There has been a battle going on in the atheists/skeptical movement over the past year or so. It is a battle about sexism. I won’t go into the details because there are too many incidents and opinions to mention here. For an introduction, if you are not familiar with what’s been happening, see PZ Myers’ blog post. Make sure you visit the links there, and the links in those links.
PZ feels that it is time to take sides, and I agree.
Sexism is wrong. Rape is horrible and wrong. Anyone who supports these things whether openly, through making excuses for them, or just pretending they don’t matter is wrong; period. These people try to explain away sexism, to rationalize it, to excuse it in any way they can. They make threats of violence, rape, and even death agains the women who come forward with their experiences of being victimized.
These are the same people who claim to be rational. They deride the religious for being irrational in their beliefs; for supporting and rationalizing their beliefs with senseless excuses and rationalizations while they do exactly the same thing in their defense and denial of sexism in the atheist and skeptical communities.
These people are wrong and no amount of rationalization can change that. They are immoral, plain and simple.
I take the side of every woman, all women, who live with sexism every day. I take the side of inclusion. I take the side of equality and fairness. I take the side of humanism. I take the side of what is right and moral; the idea that every woman has the right to not just be safe, but feel safe, at all atheist and skeptical conferences and events, to never have to live with threats of violence, rape, and death just for speaking out about their experiences with sexism.
These are painful times we are going through, but if we want to advance the causes of atheist and skepticism, we must clean our own house or we can never claim the high moral ground against the religious, who use their gods to claim the same.
We must demand of our conference organizers that they not invite speakers who are known to engage in sexist and predatory behavior. We must demand that they bar these people from all conferences and events. If they refuse, then we must refuse to attend their events and to contribute to their organizations. We must insist that the CFI, the JREF, and all other atheist and skeptical organizations refuse these sexists and predators venues for their speeches and writings. We must insist that they remove these people from their organizations. If they don’t, then they don’t get our support or our money.
As a society of atheists and skeptics, we must shun those sexist predators and all who support them. This is not a war, but a boycott. We must boycott their speeches, their appearances, their books, and their podcasts. We must make them outcasts and pariahs.
It is time to take sides. If you truly care about your community and what it should stand for, then take the side of what is right and moral, or be left in the dustbin of history.
An article in the Washington Post reports on the new monument that has been installed next to one of the Ten Commandments outside a Florida courthouse.
Atheists had sued to remove the Ten Commandments monument because it violates the the Establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution. An agreement was reached that, instead of removing the monument, atheists would be able to erect their own monument on public property next to it.
The monument that the atheists erected contain quotes by various founding fathers that are much more apt for a courthouse than the Ten Commandments, almost half of which apply to how God should be worshiped and have no bearing on U.S. Law.
While I support displaying monuments to our founding fathers and quotes from them that support actual U.S. legal principles, I have serious reservations about how this particular case played out.
Allowing a secular monument on public land, of course, does not violate the Establishment clause, but doing so in this case inextricably links the secular monument with that of the Ten Commandments. In essence, it gives validity to the idea that it is OK to allow a religious monument on public property. By agreeing to erect a secular monument next to a religious one, these atheists have legitimized the display of religious symbols on public property.
We have secular monument aplenty across our land. The Jefferson and Lincoln monuments come to mind. This is how it should be. Our legal system is founded upon the U.S. Constitution, a document that never once mentions God, and even explicitly forbids the government showing preference for any religion.
We don’t need the condecending permission of religious minded judges or politicians to allow us to erect a monument to those who founded our country. By accepting this settlement, atheists essentially allowed the religious crowd, who erected their monument in violation of the laws of this land, to give them something that was theirs by default.
This is not a win for atheists. By agreeing to allow an obviously illegal monument to stand, they have legitimized those who seek to push their religious agenda into our government at every level, and thereby made it a win for the enemies of secularism.
My Response to the CFI’s Response to the Skeptical Community’s Response to Ron Lindsay’s Opening Statement at the Women in Secularism 2 Conference
I’ve been out of action here for quite a while due to work and family and just life in general. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been paying attention to what’s been going on in the skeptical and atheist communities. There has been a lot going on there, but it took something unbelievably appalling and rage inducing to motivate me to start writing again.
