Which Will You Choose?

October 12, 2009 Leave a comment

President Obama has taken his ‘audacity’ to new levels tonight, equating sin-based ‘relationships’ to the normal and natural male-female relationship that finds its best fulfillment in God-ordained, procreative marriage.

During the presidential campaign, Obama once punted on an abortion-related query as to when life begins, saying that was above his “pay grade.” Too bad he didn’t attempt a similar evasion on  homosexuality. The president has gone way over his pay grade on this one. Homosexual practice is a moral issue, settled by the Creator and His clear design of nature since the beginning of time. Obama can no more declare with any authority that abnormal, homosexuality-based relationships are as “admirable” as normal relationships than he can proclaim that each day will now have 30 hours instead of 24 to increase American productivity.

The president could not be more wrong. Homosexual relationships are not to be admired, they are to be pitied, as immoral “unions” that can only pretend to copy real marriage. Moreover, when the government treats such aberrant relationships like marriage, it risks placing hundreds of thousands of children in homes that are motherless or fatherless by design, through “gay adoption” — another misguided homosexual demand advanced by Obama. (Source)

Categories: Gay Rights

Whu? Obama Won a Nobel Peace Prize?

October 9, 2009 4 comments

Whatever I have to say about this is probably going to be washed away in a torrent of opinion as the internet explodes, but this blogging business is pretty self-serving and narcissistic anyway, so here goes.

OSLO – President Barack Obama won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday in a stunning decision designed to encourage his initiatives to reduce nuclear arms, ease tensions with the Muslim world and stress diplomacy and cooperation rather than unilateralism.

Nobel observers were shocked by the unexpected choice so early in the Obama presidency, which began less than two weeks before the Feb. 1 nomination deadline.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Obama woke up to the news a little before 6 a.m. EDT. The White House had no immediate comment on the announcement, which took the administration by surprise. (Source)

While I do like Obama (especially compared to his predecessor), I have to say, I never would have even considered him for a Nobel Preace Prize. Maybe at the end of his presidency, assuming  he makes good on his potential and doesn’t mess things up, but right now? Way too early.

What’s odd is that the rationale behind giving him the prize seems to be ‘Let’s do this to encourage him to keep doing things right.’ I can see where they’re coming from (the entire world would prefer that the USA gets its act together, I think) , but you generally don’t get a prize of this magnitude for what you might do.

Or, as PZ Meyers has put it:

I don’t think Obama’s efforts for peace have been particularly notable — the wars still drag on with no end or even promise of an end in sight, and there has been some sabre-rattling over Iran from his administration lately — but I guess all you have to do is follow after Bush and not blow anything up for a year, and presto, you look like Gandhi. (Source)

Obama has yet to comment, and I can’t help but wonder if he’s feeling a bit awkward about the whole thing. These same thoughts are probably going through his mind as well – how do you graciously accept an award that almost everybody seems to feel you didn’t deserve? It would be ironic if the Nobel committee ultimately ended up doing Obama a disservice in the long run by hurting his reputation. (Although that doesn’t justify criticizing him over the decision – it’s not as if he went and asked for the award, after all.)

Categories: Uncategorized

How To Lie For Jesus

October 9, 2009 Leave a comment

Ah, telling blatant lies in the name of religion (usually while denying that you’re doing it for religion) – it’s The American Way, apparently. Here’s one of the latest attacks on Kevin Jennings, and it’s a doozy:

ROVE: Well, one of two things happened on this. Either they decided that they deliberately wanted to put a very provocative, very controversial person in a job that — where his views and his public statements and his actions were likely to unsettle a large amount — number of Americans, or, once again, that vaunted Obama White House vetting system broke down.

I can’t imagine that President Obama lacked the sensitivity to think that somebody who had said the things that Mr. Jennings had said, had done the things that Mr. Jennings had done, had taken the sort of high-profile, in-your-face advocacy of things like NAMBLA and gay rights and queering elementary school curricula — that the president of the United States would think this was a person that he ought to put in charge of safe schools, and yet he did. (Source, emphasis theirs.)

Excuse me while I break out the surgical implements.

#1: Yes, I can imagine how that meeting went. “You know what this administration needs to do? Piss off more conservatives – especially religious conservatives. I cannot think of a single reason why that wouldn’t be a bad idea. Let’s get Kevin Jennings for the safe schools thing, that’ll drive ‘em nuts.”

Yeah, I don’t think so.

