Atheism is Social Justice

Social-JusticeThe trend of discerning atheist issues from social justice issues is addressed as go where the ducks are. I suppose if one is duck hunting that’s where you go. While I am not sure I appreciate being compared to ducks who are so rapacious the males have dicks like corkscrews and the females have vaginas that twist and turn in an equal attempt to control their own reproduction I will go there. The ducks are everywhere, we all.

It’s not that we “just” risk losing marginalized people by not addressing social justice issues it is that atheism has inherent, entailed, and inferred connections to social justice. The argument could be made that courting conservatives/liberals/republicans/independents would attract those racist, misogynist, misnomered-anarchist assholes that make up a huge majority in the country right now. Are there really enough conservatives versus liberals to know to which side to make appeals? Do we really want to welcome asshole bigots or do we assume they will convert once they associate with the rest.

I prefer, as I think Amanda Marcotte and Greta Christina do, to do what’s right regardless. To go where the evidence leads. To do what’s right because it is right and not because it’s popular. But I understand why numbers count whether in votes or equality. I understand why they appeal to the better angels of justice in others even if others do get their sexism and xenophobia wrong.

What does being an atheist entail? If you do not trust in gods it means you don’t trust revelation. Further that you don’t trust evidence that results from revelation unless backed by evidence or really solid logic backed by evidence; it is revealed to you that global warming is a human risk and evidence shows that to be true as well. It’s the evidence that counts.

Without gods do you start your morality from scratch? No. Evidence and evolution do point a way in spite of the Black Swans that come along. The decisions aren’t always easy but they can be made.

  • No god(s), no authority but humans or human abstractions. Either leaders or laws, so laws. Libertarians and modern anarchists would not care whether someone is religious or not since everyone is absolutely free to choose. Atheists definitely do not want gods so only secular libertarians are legitimate.
  • When you must follow the evidence then you have to decide whether oppression is allowed? Not really. Since we do not wish for revelation we do not prioritize knowledge of the few where subjective choice trumps the many. No one has special access to knowledge other than some minimal advantages in talents and abilities. Everyone with the same money and work can repeat the research, gain the evidence. This means final appeal to authority is impossible. Even with division of labor there must be fluidity between the divisions or we are not countering the subjective aspect of revelation where only a few have access to the knowledge and power.
  • Egalitarianism is the opposite of authority by revelation. This means the more people you(all) get behind you(all) the better decisions you(all) make. This isn’t simply crowd sourcing or herd mentality, a kind of mindless populism. It is the successful use of multiple minds in parallel processing. The more eyes you have the fewer things you miss. The more successful you are in avoiding individual and group biases.
  • Since atheists don’t believe in revelation knowledge is gained by seeking more evidence. The greatest knowledge would be through the most evidence. This means the more education, the more research, the more observation, the more informed consensus the better the evidence. Certainly some seem to get more knowledge quickly but this is a distraction of poor statistics–how would you know unless there was a supporting evidential referent made by many?
  • This means money-knowledge made would go to provide more opportunities for more people to gather better evidence. Concentration of wealth denies the evidential aspect of non revelation-based epistemology. A rich person living on unearned wealth loses their ability to gain wealth. A mumbling idiot on a cave in the mountains does nothing but mental masturbation. Einstein worked in an environment of tremendous communication. Time spent apart may give some time to focus but without peer conflict, dialog, it’s worthless. The quest for leaders goes nowhere other than catering to a father, mother, king, master, subjective revelation.
  • If there is objective truth the greater evidence found the more likely there is to be access to it. Creating a non mobile class of experts stagnates the needed variety of experiments required to bring in evidence currently not found. Creativity is more necessary than repetition, mimicry. In stagnant societies there does some to be benefit to stasis of expertise but not really. Change always occurs and the best way to asses it is to be looking for new evidence early and not accept old evidence without ongoing reinforcement.
  • Elitist leadership seems to have some merit but it will always collapse from the burden of its infrastructure. It’s situationalist merit gambles and is crippled by its myopia. It will collapse to egalitarianism. The best course of action is always to raise many to more than a few to most. It is better to elevate inopportune individuals than to maintain hierarchy under the so called value of merit. Expertise would always share the wealth to its own benefit over time.
  • Minority rights ensure that more have access to creating evidence. It also aids in creating a more easy path for Black Swan discoveries to be incorporated by the rest.
  • By the same need for evidence authority is shunned. Not because it is efficient which it may not be but because it is more successful over time and usually in the immediate as well. Whatever fast success is made is quickly overcome by the utility of the many. The loss of trust made by authoritarianism corrupts the abilities of egalitarianism until balance is made.
  • If revelation were to be found to be true it could only be assessed by the concurrence of many rather than trusting a few.
  • Justice becomes a matter of here and now, a mindfulness of immediacy. The revealed justice of later times has a soporific effect the stops the search for evidence. Justice, particularly restorative justice, virtue of Care, since it empowers more creates more evidence and appropriate consensus. Blind consensus is always due to revelation and faith in authority.
  • Regulations then seek to empower more rather than allowing a few to excel further. A successful group travels as fast as its slowest member. The best of the movement both lead and follow switching roles often if the path is only so wide. It’s a false hope, a rope to oppressive power, to think the fastest will get there soonest with the most help.

