Posts Tagged ‘accommodationism’


It is inevitable

January 7, 2014

By the time I’d spent a few months on Daily Kos, I figured it wouldn’t last for me. I don’t seem to possess the requisite hostility to put up with the environment indefinitely. I value causes more than in-fighting. But like a 24-hour news cycle, you can dispense with the petitions and peruse donation requests in a few minutes, which still leaves you with the rest of the day to fill up.

I’ve seen partisans on both sides of debates over whether Obama is a saint or an abomination – they’re all Democrats, but somehow they find reasons to war bitterly over things we can’t control. I’ve seen the ‘liberal’ gun enthusiasts, who try so hard to connect liberal values with anarchic gun rights and fail, troll and bait and drive off whoever gets in their way. And yesterday, I was amused to see religious privilege put so plainly it made me laugh, even as that community now seeks to drive off virulent skeptics.

If the goal of this blog were to express antireligious sentiment, I would never have come here. If you want a blog that is comfortably intolerant of religion, by all means go find one! I’m sure there are many. Intolerance of religion has never been an official or unofficial element of Daily Kos.

A comment from a believer taking offense at religion-bashing. Not xian-bashing or muslim-bashing (hell, people get away with the latter some days) but calling religion a problem. Or like the way Hitchens put it that religion poisons everything. I don’t have the same fire for the battle that I used to, but I have yet to find redeeming qualities to it that are not incidental, that cannot be found elsewhere. And yet so many believers will take offense on behalf of their religion. They seek to identify with their religion, to claim it as their identity the same way the color of their skin or their sexual preference is part of their identity.

Well, certainly people are born with their skin, subject to some change perhaps. And at least there’s data suggesting sexual preference is inborn. But religion? There’s not even compelling evidence for the ‘god gene,’ much less anything convincing about being ‘born’ xian or muslim or … whatever. Even a predilection for god-belief, however misguided, has to find a vehicle through which to manifest. And what is that going to be, but whatever religion hooks them first? Most likely, whatever religion their parents are taught to instill, because it’s so much easier to indoctrinate children.

Get ’em while they’re young. Works for cigarettes too, or so I’m told.

We Democrats have always prided ourselves on our big tent. One of the things that has prevented us from winning as many victories the past several decades has been a perceived intolerance of religion. I would suggest therefore that demonstrating tolerance for people of faith is one way the Democratic Party can expand its electoral victories.

So this commenter raised this question for me. A ridiculous question, but I’ll see if I can find an opportunity to ask it anyway, because I empathize with pragmatism and that’s what this is, a call to pragmatism. Maybe the premises aren’t all true, or maybe it’s not important enough to appease the religious majority by silencing skeptics. Or maybe it’s pointless, because of free speech someone will always speak up. But I want to ask the admins, seriously. Bashing religion is not the same as bashing people, although believers try so hard to equate it with bigotry and prejudice and shame people into silence.

They’re the ones that should be ashamed of themselves for trying to drive people off, but they obviously value their own hurt feelings more than mine. Big shocker.

Should skeptics be silent about religion in order to placate believers? Should we play along with the religious majority? Does the stated goal of Daily Kos, to elect more and better Democrats, mean we endorse this oppression of the non-religious minority by the religious majority? This actual exercise in intolerance, in bigotry, as opposed to the loud plaintive claims of the believers? Should I really get lost and find somewhere else to read and chat, some other outlet for supporting Democrats? I mean to find out. And while the believers claim such painful alienation when their precious religious beliefs are attacked, I’m already alienated enough to have stopped writing there, for months. Work slowed down enough for some new writing a while ago; I just haven’t bothered. And I already get enough email about petitions and causes to donate to. Maybe it is time to go.

So, this is more or less a reminder to self to raise the question at the next opportunity. I already know what I’d do, personally – that intolerant xian hypocrite can piss off. Take those wounded sensibilities and shove it with the actual oppression. They’re so oblivious that they complain about oppression of their ideas while trying to really drive me out of the community. Who is worse off, the ‘second class’ citizen in perception or the exile? But I’m a pragmatic sort. I’m curious to see if this fellow is an outlier or more representative of the community.


