Monday, July 30, 2012

Love, Choice, Hell

A Christian friend of mine posted a link on his facebook today that I felt the need to respond to. The linked page is from an apologetics website called  Fire of Thy Love. The article is a response to this atheist image:

Now, the Christian redefinition of "love" is something that tends to hit me hard because it uses a perfectly noble and powerful emotion that people yearn for and uses it to cloak some of the most disgusting aspects of the Christian religion. The response to criticisms of god's "love" and its compatibility with hell usually has to do with god-given free will. To quote the linked article:

"God loves us. God wants us to love Him as well and offers us the means to do so.  The Catechism says of Hell, To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice (1033.)  God, then, does not “punish” us for choosing to not love Him, but simply allows us the choice.  The pain of being without God comes from the emptiness that one has chosen, not from an action of that God.  Hell is not God influencing a soul, but rather God allowing that soul to experience the choice it made: a tuning away from God to a point of a complete lack of His presence."

I believe I have discussed this apologetic in the past, but I feel the need to address it again. To me, it makes no difference whether or not hell is to be a "punishment" or  merely a freely chosen separation from god. For one thing, there is very little practical difference between the two. Whether it is Jehovah or his creation lighting the furnace, the net result is eternal suffering. There is absolutely no reason or excuse for this result. Assuming the god spoken of in the Christian religion is omnipotent, he had any number of options for dealing with nonbelievers. He could have made hell non-eternal and allowed non-believers to go to heaven if they realized the error of their ways. He also could have created a world in which his presence was not necessary for happiness, meaning that those who chose not to love him would not have to suffer. According to Christian doctrine, the god of Christ and Abraham did not choose to create such a world. That should cause us to raise a questioning eyebrow when it comes to the moral fiber of such a being.

Secondly, if endless suffering is the result of making a bad choice, this is a situation in which libertarian free will is a bad thing. If our "free will" might lead us to destroy ourselves, then the god that Christians speak of should have withheld free will for our own protection. Just as it would be unethical for a parent to allow his or her three-year-old to run out in front of a bus without intervening, so would it be for an omniscient being to allow his ignorant (but apparently loved) creation to unknowingly destroy itself by rejecting him.

This brings me to my last criticism of this apologetic: the assumption that the choice is always God vs Not God. For a Christian, this choice seems very clear. Either you love and follow God or you reject him. The problem is however, for a non-Christian, this is not an obvious dichotomy. An atheist like myself, for example, earnestly and honestly does not believe that a god exists. I do not reject Christ because I truly do not believe that such a spirit exists. If I were presented with sufficient evidence, I would certainly believe. However, every scrap of evidence I have ever been handed in support of Christianity has also been handed me in support of Islam. Hindus and Wiccans experience miracles unique to their gods. Most faiths have some form of logical defenses for their beliefs or apologetics. The accept vs reject dichotomy is simply false for the non-Christian. If this is so and Christianity is true, then Yaweh still has quite a bit to answer for in terms of his part in allowing people to go to hell. Such a god could easily present himself more clearly and concisely with testable evidence. As is commonly asserted, this would not put a damper on free will. If sufficient evidence of something were akin to forcing belief, there would be no creationists, geocentrists, truthers or birthers.

My point is simply that, no matter what excuse is given, god is still very much responsible for hell according to mainstream Christian doctrine. Some Christians do not believe in hell, which creates a very different type of scenario. This is not a scenario that I am addressing in this response. But if hell is a reality for you in your belief system, it matters very little how it is spun. A good human mother loves you more than Jesus ever will.

What an Atheist Learned at a Christian Wedding

My second oldest paternal cousin got married yesterday. Most of my friends know that I'm a sucker for happy occasions like weddings. Most of these friends are also the ones who look at me skeptically when I tell them that, in my family, we don't believe in divorce. By this, I do not mean that my family members simply pay lip service to the idea of staying committed to their partners "'til death". I think most, if not all, married couples do this. In a very practical sense, my family members have consistently stayed married to their spouses and fostered good relationships with them. This is true of absolutely every living relative on my father's side of my family. 

