Socially Responsible Mutual Funds

Posted by Phil Ferguson on October 30th, 2014 – Be the first to comment – Posted in Investing Skeptically

Socially Responsible Mutual Funds

NOTE: This post is part of an ongoing education series. This information is for educational purposes only. This information does not constitute investment advice. Please consult with your financial advisor before taking any action. For planning advice contact Polaris Financial Planning.

What are Socially Responsible Mutual Funds?  (also known as Socially Responsible Investing – SRI)

Socially Responsible Mutual Funds often invest in companies that pay attention to things like….

Ethics

EthicsHuman Rights

Environment

Product Safety

Or, they avoid companies that invest in….

Gambling

Tobacco

Alcohol

Weapons

 

I have been telling people for years that Socially Responsible Mutual Funds are a bad choice but, as a good skeptic, I have to double check.  I have to make sure I just don’t look for evidence that confirms my view I have to look for evidence that confronts my position and evaluate it.  I begin with a Google search and found a very positive story about Socially Responsible mutual funds from Kiplinger.

The author tells us that it is a growing business.

In 1995, there were only 55 mutual funds that engaged in SRI, with $12 billion in assets. Now there are 493, with assets of $569 billion.

That is amazing growth but, is it an appeal to popularity.  Maybe it is just the result of good marketing.  I need to know more about how these funds work.

Unfortunately, There is also a serious problem in defining what can be bought in Socially Responsible mutual funds.  Each fund is different and has different rules.  Some say you can’t buy stock in Apple because in uses kids in low income countries others say you should by Apple because it helps people in low income countries.  I found this in the Kiplinger story….

Lately, some of the largest SRI funds have been straying from their dogma and injecting more subjective judgment into their decision-making. Or maybe they’re just hedging their bets. For instance, the Web site of Domini Social Equity (DSEFX), founded in 1991, contains this disclaimer:  “Domini may determine that a security is eligible for investment even if a corporation’s profile reflects a mixture of positive and negative social and environmental characteristics.”

Huh?  So, they can invest in anything?  What is the point.  You may find another fund that invests in what you wanc but, they can change later – after they have your money.  You cannot control what they buy.

The Kiplinger’s story featured a few of the best Socially Responsible Mutual Funds (and ETFs) and looked at their results.  Unfortunately, they used different time periods (sometimes 5 years sometimes 15 years)  when looking at the different options and I did not like that they kept comparing results to the S&P 500 index.  The S&P 500 is only large companies and for the last 10 years it has slightly lagged the whole market.  I think a better comparison is the Wilshire 5000 index.

Some of the funds Kiplinger mentioned have loads (an extra fee you pay to buy) of around 5% and one required an initial investment of $1,000,000.  (note: Kiplinger did not reduce returns to account for the load.)

Let’s look at their first example….

Consider iShares MSCI USA ESG Select Index (symbol KLD), an exchange-traded fund that tracks an index of companies that it says follow high “environmental, social and governance” standards. Over the past five years, the fund returned an annualized 2.3%, compared with 1.7% for Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index.

I realized that this story was published in May of 2012 (2.5 years ago) and those 5 years included the horrible year of 2008.  I was curious, how did this investment do since then?  From June 1, 2012 to Oct 29, 2014 KLD returned 44.43% and the S&P 500 Index returned 52.64% (NOTE the Wilshire 5000 was up 53.03%).  KLD under performed by more than 8% – ouch.  Remember what they always say, “Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results”.

I decided to take a bigger look and found a good basket of Socially Responsible mutual funds.  I used the site Socialfunds.com to help me find some of these funds.  I only wanted to look at funds that had a 10 year track record (ending June 30, 2014) and invested just in the US stock market.  Here is what I found….

