Monday, August 31, 2015

Our Fundamental Worship And Praise Problem

This evening I watched on the National Geographic Channel "Inside North Korea," an hour-long special from 2009 with Lisa Ling. She accompanies a medical team visiting the country to do cataract surgeries and train North Korean doctors. Most of it was what one might expect from a documentary about North Korea, but the end of the program was a big shock for me as it showed how those who regained their eyesight due to the medical procedure emotionally thanked their country's former dictator for healing them, not the medical team.

The way the people reacted was exactly like fundamentalist religious people act when they give credit to their god for doing something done by doctors (or anyone, really). If you watch the episode beginning just after the 41 minute mark, you'll see what I mean.

I can't help but think we humans have a fundamental flaw that allows so many of us to worship in this manner. So many of us are willing to misdirect our praise, and we do this for real people as well as fictional ones--it doesn't seem to matter. Once that part of this unfortunate aspect of some of us is tapped, it is apparently open to be directed without integrity.

I can only hope that at some point our descendants will outgrow this serious problem.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Self-Defense, Fetal Personhood, Stand Your Ground All Support Abortion Rights

With misleadingly edited Planned Parenthood videos putting abortion in the news, I think it's important to again bring up a missing justification for abortion that hardly ever gets the attention it deserves: self-defense.

A pregnancy certainly is an assault on a pregnant woman's body. She, therefore, should be legally allowed to take measures to end the attack, including abortion. The legal recognition of self-defense as a valid action goes back millennia.

But adding to a valid self-defense claim are two tactics pushed by anti-abortion forces that actually increase the legality of abortion. The first is what's known as the fetal personhood idea. If, as supporters of this idea desire, a fetus is declared to be a person like any other, the claim of self-defense against that "person" becomes just like any other claim against any other person. There is no exception to the legal concept of self-defense when one person is being attacked by another. This is constitutionally supported  under the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection clause.

The second tactic comes form those who support "stand your ground" laws, the legal idea that "individuals can use force to defend themselves without first attempting to retreat from the danger." These laws exist in some jurisdictions now and are being pushed by conservatives to be enacted elsewhere.

People who to try to outlaw abortions don't realize it, but these combined legal points actually increase the legal justification for abortion at any time.

So, if a fetus is not legally seen as a person, there is no basis in the law on which to outlaw abortions because the pregnant woman is not harming anyone. On the other hand, if the fetus is declared to be a person, a pregnant woman actually has the addition legal support of the universal tenet of self-defense that clearly allows an abortion to be performed if so desired, and in areas where "stand your ground laws" exist, her legal justification is even more solid.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Little Evidence That Humanity Doesn't Hate Itself

I can find no evidence against the notion that our society is purposely configured by us to be our own enemy at just about every turn. This is not a new notion, of course. It was the point of a famous Pogo comic from 1971 with the line, "We have met the enemy and he is us."

But even though we all likely admit this failure when pointed out, we do nothing to correct it. And this adversarial relationship we've continually setup between ourselves and the processes we create to serve us is everywhere. A partial list includes health care, education, the act of voting, banking, environmental issues, commerce, Social Security and other post-retirement issues, law enforcement, the prison industrial complex, the plethora of agencies and individuals who spy on literally everyone, and more.

Our overall cultural practices also include this problem with examples including racism, misogyny, bigotry, poverty, and lack of support for varied family structures. It's so bad that even when an individual tries to help another individual directly outside of these awful conditions, there are people and systems in place to put up a fight. Perhaps the most obvious are feeding the homeless without a permit (which can't be obtained in many cities) and giving money directly to someone who needs help without some sort of potential penalty.

We could very easily be accurately tagged as a species that is suffering from some sort of mass mental illness. What else could it be when we are responsible for our own condition and we continue to purposely make ourselves miserable?

Friday, July 3, 2015

The Human Recipe Is Magic-Free

Story: Antidepressants affect people’s moral behaviour, study finds

This is yet another study showing the physical nature of what we traditionally attribute to non-physical forces. I always wonder why we find it surprising that we are what we are without trying to add something extra to the mix. We would have solved so many more problems by now if we stop being distracted by the mirage of a non-physical reality.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Unsuccessful The Norm For POTUS Seekers

Perhaps the most common trait among those seeking the job of U.S. president is being terrible at what they currently do. The fact that so many of us take so many of them seriously is not helping improve the situation. When the job of POTUS isn't attracting our most successful, and the public isn't demanding better, it's hard to image our path into the future being something other than hideous.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Dectrators Of Advancement

Story: For Same-Sex Marriage Opponents, The Fight Is Far From Over

This is the same unfortunate strategy that has been employed after a political loss in other cases that include abortion rights and Jim Crow. Instead of embracing positive change that brings a better life for more people, opponents of such advancements instead somehow motivate themselves to keep awful policies and prejudices alive. Such people make it difficult to be proud of humanity when we take steps forward, a state of mind that shouldn't have detractors.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

An Assertion Is Not Its Own Proof

A few tidbits I've been mulling over lately...