It would be foolish of me to assume that this family tradition has nothing to do with religion. This is, after all, the Christian side of my family. Still, we know from polling data that being Christian doesn't improve the odds of one's marriage lasting. A 2008 survey found that the percentage of  non-evangelical Christians who have been divorced is the same as the national average. The percentage of divorced Evangelicals is slightly lower. This leads me to sometimes wonder how my relatives manage to make their relationships so successful.

The priest who officiated my cousin's wedding actually had some good answers to this question in his homily. It began with a "letter from Jesus" and contained many references to "Christ-centered" marriage, not exactly topics that resonate with the atheist. Among the religious proclamations, however, were practical lessons that made me stop and think about my own relationships. The advice he offered to my cousin and his bride made a lot of sense, even in  non-romantic context. Three points in particular stayed with me:

1. A relationship is not a competition

My cousin is an athlete and was a track star in college. The priest used this fact as a starting point for one of his lessons. He said to my cousin, "If you win and she loses, you both lose." He then turned to my cousin's bride and said, "If you win and he loses, you both lose". Counterproductive as it sounds, I have seen far too many relationships in which the people involved appear to be working against each other rather than with each other. Just click on any twitter trend involving romance and you'll find hundreds of messages about how their boyfriend or girlfriend "better not" cheat on them or even THINK about talking to "other females". Sometimes it seems as if we expect our loved one to hurt us. To some degree, I can understand this unconscious mentality. Most of us know what it feels like to have a broken heart or to have a relationship fail. To state the facts very bluntly, it sucks. Regardless, we cannot allow said suckiness to turn our loved ones and relations into a battle to be won or a rival to be conquered.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal cites a study by Terri Orbuch of the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research to echo this advice. "To engage in a healthy way with your partner you need to let go of the past". He goes on to explain that jealousy and bitterness from former relationships or even conflicts with other family members can translate into battles with our partners. I really think this advice is key in creating a partnership rather than a rival-ship. Even more important, it seems to me, is being conscious of this fact and the implications of our emotions and actions towards our loved ones. We need to learned to spend less time keeping score and more time appreciating each other.

2. It's important to respect our loved ones

"In a few minutes," said the priest halfway through his homily. "You will take a vow to honor each other. Now what does that mean?" He continued to answer his own rhetorical question. "We make negative jokes about each other. That isn't really "honoring", is it? I hear people say things about their spouses behind their backs that you would never say to them. That's not "honoring"." To "honor" seems like a rather archaic way of saying "respect each other". When we say it out loud, it seems obvious respect should be present in our relationships, but I was surprised at how much even I forget this. When I stop and think about it, there really is no reason for us talk negatively about our loved ones behind their backs. If we have a problem with someone, why not simply talk to the person with whom we have the conflict? This doesn't mean that we should shoot our mouths off and start a fight, but rather, we should go back to those classic "I" statements we learned in Kindergarten. The trick is to calm one's emotions and speak rationally about how we feel.

In a way, I think communication is a part of the "respect" piece of the relationship as well. When we can be honest with our partners, we send the message that we trust them and that we accept them as a part of our lives. The aforementioned article also has something to say on communication and respect. "Spouses need to speak in a calm and caring voice. They should learn to argue in a way that produces a solution, not just more anger."

