A little progress in civil rights has been made

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So unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few months, you’ve heard about the United States Supreme Court overturning DOMA, or the defense of marriage act. For those who don’t know, DOMA was a law that defined a marriage as the legal union between a man and a woman. It denied same sex couples the legal rights that come with marriage, such as being able to file a single tax return, social security benefits, the ability to add a spouse to insurance policies, and end of life rights. What this means for same sex couples is the right to all of these benefits since all legal same sex marriages are now recognized by federal law.

This silver lining does have a cloud though. By the new legal standard, same sex marriages that are recognized as legal get the same benefits as opposite sex marriages. Unfortunately, many states do not recognize or outright ban same sex unions. This decision would not give the federal benefits previously denied to same sex couples by DOMA if they live in states that do not recognize the legality of same sex marriage.

This issue should be the next battle in the civil rights of the LGBT community. With the Supreme Court recognizing the legal rights of same sex marriages, there is now a legal president for the rest of the United States to follow suit and make this country one where any two people can get married without opposition from the law.

Go to google and put LGBT in the search bar.  It's pretty cool what they did to honor the community.

Go to google and put LGBT in the search bar. It’s pretty cool what they did to honor the community.

I Do Not Believe in Evil

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First of all, to anyone who is still following me, I’m sorry that I haven’t been all that active in the last few months. ¬†I’ve been going though a change in career, poor internet connection due to the area I live in, and a few changes in my personal life. But I should be back to my semi-regular schedule. ūüôā

Now, on to the subject of this post. ¬† I have been keeping up with the responses to my post about hydrogen peroxide therapy and I noticed a pattern in the responses. ¬†This pattern is that there is some organization that is trying to keep the common populace from having a cure because it interferes with their plans to profit from the suffering of others. ¬†In fact, that general pattern seems to be pretty common in the media these days. ¬†People are constantly talking about how “evil” organizations are out to get us or harm us. ¬†And this got me thinking about the idea of evil.

To begin, this is the dictionary definition of the word evil:

a : morally reprehensible : sinful, wicked <an evil impulse>

b : arising from actual or imputed bad character or conduct <a person of evil reputation>
a: archaic , inferior
b : causing discomfort or repulsion : offensive <an evil odor>
c : disagreeable <woke late and in an evil temper>
a : causing harm : pernicious <the evil institution of slavery>
b : marked by misfortune : unlucky

These definitions of the term evil paint a pretty clear picture.  Evil is against morality, a cause of suffering, and a repulsive thing to be avoided.  But I want to point something out here.  Evil tends to be portrayed as these traits as enacted by a willing participant, with one exception in the example above.

My real issue with the term comes not from the dictionary definition, but from the colloquial use of the word.  When most people use the word evil, they mean a person or act that is destructive or antagonistic with little to no regard for the well being of others.  Evil people actively try to harm others without meaning or remorse.  When I hear people talk about evil, it often conjures up the imagery of fictionalized bad guys.  The key word in that last sentence is the word fictionalized.

Some men just want to watch the world burn.

Some men just want to watch the world burn.

Throughout history, people have used stories to make sense of the world around them. ¬†Now, since we’re a social species, the anti-social acts of a select few have confused us ever since our society started. ¬†One way that we humans have tried to make sense of the destructive and hurtful acts of others is to create the idea of evil. ¬†Historically, evil has been the excuse for people who do things that hurt others. ¬†This depiction of evil is often associated with individuals who have no “heart” or “soul.” ¬†When people use this definition of evil, they paint a picture of the people or groups that they describe as being without a sense of morality. ¬†This can easily damage our perceptions of the people around us.

This is here because the devil is a classic depiction of evil, and I love the Diablo games.

This is here because the devil is a classic depiction of evil, and I love the Diablo games.

I believe that the vast majority of people do not do anything with the active intent of only harming people.  I believe that when you look into the intent of people, they have an interest in heart that can be understood.  The CEO that steals from their company was doing it because they wanted their family to live in luxury.  The politician who voted against additional funding for schools may have been convinced by uninformed voters that the bill was going to prevent private schools from teaching the religion that they are a member of.  While we may not agree with the actions of the people around us, I believe that we need to look into the reasons behind those actions.  If those actions are based in greed or hate or any other worldview that does more harm than good, then we should be able to oppose them.  However, if there is a logic to the actions that we do not agree with, then we need to be able to learn about that logic and understand it if we ever want to progress as a society.

Of Chicken Sandwiches and Gay Marriage

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Alright, I wasn’t going to write about this topic since it seemed pretty open and shut to me. But I can’t get on facebook, listen to NPR, or even spend time with friends without hearing about the incident with Chick-Fil-A. So here’s what happened for those who may not know.

