May 15, 2010
I am back from my freshman year at Washington University in St. Louis and back in my hometown of Paducah, Kentucky. I’m going to try to start updating this blog on a regular basis again, as well as trying to advertise, so that I don’t feel like I’m talking to myself the whole time.
Paducah is a small town in Kentucky with just over 26,000 inhabitants. That said, it is also one of the largest cities between Saint Louis and Nashville, and has its own mall and art district. The population is split between rednecks and level-headed midwesterners, since western KY is paradoxically considered both southern and midwestern.
The dominant religion is Baptist.
A friend and I decided to go to the mall yesterday. It was the first time that I had been since I left for college. We planned to meet up with a friend there and walk around, maybe eat, maybe look at shirts or something, and hope to run into people that I haven’t seen in the several months I was away at college in St. Louis.
Not all of my clothes have been washed since I got back, so I threw on whatever I could find that was clean. I wore my navy skinny jeans, Macbeth shoes with green and orange laces, and my “JESUS FUCKING CHRIST” t-shirt.
You can probably imagine where things started to go wrong.
We spent over an hour walking into different stores in the mall and seeing people we knew. My friend bought two shirts, and then we decided to leave to go get food at a nearby restaurant. On the way out of the mall, an old man walked up to me, and shouted “hey!” to get my attention. I should have known better than to stop to talk to a stranger, but I did, and what insued was the most ridiculous of all possible circumstances.
To paraphrase, he said, “One day, when you’re burning in hell, you’re going to wish you had never worn that shirt.”
I said, “okay,” and walked away. There’s really no way to deal with these kind of situations. Again, he shouted to get my attention and I stopped and turned around again.I mentally facepalmed at myself for being so stupid as to stop and listen to him again.
He continued where he left off. “It’s a shame that you do these kind of things in order to get attention. I’m 70 years old and I’ve never seen someone so disrespectful. If I was any younger I would do something to make sure that you never wore that shirt again,” he said, making sure not to directly threaten me, as his shouting had attracted a mall cop that was now standing about six feet to my right. He went on to say something along the lines of, “If I had my sons with me, they would make sure that you never wore that shirt again.”
I was worried that he was going to throw a punch at me, not because I thought that he could seriously injure me, but because I have no idea how to respond to a 70 year old man attacking me. I couldn’t punch him, because I am most likely much stronger than him. If I turned and walked away, he would have a chance to cheap shot me and could potentially actually hurt me. Luckily, it didn’t come to this, because I turned and walked away from him without saying another word. The mall cop saw his opportunity and pounced on the old man. I didn’t pay attention to their conversation because I was more interested in getting out of the mall at this point. My friend who witnessed the whole thing applauded me for not doing anything to provoke him. After the mall cop got done with the old man, he followed me out of the mall. I guess he was going to harass me about my shirt if I didn’t leave.
I’ve been an atheist since I was 12 years old, and I have never felt that I have been persecuted for it. This is the first time that have ever been treated so severely by any adult, as far as I can remember. I can’t even fathom how a person can be so rude to a stranger walking through the mall. Is my shirt offensive? Yes, if you find either blasphemy or swearing offensive. Do I have the right to wear such a shirt? Of course I do, and people have every right to be offended. They don’t, on the other hand, have the right to threaten me, as this man obviously did.
Religion was obviously the man’s motive in threatening me. Notice how, at first, he seemed concerned for my well-being in the afterlife, and then quickly turned to threats when he found out that I wasn’t interested (though him beating me up seems like a drop in the bucket compared to an eternity in hell). If he had not been religious, he never would have threatened me for wearing this shirt. It’s possible that in other aspects of his life, the man that shouted at me could be perfectly genial. But his religious fervor was enough to overcome any decency he had.
It’s enough to make me feel very bitter about the current state of things. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the atheist community and forget that people like this are out there, but when one actually pops up, it’s difficult to think that there’s actually been any improvement. It’s going to take a couple of days before I can think about this without getting a sinking feeling in my chest, I think.
Here’s a picture of the two of us, with me wearing the shirt and making a goofy face.
December 24, 2009
This is a post from October that I wrote for my school and I am reposting it because of the recent Copenhagen summit.