As you can see by the title of this posts, something happened at the Women in Secularism 2 Conference. Something so unthinkably insensitive you would have thought it was said by one of the disgusting Republican, Tea Party loving, rape apologists. But, no. sadly , it was said by the leader of one of the leading and most influential secular groups in America; the Center for Inquiry, or CFI.
I won’t get into the particulars. If you haven’t heard about it, you can read the outrage from different individuals here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. The CFI response to all this outrage can be found here.
My personal response, which I’ve emailed to the CFI Board of Directors is below.
June 22, 2013
To Tom Flynn & the CFI Board of Directors
Dear Mr. Flynn and CFI Board members,
I am writing today to express my outrage at your response to the outcry caused by Ron Lindsay’s opening statement at the Women in Secularism 2 conference.
You have shown that you are either incapable, or unwilling, to take an definitive stand on sexism in the Skeptical community. Your official statement regarding this issue, far from helping to quell the protests, only exacerbated the situation.
Your refusal to issue an apology, either as an organization, or though Ron Lindsay personally, is a disgrace. Your insipid claim to value equality in the community is woefully inadequate at best, and pretentiously self-serving at worse.
Over the past year or so, sexism has become possiblty the most important and divisive issue in the Skeptical community. The examples of blatant misogyny and raw hatred by a relatively small number of members of the community toward anyone who dares support feminism and women’s right are disgusting, abhorrent, and almost too numerous to count. They include vile insults, threats of rape, and even death threats against those, mostly woman, who speak out against them.
By refusing to take a stand against these misogynistic, hate-spewing members of our community, you only encourage, enable, and by your silence, tacitly accept their continued hatred and harassment of those who work tirelessly towards equality for all in our community.
I can no longer support the CFI, given it’s stance regarding sexism within our community. I will no longer be donating to your organization, and this includes renewing my subscription to Skeptical Inquirer magazine. This last honestly pains me because not only do I feel that it is the best skeptical magazine tin existence, but having been published in it, I can no longer in good conscience submit my work to be published there.
I fervently hope that the leadership of CFI will take an unambiguous public stand in support of ridding our community of sexism, misogyny, and hatred.
I’ll leave you with a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. that I feel sums up my feelings toward the current state of the CFI leadership.
In his “Letter from a Birmingham jail” he said: “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.”
If this issue upsets you as much as it does me, please do something about it. At the very least, let the CFI know how you feel. You can email them, as I did, at email@example.com, or snail mail them at:
Center for Inquiry Transnational
P.O. Box 741, Amherst, NY 14226
Do something! Don’t let your “appalling silence” allow the injustice to continue.
We here in the wealthy, well-fed west are overlooking one of the greatest moral crises in the world: the millions of deaths and hundred of millions more illnesses caused by starvation and lack of basic nutritional needs of people in the world. People who live in more desperate situations that we can even imagine. We have a moral obligation and duty to use every method at our disposal, including GM crops, to alleviate the suffering of almost a billion people on our planet. (1)(2) Every year, over two million children needlessly die of starvation (2).
An example of a low risk GM crop is discussed by Steven Novella at his Neurologica blog, and covers the introduction of Golden Rice, which is supplemented with vitamin A. This crop could save close to 500, 000 children a year who die of vitamin A deficiency. There are some very salient points brought up in his article, but I’d like to quote one in particular:
Bruce Chassy is speaking this week at the AAAS meeting (American Academy for the Advancement of Science) arguing that the current regulation of GM crops is counterproductive (an opinion he also gives here). He argues that the last 20 years have demonstrated the overall safety of GM crops through multiple plantings and scientific studies. We still need to monitor GM crop safety, but the current level of regulation is harming the hungry and the poor, mostly in the third world.
Of course we have a duty to make sure that all GM crops are tested as throughly as possible to keep side effects to a minimum, be it to human and animal health, or the spreading of deleterious traits into wild plants. But, like most anything in life, the risks of harm from GM crops needs to be weighed against the harm caused by nutritional deficiencies and starvation world wide. From what I can see in the history of GM crops so far, the benefits for humanity far outweigh the risks.