Fund Name                                                10 Year Average

TIAA-CREF Social Choice Equity Fund 7.90
Calvert Social Index 6.41
Domini Social Equity 6.63
Walden Equity 7.08
Ariel Funds 7.18
Dreyfus Third Century C 6.38
Green Century Equity 6.19
Legg – Mason Social Aware C 4.79
Parnassus Fund 9.78
Sentinal Sustainable Core A 6.89
Vanguard FTSE Social Index 6.46
Walden Social Equity Fund 7.08

The overall performance of these funds was 6.90% per year.  The Wilshire 5000 was 8.50% per year.  The under performance is about 1.6% per year.  This is about the same result for mutual funds as a whole.  This is one of the many reasons I recommend Index Funds.  You may have noticed that one fund (Parnassus) did better than the market.  1 out of 12!  There is no reason to think this is anything but chance.

Why do these funds do so poorly?  An important factor is costs….(via Investopedia)
Socially responsible mutual funds tend to have higher fees than regular funds. These higher fees can be attributed to the additional ethical research that mutual fund managers must undertake. In addition, socially responsible funds tend to be managed by smaller mutual fund companies and the assets under management are relatively small.
The final problem with Socially Responsible Mutual Funds is that you are not actually helping.
Let me explain….
When you (or the mutual fund) buy a stock, you buy it from someone that already owns the stock.  NO money goes to the company.  This does not apply to IPOs (Initial Public Offerings).  With an IPO the money goes directly to the company but, the IPO price is set in advance and any increase in demand does not directly benefit the company (unless the company can’t sell all of the shares).  You could argue that the increased demand in a specific (socially responsible) stock could increase the price and provide a benefit to the CEO or other big investors.  This is also unlikely because there are other investors that will sell shares if they think the stock’s price has gone up beyond the perceived value of the company.
In summary we have these problems…
1)  You can’t know for sure if the funds do (or will do) what you want.
2)  You will likely under perform the market by 1.6%
3)  You are not actually doing any good.
The solution….
Invest in index funds and take 1.6% out each year and give it to the charity of your choice!  You will have control over the money and you will know that you are making a difference.  Everybody wins!

Happy Birthday Mr Hitchens

Posted by Jim Newman on December 15th, 2014 – 1 Comment – Posted in atheists

hitchens being arrestedI wonder how Hitch would respond to today’s conundrum of social justice, atheism, and social obnoxiousness. Hitch was clearly willing to interfere in other countries for humanitarian reasons. It was almost as if he were gleeful in the desire of personal harm for the right cause, even his own, up to the point of actually joining an army. But he was unafraid to ask for a kosher menu in an antisemitic restaurant and painted a mustache on an Islamist poster incurring a beating up for it. He tried water boarding to comment on it. In this sense unlike other atheists wishing to focus on big issues Hitch was willing to tackle any and all, and willing to interrupt when offended.

Nor was he afraid to shoot himself in the foot with his own kind’s disapproval by saying things like he didn’t think women should work unless they wanted to. He really did think child rearing was best done by a parent and women were best suited to it but not if they didn’t want to. He also thought women because of their biology and circumstances didn’t have a sense of humor. They have menses, they experience difficult child birth and breast feeding, they are usually smaller and less able to defend themselves, and they are the brunt of rampant sexism and rape culture–which to these days is denied on so many levels as to be laughable if you don’t see it. His point was women should be pissed off all of the time because they are so oppressed by nature and society. This of course was too close to the old jewish nastiness of women being cursed. Indeed his habit of kissing a woman on the hand did not seem gallant to most. It seemed a return to women on a pedestal and noble men fighting for their favor. In Hitch’s case it was a clinging sexism and the desire to correct the evils done to women. He kissed their hands to show he was a philogynist.  He was like a little boy that hadn’t quite grown up but cared deeply.

Like most older atheists he was caught between generations, unable to flex a salient muscle to a current liberal audience. He also could alienate the moderates by saying religion poisons everything because even if you are doing the right behavior it is entirely for the wrong reasons. Belief in belief was really no better than just being the conservative asshole that says no heaven for you. Further he bashed Churchill for being the random willy nilly hawk he was–basically just a good voice. On that line Hitch hated that he sounded like Richard Burton because he disliked him intensely. In this sense he embodied integrity. It was not behavior, belief, or both but both, and activism.

