Why Many Atheists Are Libertarians

atheist libertarianFall is such a constriction of work. Fall harvests and winter prep combined with shorter daylight hours create an atmosphere of panic and impending failure. The work will not all get done. Meanwhile on the chicken-for-food front, the roosters I got were supposedly of a more friendly breed but they are now near killing each other. I am going to have to harvest some of the meanest early. Interesting in chickens that big roosters are more mean for the most part, and crow the most. Not always true. There is a small one that seems to have endless energy for fighting. Even in chickens one can make general observations that don’t hold true consistently. Have to learn every individual to make specific choices.

Many atheists are libertarians. A higher percentage than the average population. It’s also true that conservative libertarians have hijacked the libertarian conversation. Many of them want a big government too just in a different way. There are also the religious libertarians that trust a big sky daddy guarantees a small human government, substituting one huge authority for another.

Atheist groups are going through an identity crisis and it seems clear that atheism itself, especially in its activism, has been a privileged position.

According to the American Values Survey, a mere 7 percent of Americans identify as “consistently libertarian.” Compared to the general population, libertarians are significantly more likely to be white (94 percent), young (62 percent under 50) and male (68 percent). You know, almost identical to the demographic makeup of atheists – white (95 percent), young (65 percent under 50) and male (67 percent). So there’s your first clue.

This is not necessarily bad as activism from the top helps create change. The prince Peter Kropotkin had much to say about the importance of mutual aid. Creating space for others is painful but in the long run far more healthy

Libertarians suspicions of religious authority may actually want human authority. Much like the early anarchists that didn’t want government tyranny against human rights but government support towards human rights.

Your second clue is that atheist libertarians are skeptical of government authority in the same way they’re skeptical of religion. In their mind, the state and the pope are interchangeable, which partly explains the libertarian atheist’s guttural gag reflex to what they perceive as government interference with the natural order of things, especially “free markets.”

But conservative economic Libertarians seek government construction of markets.

There is much to cover here, but a jumping-off point is the fact that corporations are a government construct, and that fact alone refutes any case for economic libertarianism. Corporations, which are designed to protect shareholders insofar as mitigating risk beyond the amount of their investment, are created and maintained only via government action. “Statutes, passed by the government, allow for the creation of corporations, and anyone wishing to form one must fill out the necessary government paperwork and utilize the apparatus of the state in numerous ways. Thus, the corporate entity is by definition a government-created obstruction to the free marketplace, so the entire concept should be appalling to libertarians,” says David Niose, an atheist and legal director of the American Humanist Association. …

Reich says rules that define the playing field of today’s capitalism don’t exist in nature; they are human creations. Governments don’t “intrude” on free markets; governments organize and maintain them. Markets aren’t “free” of rules; the rules define them. “In reality, the ‘free market’ is a bunch of rules about 1) what can be owned and traded (the genome? slaves? nuclear materials? babies? votes?); 2) on what terms (equal access to the Internet? the right to organize unions? corporate monopolies? the length of patent protections?); 3) under what conditions (poisonous drugs? unsafe foods? deceptive Ponzi schemes? uninsured derivatives? dangerous workplaces?); 4) what’s private and what’s public (police? roads? clean air and clean water? healthcare? good schools? parks and playgrounds?); 5) how to pay for what (taxes, user fees, individual pricing?). And so on.”

Once again the issues are which regulations and not that there be none. Atheist libertarians still carry the spiritual baggage of wanting an authority. Very often they say people will band together to prevent bad actions. Yes, that’s what government is, a device for people to band together towards common goals. The issues are over which goals and not the banding.

Corporations pollute, lie, steal, oppress, manipulate and deceive, all in the name of maximizing profit. Corporations have no interest for the common good. You really believe Big Tobacco wouldn’t sell cigarettes to 10-year-olds if government didn’t prohibit it? Do you really think Big Oil wouldn’t discharge more poisons and environmentally harmful waste into the atmosphere if government regulations didn’t restrict it? Do you really believe Wal-Mart wouldn’t pay its workers less than the current minimum wage if the federal government didn’t prohibit it? If you answered yes to any of the above, you may be an atheist libertarian in desperate need of Jesus.

The source of atheist libertarian bleeds into social justice issues where one side wants government to guarantee social justice and the other side wants government guarantees that social justice not be enforced.

Jim Newman, www.frontiersofreason.com

Ralph Reed and Bill Maher Discuss Faith

reed and maherIn a rather lopsided discussion with mockery versus sincerity Bill Maher loses sight of what’s important to Christians in both rhetoric and value. Ralph Reed a Pentecostal asserts that national debt, welfare (even social security and Medicare), and the greater difficulties of children from single-parent families could be resolved by faith. What Reed is really saying here is the forced endurance of a permanent familial relationship is the best means of preventing government support on near all levels. Though I presume huge costs for the military (even if only defense) would still be required. I also wonder how he would support infrastructure but I would guess he would say that would be done by volunteered charity.