#2: Kevin Jennings never said that he supports NAMBLA. Not once. This goes beyond mere insinuation and into outright lying. Rove isn’t saying that Jennings might have advocated NAMBLA, or that he said he admired somebody who in turn supports NAMBLA (which is actually true), but that he actually did advocate them. He even refers to it as ‘high-profile, in-your-face’ advocacy, which makes it all the more strange that there’s absolutely no evidence of it.

‘Shameless’ is the word that springs to mind. (Well, that or ‘staggeringly incompetent’, but I’m giving Rove the benefit of the doubt here.)

#3: I had a feeling this ‘Queering Elementary School’ thing was going to become another right-wing talking point. And I was correct! Fancy that.

Jennings wrote the foreword to book called, funnily enough, Queering Elementary Education, in which he supports preventing physical abuse of LGBT students (for shame!). While that title is likely to raise a few eyebrows, and most likely was intended to do so, I should point out that almost nobody criticizing Jennings for contributing to it has actually discussed its contents. Its almost as if (and this is a wild idea, so hold on tight), they haven’t actually read the book but have decided to demonize it anyway based solely on the title and a synopsis.

Oh, and as far as I’m aware, Jennings won’t actually be setting elemtnary school curricula, making this yet another red herring in the entire debacle.

(Oh, and you can that foreword here, if you’re interested.)

Categories: Gay Rights

Help Free Kareem Amer

October 9, 2009 Leave a comment

Freedom of speech is a right that many of us in the ‘First World’ take for granted…which is why it can sometimes come as a shock when somebody in a less permissive country is punished for saying something that we could say every day without fear of retribution. In 2007, Kareem Amer was sentenced to four years in prison for the ‘crime’ of writing blog posts critical of Islam and the Egyptian government.Nobody should be imprisoned for criticizing their government or their government’s religion.

I’m often frustrated at the feeling of helplessness these situations inevitably bring on, but thanfully there is a concerted effort to pressure the Egyptian government into freeing Amer. You can sign an Amnesty International petition calling for his release here, or visit this site for a list of other ways to help. (Although as ebonmusing has said over at Daylight Atheism, it might be a good idea to refrain from donating money to a group we know nothing about.)

Events like this should be a stark warning to all of us who take freedom of expression and thought for granted. There are people out there who dearly wish to control what you say and even what you think, and some of them are a hell of a lot closer to home than Egypt.

Categories: Atheism

Cue Outrage In 3, 2, 1…

October 7, 2009 6 comments

I’m short on time, so let’s make this quick.

I came across a post this morning whose author apparently expected atheists to be outraged or indignant at what he had to say. Being an accomodating guy, I decided to be both! Not because of anything particularly offensive or startling in the post, mind you, but because he decided to post this idiotic image:

atheism

For the love of God, Jesus, Allah, Buddha, the Pope, Ardi, whoever, could everybody please stop using this image? Even jokingly? Its stupidity actually hurts me. I mean, ‘bits which then turned into dinosaurs’? Argh. Argh.

Oh, I guess the rest of the post was kind of annoying too. It manages to combine the ‘atheists have no way to be moral and consistent at the same time’ canard with the ‘they know God exists, they just suppress it THE BIBLE SAYS SO GUES’ pile of crap – two horrible tastes that taste horrible together.

The author cites “crimes’ committed by the Nazis during WWII as “atrocities.”  What, in the atheist’s world, makes these acts “atrocious?”  To the Nazis – in their worldview, a decidedly non-theistic one, to be sure – their actions were nothing more than consistent with their inward motivations and desires.  How can one atheist tell another atheist that what he or she does is “wrong” or “criminal” or “atrocious?”  What makes pedophilia or pederasty or any particular sexual act “deviant” or “criminal” in an atheistic world?  Murder?  Theft?  We could go on ad infinitum.  Has every society always deemed these actions “criminal?”  No.  We can look at Rome and Greece in the past for how they thought of these sexual acts and numerous societies that have seen nothing wrong with murder and so on.

(I like the Wikipedia links to the definitions of ‘pedophilia’ and ‘pederasty’. Thanks, I needed a definition or else I would have been confused.)

The mention of ancient Greece and Rome is interesting (assuming he’s actually talking about the ancient versions and not the modern country/city, in which case it would just confusing). Read almost any ancient Roman or Greek philosopher, and you’ll find some mention of morality. ‘X is wrong’, they’ll say, and then they’ll go on to give some sort of reason for why X is wrong or Y is right. Those reasons are often not ‘because God says so’, which makes sense given the nature of religious belief at the time.

