Food for thought

“If the wonder’s gone when the truth is known, there never was any wonder.” — Dr. Gregory House

Them’s fightin’ words, Ray

I’ve been hearing about it for a long time, but only just found the energy to face it yesterday: Ray Comfort’s blog, “Atheist Central.” I’d seen the video with Kirk Cameron about the banana (which I can’t find on YouTube, but there are plenty of videos responding to it; here’s one), and that was enough to deter me. Until now.

So, the first few blog posts are enough to make one’s head explode. Not because it’s such amazing information that makes one completely rethink his or her entire world view, but because it is such willfully ignorant and malicious material, it actually hurts to read it.

Please know, I don’t use “willful” lightly. It takes some work to be willfully ignorant. Some people exist in a state of ignorance purely because they truly don’t know any better. “Willfully ignorant” people are such because they have access to a wealth of information and choose to ignore it. Comfort calls his blog “Atheist Central” because such a large portion of his readers (or his commenters, anyway) are atheists. I can’t speak for everyone, but my guess would be because the skeptical, freethinking community tends to use that as a frequent reminder that there is still much work to be done in combatting bad propagandistic information. Although, I suspect quite a few people really just need the daily laugh, and his idiocy comes in high doses.

So anyhow, I see this section on the right side of his page that is titled, “The Atheist Starter Kit.” I’m sure he’s very proud of himself for having come up with this. He says:

If you are a beginner atheist, there’s a belief system you should embrace and a language you should learn, or you will find yourself in trouble. Here are ten suggestions for the novice:

Okay, so at first, I let it slide, but it turns out I really can’t let it go. I feel I need to respond to this list of ten things, one by one, if for no other reason than to just get it off my chest. As I’ve mentioned, he’s very willfully ignorant, so I have no delusions of convincing him that his little satire is not clever. I doubt I’ll say anything here that hasn’t been said brilliantly by countless other people. But I’m going to say it anway.

So let’s start with this introduction. Atheism is not a “belief system.” There are no governing tenets, and atheists, in general, take great pride in thinking for themselves. The fact is simply that many of them agree because the evidence in matters they consider tends to point in the same direction for everyone. It is not because they’ve got some narrow-minded book or minister telling them what to think and believe.

Alright… let’s get going. His first suggestions:

1. Whenever you are presented with credible evidence for God’s existence, call it a “straw man argument,” or “circular reasoning.” If something is quoted from somewhere, label it “quote mining.”

Okay, well, since you brought it up, let’s talk about these very distinct logical fallacies. It’s important to avoid using them (and others) in debating a position, and it’s important to recognize when your opponent is using them. Many logical fallacies are so prevalent in today’s world that it’s hard to recognize them.

A straw man argument is probably one of the most commonly used on both sides of the religion/science debate. It is essentially a misrepresentation of an opponent’s argument, and it is done in such a way that the argument becomes easy to knock over (as a straw man, get it?). They may be accidental (because of lack of understanding of the opponent’s position), or they may be quite intentional. An extremely common example is:

“Do you really believe we are descended from apes? Then why do apes still exist after they supposedly evolved into a better (fitter) form?” The answer is, no, evolutionists do not believe we descended from apes. Someone who thinks they’ve knocked evolution on its ass with this brilliant reasoning either doesn’t understand the ideas of evolution, or assumes he will win over those people who don’t understand it through sneaky misrepresentation.

Circular reasoning is really pretty self-explanatory. It is an attempt at reason/logic that goes in a circle, and really concludes nothing. My favorite example:

“You don’t believe in God? Well, I know he exists because my bible tells me he does. How do I know I can trust the bible? Because God has told me so.” And now we’re back to the question of the reality of God. Your “evidence” has not answered the original question.

Quote mining is the use of a quote, often taken out of context, and often from a source used by opponents, to discredit or diminish a key element of an argument. Here’s an example, taken from The Living Store’s “The Atheist Test,” which Ray links to on his blog:

Charles Darwin said,

“To suppose that the eye could have been formed by natural selection, seems I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.”

If man cannot begin to make a human eye, how could anyone in his right mind think that eyes formed by mere chance?