Chick-Fil-A is a fast food chain that specilizes in chicken sandwiches as opposed to burgers. The founder and CEO of the company has stated many times that he uses christian values in the founding of the company, which is why the restaurants are closed on Sundays.

Recently, there has been a surge in the media in regards to the religious views of the company’s management due to their support of “pro-family” organizations, and the death of one of the management team.

Naturally, the company’s religious, anti-gay, views have angered many people who support the rights of gay people to get married. This anger has reached a boiling point however, with politicians swearing to prevent Chick-Fil-A restaurants from being built in the cities they govern. This has naturally angered the conservative right, who support the company’s pro-family views.

In my mind, this issue is actually very simple. I do not agree with the religious views of the company’s president, but he has every right to hold those views. At the same time, people who do not agree with the positions of the company have every right to refuse to buy their product.

Now the movements to ban the restaurants from building new franchises is unconstitutional. The company was founded on christian values, but they do not discriminate in their hiring or service policies. A gay man can get a job at these restaurants and would not be fired for their sexual orientation. Therefor, the banning of these restaurants would violate the first amendment rights of the owner.

I hope that this controversy dies down soon, and that the president of Chick-Fil-A will be able to build his franchise wherever he wants to without legal trouble, despite my disagreement with his viewpoint on marriage.

But what do you think? Do you agree or disagree with the attempts to legally ban this chain in major cities? Do you agree or disagree with Dan Cathy’s views on marriage? Leave a comment and let me know.

[edit]  I now love the Jim Henson Company more than I ever thought possible. I just learned that they severed their promotional deal with Chick-Fil-A and are donating the last check they got from Chick-Fil-A to a pro-gay rights group.  It may not be easy being green, but I love you for it.

A Look at Misogyny in The Skeptic Community

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Alright, so there has been a lot of talk about sexism in the atheist/skeptic community lately. Most of this has taken place online and at skeptic conferences. Before I go into my opinions about this issue, I feel like I should give you a brief history about how this controversy started.

About a year ago, a prominent atheist blogger, Rebecca Watson, posted a video about her experience at a conference in Dublin. She talked about how she was drinking with some friends until 4 A.M. She left the bar and took the elevator to her room with a man who asked her if she would like to come to his room for “coffee.”

Rebecca Watson said that this event made her feel uncomfortable and sexualised. She said that the issue of sexism in the atheist/skeptic community needed to be addressed in light of this incident.

Several bloggers in the community addressed Rebecca’s position as an overreaction. They said that while the man in the elevator didn’t have the best judgment, Rebecca overreacted to the incident and that sexism in the atheist community was not as big an issue as she made it out to be.

Rebecca then called out one of these bloggers during a keynote speech she gave at another conference. This triggered more debate online, which drew in the attention of the bigger players of the community such as P.Z. Myers and Richard Dawkins. Myers agreed with Rebecca, while Dawkins pointed out that sexism in other parts of the world was far worse than the incident that Rebecca experienced.

This controversy caught the attention of many others in the community, including youtubers, The Amazing Atheist and Thunderf00t. The Amazing Atheist talked about the stupidity of the entire debate, while Thunderf00t brought up the over-exaggeration of sexism in the community.

Now I will give my opinion on these events. I would like to note that I do not hold any of these ideas in stone and am willing to debate and discuss these opinions with anyone who is willing to debate rationally.

First off, I am in the camp that says that Rebecca overreacted to the event. ¬†I do feel like the man in the elevator was an idiot for hitting on her in an elevator, where she couldn’t walk away easily. ¬†But, this man didn’t seem to push the subject, so I feel the subject could have ended at that moment. ¬†I also think that Rebecca should have taken the high road when bringing up the issue. ¬†This seems to be a simple case of social stupidity that could have been¬†addressed¬†as such in Rebecca’s videos and speeches.

Now in regards to the negative attention that Rebecca has received in light of this incident, I am sickened that people would mock her with threats of violence and rape.  That behavior is unacceptable in a civilized society.  However, in the internet culture, that behavior is relatively common these days; I myself have received a few threats of rape for my post about sexism in the GOP.  If these threats seem genuine, if the person making them gives personal information that shows serious intent, then they should be dealt with by contacting the proper authorities.  But, Rebecca addresses these as all being genuine to further an agenda.  I think that a little bit of common sense would show that there are other issues and causes to the behavior of these internet trolls.