Nevertheless he did not like political correctness as it seemed entirely disingenuous and inconsistent to him. But this was belied by his willingness to prod and provoke on any level for just causes. His sexism was of the kind that he would fight for justice but not be obsequious to it. Being politically correct was not a pass for open fighting. This was his antiquated and Don Quixote inability to let things go that were important to others but not to him and then shut up about it. In this sense his actions were more like a drunken focus that yields a strong dialog but a more narrow appeal.

He bashed at Clinton for not being honest and being far too political. Indeed the draconian drug laws, started by Clinton, are the source of the paramilitary mobility and dressage of police today. The duplicity of saying he didn’t inhale, just ate the brownies, showed just how slimy he thought Clinton to be and how important to have integrity even if it might mean political suicide. He always assumed his words would save him as they often did by their sheer cleverness.

He was requested by the pope to make an opinion on the miracles of sainthood. Why he accepted that can only be so he could laugh at the absurdity of asking an atheist their opinion on miracles and sainthood. His bashing of Mother Theresa, that “bitch”, was premised on his hatred of the sanctimonious saying the poor will be rich if only they trust in Jesus, and suffer, preferable out of sight, and in silence–no actually openly and with pride. Further that she sat on money instead of spending it because she preferred a life of poverty, which if you have no money is fine, I guess, but if you do believe that and you do have it you should give all of it away to remedy poverty. Worse her assumption that the poor she maintained didn’t want the money and preferred to be poor.

His pugnacious political nature was softened by his gentleness in personal relations. Rick Warren, Franklin Graham,  and  other political opponents claimed him as a friend simply because he knew how to time his bombastics and could be sufficiently charming as to maintain an uneasy friendship. Indeed, he loved being paid attention to and sought that often. In this sense his damning curse was the desire to be relevant in a political scene that changes faster than imaginable, with unfriendly attacks from angles you can’t predict. It was likely amusing to know that those who thought he was going to hell liked him after all. A dissonance that would fight the hellish sacred texts on a level deeper than debate.

image source

Jim Newman, www.frontiersofreason.com

Does Protesting Work Anymore?

Posted by Jim Newman on December 8th, 2014 – Be the first to comment – Posted in atheists

protestOver the weekend there was a Twitter debate on which kind of messaging works best on Atheist billboards. With the splintering of atheism into movements, identity politics, and ideological nuances, atheists are struggling with what to do next. There is a back lash against militant atheists.  People like Karen Armstrong and Nassim Taleb write convincing but wrong assumptions about separations of religion from natural human violence, desires for personal and social meaning, and accommodations to economic pressures.  Reza Aslan, Glenn Greenwald and others criticize ideological attacks as Islamophobic and personal attacks. Essentially all of them wish to vitiate the criticism of religion and seek other means of creating change. They claim that direct attacks to the religion or sacred texts defeat the process of change. They insist that looking at texts literally is childish and distracting to the issues at hand.

Even Sam Harris has written that the best way to create change is to fly under the radar, occupy positions of power, and perform acts of change from within the system. If need occurs then these resources can be activated and cause real change because they are in position to do real harm.

Billboard messages that are meant to shock and awe create mixed results. Some feel relieved that their feelings have been expressed but others reject the stridency. I know of no good research showing the effectiveness and extent of these differences. Dave Silverman has promised a book that will detail the effectiveness of shock and awe billboards. I can’t imagine it can do more than provide incidental data as there can be no double blind testing. But it will certainly attract attention and opinion. I can only hope psychologists will spend more time on experiments that isolate responses and results. It seems unlikely as funding sources, those who pay for the experiments, are unlikely to want to support research on what disrupts the status quo. The good old days of the Stanford Prisoner experiment are long gone and those results have been questioned since publication.

My one choice is that the people should decide. Personalities and context come into play. Organizations lose energy when they fight among themselves; more energy than if allowed to go their way. This has always been a problem in more liberal organizations that don’t appeal to authority or absolutist ideologies. Charisma has been a substitute for authority and one can best see this in JFK who had one of the highest approval ratings of all time, and was shot.