Not Evil Just Wrong is a documentary that will showing on October 18, 2009 at Washington University In St. Louis. It is trying to be the largest opening release by making release packs available for $30 on the internet. It is a counter to “An Inconvenient Truth,” the famous documentary by Al Gore. It also deals with other issues, namely the banning of DDT. The general theme seems to be this– global climate change isn’t happening, it would be okay if global climate change did happen, and the media is trying to trick you into freaking out.
Let’s start with the most easily refuted claim. This isn’t proclaimed outright in the trailer but it has been mentioned by the writers/directors elsewhere since the announcement of the movie. They claim that the ban on DDT was the result of hysterical environmentalists. What it does not consider is that DDT contributes to cancer of the everything. I know that that is a Wikipedia article, but you can check the citations (they are abundant and accurate). DDT was banned because it is horribly destructive to human beings. They claim that it would prevent malaria worldwide, but mosquitoes are increasingly resistant to DDT. This claim is horribly disingenuous and any credibility this film hopes to have are extinguished here.
So, let’s do a point-by-point refutation of the movie. 0:00-0:31 is just clips of scientists saying that global climate change is real and fixing this ecological crisis “won’t be easy.” Won’t be easy? Then it’s evil!
0:31 is where the bold text comes in. “BUT NOW FOR THE FIRST TIME, SCIENTISTS, MEDIA, AND ORDINARY PEOPLE ARE SPEAKING OUT.” It then shows a beach that was probably kept from being ruined by ecological conservation groups. Clean water and whatnot. At 0:45, a “scientist” claims that it would actually be a good thing for the earth to warm up and that “ice is the enemy of life.” It just showed pictures of polar bears in the opening! Polar ice cap melting poses an immediate threat to polar bears. How can they deny this?
The statement at 0:50 is ludicrous. Al Gore doesn’t claim that sea levels are going to rise 30ft in the near future. It’s really that simple. The guy talking calls this a “Very disturbing misstatement of the science.” I can’t help but agree.
At 1:05, the man says “the 21st century is not the warmest the Earth has been in the last thousand years.” I wonder where his “scientific data to show for it” is. This chart begs to differ:
Then, at 1:12, comes some alarmism of their very own. They talk to average people with country accents, like you and me. Because these type of people know enough about geology and meteorology to make cogent arguments about global climate change. The everyman basically claims that fixing our effect on the global environment will cost people their jobs in pollutant factories. Even if that were true, would it matter?
That much is true; the changes our society would have to undergo if global climate change is occurring would be drastic, e pur si muove! The fact that global climate change is happening has nothing to do with how it will effect the common man.
The trailer proclaims in bold font: “THEY WANT TO RAISE OUR TAXES. THEY WANT TO CLOSE OUR FACTORIES.” Then the man on the screen proclaims that “Hundreds of billions of people will die!” Hundreds of billions! That’s more people than there are people! “Al Gore needsta go on about his bidniss somewhurs else.” “They want to go back to the Dark Ages and the black plague!” It keeps going. I can’t even believe that they have the audacity to claim these things. Surely no one on the fence about this issue will buy into those claims.
If you attend WashU, please publicly state your opinion on this bit of garbage. I know it is the right of the WashU students for Liberty to show this, but it any dissenter’s duty to criticize this movie at every point. Global warming should not be a political issue. Scientists do not disagree that global warming is happening and that people are at least partially to blame. This knowledge will keep us from destroying ourselves and the earth along with us.
I’m sorry this is old news, but I wrote it while it was relevant and am posting before it becomes even more irrelevant.
It has been impossible to watch television recently and not see Tiger Woods’ face and testimony from all of the women that he allegedly had sex with. Affairs are very common news stories for the 24-hour news networks (John Edwards comes to mind). It seems like several times a month, unlikely people are outed for having sex outside of their marriage.
This is because monogamy just doesn’t work.
In general, monogamy doesn’t work at all, and the idea that it does comes from religious belief that that is the way that it should be, which is strengthened by examples, which are usually people that stay together because their religion tells them that it is unacceptable to divorce. Since religion is losing its hold on the United States, we are now beginning to see figures suggesting that most marriages will end in divorce eventually.
This is because humans are evolutionarily serial monogamists—we tend to be with one partner at a time and then move to another. We do not mate for life. Some people are more comfortable in polyamorous relationships, and there is nothing any more condemnable about that.
Religion is to blame because it keeps sex as something that is sacred and evil and special and awful at the same time and says that it should only be with one person, and that once you choose that one person, you are filthy if you choose to have se with anyone after that. Even people who aren’t religious feel queasy thinking about serial monogamy and especially polyamory, so it has been imprinted into each of us by our religious society. I know that I, personally, had a long time of dealing with my feelings on the subject, even though I was never religious.
