Wanted: Them damned atheists!

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James Ishmael Ford Headshot
Posted: 01/02/2014 2:12 pm EST Updated: 03/04/2014 5:59 am EST

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There’s a recent essay making the rounds in my part of the Facebook world, where the author reveals that atheists are educated elites who can afford to indulge their belief — or probably it’s more accurate to say non-belief — and are absolute jerks for saying out loud what a lot of people fear might be true: There is no God.

Their unpleasant character is taken as evidence of something. What that something is, appears obvious to me.

According to a Pew study half of Americans say they would never vote for a qualified candidate from their political party if that person were an atheist. According to another study conducted by the University of Minnesota, the most hated group of people in America are atheists; nearly half of Americans would disapprove of their child marrying an atheist. The authors of the study observed the communal antipathy to atheists is “a glaring exception to the rule of increasing tolerance over the last 30 years.”

This antipathy cuts across social and political lines. Forty-two percent of Republicans and 36 percent of Democrats do not believe atheists represent American values. Ironically 17 percent of Americans who do not go to church think that atheists do not share their values.

So, attacking atheists has no cost.

Want to feel better than someone else? Go for the atheists.

People will cheer.

So, that’s one thing that really bothers me about the essay and other comments such as I see now and again.

But there was something else in that essay that hangs like rotten fruit:

There’s another current in our American culture that runs deep and is seriously problematic, probably even the worm that will eventually lead to the fall of the American empire: We are profoundly anti-intellectual.

The principal argument presented in the essay was essentially that atheists are educated. And the privilege of being educated invalidates their position. It is interesting in that anti-intellectualism is now being dressed up as a class issue. This is aimed at, I assume, or at least justified mainly because of the New Atheists — people particularly reviled for their take-no-prisoners pointing to what they see as the emperor’s lack of clothing. This takedown isn’t an argument: It is a rhetorical device, playing into our deep-seated cultural antipathies. And it ain’t pretty.

Of course, it doesn’t take wide reading and leisure time to suspect there’s something wrong with the received story of deities and souls. People in every circumstance have noticed this, the origin of the old term and canard, “village atheist.”

But these folk are a pretty small part of our culture. Most of us fall into line. Whatever our educational level, we just accept the received version.

Along with the baseline anti-intellectualism here, there’s something else in the accompanying line, that only the privileged can “afford” unbelief. Meaning what, precisely? That if you’re poor, all you have is a promise of a better afterlife? And shame on those who will take that small cold comfort?

From soup to nuts this is pretty unpleasant stuff.

Here’s what I have to say:

The atheist position is pretty easy to defend. The New Atheists whatever their style, and how few their number, show that.

If you think you have a counterargument, make it.

If you don’t want to play, don’t.

But don’t pretend faith comes as higher moral ground. And that atheists are bad people. Near as I can tell there is no particular correlation between faith or unbelief and basic human decency, not even particularly with one’s formal education.

But there is the madness of crowds. And there is scapegoating. There is the majority silencing the minority. Watching how the overwhelming majority faithful treat the tiny minority atheists says a whole lot about that.

The story of Noah…or My Genocidal Rage- by Yaweh!

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Posted: 04/01/2014 8:53 am EDT Updated: 04/01/2014 8:59 am EDT

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NOAH MOVIE
 
 
 

One of the persistent criticisms of the so-called New Atheists — Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, et al. — is that many of their arguments, although directed against religious belief in general, are really relevant only for fundamentalists. Sure, if you interpret the Bible literally, God comes across as a homicidal, genocidal, misogynistic monster, but this crude understanding of scripture is held only by ignorant believers, who, at most, constitute a substantial minority of the faithful. Therefore, the New Atheists present a distorted view of religion and show little understanding of the mindset of “moderate” religionists. The moderate religionists do not believe the Bible provides us with a literally true history of ancient times, nor do they regard the Bible, in particular the Old Testament, as providing an accurate conception of God and God’s relationship to humanity.

Mmm, OK. Well, now there’s the perfect opportunity for all those moderate religious leaders, including presumably Pope “Who am I to judge?” Francis, to publicize their rejection of the simplistic, literal interpretation of scripture. They can discuss the story of Noah and God’s destruction of the world by flood, and in doing so they can repudiate the depiction of God that’s set forth in this story.

The recently released film Noah, starring, among others, Russell Crowe, is being marketed aggressively and is receiving wide publicity. Millions of people will be watching it across the world. Although the film deviates from the biblical version in some details, the key parts of the story are represented just as they are related in Genesis: God kills most humans and (non-marine) animals by causing them to drown. He does so because he is angered by the wickedness of most humans. Noah, his immediate family, and representatives of the various animal species are spared. In their publicity, the makers of the film assure us that they have tried to stay true to the values of a story that is a “cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide.” Having seen the movie, I think the filmmakers have stayed true to those values. It is also undoubtedly true that the Noah story, with its accompanying values, is a “cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide.” The problem is these values are morally repugnant.