What this means is a manifold presentation that assumes a copula of effects until proven otherwise. Still then the organizations will have to deal with their membership desires, right or wrong. It’s fine to detail heuristic biases and quite another to implement counter measures.

Dealing with people means pushing to change but not so hard they push back too much–some is OK. This makes every exchange individual and difficult. But at least it gives people the feeling they are in control of their lives.

Certainly undermining the power structures and disabling the infrastructure is the most effective means to change. This has been a moving target during history. The internet has been helpful and not. It enables communication and coalescing across geography and ideology but it also creates a false sense of change and accomplishment. Even protests are losing their effectiveness. Ten, a hundred, or even a million protestors may not be effective. Bashing window and antagonizing like-minded people who then have to quell the protests distract from attacking the power structure have mixed results and are certainly not the ones in power. It used to be breaking windows or hanging a few of those in power had an effect. Now the power is so diffuse and so many degrees of separation from the material effects of protest there is a near insurmountable barrier to change.

It used to be grassroots change was emphasized in getting the people involved. It still should be as a component but, as Occupy Wall Street and the various other protests occurring showed, they alone do little anymore. Think of it as a house fire. A number of people can throw buckets on the fire and nothing happens and the water is lost. It takes a fire hose from another source to actually quench the blaze. The infrastructure of change must match the extent of the blaze. It is romantic to detail the single hero who changes all. Nonlinear dynamics comes into play but the logic of risk analysis denies determining any single useful evidence until afterwards and certainly prevents evidence pointing to an immediate solution.

Consider the utility of prayer. It does nothing but gives meaning and hope to people. Not letting them dump buckets of water may be worse. Otherwise the resentment turns to those who said no and the fire is forgotten.

Monarchs, despots, and tyrants have often said let the people protest. It dissipates energy and does little. The key is access to power.

Currently with 1%, actually much less, controlling the economic markets, half the population could show up for the fire and the results would be few. The achievement would be an idle power structure laughing at the people with their buckets because power holds the fire hose.

It’s fine to say boycott but boycott whom? Corporations are so intermingled and extensive as to make it a nightmare to boycott. If a product disappears the consequences are low, corporations just rebrand, move elsewhere, or emphasize another product. Further it is no longer possible to live in the woods on deer and Miner’s Lettuce. The utter interdependence of current economics means the only way to return to real independence is the collapse of current society. This would create a global hardship for humans as yet unseen.

A most effective protest will be on internet communication structure and flow, which has become near all communication, as Bruce Schneier has written in opposition to TSA profiling. Another effective protest will come from convincing those who have the power it is to their best interest, that is it makes or preserves money, to change. The only reason climate change is beginning to be paid attention to is Big Money is beginning to see denying it will not preserve money and accepting it will create new markets. Predicting it and its morphological, geographic changes will enable greater control of assets and further gains. The big money is now not in fighting the issue but in resolving the actuarial charts.

Again, as always, the best bet is to follow the money and disable it for change. The moral challenge, if one wants to be moral during the interim, is to not destroy a population along the way.

Since humans are involved a perfectly logical strategy even if known is ineffective. Trusting multiple strategies is most helpful knowing that some just aren’t as effective as we’d like. Continued discussion but not constraint helps. Supporting all means of change may dilute energy but is at least democratic. Democracy certainly is not efficient but at least it means the people get what they deserve which may be better in the long run.

As to billboards, I would guess that the incidental results will show which messages have been effective in which populations and demographics which will allow better targeting in the future. Accuracy may vary. Focus groups will help future choices. Big money supporting research will hone focus.  As the Mormons say about their own religion if you treat it as a business it is more effective in its reach. Of course Islam has shown an ideology can be captivating in the absence of economic and social mobility.

