Thought of the day

It’s true: Of all the mysteries ever solved, not one has been because of magic.

Double standards

This video is both awesome and sad at the same time.

“I won’t give my approval!”

This post title is increasingly one of the most common lines that anti-gay bigots use. “Why, I didn’t vote for equal rights for gays because that’s like asking for my approval of their ‘behavior’! It’s just absurd!” It’s little more than bigot talk and here’s why.

Imagine 38 states get together with Congress and the President and want to pass a constitutional amendment that says the KKK can no longer have parades or organize or do any of the things they legally do today. We all get an opportunity to vote in favor or against the amendment. If the bigots who hate gays – and come on, that’s all this is about for them – were at all consistent, they would immediately vote in favor of the amendment; I’m sure a few of them actually would. But I think an overwhelming majority would recognize that the question on the ballot isn’t “Do you approve of the KKK?” Only a fucking moron would think that. No, most people would realize that they hate the KKK, but that there are dire consequences when we take away one group’s rights. Most people would have to vote the proposal down.

And they would be right – without approving of the KKK in the least. In fact, most of today’s bigots do actually say they support X group’s right to free speech despite not liking the group. This is really basic, really easy, really obvious logic. It is a lie, a damn convenient lie, when a bigot claims not to have voted for a civil rights measure because he would then be approving of the group facing discrimination.

We have a huge number of states all across the country that still don’t have protections for sexual orientation in housing, education, work, and other areas of daily life. Think about that. Gays can fire straight people for being straight. Straight people can deny gays home loans simply for being gay. It is absurd. And the bigots want us to believe that it’s all because fixing the problem and protecting civil rights would be the same as giving moral approval for a group? Puh-lease.

It would be nice if the bigots of the world could stop lying and just come clean: They hate gays because 1) their religion, not reason or rationality, tells them it’s wrong to be fair, 2) they don’t understand them, 3) they’re ignorant and unwilling to learn, 4) gays are different and they find that yucky, and 5) they are sexually immature little infants.

Sudan

Sudan may soon become two nations.

Sudan was troubled from its birth when, in 1956, the British handed over power to the Arab northern elite, despite the country’s vast ethnic and cultural pluralities, setting the parameters for one of the world’s most dysfunctional states. So it is not surprising that the southerners — who have suffered through the two civil wars, from 1956-72 and 1983-2005, which left 2 million people dead and 4 million displaced — are pulling the plug on Africa’s largest nation. The voting in a referendum on southern independence — the key component of a 2005 peace deal — began on Jan. 9 and will last until Jan. 15; the results, not in doubt, should be announced later in the month or in early February.

“Cultural pluralities” is partial code for different religions. Of course, that is only one piece to the puzzle – and not even the biggest piece. But that said, I was reminded of something I said about Nigeria last year:

There is no permanent solution to violence. There are only best solutions. In this case, it is necessary that religious divides be destroyed – and the only way that will happen is either if one group absolutely dominates the landscape or if both groups dissipate. There is nothing like the organizing power of religion and bizarre beliefs…to get a whole pot of hate and violence stirring.

The problems of a poorly developed nation like Sudan aren’t going to go away simply because of a successful separationist movement. But the exacerbation? At least a little of the fuel? It isn’t going to be there. I predict improvements in the two Sudans in the coming years. (I will also point out that if Iraq was diced up according to its religious divisions, a notable bit of the violence there would be quelled – not as much as would be quelled if we just left, but still a notable amount.)

Religion continues to kill Nigerians

I’ve long been following the crisis in Nigeria. People have been murdering each other for quite some time there, with part of the basis being fertile farm land, part of it being poverty, part of it being government corruption, but the biggest part being religion. The most recent attacks reflect that.

Nigerian authorities on Friday arrested 92 people allegedly affiliated with a militant Islamist group that the government says is responsible for a string of recent killings in the country’s northeast.

Three men were arrested with bombs in their possession in the vicinity of Jos on Christmas Day, authorities said

The Jos region lies on a faith-based fault line between Muslim-dominated northern Nigeria and the mainly Christian south.

At least four people were killed and another 13 wounded Friday in a bomb blast at an army barracks in Abuja [on New Year's eve], the deputy police commissioner said.

I would prefer not to have the perfect example to illustrate the point that religion causes divide and fosters violence, but it is what it is. Without Christianity and without Islam dividing the city of Jos, Nigerians would either be able to more easily resolve issues over farm land or they wouldn’t have any violence in the first place. (These most recent attacks are driven by extremists, but it remains that many of the other attacks have been over non-religious issues which are heightened and worsened by the presence of religion.)

Lisa Benson doesn’t understand basic science

Lisa Benson is a doltish political cartoonist. Given the most recent cartoon of hers I saw, I presume she watches a lot of Sean Hannity.

How are people so ignorant that they manage to confuse weather and climate after the age of 7?

That said, there is an aspect of this cartoon I appreciate. What a lot of Christian right-wingers do is when they perceive something as bad, they call it a religion. This is obviously ironic because religion is fundamental to their lives; they clearly think at least their religion is good. Of course, I’m all for calling religion bad – because it is – but I don’t see that being a strong point to make for people who might want to promote their own religious beliefs.

Agnostic? Then you shouldn’t have children.