What so many miss in these conversations is the family unit has never been very stable. Even when societies were agrarian physical mobility was essential. Only by technological improvement was agriculture able to increase productivity such that land produced more with the same amount of labor. Otherwise, and this occurred often since productivity improvements are not linear, children had to leave the land to begin anew elsewhere. Often to other countries and outlying areas taken either by discovery or conquest. It’s a small world now.

Often primogeniture laws or customs were supported to prevent land from being divided by giving the entire amount to a single child, typically the oldest male. This breakup of families means oral and familial traditions are not easily passed from generation to generation. The loss of parents, grandparents, and even great grandparents requires outside traditions, laws, and support to preserve wisdom, knowledge, and labor between generations.

Industrial ages haven’t done much better. Factories and manufacturing centers might arise with surrounding communities but as changes in efficiency and market endurance occur these communities move or die, dissolving families and intergenerational traditions and support.

With productivity exceeding consumption ability, exacerbated by the constant pressure to reduce wages due to increasing competition, forcing lower profit margins, family members have to work more to keep up. Without extended support families aren’t able to provide basic sustenance on their own.  Servants and institutions are paid less in the hopes that thee wage differences will offset the loss of labor at home.

With an increasing labor surplus, forcing both parents to work, families have to extend themselves beyond their nuclear core. When well paid work that could pay for this additional support requires one parent having a great job and another having any job, because an area cannot support enough well paying jobs, couples split and move on. Chid labor laws, and schools, prevent their indenture and added income as well.

This process has nothing to do with moral turpitude or fidelity. it is the economics of productivity and the variance in wages. Reed’s hope that a covenant that forces a family to remain together will ensure prosperity falls apart. The reality of wage disparity makes it impossible for a local community to support its members equally or even toe subsistence levels. With the loss of land it is impossible to live off the land as the last, desperate, level of familial independence.

Another problem is the questionable need for couples and families to remain together when abuse is present. When families, nuclear and extended, could remain near by, geographically, it was far more easy to ensure continuity and support in relationships as they changed. It’s no longer possible to provide psychological and emotional support by family members who must leave. Monetary support is important but what Reed values is much more than that, as do must of us.

The only effective way to compensate for these difficulties are schools, child-care centers, and community support for those who can’t possibly make enough. If a parent, grandparent, or sibling is absent, outside support must replace that familial resource on all levels. Schools are not just for education but to cache children so more adults can work.

Few want to talk about the issue of labor surplus and resource shortage driving families apart, negating the utility of faith covenants, but that’s the issue.

Reed’s second goal is the use of the bible to provide a personal relationship with god through Jesus. While admitting that he doesn’t think it is about rules and regulations he is clear that covenants are essential. Rules don’t get much stronger than this essentialist contract.

Reed’s hope, trust, that a personal relationship with god and Jesus will create appropriate information to do the right thing is far more dependent on the details of that informing than he admits. Trusting faith does not ensure that right information and desires are passed along. So called natural laws may inform many, naturally, but natural disobedience does the same. Some sort of specific laws and mores must be codified that can be followed without simple faith.

Reed does admit that nonbelievers can be good but also asserts that everyone has fallen. But why and how to remedy? More and more specific laws are required to meet growing demand for certainty and diversity. We all can’t be farmers, capitalists, laborers, or foragers. The expansion of products and consumption means the division of labor becomes more specific, and diverse, requiring greater mobility and not less. Moral laws work the same way. They are another product. Being charitable or kind must change its expression to meet more diverse needs and desires.

A simple example of this is in the old testament, assuming one uses the old testament. Thou shalt not kill. This usually means thou shalt not murder wantonly for no good reason. What about about abusive relations where it’s not murder but physical damage? What about those who can’t do unto others because they are self abusive and would be fine passing that along? What about people and companies that do harm, even murder, in blindness? There are reasons why the old testament has 10-800 laws. The new testament isn’t specific enough for people to follow without more information and support. And Reed is clear that the rules and regulations of the old testament are antiquated and mostly useless. Even being kind has its issues. Is it Ok to beat children to make them behave? Will a pacifist Quaker harm an intruder attacking their family?

The issue of patriarchy is so embedded in both testaments no one can read them in any fashionable hermeneutics and not be tainted.

Catholics created a hierarchy to met this need. Protestants rely on direct, individual, intuition or local pastors. Pentecostals depend on direct intuition. But what holds these pastors together in some sort of coherence that doesn’t create dissonance as people move around as they must? They have to deal with often vast culture and moral changes and the moral compass does’t know where to swing because true North has changed.