While this is counter to what many libertarians and conservatives seek it is because they still are stuck in the antiquated morality and epistomology of revelation. Atheists may whistle to conservatives and libertarians but the goal is to make them see the benefits of egalitarianism and the entailed mutualism of evidence over revelation. If not then you are a revealed atheist uninterested in evidence where your disbelief in god(s) has nothing to do with reason or science; you place yourselves in the same epistemology as faithiests outside of everyone else.

If the Duck Dynasty dudes would look beyond their born-and-bred-faith they would see they find their better ducks by evidence and not faith. Anyone up for a trip to Louisiana? Oh wait, we’re after liberals too. Everyone is important and welcome. But ducks? Little cute rapists by nature. Wait they are we; fighting over reproductive rights. Just having fun Marcotte, great post!

Jim Newman, bright and well

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Pismo Beach Ends Prayer at Town Council Meetings

pismo beachIn a fantastic change of precedence the Pismo Beach Town Council voted to end prayers to begin their meetings.

With a 3-0 vote during a closed session Tuesday, the council agreed to eliminate the city chaplaincy and terminate all prayers at city meetings, thus also ending a lawsuit filed against Pismo for the customary practice…

No invocation was given at the start of the meeting, which had been customary for years until the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) and a local member of Atheists United San Luis Obispo sued Pismo late last year claiming the religious exercise was unconstitutional.

“We are very happy the city of Pismo Beach has decided to end this exclusionary and unconstitutional practice and make their government meetings welcoming to all citizens,” said David Leidner, Atheists United SLO board member…

As part of the recent settlement reached between the city and FFRF, Jones no longer serves as Pismo Beach chaplain and has resigned from the position.

Additionally, the city agreed to eliminate the position and also cease “scheduling, coordinating, inviting, delivering, or otherwise participating in prayers, invocations, or religious rituals at the opening, immediately proceeding, or following, council meetings.”

“Clearly, we weren’t going to use taxpayer money to fight something … (where) the silence was deafening,” Higginbotham said about the council’s decision that was based on a lack of response from residents about whether prayer has a place at city meetings.

“Regardless of how individual council members feel, it’s not our money,” she added.

This is huge. It’s not that they made the prayers all denominational but ended them entirely. Now if the Supreme Court would only get it. Sadly it’s not because they believe it the right thing to do but because it’s not worth the money to fight it. I’ll take it.

For comments on this listen to Andrew Seidel of FFRF on SMOA 017.

I almost had a relationship with a wonderful woman from nearby San Luis Obispo. It turned out she was very devout and I couldn’t deal with the dissonance. I wonder though. It seems like there are those who can do these kinds of relationships. How much similarity versus difference does one need? Perhaps, religious types mix faiths more easily since they are still spiritual. Perhaps I was too much of an activist to be able to fight a battle away from home but accept it at home. Perhaps I knew I couldn’t go to church and pretend even for love. t guess I will always wonder.

Jim Newman, bright and well

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Fox News Loves Dabo Swinney & Coercive Volunteerism

football warIs there no fucking place on the planet where people can go and not face religious harassment, uhhh, recruitment? Is there nowhere in the US where people can go and not be told the way to salvation is through Christ (praise the Lord, or Allah (peace be unto him), or God X (he’s the best)? You certainly can’t play football at Clemson unless you’re OK with Coach Dabo Swinney being a Christian. That’s a dog whistle for

You can’t play football at Clemson unless you accept that I, your coach, lord and master for the next four years or so, accept that I am going to do everything in my power to convert you to Christianity. If you don’t like it don’t play.