image source

Jim Newman, www.frontiersofreason.com

Removing the Religious Test

Posted by Jim Newman on December 7th, 2014 – Be the first to comment – Posted in Church and State

preample-constitutionIn my own local conversations I have seen informal religious tests for inclusion. Phrases such as “we are blessed” and even “bless you” are a means to determine if one is in some way Christian. They seem mild enough but if you use these phrases the conversation can quickly change to a Christian vernacular, whether you like it or not, because it seems that you have given the go ahead. “Bless you” is so universal a statement of concern in sneezing that it’s tough to fight that one. I am often at a loss how to respond and often have just given up and said “bless you” to no conversation changing affect. Usually I try to say something different but in some groups the unease that occurs if I say “gesundheit” or to “your health” or even “are you ok” is noticeable and it is clear they are uncomfortable with people they feel are of a different religion much less the possibility that you’re one of those militant atheists, stealing the word of its actual military meaning.

This test has long been in our history as a belief the bible is morally valuable, with or white out miracles. Even Jefferson believed the bible, better yet an interpreted bible, would have an ameliorating effect on the people, and particularly the savages running around the country the founders were trying to occupy as their own. The racism against the First Nation was as deep if not deeper than that which they felt towards the slaves they brought with them. At least a slave could be controlled and inculcated with European morality and values, as much as someone who was less than they could be.

The founders of the constitution did realize that the antagonism between churches or sects within the same religion had been such a tremendous problem in the old world they hoped to diminish it by diluting religion in the government to an empty ceremonial deism. At least these disparate and often warring groups could at least agree on something so nebulous as providence, supreme being, destiny, purpose, and god, a just god, any god. Just use the term god or imply it and let every religion or church fill in the spaces as they choose.

The founders did try to make a secular, religiously tolerant, public place.  They only ensure the government place was secular and did so through an Article rather than an amendment, which always seems a bit post founding, or clarification, of what is arguably in the original.

Article VI of the United States Constitution says no “religious test” should ever be required for federal office.

Nevertheless, while this delayed the existing and impending civil wars of religions, people who had come to America simply to be more pure and away from other contaminating churches, it maintained in place a notion of trust to Abrahamic religions in the general populace that exists to this day. It acknowledged that there did exist a religious public that was at odds with the principles of the a democratic government.

The balance of a religiously tolerant secular public and the many religiously intolerant groups that participate in public, as well as separatists that still in spite of their lack of desire had to participate in larger civil laws, has been difficult. It has enabled the religious to maintain a historical toe hold against a secular government, which could be used as precedence that the country has always been religious, and for good reason.

Many laws still exist on local levels that require an oath towards god.

Now a coalition of nonbelievers says it is time to get rid of the atheist bans because they are discriminatory, offensive and unconstitutional. The bans are unenforceable dead letters, legal experts say, and state and local governments have rarely invoked them in recent years. But for some secular Americans, who are increasingly visible and organized, removing the bans is not only a just cause, but a test of their growing movement’s political clout.

While there were many true atheists in America they were submerged or submerged themselves in order to be effective in what they considered to be larger issues of the time. Thomas Paine is somewhat the exception though he too will fall prey to a deist vernacular. You can see how America has wondered though various religious awakenings by how they treat Paine on the history books. While America has or is better working through its issues of racism, sexism, and xenophobia it still has not adequately addressed atheism, the least liked identity group or ideology in the US, short of true terrorism and true treason. Both of which are often attributed to atheists.

Todd Stiefel, the chairman and primary funder of the Openly Secular coalition, said: “If it was on the books that Jews couldn’t hold public office, or that African-Americans or women couldn’t vote, that would be a no-brainer. You’d have politicians falling all over themselves to try to get it repealed. Even if it was still unenforceable, it would still be disgraceful and be removed. So why are we different?”

It would be unthinkable for such “naked bigotry” against white people or Presbyterians or Catholics to go unnoticed if state constitutions still contained it, said Rob Boston, director of communications for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, an advocacy group. “Right now we hear a lot of talk from conservative Christians about their being persecuted and their being forced to accommodate same-sex marriage. But there’s nothing in the state constitutions that targets Christians like these provisions do about nonbelievers,” Mr. Boston said.

The six states besides Maryland with language in their constitutions that prohibits people who do not believe in God from holding office are Arkansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.