The video is below and somewhat disturbing.

Jim Newman, bright and well www.frontiersofreason.com

Theology, Atheism, & Pissing on People

atheist strategyThe pope continues his confusing thoughts and actions. He is still pissing on the people. The Vatican is worried that he is a workaholic. Perhaps it is his ongoing exhaustion that keeps him from thinking clearly enough. He goes to the Mideast and asks for peace sounding like a contestant for Miss America. Everyone wants peace but not to the loss of justice–punitive, restorative, or just isolating the offending parties. Better that he would declare religious issues are the root of the problem. If all of them put aside their childish texts and follow humaneness things would be different. At least something specific.

The pope inviting the Eastern Orthodox to Rome seems more like inviting the wolf to the house for hopes of conversion. Best beware. The last time this had any real effect was when Constantine visited, decided Rome was too corrupt to bear, and decided the East was to be the center of Christian authority. Perhaps they discussed how they would divide up Russia. Maybe they commiserated on how followers were being attacked by Muslims; a chorus of an enemy of my friend is my friend. Was it to establish how to divide territories for missionary work.

The clean out of the Vatican financial auditory board is more an acknowledgement of its dysfunctionality due to personalities and quests for authority.  Where is a real concern to dismantle the money-laundering and money-hoarding schemes of a church that claims it wants to help the poor? That the pope is confused about priorities is well shown in his inane statements that relationships with pets prevent breeder mentality and birthing action. We really do need more people, and more hetero folks at that.

The incredulous example of how the Catholic church abused children sickens. This is the Catholic love of children yet hates abortion and birth control?  Women who shouldn’t or couldn’t economically be having children left their children in their care only to have them be treated as less than less. When dead, they were buried, some 800, in a septic tank. Many of these children were used for *scientific* testing. If the Catholic church had promoted family planning and women’s control of their bodies they wouldn’t have needed to create these concentration death camps.

The children were abused in their surrounding society. With shunning, social ostracism, and neglect how did the adults sleep at night? Aaah, but that’s not all Christians. We have to contextualize it to Ireland in their worst days. Hmm, one didn’t need a potato famine or a dysfunctional landlord system to want to get the hell out of Ireland.

As to animals, PETA was quite wrong and lost a lot of support with their ridiculous ad showing milk to be linked to autism. First this supports those who consider autism to be caused by vaccinations since it implies it is all chemical, just which one. Further, that milk can’t be a good middle ground between being a carnivore or a vegetarian. What next? Eggs are the aborted fetuses of chickens and they are people too? I can see their ad now; fried fetus for breakfast is another person down the hatch. This would make egg eaters both abortors and cannibals. The expanding circle of self would cause even eggs to be us in some way. Wouldn’t it be better to promote better conditions for chickens and dairy cows? It would further their cause more effectively to provide examples and recipes of alternatives.

Protestants are proving that they may be even worse than Catholics in their sexual abuse of children. In one month some 25 cases were brought to law in the US and surely more exist. This is scary as does this prove that privatizing religious authority actually enables more abuse? Is Hobbes right that an abusive, tyrannical authority still helps keep renegade individuals in line? I trust not. The issue is the inculcation of religious patriarchal law based on books that are inherently contradictory and inhumane. Good laws make good people. If they don’t we change the laws.

This confusion of fairness is displayed by London College disbanding a Nietzsche club as well as their preventing the speech of atheists-humanists in an attempt to console the offended religious and sensitive liberals. Claiming offense is not an automatic red card to eliminate opposing voices. That past philosophers said things that inspired some to do wrong means these philosophers should be studied more carefully, not less. Or that their words actually promoted violence. On inspection, we can winnow the bad from the good. Just as in the bible, where the messages for  the growing number of progressives are love, charity, compassion, and the embrace of the other. Just don’t forget to annotate or edit the texts. Frankly, Nietzsche saying god was dead was an affirmation that society should return to a passion that is so strong it could be considered beyond good and evil. He is important for considering passion an essential aspect of the human condition. Dated yes, obsolete no.

Atheists are themselves showing a startling imitation of past farm, labor, and suffrage movements. Debate has become more centered around members and what membership means. Was there ever an original strategy of uniting to a common goal? It seems that the male-centered, atheist-humanist-skeptic movement really was just another white boys club where the only rally cry was no god(s). Tempting, and happening, to stand on their shoulders and pee. Reasonably so since those still alive seem more intent on protectionism than inclusion. The denial of social justice when atheism is just *no god* is a facile and vapid discussion. It only discourages new members and many older members, white boys even. The only reason we cared to discuss theology was because those who practiced it weren’t doing justice. We wanted to know why, what inspired them.