Let’s not mince words: if the story of the Flood is to be believed, God is a moral monster. To say his response to the alleged wickedness of humans is disproportionate is a gross understatement. Moreover, God engages in conduct that we would expect from the worst dictators, namely collective punishment that sweeps in the innocent along with the guilty. Children, presumably, were among those drowned (unless we assume that wicked adults had no offspring) as were most all of the animals, who bore no responsibility whatsoever for the misdeeds of humans. Intentionally drowning a kitten is conduct we’d expect of some psychopathic juvenile, not a loving deity.

For those who accept the truth of scripture, the “lessons” of Noah are that violence and destruction are perfectly acceptable means of addressing problems, human rights (let alone animal rights) are an illusion, and power is ultimately what counts. God could destroy humanity and all animal life because — well, who’s going to try to stop him?

Anyway, now that Noah is on the minds of many, it’s an opportune time for all those moderate religious leaders to set the record straight. Indeed, one would think these religious leaders would feel obliged to repudiate the literal interpretation of the biblical story, lest the faithful misapprehend the true nature of God. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing for the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury and other respected leaders to issue a joint statement declaring the Noah story to be a pernicious fable, not to be taken seriously by believers today? This would be morally edifying, and, of course, would put those coarse New Atheists in their place.

But we know this is not going to happen. Of course, there are many religious people, including some religious leaders, who do not interpret scripture literally. They don’t believe that Adam and Eve were the first humans, that God expelled us from Eden, that God destroyed the world by flood, that Noah built an ark that somehow housed representatives of all the animal species, and so on. They do not accept the Bronze Age myths found in the Bible. However, unless they are leaders of denominations which have expressly moved away from reliance on scripture (e.g., the Unitarians) religious leaders generally keep quiet about their skepticism. Because the dirty little secret of moderate religious leaders is that their authority ultimately depends on the continued loyalty of the naïve believer, that is, the person who does accept these Bible stories more or less at face value, and it would not be prudent to have these believers begin to doubt scripture. Once one begins to cast doubt on the veracity of biblical accounts, it’s hard to know where to draw the line. It’s one thing to be skeptical of the Noah story, but Moses? And what of Jesus and the Resurrection? And what happens when believers stop relying on holy writ entirely and actually use reasons and facts to come to an understanding of their world and their moral obligations? Without the authority of scripture to legitimize their positions, religious leaders are out of business.

So best keep silent about some of the absurdities and embarrassments in the Bible. Oh, you can have some learned theologians write essays criticizing the New Atheists for their unsophisticated understanding of religion, waxing eloquent about how the Bible is only metaphor, and how God is not a personal deity but the ground of all Being, but for the ordinary believer, mum’s the word. Shh! It’s movie time. Pass the popcorn — and the collection plate.

-As a ‘New Atheist’ I believe that if cherry-picking the Bible is in order then people need to invent a new god. This current mythology doesn’t seem to work for the PC masses of today. They find the genocidal rages, the misogyny, the support of slavery and the call for believers to commit murder kind of distasteful to their current beliefs.   

From my local KGW news.

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Posted on April 14, 2014 at 6:37 PM

Updated yesterday at 7:22 PM

 

 

PORTLAND – Newly proposed rules for brewers could mean a waste of grain and more expensive beer prices, according to industry leaders and Oregon Senator Ron Wyden.

Oregon brewers are fighting a proposal by the Food and Drug Administration that would place restrictions on the historic practice of using spent grain as animal feed.

It’s a practice Hopworks Urban Brewery has followed, giving all of its spent grains to a local dairy farmer. That farmer then uses the grains to feed its cows.

Spent grains are all the left-overs after the beer has been brewed. The long-standing practice saves farmers money on feed and brewers millions of dollars in disposal fees.  But in an effort to insure the byproduct is safe for animals to eat, the FDA wants to require brewers to dry the wet grains before giving them away.

“It’s an enormous burden that either we carry or pass it along to the farmer, and what’s going to result is higher prices for dairy, for meat and definitely higher prices for beer,” said Christian Ettinger, brewmaster at Hopworks.

Most of the smaller brewers said they’d be forced to dump the leftover grains in the landfill. Senator Wyden on Monday met with some local brewers and farmers to discuss the proposed change.

He is asking the FDA to throw out their current proposal and come up with a much more “workable” option.

“I don’t know everything about beer, but I do know when a federal agency acts like it has had one too many,” said Wyden.

In recent hearings, Wyden said the FDA has acknowledged problems with their proposed rule and seemed willing to reconsider it.