Why the hell doesn’t Clemson just label themselves a Christian school, get rid of public funding and stand up for their religiosity like the Christian-character building men they demand they are?

Jay Sukelow writing for Fox News thinks we should all be out there recruiting each other to our religion in a free and open market. Why don’t we just stop working and talk about religion since that seems to be the point? Why don’t we just go back to Protestant-Catholic, or Catholic-Islam wars since we seem to have forgotten why we need a secular public space?

In a reasonable constitutional world, this complaint would be ignored by the media and discarded by the university. After all, there’s no evidence that Clemson or Coach Swinney did anything other than expose players to the coach’s religious point of view, a point of view he’s constitutionally entitled to hold and express.

Through quirks in the law, and with the help of a complicit media, angry atheists seek to change the terms of the debate, to narrow the marketplace of ideas to exclude religious voices.

Since wearing your world-view on your sleeve is the new politics why don’t we just reassign universities and colleges by their religion. Let’s just put it out there. Geographic boundaries don’t matter anymore. Why not admit we’re all tribalistic virtual villages and relabel teams according to religious affiliation?

The Lutheran Vikings are playing the Pentecostal Rays this week. The Evangelical Tigers are battling it out with the Church of Light U of M. Since it’s all about religious expressionism and the market place of ideas, let’s just start the religious wars. uhhh, games. If religion is more important than football, and football is god, let’s just play religious games. I can hear the cheers now.

Damn. The Pentecostals won this week. Bastards. Just wait! The Apostolics will hammer you in the finals. You know Sammy is a really devout guy. He’ll carry em through next time.

Apparently Sukelow has forgotten why we don’t want to talk about religion everywhere or at least very carefully. It’s more personal than sex. It’s so intimate that to argue about it confront’s people’s deepest foundation and meanings in life, whether theological, secular, or indifferent. Tempers flare quickly. Wars begin. Hell, the only reason I talk about religion is just because of this: there is too much violence caused by religious faith.

I played football in school. Our coach never mentioned he was a Lutheran. I don’t even know for sure what he was but since I was in Minnesota, I assume so. Even when I played soccer in Salt Lake City I didn’t know whether my coach was Mormon. We were there to play the game. Are four decades ago more like four centuries, back to the Reformation, Counter Reformation, and Reverse Counter Reformation with fall back to isolational separatism just for peace?

I don’t want to talk about religion. I want to stop violence. So here I am, distracted by religions when I should be working towards peace–wait, I guess I am but it’s not pleasant. A strange kind of volunteerism. Like the victim volunteers to be harmed.

It’s all volunteer unless you don’t like what Pastor Dabo Swinney wants in the way of his religious identity which is to convert you to his Christianity, the Church of Dabo Swinney.

I want to know more. Is the Church of Dabo Swinney, apostolic, reformed, pentecostal, triune or unitarian, Arian or Alexandrian? Let’s just get right back to the roots of Christianity. I want to know exactly what’s required in his volunteerism. Can I be a Unitarian, Episcopalian? He says he accepts all faiths? As long as you’re not offended by his constant cosmic salesmanship. What we need is someone who is larger than Pastor Swinney who says.

Why can’t we just play football? Leave the cosmic crap out regardless of what kind of bullshit it is. I don’t want to talk about atheism or witches or humanism when I play football either. I want to talk about football. That’s what I am here for.

How is this any kind of volunteerism? It’s like your boss saying

You can work here but you need to know I am a Male Rights Activist.


You better accept that I am a Lesbian Separatist.


You need to be Ok with me being an aggressive asshole.

What happened to remarks like.

We’re a running team.


We emphasize a throwing game here.


We’re looking for players that can support the Quarterback. We play a strong offensive game.

No, not that. What you need to know about Pastor Swinney is he’s a Christian. God’s team, playing god’s game on god’s turf.

