Tuesday, October 8, 2013

In Response Two

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/04/discharge-petition-government-shutdown_n_4044967.html

Wait, Democrats actually doing something? Oh. After filing a resolution. And waiting, literally, for a week. And then after collecting hundreds of signatures. And then making a motion. And then taking a vote. And then being sent to the Senate if nothing goes wrong. For further voting, petitioning, hand-wringing for the cameras, and rich, narcissistic old white guys arguing about very important things in the bold assurance that no matter how badly they perform or how many people they hurt they will never, in this life, face any severe consequences or shoulder any responsibility, having cleverly inoculated themselves against any re-election threats through jerrymandering and propaganda.

That is not fucking doing something. That is the opposite of doing something. That is hiding behind bureaucracy. That is using the letter of the law to violate the spirit of the law. That is sitting on your hands, more scared of losing your job than doing the right thing. Congratulations, House Democrats. "Not actively making shit worse," is probably the best we can expect from you until we stop voting for people whose only talents in life are telling people what they want to hear and absolving themselves of blame.

This is why I don't vote for Democrats above the county level. They turn into this shit. Cowards and bureaucrats, sincerely *wanting* to do something but too chickenshit to stand up to the bully and stand for something. Nothing I can do. Hands are tied. They have hostages. At least we have the moral high ground.

If I had a chair in that room, I'd like to think I'd get immediately thrown out for trying to bring treason charges against Boehner and anyone else using or willing to use procedural loopholes to take the country hostage until their demands are met. Or at least fucking reckless endangerment charges. I would drag homeless veterans, untreated cancer patients, and hungry children in off the street, grab a camera, and demand that the people responsible for this explain why this is necessary. Because this shit is unacceptable.

Maybe I wouldn't. I can be a dick. Plus I don't know what I'd be like if I was rich and powerful. But any representative worthy of the name would.

I don't think many would disagree when I say that though they may be following the letter of the law, these people have cast the spirit of the law aside. Not just our laws, the concept of rule of law itself. This behavior should be as unacceptable in the developed world as human slavery. Instead, it's universally accepted as normal, regardless of whether you side with the kid demanding lunch money or the kid that's been letting himself get beat up since fucking Eisenhower.

And we all know, obviously, that no matter who ends up with what lunch money it's all going to the same cafeteria. We know that they know and they know that we know and we all just shrug and say "yeah, that looks about right." What the fuck is wrong with people? Don't vote for people based on how they make you feel, because people that play with your emotions to get you to agree to do something for them are manipulative swine. Fire your fucking employee if shit like this happens on their watch, and don't hire anyone involved with this fiasco ever again. We hire our rulers by voting Who would rule in your best interests? Don't vote for incompetent apologists. Vote for people that know what the fuck they're doing. If they didn't grow up in a HUD home or on an actual poverty stricken farm and don't have two doctorates in applicable fields they shouldn't be left unsupervised in the same room as someone running this country. How hard is that to fucking figure out?

Voters are in charge of this country and voters keep electing this shit. This is, literally, every eligible American's fault. Some more than others, obviously, but everyone is on the hook to some degree. They voted for incompetent bullies. But we elect incompetent cowards. The ACA isn't a good law. It's a band-aid on a bullet wound. We shouldn't be defending it because we should be defending what we're replacing it with at this point: actual socialized medicine.

This happened because we elected people that care more about their tenure than the well-being of human society. This is a problem. I don't know how fix it. I've tried screaming "Pick up a fucking civics book and read it, you dumb fuck!" at half the people I meet. It doesn't work. "I'm really good at understanding things, and I generally vote Green Party, and I can explain why," is not a good sales pitch either. Nobody listens to reasonable.

And since I'm relying on facts I don't get to do propaganda or political spin as much as I'd like. I show somebody the figures on socialized medicine in Europe or Australia and say 'fucking read this.' But I don't get to scream SOCIALISM in front of a picture of some crazy fucking suicide bomber. Because that's unethical. So all I'm really qualified to say is "vote for somebody with an ethical campaign or I fucking won't like you."


Quit voting for assholes. Switch news sources for a month or two. If you like RT or the The Young Turks, watch O'Reilly and Hannity for a month. If somebody starts spouting numbers, check and see if they're right. It is fucking easy to do that. If you hear people talking about Karl Marx or Ayn Rand all the time, go out and read one of their books or pamphlets, find out where you really stand on the issue. The Communist Manifesto is fucking short and easy to read, I promise. There are a lot of easily accessible groups on the internet devoted to Randian objectivity. Find somebody you know that knows about this shit and ask them to help you understand it better. Offer to teach them something you know how to do in return. Learning shit is fun, trust me. So is teaching shit. I suck at teaching, but I love doing it.

