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Kirk Cameron on marriage: The blind leading the blind August 10, 2011

Posted by shaunphilly in religion, atheism, polyamory, culture.
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*headdesk*

Ow, that hurt,  But not as much as reading this:

Woman with a Mancard: My Night at Kirk Cameron’s Marriage-Strengthening Event

Now, I’ve found Kirk Cameron’s Christian antics annoying for many years.  Since my friend Brian Sapient debated him and his Sith master Ray Comfort back in 2007, I have found him to be a pretty dense tool (almost as bad as Tof Friel, really), but this recent event just makes me want to scream with frustration.

Now, I want to write more substantially about the concept of marriage in the next day or so (mostly because I just got engaged to the lovely Ginny), but for now I want to say a few quick things about the idea of marriage, relationships in general, and the role of men and women in them.  I want to say these things because I think that the current model of marriage in the evangelical Christian community is poisonous for both men and women, advocates an immature way for men and women to communicate and interrelate, and just generally sucks giant troll balls.

And what’s worse, it informs many of our ‘traditional’ definitions of marriage.

Kirk Cameron advocates a model of marriage with the man (and there always will be a man, as marriage is defined as an institution between one man and one woman of course), is supposed to “play the role of Jesus Christ to your wife.”  There is no equality, no real sense of compromise, and certainly no meaningful feminism here.  The man is unambiguously in charge of his wife.  This is not a relationship of equals, but one of a power relationship.  Just as we are to obey God, the wife is to obey the husband.  Sure, if he has “crossed the line” (meaning, is emotionally/physically abusive) then he is not “protecting her” (because that is part of his job, of course) and is not doing his job well. But I doubt that divorce would be an option, as god ordained these marriages, and only we can fail in them;  not god.

This is but one of the many aspects of current Christian trends that makes me feel sick.  It promotes clearly obsolete gender roles, places people (specifically women) in a place of subservience (and not in the fun and kinky way that some women like, although I’m sure there is some overlap), and (again) it promotes vigorous suction on the balls of the troll which may or may not live under the bridge near your house.  His name is Ted.

The irony for me is that many people in our culture, even less batshit nutzoid people than Kirk Cameron, think that gay marriage or polyamorous marriage (not to be confused with the often harmful polygamous marriage) is unhealthy while finding this version of marriage proposed by evangelicals to be relatively healthy.  At least (they may say) they are really committed to each other.  Or they may say that at least it is the way god intended marriage to be.  This is an indication of a fundamental disease at the root of our culture when it comes to thinking about marriage and gender roles. There is no wonder that divorce and teen pregnancy rates are higher among so-called red states; it is these areas which are more prone to this unhealthy model of marriage.

I love my future wife.  I love her in a way that a man who sees himself as the master of his wife simply cannot.  I am genuinely interested in seeing her free, fulfilled, and treated as the equal that she is.  I cannot, not would I try, to “put my foot down” or to make a proclamation about what will be what.  It may be hard, we may disagree, but we will communicate openly about all of our desires, fears, and joys. Further, she loves me (this I know, for the Bible…wait, never mind…).  She desires me to be fulfilled, free, and will allow me to be who I am, genuinely, inside.  Neither of us has to pretend.  We don’t have to strive for some fantasy ideal or deny aspects of our selves in sacrifice for our relationship, because our relationship is about a celebration of our selves.

I will put my relationship against that between Kirk Cameron and his wife any day of the week.  Any man who sees his wife as subservient, who plays off of old cultural roles for each spouse without any hint of skepticism towards their ideological merit, or who gives men “man cards” which their wives are not even allowed to see is a weak and cowardly man.  His worldview is weak and cowardly, and it is a conservative worldview whose influence stretches beyond the evangelical Christian world, but surely dominates that world.

I know too many people, men and women (they are really boys and girls, even in their late 20’s or 30’s) who are inexperienced sexually, relationship-wise, and therefore emotionally stunted.  They see this ideal life and marriage set up before them and do not relent even as they fail over and over to find it’s reality.  They believe that Jesus will provide for them, and cannot see their own blindness.

And many of these “values” seep into mainstream culture, where (outside of the educated upper middle class generation I grew up around) these ideas are still held with reverence.  Heteronormative monogamous male-dominated marriage is more the norm than I think many of us educated and elitist types want to admit–and possibly more than we realize.  This idea of the traditional marriage, which is not even traditional if we want to be truly historical about it, is what is doing damage to real human relationships.  Not gay marriage.  Not polyamorous people who are married and who may want a legalized polyamorous marriage.