Dismantling god was a good start. We need to dig deep to follow the evidence of what that means. Evidence shows god to not be true and not helpful. Following the evidence leads to strategies and tactics towards justice and equality. If evidence is the muscle of the arguments on god’s existence then evidence also leads to prescriptions of how to have a better life.

The remarks of atheist-humanist, social-justice bloggers that the most and worst comments are not from the religious but members supports the inability of too many to see social justice as a core value. This is an interesting inversion and example. It mimmics the debate of suffragettes on whether to include atheism in their platform. Elizabeth Cady Stanton said it must but others said no. They worried it would alienate the wider public. In this case social justice is the issue. It is worrisome that online discussions go astray simply because one person uses “” instead of  ** when paraphrasing or for emphasis. This should not create a flame war.

I wonder if it isn’t part of follow-the-money. Professional (paid) bloggers vie for followers and *up* marks to get better ad revenue and a larger platform from which to publish books and be asked to lectures (another cost to platform base). If a movement evolves through 10-year generations there must be turnover. This makes profitable, political professionalism a short tenure except for a very few. A contrary view was that this is just more tribalism where disagreements attract audiences with strong but poorly reflected loyalty to a person. My spouse, a retired, evangelizing, political feminist, offered to me that movements tend to try to achieve perfection where any flaw is exaggerated beyond reason. At some point, one stupid remark and you’re out. Shall we all be quiet until we get to 100% right?

The Global Secular Council blew it on a grand scale. It tagged its introduction with a post-dinner, casual-but-posed photo of four white men and two women from the US and UK. This certainly caused me and others to wonder how this could be global. The responses were condescending, patronizing and name-calling. It resulted in some being blocked because they kept asking questions instead of shutting up. I narrowly missed being blocked myself. I was *warned* several times and put on a Level 1 list by an SCA supporter. I had to block him as he sent me incessant messages that I was defending the wrong person and trolling. I wondered if I were skipped purely because I was a man, only women were blocked, or because I was new to the community. My remarks were just as adamant.

In making posts to this new Twitter community of mine I did find that random people would follow me. When I checked their posts I saw they were not *”followers”* but clear opponents. I found “Block” to be one of my more common Twitter words. I didn’t join Twitter to make war but for education and to find community. It seems impossible for many to just let a diametric opinion be. I don’t see how I can deconstruct this kind of binary aggression in digital streams of 140-character flotsam. Just what does trolling mean?

Sam Harris found a winner in his essay contest of whether science informs, proves, or sustains morality.  The winner writes there must be something before science that anchors moral value. Harris asserts evidence provides accurate descriptions for creating moral prescriptions and prosthesis, a kind of hindsight accuracy of consequentialism. He seems unwilling to say we can discern what to do in advance without the assumption that well being is always the goal regardless.

Could society choose not to follow well being and even self destruct for the sake of the planet, for example? A death wish is immoral? It gets so much more complicated. Families are a prime example of organizations that sacrifice for continuity, well being. People without children enhance society. It gets difficult to say which action is beneficial until it’s all over. Evolution is the judge. Nevertheless since no knowledge can exist without empiricism, the foundation of science, it would be impossible for any morality to exist without it. This tautology pretty much rigged the contest.

The most grotesque news recently: the rape of so many in India and their excuse by authorities; the refusal of so-called Muslim education societies to admit they support stoning; and the complete obliviousness by the press and public to Boko Haram’s killing of hundreds in Nigeria. I guess it wasn’t as good a photo opportunity as Christian school girls, fully obscured, and reciting forced, Muslim prayers.

At the end of the week, it’s clear that religions destroy more people’s lives than they help, movements shoot themselves in the feet, and women are still at the bottom of the heap.

Jim Newman, bright and well www.frontiersofreason.com

Ron Reagan Comes Out on National TV

ron-reaganRon Reagan, the liberal son of Ronald Reagan, has done a coming out atheist commercial that aired during The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.

“I’m Ron Reagan, an unabashed atheist, and I’m alarmed by the intrusions of religion into our secular government,” he says in the 30-second ad. “That’s why I’m asking you to support the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the nation’s largest and most effective association of atheists and agnostics, working to keep state and church separate, just like our founding fathers intended.”

At the end of the ad, Reagan says he’s a “lifelong” atheist who is “not afraid of burning in hell.”

I am extremely grateful for this. Not only because recent surveys still show atheists to be on the bottom of the heap to govern but also because Reagan rose to the occasion, in spite of personal issues.