I think it'd be awesome if people taught each other things more.

But first we have to all admit that we're all ignorant about shit. We have to knock that being in denial about it shit off.


I was trying really hard just to keep my thoughts to myself about this one, but jesus, is this really the best we can do at this point?

Saturday, October 5, 2013

In Response To

http://botherer.org/2013/05/18/science-vs-faith-vs-the-deluded-sociopathy-of-religion/#more-3299

I stumbled across this article after watching a bunch of old Consolevania episodes on Youtube, and wondering why the fuck nobody told me who Rab Florence was before. This led to a night of figuring out who the fuck Rab Florence was, and discovering that he seems like the kind of person I would have liked to have had as an older brother growing up. He's amazing. He doesn't do a Let's Play of Raw Danger here, and you should watch it the next time you get bored because holy fuck it's funny. If I was allowed to recast the Nerdist as something nerds would want to watch, Robert Florence would be one of the hosts.

 Anyway, I find out that Florence was fired from a games magazine for addressing what he felt was institutionalized corruption in the field of games journalism. I'm not going to link to the fiasco as it was...heavily criticized by games journalists. And we all know what they're like. For what it's worth, I agree totally with Florence's position. A free press must endeavor to remain so. Video game companies should not be giving away free shit to journalists if either wants their reputation to remain intact.

Robert Florence is brilliant and you should check out his work.

Anyway, I'm not talking about Florence. Just felt like I had crossed some kind of invisible line between "researching a writer out of curiosity," and "stalking a stranger on the internet," so I felt like I should at least plug him to my maybe tens of readers.

I'm talking about the blog that his response to the criticisms was hosted on. I checked what kind of site I was getting this information from, and clicked on a post that caught my interest. It made me think. I don't think about religion much anymore. I mean, I think about it all the time, in terms of church-state separation, equality issues, and science denial. I don't lie awake at night pondering Pascal's Wager or feeling guilty about sex, is what I mean. There are not many 'god exists' arguments and none of them are good.

The article is an argument in favor of Christianity that I wish I heard more, because I at least see the sense of it.

I've seen it addressed, but mostly just as a rephrasing of the Epicurean Paradox. I thought I'd add my two cents to the discussion.

What follows is mostly from a FB status update that I started, got out of control, and couldn't finish. None of it is really directed at the author or anybody else, I'm largely just venting to an imaginary friend. You know, like religious folk do. Except I'm aware that I'm just talking to myself.

So I don't often hear compelling arguments from theists. The last discussion I had on Christianity, from a progressive liberal Christian relative, ended with neither of us talking to each other for the indefinite future.

Her argument? Insisting that everything good about me was a gift from Christ. That I remind her of Christ, who I'm fairly certain she's never actually met in person.

I don't remind her of me. Or of someone like me. Or my mom. Or my grandfather. Or someone she knows in real life. I remind her of her invisible friend. Well, that's nice. Now I'm at least aware that she doesn't feel obligated to think of me as a person. I am a product of her imagination's imagination.

I take offense to this.

I am a result of my parents genetics and parenting skills. I am a result of my education and background. A result of the choices I've made and the things I've experienced. I am the outcome of what I've done and what I've learned. I work fairly hard towards becoming the kind of person I want to be. Compassionate. Informed. Humane. Charitable. Honest. Creative. I am a person. Those are qualities of human beings. Not Legos used in the pet project of a guy from a book that says talking donkeys are real and feeding children to bears for disrespecting their elders is justice.

I will almost always side with the poor in economics debates, because I have been homeless. That is something that is true about me. Was that Christ's doing as well? No. It was alcohol and bad decisions on my part followed by a lot of work, a lot of help, and the realization that I don't want other people to have to live like that because it sucks. Simple as that.

She took offense to this.

Stripped down to its core components, religion, specifically monotheistic religions, are very difficult institutions to defend. The vast majority of them boil down to the fundamental problem "The Bible is wrong, but no one agrees what about." Religions, In America at least, routinely end up as either huggy-feely cults in an attempt to escape the harsh reality of their existence, or attempts to force the rest of society to conform to the commands of an unimpeachable and insane dictator. They undermine social and scientific progress at every turn, and they are dangerous. I am ecstatic that the author took the effort to address this. 99 out of 100 Christians I've met turn a blind eye to this reality, or declare the problem off limits by saying "Well, no real Christian would..." as if that's some kind of acceptable fucking explanation.

