The difference between racism and sexism is…?

Subway_Mugger

Read these and then guess which one is the unchanged – and acceptable one.

My black, adopted son is at University. He came down this weekend with his girlfriend to visit and to bring some stuff down from his Residence Hall before finishing up this year and moving back for the summer. He related this story to me;

He was walking home from his girlfriend’s Residence Hall at about midnight. A pretty fast clip, but just walking. Another guy, white, came down some stairs and started walking in front of him. He was probably 12 feet or so behind him at this point. But realize, he was already on the sidewalk – he turned in front of him.

As they are going along he notices that he speeds up considerably. Eventually pumping up the speed to a jog. Simply because he was a black guy, walking behind him. He felt terrible. He told me he didn’t want to say anything to him to assuage his fear because he might get even more spooked.

He is finishing up a semester in Race Studies – he is one of two blacks in the class. He said this experience bothered him so much that he wants to spearhead a chapter of Blacks Against Mugging at his University next year. It may happen, it may not; but this mom couldn’t be prouder of her son.

When he finished his story, all I really said was, “This is white people’s reality.” I could see how that impacted him even further.

***

My son is at University. He came down this weekend with his girlfriend to visit and to bring some stuff down from his Residence Hall before finishing up this year and moving back for the summer. He related this story to me;

He was walking home from his girlfriend’s Residence Hall at about midnight. A pretty fast clip, but just walking. Another girl came down some stairs and started walking in front of him. He was probably 12 feet or so behind her at this point. But realize, he was already on the sidewalk – she turned in front of him.

As they are going along he notices that she speeds up considerably. Eventually pumping up the speed to a jog. Simply because he was a man, walking behind her. He felt terrible. He told me he didn’t want to say anything to her to assuage her fear because she might get even more afraid.

He is finishing up a semester in Women’s Studies – he is one of two men in the class. He said this experience bothered him so much that he wants to spearhead a chapter of Men Against Violence at his University next year. It may happen, it may not; but this mom couldn’t be prouder of her son.

When he finished his story, all I really said was, “This is our reality.” I could see how that impacted him even further.

Sexual_Assault_Rape_Stalker_generic_Image_722

Would we ever see black men, despite the disproportionate statistics and prison numbers (yes, there are reasons for this including racism and disproportionate poverty), tacitly accepting that people are afraid they’re thieves and muggers? Internalising this as somehow their fault and that they should act passively and show concern for people who are scared of them because they are black? Of course we wouldn’t. That’s an example of prejudice, despite the way some statistics can be spun to rationalise the ‘threat’ that they represent. Quite rightly we object to and reject this kind of stereotyping just as we do racial profiling for terrorism threat assessment.

Change race to gender though and suddenly we’re supposed to tacitly accept that we’re scary and nasty. That simply because we’re male we’re a threat and deserve to be treated as though we’re guilty before we’ve even done anything. This is just as unacceptable and yet unlike the example above men are willing to line up to agree that they should be treated with prejudice, with fear that they somehow deserve it just because of their Y chromosome.

This was a real post, made by an otherwise reasonable human being and supported by people who are otherwise reasonable human beings, including men. It was a public post and I have stripped out names etc so hopefully this isn’t overstepping any marks but it was jaw-droppingly insensitive and prejudiced. Any solution to these problems is not going to be met by simply reversing the direction of prejudice.

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The Kalamatous intent of WLC

More Twitter discussions, this time with JustinRGrice.

Justin is a fan of that terrible human being, William Lane Craig who is well known for a) excusing genocide and b) continually restating the Kalam cosmological argument as though it were some trump card.

Justin’s version of the statement was this:

“The universe is all space, time and matter. So the cause is spaceless, timeless, and immaterial… …(and personal, to choose an effect in time)”

Whether you’re Justin or WLC this is all built on a huge number of assumptions which are treated as fact and then you go spinning off from these cherry picked assumptions towards the conclusion that you desire.

My Kalam link goes over the cosmological argument and Kalam cosmological argument but to restate and refute very quickly:

The cosmological argument states that everything has a cause, therefore the universe has a cause. It then goes on to say that this cause must be god, for no readily fathomable reason.

The obvious objection to this is that if everything requires a cause, then this would also apply to god. Meaning an infinite chain of gods creating the god after them. Infinite regress, no solution, clearly nonsense. Plus even if everything does require a cause that cause could be anything, including a naturalistic process. All in all, no argument for god.

