A Brilliant Statement About Gay Marriage

A friend of mine, Michelle Parsneau, made the following extraordinary public statement about the issue of gay marriage:

https://www.facebook.com/michelle.parsneau

https://www.facebook.com/michelle.parsneau/posts/4332476863607

For all those who talk about “traditional marriage based on the Bible”…

Now would that be Abraham and Sarah (half siblings), Jacob, Rachel and Leah, (not only bigamy but also cousins), David who loved Jonathan “better than any woman” and had multiple wives, or Solomon with his 300 wives and 900 concubines, or the one where a raped virgin is now ‘married’ to her rapist? Biblical marriage has never been one kind only, nor are all of them particularly just constructs.

At the end of the day, a marriage in the U.S. is a legal, civil contract. We only give pastors and religious leaders the courtesy of having the power to perform those ceremonies with legal binding. Preventing two adults from entering into that contract of their own accord based on gender is discrimination, and is not Constitutional, nor is it an American value.

In Minnesota, gay/lesbian marriage is currently illegal already. Can’t bring yourself to vote NO on the amendment? Then, I respectfully ask that you refrain from voting on that issue, as it is only mean spirited and discriminatory to vote for it. Utilizing empathy would be a good way to evaluate this issue.

I want to live in a country and a state that practices full equality as well as freedom of and from religion. Nothing in the idea of gay/lesbian marriage will force people of any religious faith to do anything against their faith. Concerned that pastors and clergy people will be forced to perform marriages they don’t agree with? Get over yourself. They aren’t forced to perform marriages for anyone they don’t like now. How do I know? A narrow-minded pastor who didn’t like what he thought were weaknesses in Kevin and my faith refused to marry us. Of course, he was wrong and 15 years has pretty concretely proven that one. Am I saying that religious leaders can be wrong? Um, hell yes I am. They are just as human as the rest of us.

I want that statement to be seen everywhere!

About George McGovern

George McGovern, the liberal Democratic Senator who ran for President of the United States in 1972 and ended up losing badly to Richard Nixon, died on October 21, 2012. Two days later, a blog entry was written about him. But that is also revealing about the conservative mindset that defeated McGovern and has been a problem for liberals ever since.

http://vereloqui.blogspot.com/2012/10/an-american-hero-george-mcgovern-rip.html

I grew up in a family of conservative Democrats who were increasingly at odds with their party, and who mostly abandoned it on election day in November of 1972 to vote for Nixon. They voted for the crook: it was important. None of them liked McGovern’s politics, a dislike that overshadowed anything they felt about him as a man. His personality was lost in the distaste for his political positions.

Indeed, most of the former supporters of Democrats among southern whites would eventually become Republicans. As many of them might have said, “I did not leave the party, the party left me.” But that was because racism is wrong and should have been abandoned in the 1970s by any person with a sense of right and wrong. The stubborn opposition among Conservatives to Barack Obama to this day seems to stem from a racism that is no longer openly expressed by many of them but is still simmering just beneath the surface.

But there were two things that later rehabilitated him in my mind, and brought me to an appreciation of him that has stayed with me ever since. The first was seeing him speak when I was in college. He co-taught a class at the University of California, Santa Barbara in the early 1980’s. As part of that class he gave a lecture at Campbell Hall which my girlfriend (who was later to become my wife) and I went to see. The stereotypes that I had formed over the years were exploded when I saw a man who was incredibly intelligent, witty, and well-informed. This was not the political demon I had been raised to revile. We attended a number of lectures during my junior and senior years, and the three that stood out as truly outstanding were those by Gore Vidal, William F. Buckley, Jr., and George McGovern.

Indeed, ignorance and dishonesty seems to fuel both support for Conservative politics and condemnation of Liberalism.

The 35 missions that George McGovern flew were the maximum number a pilot could fly. After 35, you were done: They sent you home. Very few reached that number. When I read this, I thought back on his opposition to the Vietnam War, a position I strongly disagreed with as a very confident but fairly ignorant adolescent. It took on a completely different color. A man who flew 35 missions in a B-24 over Germany, I concluded, has won the right to say anything he wants to about war and he has earned the right to be listened to.

I would also add that in 2004 the same could have been said about Sen. John Kerry and his opposition to the Iraq War, having fought himself in the Vietnam War. And yet Kerry lost that election for the same reason McGovern lost in 1972:  political bigotry and lies by Conservatives.

I have said before that the problem with liberals is not that they’re evil; the problem is that they are good, too good. They are so good they are a danger to themselves and others. As a true liberal, McGovern possessed the fault characteristic of his political tribe: he projected his goodness onto his fellow men and assumed that they would what he would do under the same circumstances.

I would answer that the problem with Conservatives is not that they are evil either, but that they are cynical:  taking the corruption of mankind as a given, they assume that the only way to defeat their opponents is to embrace the corruption and use it to their advantage against those who are consistently honorable, perpetuating the cycle of abuse to the next generation instead of trying to make things better for all of us.