We live a sheltered, comfortable life here in the west. We are able to look past the basics of life, food and shelter, to other issues, such as the environment. To label all GM crops as bad is unscientific, and given what we know, immoral. When we have GM crops that can save millions of lives, that can provide more food per acre for starving people, that can fulfill the nutritional needs of the poor, we have a moral obligation to take the necessary risks and do the most good for the whole of humanity.
Telling someone that they shouldn’t steal or murder or rape because if they get caught they will go to prison is not teaching morality. Similarly, telling someone that they shouldn’t engage in these same types of behaviors because the will got to hell is not teaching morality either. What it is doing is teaching that these behaviors are bad, not because the are intrinsically immoral, but because there is the risk of negative consequences.
This type of thinking ignores the real effect of immoral actions: that they harm others. That crime, deceit, and violence robs a person of a part of their humanity. It attacks one of the greatest truths ever put forth by the human mind: that we all are created equal, that we “are endowed with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” (1)
True morals should be based on this principle. They should also be based on empathy and love for our fellow Homo sapiens who we share out planet with. By holding up threats of punishment, either in this life or a mythical one beyond it, we dehumanize each other and desensitize ourselves to the humanity within others.
This mindset can lead to disdain of those who are seen as violating some peoples’ personal or religious morals, many of which are inhumane, insensitive, and inhumane.
The same holds for being moral and doing good deeds for others because we empathize with their plight. We should do kind things not expecting anything in return, but because it is intrinsically the right thing to do. To only do good, be it giving to charity, doing a favor for a friend, or giving a blanket to a cold homeless person just because we expect a reward in heaven or to boost our status within our social circles reeks of callousness. These types of people do good not because it is the right thing to do, but because they are greedy for reward. When they give to charity, help at soup kitchens, they are often thinking not of those who benefit from their deeds, but of the benefit to their social status and/or their eternal reward.
Santa Clause, that fictional character of Christmas cheer, summed up the true basis of morality: be good for goodness’ sake.
(1) The Declaration of Independence
are created equal, that they are endowed
There has been much talk from the political right about makers and takers. Let us take a closer look at these terms.
Here is how the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines these terms:
- to bring into being by forming, shaping, or altering material : fashion
- to lay out and construct
- to put together from components
- to assemble to
- repare, fix
- one that makes
- to get into one’s hands or into one’s possession, power, or control
- to transfer into one’s own keeping
- to obtain or secure for use
- to obtain possession
- one who takes
American workers make things. Lots of things.
- physical things like cars, buildings, roads, clothes, etc.
- productive, non-physical things like spreadsheets, reports, financial forecasts, sales, ideas, computer code and applications.
- intangible services, like customer service, technical support, mechanical repairs, maintenance of equipment, processes, and workflow.
As for the job creators:
- they take the fruit of the workers.
- profits from sale or use of the cars, buildings, roads, clothing, etc.
- profits that are maintained by the rest of the above mentioned services and productivity by American workers.
For the American worker, for their hard work, the work of their hands, brains, and ingenuity, they get:
- one to two weeks vacation a year (often after a year or more with the company)
- health insurance and a retirement package, if they are lucky enough to be working a full time schedule (many aren’t)
- five paid sick days a year, if they are lucky enough. Many get none.
- unpaid maternity leave (which many can’t afford due to lose of income)
- twelve weeks of unpaid leave (which many can’t afford due to lose of income)
- a wage that they may or may not be able support themselves and a family on, if they are lucky (many must work two or more jobs to make ends meet)
- a safe working environment, assuming their employer is following the law (laws that were put in place because unions fought for them)
It is time to correctly define our political terms. The real makers are the people who make everything that make profits for the real takers: the “job creators”.
The makers are the American workers.
The takers are the owners, CEOs, VPs, stock holders of the companies where the makers work.
It would seem, looking at things in this context that the takers take home much more of the fruits of the labor of the makers than the makers themselves could ever hope to.