Now when it comes to the opinions of other bloggers such the The Amazing Atheist and Thunderf00t,  I think that everyone is entitled to their opinion.  I also believe that opinion should never have any effect on policy or action when it comes to social issues.  Logic and reason must overcome opinions and feelings when it comes to issues like this.  And on that note, I wish to address a small but important issue that has recently arose from this debate.

P.Z. Myers has a blog called Freethought Blogs.  He recently banned Thunderf00t from this blog for rationally discussing this issue on Freethought Blogs.  Now while I understand that having a new voice come into a debate and criticizing a strongly held view can be upsetting, P.Z. Myers sunk to the level of an ignorant bigot in banning Thunderf00t through strawman arguments and gut reactions.  If issues like sexism are ever going to be worked out and solved, it is going to be thought rational debate and logical arguments.  Not knee-jerk reactions and emotional outpouring.  I am ashamed to call myself a future teacher if people like P.Z. Myers can hold the same title that I will soon hold.

In the end, I think that the issue of sexism in the skeptic community is something to be looked at so that people of all genders, creeds, sexuality, and races can be welcome.  But I feel like this issue has polarized the community, turning free thinking individuals into pluralized mobs that only react on empty emotion.

But what do you think? ¬†Am I right, wrong, or neither. ¬†Is sexism a rampent problem in the atheist/skeptic community? ¬†Leave a comment and I’ll be sure to join in on the debate.

Some Friendly Advice for the Human Species…

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The War on Women… The Movement to To Deny Women of Their Reproductive Rights

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Alright, if you’ve been watching the news at all, you know about the recent attacks from the conservative right against women. These range from the Catholic Church’s refusal to have women’s controseptives paid for by insurance they provide, to the scare tactic of forcing women to get transvaginal untrasounds before getting an abortion, and a paticulary nasty piece of legislation that proposed to make it illegal to remove a dead fetus from a woman’s womb regardless of the cause of death for the fetus.

In my personal opinion, this current wave of misogyny from the right wing makes me embarrassed to be both an american and a human to a lesser extent. Now despite the fact that these proposed laws would have a religious base to them, which violates the constitution, the GOP is rallying around this cause to deny women their reproductive rights. What I want to explore in this article is the possible reasoning behind these attacks and the possible ways that this problem can be dealt with.

I’d like to start by putting together a general idea of what the far right is trying to do. ¬†I will also expand upon the conclusions that I come to in order to get a hypothetical “big picture” of this trend.

All right, let’s start with the basics. ¬†The GOP has two clear objectives in their recent campaign involving reproduction. ¬†The first is to make abortion illegal. ¬†The other objective is to limit the sale of birth control by preventing government health care from covering it. ¬†Now why are these two things so¬†important¬†to the GOP? ¬†Well, in my opinion, these objectives lead to the ultimate goal of¬†controlling¬†the reproductive rights of women in the United States. ¬†I base this¬†opinion on the fact that men’s reproductive healthcare is defended by these people when it is brought up in the debates. ¬†Members of the GOP say that the use of drugs like Viagra and Cialis serve greater purposes than erectile dysfunction, while birth control pills for women only serve to prevent pregnancy.

As a little aside, I would like to say that the statement about the lack of benefits from the use of women’s birth control is¬†completely¬†false. ¬†It has been proven time and time again that the use of hormonal birth control helps regulate hormone levels, prevents cervical cancer, and regulates the¬†menstrual¬†cycle among many other things.

This is the great evil that will bring down our society?

So, back to my original point.  It seems pretty obvious that the GOP is trying to deny women their reproductive rights while supporting the reproductive rights of men.  This is extremely sexist, attempting to take away rights that women have fought so hard to earn.  But, what is driving them to do this?

In this study, scientists have found that our closest genetic relatives, chimps and bonobos, share social behaviors of humans. ¬†The article says that chimps are hardwired to settle disputes and¬†disagreements with acts of aggression. ¬†Bonobos on the other hand settle these disputes with play or sex. ¬†What’s interesting about this discovery is that we humans show both of these behavior traits. ¬†The common theory is that humans, chimps, and bonobos have taken the social traits of our common ancestor. ¬†Chimps and bonobos went to the extremes of the social traits while we humans kept the mix of the two. ¬†This is being used as an¬†explanation¬†for¬†conservative¬†and liberal values.

