Friday, June 26, 2015

Bigotry is Finally Losing Ground in the US.

This past week has been a political whirlwind.  One the equality front civil liberties are winning, but on the economic front, the nation took a blow.  The New York Times has covered the Trans-Pacific Partnership quite well.  You can read about it here.  

This week has been more positive than negative, and I would rather write about that.

This week the Supreme Court of the US (SCOTUS) has issued two rulings that change the face of America. The first was upholding the Affordable Care Act's subsidies which allow millions of Americans to keep their health care.  This is also the final hurdle (I think) for the Affordable Care Act.  Now it joins the ranks of Social Security and Medicare, political suicide for those who try to repeal them.  The Washington Post has a great article on it here.

The biggest predictor for success in school, and life as well, is the socioeconomic background of a student.  Part of the reason is that the poor often have poor nutrition and poor health care.  SNAP benefits help, but go nowhere near eliminating, the nutrition aspect.  Proper health care goes a step further.  This ruling levels the health playing field between the rich and the poor.  Or rather the children of the rich and the poor.

Secondly, marriage is now recognized as a basic right.  Today, Friday June 26th, 2015 SCOTUS has ruled same-sex marriage cannot be denied by the States, they have to honor and allow gay marriage. The last paragraph of the Majority Opinion is below.  It is not only a powerful statement on equal rights, but it is also a masterpiece of prose.
Of course the religious right is up in arms over the ruling. Everything from the ruling opening the doors to polygamy and bestiality, to God judging America (according to Franklin Graham) and bringing about the Apocalypse.  Naturally, many Christians regard this as "Christian persecution", which is a claim that's always good for a laugh.  You cannot claim persecution when the only thing you are restricted from is restricting others in practicing what the believe.  
Being beheaded by ISIS because you wear a cross and mumble to the sky is persecution.  Not allowing you to force others to mumble to the sky, or allowing you to display your symbols and only your symbols on public property is not persecution.  It is keeping the political sphere neutral to personal beliefs.  Sure we can bring those beliefs to the table, but they are no better than their adherence to reason.  Which is no different than anyone else.

This ties in with the third bit of good news: we may be seeing less of the American version of the swastika, the "Confederate" flag.  I have to admit that it is a little hard for me to write about this.  Only because The Dukes of Hazzard was one of my favorite shoes growing up.  Yes, I remember when it was on prime time.  I still have a fond place for the General Lee, the name of the Duke boys' orange 1969 Dodge Charger. Yes, it had the Confederate Flag on the roof, but this car would freaking FLY at least once per episode.
But I digress.  I didn't want to write about nostalgia, but about a blow for social equal rights.  The story of the "Confederate" flag flown today begins decades before the Civil War.  Slavery was a dividing issue between the States since the Articles of Confederation.  However, the national government had no basis for abolition under the Articles.  When the Constitution was written, Slavery was such a hot issue, it was tabled for twenty years so the rest of the document could be hammered out.  However, the call for abolition was on the rise after the signing of the Constitution. At that time, Christianity had to contend with not only Freethinkers, but Deists as well.  Both groups tended to be rabid abolitionists, and influential.  Then the second Great Awakening happened. America had a religious revival and with it, opposition to abolition grew.  In fact the Southern Baptist Church grew out of a pro-slavery movement in the South.  

The Reverend Dr. Richard Furman was a highly influential Baptist in the early and mid 1800s.  His essay, Exposition of the Views of the Baptists, Relative to the Coloured Population is a letter to the then Governor of South Carolina on the importance of slavery to the State, and the divine-created inferiority of blacks.  The Holy Bible was the inspiration for the Willie Lynch Letter which expanded on the Bible's treatment of slaves.  Of course the Bible was also used to fight for abolition, but the passages used were taken out of context.  For instance, Exodus 21:16 "And he that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death." sounds like an anti-slavery verse, but the context is that the stolen man is in this case property, not a person. In other words, the bible prohibited stealing slaves, not owning them.

What does this have to do with the Stars and Bars?
It would be adopted by a Christian organization forty years after the Civil War.

During the Civil War, the "Confederate Flag" was just the battle flag for Northern Virginia.  It fell into obscurity until the 1920s when the Ku Klux Klan took it up as their flag.  At that moment, the "Confederate" flag went from a forgotten battle flag of a small region of the country, to the banner of Jim Crow.  And this is why the flag must be taken down.