Except, what Charles Darwin really said, was this (emphasis is mine):

To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree. When it was first said that the sun stood still and the world turned round, the common sense of mankind declared the doctrine false; but the old saying of Vox populi, vox Dei, as every philosopher knows, cannot be trusted in science. Reason tells me, that if numerous gradations from a simple and imperfect eye to one complex and perfect can be shown to exist, each grade being useful to its possessor, as is certain the case; if further, the eye ever varies and the variations be inherited, as is likewise certainly the case; and if such variations should be useful to any animal under changing conditions of life, then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, should not be considered as subversive of the theory. How a nerve comes to be sensitive to light, hardly concerns us more than how life itself originated; but I may remark that, as some of the lowest organisms in which nerves cannot be detected, are capable of perceiving light, it does not seem impossible that certain sensitive elements in their sarcode should become aggregated and developed into nerves, endowed with this special sensibility.

(Vox populi, vox dei translates from Latin to mean, “The voice of the people is the voice of God.”) Darwin makes the regrettable mistake of introducing his argument for the possibility of the evolution of the eye by presupposing the argument against. This has allowed dissenters easy, surface quote mining.

So Ray, when your opponents respond by calling you out on your logical fallacies, they are actually calling you out on the lack of “credible evidence” you supposedly provide. It is not a tactic geared toward anything except the purpose of asking for a fair and evidence-based debate.

Whew. That one took a while. I hope the next nine aren’t so involved. Moving on:

2. When a Christian says that creation proves that there is a Creator, dismiss such common sense by saying “That’s just the old watchmaker argument.”

What the watchmaker argument states is that if you look at a watch (or in other forms, a building, a car, etc.), you can see the complex workings, and you know that it was designed, or created. Such a thing doesn’t come about because of random chance. Similarly, human beings (and most other life forms) are extremely complex, and must have a designer as well.

That’s all well and good, except no one has proposed any ideas that would suggest how a watch (building, car, etc.) could come to exist in the absence of a designer. In all honesty, no one has needed to, since watchmakers aren’t hiding out in some hole in the sky and creating unexplainable watches from heaven. We can prove that there are watch designers that exist.

Conversely, evolution presents a quite plausible concept of how life came to be so complex without any hand but time’s in the mixture. Evolution, incidentally, is hardly “pure chance.” In the simplest terms, it is the result of mutations that occur over generations. Species who are aided or unhindered by such mutations tend to survive. Species whose mutations present an obstacle to survival typically fail to do so. But I’m not here to argue for evolution. I’m here right now to argue Ray Comfort’s suggestions for novice atheists. So I suppose it’s time to move on.

3. When you hear that you have everything to gain and nothing to lose (the pleasures of Heaven, and the endurance of Hell) by obeying the Gospel, say “That’s just the old ‘Pascal wager.'”

Ray’s dismissal of this argument suggests that he really doesn’t understand Pascal’s wager, which is essentially the idea presented here. Even if God doesn’t exist, shouldn’t you lay the chips on God anyway, since doing so could win you a spot in heaven, and not doing so could see you ending up in Hell?

Great theory, except the God I was taught about growing up was smarter than that. He wanted followers – people who truly believed in their hearts, and lived to serve him. Simply saying you believe in him may have been sufficient to fool your fellow church members, but you’d still be bound for Hell. And there’s the catch: finding a way to truly believe enough to earn admission to heaven is extremely difficult in light of the evidence that convinced a person that there is no god in the first place.

Frankly, it truly surprises me that people who claim to know God so very well actually try to use this argument to convert people. You’d think they’d know better than to bring posers to bow at God’s feet.

Next:

4. You can also deal with the “whoever looks on a woman to lust for her, has committed adultery with her already in his heart,” by saying that there is no evidence that Jesus existed. None.

I’ll be honest. I don’t even know what he’s trying to say here. My best guess is that, since atheists don’t believe in Jesus, we are perfectly willing to let that adultery thing slide right on by. Which goes to the old, “if you don’t believe in god, where do your morals come from?” argument. I’ll respond briefly by referring you research the Ethic of Reciprocity, which is known to Christians as the Golden Rule, but actually shows up in many pre-Christian and pagan religions as well. In short, we don’t perform or overlook grievances to individuals or humanity as a whole because they are grievances we don’t want happening to us. Whether it’s a fear of retaliation or a sense of empathy (or a combination of both), it exists, and we don’t need a god to enforce it. It’s really pretty much a no-brainer.

5. Believe that the Bible is full of mistakes, and actually says things like the world is flat. Do not read it for yourself. That is a big mistake. Instead, read, believe, and imitate Richard Dawkins. Learn and practice the use of big words. “Megalo-maniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully” is a good phrase to learn.