3. We need to value our relationships and protect them

"There's a certain sweetness about you," said the priest to my cousin and his bride. "You need to build a wall up around that so nothing can come into [your relationship] to divide."  It's incredible sometimes just how much can divide us and building up walls against these divides often seems like a herculean task. The recent issue of Scientific American Mind actually has a suggestion. An article entitled "The Happy Couple" by Suzann Pawelski recommends positive emotions as a way of cementing emotional bonds. "An upbeat outlook[...] enables people to see the big picture and avoid getting hung up on small annoyances," she says, arguing that being able to see the big picture allows people, especially couples, to find more affective solutions in times of adversity. She continues, "It also tends to dismantle boundaries between "me" and "you" creating stronger emotional attachments"
The practical advice given in the article is very straightforward. It is essential to enthusiastically and positively support our partners and loved ones. In fact, even an apathetic response to our partners' announcements or accomplishments can strain a relationship. Dr. Orbuch from the Wall Street Journal article has similar advice and promotes what he calls "affective affirmation". By this, he means "compliments, cuddling and kissing, hand-holding, saying "I love you," and emotional support".

The priest at the wedding explained this in a rather poetic way with a story of his own. He spoke of a young man he knew who had been studying for the priesthood for several years. When asked when he decided to take up holy orders, the man said "yesterday". By this he meant that his decision to become a church leader was something that he reaffirmed everyday. The priest told my cousin to do the same with his relationship. He advised him to remind himself and his wife everyday of the love they have together.

This was one of those moments where I looked at my own life and recognized times when I had forgotten to remind myself and others of their importance in my life. That being said, I'm still an atheist and I don't plan on incorporating Jesus into any of my relationships anytime soon. But I think I learned some things from a priest the other day. I sincerely hope that my cousin and his new wife did as well.

Monday, July 23, 2012

A Tragic Tale Courtesy of Christianity

My cousin is getting married on Saturday and, weddings being a huge cause for celebration in my family, I have ahead of me a week full of parties and relatives. This means I also have a week ahead of me full of fundamentalist Christianity. I don't mean to make this sound like a complaint. I love my family and I love weddings. The only problem comes when I have to nod and smile through their rather depressing tales of faith.

I had one of those incidents tonight.

One of my relatives works in the medical profession. She is one of the kindest, most loving people I have ever met. I have always aspired to be like her in all ways save for her religiosity. That being said, her religiosity is very prominent. Tonight, she told my mother and I a story that she clearly felt had happy ending.

A while back, a woman came to her for a check-up. She returned for her results and found that some of her stats were a little below normal. My relative recommended moderate excessive, perhaps a daily walk. Upon hearing this recommendation, the woman confessed that this would be impossible. The patient was married to a former prisoner who was abusive and controlling. He would not allow his wife to leave the house by herself of even to answer the phone. She would receive calls from friends which she would answer and say she would call back later. She was never permitted to do so. This woman was allowed to go to work, but only if her husband dropped her off and picked her up. My relative was devastated because this patient's life was a living hell. She offered to pray for this woman and gave her a copy of an evangelical Christian devotional book.

A few weeks later, that same woman returned to my relative for a follow up. The woman felt much better. Unfortunately, her emotional state had not improved because she was free of her husband and his abusive behavior. In fact, her home situation hadn't changed at all. But she had found God. This woman had decided that even though her life was hell, she could endure it because she knew it would only be temporary. Now that she had a relationship with Jesus, she knew that after death, she would have an eternity of happiness.

My family members looked upon this story with joy. All I could do was bit my lip and hold back tears. I do not blame my aforementioned relative for the outcome of this woman's situation. I blame Christianity. My family members are good people who only want the best for others. Yet because of their evangelical beliefs, they have been taught that the best gift you can give someone is that of faith. As a result, an innocent woman will never escape a terrible abuse situation. In fact, she has learned to be satisfied with it. When she dies, there will be no paradise, no real escape and a horrendous person will get away with mistreating his wife. Christianity did not lock her in this prison, but it certainly threw away the key.

How can people still argue that "giving people hope" is an inherently good thing?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

CFI Michigan Retreat Weekend!

I have just returned triumphantly from the CFI Michigan Secular Summer Retreat! Needless to say, it was an excellent time. I hadn't done much camping in the past, but I found it quite enjoyable. As always with secularist events, it's the people that make the event a success. The retreat was no exception. I met hordes of new secular Michiganders, many of whom were from the most religious parts of the state. I learned that CFI Michigan actually does quite a few activities, lectures, etc., but most of them are on the West side, across the state from Ann Arbor where I'm usually based. I also realized that CFI Michigan is an unusually diverse crowd for an atheist group. There was quite an even mix of women and men, young and old, passionate activists and casual community members, etc. The best part was that we all got along really well.

