12.20.2013

Duck Dynasty: No, Tolerance Doesn't Have To Go Both Ways

Sorry. Duck Dynasty again. It's always the stupid shit that forces a dialogue, it seems.

There's a lot of whining going on about there being no tolerance for people of faith in America anymore.

Here's the thing about tolerance. Tolerance (which I've posted about before here) does not require that one be tolerant of social injustice. When we denounce beliefs which cause harm to others (and yes, denigrating LGBT folks and equating homosexuality with bestiality is indeed harmful), we are in no way in conflict with the concept of tolerance. Tolerance, in a global declaration by the UN, is defined as "the responsibility that upholds human rights, pluralism (including cultural pluralism), democracy and the rule of law. It involves the rejection of dogmatism and absolutism and affirms the standards set out in international human rights instruments...The practice of tolerance does not mean toleration of social injustice or the abandonment or weakening of one's convictions."

When people state that they stand with Robertson because he has the right to speak freely about his faith, they're right -- he does have that right. But it begs the question -- are Christians required by their faith to malign human beings for their natural traits? (If so, that's a horribly flawed morality.) And are those who disagree required to tolerate it?

The reason why it has become "politically incorrect" to denigrate gays and lesbians is not because society no longer tolerates religious belief or family values. It's because this view of sexuality and gender is as unethical and as harmful as the Taliban belief that women should stay at home rather than go to school. It is quite simply archaic and discriminatory thinking that has no value in modern society -- thinking that is morally dubious at best. While those who embrace reason, science, and human progress are moving on and leaving behind naive and outdated views from ancient texts, others remain kicking and screaming, believing that others are being intolerant of their Bronze Age ideas about sexuality and gender (or about the origins of the cosmos and life).

If we must tolerate religious views of LGBT-condemning fundamentalist Christians, then we must also tolerate the religious views of women-stoning fundamentalist Muslims. We can't say that one is any more or less correct. They are both morally unsound and archaic views that cause harm to others.

Why aren't people tolerant of those who wish to cure epilepsy or mental illness by drilling holes in the skull? (This was a common early medical practice.) Well, mostly because we learned more about biology, realized that we were mistaken, and we changed our approach.

There is nothing about tolerance that requires someone to tolerate the mistreatment or maligning of other human beings because of their natural traits. So crying foul on this one and saying it's an attack on faith and family values is to miss the point. Because anti-LGBT sentiment is not a value. Any faith that dictates that it is, is morally flawed. Acquiescing to such ideology is not a virtue.

12.19.2013

The Duck Dynasty Thing Has Absolutely Nothing To Do With Free Speech

The creator of this image doesn't get it.
So this whole Duck Dynasty/A&E thing. I've been seeing a lot of comments in the blogosphere/Twittersphere, and petitions being passed around on Facebook, and one thing seems clear: Too many Americans have no idea what the First Amendment does and doesn't do.

Robertson has all the rights in the world to believe and say what he wants about LGBT folks. Nobody can take that right away from him. However, his employer, A&E, has no obligation whatsoever to pay him for making comments which they feel are not aligned with their values. They are in no way compelled to continue to provide a forum for a guy who has offended a significant number of their viewers.

I imagine if an employee of Fox News (or any other network) made comments on or off the air that equated Christians with swine, that individual would be suspended. And I imagine that the same people who are backing Robertson and boycotting A&E, would applaud the suspension of this employee.  And if he were to remain, I assume they would boycott the Network.

You have the right to say whatever crazy, hurtful, or morally dubious thing you want (short of hate speech, which is not protected).  You don't, however, have the right to keep your TV job after you say it.

11.18.2013

8 Things I Don't Get About Evangelicals Leaving Nasty Notes (And No Tip) For Homosexual Waitpersons

Here's what I don't get about Christians leaving nasty notes and no tip for homosexual waitpersons (see here and here for a few recent examples):

If homosexuality is a choice (as so many misinformed Evangelicals believe), and if acting upon homosexual urges is 'an abomination,' then I have a whole lot of questions:

1. How do these Evangelical diners know that their waitperson is having sex, or with whom they have having sex? Maybe their waitperson is a virgin?

2. Why are they so sure that their waitperson is gay? Did they talk about all the gay sex they're having and then list the specials for the day?

3. Do Evangelicals think about the sex that every waitperson is having? Maybe that's a problem?

4. Do they leave similar judgmental notes for seemingly straight waitpersons who might be having sex for reasons other than procreation? Or who might be divorced? Or having an affair? Or who might have a tattoo? Or who might be judgmental assholes?

5. WWJD?

6. Maybe sexual orientation is not a choice?

7. Maybe who cares if it is a choice?

8. Maybe gratuities are for services rendered and not for the display of specific human traits?

8.27.2013

MONSTERS OF THE COSMOS - Symphony of Science



2.16.2013

'Gangnam Style' Prophesies Death Of Pope Benedict



12.27.2012

'The Face of Creation' - Higgs Remix

Celebrate 2012's greatest scientific discovery with a remix by melodysheep:




12.19.2012

Thoughts On The Sandy Hook Shootings

This was vomited out in a ranty, knee-jerky fashion without edits or revisions. Please forgive my sloppiness and lack of references.

I'm getting pretty tired of hearing the following comments regarding the Sandy Hook shootings:

1. Things like this didn't used to happen.
Yes. Things like this have always happened. People have killed other human beings for little or no reason for as long as humans have existed.

2. People might have killed other people in the past, but they wouldn't take out groups of innocent children and then kill themselves.
Yes. They have. Do some research.

3. This was an act of hatred.
No. This was not an act of hatred. It was the act of a mentally ill man with access to large quantities of ammunition and assault weapons.

4. This was due to the decline of morality in our society.
No. Mental illness doesn't care about morals. An individual with a normal and healthy brain with the capacity for empathy will not commit an act like the one in Sandy Hook.

5. If we had more religion in our societies and in our schools, we wouldn't see things like this happen. Mental illness does not discriminate. No amount of religion (or lack thereof) will keep a mentally ill individual from acting on violent ideation.

6. In the past, if someone was crazy, they'd maybe kill a few people at most -- they'd never enter a school and kill 27 people.
In the past, schools were smaller, our cities and towns were not as densely populated, and assault rifles (and associated rounds of ammunition) were not available on the internet. The internet is only a recent phenomenon. One room school-houses existed just a generation ago. Do the math. If a psychopath had walked into a schoolhouse with an ax or a musket in centuries past, they might get away with killing or maiming a handful of children. And you better believe that psychopaths did kill women and children in the past. We are often blinded by our own lack of appreciation of time and history.

7. This person was pure evil.
We love to exculpate ourselves from culpability. Evil is a human construct. There is nothing at all supernatural about a school shooting.

Let's be honest and admit that what makes these horrible recent events seem so unimaginable is the fact that in all of history, the recipe for such events has not been possible. Mental illness + easy access to assault weapons + densely populated cities, towns, schools, malls = unprecedented fatalities caused by lone actors.

This wasn't an act of evil. It is not a sign of a decaying morality. It cannot be attributed to a lack of religion. These kinds of incidents have always happened -- Americans simply live in a time characterized by a) easy access to assault weapons online 24/7 and in neighborhood stores in every town in America, b) a widespread lack of understanding about mental illness, the stigma associated with it, and the failure of parents, families, co-workers, and neighbors to identify the signs of serious mental illness, c) densely populated cities, towns, and buildings.

It's time we stopped making excuses, accept the realities of our time and place in history, and work to improve the contributing factors that we actually can control.