He sounded subdued, and said he has not been working much, having just suffered through a personal tragedy. On March 24, he said, his wife of 33 years, Doria Palmieri Reagan, died of complications from a progressive neuromuscular disease that she developed seven-and-a-half years ago. A clinical psychologist, Doria Reagan was seven years older than her husband.

But he had made a promise to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which honored him in 2009, and he felt obligated to keep it. Reagan has been a nonbeliever since childhood, he said, and is surprised when people react with incredulity when they hear it.

Ron Reagan promotes atheism in a 30-second spot for the Freedom From Religion Foundation that ran May 22 on Comedy Central
“I think when you hold an opinion that you find entirely reasonable, you are surprised when you discover that other people don’t also consider it reasonable, and kind of get up in arms,” he said.

The crazy part of this is the continued negativity of the conservative public to deny the separation of church and state. At least Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson has the guts to say what’s on their minds.

Speaking to the Republican Leadership Conference here, the bearded Louisianan said the party and the country have moved too far away from the founding fathers’ vision of religion’s role in American government — and that the current version of the separation of church and state is a “lie.”

“GOP, you can’t be right for America if you’re wrong with God,” Robertson said. “You want to turn the Republican Party around? Get Godly.”

“I guess the GOP may be more desperate than I thought to call somebody like me,” he said.

Robertson, who was introduced by Sarah Palin, closed the speech with a minutes-long prayer, said “Amen, I’m done,” and walked off.

Got that right. Even John Boehner has tried to reach out to the radical Tea Partiers, chiming that we’re all the same, sounding a lot like #wereallpeople in the face of the justifiably divisive but discouragingly, intransigently, true witnessing of #yesallwomen. Even the NRA is backtracking as it tries to get gun-heads from taking assault rifles to restaurants because surprise, surprise, people don’t want to see them. It makes them feel uncomfortable, and scared, proving that while many seem to like to sleep with a loaded gun they don’t want to eat with one. Ya think? The conversion of the free public to a police state is finally experiencing a backlash beyond long waits at airports.

GOP, god’s party, just one letter away. People who think this isn’t the case, that Phil is the outlier, need only keep the survey in mind that atheists would be the last, and least moral, candidate for president. The elephant in the room is that followers of atheism, skepticism, secularism, humanism, whatever you want to call it, are considered incompetent to run the country much less marry their daughters. This means separation of church and state is the least trusted amendment on the books.

Easy to ignore that Ronald Reagan, their hero, was old school in his religious-but-not-churchy observance of faith–remnants of Protestant individualism countering Vatican authority. Where lip service to belief was enough because the assumption was everyone was religious, individually, but many didn’t like the institutionalization of belief. This privatization of religions better fits the old libertarian mold then neolibertarianism where it’s even more true that it’s not really regulations that are the issue but which ones.

And of course #againstwomen should also be their hashtag but I won’t go there today except to say Stephen Pinker misuses statistics when he claims that the ubiquitous and embedded violence witnessed in #yesallwomen is “statistically obtuse.” And Richard Dawkins says liberals should calm down when discussing (misnomering) cultures of atrocities. It’s all good folks, everyone be on their way.

I suppose now that a survey shows there are more casualties, when hurricanes are named after women, it is just cause to sue the naming of them after women, simply because their names create a false environment of safety which is just another way of blaming women for social ills and an embedded deceit of false comfort.

Jim Newman, bright and well www.frontiersofreason.com

Religion as Theater

caught in pulpitHave you ever done something nice you’re really not tuned in to and then had to continue or be rude? Often social manipulation relies on this kind of goodwill. It can be worse if you’re a religious leader.

If you’ve ever been lured by your own basic goodness into a situation where you (or your neighbor or both of you) must suffer unjustly, think how your predicament pales next to that of the preachers Linda LaScola and I describe in our 2010 pilot study of five Protestant pastors, “Preachers Who are Not Believers,” and our 2013 book, Caught in the Pulpit: Leaving Belief Behind, which reports on 35 participants from diverse religious backgrounds.

How many little white lies, how many whoppers, how much dissembling, how much systemic hypocrisy have they accumulated in their quest to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable?

None of the secretly non-believing preachers and pastors who have poured out their hearts to Linda in confidential interviews went into the ministry for the money — a laughable goal — or for fame and glory or political influence. A few of them may have been particularly attracted to a career in the clergy by their self-assessment as natural-born preachers, relishing the spotlight for their eloquence or indulging their love of ceremony or showmanship in the service of God. But when their faith wanes, they pay a heavy price for their play-acting, since their congregations include many — or so they must assume — who would feel deeply betrayed to learn that their speech acts had been less than the candid truth.

For many there is still a need for community, social enthusiasm, and even spectacle.