When you join a team there is no volunteerism. Your coach is god and master. Your coach tells you when to wake, when to sleep, what to eat, which exercises you do, even which classes to take. Coach controls your entire life. Especially in football. The only volunteerism is the one moment when you choose to join–and that may not mean much either in the harsh college football recruitment and scholarship arena.

Welcome to the Football Army son. Thanks for volunteering. Now shut up and do what I say and we can go all the way this season.

Strict authority is the norm in professional and amateur sports. Doesn’t matter whether it’s gymnastics or football. There is no volunteerism. Coaches don’t even have to request what they want. The players know and do without being asked. Players accurately assess what the coach wants and do it. If only to show the coach they know how to please.

That’s why it is even more important that players be able to have some sort of self identity, self autonomy free from religious harassment, recruitment, or expressionism

Jim Newman, bright and well

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Gender, Wrestling, Harassment & an Interview

steve austinYou know the tide has turned when wrestlers favor same sex. Wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin.

“…doesn’t “give a shit” about people’s sexuality, he just wants them treated equally. He said, “I believe that any human being in America, or any human being in the goddamn world, that wants to be married, and if it’s same-sex, more power to ‘em.”

He also found it stunning how churches get to lecture people about their sexuality being a lifestyle, asking, “Which one of these motherfuckers talked to God, and God said that same-sex marriage was a no-can-do?”

And beyond that, Austin’s not happy with the hypocrisy over sinful behavior and redemption in organized religion.”

Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian continue on Young Turks.

Speaking of asshole misogyny and our embedded culture of rape, Iggy Azalea won’t crowd surf anymore because asshole “fans” fingers her when she crowd surfs, not casual, accidental but penetration. I say put a Taser in there or something worse. Even females do it because it’s part of our culture.

On an upbeat here’s a Thinking Atheist interview of Jaclyn Glenn.

Jim Newman, bright and well

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Clemson Football & Coach Dabo Swinney, Christian Voluntarism

dabo-swinneyClemson University is rated highly as a jock school with strong military presence and selective academic strength. Founded originally by Thomas Green Clemson and his wife Anna Marie Calhoun, the daughter of John C Calhoun the ardent and senate leader of proslavery confederation. It is rated 1338 in racial diversity though US News rates it 62 overall. It is ranked in the top 10 in college football, Dabo Swinney is accused by the FFRF of Christianizing his team the Tigers.

Swinney and the university deny it all. It’s just voluntary and spirituality is part of character and they are a character building school. No doubt a rebel-yelling, confederate character that’s still pissed they lost the war cuz god says slaves are OK. It was really about states rights anyway, especially that one Christian right about human ownership. Oh wait, it’s opportunity for improvement–so long as it’s Christian improvement.

“Anything that we have in our program from a spiritual standpoint is and always has been voluntary. We’re no different than any other program out there in how we operate as far as providing our players opportunities to grow in any aspect of their lives.”

Yep, they’re racists bigots just like everyone else? Would you buy a car from this guy?

Even after threat of lawsuit the school and coach remain resolute.

Earlier this month, university spokeswoman Cathy Sams issued a statement saying the school would evaluate the complaints raised but that it believes Swinney and his staff are not violating any laws.

Hey, it’s voluntary coercion! Really Swinney is a great guy. “All faiths are welcome.” I bet! Golden prospects. More converts. I bet the power of your position doesn’t have any influence, huh?

“I have coached and recruited just about every faith and religion that’s out there, or non-religion, and have never had a problem with any of it before,” Swinney said. “I am who I am. I’m proud to be a Christian, and by being a Christian, I’m a Christian in everything that I do. People that know me, they know I’m a long way from being perfect. You can ask my players or my wife — I’m a long way from being perfect, but I do try to live my life with a positive influence on those around me.

“I’ve never been a guy who’s forced anything on anyone. I just am who I am, and I’m proud of how we run our program. The reason I’ve had success as a coach is because I love my players, and I take great pride in having relationships with my players.”

Jesus, I hope he or his cohorts aren’t having sex with any of them. You know Christian love, or is that the Catholics, or both? I get em confused when it comes to sex. I wonder what his wife would say–now I am intrigued.

The Chronicle of Higher Education (November 2013) concurs.

Last season, Dabo Swinney, the head football coach at Clemson University, gathered his team on the practice field one day for an important announcement. “Someone is about to turn their life over to Christ,” he said.