The Kalam version of the argument is essentially that everything requires a cause… except god. Quite why this is considered such a ‘gotcha’ I don’t know since you’re now allowing for exceptions – things that don’t require a cause – because you’ve allowed one for god. Again, this could apply to anything, including a natural process.

Both forms of the cosmological argument are, then, self-defeating from the get-go even taken by themselves but this isn’t the end of the problems with it. Modern science is discovering that there are naturally occurring causeless effects. Vacuum fluctuations and virtual particle pairs are one example, atomic decay is another. Indeed more and more research suggests that everything, matter, energy, the universe itself is one big vacuum fluctuation with a net energy value of zero. Positive and negative energy negating one another.

Other research in dark matter/energy and in cosmic background radiation has hints that may suggest the existence of other universes. This would support the many-universe interpretation. We’re not there yet, but the information is tantalising and holds out possibilities.

Speaking to a ’cause’ of the universe does not make a great deal of sense in any case. You cannot have effect following cause without a dimension of time in which one thing can follow another or without space,a context in which it must happen. Since space and time are one and come into existence along with the universe there is no ‘before time’ or ‘outside space’ in which this could occur. Its a null question, a useless and broken concept.

As to immaterial, nobody has yet been able to demonstrate the existence of anything immaterial. Our concepts and ideas, mathematics, logic etc come from observations and extrapolations of our examination of the physical universe. Numbers do not ‘exist’ save as how we name these observations and even the numerical concept is ultimately physical, encoded in the shape and energy of our physical brain.

Mind, also, is physical. An emergent quality of the physical brain. Tamper with the physical brain, you change the expression and capability of the mind. No brain, no mind.

WLC’s arguments are gossamer thin nonsense, spun out of presumption with nothing to back them up but his whim and fancy. There is no case to answer. As Hitchens once said: “That which is asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”

As a courtesy to the chap I argued with I’m including WLCs wonking on about this for a full 20 minutes. I will also include a comedy video that demonstrates the physical origin of numbers.

Was Timothy McVeigh an Atheist?

Timothy Mcveigh - BRESCOLAFor you young ‘uns, Timothy McVeigh was the Oklahoma City bomber. Prior to 9/11 this (and the Waco siege) dominated discussions about terrorism, conspiracy theory and so forth in the United States. If you want to know what happened you can read up here. The short version is that a very disturbed, right-wing, nutcase detonated a huge bomb next to a federal building as a sort of ‘first blow’ in a war on ‘socialism’ and the government. Keep in mind that the rhetoric surrounding Obama has been much worse and yet nothing similar seems to have happened, yet.

These kinds of things go in cycles and, of late, much seems to be being made of Timothy McVeigh’s supposed atheism. When you bring up religious bombings, incidents and acts of terror someone inevitably points to McVeigh as an example of atheist terror. Even if one were to accept this characterisation, having to go all the way back to 1995 would show that ‘atheist’ murders and acts of terror occur with a great deal less frequency than religious ones. Still, we don’t have to accept this.

First and foremost, atheism is not a religion, an ideology, a philosophy, a system of belief or anything similar. It is the singular lack of belief in god/s. That is atheism in its entirety. If someone who happens to be an atheist commits some travesty it cannot be atheism that motivates them because atheism provides no motivation, no excuse, no impetus to commit such acts. Religious and ideological texts on the other hand, may very well have such exhortations to violence. The Abrahamic religious texts are replete with examples of this.

Secondly, McVeigh was not an atheist. At least not at the time of the bombings.

McVeigh was raised a Roman Catholic Christian and was confirmed in 1985. He was a registered republican, a member of the NRA and voted Libertarian. The bombings took place in 1995 and prior to the bombing his ‘goodbye’ letter to his childhood friend contained the following line:

I know in my heart that I am right in my struggle, Steve. I have come to peace with myself, my God and my cause. Blood will flow in the streets, Steve. Good vs. Evil. Free Men vs. Socialist Wannabe Slaves. Pray it is not your blood, my friend.

In 1996, after the bombing, when he was interviewed and asked about his religious position he said that he still believed in god, though he had lost touch with his Catholicism. He said he still maintained core Catholic, Christian beliefs.

By 2001 he proclaimed that he did not believe in hell and that ‘Science is my god’.