The delusion they’ll never live down

January 16, 2013

Yesterday I had one of those rare points of disagreement with someone I respect greatly. And since the subject is about damaging the coalition that leads to progress in our country politically, it seems better to put my answer here instead of there. Warning: it is rather long. That may be a problem. If so, just go “TL;DR” and check out this lolcat, then go on your merry way.

So, here is the relevant chunk of the article in question. It’s about Martin Luther King Jr., about whom I can’t help but have some mixed feelings, since it was religion that guided him to some good goals, but his claims about religion and the bible are still questionable. On balance I can only wish that I could do as much good with my life, because I never will.

The black church is still the center of much black life, and leadership is still drawn from it. Few of our churches are uni-class. We may attend service and be sitting in the same pew with a housemaid or day laborer.

Even those who moved away from Christianity, gathered around other preachers—like Malcolm.

The lesson I learn when I look at the face of young Martin, is that he could have been any black child I see today. One of those black children missing no one pays attention to.  One of those black children murdered by stray gunfire. One of those black children who winds up in the school to prison pipeline. One of those black kids headed off to Sunday school.

I am also reminded (no matter my own non-christian persuasion) that those on the left who deride religion and spiritual faith openly on forums such as these, do little to forge the coalitions we need to move forward.

For many on the left who pride themselves in their openly militant atheism—poor whites and their churches and revival meetings are merely objects of scorn. There is vocal derision of evangelicals, yet one of the most powerful progressive voices we hear today is that of Rev. William Barber, head of the N.C. NAACP, an evangelical pastor.

The fact that you don’t believe is your business. Mocking those that do disses many members of our most solid and stable Democratic Party voting block.

Young Martin’s family was guided by their strong spiritual belief. This is true in many black families.

So when you quote or cite the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. remember young Martin.

Before you post remarks categorizing all people of faith as delusional, remember young Martin.

Before we get swept away in the celebrations to come—look at his young face. Then look at the faces of young black school kids.

Celebrate our children today.

Accept that many are growing up as he did.

Guided by faith.

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.

There’s some irony to be sure — if only religious belief, or the lack thereof, could be simply our business. How hard is it to swap a few words from his speech, after all.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by their belief in god (or lack thereof) but by the content of their character.

Dismissing atheism as simply my business is to dismiss the discrimination that goes on in this country. Whether it’s the latest silly uproar about some nativity display or monument to the Ten Commandments, or the new House rep from Arizona, Kyrsten Sinema, who seems comfortable with being an ‘out’ bisexual but not an ‘out’ skeptic, to the point that she’s officially dodging the question and refusing the label. She knows that skeptics in Congress are damned rare — Pete Stark was the last, and he lost last year — and she knows that label can damage her. The next Republican opponent could well campaign against her on the issue, and probably will in spite of her obfuscation. Here, in Arizona? You bet! I will try to remember this so I can report back next year.

At the same time, comparing the current lot of the American skeptic to the discrimination and outright violence that black folks still suffer to this day diminishes their experience; that dismisses it to some degree, I think. So, it’s tempting to buy into that reconstruction from ‘I Have a Dream,’ but no. It’s not that bad. Not nearly. We may now have a black President while the prospect of having an atheist President in my lifetime seems…ridiculous, impossible. But we’re not prone to being attacked and murdered even now, as the ‘stand your ground’ laws have permitted in Florida, for example. Gun enthusiasts may argue, of course they would argue with that. But, like it or not, successful or not, Floridians have taken that law to mean open season if they feel threatened. As a result of their own racism, for example.

Still. This statement questions my openly militant atheism — which is kind of laughable in itself, ‘openly militant atheism’ — wow, we question nonsensical beliefs and attack religious conservatives who discriminate and legislate and work to punish women, gays, minority groups — that’s what counts for militant these days. I kind of scoff at the very notion of being a militant, like it does not do the word justice. The militant muslim, in Bangladesh, attacks an open ‘militant’ atheist and tries to stab the skeptic to death for the crime of blogging. That’s no joke, but perhaps the comparison is! The militant christian, in America, Scott Roeder, shoots and murders Dr. George Tiller for the crime of performing abortions. Protestants led the KKK. And us joker atheists, damn our hides, we discomfit you. We offend you. Wow. Thin skinned much eh?

