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Atheism and Homosexuality

I'm passionately in support of LGBT rights, and I was trying to think about why. It's not because I'm at all LGBT, could it be because growing up I was called "gay" all the time? Is it because it's the right thing to do? I really couldn't pinpoint it for a long time, but then I started thinking about Fred Phelps and his WBC (no link) and all his "God Hates Fags!" signs, and it made me realize that atheism and LGBT folks are completely linked.

Why is that? There's obviously the biblical arguments for "homosexuality is wrong" and maybe rejecting the bible means rejecting that antagonism? (By the way, Mark 7:15; 1Sa 18:1; plenty of others) But nevertheless, I don't really think that's it. I had to go back through my own development as an atheist to figure it all out.

I remember being raised Catholic and going to church, and going to CCD twice a week after school, and being told to pray every night and stuff. I used to be sad about things, or want things, and I would be told "ask god for it and maybe you'll get it." And I used to go through the motions, but it was more about the procedure than actually thinking I was talking to anyone. Then you find out the tooth fairy, and Santa Claus, and the easter bunny aren't real. I think the Santa thing was very instrumental for me; you take this great person everyone thinks about that has the power to watch you all the time and can give you things if you're good, then POOF surprise they don't exist. It's a very short leap between that and god. For the record, Santa had a better track record for coming through for me.

I don't remember the exact point, but there was a time where I actually thought someone was listening, then a time where I went through the motions so I didn't get yelled at. But that was the thing; I still had to go to church on Saturday nights, I still went to CCD, I had very high-pressure friends, all that crap. I just stopped believing, but didn't say anything, probably at the age of like 10-12. Then talk of confirmation came up, and I didn't really feel like the work of it, so I told my parents that I didn't want to pursue it. I had a time after that where I had some high pressure friends try and recruit me to other christian faiths, and while it was with the best intent, I think it made me resentful. I started questioning a lot of things. God gives loaves and fish to hungry people, and we have hungry people now, but our church is undergoing an expensive renovation. Why does god forgive people; it's like it's ok to do bad things as long as you're sorry in the end? I can be sorry for anything, can I do anything? Jesus was humble and lived modestly yet we build these huge temples and have priests driving Mercedes wearing gold hats, would jesus want this? People always say it's a lesson when something bad happens, but a blessing when something good happens, how is that different from just having bad and good things without the meddling of a god?

Basically, I stopped believing very early, then started questioning the establishment on top of those non-existent beliefs, then finally chose to embrace the disbelief. The disbelief happened, and wasn't a choice, but instead the choice was to embrace it and be public about it. For me, I was very antagonistic towards my parents, and also grew up in an area with a lot of diverse belief (I had Hindu friends and such) so the pressures of christianity were at least not overwhelming, it became very easy to just be like "I don't believe and I don't want to go anymore."

But while it was easy for me, I can just imagine what it's like for someone living in an oppressive place, with oppressive family, surrounded by non-sympathetic beliefs. It must be terrible. And I think this is where my compassion for LGBT causes comes from. I draw huge parallels between what Atheists go through and what LGBT people go through. There are differences, and LGBT people have totally different struggles, but I feel there are a ton of things in common. There are state constitutions that say a belief in god is required to hold office, people are amending state constitutions to prevent LGBT people from expressing their relationships.

So yea, I think that's why I relate so much to the LGBT plight. Atheists and LGBT folks need to stick together; we're all just trying to live out our lives in the face of a majority that thinks we don't have a right to exist and need to be fixed. Fight the power!

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The Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act

This amendment, attached to a defense spending bill which was guaranteed to pass, extended the definition of a hate crime to cover crimes against LGBT people. The people who opposed this somehow believed that the bill would prevent people from having the religious freedom to oppose homosexuality. If the only way you can express your opposition to something is by acting in such a way that would be otherwise classified as a hate crime, your argument is invalid and you’re a fucking toolbox that needs to be slaughtered, but that’s just my passionate support for equal rights speaking.