In the course of the weekend, I was crowned high priestess of my new cult of "Chiga Theism", became a member of the perverts' corner, saw grown men slip and slide down a wet billboard sign into a mud pit, met the sweetest golden retriever ever, saw an entire tray of grilled cheese be misplaced only to be discovered again the next morning and built a sand market economy. Don't know what I'm talking about? Better come next year and find out!

<<--- My one disappointment was that this guy couldn't make it. I am definitely dragging him next year.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

5 New Criticisms of the Secularist Movement

I promised a follow-up post to my previous entry detailing my criticisms of the Secularist Movement as it exists today. Believe it or not, I do actually believe that our movement has a lot of issues. In no particular order, here are five that I think are especially significant:

1. We don't value our orgs enough.
I'm pretty sure that as the New Atheists age, our country is going to see an unexplainable rise in blood pressure problems. The reason for this is that we, as a community get excited. We don't often forget that happy rush we get partying with our friends at conferences or the broiling anger we feel upon reading an article exposing a case of religious oppression. What we do forget is where these reasons for excitement come from. In truth, they come from the larger organizations. Conferences, local groups and other organized secular communities are sponsored or put together by nonprofit groups. This includes the James Randi Educational Foundation, Center for Inquiry, Secular Student Alliance, etc. The organizations often are also the ones exposing and publicizing injustices brought on by religion, dogma and superstition. Some, such as American Atheists and The Freedom From Religion Foundation also serve to fight these injustices. In an era in which having over 1000 subscribers on YouTube is enough to make one a New Atheist celebrity, it's easy to forget that these YouTubers don't actually make as much concrete progress as the nonprofits do.

My point is two-fold. Firstly, we need to support our bloggers and vloggers, we also need to remember that they serve a specific purpose. They are good liaisons between the people and the politics, but we need to remember to provide an adequate amount of money, time and lip service to the larger organizations. Our movement depends on them. Secondly, we have a problem with a lack of solid leadership within said organizations. Everyone wants to be a celebrity, everyone wants to debate, everyone wants to be charismatic. Well, not everyone. But enough people do push out the more "boring" aspects of leadership. We need more leaders who can be diplomatic, who can deal with finances adequately, who can negotiate between strong personalities so that our organizations don't go through meiosis as often as they do. Most importantly, we need to care about these two problems.

2. Our aims are too narrow.
This is another two-fold criticism that really deals with the shelf life of our movement. First of all, our aims within secularism are often too narrow. Atheist organizations are making leaps when it comes to court battles over separation of church and state. The question is, what happens a few years or decades down the road when we're a more secular nation? I have few doubts that this will occur, but when it does, organizations such as American Atheists may find themselves twiddling their thumbs. There is a reason why there are no equivalent organizations in nations such as Canada, where atheists are much less maligned. Center for Inquiry is much more useful there because they tend to focus more on humanism and pseudo-science. This is something we need to keep in mind as we push forward.
Secondly, our aims outside our movement are too narrow. I feel that this problem will begin to correct itself as organizations such as Volunteers Beyond Belief grow, but I can't help but notice how little variety we have in our publicized volunteer work. Maybe I'm missing something, but I always hear that we as secularists tend to value science, reason, education, etc. Why aren't many atheist groups starting programs in schools to improve our education system, for example? We have an army of passionate, motivated people at our disposal and we should be able to provide all of the services offered to the public by churches without the religious baggage. Clearly, we aren't. At least, not yet.