-AAAAnd again, applying skeptical critical thinking, I am left to believe that pumping cattle full of steroids and antibiotics and dragging them thru their own feces to slaughter is healthier and poses no risk?? The FDA should be paying attention to E-Coli and salmonella instead of spent grain. I just have to wonder, doesn’t the FDA have kickbacks from giant pharma to attend to instead of this, or maybe fielding untested drugs?

From Followthemoney.org

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Names in the News: Michigan’s DeVos Family

The DeVos family of Michigan—Republican stalwarts who have given large contributions to socially conservative ballot measure committees—didn’t hesitate to take advantage of Michigan’s new campaign finance law.1 2 The law, which doubled contribution limits, had a little-noticed quirk in timing that the DeVos family used to contribute more than $700,000 to the state’s Republican house and senate campaign committees during the course of two days.3 4

Though substantial, the $700,000 was a drop in the family’s bucket. Members of the Devos family—Richard Sr. and Helen, their sons Daniel, Douglas, and Dick, along with the sons’ spouses, Pamella, Maria, and Betsy, and grandson Richard III—have contributed $45.6 million to state campaigns since 2000. The fortune for such prolific giving stems from Richard DeVos Sr.’s role in co-founding Amway, the direct sales corporation. The family has since widened its holdings to include a variety of businesses, including an NBA franchise.

The recent spate of giving is striking for not only the size of the contributions, but because the DeVos family has not previously focused on giving to state legislative campaign committees. According to the National Institute on Money in State Politics data since 2000, members of the DeVos family had given $464,394 to house and senate Republican campaign committees up until the new law took effect—meaning that in just two days the family far exceeded its previous lifetime contributions to Michigan Republican legislative campaign committees.

Previously, the DeVos family had contributed primarily to state political parties. Family members donated $5 million to the Michigan Republican Party (which Betsy DeVos chaired from 1996 until 2000), $3.7 million of which came from Richard DeVos, Sr. The family also contributed $1.1 million to the Republican Party of Florida.

TABLE 1: DeVos Family Giving to Michigan Party Committees 2000–2012
Committee Total
Michigan Republican Party $4,937,500
Michigan House Republican Campaign Committee $267,394
Michigan Senate Republican Campaign Committee $191,500
TOTAL $5,396,394

Most of Dick DeVos’ giving occurred in 2006, when he ran unsuccessfully for governor of Michigan. Of the DeVos family’s $45.6 million in giving since 2000, $35.4 million came in the form of self funding by Dick DeVos and his wife, Betsy DeVos, who donated $130,596 to his campaign. Other members of the family combined to contribute $21,935 to his gubernatorial campaign.5


TABLE 2: DeVos Family Contributions Totaling More Than $50,000 to Ballot Measures, 2000-2012
State Year Committee Amount
MI 2004 Citizens for the Protection of Marriage $50,000
FL 2006 Florida4Marriage.org $100,000
MI 2008 Michigan Citizens Against Unrestricted Science & Experimentation $275,000
MI 2008 Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Kids $60,000
FL 2010 Protect Your Vote $100,000
MI 2012 Protecting Michigan Taxpayers $1,750,000

The DeVos family has also contributed generously to ballot measure campaigns in Michigan and Florida. Richard Sr., and Douglas and Maria DeVos, gave a total of $50,000 to support Michigan’s 2004 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. In 2008, Richard DeVos6 gave $100,000 to a similar measure in Florida, while other members of the DeVos family contributed $60,000 to fight the legalization of medical marijuana in Michigan, and $275,000 to fight an attempt to legalize stem cell research in Michigan. In 2010, Richard Sr. and Helen each gave $50,000 to opposeefforts to reform redistricting in Florida. Members of the DeVos family combined to contribute $1.8 million to oppose a 2012 Michigan constitutional amendment that would have guaranteed a right to collective bargaining.

-Just a small tidbit to inform people where a great deal of the DeVos family’s money goes; into hate speech, insuring inequality, bigotry and keeping the working person in line. 

The rich JUUUST get richer!!

Aside
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Congressman Paul Ryan says America has a problem in culture of poverty
  • Eric Liu: Actually, we live in a dysfunctional culture of concentrated wealth
  • He says certain antisocial values and behaviors have taken root among the rich
  • Liu: The wealthy rigged the political and economic games to amplify their gains

Editor’s note: Eric Liu is the founder of Citizen University and the author of several books, including “The Gardens of Democracy” and “The Accidental Asian.” He served as a White House speechwriter and policy adviser for President Bill Clinton. Follow him on Twitter@ericpliu. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) – When Congressman Paul Ryan opined recently that there was a “real culture problem” in poor communities, “in our inner cities in particular,” and that this culture was behind some of the country’s economic troubles, he didn’t realize how half right he was.

People are continuing to debate fiercely what Ryan said and whether he meant to propagate racially coded explanations of poverty’s roots. But put that aside for a moment. Here’s what he was right about: There is indeed a culture in America that is pathological and now threatens our social fabric. It’s not the culture of poverty, though. It’s the culture of wealth.