But how does this explain the recent behavior of the GOP? ¬†Well to explain this, we should look at a paper published by Craig Stanford. ¬†This paper talks about the differences in the social behavior of chimps and bonobos. ¬†What I’m interested in is a paticular passage about the role of females in chimp societies. ¬†The paper states that both of these definitions of chimp society are correct,

“A. Chimpanzee society is characterized by male control and dominance over females and by male aggression and sexual coercion directed at females. Male territoriality and patrolling exclude extracommunity males¬†and acquire new females for male reproductive beneÔ¨Āts. ¬†Females are essentially reproductive commodities over¬†which males compete.¬†

B. Chimpanzee society is characterized by actively¬†mate-soliciting females that incite male competition¬†during their periovulatory period and that with their infants form the nuclear units of the social system. ¬†Females forage solitarily to optimize food intake in fruit¬†patches and become more social when it suits their reproductive tactics. Males may appear to dictate mating¬†efforts, but the promiscuous, mate-soliciting female is¬†the driving force in the mating system of the species.”

When I read this, the first thing that came to mind were “the good old days.” ¬†What I mean by that is the times just before the women’s rights movement. ¬†In those days there was an interesting trend when it came to the rights of women. ¬†In those days, men¬†controlled the lives of women with one loophole. ¬†Men could not marry women or have sex with them unless they “courted” women to “win their favor.” ¬†This seems to match the passage I quoted, men¬†controlled¬†the reproductive rights of women, but women chose their mates.¬†This seems to be the world that the GOP want to restore. ¬†They seem to want a world where men are in control of the reproductive rights of women.

So we’ve determined that the far-right of the U.S. seems to be showing their connection to chimps by trying to control the reproductive rights of women in this country. ¬†This is known as the Authoritarian personality. ¬†So the question remains, how can this attack be stopped?

Well, the problem is that these tendencies are usually hardwired to some extent. ¬†It doesn’t help that modern religions tent to¬†reinforce the authoritarian ¬†mindset. ¬†But there is still some hope. ¬†Authoritarian personality has been shown to diminish in the population during times of economic stability. ¬†This shows us that the mindset that focuses on out-group discrimination and sexism is lessened when the environment is stable. ¬†So it isn’t that much of a stretch to say that the recent attack on women is, in part, due to the current instability of the country’s economy. ¬†It should also be noted that all people have authoritarian tendencies, no one can say that they never had a¬†raciest¬†or sexist though at some point in their lives. ¬†What we need to do is oppose these attempts at the re-subjugation of women, and educate the public in regards to the authoritarian personality.

When the economy stabilizes, the far-right will hopefully mellow out.  At this point, the general population needs to learn about the authoritarian personality.  If the damage that these ideas can cause is shown to the next generation, then hopefully more people will learn to recognize these tendencies within themselves and be able to know what they are so they can not act on them.  But I want to know what you think.  Have I over simplified this issue, or am I reading too much into it?  Did I leave something important out?  Do you have any other ideas that could help reduce sexism in our culture?  And if you are not American, then do you have a perspective as an outsider to this particular issue?  Let me know what you think.

Peter Popoff is still around?

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So I was watching some tv a few nights ago and the channel I was watching switched over to infomercials. Now I normally switch to something else when that happens, but this particular infomercial was interesting to me. It wasn’t a knife that can cut tomatoes or an oven that I can set and forget, it was a miracle substance that could improve my quality of life. Peter Popoff’s miracle spring water.

Now for those who don’t know who Peter Popoff is, he’s a televangelist preacher and a horrible con artist. James Randi was able to figure out that he uses an earpiece to get information from his wife and plants in the audience so that he could “get information from God” about audience members. This alone is a hell of a con, but it gets better. His more famous scheme was the miracle manna loaf. This was supposedly a recipe for bread taken from Ezekiel 4:9. Now excluding the fact that the bread mentioned in this passage is supposed to be cooked in public over a fire made from human waste, this manna loaf was supposed to give you money when you ate it. Now all of his past schemes have run their course, and Popoff is generally seen as the slimy con artist that he is. At least that’s what I though.

It seems that old Popoff can’t leave well enough alone, or get legitimate work for that matter. His latest scheme is miracle water that will, surprise surprise, bring money into your life. Now I will give old Popoff one point. At least he isn’t linking this water to a passage in the bible that he clearly didn’t read. So people can’t use the bible to discredit this one, it’s entirely based on faith and testimonials. That being said, he’s still a terrible person and I’m a little surprised that he’s still doing this crap to people even after so many public thrashings when he comes up with a new scam. Well I’m doing my part to expose this one, if anyone is reading this please spread the word about this scam. And if you know anyone who is thinking of using this, then let them know about Peter Popoff and that he is nothing more than a con man. ¬†It sickens me that the people who testify to this have been taken off of medications and become reliant on luck when they could be getting real help for their problems.

If you want to see what I’m talking about, here’s what I saw:

I love how it’s now in a larger size. ¬†It sounds like a those Burger King¬†commercials¬†about their new thicker fries.

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