We pride ourselves on being a nation that built its self up from nothing to the most powerful nation in the world. But all of the real work; the hands that produced the materials; built the homes and great works of architecture; did the research that led to amazing technological advances; the men and women who fought and died in our wars, they made everything we see around us.
The American workers are, and always have been, the true makers, while the real takers have lived high on the hog of the fruits of their labors.
I haven’t been posting much here lately. I literally have dozens of writing ideas stashed away in my blog research notebook, but I just haven’t been able to get anything written.
The main reason is that I lost my job a little over two months ago. We’ve been lucky so far in that we have some financial resources that we have been able to draw on to keep us afloat, but these are quickly running out. Unemployment barley pays the bills and will leave nothing left over if that is the only thing we have to live on. Food stamps help, but $100 a month is hardly enough to feed a family of four.
I suffer from Bi-polar II and depression. I take medication for it. Still, the depression has been acute and this makes it very hard to concentrate, so writing anything of substance is difficult.
I’ve been using what little concentration I have to concentrate on finding a new job. The medication I take at least gives me enough stability to do that. I’ve had several interviews that didn’t pan out, and I have three more companies who want to interview me, but the Holidays put that off. Next week will hopefully see a lot of movement on the jobs front.
Going back to the issue of medical insurance, Medicaid covers the kids, but for my wife an I, we can’t get anything until we have met a $1100 monthly deductible. That’s almost as much as we are bringing in. I’m lucky. Being a veteran, I can go to the VA hospital here and get my medication for only $8 per prescription. My wife’s medication, on the other hand, we have to pay out of pocket. These run to several hundred dollars a month, making it even harder to make ends meet.
All of this makes me wonder, if I didn’t have access to the VA, and can’t afford to pay for my medication out of pocket ($300+ per month), how would I ever be able to look for a job? Without my medication I would almost surely be so bad off that I would either never get out of bed, end up in an inpatient facility, or dead. Seriously. Before I was diagnosed as Bi-polar II and got on the medication to treat it, I was suicidal. The only thing keeping me from killing myself were my kids. Since they live with me, I somehow managed to keep it together enough to care for them. If I didn’t have them, I am pretty sure I wouldn’t be here now.
So, back to my point. If people like myself can’t get the medication they need to function, or in some cases even live (think diabetics who can’t afford their insulin, heart patients who can’t afford their heart medication), how can we be expected to function well enough to actually find a job? Job searching is hard. It is time consuming and incredibly depressing. Every rejection, or even every non-reply, is a slap down . How can you be expected to perform well at an interview if your mental state makes you anxious and jumpy, or depressed and lethargic (something all in the same day)? What if your diabetes or heart condition make it impossible to even get out to an interview?
Eventually, you could end up in the hospital (on the government’s dime), or worse. The least the government could do is to cover medications that people need to function while we are collecting unemployment and looking for a job. Otherwise, we become a burden to the state for much longer than we might otherwise, not to mention the terrible toll it can take on ourselves and our families.
Anywhoo, I still have some stock in my old company that I can sell if a job doesn’t come my way before the end of this month. It isn’t much, but will mostly cover rent.
Not being able to write is really bothering me. I have an article being published in Skeptical Inquirer magazine in a few months. I hope to use the exposure that I get from that to find other writing opportunities, not just to boost my ego, but to make some extra money. Even one paying article per month would help pay a car payment or car insurance. To do this, though, requires that I can be seen to be able to write not just well, but consistently and constantly. That is something I’m making a priority, now that I’m starting to feel somewhat better (was without meds for a while until I could get things going at the VA).
Given this, I’m making a plea to anyone reading this. I don’t want you to send money or anything like that, but if you know of anyone or anyplace needing some writing done, please let me know, or let them know about me. I know I said I’ve been having a hard time writing, but if I have a deadline I always have been able to deliver the goods. It would be a job, after all.
You may be asking yourself how I am able to write this if I’ve been having so much trouble. Easy, it’s about me. No research needed.