Mississippi’s Constitution says, “No person who denies the existence of a Supreme Being shall hold any office in this state.” North Carolina’s says, “The following persons shall be disqualified for office: First, any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God.”

Pennsylvania’s Constitution contains no prohibition, but does say that no one can be “disqualified” from serving in office on the basis of religion — as long as they believe in God “and a future state of rewards and punishments” (a reference to heaven and hell).

We must continue this clarity of government independence from the religious public, regardless of the religions that may come and go in popularity, to maintain peace.

The clarity of the need to separate government from wherever religious loyalties lie with the public indicates a deep knowledge and fear that religions have caused and can cause  disharmony in the people. These religions must be kept from being able to harm each other, and taking the rest of the people with them.

The only law inclusive of all the people is one that includes all of the people whatever their religious or antireligious sentiments.

Jim Newman, www.frontiersofreason.com

Atheists Do Not Think They are Superior

Posted by Jim Newman on December 2nd, 2014 – 4 Comments – Posted in religion

atheist snobberyRon Ruggieri thinks that atheists are snobs that think they are superior. Odd, considering religious people think they are the only ones gaining salvation and their values are the set values. Of course the religious are inclusive as long as you join. This Catch-22 of religion is exactly why atheists try to provide antidotes as well as support to atheists who are afraid to come out simply because the religious have a hegemony on knowledge, morality, and politics–especially now. As the end of the world types want the world to end to meet their religious fantasies of a rapture and redemption. Most who do come out are glad of it but not because it meets a snobbishness but have finally resolved their dissonance in their new-found integrity.

I don’t have any quarrel with atheistic humanism. But I smell the New Atheism in these obnoxious Rhode Island Public Transit Authority bus ads: “Godless? So are we!”

Of course he has an issue with atheistic humanism or he wouldn’t be writing the article complaining about bus slogans that say being godless is okay. I guess all the slogans that say be saved through Christ or some such are okay because godless people saying other godless exist, and that’s okay, is harmful to maintaining the hegemonic religions of today. It’s okay to advertise religion but not irreligion. It’s okay to advertise buy this product but not to say don’t, which makes vegetarians equally odious as well as those that advertise don’t smoke, overeat, or pollute.

The new atheism is characterized by rude, snobby and mean-spirited effrontery.

And all of the slogans that say be saved are not rude and an affront to those who choose not to be religious? At its softest this is like a car dealer saying to buy my car is an affront to the other car dealers. Cosmic salesmen are limited to the right product only. If the religious hadn’t been forcing their religion on everyone for millennia there would be no need or desire for push back. There have been a few times when the religious were more in line with the nonreligious in deism, pantheism and some such, but for the last few decades it’s become my religion or the highway, and that religion must be aligned with the most isolating, non real, version.

As a socialist, I can only wonder at its political agenda.

 

As if religion didn’t have a political agenda? As if socialism had anything to do with it? As if his version of socialism wasn’t theological?

Individuals who feel a need to join exclusive ” intellectual ” cliques are rarely friends of the oppressed and exploited masses.

Right and the religious are friendly to the exploited masses? And the religious are inclusive to the non religious–as long as you join? As if religions haven’t been fighting over their exclusiveness for all known written history? As if religions haven’t been a convenient excuse for the most horrible exclusionary practices possible? As if the religious GOP today weren’t anti-intellectual because it corrupts their children, at home, in public, in school. Don’t thunk too hard, trust your heart.

Do they apply reason and logic to the highly irrational capitalist system? Or am I correct in suspecting that many of these naturally “superior” individuals are devoted to the cult of Ayn Rand cult, the crackpot queen of pro-capitalist atheism?

Most atheists don’t think they’re superior. Many atheists aren’t trying to convert others but just want to be allowed to practice in peace without being told their only hope of salvation is through Christ or some such. Many libertarians have sought atheism simply because they are tired of being told what to believe and are tired of a government that supports religious practice but not secular practice. Indeed many atheists are quite pissed at the leave-social-justice-out-of-it attitude in libertarian atheists because you can’t leave morality out of it. Logically or morally, atheism implies many things and is not an isolated position in a jungle of interconnected life. Nor should we forget that the most popular libertarians are the moronic religious conservatives in a political world where we don’t even see atheists but maybe uh, two or three.