I am not defending Tiger’s actions. When you are not in an open relationship with a person, and you have sex with another person, that is called cheating. He violated his wife’s trust. That is what condemnable here. Not that he had feelings for other women. Perhaps if we as a society had a more open view of sexuality we would be able to engage more openly in sex and open relationships would be possible. Without this negative social pressure about open relationships, people could have sex with people besides their spouse and be open about it with their spouse and there would still be trust in the relationship.
Because of our society, people think that they own their partner’s sexuality and vice versa. Some people even get jealous if their partner masturbates. This is completely ridiculous and a product of a backwards religious culture that won’t allow sex to be a personal, enjoyable, guiltless experience.
December 10, 2009
I found these videos through Pharyngula, and though it is extremely uncool to just rip a blog post from PZ, I feel that it is important that I do this, both because of my recent becoming comfortable with my sexuality and because of a person story I have about someone I know who has been involved with Richard Cohen.
One of my favorite teachers was my junior English and French 1-3 teacher. He was very outgoing and slightly flamboyant, and several rumors circulated that he was gay. I, of course, didn’t buy into anything without seeing real evidence, which no one seemed to have. He had a Veggitales Poster in his room and a bible quote behind his desk and mentioned once that he taught a Sunday school class (but never did anything to violate my rights as a non-theist). I wondered: if he were gay, how much cognitive dissonance was going on?
Then I met his ex-boyfriend. He’s actually a friend-of-a-friend, so it was kind of shocking. He said he broke up with my teacher because my teacher couldn’t handle being gay, and was generally unstable on the subject of his sexuality. That fit pretty well with the information I had gathered about his religion. I felt very bad for him– I am from a non-religious family, so I don’t know what it is like to be threatened with eternal punishment for things I have absolutely no control over. He must be terrified every day of his life.
It doesn’t end there, though. We all had to use his computer one day for a French assignment, and I went first and I accidentally saw an email that was on the top window. I saw that it was forwarded to him and several other people, all male, and he was the only school faculty emailed. It was signed “Richard Cohen — Changeispossible.com.” I really hoped that wasn’t what I thought it was, but I looked it up after school and it confirmed my fears. My teacher was going to a gay conversion seminar over spring break. Sponsored by Pizza Hut.
And I can totally see how he bought into it. On the “Causes of Same-Sex-Attraction” portion of their site, they list: unresolved family issues, artistic nature, neglect, poor family dynamics, and being a teacher’s pet. Because of how well I know him, I know that he fits all of these. Coupled with his guilt from his religion and his parents not accepting his homosexuality, you can see why he thought that going to Richard Cohen would solve all of his problems.
I wanted to talk to him very badly and tell him that what he was doing was wrong. I wanted to tell him that his parents didn’t matter and that his religion was bullshit and that sex was a healthy expression of love between two human beings. Of course, there would be no way that I could tell him that without destroying the professional relationship we had, which would have made high school awkward as hell for the rest of my stay there. Still, I wish I had told him in some way and just said “fuck the consequences.”
Richard Cohen exists because of Christian guilt and nothing more. My teacher should not feel guilty for being himself, and he shouldn’t be taken advantage of by scumbags like Cohen who tell them that his guilt is deserved and that he should change. Cohen pretending he is pro-gay rights is insulting to gay people who are comfortable with their sexuality.
Fuck, this makes me so mad.
September 19, 2009
The first meeting of the WashU ALA was last Sunday, and I went with a friend because I feel like I should be more open about my sexuality since I have developed and increasingly sex-positive worldview since the beginning of the year, partly because of Greta Christina’s Blog and partly because of revelations I’ve had about my own sexuality and where I fit in the sexual spectrum.
It is very interesting to me how stigmatized the ALA has become on campus. There are less than 20 of us, but there are lots of jokes about the “kinky sex club.” It’s strange how sexually repressed some people at this college are. I mean, it’s college. There was a girl on my floor who had never seen a condom before. Even scarier; there was a guy on my floor who had never seen a condom before. It was nice to be away from that and in an environment where sex was understood and appreciated.
