I've Moved!

Atheist Morality is now West Coast Atheist at Wordpress. Stop on by and feel free to comment over there!

29 July, 2011


So, I don't update this nearly enough (busy getting married and being newlywed and all that) but I'd just like to mention a couple of things that have been interesting me and to offer my own opinion about them.

Elevatorgate: Sexual harassment is never defined by the intention of the person doing the harassing, it's defined by how the victim perceives it. Line 1 of any employee handbook, really. Maybe you didn't know you were a creep, elevator dude, and maybe due to thousands of years of rape and violence at the hands of men, women are hyper-weary of late-night encounters in strange places with men when they are alone, but there's no need to jump down the throats of women who just want some respect. To the other side that wants to jump to Rebecca's defense and throw the word misogynist around and burn "The God Delusion," because RD got involved and isn't on your side: chill the fuck out, you're no better than those on the other side screaming "Prude! Victim!" Everyone just chill the fuck out. We are free-thinkers and skeptics, can we not have a civil discussion about these things?

Jessica Ahlquist and Damon Fowler: I couldn't be more proud of these two young activists. Keep up the good fight!

See? I'm totally behind, right? This stuff is old news, but like I said, I've been pretty busy.

Then there is this, which is actually some recent news and relevant to the topic of my blog!

***Update: It took me all of five seconds to find my own:

Fox News had Blair Scott of American Atheists on for an interview. Soon after, Fox's facebook page was inundated with "Good Christians" so fearful of the five percent of us that don't believe what they believe that they have to use threats to show those atheists a thing or two. Talk about morality. Fox was trying desperately to take down the inciting and downright violent postings as fast as they could, but some were screen captioned and are available for view.

It doesn't surprise me that people who hold onto such irrational beliefs would get so angry. The very fact that atheists exist is dangerous to their smoke-and-mirrors world. After all, if we don't find it satisfactory to answer the big questions with a simple, "God did it" then why should they? It surprises me more that they would go on facebook, use their real names, and actually write what they really want to do to atheists, allowing their fear and their hatred glare like a lighthouse. The best we can get out of this is that moderates will see that and be turned off by it, instead seeking more knowledge and information instead of dogma. That is, if they aren't disgusted by the digression of our sexism debate.

That's all for today.

24 July, 2011

A Christian Terrorist

When the bombing in Oslo happened, even I, who tries to keep an open mind and not make snap judgments on things, didn't even entertain the idea that it might not be an extremist Muslim that carried out the attack. I even wondered, "What the hell did Norway ever do to anyone? The French have the burqa ban and the US killed Bin Laden, why are they attacking Oslo?"

Cue foot in mouth when it turns out that the person responsible for the horrific attack was a right-wing Christian fundamentalist. In retrospect, that doesn't surprise me. We've all seen what Christian terrorists can do to abortion clinics and doctors, to churches who have more Black people than White people, to Gay people and to churches that lean more moderate. And that's just in the US. What does surprise me is that our media suddenly isn't calling it a terrorist attack. That would imply that the man was a terrorist, but since he was a Christian, they can't call him that. Only the dark-skinned people worshipping Allah get that title in the US.

So what happens when you call out the people that are redefining terrorism to fit their own little prejudices and bias? You get, "He wasn't really a Christian." What? How do you get to define a Christian all of a sudden? Merriam-Webster online has a good enough definition that has always worked:

a : one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ

b (1) : disciple 2 (2) : a member of one of the Churches of Christ separating from the Disciples of Christ in 1906 (3) : a member of the Christian denomination having part in the union of the United Church of Christ concluded in 1961

If you go to church and you call yourself a Christian and you believe in Jesus, you're a Christian. Once you start defining a Christian by how people act, you are doing nothing more than explaining why there are 30,000 denominations of Christianity. No one can agree on the doctrine or how people should act. You could take a narrow view and define Christians only as Young Earth Creationists. Or you could say those people are nuts and only Christians who accept Evolution as God's glory work are Christian. Anyway, it all gets very convoluted and pretty soon, no one can fit every standard, so no one would be able to be called Christian.

The Oslo bomber was a Christian Terrorist, just as are the people who bomb abortion clinics, burn Black churches, shoot abortion doctors, and terrorize Gay people. If you can't swallow that because you don't want to admit that you have some bad people in your fold, then you have to stop calling Al Qaeda a Muslim Terrorist Group. There are millions of Muslims that don't act on their religion like the terrorist cells and they would all insist and show passages of peace in their Quran to no avail. We would still call them Muslim Terrorists. I believe that all religions should be held to the same standard; it should be even across the board. Yes, Christians, even you can be terrorists. Get over it and do something about it.