Many of these people miss the traditional ceremonies — the art and music, the processions and rituals — and the sheer opportunity for moments of solemnity in their hectic lives. Well, we already have a well-established set of traditions, needing no introduction, no training or reminders, that could serve here: the traditions of the theater.

When the curtain goes up, the audience goes quiet; everyone realizes that it would be anti-social, and an act of vandalism, to interrupt the actors in the middle of a scene, to stroll up and down the aisles, to talk to one’s companion. The respectful attention almost automatically paid to the activities on stage is at least close kin to the decorum observed when sitting in church. Dramatic ceremony requires a family of attitudes and postures that are infectious — and welcome. Whether laughing or crying, or frozen in horror, we in the audience feed off the synchrony of our reactions with those around us. Just like in church. A theater audience is almost a community.

If people think of church as theater they can assume the speech is a role, a lie even. It doesn’t matter if the pastor is spouting bullshit if you think of them as an actor. Daniel Dennett shows keen insight here. Atheists wonder why we are told to lie when it is a sin to lie. This dissonance is suspended by many when they consider church theater. Atheists use conferences as a kind of revival and community building with well known and “visiting” speakers adding to the mix. It is still a theater as we never agree with everything a speaker says but we support them anyway as close enough.

The main ingredient distinguishing church ceremonies from dramatic ceremonies in theaters is the presumption that the performers actually believe the speech acts they utter so eloquently, actually adhere to the creeds their performances symbolize. Imagine a new kind of theater, which, instead of presenting revivals of beloved musical comedies or yet another version of Hamlet or MacBeth, performed carefully researched, respectfully mounted replicas of Latin masses, Quaker meetings, Congregational Easter Sundays, Southern Baptist baptisms, Oxford College evensongs, revivalist prayer meetings, and any and all variations and combinations of these — whatever the people wanted to experience — without the slightest pretense that the celebrants were anything other than professional actors.

Then add a program of good works, community service, outreach, and a collection plate, and you’d have gatherings that were all but indistinguishable from “real” church services.

Sounds a lot like the new and positive call for community outreach, leadership, and public good works as an expression of the social justice within the movement. A mixture of followers such as skeptics, skepchicks, freethinkers, or whatever interests a group allows an intermingling of attendance that would vitalize the community. But he is also talking about real religions acknowledging their narratives of belief as fictional plays.

The coexistence of both kinds of celebration, believing churches and theater churches, in the same towns and cities might make for some useful confusion. People might begin to wonder if it mattered which one they attended. Since many churchgoers are already in the position of non-believing supporters of their traditional churches, they would be hardly upset to contemplate the possibility that their own minister might be one of them, but just playing a more official role.

It is pleasant to imagine a “real” Baptist minister moonlighting on occasion and playing the role of a Baptist minister in the local theater-church — a role he knows so well — and telling a congregant that it didn’t matter which event she attended. They both serve the same ends.

Another nice transitional step would be for the pastor of a church to announce that next Sunday, “Ecumenical Sunday” perhaps, instead of leading the church’s regular ceremonies, she would be introducing to her congregation the rites and creeds of another religion, so that they could see firsthand what it is like to be an adherent of that religion. Nobody would expect her to believe the creed she declared, and nobody would expect her, or the congregation, to believe the words of the unfamiliar hymns they sang together. But they might well decide that they liked one of the hymns well enough to request it be added to their “real” services in the future, with or without the alien words.

If as an atheist one acts like an anthropologist one attends churches as if studying a forreign culture it is much more easy to suspend judgement to personal investment. I find this really difficult unless it is in other countries, or Native American ceremonies, or other religions in which I know little.

It would be a means of allowing the traditions, changing the moral imperatives, and transitioning to less hurtful interactions. I’m not sure how this would work at all but it is thought provoking. It does help explain how religious people can live with lies and avoid dissonance.

Here’s an interview on the book with Linda LaScola.

Jim Newman, bright and well www.frontiersofreason.com

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Women in Secularism 3, a Subjective Debriefing

women in secularism 3A farm routine knows no weekends. When I attend conferences the suspension of an everyday feeding and work schedule really interrupts the rhythm of life. Coming back home it is hard to reenter, breakthrough the resistance, and do chores again. My mind is overwhelmed with new input and digestion is more like  a rabbit in a snake than a few shrimp and asparagus a la California cuisine lite. I met many amazing people and if I were a millionaire I would make myself poor in donations The topics meld into convergence but I will try. (This is a continuation of my last post.)

“Women Leaving Religion” Candace Gorham, Rebecca Goldstein, Heina Dadabhoy, Mandy Valez, Sarah Jones, Amanda Knief.