DeAndre Hopkins, a star wide receiver, stepped forward. A livestock trough had been placed near the 50-yard line and filled with water. Mr. Hopkins, still wearing his uniform and pads, climbed in. As several dozen teammates and coaches looked on, he was baptized.

At Clemson, God is everywhere. The team’s chaplain leads a Bible study for coaches every Monday and Thursday. Another three times a week, the staff gathers for devotionals. Nearly every player shows up at a voluntary chapel service the night before each game.

The players all know the coach’s favorite Bible verse, 1 Corinthians 9:24-25: “Run your race to win, don’t just run the race.”

“I’m a Christian,” Coach Swinney tells Clemson recruits. “If you have a problem with that, you don’t have to be here.”

Before they ever joined the team, some of them prayed with coaches on the phone during recruiting calls. On recruiting visits, they heard from Mr. Swinney: “I’m a Christian. If you have a problem with that, you don’t have to be here.”

Anne Laurie Gaylord of FFRF.

You can’t stop someone from expressing their own views…but if the university has a culture of evangelizing on the football team, that needs to stop…They need to honor freedom of conscience and not take students who are impressionable and need their approval and push religion on them.

It goes further than the character building aspect requiring spirituality as the Uiversity President claims.

The FFRF contends that Swinney violated the Constitution and university guidelines on hiring chaplains when he invited James Trapp to become the team chaplain. The organization also took issue with the coach’s decision to schedule team devotionals and organize transportation to take coaches and players to “church days,” and said Swinney gave Trapp access to the entire team for Bible studies.

While coach Clemson welcomes all faiths so long as they are talented I wonder where the POC players are. Clemson the city is about 11% African-American, the campus is 6% and the Tigers, hmmm, Sammy Watkins. But back to religion.

“It’s not to say they’re not recruiting anyone who’s not Christian, but people who are initially interested in Clemson are people whose faith and religion do matter to them,” says Cullen Harper, a former quarterback here.

Ebenezer (Ebo) Ogundeko, a freshman from Brooklyn, N.Y., picked the Tigers over Alabama, Ole Miss, Notre Dame, and other programs. One of his reasons: “I felt like coming to Clemson would bring me closer to Jesus,” he told The Chronicle. “Most dudes on the team, they take their religion very seriously, and their relationship with Jesus Christ. They’ve encouraged me to move closer and closer to God.”

Rolitha Oglesby, the mother of Shaq Lawson, a freshman defensive end, has seen her son grow spiritually since he enrolled, in January. Growing up, he went to church with the family, but lately he has shown more and more interest in his faith.

Soon after arriving, he let his mother know he needed a Bible for his room. In May, he posted a photo on Facebook revealing a striking new tattoo, with the words “Jesus Christ is my Savior” spread across his chest.

Dozens of other players also display signs of faith. Many wear orange and purple wristbands inscribed with Bible verses, which one player’s parents bought for the whole team. Others have biblical references on their Twitter bios. “Don’t follow me, follow Jesus,” says the page of one Clemson recruit.

Game days are awash in religious ritual. Players mark their faces with crosses, write inspirational messages on their wrist tape (“Blessed”), and kneel together in groups to pray.

Even a Charleston paper has turned their back on Swinney, “God Doesn’t Like the Clemson Tigers.”

Now, I have nothing against Dabo’s desire to help mold his players into better men, nor that he uses Christianity to do it. Both the Old and the New Testament are inspirational texts that can have truly transformative powers on those who read — and study — them. But as a Clemson fan it’s disheartening to see that he and his staff spend so much time proselytizing when it’s their job to win games — not souls for the Almighty.

And by wrapping up God’s grace with the game of football, Swinney and Clemson have crafted a culture where the two are inexplicably intertwined much to the detriment of Clemson’s win-loss record.

Faith is a double-edged sword. When players think the game is going their way, God is great. He wants them to win. It’s fate. And when a team is behind, faith can also give players the strength to rise up and take the lead. But when faith repeatedly fails to put points on the board, then surely players begin to believe that God Himself wants them to lose.

Now I wonder how Swinney would take it if American Atheists or some such group offered free bus service, free meetings, free books, free mentoring, and free debaptisms–all voluntary? But if you want to really be part of the team and win and improve… Maybe they could switch religions from year to year. One year Islam, one year Jewish, one year Buddhist (hmm maybe not for sports teams), one year humanist. They are all character building and opportunities for personal growth. And it would all be voluntary–by the way the bus is over there.