And yet my atheism, speaking out against religiously inspired discrimination and suffering and violence, that’s militant and damaging to the coalition. I shouldn’t speak out against evangelicals because some of them are nice people whose religion coincidentally leads them to do good things. Well, you know what? I’ve never spoken out against Rev. William Barber, give it some time and I could probably find something…but I doubt it. I choose my targets with care and they deserve the attention I give them. And if guilt by association is enough to damage our coalition, then perhaps these evangelicals should think twice about those with whom they associate.

Not every skeptic speaks out with discretion, though. I understand that. I agree about the damage some skeptics do, and, hell. On DK I’ve had to help drive off one such fellow and helped get him banned (this diary was one good example of the skeptic going too far). That was truly a bizarre experience, but in the end I let the site rules dictate what to do. However much I would have liked to sympathize with a fellow skeptic, he made it real hard to.

Even I may shoot my mouth off a bit much for the DK community, I guess that’s why I’m writing here and sometimes I refuse to speak my mind there. I seem to have been lucky so far, I’ve only spotted one hide rate on anything I ever wrote, and that one’s just funny. I got dinged in retaliation for attacking someone who used the racist epithet ‘Uncle Tom’. That guy was so in the wrong, I don’t even fret about it.

Ok, finally. On the topic of delusion. I think it’s fair to say at this point that this idea, which I think dates back to 2006 and The God Delusion, is one where Dawkins kinda stepped in it. You can read above about “categorizing all people of faith as delusional”. And I know from experience, over the years since, that most people take it in the psychological meaning…

: the act of deluding: the state of being deluded
a: something that is falsely or delusively believed or propagatedb: a persistent false psychotic belief regarding the self or persons or objects outside the self that is maintained despite indisputable evidence to the contrary; also: the abnormal state marked by such beliefs
Unfortunately the word is associated with mental illness, so that’s how people take it. Guilt by association again, I suppose.

A delusion is a belief held with strong conviction despite superior evidence to the contrary.[1] As a pathology, it is distinct from a belief based on false or incomplete information, confabulation, dogma, illusion, or other effects of perception.

Delusions typically occur in the context of neurological or mental illness, although they are not tied to any particular disease and have been found to occur in the context of many pathological states (both physical and mental). However, they are of particular diagnostic importance in psychotic disorders including schizophrenia, paraphrenia, manic episodes of bipolar disorder, and psychotic depression.

But I have his book, and I’ve read it, and Dawkins pulls out his dictionary and provides for what he meant, “a false belief or impression”. He concurs with a definition that looks much like the first sentence from the Wiki article. However, he also quotes Robert Pirsig from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: “When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called Religion.”

It’s hard for me to argue against that point. Hard for anyone, I would say. And so the last recourse is simply to find it offensive. Cases like Martin Luther King Jr. serve as examples of religion being put to good use. And yet, he was a Baptist; and the Baptists, I find, have a checkered past in this country.

Slavery in the 19th century became the most critical moral issue dividing Baptists in the United States. Struggling to gain a foothold in the South, after the American Revolution, the next generation of Baptist preachers accommodated themselves to the leadership of southern society. Rather than challenging the gentry on slavery and urging manumission (as did the Quakers and Methodists), they began to interpret the Bible as supporting the practice of slavery and encouraged good paternalistic practices by slaveholders. They preached to slaves to accept their places and obey their masters. In the two decades after the Revolution during the Second Great Awakening, Baptist preachers abandoned their pleas that slaves be manumitted.[18]

Religion might seem like an utterly beneficent influence in the context of MLK, but it’s not hard to look a little further back — or forward — and find it problematic instead. It’s interesting to consider the matter of interpretation that took place amongst Baptists trying to spread into the South. A hell of a thing to do, actually. Rather than stand on principle, they abandoned that principle, reinterpreted, and grew popular; and the bible, their holy book, has enough contradictions in it regarding slavery that they could actually do it. For every instance of abolitionist rhetoric

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

…there is another to support the institution of slavery

Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ;