This is the list of people who voted against the bill. Democrat Russ Feingold said he voted against the bill because he opposed the spending bill as a whole for what it would mean for extending the time in Afghanistan. Noble idea, but given the bill was guaranteed to pass it seems that this was a wasted opportunity to do something positive when something you disagree with was resigned to happen. All of these people’s names should be published and I encourage you to re-post this list.

Alexander (R-Tenn.)
Barrasso (R-Wyo.)
Bennett (R-Utah)
Brownback (R-Kan.)
Bunning (R-Ky.)
Burr (R-N.C.)
Chambliss (R-Ga.)
Coburn (R-Okla.)
Cochran (R-Miss.)
Corker (R-Tenn.)
Crapo (R-Idaho)
DeMint (R-S.C.)
Enzi (R-Wyo.)
Feingold (D-Wis.)
Graham (R-S.C.)
Grassley (R-Iowa)
Inhofe (R-Okla.)
Isakson (R-Ga.)
Johanns (R-Neb.)
Kyl (R-Ariz.)
LeMieux (R-Fla.)
McConnell (R-Ky.)
Risch (R-Idaho)
Roberts (R-Kan.)
Sessions (R-Ala.)
Shelby (R-Ala.)
Thune (R-S.D.)
Vitter (R-La.)
Wicker (R-Miss.)

http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=111&session=1&vote=00327#position

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Comcast + NBC = BAD

This is something that will no doubt go completely unnoticed by the mainstream media, and it will probably happen eventually. But why am I the only one I've talked to outraged by this??? Read here: Comcast in deal talks with NBC Universal (This has since been denied, but still worth talking about.)

This is a HUGE problem. The people providing the conduit for content to come to the consumer should not have a competing stake in what content you are watching. This is the CORE issue of net neutrality; the communications pipe should be CONTENT NEUTRAL. Obviously it already happens all the time; Time Warner clearly has a huge stake in the CW and so on, but it's outrageous and has consequences.

Just to clarify what I mean, think about this: Comcast owns NBC, which plays a national news program that competes with those on ABC, CBS, Fox, etc. As a partial owner of the station, Comcast could profit form the ad revenue that the NBC program pulls in, meaning they have a vested stake in having eyeballs choosing NBC. Now, Comcast owns and controls the pipe that channels come through. In America, there's essentially a non-compete setup going on; where I live, it's against the community rules to have a satellite dish, AT&T is considered really poor, and Comcast is the only cable provider (due to crappy and outdated laws). Doesn't this seem like a HUGE conflict of interest? There's laws in place somewhat preventing this, but it's pretty generally agreed upon that they're super weak laws.

This has happened before. In 2000, Time Warner and ABC got into a spat and for 36 hours ABC was shut off. And the way it works now, most content providers have their hands in content creation: Time Warner owns CNN, CW, and a ton of cable networks, NewsCorp owns DirecTV and all the Fox crap, etc. Imagine if this translated to what people fear is going to happen to the internet: GE, which owns NBC, also owns Hulu. If Comcast had a stake in Hulu, it's a HUGE conflict of interest and the technology exists to make you pay more for other video providers; picture "Basic Comcast Internet - Hulu Included, youtube for $5/MB, Intermediate Internet - More Money, Hulu Included, Youtube Downloads Included, Uploads $5/200kb" etc.

To me, this is complete crap. It's about revenue sharing. In an ideal world, content conduits make their revenue through subscriptions and should be able to compete FREELY on available infrastructure. They have made back their infrastructure investments by several times and Cable backbones should be government owned and licensed out JUST LIKE AIRWAVES. The whole structure for content agreements is broken; like how now DirecTV customers can't get VS. and have no recourse but one of the other limited carriers. Carriers then compete for who can provide the best to-the-house service. Content creators then make their money on the ads; that how it should work, they're rewarded by revenue for making content that attracts eyeballs.