After the horrifying shootings at the Newtown, CT school, Bryan Fisher, Director of Issues Analysis for the American Family Association proposed that God could have stopped the shootings, but didn’t because apparently it was God’s way of saying:
“Hey, I’d be glad to protect your children, but you have to invite me back into your world first. I’m not going to go where I’m not wanted. I am a gentleman.”
A Gentleman?! Fisher’s “gentleman” god sounds more like a child throwing a tantrum because he didn’t get what he wants. A gentleman doesn’t sit by while 20 children are killed in cold blood just because he wasn’t picked for the team on the playground. I will tell you who does act like this: a coward; a sociopath; a sick and twisted, sadist.
Fisher’s god is an iniquitous and malefic thug. A god who can stand by and allow 20 innocent children be massacred is not a god worthy of praise or worth following. If such a god does exist and wishes me to believe, never mind support, that the innocent must die for the sins of the guilty, then I will proudly stand before him and tell him to kiss my ass and to send me to hell. I’d rather spend an eternity in hell than give the slightest support to such a evil creature. I thought that Jesus was the innocent one who was supposed to died for all of our sins, or did he just not get it right and now God feels that he must allow tiny children to die instead in order to pay for the supposed ills of our society? Where does God’s mercy and forgiveness come into all this? Apparently it doesn’t.
The fact is that 20 innocent children and 7 adults are dead. They aren’t dead because God is punishing us. They aren’t gone forever because of homosexuality, secularism, evolution being taught in our schools, or Obambacare. There is only one reason that they are dead: because a man walked into to the school and shot them. Period.
I’m not going to try to make this a sermon about gun control, or better access to mental health care, or any other political or social issue. That is something that we, as a society, must decide to do something about (or, as is often the case, do nothing).
We like to try to place blame when terrible things happen to us. We can’t stand the thought that something so horrific could happen for no reason as all. The reality is that nature doesn’t care and the universe doesn’t care. They just are. We, on the other hand, can and do care. Instead of seeking a reason beyond the the simple one stated above, we need to care for each other, help each other, and most importantly, cherish each other, every moment of every day. We must stop worrying about what comes after this life and focus on living each day as if it were our last, because, as we’ve been seeing far to often lately, life can be taken from us in the blink of an eye.
“Right to Work” laws are bullshit. We already have a right to work, that’s what a free market supplies. What “Right to Work” really means is the right for companies in the states that have these laws to compensate their employees as little as the laws possibly allow. It lets them keep from giving employees benefits, and lets them fire employees at any time for no reason without any legal repercussions.
The “Right to Work” laws should be called “The Right for Employers to do Whatever the Fuck the Want” laws.
“Right to Work” is one of those propagandistic phrases, like “Pro Life”, or ‘Voter Protection” that the right uses to make it sound like they are doing something that really is the exact opposite of what they say it is.
According to Wikipedia:
A “right-to-work” law is a statute in the United States of America that prohibits union security agreements, or agreements between labor unions and employers that govern the extent to which an established union can require employees’ membership, payment of union dues, or fees as a condition of employment, either before or after hiring. Right-to-work laws exist in twenty-three U.S. states, mostly in the southern and western United States. Such laws are allowed under the 1947 federal Taft–Hartley Act.
Proponents claim that companies in states that have Right to Work laws have higher employment rates. While this is true, many of those jobs pay less than in non-Right to Work states and many are part time.
Here is what Wikipedia has to say about the ills of Right to Work:
Opponents argue that right-to-work laws restrict freedom of association by prohibiting workers and employers from agreeing to contracts that include fair share fees, and so create a free rider problem. The absence of fair share fees forces dues paying members to subsidize services to non-union employees (who are bound by the terms of the union contract even though they are not members of the union). Thus, these individuals benefit from collective bargaining without paying union dues.
The AFL-CIO union argues that because unions are weakened by these laws, wages are lowered and worker safety and health is endangered. For these reasons, the union refers to right-to-work states as “right to work for less” states or “right-to-fire” states, and to non-right-to-work states as “free collective bargaining” states.
