place).

You might not be mollified by my assurances that the moral envelope would not be pushed further. You might claim that my formulation of sex’s purpose was self-serving. And the Fool might reply: that’s what a whorophobe would say.

You’re lucky I took a look at the tags you added to this post; otherwise I might not have noticed that you were trying to make an argument for the slippery slope of accepting homosexuality. Either way, the point you are so poorly trying to make has already been shredded. What, in your mind, is the envelope that might be pushed should advocates of gay marriage have their way? And would you please address the implied negativity of sex being self-serving? A freshman course in logic would serve you well in this arena.


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Another hair-brained reason to keep homosexuals out of the Boy Scouts

Boy Scouts of America Image credit: Wikipedia

If there is a privileged group crying oppression, you can count on the Family Research Council and its cronies to come to the rescue. That the conservative Christian organization is urging the Boy Scouts to keep gays from infiltrating their ranks is not news. But the vitriol coming from FRC’s highest ranking members is just so astoundingly incoherent, it begs to be ridiculed.

Take this recent op-ed piece by Rob Schwarzwalder, Senior VP of the FRC, which appeared in The Arizona Republic on Feb. 13. Why shouldn’t gays be granted positions within the Boy Scouts, according to Schwarzwalder? Because, of course, it’s going to keep his boys from becoming Eagle Scouts:

My sons have been involved in Scouting since they were boys. Now teens, they are active Scouts, and one is a member of the Order of the Arrow, the Boy Scouts of America’s honor society. We have long looked forward to the day they will become Eagle Scouts.

Now we are wondering if that dream will ever come to pass, not because of any lack of effort on their part, but because of the tentative decision by the BSA national executive board to allow open homosexuals to serve as leaders or members of Scout troops.

Strange thing about Schwarzwalder’s article – he never explains how in the world homosexuals will hinder the ability of his children to become Eagle Scouts. The only conclusion I can fathom is that Schwarzwalder plans to pull his kids from the Boy Scouts should homosexuals be allowed…which means Schwarzwalder is just a raging homophobic asshole. I feel bad for his children, but I don’t feel bad for him just because he finds gays to be icky. Grow up.

Oh, but wait. Schwarzwalder assures us, “This is not a matter of bigotry.”

Race and ethnicity are benign qualities that have nothing to do with a person’s character. Homosexuality is, by definition, about sexual attraction and conduct, things about which most Scout parents have serious moral concerns.

Translation: My antiquated and unscientific views on homosexuality will not change (lest my church friends realize that I myself have visions of penises dancing in my head!). He follows with the obligatory separate-but-equal argument, to which bigots apparently still cling.

People who join Scouts know what the rules are. They also know there are many alternative organizations for their boys in which prohibitions against homosexuality do not exist. If homosexual activists and their allies want to form their own Scout-type group, they are free to do so. Just don’t ask the 2.7 million boys in the BSA, including my sons, to compromise their moral convictions and permanently alter the very nature of Scouting.

Compromise their moral convictions? Jesus Christ. Nobody’s asking that your boys suckle dicks. You know what having gay members and leaders in the Boy Scouts will do to your children? Nothing. It’ll mean that gay children will be able to learn about camping and survival skills from a national organization. If altering the very nature of Scouting means becoming an accepting organization that doesn’t subscribe to the backward thinking of our ancient relatives, then hell yes it’s time for a change.

P.S. May I suggest you contact Mr. Schwarzwalder?


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Lent and the Unthinking Child

Today I would like to talk more narratively and less analytically. I’d like to share a piece of my story and demonstrate how it shaped who I am today. As the observance of Lent begins tomorrow, Feb. 13, I would like to go back to a time when I was earnestly seeking a religion to adopt – a time when external pressures, rather than internal navigation, shaped my beliefs.

For most of my younger years, religion provided a sense of community and belonging rather than any sort of spiritual fulfillment. My parents raised me in the Church of Christ Science (a nomenclature possessive of such hilarity that it is only exceeded by its treachery), where I soon discovered that I resided in the boondocks of mainstream Christianity. Indeed, my school-yard friends were occasionally fond of teasing me for not being a “real Christian.”