Anyway, this news is disturbing to me and people should be thinking about it on these terms. It's bad for the consumer for all these FCC protections and exclusivity agreements to be in place.

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A “Belief” in Evolution?

I'm the type of person who learns more about my beliefs by challenging them. I'm an atheist, and I feel I learn more about atheism speaking with religious people or theists than speaking with atheists. I dunno, maybe it's part of my crusade of "atheists are not a group, by definition we're individuals defined by our lack of involvement in a group."

I've heard too many people lately say things like "I don't believe in evolution." Usually this is coming from an argument between creationism and "evolution." I get so frustrated with this, and would like to try to work through why.

EVOLUTION IS AN UNDENIABLE FACT.

I'm sure I lost some readers with that proclamation, but hear me out. Evolution is the process of exacting large changes through small incremental changes over time. Nothing more than that. If you liked the Lakers when they had Shaq, but you didn't like them after he left, your fandom for the Lakers EVOLVED. If you used to hate red wine, but over the years learned to like it and now are snobbish about it, your taste in wine EVOLVED. If over millions of years single celled organisms developed through mutations into more complex species, those organisms EVOLVED.

Evolution is a process, but it is not a path. It defines the major points or the end points on the path, but has no influence in where the path leads. What is important to understand with evolution is that when working backwards, you can only try to piece together the path from what you can discern from the points you find evidence of. We find a fossil of a fish, then we find a fossil of a similar fish with flippers that split at the ends, then we find a similar fish where the fin narrows at the base, then we find a similar fish where the muscles were a little more developed to make more control. We deduce the fish evolved arms.

You may disagree with this perception, but I believe that much of evolution's bad rap comes from the idea that "evolution means humans came from apes." Please ignore anyone who believes this. First, evolution encompasses MUCH more than just human development, and second this statement reinforces the idea that everything that currently exists comes from something else that currently exists. That's not how it works. What scientists have found are enough fossils to create enough points on a path to suggest that humans and apes had a common ancestor. To support this theory, the evidence is available for additional review, and if you find additional evidence to support new points or a new path that's fine, the path is not set in stone.

This is the difference between "evolution" and "the theory of evolution." Evolution is not a theory, it's a process that has been demonstrated widely enough to be considered fact. The "theory of evolution" is really the "theoretical path which human evolution took." This path is not set in stone and is not proven, but the evidence is pretty solid. We've discovered enough points that the path is pretty clear at this point. Actually, I've heard this attacked as a weakness, that if the theory of evolution is true how come it keeps changing? Well, the path may change a bit, but the beginning, the end, and the major points don't really change. We may find that arms developed before lungs, we may find that the tail rescinded before the brain formed, but it's clear we came from single celled organisms, into complex ones, into sea creatures, into land creatures, into ape-like creatures, into humans.

So the question of belief again returns: Do you believe in evolution? I think there's many answers to this, but in my experience there's three clumps of people: the "duh, it's a fact" people, the "la la la I can't hear you god did it all in a minute and Adam named them then there was an ark." people, and the "well, that's pretty good evidence for the path of evolution, but I have my beliefs, let's try to resolve the 2." I had a high school biology teacher who believed in "theistic evolution," that evolution clearly existed and that god must have designed it.

I think I'm kind of rare in that I truly "believe" in evolution; rather than just regard it as fact, my primary paradigm through which I understand the world is evolution - I consider it in everything all animals do. Evolution isn't just change over time, it's change to make something best adapted to its environment over time. A sports team may go heavy on defense if other teams are heavy on offense, becoming better adapted to the conditions of the time. An ocean may get hotter, so fish that can better stand the temperature change survive, thrive, and can split into offshoot species. Everything exists and changes to better fit its environment. As an organism, the mechanism through which evolution happens (correction: is supposed to happen) is reproduction and then survival. Some authors I like postulate that the simplest unit of life is the gene, and that the organism is the gene's way of making a new copy of itself. I choose to interpret this system to mean that the biologically defined purpose to life is to breed, and nothing more. Everything outside of this is ancillary or contributes to that goal. This interpretation says we work to attract a mate, we are creative to attract a mate, we value image because it attracts mates, we seek power because it attracts mates. I hate this conclusion, but I believe it to be accurate.