3. We suck at social sciences (and many don't care).
For obvious reasons, we tend to congregate around the hard sciences. To be sure, this is an excellent aspect of our community. Still, we as a whole have a long way to go when it comes to understanding social science and even politics. This paradigm is shifting slowly with the advent of events such as the Women is Secularism conference, but the fact remains that many people in our movement seem to believe that an understanding of topics such as feminism is unnecessary. Whether or not we care about social issues also speaking to the shelf life of our movement. If we fail to meet or ignore the needs of minorities in our group, we will never make the broad impact that we pay lip service to. Religion currently has the upper hand when it comes to reaching women and minorities. If we want to reduce the power of religion, we need to understand the social factors at work in the lives of these people. First we need to agree that this is a conversation worth having. To our discredit, we're still working on that step in many ways.

4. Our self reflection skills need work.
If you've ever tried to deconvert a religious person with a Hitchens lecture, this one's for you. Sometimes I think we get so caught up in ourselves as a movement that we forget what we're actually trying to accomplish. What's worse, once we get caught up, we often refuse to acknowledge that fact. We tend to confuse what we want with what our non-movement audience needs. That Hitchslap sounds awesome to us because we're already atheists and it's nice to hear our own views stated so passionately. We forget that, to believers' ears, vitriol makes us sound like jerks. Instead of saying "I don't care if I sound like a jerk" we need to learn various strategies that will be more successful in reaching people.

We also need to take time to evaluate the people we put on pedestals.  We have a lot of icons who may not deserve quite the amount of attachment that we have to them. Take (dare I say it) Thunderf00t, for example. Thunderf00t's videos on evolution and debunking creationism are top notch, inspiring even. He is a successful scientist and deserves recognition for his contributions. However, he lacks the knowledge needed to accurately speak on matters of philosophy, biblical interpretation/history and social science. Still, there are some of us who see him as an all around hero, accepting even his flawed arguments and assertions on areas outside of his expertise. This is where conflict arises. We need to remember to think critically even about ourselves and our heroes, making sure that we give them and our movement due credit, but nothing more. We also need to take the stes to correct our mistakes once we notice them, rather than ignoring them or rationalizing our flaws. I know that we are capable of these things because I have seen them take place many times in the past year. These memes simply need to spread to the movement at large.

5. We are too short sighted.
In truth, this last point of mine is a summation of all of my previous points. It's so incredibly to easy to get excited being a part of an exploding movement. We forget that this community doesn't have to exist. We as activists are the sustainers of the secular community. We need to collectively stop and think "What are we doing? Why are we doing it? Will it work?". I have hope that we can get beyond talking about the five billion reasons gods don't exist. The fact is that we need to and we need to start thinking about it now. When I'm my parents' age, I don't want to look back on my activism with a "back in my day" attitude. I want to see us last. I know that there are plenty of secularists out there who agree. Let's band together and carry our movement into the future.

5 Movement Criticisms and a Response

I've noticed a lot of the same criticisms being lobbed at The Movement by atheists and secularists who dislike the organized aspect of the New Atheism. To be fair, I hear these same complaints from a variety of people, but I'm going to pick on my friend Hassan.

A few days back, Hassan wrote a blog post entitled "5 Reasons I Hate the Secular Movement and Why I'm Still Involved". His five reasons were (in short):

1. The implication of the "good without God" label that makes us sound too friendly for his taste. It also implies a primitive "good/evil" dichotomy.
2. The pseudo-celebrities in our movement get far too much credit.
3. The assumption that all of us involved in the Movement are liberal humanists.
4. The "happy family" community aspect of the Movement.
5. He doesn't see Atheist activism to be personally beneficial.

Again to be fair, Hassan's blog post portrays all of these criticisms in the light of his own personal preferences. He never argues that we should all adopt these preferences and is entitled to dislike anything he personally happens to dislike. However, I have heard some of these points made before and a couple of them are actually rather valid, though I think I would have described the problems differently.