Now, I would bet that Martin Luther King Jr. gave this some thought. And at least his Baptist religion at that point in history had learned from that mistake. Religion can have a good influence on society. Those who are guided by faith may turn out well. But this is not inevitable. Being guided by faith does not always result in good outcomes. At best, it is a guess, a shot in the dark — that is the essence of faith, after all, as even MLK’s quote above explains. Faith is no guarantee of good results. Good intentions, perhaps. Yes, well. The religious have a saying about that, too.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

I reserve my worst mockery not for beliefs, but the horrible actions they inspire. We are entitled to believe what we want, but acting on it, that’s different, as religious users of peyote in this country have learned on occasion. Again — if this guilt by association offends, I suggest the believer reconsider that association. If it is bothersome to be catholic while the RCC covers up the scandal of pedophilia, if conservative evangelicals seek to pass laws to punish women for having sex, if right-wing religious nuts effectively murder their children by forbidding them simple modern medicines and choose prayer instead — the problem is not the believer’s offended sensibilities!

What’s the difference, anyway, between the likes of MLK and the case of Kara Neumann, who died of undiagnosed diabetes when her parents refused to seek medical help and chose prayer instead? In both cases we see people guided by faith. But one of them led to convictions of second-degree reckless homicide.

For my part, I will continue to choose my targets with care and criticize bad actions over mere beliefs, even if the beliefs are often disgusting. Eternal suffering in hell, for example. But I’ll try to be careful and focus on the real world and the consequences of religious beliefs. Hopefully, in return, those who are guided by faith will take it under advisement how little difference there is between them and the Neumanns.


Capping off a decent week

November 30, 2012

Much like the Friendly Atheist (where I first saw this) the mention of the Templeton Foundation makes me grimace. They’re well known in skeptical circles for blurring the lines between faith and science with as much punditry and offerings of cash as they can manage. Their mission as described on Wikipedia is

The mission of the Foundation is:

[to serve] as a philanthropic catalyst for discoveries relating to the Big Questions of human purpose and ultimate reality. We support research on subjects ranging from complexity, evolution, and infinity to creativity, forgiveness, love, and free will. We encourage civil, informed dialogue among scientists, philosophers, and theologians and between such experts and the public at large, for the purposes of definitional clarity and new insights. Our vision is derived from the late Sir John Templeton’s optimism about the possibility of acquiring “new spiritual information” and from his commitment to rigorous scientific research and related scholarship. The Foundation’s motto, “How little we know, how eager to learn,” exemplifies our support for open-minded inquiry and our hope for advancing human progress through breakthrough discoveries.[1]

Knowing that theologians have damned little of import to say to scientists, it’s clear to me at least that this organization is mostly a waste of time, and observation of its work product bears that out – most notably the Templeton Prize, a nice chunk o’ change. When they’re not handing prizes to the priestly class (who can beg for money on their own by writing useless books) they’re shopping for scientists willing to harbor a little cognitive dissonance for pay, like Francisco Ayala, who won their prize in 2010 as “a living person who has made exceptional contributions to affirming life’s spiritual dimension” and whose book Darwin’s Gift related the theory of evolution as a theodicy, or a solution to the believer’s problem of evil.

I haven’t read that explanation but I bet it would be a laugher. I have not yet found a good answer to that problem of evil. It remains a personal favorite.

This video however, where Neil deGrasse Tyson answers the Templetons’ question “does the universe have a purpose?” ended much better than…well, some philosophical drek from Ayala, I suppose. I thought it was worth listening to. The animation put to Tyson’s answer makes it worth watching, too. Amusing, if for nothing else than what the bacteria in our gut might think our purpose is. (More poop!)



Phony-catholic outrage week!

April 20, 2012

Rawr. Ok, after watching this story brew all week, and trying (and failing) to post something relevant about it that hadn’t already been done, I put out a diary today on DKos about the Peoria bishop who compared Obama to Hitler.

Although I expect it to go nowhere, Americans United for Separation of Church and State has filed a formal complaint with the IRS about the sermon on the entirely reasonable grounds that it violated the church’s tax-exempt status to engage in such overt political advocacy. And the rule does include speaking out in opposition to a candidate, so it’s not as if they had to endorse Romney to violate the rule.

But let’s face it, in a two-party system, saying ‘don’t vote for this guy’ is equivalent to ‘vote for the other guy’.

