Thursday, February 23, 2012

Streisand Effect anyone?

Krystal Myers is a student at Lenoir City high school in Tennessee. She is editor of the school paper, captain of the swim team, and an honors student. Someone any school would be proud to have,right? Apparently not. You see,she is also an atheist and wrote an editorial for the school paper about a lot of potential illegal things going on around her school as far as SOCAS goes. The school's response? To prevent her story from being printed and to suppress it. The school has obviously never heard of the Streisand Effect. Thanks to the internet, Krystal's article can be read by anyone. So here it is. Read it. Spread it around. Send your thoughts to the Lenoir City schools if you want.

People in the atheist movement (and outside of it) are always asking where are all the women in the movement? Apparently they are all in high school (see Jessica Ahlquist as well) and they rock.

Here is Krystal's editorial. Share as you see fit:

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Thoughts on mocking the beliefs of others

An acquaintance of mine, on Facebook, posted the following status this week: "If you are secure in your own beliefs, then there is no need to mock others in their beliefs."

Now, this person is not a complete fundamentalist. They are pro-choice, pro-birth control, pro-marriage equality, etc. So mostly left-leaning on the social issues. They are one of those people that claim they dislike religion but they are a believer in the existence and divinity of Jesus (I know, that one is a completely different, tangential discussion that we could also discuss all day long.) I'm not sure exactly where they stand on evolution vs creationism. We both found ourselves commenting on another post once regarding Indiana's proposed creation bill, and when I pointed out that creationism was not science, they liked my comment. But they then went on to post their own comment stating that they saw no problem with children being exposed to all kinds of ideas in school. So my guess is leaning toward creationist/ID'er of some-sort.

Interestingly enough, this acquaintance just had a Facebook post and discussion a day prior where they pointed out the issue of Catholic institutions having to provide birth control coverage for their employees being dominated by old, white guys who had no personal skin in the birth control game. So in this discussion, they mocked the folly of the Catholic belief against contraception being used in the political arena to affect the personal health choices of women everywhere. So it was perfectly okay in that moment to not respect someone else's beliefs because of the side of the issue that they came down on. Little bit of hypocrisy there, no? Either you always respect others' beliefs, or you don't. You can't only throw up the "respect my beliefs" shield only when it is your dangerous logic being criticized.

Anyway, getting back to the point of my post, I hear versions of the above sentiment about belief security bandied about a lot by those with faith. Now, by nature, I'm very much a live and let live person. I don't enjoy confrontation normally. When it comes to my atheism, I've always fallen somewhere in the middle of the spectrum of accomodationist vs firebrand. I'm a scientist and an engineer with an education from a science and engineering university, so I'm a strident defender of evolution and scientific thinking. That is my Alamo. I will wade into the fray at all costs when it comes to defending evolution and critical, scientific thinking. However, on most other religious matters, I try to just roll my eyes and walk away.

However, I don't respect this statement. Because if someone else's beliefs are dangerous, I believe that mockery is fully justified. For example, Rick Santorum's "Google Problem." The man is a hateful bigot when it comes to LGBTQ folks. He has also recently compared secularism and lack of religious belief to the beheadings performed by the French during the French revolution. His religious views color his political and world view in such a way that he can justify taking away the rights and freedoms of others in the name of his god. In that respect, Santorum and his ilk deserve all the mockery they get.

I really think what this statement means underneath is "I understand that some of my beliefs require massive amounts of mental gymnastics and cognitive dissonance to hold, I cannot soundly defend some of them without being backed into an indefensible position, so I would appreciate it if you wouldn't challenge me and just leave me be in my cloak of ignorance." This is not a good thing for society. If we are to truly work toward establishing a Heaven on Earth (which is the only Heaven us rational folks believe in,) I think we have to challenge silly superstitions and ideas when they become harmful. This happens when theocrats like Santorum talk about legislating morality. But this criticism should not be reserved for politicians. An Average Joe believing the same thing will teach the nonsense to his children, will propagate the nonsense in discussion with friends, and ultimately will cast votes for politicians like Santorum who will affect the liberty and safety of us all. Maybe I am becoming more of a firebrand, who knows?

The thing is, us non-theists often can't say ANYTHING critical of someone's personally held beliefs without it being viewed as an attack. The minute we ask a question that can't be defended by their scripture or dogma, all of a sudden WE are the bad guy. WE are the offensive ones. If we are talking about beliefs that affect others' personal happiness (marriage equallity,) education (evolution and cosmological science,) and freedom of choice (abortion, sexual preference, lifestyle) then those ideas put forth into the public domain by theists are very much targets for discussion, dissection, and yes, even ridicule. If those ideas are going to try to impact other's lives in such a big way, they need to survive the marketplace of ideas on their own by standing up to scrutiny, not accepted because the religious authorities (God, the Church, the Pope, the priest, whomever) said so.

If people just utilized their religion to inspire their own lives and behavior, and weren't hurting anyone, trying to deny others' liberties, trying to confuse children about science, or trying to base our laws on violent, ancient texts written by primitive people, then I wouldn't mock their silly beliefs or have any problem with it. But as long as there are victims, and people trying to base important decisions in our society that affect others based on self-proclaimed moral superiority from the word of a god they've yet to present, I will continue to say "this is freaking ridiculous", point my finger, and laugh my *** off.

Religion needs to be taken off of the "thou shalt not criticize" list. If the beliefs and actions reinforced by religious teaching are going to infringe on and impact society, then mockery is not out of bounds. If you say that the Earth and man is 6,000 years old when there is a mountain of evidence to the contrary, we should mock you.

As another blogger, JT Eberhard stated: "Religions tell people it’s ok to be irrational. It’s not. It causes 21st century people to abide by moral standards that should’ve died in their parent centuries, such as discrimination against LGBT people. What people believe determines their actions – actions that affect their neighbors. And so the religious beliefs of others are of tremendous consequence to me...and to everybody who believes reason is necessary for a better world."