Hey, guess what? There are ignorant people everywhere. In this specific case, anyone who has argued that the bible actually says the world is flat. I haven’t read the whole thing, but I’m pretty sure I never saw that verse in any of my Sunday school classes. I have heard people talk about the bible coming from a time when folks believed the world was flat, suggesting that perhaps its science is a bit outdated. That comment I’ll stand behind. Since I can’t trust good old Ray not to twist someone’s words, I just wanted to make that qualification.

So, I’m all for understanding the tenets and texts of an opponent’s arguments. That’s really the best way to avoid slipping into logical fallacies and invalidating your arguments, and potentially, your credibility.

That said, there’s plenty of reason to suggest megalomaniacal (worship-demanding), sadomasochistic (flaying of skin), capriciously malevolent (child-sacrificing) qualities about the god of the bible. Sure, there’s stuff in there about how he’s loving, too, but his mood swings are worse than PMS without chocolate.

Just because religion holds deities and people on certain pedestals, doesn’t mean that atheists do as well. As I stated before, any similarities you find are not because of a demand of any person or text, Dawkins and/or his works included.

Halfway there! I’m starting to feel a little better already! Are you still with me? Take a breather – go get some nachos or something. I’ll still be here when you get back.

6. Say that you were once a genuine Christian, and that you found it to be false. (The cool thing about being an atheist is that you can lie through your teeth, because you believe that are no moral absolutes.) Additionally, if a Christian points out that this is impossible (simply due to the very definition of Christianity as one who knows the Lord), just reply “That’s the ‘no true Scotsman fallacy.'” PLEASE NOTE: It cannot be overly emphasized how learning and using these little phrases can help you feel secure in dismissing common sense.

You’re one to talk about being dismissive, Ray, seriously. I’ve discussed my journey from Christianity to atheism already, elsewhere on this blog. I won’t waste time here trying to convince anyone. But because I decided to stop fighting the cognitive dissonance, all of my years in the church amount to nothing more than a tactic to, what exactly?

The No True Scotsman fallacy is described as:

Imagine Hamish McDonald, a Scotsman, sitting down with his Glasgow Morning Herald and seeing an article about how the “Brighton Sex Maniac Strikes Again.” Hamish is shocked and declares that “No Scotsman would do such a thing.” The next day he sits down to read his Glasgow Morning Herald again and this time finds an article about an Aberdeen man whose brutal actions make the Brighton sex maniac seem almost gentlemanly. This fact shows that Hamish was wrong in his opinion but is he going to admit this? Not likely. This time he says, “No true Scotsman would do such a thing.”