I maintained the faith barely into my double-digit years, when I finally succumbed to the prospect of joining the ranks of my normal Christian friends: those who didn’t say things like, “There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter.” When they encountered illness and injury, they didn’t attempt to “know the truth”; they went to the doctor immediately. (I was fortunate to have moderate Christian Science parents and received necessary medical attention. I am grateful that they have since completely shucked the absurdity of the Christian Science doctrine.) Ironically, I was seeking a group of people who I considered “more faithful” – I too began viewing Christian Science as a phony faith.

Willing to let me explore outside of the religion, my parents allowed and even facilitated for me to attend different services. I sampled Catholic, non-demoninational, Baptist, Mormon, and Lutheran services (marvel at the diversity!), and found a home with the Lutherans. The primary reason for my choice? The music, of course. Weary with the monotonous hymnals of Christian Science, I devoured the contemporary music of the Lutheran church. The drums, the bass, the guitar! That stuffy old organ finally gave way to something that resembled the music to which I listened on my own time.

Of course, I figured my parents would deem such reasoning illegitimate, so I created additional justifications. I connected with the message of the sermon. The creed of the church aligned with my beliefs. Hell, this church was God’s choice for me!

I did genuinely enjoy the youth atmosphere in the church. My introduction to the church came by way of a friend who already attended, and with him I enrolled in the church’s confirmation program. I immediately attached myself to the vibrant pastor (a man whom I still respect), and was eager to ingrain myself in the faith – to finally become a real Christian! I participated in all the extracurricular activities and for awhile truly enjoyed becoming a stronger Lutheran.

When the season of Lent arrived, I assumed that Lutherans sacrificed something as did the Catholics. After all, they were all part of the “in” faiths, those that I deemed normal. Surely their practices were pretty similar as well. So, when pizza was the meal for a youth night, I was nothing but proud to announce to the youth pastor that I had given up pizza for lent.

How quickly my “beliefs” changed when I discovered that Lent did not involve such sacrifice in the Lutheran religion. If Lutherans did not demand that I forfeit an earthly pleasure for the season, then of course God didn’t make any such demands either. I grabbed a slice of pizza.

Richard Dawkins describes one of the objectives of his book The God Delusion near the beginning: he hopes that we stop describing children as having faith but rather being the offspring of faithful parents. His point is pertinent: many children, dare I say most, who subscribe to a religion do so only because they have been indoctrinated into said faith. Even the young, curious religious explorer like me isn’t capable of evaluating such choices. That is not to say that all young believers are insincere – simply that understanding the implications and foundations of faith requires critical thinking beyond the capacity of nearly all children.

The act of engaging in Lent is likely the least of the worries we should have for the children indoctrinated into the Christian faith. The unthinking child is to be protected, nurtured and taught to think critically – it is simply too often that religious leaders instead elect to exploit the fresh minds of their youngest followers.


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Forcing the Issue

Sarah Chantal Parro, blogger at Evangelical Outpost, has a solution for the inherit monotony of religion: Just force it.

Do you ever feel too tired, or too busy, or too lazy to pray? Do you sometimes feel like you’d rather sleep in than go to church? Or do you ever find that you’re in church, but your heart really isn’t? I am guilty on all counts. For whatever reason, my personal spirituality is the most difficult for me to maintain.

Might it be that deep down she sees the pointlessness of it all?

When it comes to most important things in life, I think “easy” is overrated; at least, I think it’s dangerous to believe that if something is right or worth doing it will always be easy.

What Parro doesn’t seem to realize is that religion is the easy path to take. Life is wrought with difficult questions – some that we may never be able to answer. Filling in those gaps with a convenient invisible solution is just plain lazy. If Parro isn’t finding fulfillment in the mundane routine of a religious life, I’d suggest thinking outside the church for answers.

Parro continues:

My husband once put it this way: “I have to remind myself that when I don’t want to pray, that’s the part of me that wants to go to hell.”