It is the closed-minded version of what god wants, what is right, what is ‘Merican even, that will destroy our relationships.

[/end rant]

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The Origin of Species, Ray Comfort, and profound ignorance November 18, 2009

Posted by shaunphilly in religion, atheism, polyamory, culture.
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Ah, dishonesty!

The day has come.  We in the atheist and scientific communities have been waiting for it with mild amusement or annoyance.  And to our surprise it came a day early.  We almost missed it as a result.  But I didn’t.

For those of you who were not aware, Ray Comfort, from Living Waters and Way of the Master has recently been talking about passing out free copies of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species.  This pivotal book has been all the rage since it was first published in 1859, and it’s impact on science, religion, and culture cannot be denied.  This is a book that must be read by a person if they are to consider themselves a well-rounded, educated, and informed person in today’s culture.  One should at very least be familiar with what Darwin’s essential argument is, what evidence exists to back it up, and what science says about evolution today.

For that, here’s a few good places to start and to keep an eye on:

Why Evolution is True (WEIT)

PBS

Berkeley

But Ray Comfort is not a fan of evolution.  He rejects it and supports intelligent design, so why is Ray Comfort giving away this special 150th Anniversary Edition, precisely?

Well, first a bit about Ray Comfort.  He and his former Growing Pains star Kirk Cameron have been doing ministry about Jesus for some time now.  You may remember the debate that Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron had with my friend Brian Sapient and the Rational Response Squad.  If you have not seen this debate, I’ll supply a link here.

It was this debate where the infamous crocoduck came from.  This has supplied many chuckles and full belly-laughs from sciency people ever since.  (I want a shirt with the crocoduck on it, btw, so I’ll accept gifts of this sort).

This is an image created by Ray Comfort to try and make the point that transitional fossils do not exist, and that if they did this is the type of thing one would expect to find.  The ignorance contained here is astounding.  I don’t even feel compelled to respond, because it has been done elsewhere with many more lulz attached.

But this is not the full act that these clowns have.  If you have not heard their routine, it is amusing.  Here’s an example that includes some rebuttal:

Now, the banana aside (which Ray Comfort admitted was a bad argument), this is utter tripe.  It is clear that Comfort, Cameron, and the others that are on board with this nonsense do not accept the overwhelming evidence for evolution, so why are they giving away copies of The Origin of Species? Well, it has a lot to do with the 50 page introduction that Ray Comfort includes in this ‘special’ edition.

Well, putting aside some obvious problems with the introduction, this is obviously an attempt to appear as if the creationist loons, like Comfort, have actually considered the evidence and are just coming up with another interpretation.  They simply see the evidence lacking, having studied the subject, and are confident to actually give people copies of this book.

But the fact is that evolution is not derived from the Origin like gospel.  It is derived from Darwin’s arguments, evidence, and observations and then is confirmed by all of the work in biology since.  That is, a hundred and fifty years of research, testing, DNA evidence, fossils, and other information  supports what Darwin wrote and expands on it in ways Darwin could not have predicted because he did not know about DNA or genetics, let alone the thousands of fossils we have uncovered that speak unequivocally for evolution by natural selection.

So, the deal was Comfort and his cronies were to hand out copies of the book all over the country, on college campuses, on November 19th, 2009.  The atheist and science blogosphere was all a-twitter about it and has been anticipating this.  Various responses, reactions, and condemnations have surfaced in various places with varying degrees of tone.  And so what happened when I got to my daily business today, one day before the planned give-away? That’s right folks, Comfort has tried to minimize the planned reactions by science enthusiasts and atheists by jumping the gun and doing it early.

But I managed to get out of the house and find a couple of friendly gentlemen who were passing out the books today anyway.  They were having some conversations with students, proselytizing the Christian message similar to Ray Comfort’s, and I took a copy and talked with them about my concerns for a little while.   And what did I find? Ignorance.

In my conversation with these two gentlemen, I found that not only were these two men ignorant of science, it’s methods, and the evidence for evolution, they displayed no interest in learning about science.  One of them actually said that he was not interested in science.  But he did say that he was interested in the truth.  And while he didn’t understand the basics of rational thinking, epistemology, or even what natural selection was, he maintained that he was interested in the truth.