An Indiana judge has issued a ruling stripping a father of joint custody of his three children. One of the reasons cited by the judge was the lack of religion of the father.

[Judge] Pancol’s order says [Craig] Scarberry “did not participate in the same religious training that the (mother) exercised and that (Scarberry) was agnostic.” Scarberry has until Dec. 1 to appeal the ruling, which has reduced his custody to visitation with his children four hours per week and on alternating weekends.

Watch this short news report.

Of course, there’s certainly more to the story, but all that’s out there right now is that Scarberry’s lack of Christianity is a contributing factor in why he is not allowed to retain joint custody of his children. There is no evidence of neglect or abuse, nor any accusations of any sort of thing.

The main issue for the ruling (and then affirming) judge is this:

The order severing joint custody was issued by Pancol on Nov. 1 and affirmed by Newman on Nov. 8. It said that when Scarberry had been a Christian, “the parties were able to communicate relatively effectively.”

So why give benefit to the mother? Both parents were given joint custody; that communication is difficult due to religious differences does not mean the Christian therefore wins the legal battle. There is no reason to presume the Christian is better – in any way – than the agnostic. Besides, the ruling is blatantly unconstitutional.

A secondary issue in all this is the right of the father to have a fair hearing in these cases. In the past, the father was considered the bread winner and there were financial and practical reasons for granting more rights to the mother. Except we aren’t living in a dysfunctional episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show anymore. For that reason, Scarberry has this planned:

A Navy veteran and health-care worker, Scarberry has obtained a permit for a demonstration in support of fathers’ rights for Dec. 16 at the Madison County Courthouse.

Scarberry, of course, will also be addressing his (non)religious liberty, or lack thereof. His case is a good one and his fight is for all the right reasons. I’m just worried about all the inherent and undeserved respect religion is getting in all this.

“I wasn’t interfering in their right to be brought up in a Christian environment,” [Scarberry] said, noting that the children still attend Christian school and church services as they have done in the four years that he has had joint custody.

It’s bad enough that both the ruling and affirming judges are letting their personal and cultural biases seep into the court room, but Scarberry doesn’t need to do it too. Or maybe he does. After all, the man is fighting for his children; what it takes, it takes. But ideally, he should not need to let undue respect squeeze its way in: children don’t have a “right” to be brought up in a particular religious environment. That sort of right goes to the parent. There is no such thing as a Christian (or Muslim or Jewish or…) child, much less one that wants to exercise its right to be brought up in a particular religion. Saying otherwise is like saying there are Democratic and Republican children. There aren’t. And to compound the whole mess, Scarberry cites the attendance of a Christian school and church services by his children. Again, the man is fighting for the children, so he has no higher concern, but the indoctrination of his children should not be looked upon as a good thing.

Maybe if the judges just read the first and final chapter of The God Delusion, they would get it.

On the conflict between science and religion

It’s often said, ‘Sure, other people’s religion conflicts with science, but they aren’t representative of the majority. Besides, my religion isn’t in conflict with science!”

Here’s a simple test to find out if your religion conflicts with science:

1) Do you believe in miracles?
2) Do you believe in a creator who directed evolution?
3) Do you believe prayers work? (And why doesn’t your god heal amputees?)
4) Do you think faith is a virtue?

If you answered “Yes” to any of these, and you derive your answer(s) from your religion, then your religion does conflict with science. Let me explain.

1) A miracle is a suspension or interruption of a physical law or constant. The whole idea in science is that physical laws and constants are true at all times and in all places. If you believe they can be arbitrarily interrupted, your belief is in conflict with science; science does not allow for the interruption of, say, the speed of light in a vacuum. You can believe that the speed of light in a vacuum can be changed by your god, but (aside from having no evidence for such a claim) your belief is one that is anti-scientific.

2) Evolution is a natural process that is based upon the changing of allelic frequencies within a population over time. It happens as a result of genetic change and interaction with the environment. It is a natural process that is contingent upon a long series of chance happening and natural selection; under the same environmental conditions, a re-running of the history of life would give different results. You can believe your god made it so humans (or any other animal) would be inevitable, but your belief is anti-scientific.

3) The science is in and prayer does not work. You can still believe it does, but your belief is anti-scientific.

4) Science is a valuing of reason, experiment, and, ultimately, evidence. Faith is the anti-thesis of this. You can still believe faith is a good thing, but your belief is anti-scientific; it is not a belief that is found within science.

Bonus conflict: Philosophy

Do you believe in the philosophical reasoning of the First Cause? This is the argument that says everything has a cause and thus the Universe has a cause. (And then it is randomly declared that God is eternal.) This goes against science because Newton told us that everything which has a force has an opposite and equal force. This is dependent upon observations made within the Universe. Your philosophy goes beyond this evidence and makes a conclusion which is independent of the sort of reasoning Newton used. In other words, if you say the Universe has a cause because everything else has a cause, you aren’t making sense. Everything within the Universe has a cause. That’s all science tells us. We can presume a reason for the Universe since it, well, exists, but we cannot use the scientific reasoning used by Newton; he was talking about forces within the Universe.

How to make religion and science fit

via Jesus and Mo.

Thought of the day

Religion breeds hostility towards science.

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