At best it's a way to cope with grief, although in my experience believing my loved ones were still alive somewhere made it harder to let go and move on. Believing they existed but were permanently beyond my reach didn't help. It was like a loved one was stranded in another country with no way to communicate with me. Your mileage may vary, I guess.

This article is a defense of faith that I can respect. I even agree with most of the conclusions, if not the methodology. Overall, though, I have a hard time believing he's describing Christianity. I agree that, like most of Christianity, it is a belief that involves emulating Jesus in some fashion. Crucifixes, tithing, charities, condemning capitalism in the temple, telling people to just wuv each other, coming not to bring peace but a sword, outlining church structure as a hierarchical, male dominated institution with an invisible wizard at the top. In all of the ways Jesus can be emulated, the one no one wants to do is also the least popular. What's wrong with that picture?

Overall, Christians do not and have never behaved any better or worse than any other society. And most societies have heroes that exhibit the qualities you ascribe to Christ's life and teachings. This type of Christianity appears, to me, to be something to do with being human, not to do with being a Christian. In Buddhism, there's a concept called Boddhisatva, which is when a person, finding enlightenment, renounces enlightenment until all others have attained it first. How is that different from this take on Christianity?

There are and have been Christians living these kinds of lives. I imagine most people do, in their own way. They want to be nice and helpful and shit, at least until an outgroup appears. And it doesn't correlate with Christianity in a statistically significant amount when compared to any other subsection of humanity over a long enough timeline. The only sense I can find for this kind of behavior seem to indicate stuff like public education, literacy and poverty levels, and power concentration. I imagine the rates for MLKs in Christianity is similar to the Ghandi rates in Hinduism. I imagine the rate is similar to Ayaan Hirsi Ali rates in atheism or Bill Haywood rates in labor activists. And during the Crusades, when we didn't have all the nice things we do now, I imagine the barbarism rates were about equal between the Muslims and the Christians.

This lifestyle, or personal philosophy, or religion, or spiritual beliefs, or whatever, doesn't seem to be exclusive to any particular subset of humanity, religious or otherwise. The two (finding fulfillment by sacrificing to help those around you, and belief in god,) don't appear to be casually linked. Religion attempts to explain this feature of humanity, but it isn't right, from all that I can tell. This is a question for neuroscientists and evolutionary psychologists at this point. God doesn't appear to be the answer. The anterior insular cortex just fucking might. And if so? Does Jesus retreat to an even smaller pocket of ignorance?

So why call it God?

Why make that assumption? If this tendency to sacrifice ones security and comfort in the name of charity and compassion for others in the hope of building a better world for them doesn't correlate with faith, why call it faith? 99 times out of 100 this description of faith is not the one being used when someone talks about their faith. They may say it is, but saying things is easy. Volunteering at a soup kitchen every week isn't.

I say things all the time. I've said things, knowing it would cost me a friendship, knowing and accepting that I had to be the bad guy, because they needed to be said. I can and do sacrifice for what I feel are good causes. I spend time and money trying to communicate the importance of critical thinking skills, making terrible algebra cartoons to help people study for their GEDs and practically begging people to read or watch them and strive, everyday, to get people to think.

I don't do that shit because I want people to like me, because people don't like me. My two forms of communication are silence and sarcastic liberal blowhard. I don't do it because I think I'll make money doing it. I haven't yet. I've made more money playing guitar than I have teaching it. If I was capable of figuring out how to make money teaching people about science and reason using humor I would have done it already. It isn't in my skillset, at least not at this point in time. This blog, that I've had for three years, hasn't put a dime in my pocket despite all the adverts. I'd take them down, but I don't know how and fuck it, maybe in ten years I'll see a $100 check.

I do it because I think it is important that it's done. I want people to want to know how to think properly. I want people to know where the tools for sorting good information from bad are located. I want people to be as excited about all of the amazing scientific advancements we're currently making as they are about fucking football or whatever the fuck twerking is. Working towards that goal gives my life purpose and meaning. I'm not as poetic as Carl Sagan, or as charismatic as Bill Nye, but I do what I can and I go to bed happy most nights because I feel that this is a purpose worth pursuing. The feelings of purpose and fulfillment I have when I do something I see as more important than my own bullshit are the same feelings a Christian or a Mormon or a Buddhist has when they work towards whatever they see as more important than their own bullshit. Working for a cause larger than ourselves.