In other words, the boundary becomes blurred in order to maintain the Scotsman’s comfortable definition of a Scot. Or in Ray’s case, a Christian is not one who follows or is of Christ (as the name implicitly suggests), but instead one who knows the Lord. One who follows Christ can stop following at any time, an uncomfortable thought for Mr. Comfort. One who “knows the Lord” cannot continue to claim to have known someone/something which they now claim to not exist at all. So Ray sleeps better at night knowing that no true Christian could find the whole thing to be false.
7. Believe that nothing is 100% certain, except the theory of Darwinian evolution. Do not question it. Believe with all of your heart that there is credible scientific evidence for species-to-species transitional forms. When you make any argument, pat yourself on the back by concluding with “Man, are you busted!” That will make you feel good about yourself.
Well, you’ve got one thing right: “Believe that nothing is 100% certain.” Except then you keep writing and blow it all to hell. Atheists don’t accept anything, even evolution, as 100% certain. We have an open mind to the possibility of an answer, completely apart from the one we accept, to peek its head over the horizon and hit us in the face. The difference between skeptics, freethinkers, atheists, etc. and you is that we are excited by the possibility of learning something new and unexpected.
8. Deal with the threat of eternal punishment by saying that you don’t believe in the existence of Hell. Then convince yourself that because you don’t believe in something, it therefore doesn’t exist. Don’t follow that logic onto a railway line and an oncoming train.
Actually, I don’t believe it exists, because there is no evidence that it exists. That is the basis for my world view. I don’t choose a belief, then wish it into or out of existence. It really is that simple.
9. Blame Christianity for the atrocities of the Roman Catholic church–when it tortured Christians through the Spanish Inquisition, imprisoned Galileo for his beliefs, or when it murdered Moslems in the Crusades.
Wait, aren’t Catholics Christians, too? Oh, wait, there’s that No True Scotsman issue again…
Honestly, I don’t think it’s all that productive to argue the death toll for each side, as so many people are wont to do. Things like the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades, the Holocaust, and Stalin’s version of communism are the result of ignorance, pushes for power and/or fearmongering. Granted, there is some validity to the point of who is driving these factors, but doesn’t religion have enough atrocities to answer for in today’s world without having to argue over the past? People need to be accountable for their own actions today.
10. Finally, keep in fellowship with other like-minded atheists who believe as you believe, and encourage each other in your beliefs. Build up your faith. Never doubt for a moment. Remember, the key to atheism is to be unreasonable. Fall back on that when you feel threatened. Think shallow, and keep telling yourself that you are intelligent. Remember, an atheist is someone who pretends there is no God.
I’m so drained from the preceding nine arguments that it’s difficult to muster the words to express the disgust I feel when reading this statement.
Fellowship: Yes, important to most people. As atheists, it’s not necessarily about being around the same beliefs, but more about being around the same thought process.In a country where we are such a minority, it is helpful to see that I am not the only person who questions what others take for granted.
I shouldn’t be judged for using my brain, and I won’t apologize for it. Yes, I do remind myself often that I am intelligent. I think my inquiry into everything that isn’t supported by evidence is so far beyond shallow that I can’t even comprehend why Ray Comfort chose that particular word, except for its negative connotation in general. It is not unreasonable to demand truth and evidence. It is not unreasonable to decide not be a sheep who says “moo,” just because all the other sheep are doing it.
This set of ten “suggestions” are really just an amalgam of various logical fallacies, and as a whole, are a pretty offensive ad hominem attack. I suppose dismissing the atheist position can help him feel better about the arguments he’s encountered, but it doesn’t make those arguments invalid.
There you have it. Hope the nachos were good. Did you save any for me? I’m spent.

The Kindness of Strangers

I was on my way to take my dogs to the groomer this morning. I took our older car, which has been sitting in the driveway since my husband and I began carpooling a couple of months ago. We’re usually either going places together, or one of us is home while the other’s away. So while it’s sitting, the air in the tires apparently got very low. I had to stop for gas anyway, so I figured I’d fill up the air, too.

Well… one of them just wouldn’t fill. I don’t know where the hole was, or if maybe I just had some brain fart when it came to pumping air. It started getting flatter, and I finally conceded that I had to change the tire right there. Fortunately, the parking spot next to me was open, so I had some room to maneuver the jack.

Several people drove by. Many people looked my way. One guy even parked behind me to use the air pump, since I was taking up the spot next to it. When I opened the trunk to put some supplies in, I noticed him carefully avoiding my eye, much like people are wont to do with a man on a corner with a will-work-for-food sign.

The coup-de-gras, though, was the little blue Datsun pickup, whose driver tried to pull into the empty spot next to me, saw me, sat and waited a minute for me to move, then peeled away (seriously, peeled out – so presumably it was in frustration). As he turned around to park in the line of spots perpendicular to the one I was in, I noticed an ichthian decal on his tailgate. Nice.

Finally, just as I was taking the last lugnut off, and getting ready to take the flat tire down, a man asked me if I needed help. I accepted, and he was done in a flash. Wouldn’t even take the cash I tried to offer him and his wife for their kindness. I appreciate them both completely – they took time out of their day to help a stranger, with no reward but the satisfaction of their actions.

As you can probably see, I am definitely not against the whole help-a-woman-in-need thing. I don’t take an offer of help to mean that I (or women in general) am to weak to handle it. Rather, I appreciate it greatly, and am perfectly independent enough to tell someone I don’t need it if that’s the case. I’m human, and I’m okay with the fact that I could use a bit of help now and then. I’m even okay if you choose not to offer help, whatever your reasons. But I sure have a problem with being treated like an inconvenience while I struggle with an obstacle, especially by someone who so proudly displays a symbol that is supposed to represent kindness and love.

Three steps forward, two steps back

America took a few strides forward with last night’s election, with Obama taking approx. 52% of the popular vote. Although there are precincts across the country yet to report, he is projected to obtain at least 338 electoral votes. This is monumental for reintroducing reason and common sense to the country.