This is the line that people quote but it is one that is attributed to him a full six years after the bombing. It is unusual that he seems to have had a deconversion in prison. Many people claim religious conversion, especially in American prisons, because it gets them better treatment and increases their chances of parole. Being on death row perhaps McVeigh was feeling more fatalistic or didn’t see the need to claim a faith as it would make no difference. He did resist a great deal of urging to become a Muslim during this time.

When it came time for him to be executed McVeigh seems to have rediscovered his religion. A day before he wrote to a paper describing himself as agnostic. On the day of his execution he took the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick and read the poem Invictus, which contains references to god and souls.

We’ll likely never really know what he thought or felt or believed, because he is dead. This is part of the waste and uselessness of the death penalty, it eliminates our capacity to learn and to understand. Nonetheless he seems to have been raised and died a Christian and to have been one when the bombing took place.

The truly perverse thing is that, having taken the Sacrament and ‘returned to the bosom of the lord’, by Christian doctrine, this mass murderer and right-wing terrorist would be in heaven, if such a place existed.

 

Critiquing The Sermon on the Mount

Mount

Whaaa? Criticise the Sermon on the Mount? How could I do such a thing! Even non-Christians think this is a pretty good set of values to go by. Still, I disagree and its best to explain why…

1. AND seeing the multitudes, he went up into the mountain and when he had sat down, his disciples came unto him :
2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying, 
3 Blessed are the poor in spirit : for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

The poor are not blessed. A life of poverty is a shorter life of hardship. This obnoxious creed has been used to excuse the vile excesses of laissez-faire capitalism and to exalt the state of suffering. It creates an excuse to leave people wanting and for greed to continue.

4 Blessed are they that mourn : for they shall be comforted.

A false comfort. An accommodation to refuse reality. In the long run, this is an avoidance of actual mourning and unhealthy.

5 Blessed are the meek : for they shall inherit the earth.

Progress requires boldness, questioning. To be meek and passive will not move us forward. Nor will aggression, but extreme passivity is a problem with some eastern religions as well.

6 Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness : for they shall be filled.

A dangerous excuse to enact religious law and extremism over others.

7 Blessed are the merciful : for they shall obtain mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart : for they shall see God.

There is of course, no god. So promulgating the idea of god and believing it for no reason is directly and indirectly harmful in and of itself.

9 Blessed are the peacemakers : for they shall be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are they that have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake : for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Legitimising the actions of those who, often on no basis, consider themselves persecuted. Consider the American right in the USA today.

11 Blessed are ye when men shall reproach you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

This passage is often quoted by believers and used to defend their delusions. Essentially ‘Jesus said you wouldn’t believe his bullshit. He was right!’. Again it allows for a feeling of superiority and a means to ignore justified critique.

12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad : for great is your reward in heaven : for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

There is no heaven. This sort of thing, valuing an afterlife over this life is what excuses and enables suicide bombers, dominionism etc.

13 If Ye are the salt of the earth : but if the salt have lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted ? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men. 
14 Ye are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid.
15 Neither do men light a lamp, and put it under the bushel, but on the stand ; and it shineth unto all that are in the house.
16 Even so let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
17 Think not that I came to destroy the law or the prophets I came not to destroy, but to fulfil.

The Sermon on the Mount cannot be taken outside of its context and this passage in particular reaffirms that every obnoxious, hate-filled law of the Old Testament must still be followed. Jesus is meant as an exemplar, not a replacement within this mythology.

How do you Solve a Problem like Aisha?

child-bride_wxojk_50You don’t. You hedge, avoid and distract.

Just been around and around this particular roundabout with a couple of Muslims, yet again. The basic problem is this.

Most people would agree that having sex with children is wrong. My basis for saying so is that engaging in intercourse with pre-sexual humans is dangerous to their health and they are not mentally competent to give informed consent.

Ask a Muslim if having sex with children in wrong and they start to get a little… evasive.

Why should this present a problem? Surely of all morals found around the modern world one of the few things we can agree on is that raping children is bad. Even the Catholic Church, with a bit of a reputation for the problem, will publicly fess up to it being a bad thing.

Well, the problem for Muslims lies in the fact that Muhammed had, and fucked, a nine-year-old bride, Aisha.

Quite rightly, this idea repulses people but because Muhammed is revered and considered perfect and because the Koran is considered a perfect guide to morality this presents something of a problem. Either…

  • A: The Koran is wrong, Muhammed isn’t perfect and fucking children is a repugnant and predatory practice worthy of contempt.
  • B: Fucking children is A-OK with god.