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Jim Newman, www.frontiersofreason.com

Heina Dadabhoy on Atheist Debates

Posted by Jim Newman on December 1st, 2014 – Be the first to comment – Posted in atheists, Personal Stories

heinaAfter feeling guilty that I was not working at the beginning of Thanksgiving break, we need the money and what I earn is directly related to how many hours I am willing to put in, I spent the rest of the break not doing much more than hanging and watching movies or episodes. “Flirting with Disaster” was interesting for its cast of thousands and its portrayal of how most families are dysfunctional in one way or another. “CBGB–Country, Bluegrass, Blues” was a really fine film detailing the rise of the Punk scene in New York, in a bar world created by Hilly Krystal. This doesn’t mean just the Televisons but Ramones, Blondie, Talking Heads, Dead Boys, Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, Sting, but some 15,000 artists.

A great scene is when he passes a begging junky: “Here’s five, go buy some cheap beer and cigarettes.”

In the movie Hilly signs on the first band based on these lyrics.

I don’t care
I don’t think about it
I don’t care
It does’t matter to me
I don’t care

Many judge quickly the apathy of others. A too easy criticism. Being disenfranchised or angry so far because they know the system is so screwed up and unchangeable is a condition that should be understood and not rejected on immediate exposure. Too often I’ve been on both sides. Sometimes stated apathy is a wake up call, demand.

On Twitter there was talk of giving up on the atheist movement because it is so conservative–as if that were a surprise. I responded that we must not give up or we lose the possibility of change and got back a criticism that some just can’t deal, and who was I to insult them. True. Providing words of encouragement or motivation can often seem more like criticism than help. We are supposed to treat people as individuals in their context. (Another said he was giving up on the skeptic movement but not the atheist movement.) Hmm, on Twitter? In a world where the first 5 seconds of a conversation defines the conversation? It also works both ways. If I am to assess these people as individuals instantly, aware of all their individual expectations of the other, can I expect that in return? No, and that sentiment sucks the nice right out of me.

nice day

Oh yeah I had a troll that required me to peruse the A Voice For Men site (backup data) whose mission includes removing the social malignancy of mangina’s and white knighters. I believe I have called Paul Elam a psychopath and stand by that in spite of my having no credentials–obvious to the most casual of observers.

“CBGB” made me want to quit the farm and find an underground scene somewhere. But by the next day I was back in my farm-family reality again. My daughters having burned through 150 episodes of Gilmore Girls became dystopic. They burned through “100,” then “Revolution,” and now are working through “Under the Dome.” I suppose people are working out how to deal with impending doom as 50% think natural disasters are a sign of the apocalypse. The other 50% think global warming, environmental resource collapse, or economical ruin will end modern civilization. And everyone struggles with human relationships in disagreement. And they thought we had nothing in common.

……

Heina Dadabhoy was born in SoCal in a Muslim  family, became even more devout than her family, quit Islam from reading exploration, and has taken on debates.

It’s interesting the decisions people make on whether to debate or not and how to debate. A big surprise for her was you don’t have to be asked to debate but can solicit debates. I would encourage that though antidepressants and a feed editor may be required. Check out her interview below. You can read her at “Heinous Dealings–Here to disrupt your narrative.”

Jim Newman, www.frontiersofreason.com

The Discovery Institute Goes Fishing

Posted by Jim Newman on November 28th, 2014 – Be the first to comment – Posted in atheists, religion, Women's Rights

discovery instituteThanksgiving and the rest of the holiday season is sketchy for me. I am constantly considering whether to call people on their shit or not, trying to focus on community and bridge building, while making it clear that much of what the holidays mean is not lost in bland community celebration. The KKK is a social, community building organization too you know–when it was clear it wasn’t its founder left. ISIS and other terrorist organizations provide fraternity, mutual good will, and vitality to participants. You would say that the holidays are nothing like that unless you actually remember the history of conquest. My grandfather used to say if we criticize conquest we have to go back to the first people rushing around the world. As if a long line of abuse means we should accept the last, most current abuse. I guess choosing which ancestors get the land is the question. What’s important is that we look to this history and say we must be different.

