Sunday, December 29, 2013

Why does it matter?

Someone posted a chain letter into my timeline today. It's one that has been going around forever, a speech variously attributed to the Dalai Lama, an anonymous Columbine student, George Carlin, and various others. Scrolling through the comments, I saw that a few commentators had taken the five seconds to find out that this speech had not, in fact, been written by George Carlin, and said as much. Sadly, the overwhelming response was, "Why does it matter who wrote it? It's a great message!" This kind of credulity makes me want to tear my hair out, so I decided to share with you my response about why it matters:
"Why does it matter who wrote it? It's the message that counts!"
I'll tell you why. I'll tell you the same reason that George Carlin himself would have told you: because just swallowing stuff because it's wrapped in a sweet turn of phrase without examining it and really thinking about it makes us sheep and is detrimental to society. If you don't use your brain to filter what you accept as truth, you may as well not have a brain.
This phenomenon is a scourge of our time. The Internet makes the dissemination of information so easy, which is a wonderful thing. But it makes the dissemination of misinformation and disinformation just as easy, and that can be lethal.
The ubiquity of media and the ease of communication by any and all makes it more important than at any time past that we think critically, filter scrupulously, check sources vigorously, and pause for a minute before we hit that 'forward' or 'share' button. Failing to do so leaves us open to every slick con man, every polished politican, and every silver - tongued televangelist that comes along. Your credulity is the oxygen for their fire, a fire that will consume your money, your time, and even your freedom.
Yes, it's just a stupid chain letter. But how people react to it, and what they do with it, couldn't be more important. It matters.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Help, help, we're being repressed!

Yep, there are some deeply held religious beliefs that a good Christian just can't express in public anymore.

It's true. You just can't go around telling people that
homosexuals, and people who don't subscribe to your religion, are sinners who are going to suffer an eternity of torture in Hell without getting dirty looks, or possibly even getting fired -- even though the Bible totally tells you that that's what's going to happen! Oh, the slings and arrows. How many indignities must one Bible-clutching bigot suffer? One thing the religious have learned very effectively from the left is victimhood. They've gone from the "Silent Majority" to the terribly persecuted majority. That's some trick.

The author of the blog post above doesn't mention it, but I'm sure she also laments the fact that modern society frowns upon slavery, too, even though the Bible clearly expects us to keep slaves. This cruel, Christian-bashing society prohibits many Biblically sanctioned practices, such as the stoning to death of defiant children, adulterers, homosexuals, non-virginal newlywed women, and people who work on the Sabbath. A good Christian can't even smite non-believers and practitioners of different faiths -- along with the entire city they reside in, including every man, woman, child and animal -- with the tip of their sword without raising eyebrows. What is this country coming to?

You can't express some of your beliefs openly without backlash? Well join the fucking club.
For millennia, expressing non-belief would get you killed in almost any part of the world, and still will in many. In great swathes of the United States, being an atheist will also make you a pariah in your community. This is why Rebecca Vitsmun, the Moore, Oklahoma tornado survivor who blurted out to Wolf Blitzer that she was an atheist, was terrified that she had alienated herself from her family and basically ended her life in the community as she knew it.

According to a 2006 study by the University of Minnesota, atheists are the most disapproved of group in America, even more than Muslims. A whopping 47.6% of the 2,000 respondents said that they would disapprove of their child marrying an atheist, whereas only 33.5% would disapprove of their child marrying a Muslim. Every other minority group fared better than the dreaded non-believer.

Though some public figures like Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and Sam Harris have made atheism more visible in recent years, and atheists have begun to bond together in mutually supportive online communities, those perceptions have not improved. In a 2011 joint study by the University of British Columbia and the University of Oregon, atheists are distrusted even more than rapists.

Non-belief is also a near-perfect barrier to holding public office. While a 2012 Gallup poll showed that a slight majority of respondents said they would vote for a "well qualified" atheist for president (58%), that number lagged far behind any other minority group. Though "nones" -- those who claim no religious affiliation (though are not necessarily atheist) -- number upwards of 20% of the US population, there is exactly one member of Congress who professes non-belief, Nebraska representative Ernie Chambers, an independent. The only other known atheist, California's Pete Stark, left in 2012. Massachusetts Democratic Representative Barney Frank, who came out as the first openly gay congressman back in 1987, hid his secular beliefs until he left office:
A few months after retiring, former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) also announced his nonbeliever status, a declaration he made more than 25 years after coming out as the first openly gay member of Congress.
That Frank felt more comfortable going public with his sexuality in 1987 than he did with his secular beliefs at any point during his House career says a lot about the stigma surrounding atheism in electoral politics. In 2011, Herb Silverman of the Secular Coalition of America told the Guardian that his group was aware of 27 members of Congress other than Stark "that have no belief in God." It's unclear who they were, or are, but none of them -- perhaps except Frank -- have since decided to speak out.
Such is the disdain for those who claim no allegiance to a deity that charitable organizations will even reject donations of money, time, and supplies from atheist groups.
Islamists are murdering Christians left and right in the Middle East and Africa, but it's a Louisiana duck hunter being suspended from a TV network that is the big threat to your religious freedom. It's atheists and their stubborn insistence that religion be kept separate from the state and the courts that is practically relegating Christians to the back of the bus. Yeah, tell me another one.

Friday, December 20, 2013

What's good for the goose...

After a few vodka and cranberry juice cocktails, I had a thought about this whole Duck Dynasty flap:

Alec Baldwin got fired from MSNBC for yelling "cocksucking fag!" at a paparazzo photographer on the street who was trying to shove a camera in his face, and that of Baldwin's wife and son. He immediately apologized.

I didn't see legions of people screaming about his right to 'free speech' and denouncing MSNBC for firing him.

Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson made some less crude, but equally noxious, comments about homosexuality within the confines of a nice, pleasant interview, and he clearly stands by them. A&E suspended -- not fired -- him, and suddenly everyone is up in arms.

So, Alec Baldwin has an angry utterance on the street with someone clearly attempting to breach his privacy, and for which he immediately apologized and backpedaled, and not a word form conservative media about his 'free speech'; no comment except mockery. Phil Robertson makes derogatory comments about homosexuals that he clearly stands behind, even defends in the name of his religious belief, and to listen to conservative media, you'd think Robertson was Josef K in Kafka's "The Trial."

Look, I'm not defending Alec Baldwin. I disagree with pretty much every syllable that comes out of his mouth, and I think he is a first class dickhole. But fair is fair here, folks. If you're horribly aggrieved by Phil Robertson's treatment by A&E, but not bothered in the least by MSNBC's treatment of Alec Baldwin, then you need to shut your hypocritical pie hole.