I think we’ve found the root of poor Parro’s problems. Nothing motivates a person to repeat that which they might otherwise question like the threat of physical torment. And that is precisely the service that the concept of Hell offers. “Sure, tithing and praying and attending church and fasting seems pretty silly to a rational adult, but remember that if you forget to do any of these things you will burn for eternity.”

I hope that one day Parro stops beating the dead horse of her faith, but such is the destiny of the person who refuses to think independently.

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Yeah, it’s a problem

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca Watson: Skepchick
Image credit: Wikipedia

Yesterday, Rebecca Watson updated her site, Skepchick, with a post about the objectification she experiences in the online community – particularly in the atheist community. The post was unplanned, the result of receiving an email that depicted Watson in a very dehumanizing light. (She was bound, covered in semen, being penetrated anally by a dildo. The caption read, “Rebecca Watson is an object.”)

With much calmness and clarity, Watson discussed in her post why the so-called “witch-hunt” (as deemed by Michael Shermer) for anti-female atheists is an absurd notion, and why misogyny needs to be addressed in the atheist and skeptic movements.

I thought the article was very well composed, so I posted it to r/atheism on Reddit under the heading, “I used the think the atheist movement was better than this. I have seen enough of it lately to convince me otherwise.” Admittedly (and this is also an issue with Watson’s own argument), there is no evidence to suggest that the email Watson received was generated by an atheist. Such an email could also have been made by a Christian, a Muslim, a Jew, a pagan, an anti-vaxxer, a Republican, or a variety of other individuals (Watson has more than her fair share of haters).

So, maybe I (and Watson) was being too brash by labeling this hate mail as atheist. That’s a fair criticism, and I’m willing to accept it. However, I have seen plenty of anti-female rhetoric spewed at atheists by fellow atheists (particularly on PZ Myers’, Greta Christina’s, and Watson’s blogs), so this discussion still seems to be one that needs to be had.

A quick rebuttal to a common argument: The term “professional victims” is thrown around in this conversation quite often. Some even claim that those claiming victimhood are only doing so to garner attention and create a false rhetoric from the anti-feminist crowd. It is possible that this is the case. However, as a skeptic, I think that this argument deserves a heavy amount of criticism. As should be the case for victims of rape, we should not immediately disregard these claims as self-serving deceptions. When someone claims to have been molested, it is morally unjustifiable to dismiss the complaints as false. Some rape claims are unfounded; but we don’t ignore the few who lie at the expense of the overwhelming majority who have actually been raped. Thus, when Watson says that she is threatened in these ways, it is only responsible to consider her claim and offer assistance when possible.

Moving on…

When I posted this link on Reddit, I was interested to see how the Reddit community would react. The first comment was encouraging; it basically stated solemnly that every movement was likely to have its set of crazies. From there, however, everything went downhill. Following are bits of the conversation that ensued. The user “fococsume” is me.

[-] coprolite_hobbyist 3 points 18 hours ago
So? What has that got to do with us or atheism?

Those people are pretty fucking annoying and they put themselves out as public figures. While it is deplorable that someone is sending them mean pictures, it is neither surprising nor of any importance.

[-] fococsume -2 points 18 hours ago
This is about someone in the atheist movement being physically threatened. And if it IS coming from others in the movement, then I think it definitely deserves our attention.

[-] coprolite_hobbyist 3 points 18 hours ago
That word, physically, it doesn’t mean what you think it means. Unless someone is coming up to her in person with a weapon or raised fists, she is not being physically threatened. See, that is the kind of hyperbole and sloppy use of language that tends to annoy people.

To be perfectly honest with you, I don’t think it deserves any attention at all and attempting to get others to give it any attention is a waste of time for all concerned. I am far more concerned about how she and her ilk are damaging atheism in general than I am about people sending her crudely drawn pictures or how she interprets them.