And what is the truth? Jesus is the truth.  This was not merely claimed as a belief, but as knowledge, knowledge that was not doubted even a little.

Frustrating.  How can a person claim to be interested in the truth and not have any interest in the scientific method–the best method for determining how the world works–and have not even surface understanding of epistemology? his is an indefensible position.  It is irrational, illogical, and not worthy of the respect that some faitheists and moderate religionists say that these beliefs deserve. Their certainty in their beliefs is staggering considering they are not interested in evidence.  What’s worse is that they accused me of being absolutely certain that god does not exist and that evolution is true.  When I told them that neither was true and that I accept evolution only because of the overwhelming evidence for it.

I am a skeptic.  These people, Comfort included, are so removed from skepticism that they will not admit that they might be wrong.  They cannot even see that they don’t actually have evidence, only personal interpretations of experiences which people of other religions claim with equal authority.  I cannot respect Ray Comfort’s beliefs, his certainty, or the certainty of those who believe such absurd things.  And for them to try and pull a stunt like this,by trying to look like they are educated in the science behind evolution when they are not, is dishonest at very least.

“All you need is eyes that can see and a brain that works” is what Ray Comfort says quite often.  But it is clear, from all I have seen of his work, that he might have poor vision and a brain that works only just enough to sound like he’s saying something sensible to people who don’t see through his idiocy.

I’m glad I have a copy of this fine book to put on my shelf, but from what I have already seen, there is nothing in the introduction that is worth keeping.

Different kinds of Atheists April 22, 2009

Posted by shaunphilly in religion, atheism, polyamory, culture.
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Every so often I hear someone claim that they used to be an atheist. They say that they then started to believe in god, and, in most of the cases I’m familiar with, became a Christian. This always strikes me as an interesting switch, and so I will ask two questions, primarily.

What do you mean by “atheist”?

What convinced you to believe in a god?

The answers to these questions vary, but in asking them I will uncover a few caveats or qualifiers that lie behind the claim. Usually, the answer to the first question, that of what they mean by saying that they used to not believe in god, leads me to think about different kinds of atheists.

I have argued elsewhere that atheism is simply the lack of belief in god. There is no creed, set of beliefs, or worldview attached to this lack. I still hold to this definition.

However, there is a matter of the level of time and effort spent in consideration of this question that should be addressed. That is, while to be an atheist is merely to lack belief, the question is how much a non-believer has tried to examine this question; how much have they tried to find reasons to believe in a god? How much has the atheist challenged their lack of belief?

Whether or not a person was ever religious or a theist in the past, simply losing faith or belief in a god is quite easy and requires no necessary rationalization or reasons. One could simply discontinue believing for a number of reasons and then stop all consideration of the question.

When we are born, we are atheists. But in a sense this is cheating. To not believe in a god because the concept is not present in our mind is not the same as to have become familiar with the concept and lacking belief in such a being due to lack of reasons and evidences to believe in such a thing.

Most people, as they are raised, are brought up to within a religious tradition, and so the concept is slowly and often deliberately inculcated into people while young, creating emotional associations that often remain throughout life. This is why it is often so painful for believers to stop believing, a process that often takes years to accept and often longer to get over emotionally.

Most atheists that I know who are active in the community are people that came to be atheists from Christianity or Judaism and came to the conclusion of atheism through examination of the arguments, examination of their reasons of believing, and through comparison of the scientific method and mythology. This leads one to reach a conclusion of atheism, while not different in content from the default atheist position, is supported by a fair amount of consideration and thought about the subject.

It is important for me to point out here that this second kind of atheist does not believe any less in the existence of a god necessarily, only that the conclusion is supported by more consideration. They lack belief and they have challenged this lack of belief to a certain degree. Moreover, the reasons they lack belief will be better articulated.

There is a third factor that needs to be considered here, and that is emotion. For many people, the reasons that people become atheists have more to do with some anger at god (or anger at the concept of god) than with any evidence or reasoned consideration. This, in my opinion, is not a good reason to lack belief in god (as if a good reason were necessary…).

Those whose lack of belief stems from an anger at something they attributed to god, anger at some particular conception of god, or even some congregation of religious group, are not being fully rational. There is no reason to require a person to be fully rational, and I am not saying that those that fit into this category are doing something wrong. However, there is a distinct difference between one who reasonably rejects belief and one who does so out of emotion solely.