We forgive dead men for their badness. Can we forgive them for their goodness?

I do not want your forgiveness for liberals, sir! I want you to recognize that just as you were wrong about McGovern in the past, you are wrong about liberals even now and that the conservative perspective should be abandoned completely. Even Jesus himself would have expected you to return good for evil, as he taught, but that lesson has been totally lost on conservatives throughout history!

No King Rules Forever….or Should

First, read this:

http://news.yahoo.com/fans-lance-armstrong-doping-saga-spoils-memories-174746249.html

For fans like me, Lance Armstrong doping saga spoils memories

Peter Ford, who covered Lance Armstrong’s winning streak at the Tour de France for the Monitor, writes that Armstrong’s doping has ‘tainted some of my happiest memories of reporting in France.’

By Peter Ford | Christian Science Monitor – 1 hr 21 mins ago

Thirteen years ago, on an idyllic summer’s afternoon, I stood by the side of a road in the cheesemaking region of Cantal and watched Lance Armstrong speed by, tucked into the peloton, on his way to his first victory in the Tour de France.

It was 1999. A year earlier the Tour had been in tatters, devastated by a doping scandal that had seen police and judges raiding riders’ hotel rooms in the middle of the night, seizing drugs. Armstrong’s successful arrival on the scene after overcoming cancer “is symbolic of the way the Tour de France is emerging from its own battle against disappearance,” said the tour director at the time.

His victory would be “highly symbolic of the combat he fought against death, and that we are fighting against doping,” promised Jean-Marie Leblanc.

It turns out that Mr. Armstrong beat the Tour de France organizers just as he had beaten death. Today the International Cycling Union (UCI), accepting evidence gathered by the US Anti-Doping Agency that Armstrong was a serial drug-taker, stripped the US “champion” of all his titles.

Even back in 1999, people suspected something was wrong. “Armstrong is very strong, too strong, incredibly strong,” commented one French TV journalist the evening that the US rider won a punishing stage in the Alps.

But that could be dismissed as sour grapes, as an American charged into a sport long dominated by the French and swept all before him, “winning” a record seven Tours.

And we all wanted to believe in Armstrong, from the UCI – for whom he was a magnificent money-spinning mascot for his sport – down to the lowliest spectator standing by the side of the road who admired his comeback courage.

Well, not all of us. My (French) wife never believed Armstrong was clean. She never believed that any of the top riders were clean. In argument after argument over the years I called her cynical, pointing out that my hero had never failed a drug test. Now I know that she was just clear-eyed.

Everybody who followed Lance during his “glory days” will have his or her own way of feeling disappointed now that the truth, it seems, is out. (Armstrong has not acknowledged any guilt but says he will not challenge the USADA report.)

For me, the news has tainted some of my happiest memories of reporting in France. I used to love covering the Tour, driving halfway up an Alp one July afternoon, parking my car near a steep hairpin bend, picnicking sociably with whomever I found parked next to me (and there were always crowds of families waiting for the Tour to come by), sleeping in the car, and then the next day enjoying the hoopla of the publicity caravan before the riders themselves came by, just an arm’s length away, thighs straining, sweat pouring from their chins, teeth gritted.

It was an annual treat for me, the most fun I have ever had at work. And watching these men at the outer edges of endurance even inspired me to take up cycling myself: I had a go at one of the Tour’s mountain stages in 2005 and I spend my weekends now cycling up and down mountains. (You can imagine what my wife thinks about that….)

Lance Armstrong, whose feats excited a lot of interest in American newspaper readers, was my passport to this kind of fun, and now that we know he was cheating, it feels almost as though I was piggyback cheating by having that fun.

Even at the time though, I realize, I could not entirely ignore my wife’s doubts. That evening in July 1999, as I dictated my article over the phone to my editor, I ended it with something the spokesman for Credit Lyonnais bank, the Tour’s leading sponsor, had told me.

“We cannot be certain that a scandal won’t drop on our heads,” he said. “I have just one hope: that the rumors about Lance Armstrong are not true.”

The fact that Armstrong won the Tour de France seven times in a row, rather than just two or three times, despite having suffered from cancer, should have made us all suspicious. Not content with merely competing and producing a realistic result, Armstrong overreached.

The cheating by Armstrong could have been swept under the rug by a sporting establishment that wanted to keep making vast amounts of money due to his name and influence. But that would have sent the wrong message among young people that wanted to become cyclists as well as athletes in general.

Also, it is never acceptable to do a dishonorable thing for a good cause. Lance Armstrong was well known for promoting research on cures for cancer, having suffered from cancer himself. He still would have been a credible spokesperson for that cause even if he had never won a Tour de France race. Now, he is useless to any cause.