Obama being the centrist uniter type though, I expect he’ll get the IRS to either do nothing or do it so slowly, quietly and ineffectually that it may as well be pointless. I just don’t see him taking on the conservative clergy in the RCC, even if it seems like he should. It’s not like all catholics blindly obey these jerks in funny hats and everything they say to do.

Even if it is the good fight, though, he’s probably better off letting organizations like the AU do battle with the right wing churchfolk. Someone has to do it, though.

P.S. ‘phony catholic’ is in reference to these right wing blowhards who wouldn’t know from Jesus if he showed up in front of them. It’s a shame that the bible is so easy to twist to serve conservative interests, but you know what they say…the poor you will always have with you.

Quick edit: this one might get read, someone changed it to ‘Recommended’ on DKos. The latest episode in the continuing saga of I have no idea how diaries make the Rec List.


In which the Daily Show and I slightly disagree

August 5, 2011

Today I had time to explore the topic of discrimination against atheists, in the context of a recent Daily Show segment. The resultant exploration is up on DKos now. I expect people will tell me not to take it too seriously, which is why I made a point to mention that I already don’t…I doubt it will help, though. Jon Stewart is Gawd!

It was still a funny show, though. I just wish I could treat hatred against skeptics as only a joke. It is all too real. And I laugh anyway, because it’s either laugh or cry sometimes.


The shiny, candy-like button!

December 29, 2010

Will she hold out? Can she hold out? This was the thought rattling around my brain-pan while reading this opinion piece by one Sarah Elizabeth or “S.E.” Cupp, ex-atheist in training. Well, that last part is pure speculation. But given her conservative political leanings, I have to wonder how far she can parlay her atheist street cred before the diabolical urge to go religious — like everyone who signs her paychecks — takes over.

I was originally going to write her an email about this, since the address is left on the article, but that’ll just get ignored or worse. This way is more fun. So I will copy what I had planned to write to her here instead. That way, someone might actually read it. heh.

I read with interest your recent opinion piece exhorting the ‘new atheists’ to embrace humility and stop with the insults, snark and condescension…while applying said insults, snark and condescension quite liberally. I hope it isn’t too snarky of me, but I found that rather amusing. Especially the mention of “more than 95% of the world finds some meaning in faith”, as if what is true were a popularity contest.

You mention having gone back to school to study religious beliefs you say you know little about. Have you learned anything interesting about them? Is it a ‘spiritual’ quest? Is that what it means to be on a ‘spiritual’ quest? Have you learned answers about questions like ‘is there more to life than this?’ Or have you shared my experience in that regard, and learned about the statements of faith offered in lieu of answers?

It seems odd to me that while you cite such apparently condescending statements as “Religion is my bitch.” or “Yes it is a myth. Deal with it. All delusions are myths.” …only to conclude from these that the rejections are not of faith itself but rejection of its adherents. Where is that to be found precisely? I see attacks on religion. On myths. On delusions. Are you reading something into these statements? If so, are you sure it’s even there? Or is an attack on religion equivalent to attacking a religious person? Since when were ideas given a free pass? The bible does not cry when I bash it, any more than it would cry when a fundamentalist believer thumps it.

I think this idea that ‘new atheists’ are willfully ignorant of some important truth is wrong on two counts: the data suggests that they are not willfully ignorant of religion; and no important truths from it have been demonstrated. Did you miss this Pew poll from a few months back perhaps? Why should atheists and agnostics score highly on religious knowledge tests if they are as ignorant as you claim? What don’t they know? Or is it just that they don’t treat it as important or special?

Finally, as you are a lifelong atheist, I’d like to know what you would say to the genocide survivor you cite, Immaculee Ilibagiza. Would you tell her that her faith in Jesus makes the religion true? Have you converted yet? If not, why not? Do you find it untrue? Delusional? Just don’t want to say?

Or perhaps you’d have enough tact to leave it alone, if said faith isn’t brandished as a rhetorical club. It seems a bit sad that you would use it in such a way, while she apparently hasn’t. Yet.

I always find hypocrisy amusing to point out in the process of busting an argument down to its component atoms, and S.E. Cupp’s article is rife with it. What is the point exactly of attacking snark as bad…with snark? If snark is bad, yours is too! And if yours is not bad, then what’s wrong with theirs?