Yet, while the majority of Americans are struggling to keep walking forward, there is a chain around our waists, and at the other end of the chain, the religious right does their damnedest to pull us backwards. Glancing through the ballot measures highlighted on CNN’s election page, I noticed that Arizona was not the only state who gave in to fundamentalist prejudice and sense of entitlement to impose morals onto everyone. I’ve already made it clear in previous posts how I feel about the attempts to ban gay marriage, so I’ll spare you the rant now. Let me just say I am exceptionally disappointed in the results of a few measures last night:

Arizona

Arizona Proposition 102: Ban on Gay Marriage

This measure would amend the state constitution so that only a union between one man and one woman would be valid or recognized as a marriage in the state. A similar measure was on the ballot in 2006 but failed

Yes 56%

No 44%

99% precincts reporting

http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2008/results/individual/#AZI01

Arkansas

Arkansas Initiative 1: Ban on Gay Couples Adopting Children
This measure would prohibit unmarried “sexual partner[s]” from adopting children or from serving as foster parents. The measure specifies that the prohibition applies to both opposite-sex as well as same-sex couples.

Yes 57%

No 43%

96% precincts reporting

http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2008/results/individual/#ARI01

California

California Proposition 8: Ban on Gay Marriage

This measure would amend the state constitution to specify that only marriages between one man and one woman would be recognized as valid in the state. If passed, the measure would trump a May 2008 ruling by the California Supreme Court that legalized same-sex marriage.

Yes 52%

No 48%

91% precincts reporting

http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2008/results/individual/#CAI01

Florida

Florida Amendment 2: Ban on Gay Marriage

This measure would amend the state constitution to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. In order to amend the Florida constitution, 60 percent of voters must vote in favor of the amendment.

Yes 62%

No 38%

99% precincts reporting

http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2008/results/individual/#FLI01

With that said, let me present a few ballot measure with promising outcomes:

Colorado

Colorado Amendment 48: Human Life from Moment of Conception

This measure would amend the state constitution to define the term “person” to include “any human being from the moment of fertilization.” This definition would be applied to all aspects of the state constitution, including the provisions that ensure that no person has his or her life, liberty, or property taken away without due process of law. Thus, the measure would essentially have the effect of banning abortion.

Yes 27%

No 72%

87% precincts reporting

http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2008/results/individual/#COI02

Michigan

Michigan Proposition 2: Allow Stem Cell Research

This measure would amend the state constitution to permit human embryonic stem cell research with certain restrictions. The embryos must have been created for fertility treatment purposes; they must have been otherwise discarded; and they may not be used more than 14 days after cell division has begun.

Yes 53%

No 47%

99% precincts reporting

http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2008/results/individual/#MII02

South Dakota

South Dakota Initiative 11: Abortion Limits

This measure would prohibit all abortions in the state except in cases where mother’s life or health is at risk or in cases of rape or incest for pregnancies of less than 20 weeks. A similar measure that did not include exceptions for rape or the health of the mother was on the ballot in 2006, but was rejected by voters 44 to 56 percent.

Yes 45%

No 55%

100% precincts reporting

http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2008/results/individual/#SDI01

Washington

Washington Initiative 1000: Allow Doctor-Assisted Suicide

This measure would allow terminally ill, competent, adult residents of the state to request and self-administer lethal medication prescribed by a physician. The person requesting to end his or her life must be medically predicted to have six months or less to live.

Yes 59%

No 41%

54% precincts reporting

http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2008/results/individual/#WAI01

It appears there are some states that can make decisions without the tedium of religiosity standing in the way of progress.

Finally, congratulations to President-Elect Obama. While it is true that only time will show us what your presidency will bring, I believe you represent a great deal of change, and hopefully progression among the more narrow-minded set of our population. It is wonderful to feel such a sense of hope.

Arizonans, vote NO on bigotry

Prop 102 is a proposition to amend the Arizona Constitution to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

This is the product of ignorance and bigotry and I hope to see it crushed tomorrow night. The supporters’ web site is chock full of painful and downright stupid comments:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Media Room – Yes For Marriage“, posted with vodpod

“I think Prop 102 will protect marriage in Arizona from judges.”

Heaven forbid they touch this topic! We must completely bypass the branch of government intended to interpret law.

“It’s preserving the family.”

Whose family? Yours? That’s your job, not a legislator’s. Oh, someone else’s family… then what do you care?