Is agnostic an obsolete term?

Thomas Huxley, coiner of the term agnostic.

Thomas Huxley, coiner of the term agnostic. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a previous blog entry, I showed via historical references that the definition of  “atheist” as merely “lacking belief in a god” had no historical foundation, being a recent invention (we used the term “non-Theist” for that already). Critics of my position (that the only true Atheists are those who deny outright the existence of any god and that therefore Atheism should be classed as a dogma) assert that the meanings of words may change over time and that there is nothing wrong with this. I disagree and here is why:

In the Middle Ages, the term “gentleman” was defined only as a nobleman who owned land and it had no behavioral or moral references. If you said a man was or was not a gentleman, you were neither praising him nor insulting him, but merely giving information about his social status. But gentlemen were expected to maintain certain high standards of behavior, and over time people began to argue that the behavior of a man was more important than his social status. This is indeed an enlightened point of view, but the critical mistake made later was to start saying not only that a man who was not a gentleman acted like one anyway, but to actually call men of good behavior “gentlemen” even if they were not of the landed nobility. This was simply inaccurate, but that usage became so common as time went by and the nobility became less important to European societies that the original use of the term was dropped completely and the mistaken usage became the norm. Today, you cannot even refer to a man in the Middle Ages as a “gentleman” without an explanation as to its original meaning. This is a barrier to communication about historical issues, and so the word “gentleman” has been ruined and it would have been better to have discarded it completely and another term invented for men of good behavior.

It is the same with “agnostic”. Thomas Huxley invented that term precisely because the only definition of “atheist” that existed in his time was “denial of all gods”, which Huxley did not do. Thus, he classed himself and other agnostics as being neutral with regards to the Theism/Atheism question, something that today’s New Atheists deny. But if Atheist is indeed merely “lacking belief in any god”, then agnostic is a useless term, just as “gentleman” is now, since it is indeed impossible for anyone to  KNOW whether or not there is a god; we merely choose to believe or disbelieve in gods. Therefore, EVERYONE may be classed as agnostic and the term can no longer be used for statistical purposes to define anyone’s beliefs, or lack thereof.

The New Atheists have a choice. They can either discard the term agnostic completely (and thus discard Huxley’s intellectual legacy), or they can reverse course and admit what we always have known, that it is indeed possible to be neutral on the issue of Theist/Atheist, that Atheism is a dogma and that agnosticism is something to be accepted on an equal level with Theism, non-Theism, and Atheism. The first choice, of course, will also disrupt communication about historical issues regarding atheists and agnostics in the past, so only the second choice is the viable one.

Style over Substance in the Presidential Debate

 

To be honest, I did not watch for very long the Presidential debate last night, because I was quite sure I would only hear what I’d already heard a great many times from reading Facebook posts and articles in news sources, hearing personal comments from friends and relatives and seeing political ads on TV. Five minutes of the debate was all I could stand, because Obama compared his economy policies to that of President Clinton before him, which I already knew about. Neither candidate impressed me much.

I was therefore surprised to learn afterwards that most people thought Romney won the debate because he was more aggressive and charismatic than Obama, never mind that before Obama became President he was known for being quite charismatic. So what happened?

I could not care less how slick a person’s presentation may look or sound if it is full of nonsense or lies. You win a debate, in my view, by doing two things: Telling the truth consistently, and having a position that treats fairly the most people possible. And by that criteria, Obama is the superior candidate. If people vote for Romney and not Obama because one of them is better at the gift of gab, why not just elect someone like Hitler, who was one of the most dynamic speakers of the 20th Century?

 

Beware of Justin Vacula!

First, read this:

http://skepchick.org/2012/10/secular-coalition-picks-anti-woman-leader-for-pennsylvania/

Doing so, I felt profoundly disgusted that such a misogynous bigot as Justin Vacula would be allowed to have any position of influence in an atheist organization. What are the leaders of the Secular Coalition for America trying to do, discredit their own cause?

Rebecca Watson said:

If I were a woman in Pennsylvania, I would never, ever want to get involved in any way with Justin Vacula. In fact, I will never, ever get involved with SCA so long as someone like him holds a position of power anywhere, let alone in a state I live in. So Vacula is actively driving people away from SCA. I’d like to know how they expect to overcome that – how they hope to reach out to progressive people, and particularly women in Pennsylvania, while an MRA is a co-chair.

Well, I am a man in Texas and likewise I want nothing to do with that guy. He just seems sick!

Men’s Right’s Activists (MRAs) are to sexism what the Ku Klux Klan is to racism. As I commented on the Skepchick blog:

  • A Voice for Men? How about a Voice for White People, a Voice for Christians, and a Voice for the Wealthy? Oh yes, we must always ensure that those who are already privileged in society get to yell louder than their opponents, to maintain the status quo in society, even if they are abusive and dishonest.

    Damn them!