Where exactly did their morality come from, I wonder? Did God inscribe a moral code upon the hearts of everybody who’s ever lived without telling them about it for hundreds of thousands of years? Because I’ve gotta say, if that’s the case he took his damn time. It’s also funny that many, many civilizations managed to exist and flourish without needing the ol’ Good Book around to tell them what’s right and what’s wrong.

To sum up: history shows that morality, moral codes and stable societies built on said codes are all possible without the Bible being present. So…where do we see any evidence that the Bible is uniquely suited to impart moral wisdom? (And before anybody says ‘But those old societies are all immoral!’, take a look at any Christian kingdom, empire or nation prior to, oh, 1900.)

Categories: Atheism

The Kevin Jennings Thing

October 6, 2009 Leave a comment

So far I’ve refrained from commenting on the Kevin Jennings affair, mostly because of the amount of mind-numbing stupidity involved. (I mentioned my growing misanthropy before, right? Okay, good.) Here’s a quick and dirty recap for those who managed to avoid the whole thing::

  • Jennings, former executive director of GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network) was appointed to be the assistant deputy director of the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools. Because Jennings is gay For entirely valid reasons, the religious right decided to have a bit of an aneurysm over this.
  • It soon came to light that Jennings had apparently advised a fifteen-year old boy to continue having sex with a much older man he met at a bus stop as long as he used a condom, which is certainly not the best way for a young teacher (as Jennings was at the time) to handle that kind of situation. Jennings responded by apologizing for what he felt was a mistake on his part, and stressed that, at the time, teachers had absolutely no training in how to deal with this kind of situation. He never actually told the boy to continue having sex with the man (despite what a lot of people seem to think), but neither did he tell him to stop. A poor course of action on Jennings’ part? Certainly, but as he said, this was at a time when teachers simply didn’t know how to handle situations involving gay students.
  • Several rather hysterical commentators were ready to demand Jennings’ head on a plate over this, until it emerged that the boy was actually 16 at the time of the incident – which was and is the age of consent in the state where he lives. In other words, although it was still pretty irresponsible of Jennings to not maybe look into the situation further, there were no laws being broken.
  • The boy himself, now a grown man, even got involved by reiterating that he was 16 at the time and that he felt Jennings handled the situation admirable. There is apparently a scan of his drivers license online to prove that he was ‘of age’ at the time, but I haven’t seen it.
  • Case closed? Well, no. Jennings is gay, which means that having him connected in any way with schools will always be a bad idea as far as the religious right is concerned. (Let’s not mince words here, all right? It’s blatantly obvious.) Now it seems that Jennings praised Harry Hay, the founder of NAMBLA, in a 1987 speech. (And if you don’t know who they are, please, check their Wikipedia page rather than Googling them. Trust me.) And here comes the religious right again, this time claiming that Jennings supports paedophilia.

Firstly, it doesn’t seem as if Hay is the one who actually founded NAMBLA, he just supported them and shared their views. (Which is itself pretty bad, of course.) Secondly, Jennings did not say that he admired Hay for his association with NAMBLA – rather, he said that he admired him for his early, pioneering activism on the part of LGBT people. Jennings was not alone in this – it seems that Hay’s obituaries commonly highlighted this period in his life.

That should be the end of it, but the right-wing media machine is currently hinting furiously (without actually making any sort of committed statement) that Jennings did or does still agree with Hay’s views on pedophilia. There’s a widespread view that Jennings was wrong to say that he admired Hay’s pro-gay work because it somehow makes him guilty of supporting all of the man’s other views by association.

To those who feel this way, I have a shocking revelation: George Washington owned slaves. No, really, he did. He was incredibly racist, as were most of his contemporaries (they were sexist, too!). Pretty much every nationalistic ‘hero’ you care to name, from any country and any time period, had some sort of belief or engaged in some sort of action that would get them universally condemned by the media today. John Locke, whose philosophy laid the foundation for the values that went into the creation of the USA, complained that poor children were economically worthless until they were about twelve years old – he wanted some way to get them used to working and fuelling the system upon which his comfortable lifestyle depended  sooner than that.

People deserve to be praised or condemned based on the views that they themselves actually hold. If anybody wants to demonize Jennings for admiring a man who also believed some things which were far from admirable, fine; but let them also demonize anybody who admires Locke, Washington or virtually any other ‘hero’ from the annals of history, even from very recent history.