Business interests led by the Chamber of Commerce lobbied extensively for right-to-work legislation in the Southern states. Critics from organized labor have argued since the late 1970s that while the National Right to Work Committee purports to engage in grass-roots lobbying on behalf of the “little guy”, the National Right to Work Committee was formed by a group of southern businessmen with the express purpose of fighting unions, and that they “added a few workers for the purpose of public relations”.
The unions also contend that the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation has received millions of dollars in grants from foundations controlled by major U.S. industrialists like the New York-based Olin Foundation, Inc., which grew out of a family manufacturing business, and other groups.
A final argument against these rules is that they place limits on the sort of agreements private individuals, acting collectively, can make with their employer.
A February 2011 Economic Policy Institute study found:
Wages in right-to-work states are 3.2% lower than those in non-RTW states, after controlling for a full complement of individual demographic and socioeconomic variables as well as state macroeconomic indicators. Using the average wage in non-RTW states as the base ($22.11), the average full-time, full-year worker in an RTW state makes about $1,500 less annually than a similar worker in a non-RTW state.
The rate of employer-sponsored health insurance (ESI) is 2.6 percentage points lower in RTW states compared with non-RTW states, after controlling for individual, job, and state-level characteristics. If workers in non-RTW states were to receive ESI at this lower rate, 2 million fewer workers nationally would be covered.
The rate of employer-sponsored pensions is 4.8 percentage points lower in RTW states, using the full complement of control variables in [the study's] regression model. If workers in non-RTW states were to receive pensions at this lower rate, 3.8 million fewer workers nationally would have pensions.
To be fair, there are other arguments for Right to Work that are stated in that Wikipedia entry and I encourage you to read the whole thing and come to your own conclusions.
I support unions because I believe that it helps all workers, not just those who belong to unions. When I worked for Boeing, I received excellent benefits including health, vacation, and a paid week off between Christmas and New Years. The same was true when I worked for Sun Microsystems. Since I was a salaried employee, I couldn’t join a union, but it was the unions that the hourly wage workers belonged to that helped get all employee these excellent benefits.
Other benefits we have all gained due to unions are the 40 hour work week, paid vacations, health insurance, retirement packages, holidays off, a minimum wage, and a safe work environment. Without unions many workers would still be working 60 hour work weeks in unsafe conditions for pennies an hour.
If you don’t believe that many employers wouldn’t pay you next to nothing, think again. There is a reason many jobs have been moved overseas, because in places like China and India, terrible working conditions and dirt poor wages are the norm.
As it is, families who rely on the bread winner who makes minimum wage are the ones most likely to be in poverty and rely on government assistance programs thereby costing all of us more in taxes, not to mention the drag on the economy from less people spending their income on consumer goods rather than basic subsistence.
If every worker made enough to have extra to spend on goods like TVs, cars, and homes, the economy would boom like it did after WWII when the GI Bill allowed millions to get good educations and good jobs and spend the extra income above subsistence on lots and lots of stuff.
When all of use earn a good wage and benefits, we all benefit.
I’m listening to The Beatles “Abbey Road”. “Here Comes the Sun” right now. If you like The Beatles and you have all their recordings (as I do), listen starting with the “Please Please Me” and go in cronologic order until you reach “Abbey Road”. It will blow your mind. Oh, listen to then on Bose headphones. You’ll get a fanatic aural experience. If you don’t have Bose and you love Music, spend the extra $$$ (About $120. Worth every penny. Try Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” first. Amazing!
No job yet. I’m waiting to hear back from one company in Ohio. I could work remote from home. $80,000, no benefits, so after arranging for my own, I’d be taking home about what was at my last job.
I’ve been out of one of my psyho meds for about a month. At $197 for a month’s supply, it’s a big chunk of my limited finances. I really need them. Without them, I go from cranky to angry outbursts to uncontrollable tears. Now I understand how the poor and unemployed can’t hold down a job.
Nebraska gives virtually nothing to adults for Medicaid. We’d have to rack up $1100 dollars a month before they a penny. With a total monthly income of Barely $200, this would bankrupt us.
I’m lucky, I can go to the VA. My wife on the hand has nothing. Everything is out of pocket.
Hey, the “Abbey Road” CD left of “Her Majesty”. Bastards!
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