The venerable evangelical Discovery Institute fished for trolls and friends with a ridiculous article claiming atheism attracts sexist assholes while churches bring in the best and finest equally. DI ignores that churches demanded entire families go and was never oriented to attracting individuals, based on agreement rather than conformity. Further that churches have been losing male attendance so bad they are trying to develop men-oriented activities to bring them in and prevent them from falling asleep in the pews.

DI states that pony-tailed men dominated early atheist groups which is really a slam, incorrect as well, that atheist men were either effeminate, hippies, artsy, or antisocial. Real groups attract men in suits apparently; ones that keep women in place, and then in situations where women had a hope of  socializing with other women outside the home without criticism.

They continue that atheists have had to clean house and root out their misogynist assholes, some of which is really ugly. They forget the churches cherish and hold dear to their misogynist assholes, keeping them as members rather than calling them out on their shit and making them change or leave. Church leaders don’t want to  lose their leaders and bread winners after all and will tolerate damned near anything to do so. At least atheists are cleaning house, painful though that may be. The churches pretend to be inclusive but have no claim on integrity. A church had to include all as it considered itself the leader of flocks of sheep and wolves. It doesn’t matter which as long as they all go to church as if the wolves would learn to no longer eat sheep by osmosis in the face of contrary success.

The diversity of atheist groups is denied as well. The healthy growth and expansion of minority-based atheist groups shows that atheists who never did belong to a monolithic dogma can easily create healthy atmospheres, and are willing to abandon any dogma or status quo to do so.

That women didn’t flock to early atheist groups is a lie in any case though it is true that early suffragist groups decided not to discuss atheism in order not to scare away women who might not join if secularism were an issue. This only proves that the predominate gender issue in US politics and activism were (and are) so male oriented that any group faced a death knell if it even hinted it might be secular. I recently had a GOP supporter point out how certain elections had women’s issues as platforms forgetting how few they are.

I’m sure that when they learn of  all-women atheist groups church men will decry that men aren’t welcome. It doesn’t matter what women do they can’t win.

You can be sure that an atheist who was accepted into church as a sinner than needed to be reformed and never with the idea that what they had to say was acceptable. Most churches considered atheists so egregious as to not even allow them in as redeemable sinners. Atheists were beyond hope, redemption, and socializing and were often excluded inspire of all.

That women went to church is more a sign that they were so abandoned in their lot in life that they had to gain support wherever they could because they sure didn’t have the power or money to get it any other way. Raising children is difficult and the men sure weren’t there to help, assuming that women could birth, rear, and raise them while they were absent doing their important things with other men. As if a check covered for their lack of attendance, criticisms of inferiority, and desire to be elsewhere. After all as  Men’s Rights Activists continue to say today men work better when left to their own gender. It’s not surprising that some sought a separatism, encouraging apartheid, just to be able to have some gender autonomy.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s slogan not for ourselves alone is all about how women are abandoned after sex to deal with the consequences while the men find another conquest, loved or not. It’s also about how women weren’t allowed to gather into social and political groups, and were suspected of being lascivious gender-screwed whores if they did. She herself was trapped at home with children and household, unable to participate in political activism, as she hoped so much. She could of course have gone to church had she chosen because that was at least acceptable and near by. Churches being the most plentiful and elementary building in near every community.

The whole atheist-hating dilemma is so bad that too often the most aggressive of men and women could be the only ones to achieve success and then they face criticism of aggression and dominance. I guess you’re supposed to be a shirking wall flower and hope someone will notice and speak for you.

For me I am grateful for this nasty cleaning house by atheists of all ilk and know it as a positive sign of change, proof that atheism is a moral position. Let the churches take it as an example.

Jim Newman, www.frontiersofreason.com