I would like to respond to points 1 and 4 at the same time because I think that they are closely related and very important. While we are not, as a minority, subjugated to the extent that blacks, gays and women are and were in the past, Atheists still face quite a bit of discrimination. Many of us have been pushed out of our homes or ostracized by our loved ones simply for our disbelief. Even in my moderately Christian family, I have felt pushed away because of my lack of belief. No one ever stood up on a podium and said "hey atheists!  Let's stick together like a family and try to prove to the world that we're good people!" There are characteristics of the movement that have arisen in a largely organic fashion. This "family" development most likely stems from the lack of community that atheists often feel, especially in religious environments. This is also the reason why the "family" development is so incredibly important to the movement. The "good without God" slogan arose similarly. Most of us know that we're not perfect, friendly or even "good" one-hundred percent of the time. The message we mean to send when we say we're "good without God" is that we're ordinary people trying to live as best we can. We don't deserve to lose our jobs, to be judged and passed over, to be ostracized at school for our lack of belief. Of course, these facets of the Movement are neither meaningful nor mandatory for any individual atheist. That doesn't mean that we shouldn't acknowledge the significance of these facets in the Movement at large.

Reasons 2 and 3 for Hassan's dislike of the Secular Movement are actually legitimate criticisms that deserve attention. I do think, however, that he criticizes the some of the wrong people for some of the wrong reasons.  For example, he asserts that the "four horsemen" didn't deserve nearly as much hype as they received. While I do think that Sam Harris, for example, should be kicking himself for some of the things he has written in recent years, I also think that the Horsemen deserve a lot of credit. They certainly weren't making any new arguments, as Hassan aptly pointed out, but I honestly don't think they intended to. What the Horsemen did do (well, Hitchens and Dawkins that is) is bring nontheistic philosophy into a new era and made it accessible to the masses. They used what power and celebrity they already had to reach out to a demographic that had lost its voice. They also acted as a gateway drug for many laymen into more "sophisticated" atheistic writing, such as that of Paine, Ingersoll, etc. I really fail to understand, however, how Hassan's criticism of the Horsemen applies to Dan Dennett, whose work is quite different and quite less pop culture than that of the other three.
In regards to the bloggers and YouTubers, many of them are seen as unquestionable celebrities by the average joe in the Movement, but I do believe that this attitude is beginning to shift in the higher tiers of the movement. All one needs to do to see this shift play out is to read Thunderf00t's twitter. Whether or not one thinks it was fair to ask him to leave Freethought Blogs, one has to admit that it was a very strong example of a Seculebrity speaking on a issue he doesn't understand and getting criticized heavily for it. Hopefully, this trend will continue in the future.

When it comes to our movement's political leaning I don't think it actually is too liberal. I know plenty of libertarians in the Movement (Michael Shermer, Penn Jillette) I think the problem is that a lot of us assume that it's politically liberal. We haven't had much public conversation on liberalism and it's merits/failings and I do think that this needs to start happening before any more assumptions are made. Agree with their views or not, I don't think that it's a good idea to alienate libertarians and more fiscally conservative atheists by assuming they aren't out there. Our Movement does tend to do that. That's a valid criticism.

As for Hassan's last point, I think he responds very well to it himself in his last paragraph. He hates to think of atheists (and the human race for that matter) being oppressed by religion. Is the emotional satisfaction knowing that he's working against that aim a benefit? It is also prudent to remember that our lives are often unpredictable. Even if we aren't currently under the thumb of a wingnut religious group, we never know when we may have to relocate to a region of the country or the world in which we may truly feel the need for the atheist movement. If and when that happens, Hassan may realize that there is potentially a lot "in it" for him.

I'm only picking on Hassan because his post was concrete and convenient, but I've heard these complaints before. Though I nod my head to some of them, I do think that they generally miss some real problems that the Movement has. I plan to follow this post up with my own five criticisms, so stay tuned.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Sex, A Fate Worse Than Death

I am a huge Bruce Springsteen fan, but one thing I sometimes find it difficult to get past with him is his attachment to Catholicism. I feel this way about most Catholics I know, especially the ones that make claims that the Church is, at the end of the day, a force for good. Even if we ignore its bloody and corrupt political history, its current struggle with widespread sexual abuse of minors, its misogyny and homophobia, there always seems to be a new action, decision or problem in the Catholic Church that surely must shake people's faith in its divinity.