Look at our society. Look how we have to hammer it into people's heads to practice safe sex. Look at how many people have unwanted pregnancies, look at how much abstinence education fails, look at how many people have way too many kids, look at the lengths people go to to execute sexual perversions. As a species, we can't stop ourselves from breeding, and whereas in the past predators and hostile environments took out a certain number of us, we as a species have crossed (or are close to crossing) a tipping point where we don't adapt to the environment but instead force the environment to work with us. We drive animals extinct or domesticate them, but animal predators are rare; we build habitats in hostile environments (space, the arctic); we climate control indoors when it gets slightly unpleasant. Humans have no predators and as a result we just breed uncontrollably with no regard to who or what is the fittest.

I believe that it is our responsibility to then CHOOSE the direction in which we as a species are to evolve, seeing as our environment is not providing a useful filter anymore. As Idiocracy put it, "Evolution does not necessarily reward intelligence. With no natural predators to thin the herd, it began to simply reward those who reproduced the most, and left the intelligent to become an endangered species." Thus, it is my personal opinion that our evolution should be directed towards intelligence; if we reach interstellar travel, how big, strong, able to withstand heat, etc. will be so inconsequential as places will either be so controlled it won't matter how we adapt (think on space ships) or will be so hostile it would be impossible to adapt to them at all (think other worlds). What is important should no longer be our bones, skin, and muscle, but instead our thoughts, culture and ideas. Let me put it this way: if you could load my brain into a computer and allow my mind to live forever after my body died, I would do it in a second even knowing I would sacrifice my biological goal of reproduction. I consider the meaning of MY life to produce ideas and cultural contributions that will exist forever, and to become as intelligent as I possibly can.

As a result of my beliefs, I get frustrated by people who live in such a way to compulsively act to execute their biological purpose. I know that's wrong, I know they have a right to do that, but it angers me. You have the right to have 19 kids, but that's disgusting, dogs can do that and in my mind you're no better than a dog. You had the opportunity to learn but just drank beer and painted your face for football and slept with sorority girls for 4 years? No respect. It's bad, but I find myself being super judgmental of my fellow humans: you should be better than this. There was a point when our nation's best and brightest put men on the moon and unlocked the secrets of the atom; now students text in class, have sex in school bathrooms, and all of our scientists are coming from other countries. As a country, and much more as a species, in my eyes we are DEvolving; since we can adapt our environment to our species our species just breeds regardless of what traits get carried on. To top it off, we create moral issues out of things like the death penalty and abortion; our society seems to just be fixated on keeping everyone alive as long as we can, regardless of what they contribute or can do. Hell, look at the Terri Schiavo case. Natural selection and survival of the fittest DEPENDED on the environment eliminating the outliers, and 200 years ago 50% of all pregnancies ended in miscarriage, people only lived to 40-50, and many people just didn't survive the environment.

There is no solution to this. Simply put, the human species has become complacent with no serious threat to ourselves and we're striving for nothing. As we're fighting tooth and nail to stave off death, I believe that evolution will come to be less about the species evolving genetically (people will live even longer thus requiring less reproduction) and be more about the evolution of our ideas. Keep this paradigm in mind as you go through your life; watch how people behave, watch our society's sexual frenzy, and watch how so many people seem to just exist over trying to better themselves. People may ask if you believe in evolution, my answer is a resounding "YES, and we need to be paying attention to which direction we are driving it."

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Happy Independence Day

"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."
- Benjamin Franklin, 1775

"When fascism comes to America, it will be draped in the flag and carrying a cross."
- Sinclair Lewis, 1935

"So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1933

Happy Independence Day.

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