Categories: Gay Rights

James Bowman Can Read My Mind

October 5, 2009 3 comments

You can probably guess how I feel about supposedly secular or (cough) ‘unbigoted’ arguments against gay marriage – in short, they tend to be bullshit. Just recently I came across a similar argument (fully secular and, supposedly, without a whiff of bigotry anywhere) against repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’, penned by James Bowman. I won’t go through the main thrust of the argument itself, which is slightly…esoteric, shall we say, but I will comment on a few aspects of it. The full thing can be found here, if you want to follow along at home.

Perhaps even critics of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” have an uneasy sense that they cannot simultaneously say–as much of the commentary about the film Brokeback Mountain seemed to suggest–that the homosexual relationship is simply friendship carried to a higher power and, as the advocates for gay marriage imply, that it is exactly the same as the erotic love between men and women. Those who are not homosexuals have always resisted any simple equivalence between sexual love and friendship, not out of bigotry but at least partly because to grant it would be an abdication of their own right to love. Characteristically, the robust heterosexual, if told that close friendship with another man is only a degree away from homosexual relations with him, will back off the friendship. He knows, or believes, what it seems the homosexual cannot know or believe, or doesn’t want to know or believe, namely that the two sorts of love are different in kind and not just in degree.

Might I suggest that when you start a point by invoking Brokeback Mountain, things will almost inevitably go downhill swiftly?

I really have no idea what Bowman is getting at here. Who says that ‘the homosexual relationship is simply friendship carried to a higher power’? This is the first I’ve ever heard of it, and I’ve been following the national embarrassment that is opposition to gay marriage and openly gay servicepeople for quite some time now. The idea that gay men (it’s all about gay men) view their relationships as some sort of friendship with benefits pervades the article and is taken as a given – Bowman seems to be assuming that his readers will automatically know what he’s talking about, but I haven’t the faintest idea. I certainly don’t view friendship as only quantitatively different from romantic love or sexual desire, and I’m genuinely perplexed at his casual assumption that I should.

This is also the first time I’ve ever seen both heterosexual men and homosexual men characterized poorly in one fell sweep. Heterosexuals, we are told, are (or want to be) real men, manly men, men who are aggressive in their love of all things heterosexual and who would end a friendship at the suggestion that it might contain in it something similar to romantic love. I’m not sure what kind of masculine image Bowman was trying to depict here, but I’m guessing it wasn’t ‘macho homophobe’. Homosexual men, on the other hand, are apparently in the grip of eros, the same corrupting force behind incest. (But homosexuality isn’t analogous to incest, Bowman is quick to point out. He doesn’t say why, given the rather overt comparison in the second last paragraph, so I’ll just take his word for it.)

In another part of the article, Bowman suggests that gay people should be willing to ‘be publicly reticent about their sexual behavior’ if they really want the right to serve their country, in the process suggesting (oh so subtly) that the effort to get DADT repealed is some sort of political demonstration rather than a genuine push for equal rights. Of course, any gay reader will instantly notice his mistake – like so many heterosexual commentators, and that includes both sides of the debate, Bowman is here treating homosexuality as if it begins and ends with ‘sexual behavior’. However, one can be discharged from the military for identifying as gay even if one is not currently engaging in sex with another man (again keeping the focus on men here, as per our target for the evening). Being gay is not just about engaging in certain types of sex acts. It’s far more than that, and I’m willing to bet that even a vow of chastity on the part of gay soldiers wouldn’t be enough to satisfy proponents of DADT.

I merely ask those who wish to do away with the prohibition of open homosexuality in the armed services to consider that the more than 1,100 flag and general officers who recently declared their support for the existing law were motivated, as they claim, by genuine concern for national security and not by bigotry. Wouldn’t any refusal to do so be tantamount to -bigotry itself?

Gasp. I have never come across this argument before, Mr. Bowman, you have blown my mind.

Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Ignoring the incredibly moronic attempt at being profound, (‘Are not you who fight bigotry also engaging in bigotry? And are not you who fight discrimination not also engaging in discrimination? And can we please put an end to this pathetic rhetorical trick once and for all?’) I’m interested in finding out how Bowman knows that the 1,100 officers he mentions here were motivated only by national security. That’s a lot of people, after all, and I’d be honestly amazed if none of them had less pure intentions than the safety of their fellow citizens when they decided to support DADT.

Categories: Gay Rights
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