The most interesting aspect of this was how hard it is for female people of color to leave. They in particular are tightly woven into the community of religion where too often they are the driving force of adherence and bear the greatest brunt of leaving. The more restrictive and comprehensive the religion the more difficult to overcome the gap that remains.  Issues of self-confidence and sense of certainty are harder for women. A man who has 10% of qualification will feel success but a woman of 90% qualification will feel uncertain. “Just do it,” “go for it,” and the redneck “geterdone” are predominantly male jingoes that aggravate gender relationships where the one side wishes to suspend discussion for action and the other wants more discussion and support.

“Living with A Wild God” Barbara Ehrenreich

Barbara Ehrenreich is a force of nature who has willingly sprung from her blue collar, American West background to happily attack the many absurdities and inconsistencies of conservative and liberal politics, whether the sufficiency of low wages in work or the blinding negativity of the positive psychology movement. Here she asks us to discuss more the seemingly immaterial qualities of what is poorly called the mystic experience. Noting that the words that describe the more phantasmic, subjective, noetic, and numinous are typically religious it is difficult to even engage in coherent dialog because the words have too many religious meanings. Yet the experiences are there regardless of what religion one may have, or not. These experiences do have a place in atheism and materialism and need to be studied and embraced. Certainly not dissed or avoided as deviant oddities because they seem immaterial or not immediately accessed by rationality and science.

“Should We be Concerned with Multiculturalism” Ophelia Benson, Taslima Nasreen, Katha Pollitt, Sarah Jones, Rebecca Goldstein

This seemed one of the most contentious discussions though everyone voiced concern that human rights are universal, moral, and worth enforcing or evangelizing if you will. Members who have left the most fundamental religions have the hardest time separating the ill effects from the social and traditional aspects of the religion. It would seem if you strip religions of their negative aspects all that is left is food and dance, and other arts that are less effable or amenable to criticism. It was easy for some to diss the sacred texts and tropes of their old religion while others were clear that it is the very literalness that is the problem requiring a near elimination of all religious traces for future secular success.

There is a reluctance to remove the religious culture from a people especially in those where the religion is so tightly entwined in the being of identity and every-hour action of those people. Regardless of the religion it is difficult to deny the utility of the religion when it is such a strong part of wheat made you. Recovering from conservative, fundamental religion may make you critical of many aspects but not willing to abandon wholesale the religious utility in its entirety. At least in the US now where dramatic physical abuse is near absent or underground.

It was interesting that circumcision was called male genital mutilation when of course men can still have physical orgasm while women must rearrange their sense for vaginal or mental orgasm. In these senses liberals really have had a hard time in multiculturalism and the labeling of moral relativism. Recovering from this they seem certain that there should be a canon of universal rights for all.

I found myself reacting against this wishing to contextualize it. When colonialism first happened it was a mistake, to me, to invade other people and change their culture whether or not it was oppressive. Whether large disks in the lips, bones in the cheeks, extravagant scarification, child sacrifice, ritualized cannibalism, or moral ostracism it is difficult to distill what is really  moral or not as an outsider without destroying the other we seek to accept. Yet, once we did show up pluralism and diversity cannot be condoned without contamination. Just as we stupidly passed on disease they passed back negative cultural norms.

They rightly showed how we are still culturally biased with issues of nudity, objectifying sexualization, and even homeschooling. Homeschooling is clearly a sensitive subject but there was universal castigation and lack of information where it was assumed there were always none or poor regulations, lack of secular curricula, and a void of social interactions. All of which are not true. I should note we home schooled our three children for most of their life by necessity and choice. It was interesting that what seemed most important was the necessary inclusion of cultural practice on behalf of children’s rights. The desire to ensure fluidity between divisions of class, labor, and gender through equal education. Education of women is such a huge issue that it is easy to forgive this oversight.

Yet, they admitted that much of public education was bad and they chaffed through it and wished it were different. Hmmm. I think while in other areas they have admitted the utility of virtual communities they forget the very recent development of socialized public education as a means not to freedom but labor exploitation.

In the end it seems like liberalism does mean abandoning culture if it doesn’t follow UN-oriented human rights. I wondered though the utility of autonomous communities that choose to opt out like lesbian separatism, communalism, communitarianism, communes, and other secular independents. It would seem that they long for absolute inclusion and maximum fluidity and mobility between any groups.

“Why Women are too Polite about Religion” Rebecca Goldstein, Susan Jacoby

I found this hilarious as Rebecca Goldstein is a very polite person while Susan Jacoby much less so. Guess who got talked over the most? It’s clear that personality plays a huge issue which is genetic. Goldstein discussed this with the example of dominating, self organizing, male chimpanzee behavior where humans are just one chromosome different. Some of this was covered as women having evolved to be nurturing and supportive because they bear children for long periods while men have been more independent. Another cultural part of this is religious men assume women will do the religion and educating of children though women shouldn’t be educated beyond certain levels. The organizing of social events because women need more support due to the incapacitating aspect of child rearing. The successful division of labor means increased demands of time are best met by men who can be absent. Because of oppression women have to ask politely while men can demand. In this case it would’t matter if male or female as a means to survival.