Merriam-Webster defines family (highlights are mine):

Main Entry:
1fam·i·ly           Listen to the pronunciation of 1family
Pronunciation:
\ˈfam-lē, ˈfa-mə-\
Function:
noun
Inflected Form(s):
plural fam·i·lies
Etymology:
Middle English familie, from Latin familia household (including servants as well as kin of the householder), from famulus servant
Date:
15th century
fam·i·ly·hood           Listen to the pronunciation of familyhood \-ˌhu̇d\ noun
1: a group of individuals living under one roof and usually under one head : household
2 a: a group of persons of common ancestry : clan b: a people or group of peoples regarded as deriving from a common stock : race
3 a: a group of people united by certain convictions or a common affiliation : fellowship b: the staff of a high official (as the President)
4: a group of things related by common characteristics: as a: a closely related series of elements or chemical compounds
b: a group of soils with similar chemical and physical properties (as texture, pH, and mineral content) that comprise a category ranking above the series and below the subgroup in soil classification c: a group of related languages descended from a single ancestral language
5 a: the basic unit in society traditionally consisting of two parents rearing their children ; also : any of various social units differing from but regarded as equivalent to the traditional family <a single-parent family> b: spouse and children <want to spend more time with my family>
6 a: a group of related plants or animals forming a category ranking above a genus and below an order and usually comprising several to many genera bin livestock breeding (1): the descendants or line of a particular individual especially of some outstanding female (2): an identifiable strain within a breed
7: a set of curves or surfaces whose equations differ only in parameters
8: a unit of a crime syndicate (as the Mafia) operating within a geographic area

Hmmm… I don’t see “man and woman” anywhere in there.

“It’s cut and dry.”

Stupid and thoughtless. Why don’t you just say it? “My opinion is correct and there is no room for discussion of how this could hurt thousands or millions of people. Don’t care, can’t hear you, na na na na na na na!!!!”

“It needs to become an amendment so that the people could have the last word.”

Don’t you mean to add, “the people who agree with me, anyway. The rest don’t matter.”

Here’s hoping the people this will affect most do have the last word. It’s easy for you to stand in front of a microphone with your husband and your traditional, patriarchal family and talk about how simple this is. But the truth is, it shouldn’t matter to you whether or not same-sex partners are married. Just because it hurts your sensibilities and damages your perception of a perfectly ordered world (which I can only assume must be a real bitch to maintain!), doesn’t mean you get to declare who can and can’t be married.

Here’s a news flash. Let’s talk strictly about heterosexual married couples for a second. I can think of several that have ended badly, or are loveless, miserable and suffocating. Why do these people get to be married – doesn’t their misery destroy your perfect ideal of the “family?” Well, it should.

The government has no right to dictate who can and cannot be married. Two hearts committed to each other are married with or without a piece of paper. The paper is only for the purpose of registering a marriage for the sake of spousal rights. Well, it should be, anyway. I was married to my husband long before the officiator signed his name to our license. I was in love with, committed and faithful to him. We shared a deep attraction, a home, dreams, plans.

That is marraige. That is family. If I was born with the mechanism that determines homosexuality, I would not have held that attraction, and I would have found someone else with whom I connected on that level. And I would be married to them, in my heart at least, and ideally, officially, in a state that appreciates the nature of love.

It saddens me that all a defeat of Prop 102 will bring about is avoidance of this egregious bigotry in the state constitution. I wish it meant that people in love are afforded equal rights across the board, regardless of the sex of each of the parties.

Please, don’t impose any idealistic notions of what a family is “supposed” to be on those who don’t share them. It’s not your place. It’s not mine, either. The opportunity should be afforded to a couple to determine that for themselves.

Brainwashing comes home

This weekend, I visited my sister-in-law and her three children. The two oldest kids (13 and 11) were in and out of the room with the adults.

At some point, my 11-year-old niece says, “So who are you voting for?” I should mention here that this family is very conservative Christian, so I was reluctant to respond at all – it as a nice family Saturday, and I didn’t feel like a political argument. But then my other sister-in-law answered that she would be voting for Obama. My niece’s jaw dropped. “But he believes in abortion!” And he wants to take ‘In God We Trust’ off the money!”

So we had a brief discussion about the history of “In God We Trust,” which I had written about before. I was actually able to sit back and watch – the SIL who will be voting for Obama pretty much described what I had written (thanks for listening, A!). The conversation stopped when someone came back from picking up lunch and we moved on to sunnier – and less explosive – topics.