I really think she and the rest of Atheism+ should just go fuck themselves. (do your very best to interpret that as a physical threat)

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[-] fococsume -2 points 18 hours ago
By “physical threat,” I meant that people are threatening to physically harm her. Being told that she is going to be raped at a conference constitutes a physical threat in my mind. I’m curious though: How do you think she and the Atheism+ crowd are harming the movement?

[-] coprolite_hobbyist 3 points 18 hours ago
Yes, I know what you meant and I explained to you that you are wrong. Threatening to harm someone is not a physical threat, it is a verbal or written threat. If the person seems actually capable of carrying out the threat, it is a crime and it is called assault. Actually touching someone without their permission is called battery. A physical threat would be if I put my fist in your face, swung a bat at you or in some other way attempted to batter you.

The vacuous and unjustified whining about the use of language, the sudden and vitriolic insertion of radical feminist male-hating into the atheist dialogue, the obsessive concern that everyone that does not accept the strict feminist orthodoxy is a potential rapist, the attempt to silence critics through political correctness and general over-sensitivity to problems that do not actually exist detracts from the atheist dialogue.

You want to be a feminists? Go do that, bless your little heart, but don’t pretend it has anything to do with atheism and don’t expect me to give a shit.

[-] fococsume -3 points 18 hours ago
Haha. And you have the nerve to complain about “vacuous and unjustified whining about the use of language” and hyperbole? “…obsessive concern that everyone that does not accept the strict feminist orthodoxy is a potential rapist…” << Nice.

[-] coprolite_hobbyist 3 points 17 hours ago
Yeah, I guess you can go fuck yourself, too.

[-] fococsume -2 points 17 hours ago
With pleasure.

[–]coprolite_hobbyist 0 points 17 days ago

Use a broken bottle for a special level of enjoyment.

[–]fococsume[S] 1 point 17 days ago

Reasoned debate just ain’t what it used to be.

[–]coprolite_hobbyist 1 point 17 days ago

Oh, is that what you were attempting to do? I didn’t recognize it as such. Anyway, you have much more important things to do, like fucking yourself. Find a nice splintered baseball bat, don’t stop until you bleed out.

(Note: I previously claimed that the comments above – those in reference to fucking myself – had been deleted. That was incorrect. Thanks for bringing that to my attention, coprolite_hobbyist.)

Here’s the point: Sure, I misused the term physical threat. What I should have said is that Watson was threatened online by people claiming the desire to inflict upon her physical harm. The fact is that the person disparaging Watson’s claims was astonishingly quick to revert to the same tactics about which Watson was complaining in the first place. I wasn’t personally bothered by the weird suggestions, but I’m also not a prominent figure in the movement who could actually be harmed at one of the conferences. I’m also not a woman.

Here’s another argument posted in the comments section:

[-] GetBusy09876 3 points 17 hours ago
Tempest in a teapot surrounded by a real fucking tempest. I can’t believe we’re still wasting time on this bullshit when girls are getting acid thrown in their faces or shot in the head for going to school. When creationism is being legislated into school curricula in the US. Talk about first world problems. Priorities. This is on the level of drama, which means it can safely be ignored. And it should be.

If the logic of this claim is to be followed, then why do we care about any issues that aren’t the foremost threat to human existence posed by religion? Why do we bother spending our time and money on atheist billboards? Shouldn’t the sum of our effort be directed at religious genocide? The atheist movement has never been a one-issue movement, as much as some would like to believe that we can just stop at the fact that none of us believe in God. We address issues like gay rights, racism, circumcision, education and abortion because we care about a number of issues facing humanity, and we believe that reason, skepticism and science have the best answers to these problems.

I believe that feminism necessarily must also be a focus of the atheist movement. The belief that women are somehow inferior to men is a belief not based in reason, and therefore it must be dispelled. Feminists are not arguing that women are better than men, nor are we arguing that anybody who doesn’t agree with us is a rapist. We are arguing that women deserve equal respect as men, and we take into account history, privilege, prejudices and a variety of other factors that play into the female role in society.

While I will apologize for my slight errors in semantics, I will not back down from defending feminism – and I will do so from the standpoint of an atheist.

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