I think it was oddly missed that even cross culturally women have to be better to succeed when they cross socioeconomic boundaries–without being too offensive or the push back is elevated. If civility is social glue than to succeed in male sociability women have to be more polite to be less threatening. Strong women see their success as speaking out. It reminds me of what was called “Watson’s Law” where speaking out about sexual harassment causes more sexual harassment. The opposite of this though is “Rebecca’s Law” where speaking out attracts allies. In the end it’s better to not be silent unless it radically threatens survival.

“A Feminist’s Guide to Surviving the Internet” Lindy West

Lindy West discussed her harassment online and a resulting success that seemed bittersweet to me. Personally I don’t know how to respond politely to this. As far as I am concerned verbal abuse on the internet should be maximally punished without question. Her main point seems to be to pursue the bastards even though the law is inadequate in support. Soraya Chemaly spoke earlier about her success in making Facebook recategorize rape threats under harassment rather than jokes and humor. Earlier as well Surly Amy talked about developing a thick skin even though you shouldn’t have to–it happens anyway if you continue participation. Like unwanted calluses.

I myself Tweeted for the first time during the conference and it only took five tweets for me to get the message “You’re an idiot” and to have to block him and others. Why? Because I responded to the message “Feminists are atheists” with “Atheists are feminists as well”.  Some idiotic male rights activist couldn’t speak politely. Which to me means maybe it is right and just that there needs to be greater enforcement of  civil conversation. (Zinnia Jones came to my twitter rescue and made my self loathing at stupidity less egregious–thank you)

The book “Flame Wars” addressed this years ago but virtual communities still struggle with adding teeth to netiquette. This is a huge problem if you wish to include women and pacifist people in general. My own reaction was to quit tweeting. No one need this crap. To me this proved Goldstein to be correct; civilized humans are still a small step away from negative anarchy and the raw aggression of many animals and primates like chimps. I can see why Hobbes said even a brutal tyrant is beneficial if they make people less aggressive, by any means necessary.

“Why Secularism is Necessary for Women’s Freedom” Taslima Nasreen

Taslima Nasreen is quite clear and beautifully coherent that religion itself, in whole, is accountable for negativity. Religion must be abandoned wholesale. I am sympathetic. If you allow the sacred texts to remain, the negative narratives to be unedited, the danger is the abuse can resurface later when the direct experience of the negativity is no longer felt. Figurative and psychological meanings do not endure negative interpretation. If literalness allows abuse then the texts, narratives, and tropes must change. Gesticulating accommodations and hermeneutics allow too much deviation to negativity. The beauty of law should be its clearness, conciseness, and exactness.

I had a wonderful dinner with Taslimma and another man who was there. I had not read her novels but picked up “Revenge” and read much of it just standing there during a break in the conference. Her fiction writing is like her speech. Lyrical, melodic, with a poetic cadence.

“Women Empowering Women in Secularism” Amy Davis Roth, Debbie Goddard, Melody Hensley, Amanda Knief, Lindsay Beyerstein

This was marked by Amanda Knief a self-proclaimed introvert who completely, totally, and throughly railed on needing more women in leadership roles. As well as voting and participating in local politics. I am thrilled my 12-year old daughter an introvert got to see Knief last fall when we were protesting at SCOTUS. There cannot be too many women in leadership roles. When I joined popular secular groups women were more present in leadership but not boards. Melody Hensley noted that while some boards are more equal male tropes still dominate.  Jesus, we have  along way to go still.

Like last year everyone agreed that numbers count. It is in no way artificial or denying meritocracy to insist that equality in numbers be enforced. There is the idiotic idea as Thomas Sowell endorses that every job should be filled by the most intelligent applicant. If that were true and intelligence were evaluated without genderism women would rise to the top quickly. More the issue is getting women to step up and take the job. More the issue is there must be temporary imbalance until the environment changes such that it engenders equality.

“Exiled from IHOP: an Atheist in Assignment” Lindsay Berenstein

I missed much of this but what I got was on reproductive rights. They are denied because of issues of power. Birthing children allows men to dominate unless they accommodate the support of rearing children and the denial of the need to rear many children for a society to succeed. The ridiculous regulation of abortion has nothing to do with safety and everything to do with oppression.

I really appreciated Lauren Becker’s closing remarks that a way of avoiding offense by saying “you’re wrong” is editing the narrative text.

Jim Newman, bright and well www.frontiersofreason.com