I also figure I would toss in a term like ‘liberal’ just to make a conservative squirm when it applies to them. Malice aforethought, I has it.

The Pew poll dates back to September, first spotted through Pharyngula as PZ Myers gleefully bashes the ‘know-nothing atheist’ straw man with it. Reality, it is a real slap to the face sometimes for the credulous.

But the genocide survivor is an interesting case, and were it not for this conservative using it like a club on me, I really would be curious to know Cupp’s answers about that.

In the end, if she is still an atheist, she must think the poor victim is…wrong! People find ways to cope with adversity, religion beats the ‘deal with it’ of atheism if you can get past the nonsense of it…I can’t blame the woman for hoping for ultimate meaning and justice when the world certainly isn’t offering any. But there is a certain justice to the grave, to the heat death of the universe, to oblivion.

Of course, religion’s offer of deferred justice, meaning, pleasure, what have you, contains something of a trap, which is why I am wary of it. How else could you get religious nutbags to fly planes into buildings? The promise of heaven is balm for the suffering, true; but it is also a means to make people suffer, too. To ruin this life or flat-out discard it in the vain hope for a better afterlife. And since this life seems to be all we have, I count this among the most outrageous ideas perpetrated by religion. How dare they con people into throwing away the one life we do have for some pipe-dream?

Anyway, the opinion writer is of course just hawking a book anyway, so who gives a damn. I suppose I do, in a way.

So, ex-atheist in training, that’s what I figure. Religion is the history eraser button. The beautiful, shiny button. The jolly, candy-like button. She already admits to possessing ‘Judeo-Christian values’ and admiring the Ten Commandments. She already admits to the strong atheistic foundation of drunken benders in college talking about Nietzsche. Somehow, I don’t think the leap of faith is going to be that much of a jump for Ms. Cupp.

Oh, sorry. There I go again with the snark.


Cries of censorship

August 7, 2010

One of the phenomena I observe frequently in the skeptical community is the believer’s outcry over perceived censorship. Whether it’s creationist trolls being banned or suspended for rule-breaking, or creationist ‘intelligent design theorists’ pushing their religion into science classes in schools, they scream the loudest when society takes action to shut them up, shut them out.

At the same time, it’s interesting to consider just what they’re doing, what they’re trying to defend from so-called censorship. Creationism. Intelligent design — creationism in science’s clothing. Arguments based on quote mining, plagiarism, debunked claims and outright lies.

I recently had the experience of changing my mind on an issue based on new evidence; I shifted my position re: late-term abortions from the subject of fetal pain & suffering to viability, based on evidence that a developing baby doesn’t have the equipment to suffer until some time after birth. Of course, one might well argue that ‘aborting’ babies a few months old might be ok, but no one does that; society places value on a viable organism. So I changed my mind about the pain issue.

This is something we never see in the believer. You can demonstrate that their sources are wrong, and/or quotemines, and/or blatant lies. And it never seems to matter. The facts just…bounce off the person. They go right on arguing for their preferred god-concept. They show no remorse over the awful sources they’ve cited. They show no changed mind from new evidence debunking their positions. They cling to them, instead.

Funny how most of them seem to have rules against lying, and yet clearly show no particular concern when caught doing so. It’s hard to prove someone is lying. Hard to show a habitual liar. But not hard to demonstrate a lie. They could always be ignorant of it, as I was. My information was superseded by more current information. But who clings to the old, debunked position? Who doesn’t show some remorse over posting a bad source, or at least the willingness to adjust to better information? Who? The creationist.

From this, it seems reasonable to infer that creationists willingly and remorselessly post bad, deceptive, false arguments. They show, at least, that they’re not interested in truth. And so the cries of censorship can properly be seen as a defense for access. They just want to be able to continue spouting lies, to continue preaching, to continue to invade science classes and poison them with religious nonsense. It’s enough of a trope that it has a nickname — Liars for Jesus.

They’re not afraid to spew lies in support of their religion; the skeptic should not be afraid to call a spade a spade, and to remove the disingenuous believer’s access — their ability to spew those lies. Freedom of speech they do possess, at least in this country, but not freedom of access. Let them make their own way into the public square if they just want to lie and preach.