All we did was eat pie and vanilla ice cream (which we all thought was amusingly ironic) and discussed our ideas of perfect relationships and favorite movies, interests, etc. Then we watched an episode of CSI that showed a dominatrix character being thoughtful and relatable and discussed the relationship the BDSM community has with the media. We then all wrote down things to give to the president of the club for ideas to talk about at later meetings.
The friend I went with is far more sexually experienced than I am, but is rather freshly out of the closet as a bisexual. He also identified me as bisexual, which is strange because I am not out. He said that he could tell by my body language. It makes me wonder how long I’ve been an open book.
I’d fuck him.
I’m about a month into my first semester of classes at Washington University in St. Louis. It isn’t known as being a particularly activist college, but I never expected this.
I was discussing Michele Bachmann with someone from Minnesota, since Bachmann is a plague to anyone with a brain in their skull, but especially to her constituency. We were talking about how very wretched a person she is and I brought up her wikipedia page for a concise list of her crimes against logic. It wasn’t until I got to her stance on intelligent design being taught in science classrooms that I met any resistance.
“But,” a third person inquired, “intelligent design is just as legitimate a science as evolution.” I was stunned this guy is in chemistry and physics and he called intelligent design a legitimate science. I had no idea how to reply to that notion. It was 2am, I was very tired, and completely taken aback. So, I said what any person with half a mind would say:
“No, It’s not.”
Does there need to be any further refutation than that? But he goes on with his argument, which I am sure he doesn’t realize is completely irrelevant and thoroughly refuted because he hasn’t spent the last four years of his life refuting these arguments like I have.
“The universe,” he persists, “is much too complicated to have arisen from nothing, and it must have originated at one point. There must be a first cause.” Oh, please. Seriously? Our school is ranked 13th in the nation and I’m here refuting the first cause argument? If I didn’t have to live in the same building with this guy I would have resorted to being extremely rude at this point, but he’s a pretty nice guy who has never brought this up before or since this incident, so I said:
“That is a completely unscientific way of veiwing the universe. While it is true that human knowledge is anything but comp[ete, that doesn’t mean that “I don’t know” is a less favorable answer than “We will NEVER know because god did it.” There is nothing shameful about saying “I don’t know.” If you turn your god into a lack of knowledge, your god is only going to get smaller.”
And then I went to bed. Ugh.
August 28, 2009
I am now officially a Washington University in St. Louis student! Well, I have been before (during high-school), but I am now living on campus full-time and classes started this week. That is why my blog has been silent for the last 2 weeks. It is a beautiful campus with far more people at my level than my hometown. It has amazing architecture, a wide variety of classes with some of the best professors in the world, and a disproportionate amount of christian group presence to atheist presence.
That last part is really the only thing about WashU that bothers me. I couldn’t find an atheist organization on campus, so I emailed the Student Union and asked about it. Here is their reply:
There is no officially registered club. However you can try to contact a club that was started last year *********@gmail.com
This news was deeply disheartening. An undergrad school with 6,000 of the nation’s brightest that barely acknowledges the existence of its secular humanist/freethinking population? I couldn’t believe it. So I emailed the address and got an immediate response back. Apparently, there are about 70 people in the group’s Facebook group. They call themselves the WashU League of Freethinkers (WULF). Since they are not officially registered, that means that it’s going to be infinitely more difficult to acquire funding to do anything. Their logo has Epicurus in it, which is awesome.
Despite my tiresome schedule, I will be doing all that I can to support WULF. For starters, encouraging them to get active and get registered will be important. There are advertisements for christian organizations in several places on campus, and I hope that WULF can start to compete this year.
August 13, 2009
This is extremely lulzy, but I’m sure that it isn’t a Poe, and that is terrifying. It’s also one of those videos where I don’t know whether to rate one star, because the poster is a piece of shit, or five stars, because it’s hilarious.
The term “populism,” in my mind, always brings forth thoughts of an unwieldy, tyrannous, uneducated public demanding something illogical from their representatives. It reminds me of the AIG bonus scandal, with people shouting for the names and addresses of the employees. It’s scary, it’s irrational, and it’s violent. It is the core of the human id*, manifested. The recent town hall “debates”/debacles are populism.
Though debate has never been particularly valued by the majority of Americans, but the recent town hall meetings have been a particularly poor example of the art of debate. Fox News has painted this as an uprising of unhappy citizens (and the government had better comply or things will get violent). People are shouting their opinions and not listening to the rebuttal– instead they are threatening violence. Fox News is then taking the angriest of these people on their shows and making them the new image of the health care debate.