Now the movement to remove it has begun.  Like the Cross, it is a symbol of oppression.  The flag will be removed, and furthermore religious symbols will follow the flag's demise from the public sphere.  Why?  The World Wide Web.

The Internet is the place where religion goes to die.  It is what is killing religion.  Why?  Humans have this annoying need to one-up each other.  The Internet was once ruled by geeks, that is until social media made it cool.  Concepts, like fallacies, were once the providence of a select few, a certain brand of geek.  Now everyone wants to get their geek on.  Yet we still yearn to one-up each other.  The Internet has done more to spread skepticism and logic more than anything all for intellectual battles that have raged in academia for millenia.  As religion becomes more irrelevant to American life, Civil Liberties will increase a la Humanism.

Now your average stay-at-home parent, liberal arts major, or plumber is a philosopher with a highly attuned bullshit detector.  
Religion is the highest form of bullshit.
That is why religion is out.
Reason is in.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

ARGUMENTS FOR GOD PART 4: Apologetics Part 3

Apologetics Part Three is the last of my Apologetics trilogy. This video tackles Free Will, faith, God of the Gaps, and other apologetic arguments.

Friday, June 12, 2015

ARGUMENTS FOR GOD PART 4: Apologetics Part 2.

This is the second part of the Apologetic series.  I cover claims for God via genes, beauty and morality.
Please feel free to respond below.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

A Starfleet Captain and an Irish Bakery.

Many of you know who Patrick Stewart is.  He's a British actor known for playing a wheelchair-bound, mind-melting professor, and the captain of the USS Enterprise in Star Trek the Next Generation.  What most people don't know is that he's a Shakespearean actor and an avid gay rights supporter.  
Recently, he has been in the news for backing a bakery in Northern Ireland that refused to write a pro-gay message on a cake.  The reason Asher's Bakery didn't want to write "Support Gay Marriage" on the cake was that the owners found the message offensive; it was against their beliefs.  (SOURCE)

What is shocking Stewart's fans is that Stewart has always been an avid supporter for LBGTQ rights.  One of his closest friends, Ian McKellen. You know McKellen, the guy who played Magneto, AND Gandalf (he would have made a great Dumbledore too, but that's a different story); anyway, he is as gay as they come, and has used his celebrity to fight for equal rights for gays.

Has Stewart changed his mind?  Has be betrayed his friend?  If you listen to the internet, he has been both demonized by the left, and held to high esteem by the right.  Many in the LGBTQ community feel betrayed.  But they shouldn't.

Picard's Stewart's stance is that a business shouldn't be forced to convey a message that they disagree with.  That is a huge difference from refusing service all together.  The bakery wasn't refusing service, they were just refusing to write a certain message. They were more than happy to make the cake.  They just didn't want to advocate a cause they didn't believe in.

I have to agree with him on this one.  

Think of it this way: A member of the KKK walks into a bakery owned by an African-American family and orders a cake with "White Power" written on it.  Should they have the right to refuse? Of course they should! It is the same case as Asher's Bakery in Ireland. 

But isn't that just the British version of the bakery in Indiana that refused to do business with gays?  No.  And here's the difference:

To illustrate, let's revisit our hypothetical bakery.  Except this time, the KKK member wants "Happy Birthday Earl" written on the cake.  Again, the baker refuses to sell the man a cake, or any thing else; the baker absolutely refuses to service the Klansman.  This is inexcusable. 

Equal rights is equal rights.  It doesn't matter who it is, in a free society, we have to tolerate unpopular ideas (including doing business with people who hold them) as long as we do not have to advocate for them.  Selling a cake or catering a wedding to someone who's ideas you disagree with is not detrimental to your own ideas and convictions. But actively advocating for opposing ideas (like putting slogans on a cake) IS detrimental to your own stance. 

I'm all for equal rights, and at times we have to revisit the boundaries between what is acceptable, and what isn't.  Living in a democracy is a process, one that is never ending.  That is part of the fun and the headache of freedom.  But I think the boundary is clear on this one: You cannot refuse service because you disagree with a person's religion, political views or race. But, at the same time, you cannot be forced to advocate for what you disagree with.

Monday, June 1, 2015

ARGUMENTS FOR GOD PART 4: Apologetics Video, Part One.

Here is the latest video for my religion series.  I am currently knee deep in Apologetics, and I've split the field into three videos.  In this first video, I will explore using the Bible to "prove" itself, cherry picking, prophecies and miracles.

I hope you like it!