What I am saying is that if a person remains an atheist for emotional reasons and never addresses the arguments intelligently, the evidence (or lack thereof), and maintains that religious people are mere stupid sheep (sheeple) that deserve some level of scorn or derision will never actually be able to see the good things that religion can provide (even if such provisions are not exclusive to religion).

When people claim to have been atheists before, it is usually this type of atheist, one who lacked belief due to some emotional reason that never matured into an understanding of the pertinent questions, that ends up being the case. In other cases, it will tend to be people that merely never thought about it at all for other reasons that had nothing to do with anger or distaste for any concept of god.

Then there are the atheists, like myself, that actively pursue the question. We are familiar with the arguments, the counter arguments, and the other various twists and turns of the discussion about the existence of gods. We know Pascal’s wager, the design arguments, the moral arguments, the transcendental arguments, and so on. We know them and know why they fail rationally, emotionally, and practically.

So how then can someone who knows these arguments and their rebuttals become a theist? If that happens there must be some argument that people like me have not heard or have not seriously considered, right? There must be some massive repression of the holy spirit going on in me to ignore the obvious truth that those who were atheists who knew the arguments and reasons but believed anyway have found.

The problem is two-fold.

One, there are very few people who, after being familiar with the arguments as well as people like me, actually become theists. And if they do, it is almost never a theism of the kind that we find in evangelical Christian circles. It is usually some god like that of Spinoza that comes around. Rarely, much more rare is it that an atheist of reason comes to find Christ, Allah, or some other god and accepts the whole mythology and theology with it as well. You will almost never, I’ll bet, find someone who was a considered atheist who is now a Young Earth Creationist.

The other issue is the reasons why they begin to believe. I would challenge you to find a person who, in previously having reasons to lack belief in a god, has come to believe through the same standards of evidence that they required in being skeptical. That is, have they been reasoned into belief in god or was it some personal experience? Did they suddenly actually find TAG or the design argument convincing or did they ask themselves what would happen if they were wrong?

Kirk Cameron claimed, when he was around 18 and called himself a “devout atheist” [sic], that he asked himself “what if I’m wrong” and shortly later was a Christian. This is the type of example I have in mind. His position as an atheist was not considered, but rather was default. Perhaps he actually did lack belief in god, but the real question is did he have good reasons to do so or was it merely a question he had never addressed and then became scared by Hell?

I believe that one reason that people will ultimately find religion in their lives as something important is that most people simply do not think about the important things in life; things like meaning, death, pain, self-understanding, etc. And because our society is inundated with religious ideas, when people are faced with crises in life, religion is all most people know of to turn to for answers.

Without a foundation to lay any consideration of questions of importance that isn’t the church you went to as a child or one you found as an adult while having some existential angst, what will you use as a crutch during times of trouble? The problem is that most people simply do not take the time to know themselves, and so in tough times all they know to turn to is religion.

As a result of not believing in any gods, I am forced, because I too have had times of trouble and crises, to find ways to think about and deal with these things without need of a god. And while this is not true for all atheists I know, many have maintained a level of personal maturity and self-knowledge that they have no need for the crutches of gods or religions.

For some of us, turning to belief in god simply cannot have the same impact anymore. We have already built up a strength that makes the dependence on god impossible. We may, for various reasons, come to accept that some ultimate intelligence or power in the universe exists, but to accept the self-deprecating and sinful human nature and the need for salvation after finding the personal strength that comes with relying on actual people and ourselves?

That simply does not happen.

Once you have found true personal strength, maturity, and self-knowledge no self-deprecating savior story will cut it. Christianity especially defines humanity as weak, convinces people of this weakness, and provides the product to save us from this weakness.

It works just like marketing; convince people they are missing something in their lives and then provide something to fill that gap. And the kicker is that those that are selling are not always aware of this. Not all preachers and evangelists are bad people trying to take advantage of others. In fact, I would argue that most are not. They are just people trying to do good but not realizing what they do.

I forgive them, mostly, for they know not what they do. And as for the atheists out there who are either angry or merely disinterested, I’ll warn you that you may become susceptible to the messages of god and redemption one day. That is, unless you are willing to come down to the atheist meetup and have us save you from their attempts to drag you into their god-webs! We’ll provide you with all of the rebuttals and defenses you’ll need to defend yourself from the poor quality arguments that theists use!

See how easy it is? Even an atheist can use the same tactics. They are so closely built into our minds that we do it without being fully aware of it. Well, I’m aware of it, at least.

I must be the type of atheist that is evangelical….