It seems that we are willing to accept ideologies based on hypotheses rather than what's demonstrable. This is part of an overall point of view that allows assertions to prove themselves through "common sense" or a distorted set of personal experiences warped by time and biases. We are falsely conflating an assertion with its potential proof.

There are people who are okay with the assertions made by a person as proof of that assertion. It's the appeal to authority argument that logicians deny as being valid. But for those who use it, they also tend to attack the person who brings up something that challenges that original person's assertion. With the frame of mind that what comes out of a person's pen or mouth is proof enough of what's being declared, then the challenger is the point of attack, not the actual ideas. If we could only make ourselves pay attention to ideas rather than the people who share them, we would so much better off and nothing would be personal. This would put humanity's advancement in overdrive.

We seem to find all kinds of ways to avoid taking responsibility for ourselves. They include the "free market" (the Invisible Hand), the Garden of Eden (no knowledge), shootings (we have to have guns, so killings are something we have to accept), "blind" justice, we must obey the Constitution (or any set of rules someone wrote down once), tradition ("we've always done it this way), it's God's will.

One of the things that keeps popping up in my head is the similarity between the privateers of the pirate era and today's one-percenters. Both use the authority of the government to take whatever they can from anyone they can.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Being An Ass For Jesus

I have joined others who have often said that one of the reasons atheists have such a hard time with a lot of conservative Christians is their personal behavior. There are the broad examples of misogyny, anti-LGBT hatred, racial discrimination, a push for theocracy, and more. But there are also cases of individual experiences that reinforce the view that those who tout Christianity the loudest are often the worst kinds of people.

The hotel where I'm staying this week provides one of these examples. The wifi password is J4life, which I assume is a reference to Jesus, but the woman who runs this independent hotel tried to charge me $15 more than I was quoted when I made the reservation. I didn't see the rate change until after she charged my card at check in, so she was pissed she had to reverse that transaction and do a new one, giving me the worst fake "I don't know what happened" face. But she also then moved me to a worse room (near road noise) and took away my complimentary continental breakfast coupon.

Being a Christian should not go along so easily with being an ass if they want any decent level of respect.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Conservatives Still Fear "Agitators" of Positive Change

Story: Ted Cruz blames Obama — saying the first black president has ‘inflamed racial tensions’

I don't think many people realize it, but this kind of rhetoric is just a reworded sentiment from the people fighting the abolition of Jim Crow laws when they cried about "outside agitators." This kind of language is based on the awful idea that people who are oppressed should just accept it and stop complaining, and others looking to help should also quit attacking the status quo. Change, even if it results in an improvement, is to be shunned for people who assert these positions.

I find it deeply saddening that we still have to put up with such nonsense.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Dimming of America

Story: US cited for police violence, racism in scathing UN review on human rights

It is not likely that major U.S. news outlets will pick this up, but this continuing deterioration of the country's behavior toward its own people and its standing in the world are things that aren't going away.

In addition to what's in this new report, the country's press freedom ranking continues to drop, now ranked 49th out of 180 countries (; many countries outrank us when it comes to education (; income inequality is atrocious (; and our health care system is ranked as the worst in the developed world (

With all these issues (and many more), we actually have large numbers of people who see as more important things like yet another war, nutty conspiracy theories like a federal invasion of Texas, denying climate change (and science in general), and putting more outdated religious ideas on the law books.

Our future doesn't look particularly bright.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Confusing Founders With Fortune Tellers

I've written in the past about a dangerous phenomenon I called founderism where we give past declarations power over us now. The most prominent examples are collections of laws and religious texts.

I recently saw a reference to something similar called "Founder's syndrome," a "difficulty faced by many organizations where one or more founders maintain disproportionate power and influence following the effective initial establishment of the project, leading to a wide range of problems for both the organization and those involved in it."

This situation is one that exists while a founder is still alive and in power, but the phenomenon I have previously mentioned is similar with the difference being proxies that take over for the founder(s) to cause the same problems. We can see this problem playing out every day with the people who see things like the U.S. Constitution and the Bible as somehow perfect, attempting to enforce it as they declare "the founders" would want.

We need to get rid of this idea that something that is declared or created at any point in time is somehow untouchable. Not only should everything be open to change, it should be a requirement. Nothing any human declares can include an accurate prediction of the future. It's just not possible. Thinking it is possible is the worst kind of thinking and does us a tremendous amount of harm.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Destroying Democracy With the Power of Concentration

Story: Republicans push for a permanent aristocracy

A large estate tax should be part of a larger overall philosophy that concerns itself with the concentration of wealth. Too much wealth in the hands of too few people destroys democracy and makes any political-economic system underneath irrelevant.

For those in favor of something resembling a pure capitalist world, that can't even be considered without a way to keep in play a very large number of very small players so that none of them has too much power and influence. This is the idea behind anti-trust laws, but they are continuing to be whittled away to nothingness, an ongoing effort with the same wealth-concentrating goal as estate tax elimination.