So don't get me wrong, inasmuch as I think life has a greater purpose, I don't think that purpose is dissimilar to what this guy describes. If someone is okay calling it Christianity, then, well, okay. They're free to do that, same as I'm free to call it altruism and believe it's probably a naturally evolved behavior necessary for interdependent survival. I don't even mind the implication that this is in some fashion supernatural and unavailable to someone like me. Having a greater purpose in life is not the sole domain of your interpretation of what Jesus wanted, and I imagine that most Christians would agree. But not all Christians. And some of the ones that do believe that they are somehow fundamentally better than everyone else occupy places of power. How do we fix that?

Whatever the answer is, it isn't me. I am categorically disqualified from telling Christians how to manage their affairs.

"Christ" is not the right answer here. That's my stance. My mind cannot be changed on this issue, short of something literally impossible and unimaginable happening. But people keep trying. And they'll continue to ignore my suggestions to at least attempt to understand my position as well as I understand theirs. Because that's how they choose to emulate Jesus. I warn people, when the subject is broached, that asking for my feedback on this will involve looking up terms like 'pareidolia' and watching really long lectures on YouTube all the time.

I have to tell people I like things like
'please, don't ask me about this if you're not looking for a serious discussion or debate, because screaming "I DIDNT CUM FROM NO MONKEYS FAGIT!" and promising to pray for me like I'm some sort of helpless, idiot child has thus far failed to sway me to your side. I assure you, I have heard whatever argument you could possibly put forth and can likely refute it on the spot. Instead of arguing with me, I'd really prefer it if you used your time and effort to attempt to clean all the bigots and pedophiles out of your church, and then get your church out of our government. Believe me, I police atheists and skeptics when I see some bullshit on parade, and we don't even misinterpret 'self-sacrifice' as 'suicide bombing," although I wouldn't put it past some of the FreethoughtBlog commenters. We will probably be a lot happier if we agree to disagree and mind our own philosophical business.

But if you want a serious debate about it I will. And I'll probably hurt your feelings, although not intentionally. Most of my family doesn't talk to me because I hurt their feelings. I can't lie about what I know about reality and if you try to convince me I'm wrong then you will be forced to acknowledge some painful truths. We will not remain friends if you ignore, misrepresent, or purposefully misunderstand my side of the argument, because I can not be friends with someone that refuses to listen to my side of the story and won't acknowledge when I'm right about something important. And that would make me sad, because I like having friends and I would probably like having you as a friend, and I bet you'd like having me as a friend if you knew more about me. And I realize that that makes me hard to get along with and I come across as angry to a lot of people. That's just what happens when people disagree on fundamental shit. It's why so many people are conformists. Tribes trend towards cultural uniformity for a reason, but they need to have enough disparate elements to be adaptable. Some of us hold on to old ideas for too long. Some of us are too quick to adopt new ones. It's just people being people.'

Sometimes people care enough about me, as a person, that they choose to keep the friendship. I like those people. They are nice. But those friendships will always have a big, pink elephant in the room that we're NOT TALKING ABOUT, and it can be hard to ignore. When people start mooning over Atlas Shrugged, still think either Bush was a good idea, or post a lot of 'share 4 jesus' shit on FB, or can't tell a phys.org science article from a naturalnews.com news article, I have a fucking hard time not pointing out how pointless and dangerous it is. I drive myself up the wall with that shit. I don't hate that I'm like this, but I wouldn't say no having an option to be different.

I mean, Alex Jones blatantly makes shit up on the spot and is treated like a respectable journalist by an alarming amount of folk. That is a problem. Fox News chronically misinforms its viewers so much that they consistently rank as less informed than someone that doesn't watch the news at all. This is a problem. The Tea Party movement is a group of religious extremists funded by billionaires and they are capable of shutting down the US government. This is a problem. Most people don't understand basic science. This is a problem. Capitalism is not compatible with the information age. This is a problem. Our prison system is a post-industrial slave plantation, the courts only answer to power and we still watch cop shows with their Lawful Good Guy cops, treat prison rape like a joke, and pretend that's all the justice system is. This is a problem. America just opened a library for a war criminal. This is a problem. We are making our environment uninhabitable. This is a problem. Everybody relies on a computer and nobody understands how they work. This is a problem.

What would Christ have us do about these very modern and very complex problems that don't lend themselves well to sheep metaphors? I don't believe that Christ has any place in this equation. But the lifestyle the author believes in does have a place. But if we want to understand altruism, we can't keep pretending that faith is the answer. Faith's part of it, sure. Faith in humanity, the future, a better world, cancer ribbons, dead famous people, unborn children, whatever. But faith also means believing shit unquestioningly, and that can't be part of the answer because that's a lot of the problem. We need to be able to be proven wrong, and "because god" is not an answer that can be checked.