Would everyone please step back but that guy who hasn’t been baptized yet. Bingo!  Volunteer!

Funny how volunteer has so many meanings, none of them so nuanced as coach Clemson thinks.

Jim Newman, bright and well

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New Jersey School Sued for “Under God” Recitation

Students-reciting-PledgeSometimes it seems like suing schools for the Pledge of Allegiance is like pissing in the wind doing little but blowback. The apparent advantage of believing you are protected by a sky daddy resonates quickly while losing that belief almost requires another different sky daddy rather than a trust that courage is more important than hope. Yet, small chops fell great oaks, as Franklin said.

The lawsuit against the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District was filed in state court last month and was announced Monday by the American Humanist Association. The group says the phrase, added in 1954, “marginalizes atheist and humanist kids as something less than ideal patriots.”

The anonymous plaintiffs say those two words “under God” violate the state constitution.

But school district lawyer David Rubin says the district is merely following a state law that requires schools to have a daily recitation of the pledge. He says individual students don’t have to participate.

I wonder how schools would react if atheists staged a quiet time during pledge time? A national call to silence during the pledge.

The pertinent issue is the student who remains quiet is being bullied.

According to the lawsuit the child of the family filing the lawsuit has been confronted in school because he or she doesn’t participate during the Pledge of Allegiance.

We can hope, which is just about like giving up since hope kills action. So thank goodness for these folks who have the courage to fight bullies and the Pledge.

The Pledge itself is an idiotic nationalization homily of patriotism that shouldn’t be required of anyone. I find the position, hand over heart, repugnant as well.

Jim Newman, bright and well

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82% Believe Smoking Causes Cancer, Science Values

smoke-that-cigaretterecent survey on scientific values shows while 82% believe smoking causes cancer, 51% do not believe the Big Bang theory to be true. The Atlantic poses this as part of the iron triangle of science, politics, and religion. Yet, we are not any less scientifically literate than the rest of the world–just not any more. Which is too much like the drinking song “I don’t get drunk any more but I don’t get drunk any less.” Some continue the  idea that it’s because science is not intuitive.

Rather, we come equipped with all sorts of naïve intuitions about the world, many of which are untrue. For instance, people naturally believe that heat is a kind of substance, and that the sun revolves around the earth. And then there’s the irony of evolution: our views about our own development don’t seem to be evolving.

This means that science education is not simply a matter of learning new theories. Rather, it also requires that students unlearn their instincts, shedding false beliefs the way a snake sheds its old skin.

This argument loses traction in the face of the religious demanding that reason and science are in the way of knowing the truth. “I believe because it is absurd” should work both ways, for science or for religion. It would be easy for a religious person to say the Big Bang was sparked by god, as many do, keeping their sky daddy safely in power.

Deeper we see that what we learn even as forager societies has always been nonintuitive, even anti intuitive. Rubbing sticks together to make fire, knocking sparks off rocks to make fire, boiling water, firing mud to make rock, being cold when inactive, dreams in sleep, sleep, kindness settling anger, babies, seeds sprouting, body odor, erections, and so many more things we take for granted it astounds me that we are able to function at all without full blown mysticism;  the constant temptation of idealism.

science survey

I find the survey questions flawed in many ways. Letting that go, I would ask as an example why do 82% believe smoking causes cancer? In other surveys the word nicotine has been used with the same results indicating a confusion of nicotine with the tars and other chemicals that causes cancer. It would be interesting if there were a genetic component to cancers related to smoking such that those who have them or express them resisted getting cancer. But this kind of thinking is far more sophisticated than what is being questioned.

It is much more easy for me to accept the cause of these confabulations to be based on inculcation. It’s not that we have a blank slate for a mind as clearly mental structures enable certain kinds of languages, concepts, and sensory experience but what is learned as a child is held true over time. Our brains have the flexibility to believe damned near anything. This built in tradition-making ability, meme-replicating infrastructure is exercised first by parents, grandparents, oral traditions, written history, and soon synthetic genetic modification.