There was a segment on the Colbert Report with instructions on how to make your argument sound more threatening at a town hall. Sit near the front and shout. Cry if you have to, just make the representative feel like shit. After all, you pay for their salary. Shout whatever you can to keep him from talking. It really frustrates me that this could even be considered as “debate” or even “dialogue” by any human being. Debate thrives on be rational, calm, and non-personal. Town hall meetings are none of these things.
And if anyone gets kicked out of these meetings for any reason, it becomes a talking point for Fox News. They say that the representative is “hiding” from his/her constituents. They don’t want it kept civil, because if it is kept civil, the democrats win. If there are any real points made, the democrats win.
Because the truth of the matter is, health care, by all means, should be a right. If one asks themselves that honestly, then the answer is obviously yes. Health care is the reason that humans live past 30 years old. It is extremely vital to our existence. It is something that has been ignored for far too long. As one of the conservative protesters said:
“I see nowhere in the Constitution where health care is a right…. I want to hear it from Obama, I want to hear it from Pelosi, about how this is about ‘We the people.’“
The argument falls flat, obviously, because the constitution is an imperfect document that should not limit our rights, but rather provide as much of a base for our concept of rights as possible. Our Bill of Rights is an amendment to our Constitution, and there is a reason that we can make more amendments. In fact, the ninth amendment protects our rights that were unmentioned in the Bill of Rights.
Other first-world countries have already surpassed our health care in quality and breadth considerably, and have deemed health care as an inalienable right. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights includes health care, and it is a shame to see the United States fall so far behind the precedent that others are setting for us.
*I use this term metaphorically. I’m not a Freudian and I don’t like his unfalsifiable remarks about the human psyche.
August 12, 2009
Maximum wage wasn’t a concept I had put too much thought into before I heard Jello Biafra mention it on one of his spoken-word albums. Apparently, he debated about it on national television at one point. On the other hand, any attempt I have made to discuss maximum wage ends up with the other person saying something along the lines of, “Excuse me? This is America*. Maximum wage is communism.” Though I am not sure that I agree with the idea of maximum wage, I greatly dislike the fallacious arguments some use to disparage the idea.
Maximum wage has been implemented in America before. In fact, there was some form of maximum wage in America from 1942 to 1964, because of regulations passed by Franklin Roosevelt. That’s well over twenty years. Regan largely did away with the rest of maximum wage and it has been forgotten about in the last 20 years. According to the NY Times, a salary cap was placed on CEOs in July this year. Regardless of whether or not one agrees with the concept of maximum wage, maximum wage and America go hand-in-hand.
Earlier this year, America was appalled by the actions of AIG, a corporation that spent a lot of government money on giving bonuses to their top employees. If a maximum wage law had been in place at the time, AIG would not have been able to spend so frivolously and the American taxpayers would be better off. Interestingly, the common man seems to be both outraged at the concept of AIG’s big bonuses and at the concept of maximum wage.
Does the common man have some sort of idealistic compassion for large corporations? It seems to be un-American to regulate business. To do otherwise would be SOCIALISM**. Ironically, no one seems to be upset about other business regulations– the recent bans on smoking, minimum wage, laws about strikes and unions, etc etc. The average man has no problem letting the government regulating businesses when it benefits the workers in some way. Maximum wage, on the other hand, seems like a sort of punishment on people who have worked their way up the ladder.
Maybe it has more to do with that. Everyone dreams of working their way up the ladder and becoming a big hot-shot CEO. Most people will probably never even get remotely close, but maximum wage threatens their greed within their imaginary world. If they were in that position, none of them would want to have their hard-earned money taken away from them and given up at taxes.
Here there is a discrepancy between what is good for the national economy and what is good for top earners. One must consider which is more important– the person freedom of making over $300,000 per year or the economic freedom of having a well-run economy. It isn’t an easy question, but it is one that must be considered.
Here’s what I know: I will never make that much money. I will never be a CEO, nor will most people. If I were that rich, I would like to think I would have retained the knowledge of the importance of giving. Maximum wage would drive down inflation and put money into our economy that isn’t in a very good place right now. It would be another regulation on how businesses are run and it would be another step towards SOCIALISM.
*This is especially strange, since they have been on internet forums with members from all nationalities.
**Imagine horror movie orchestral hits as that word is said.
I swear I’ll update with something that’s actually in the news later tonight.