Thursday, June 23, 2016

What does it mean to say "I have a right to my opinion?"

What does it mean to say that I have a right to my opinion? If I have a right to life, it implies that some powerful person cannot take my life away from me without justification. How would someone take your opinion away from you, short of brain surgery? 

Learning fallacies from Trump


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Does Dawkins base his "religion is child abuse" argument on one letter?

No, he doesn't. He bases it on intuition. It can't be wrong if it feels so right. 

Richard Dawkins: That is of course true. And I am not basing it on that. It seems to me that telling children, such that they really, really believe, that people who sin are going to go to hell, and roast forever, forever, that your skin grows again when it peels off from burning, it seems to me to be intuitively entirely reasonable that that is a worse form of child abuse, that it will give more nightmares, that will give more genuine distress, if they don’t believe it its not a problem, of course.

What does the evidence say? This. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

An implicit premise in the gay rights debate

Race and gender are about who you are and are unchangeable (transgender cases aside). Actively pursuing a homosexual sexual orientation is about what you do. Opponents of gay marriage often say that there is nothing wrong with being gay, the only problem is gay sexual activity.

To hold this position, however, you have to abandon a culturally popular belief, that a sex life is essential to human happiness.

For example, colleges like Wheaton College are often accused of discriminating against homosexuals because they have code of conduct that proscribe homosexual activity. But did you know that a Bible professor at Wheaton College, Wesley Hill, is openly gay. Ah, you say, that doesn't count. Hill is committed to a celibate lifestyle. But he is not only a gay man, he's most certainly NOT in the closet.

But if a sex life is essential to human happiness, what happens to people who can only pursue that happiness with children? What about persons with a spouse for whom intercourse is painful? What about someone married to someone whose sexual ability has been destroyed through injury?

Since I love to illustrate points with songs, this song, Ruby don't take your love to town,  is about a man injured in Vietnam whose wife has decided to run around.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

It couldn't happen here, could it?

From Religious Culture: Faith in Soviet and Post-Soviet Russia, by Jerry Pankhurst, in Russian Culture, 2012.

Socialization objectives.

 The atheistic socialization agenda included a wide range of positive incentives. Proper behavior and attitudes were reenforced by legitimate authority and thus carried a positive emotional charge. Atheistic socialization had as its ultimate goal what Soviet writers called "a scientific atheistic worldview," which included the following elements:

 (1) Strong scientific training awaited all students, starting from the earliest grades. Science was always taught as the indubitable and entirely sufficient way of understanding the world that left no room for alternative orientations. All other perspectives, most notably religion, were said to be incompatible with science and distorting of reality.

(2) A special emphasis was placed on the notion that humans make their own futures. There were no supernatural forces or divine entities which had any relation to the world. In Marxian terms, science was the surest basis for building the future because it recognized the true nature of the world.

(3) Atheistic socialization required teaching about the history of freethought and atheism, as well as about "religious obscurantism" that undermined the progress of science.

(4) Atheism had to have its "positive heroes" -- Charles Darwin, Galileo, Copernicus, and others. The abundant literature on such characters served an important socialization goal of creating "reference idols" to encourage the youth in particular to emulate atheistic values. [39]

(5) Movies and newspapers, television and radio, literature and painting -- all forms of mass culture had to be upgraded in content, so as to woo the population away from religious spectacles. For instance, during the Easter holidays the state would show especially popular programs on TV and keep movie theaters open into the late hours to keep the populace from attending all night Easter services.

 (6) Atheist propaganda was carried out by a sprawling set of agencies and organizations, such as the Museum of Religion and Atheism and Knowledge Society, [40] which printed pamphlets and books, offered public lectures and presentations. Through all these socializing institutions and practices the authorities sought to provide models of atheist behavior and attitudes for average Soviet citizens, to turn them into "good atheists" intolerant of religioznoe mrakobesie (religious obscurantism). But the same outcomes could be, and sometimes had to be, accomplished through other means, like punishments and costs inflicted on the believers to discourage them from practicing proscribed behavior.

 Social Control Imperatives.
Soviet believers who evaded the socialization efforts mounted by the state had to bear excessive costs for their religious activities. The state did everything it could to "overcome" religion peaceably, to make it "wither away," but when its "constructive" efforts failed, it was ready to deploy a vast array of social control devices to stamp out religious customs.

Here are some of the more important social control venues favored by the Soviet state:

(1) Forbidding formal religious education for children, that is, any group classes, Sunday schools, etc.

(2) Hindering the participation of children in religious activities by pressuring and intimidating clergy, parents, and children themselves (usually in school).

 (3) Controlling baptism rites, i.e., requiring a formal "registration" and a "permit" for a baptism ceremony.

 (4) Ridiculing or criticizing believers in the public press.

 (5) Intentionally and actively seeking out believers and attempting to "reeducate" them. School teachers played a particularly important role in this regard, as did Pioneer and Komsomol cadres, Party and trade union activists at the workplace. Adults could also be force into one-on-one sessions with atheist activists.

(6) Publishing and disseminating antireligious propaganda through literature, lectures, newspaper articles, radio, and television programs. The Knowledge Society has to be singled out here for its relentless efforts on behalf of "scientific atheism," though the trade unions, party cells, atheist clubs, and antireligious museums did not lag far behind.

 (7) Manipulating religious leaders so as to limit their personal influence and ability to organize and disseminate religious influence.

(8) Limiting the prospects for appointment and job advancement for religious believers. Since most high level positions required party membership, believers were naturally excluded from advancement to such levels. In some cases, believers were denied routine pay increases and promotions because of their "backward views." Though this was not universal practice, it encouraged believers to be less visibly active religiously or hide their faith altogether, and it intimidated those who were not active from becoming so. In these and perhaps other ways, the Soviet state barred children from sympathetic exposure to religion and punished those who defied the state and sought to exercise their nominal constitutional rights. Needless to say, children who passed through this elaborate system of antireligious propaganda were less likely to become religious adults, while those who persisted in their religious beliefs and practices could expect their life options to be severely curtailed by the state.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Are Christians to blame for the Orlando attacks?


Last I checked, the attacker was of a different religious persuasion.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016