The thing is, this shit still goes on in places like Yemen and they draw licence for the practice from the Koran.

So, what happens when Muslims are confronted with this? They panic.

Some say that this is a misrepresentation, but its in the Koran and Hadith and was considered praiseworthy and right for centuries as a sign of Aisha’s purity and appropriateness as a prize for Muhammed. Some will say its a product of the culture of the time – which is to admit that morality is not absolute and divine but rather subjective and temporal. Some of the more honest will say that they believe there’s nothing wrong with it.

Bringing this up can seem like a ‘cheap shot’ simply because the issue of paedophilia is such a hot-button issue, but it really is a big problem that Islam seems to have and one they don’t appear to have a good answer for.

Atheist Dogma?

YEE.tifA certain Tyler Null on Twitter likes to bang on about ‘atheist dogma’, thereby demonstrating that he has no understanding of the terms ‘atheist’, ‘dogma’ or perhaps both and is just being dishonest. It seems peculiar that a religious person should be so against dogma as dogma is very much a part of religion. Still, he seems to have a bee in his bonnet about it.

Lets correct him.

Atheism is:

“Either the lack of belief that there exists a god, or the belief that there exists none.” Most broadly it is simply the personal statement “I do not believe in god/s.”

Dogma is:

1. A

n official system of principles or tenets concerning faith, morals, behavior, etc., as of a church. Synonyms: doctrine,teachings, set of beliefs, philosophy.

2. A specific tenet or doctrine authoritatively laid down, as by a church: the dogma of the Assumption; the recently defined dogma of papal infallibility. Synonyms: tenet, canon, law. 

3. Prescribed doctrine proclaimed as unquestionably true by a particular group: the difficulty of resisting political dogma.

4. A settled or established opinion, belief, or principle: the classic dogma of objectivity in scientific observation.Synonyms: conviction, certainty.

Well then…

Does Atheism fit any of these definitions?

Atheism is not a system. Atheism is not a set of principles. Atheism has no tenets. Atheism does not necessarily exclude faith, even though it tends to. Atheism says nothing in and of itself about morality, behaviour etc. It does not fit number 1.

Atheism is, again, not a tenet or a doctrine. It is not laid down through authority. It does not fit number 2.

Atheism is, again, not a doctrine, it is not held to be unquestionably true (almost all atheists would change their mind if evidence for a god turned up).

The fourth definition is, in my opinion, so lose as to be universally applicable to anything and everything and therefore useless within this context. The meaning of religious dogma is pretty clear and the attempt here is to set up an equivalence that doesn’t exist. ‘Ner ner, you’re just as bad as we are.’

What the Heck?

The things Tyler talks about are arguments often used in support of atheism or opinions broadly held by left/liberal people. He’s conflating all of these together in one big lump. Why? Idiocy or malice.

Unchanged Koran?

المصحف_مفتوحIt is a popular ploy amongst Muslims to claim that – unlike other religious texts – it has never been changed or altered. This wouldn’t actually make any difference to its veracity or not, an old lie or untruth is still a lie even if it has lasted a long time or been copied a great deal. Its also not true. The Koran has been through several revisions despite being the youngest of the Abrahamic faiths.

Version One

Whatever Muhammed said to his followers is the first version of the Koran. Straight from his mouth to their ears and recorded somewhat haphazardly. The problem with oral preservation was understood quite early so Muhammed’s followers became literate (learning from prisoners of war ironically!) and compiled his ‘revelations’ all over the place. Muhammed died, so did a lot of his followers. It is impossible to know what was and wasn’t lost of the Koran in light of those events.

Version Two

Previously a scattered and haphazard oral record of many parts, the first Caliph Abu Bakr decided to collect the Koran into a single volume. This is Islam’s ‘council of Nicea’ moment and the first instance of a ‘standardised Koran’. This was compiled and written by – amongst others – Jewish and Greek scribes. It was collected and collated from fragmentary records, oral history, writing scraped on camel bones etc. What was kept and what was discarded we’ll never know but this effort would seem to account for the disjointed and fragmentary nature of the Koran and the incorporation of Greek knowledge and tribal custom into the corpus.

Version Three

Caliph Uthman Ibn Affan noticed differences as Islam spread in the versions of the Koran and Islamic beliefs from one place to another. The earlier written version (version 2) was used as a basis for the production of version three which, aside from minor differences, is the modern Koran today.