The solution then is education, different inculcation, as balance against a stagnating tradition. The natural balance to these tradition-ensuring structures is every generation seems to need to rebuild the wheel. This polarity shows humans have had need to be both adaptable and stable in their pasts. If you’re nomadic you need to carry your tradition with you or adapt along the way depending on what works. If you have a stable society for 10,000 years, there is negative pressure to be creative in a circle larger than the few miles on which you live. Let the weather change and those who can deal will while those who can’t won’t.

The need for identity within a group also creates a polarity. The tension of individual versus group expands when you know more strangers than family and friends. Suddenly you have to love the other instead on the one. The change of tribes to city-states requires an abstraction of particulars, a creativity of greater adaption and adherence to ideas and less so on solids. In a tribe one kills for honor within the status of the tribe. In a city one kills for the greater distance and abstraction of the state’s values. I suppose I could say it’s still all ideas or that city-state ideas are less intuitive than a tribe’s but this change has occurred so recently, successfully and relentlessly that if  true it  means we are more intuitive based on need rather than ability.

Nor can we assert this reliance to be due to the extent of education. Scholars and philosophers through time have been even more educated than those of us who have to work and educate ourselves. If children were taught as true basic tenets of science as being surveyed here school education would be as pointless as many religious think it is already. You don’t need to be able to do topology to accept the Big Bang, evolution, or climate change.

Jim Newman, bright and well,

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Expose The Atheist Stereotype of Immorality

RebeccaWatsonRebecca Watson posts an effective way of fighting the common stereotype, held even by atheists, that religious affiliation is a sign of morality. Beginning with Hitchens’ famous claim that he’d rather meet a gang of thugs than a group coming out of church meetings she quotes research showing that even atheists believe the stereotyped myth that religion is morality making.

Frankly, I loved that passage when I read it as I am always more fearful of being around devoutly religious people until proven trustworthy than any other group–too often they can’t wait to out me, even innocently, or I have to lie. Believing in an irrational and usually peculiar metaphysics means I can’t guess how they will abuse me other than I know I will be abused. This is because of the common stereotype that atheists are less moral than pond scum. If sweet little old ladies can’t stand it when their extended family doesn’t go to church. Imagine the horrors of atheists.

Which means we are the most ostracized group in the country. We should thank our lucky stars that atheism doesn’t have physical or morphological ramifications in the US today. Any religious person that whines about mythical secular persecution need only look at us and say there but for the grace of god go I, which is even more scary.

The antidote is not to hide the stereotype. When you out yourself specifically address the myth.

It bothers the crap out of me that people think atheists aren’t moral. I am a moral person. I have a family. I go to work. I volunteer time to charities. I don’t even have a criminal record. Yet, religious people assume that I am immoral. This  makes it very difficult for me to trust religious people or even want to hear what they say. I hope you don’t think I am immoral just because I am an atheist.

More fun would be

Nearly everyone thinks atheists can’t be moral. Other than not believing in a god I am a moral person. I doubt that belief in god is what keeps you moral. I would hope not as if it is then anyone who isn’t your religion isn’t moral either and that’s most of the world, your coworkers, your relatives, and your neighbors.


Yeah, I’m an atheist normally hiding in my closet hoping not to be persecuted by a religious person. You don’t believe the vicious stereotype that atheists can’t be moral do you?

Whatever way you choose to speak do something. The best way to fight a stereotype is to address it directly. Don’t assume being a good example proves it. You must discuss it for it to work.

Here’s her YouTube.

Jim Newman, bright and well,

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Christ’s Suicide and Easter

christ's suicideMy daughter returned from a trip with friends and had to listen to christian radio on the way. She lost interest in Easter; it’s about suicide! Our family had to somehow recover it as a spring holiday. An excuse for feasting, lots of protein, consuming our last home raised ham, curried tofu, green beans, potatoes, and being together as family.

Why would churches be against suicide except for a prophet who claims to be the son of god? How could it be a suicide if Christ knew he would be alive anyway? How is suicide bad if the next world is with god as claimed? How would he be giving up his son if he knew he would become alive or if there were some sort of autonomy-connection-awareness within the triune god? Wars and ostracism have been committed based on the appealed veracity of these distinctions. It’s also why faith of immortality cares less about the truth of it but rather the hope for it. It can’t possibly make sense and that’s its value. To be beyond reason. You can’t easily argue the absurd from within.