There is no way a democracy can survive as one unless a huge and continuous effort is maintained that stops the concentration of power. It can be successfully argued that this philosophy is the core idea behind the country's constitution with the "separation of powers" tenet being its main principle. Throwing away a respect for this key component of democracy is dooming We the People.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Democracy's Dead Canary

To me a valid democracy's canary in a coal mine would bee everyone showing an incredible amount of respect to the people elected to office because they are the ones chosen by the people themselves to take care of things. This deference would include the wealthiest and most popular among us. This would be a sign that the canary is still alive, democracy is working, and We The People are being respected as democracy intends.

But it's obvious that's not anywhere near our sad reality where the most wealthy and powerful are figuratively spitting in the face of We The People and choosing the ones who are in office to take care of them only. The very idea of democracy seems to have been abandoned for a system that keeps the name for appearances sake but does not even remotely resemble the idea.

The canary is dead. R.I.P.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Fear of Abstinence

Story: Two Georgia Prison Guards Resign After Photo of Beaten Inmate Leaks

The point in the headline of this story is not the issue I'm writing about. I'm writing about the reason the inmate was beaten: refusing to join a prison gang.

When reading this story I was reminded that this kind of reaction may be related to the way atheists are seen and treated by theists. The person who refuses to join a religion is also seen as a threat and open to attack, even when the real threat exists between religions (or gangs) and is openly acknowledged by adherents. Refusing to participate is, for some reason, unacceptable as an option.

This idea is also the central theme of the current popular book and movie Divergent, with characters in this story who do not join a "faction" being the lowest members of society and openly declared to be dangerous. This general motivation is also something I remember from post-Civil War America where African-Americans who wanted to be self-sufficient on their own land and not take part in the economics of the country in general were attacked and eventually either driven off their land or killed.

I think this trait also plays a role to varying degrees in other things that include sexual identity and practices, not having children or getting married, ethnicities, food choices, political parties, sports, and more.

It seems to be the case for a large majority of humanity that not participating in a recognized grouping system makes many of so uncomfortable that we can resort to violence over it. There are certainly circumstances where we need to come together in groups in order to function efficiently, but, like a lot of things we do, we take it too far. This trait is certainly one of the many things holding humanity back.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Capturing The Moment With Words

Writing should be seen the same way we see a photograph--a record of a moment of movement. Instead, we tend to give the written word an undue amount of authority when it is really only a single frame of the fluidity of existence, just like a picture. Each freezes a moment of time, one of light, the other of thought. Each can record those precious moments, but neither should be seen as an authority or source of truth when the future presents a question. These slivers of our past are markers of where we've been, but should not be taken as things that determine our future.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Robertson Rape-Murder Fantasy Actually Justifies Christian Atrocities

Story: 'Duck Dynasty' Star Imagines Vivid Rape And Murder Scenario For Atheist Family

This incident is getting quite a bit of play from various media sites. The head of the Robertson clan of religious zealots is trying to make the case that atheists have no morals and would therefore have no alternative but to accept a family's brutal rape and murder. Not only is the assertion that atheists have no morals an outrageous falsehood, this scenario is actually one that fits better within a Christian framework.

The entire Christian religion is based on the idea that nothing anyone does matters because every believer eventually gets a pass and goes to heaven anyway. With this in mind, a more appropriately aligned scenario would have the Robertson clan raping and murder a family of their choosing each Saturday night and then get absolution from their god every Sunday. Then, when the Robertson clan and their victims all end up in heaven together, there would be no hard feelings and everyone exists side-by-side forever in paradise.

The moral of this story is that Christianity allows for anyone to do anything without suffering any consequences in the end. In addition, victims get to live forever knowing that their murderers and torturers get no different treatment than those who lived without murdering and torturing people.

It's no wonder people with the sickest fantasies and tendencies flock toward this religion.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Fake Gun Shop Bad, Fake Abortion Clinics Good

Story: NRA Affiliate Is So Scared Of This Gun Safety Video That It Wants A Criminal Investigation

This story is about a fake gun shop that captures the reactions of people who are told the real statistics about gun violence. The NRA members and conservatives in general are upset, but it is not too far from the tactic used by fake abortion clinics, something they strongly support.

Oh, we hypocritical humans. We can't go a day without showing that side of ourselves. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Discriminating Self

I like the sentiment in this image, but it won't be realized anytime soon because almost all of us conflate beliefs and ourselves even if it's not on purpose or realized.

As I've written before, our literal self-identity does include held beliefs, especially the strongly held ones. It is why so many people become defensive when their beliefs are challenged. To attack someone's beliefs is to attack them personally and the same self-defense mechanism kicks in that is used when physically attacked or threatened.

So this idea is ideal, but until we recognize the error we commit with making beliefs a part of our self-structure, it's not something that will happen, unfortunately.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Godly Sticks and Stones Exception

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.*

*Gods not included.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Laughing Revelations

This is not always true, but it seems to me that it is more often than not the case that when a progressive person laughs at something it reveals something about the level of their intellect, whereas when a conservative laughs it reveals something about their level of ignorance.