But a couple of house later, my nephew (the 13-year-old) came in and asked the same question. All but one of hte five adults in the room (his mother was the one) indicated Obama. He freaked out, citing almost precisely what his sister had, adding that Obama was a Muslim who wanted to ruin America’s Christianity.

His mother asked him who told him that, and he replied, “Mr. Powers.” She said she didn’t want to talk about politics, and told him not to bring it up again. (She wasn’t in the room when my niece asked the question, or she may have stifled discussion then, too).

So here’s the deal. These kids go to a Christian private school. So naturally there’s already a focus on religion there. But I am appalled that this Mr. Powers is uttering such inflammatory political statements in front of kids who are old enough to begin considering their own opinions and ideas, given a full cache of facts. There’s a reason they’re not old enough to vote, but they’re surely old enough to be taught to think critically, not just to spew out what’s been uttered by trusted adults.

This is disturbing. I love my sister-in-law and her family. They have been very happy since they found this church, but she has also become very conservative and – as demonstrated in the interaction Saturday – stifling. She’s not open-minded, and I’m not interested in starting a family feud. But I am gravely worried about these kids. They are not choosing their beliefs, they are mimicking their mom’s. They are not presented with other potential world views. They are given the information needed to keep them “in the fold.”

They’re not my kids; it’s barely my business. But I feel like this is injurous to their mental growth, and they are both extremely bright, with great potential in this world. I want to help them find a way to use that potential for the greater good, not for pushing an ancient and manipulative agenda.

An ad from outside the asylum

This should be the rule, not the exception.

Vodpod videos no longer available.more about “Barack Obama“, posted with vodpod

This is what a campaign should be.A candidate should tell us what he plans to do to drive change, not tell us why we shouldn’t vote for the other guy. A smear ad says to the voters, “Vote for me; I’m the least of the evils.” It’s cowardly to surround an entire ad around the opponent’s faults; it tells us that even you don’t believe you’re good enough for the job… just that you know you’re better than him.

It’s insulting to the voters and citizens of this nation to ask us to make such an important choice based on who has managed to dig deepest into the other guy’s skeletons.

It’s fine to tell us that you think your opponent is wrong. But – [listen up candidates!] – can you please give us enough credit to know that you don’t agree? If you did, it wouldn’t be much of a choice for us, would it? So – spend more time telling us why we should elect you, instead of why we shouldn’t vote for the opponent.

I just want to add that, by posting this ad from the Obama camp, I in no way am trying to indict only John McCain in this mud-slinging. It’s come from both sides. But I have to admit, I have yet to see an ad from the McCain campaign that doesn’t skewer Obama in some way. At least one side knows how to put together an ad that at least suggests he has the right idea, and directs viewers to a site with more detailed information.

I’m just trying to say.. a standard ad should focus on the positive, not the negative. It doesn’t have to be all butterflies and rainbows, but can we please have fewer black clouds and ominous voiceovers?

cross-posted at myspace

Well, it was a night for the monsters to play

Susan Nagel, of Grosse Pointe Farms, MI, decided to turn the tables on the ghouls that showed up at her door, and refused candy to children who either support Obama, or whose parents suppot Obama.

It seems clear this woman is motivated by hatred of her candidate’s opponent, not any true desire to ensure her candidate receives support. Seriously, what could she hope to gain by targeting children?

Yes, yes – it’s her right to give out her candy to whomever she pleases. Presumably, she bought it with her own hard-earned cash. Fine. Whatever. But she’s not teaching the kids who come to her door any lessons. First of all, an educated guess would assume that 99% of them aren’t eligible to vote, and won’t be for the next 4 to 14 years. So she’s not making any impact at the polls.

Second, she’s certainly not offering these kids any grass-is-greener potions, is she? I mean, the ones who are affected at all are going to remember this nasty Republican woman, and want nothing to do with her kind.

She makes a nice little effort, though – hadning out McCain/Palin pamphlets, although only with the candy she gives to the good little ghosts and goblins. What a waste of paper, right?

She’s playing dirty – although she’s more than likely acting independently, she’s following in the well-worn McCain trail: dirty tricks and mean-spirited tactics. This was not a night for political positioning. These poor kids, whether they have an opinion on the election or not (and if they do, a majority of them probably only hold their parents’ opinion), are only out for a bit of candy and night with their friends and family.

It is of note that the story linked here, deriding Ms. Nagel, is a Fox affiliate. Even they don’t approve of how low she stooped. That should say something right there.