The meme that Christ desired to be crucified to redeem the sins of all humans is the cornerstone of christian faith for most. It is what separates the old from the new testament. In order to redeem the Judaic text, the old testament, and not blame Jews for allowing Christ to be killed, Christ has to allow himself to be killed in passive suicide. This has many troublesome issues only the faithful can support. It would have been much less interesting if Christ had stabbed himself to death. The grotesque images of Christ bleeding on a cross resonate deeply. Far beyond the merit of the act. Yet suicide is contagious and becomes its own problem.

The act of living may require more courage than suicide. But for the sake of a good story Christ had to die and the church needed a Paul to create and spread the memes. It is the idea of sacrifice that counts and not how much sacrifice it really is. Confabulating son and father, mortality and immortality, just adds icing to the cake. Think of how a small gesture like taking out the garbage, or doing the dishes, or working late adds to a relationship. Once trusted the gifts need not be so great.

Just how courageous was Jesus? Most men and women would give up their life for their families. Soldiers routinely give up their lives for the group or just for the idea of bravery and courage, to be boldly brave. Terrorist attacks show how individuals will risk all to save the group when if they were passive they most likely would not be harmed. Again and again we have examples of how people will sacrifice themselves for others they do not even know, strangers even.  It’s hard to know who really is a stranger; we all know more strangers than friends and family now.

Would you kill yourself for six friends, 10, 20, 100 or 1,000? If you knew you could stop global warming would you commit suicide? Would you let yourself go when the lifeboat is too full to hold even just one more or would you swamp the raft? Would you jeopardize your life on a  Everest climb by attempting to rescue another disabled climber?

Over and over I hear and read of stories of bravery and courage where the degree of cost, the importance of success, are far less than that of Jesus. If what he believed was true his suicide was a no brainer and hardly merits slight respect. I would bet that nearly everyone would commit suicide if they knew they were saving their entire community. The real question is who would not commit suicide for their family of life?

Jim Newman, bright and well

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Another New Jersey Atheist License Plate Fiasco

david silverman and atheist plateYou’d think New Jersey would learn after having had to deal with David Silverman’s request for a license plate. They had to retract their insolence and give him what he could rightly request. Shannon Morgan proves otherwise, for now. My question is “Can New Jersey be Taught?”

Shannon Morgan, of Maurice Township, said in a federal lawsuit filed Thursday that the Motor Vehicle Commission violated her First Amendment rights when its website rejected the plate reading “8THEIST.” She said she received a message stating that her vanity plate request was ineligible as it “may carry connotations offensive to good taste and decency.”

Morgan then filled out the online application using the phrase “BAPTIST” as a test, which the website accepted. Morgan claims in her lawsuit that she sent the agency a letter of complaint by registered mail and made several attempts to contact them by phone, all of which went unanswered.

In David’s case they said there was a glitch, a clerical error. Wonder what excuse they will raise this time? When in doubt blame the computer or some uninformed, low-level staff. If this happens again we may have to make a movie “Ground Hog Plate” or “Fifty Plates of Reason.” I assume I will soon see 8THEIST.

If I had an atheist license plate here in West Virginia I would get so many comments I would lose half my friends and alienate half my family of in-laws.  Even in this more liberal section moderates are offended when people make strong political statements. It’s only sports shirts you can wear and they should be local. That’s why this is such an important issue. It’s not trivial. We tend to think this stuff is just crap flying below the radar, less worrisome than being beaten or ripped off.

If you can’t even identify yourself you’re not even available to be beaten up. Your oppression is so great you aren’t recognized or available for direct abuse.

Once you get physically attacked you have proven that you are out enough to matter. We’re not even that far. While I would hope that others are actually more atheistic than they say they are a huge part of the population would be more open about their discrimination if they simply could recognize us on the street, whether by dress, action, social interaction, or visited building. If atheists talked and dressed differently or held hands as in open homophilic attraction there would be more news about physical attacks and direct discrimination.

It will be interesting if this movement can jump a generation or two and if millennials will reduce the discrimination by continuing the middle-ground trend of spiritual but not religious. Hippies gave great hope, as did politicians, and then had to find jobs in the corporations they hated. Is the social justice movement merely a youth movement of pre-work, pre-sell-out, pre-reality affluence?

Jim Newman, bright and well

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