Today, I found this excuse for apostasy.

According to the article, Catholic Bishops have banned HPV vaccines for young girls in the Calgary Catholic school district. Their reasoning was that HPV is a sexually transmitted disease, therefore administration of the vaccine would be an implicit endorsement of sex for young girls.

The HPV vaccination is a relatively new and safe preventative measure against the human papillomavirus. HPV is a relatively common STD and, in its low-risk forms, is the cause of genital warts. There are, however, some higher-risk strains of HPV that can lead to cervical cancer. The vaccine provides protection against the most common forms of HPV that can lead to the aforementioned afflictions, is recommended for both men and women, and should be administered well before a person becomes sexually active. That being said, the authorities of the Catholic Church likely care less about these facts than they do about even hinting that the young person receiving the vaccine might have sex at some point in the future. It should also be noted that HPV is very common. Even if one of the girls in question waited until marriage to engage in any kind of sexual activity and stayed monogamous for the entirety of her life, she could still theoretically acquire the disease.  Perhaps she would marry a convert to Catholicism who had multiple partners before his conversion and didn't even know he had the disease. Perhaps she would become the victim of sexual assault at the hands of an attacker who had the virus. The benefits clearly outweigh the risks in this case.

The linked article mentioned another level on which this ban is problematic. The school system provides a means by which children can be vaccinated regardless of their personal circumstances. The article mentions immigrants or the less affluent families in the district as being particularly harmed by the HPV vaccination ban. Whereas children from well-endowed personal and financial backgrounds could easily be vaccinated through a service outside of the school system, some of their less privileged peers might not be so lucky. The fact that the Catholic Church values "chastity" so highly that they're willing to put vulnerable children at risk should be appalling to most people.

Whether the Catholic bishops in Calgary realize it or not, schools provide a public service that includes more than mere book-learnin'. People in their district depend on them to provide their children with a particular kind of protection. By stripping a facet of said protection away, they are shirking their responsibility. They and their supporters should be ashamed. But their philosophy on sex at this point seems to be,  as a friend of mine so eloquently stated on Facebook: "Better dead than slut".

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Final Word on Thunderf00t

I think this will be my last word on the Thunderf00t/harassment issue unless something huge happens.

If you haven't already heard, Thunderf00t has been asked to leave the Freethought Blogs network. I believe "booted" was the term he used:

I don't know the precise reasons that Thunderf00t was removed from Freethought Blogs. Thunderf00t seems to think that he was ejected for disagreeing with the establishment. PZ asserts that he was kicked out for behaving in a less than civil and rational manner. Or at least, that the impression I got from this lovely exchange on Twitter:

Ed Brayton (a really awesome dude, btw :)), who wrote a blog post announcing the change, was a little more clear in his own comments section:

I have only two things to say on this issue:

1. If Thunderf00t was booted merely for disagreeing with some of the more prominent members, then shame on FTB. However, I doubt that disagreement was the only factor in Thunderf00t's dismissal. Members of the FTB networks have disagreed before and not been "booted". Knowing Thunderf00t, he probably made an ass of himself. I don't hate Thunderf00t, but I do know that he has a history of crossing lines where social interactions are concerned.

2. While it appears to be just another case of New Atheist Drama, this situation really highlights some good things about our community. It demonstrates our intolerance for people's ignorance and inappropriate behavior. While Thunderf00t may do well in the hard sciences, his understanding of social issues is practically nonexistent. He tried to speak out on something he didn't understand was was demolished. This is not a bad thing if we want to have an educated and informed community. If Thunderf00t can clean up his act, I wouldn't be above giving him a second chance. I doubt this will happen. Let's just hope this puts an end to this week's kerfuffle.