10 July, 2011

Belief and Cognitive Dissonance

What does it take for a person to hold onto a belief without any evidence whatsoever and not be able to let it go despite hearing evidence that proves it to be false?

Some might think it takes a lot to clutch onto a fairy tale with the zealousness that some people show. We all make fun of Ray Comfort, who-no matter how many times the process of evolution is explained to him-will continue to repeat the phrase, "Well, I've never seen a monkey give birth to a human or a dog give birth to a cat," every time he's confronted.

Quite counter-intuitively, it actually doesn't take a whole lot. I'll explain.

My fish, Leo, a crown-tailed betta, got fin-rot. I was devastated. I gave him a new tank, new plants, bought new gravel and started testing his water all the time (which was actually fine, but I'll get to that later). Perusing betta websites all over the internet got me a lot of helpful information, a lot of contradictory information, and a lot of misinformation.

One such website listed a cause of fin-rot as the fish resting on the gravel at the bottom of his tank. No other website claimed this, but I was looking for an answer, something I could pinpoint to and say, "This is what caused it."

A few weeks later and it didn't seem to be getting better and the live plants didn't have enough light to stay alive and were murkying up the water. Back to square one. I went to a pet store and I started asking questions. The woman seemed very knowledgeable and helpful. When I mentioned the gravel thing, she looked at me funny and said, "I've never heard anything like that before." Apparently, the only place that I could find this information was on one website in the middle of the Internet.

Over the next two weeks, I got married, went on my honeymoon, gave Leo to Chris's mom to take care of and ended up getting him yet another tank because the other was just too big to keep clean. While doing all this, I kept mentioning to Chris, "He's on the bottom again, he needs to rest on his rock or the fake leaves," and he'd remind me that the woman that works with fish every day said that was probably a myth. It took a few times for me to realize what I was doing. I finally said, "I really want to believe that the gravel is the problem, don't I?" Every time I had seen my fish resting near the bottom, I completely forgot what the woman had told me at the pet store. The fact is, I wanted to believe it.

Even I fall prey to this type of fallacious, wishful thinking. Now that I recognize it, I can see it in more places as well. For example, I work in a field which requires people to be First Aid and CPR certified. I've worked at different facilities and at each one, there has been people who I have gone to CPR and First Aid class with and then immediately forget what we spent three hours learning. Someone will get a bloody nose or someone will swallow their food wrong and start gasping and coughing. While not usually life threatening, these things are still alarming and cause the adrenaline to kick in, which apparently isn't great for keeping a clear head and remembering your training.

It never fails that people start telling the person with the bloody nose to hold their head back instead of forward, because this is the way that people did it up until the eighties or nineties. I remember my own mom telling my sister to hold her head back when I was little. The First Aid training makes it very clear that you pinch the nose and hold the person's head forward so they don't aspirate on their own blood. People have died doing it the other way and I've even heard of people in management positions giving this very advice to their employees.

Same with the choking. If a person is gasping for breath and coughing and has clearly aspirated on food, you are supposed to do nothing. It is only when a person cannot speak, breath or cough that you do any sort of First Aid, and you do it in the form of abdominal thrust, not hitting them on the back or turning them over like Grandma used to do. You can do a quick finger sweep, but you run the risk of pushing whatever it is further down the windpipe. Despite learning this and taking a quiz on it at the end of training, people still automatically do it the way they were taught when they were little. If you asked them later, they wouldn't even remember that the training said any different, yet year after year, they take the same classes and the same test.

It's easier for the brain to remember things that it likes or that it's already agreed with in the past. In a way, it's safer because remembering the traditions and customs of your social group kept you from being outcast from the family or tribe that would keep the saber-toothed tigers from picking you off alone in a forest. These little beliefs stick and are sometimes harmless, but sometimes more than harmful.

It's the harmful ones we should really be looking out for, always vigilantly searching for evidence that would contradict our own beliefs. Even so, we are never safe and should talk to as many people with differing opinions as we can, gaining as much knowledge as we could hope for and being eager to shed it if it turns out to not have a solid foundation in reality. This is the only way we can keep our minds from falling into these kinds of ruts.