We live in an age of extreme concentration of wealth in America. The problem is not just that the 1% have managed to nearly triple their share of national income in the last three decades. Nor is it just that the 1% increasingly are fed, schooled and housed in a bubble apart from the rest of their fellow citizens.

Eric Liu

Eric Liu

The problem is that today’s concentration of wealth is breaking the golden link that Ryan and others take pains to emphasize — the link between work and reward.

Economist Thomas Piketty’s landmark new book “Capital”unpacks this delinking in great statistical detail. It turns out that increasing numbers of Americans in the 1%, .1% and .01% have done little to “earn” their wealth or privilege.

Contrary to myth, most of today’s plutocrats are not the kind of Steve Jobsian visionary risk-taking entrepreneurs or superstar celebrities. The .01%, for instance, tend overwhelmingly to be high-end corporate managers and executives, particularly on Wall Street, operating in interlocking networks that inflate the standard of what an executive is “worth.” Or they are the heirs of the great entrepreneurs (4 of the 10 richest Americans are children of Sam Walton), inheritors of fortunes of which it can truly be said, “someone else built that.”

An aristocracy is emerging in America, a class of insiders that corrodes the promise of equal citizenship. And with this compounding of unearned advantage, certain antisocial values and behaviors have taken root among the superrich — norms that threaten to corrupt the rest of American society.

 a inequality’s an embarrassment

s Google to blame for the income gap?

What’s in this dysfunctional culture of concentrated wealth? Look around Wall Street. You’ll find tribal insularity, short-term thinking, personal irresponsibility, cynicism about playing by the rules, an aversion to socially productive labor, a habit of shameless materialism, an inability to defer gratification and a lack of concern for what “message” all this sends to the youth raised in such an environment.

In short, you’ll find the very things typically imputed to the culture of poverty.

Now, to be sure, there are poor people who do exhibit these antisocial values and norms. And there is no question that plenty of poor people are poor because they made bad choices and behaved in self-destructive ways.

But rich people who exhibit such values have something the poor don’t: Money. Money buys exemption from bad choices. Money confers power — in particular, over the poor. It confers the power to frame public narrative and policymaking and to determine whose behavior — whose culture — is (and isn’t) called pathological.

Today, as it was during the last Gilded Age, the concentration of wealth gives the rich the political clout to further concentrate their wealth. (And now, as then, the Supreme Court greases the skids in the name of “liberty“). This clout is wielded in plain sight now, without any pretense of civic equality. And it calls to mind the warning attributed to Justice Louis Brandeis: “We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”

When the richest 400 families in America have more wealth than the bottom 155 million Americans combined, the danger to the republic is far more clear and present than that posed by the “welfare queens” of lore or by anecdotes of shiftless inner-city men.

That would be true even if the super-rich today had entirely benign or merely neutral policy preferences. But in fact they’ve rigged the game of policy, subsidies and tax preferences to amplify and hoard their gains.

This isn’t to suggest that all super-wealthy people are “welfare kings” (they’re not) or to imply that they have a monopoly on selfishness or sociopathic attitudes (they don’t). Yet if it’s unfair to paint everyone in the 1% with the same unflattering brush of “dysfunctional culture,” isn’t it far worse to do the same to the poorest 20%?

Wealth and advantage are as strongly self-reinforcing as poverty and disadvantage. It’s possible to recognize this fact while also championing grit, gumption and good values. In fact, it’s essential. But culture doesn’t explain everything. And where it matters isn’t only among the poor or nonwhite.

If we’re going to reform the norms in this country so that opportunity is truly reflective of effort and talent, we have to do more than pick on those with the least. We have to start at the top.

-Again, start with the 90 Billion in church tax breaks, the NFL tax exempt status and all other huge corporate tax breaks and you have a good start. Applying skeptical and critical thinking along with a good bit of research and you will find the gap between the rich and poor exponentially widening. This is due to the fact that when you have enough money and influence you can load the dice in your favor.

The billionaires do not have to observe the laws that their paid minions write because they contain built-in loop holes dictated by said overlords, AND when the politicians get out of office, they just go to consulting jobs offered by the very same businesses that paid to have the laws written in the first place, yayyyy Sheldon Adelson, Koch Bros. George Soros and the people at ActBlue!!.

skepticism and PC

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I was listening to The Thinking Atheist podcast the other day and the topic was Black atheists and their experience since they declared their non-belief in their communities today.  The people that Seth Andrews spoke to that day were very forthright and adamant about the way that their atheism was portrayed and the terms used to describe them. They were basically all united upon the ‘African American” line in that they disliked the limiting label that it provided. They ALL preferred the term “Black” over any of the other terms offered.

 

I agree in that I do not see color as a barrier but I do see color as an attribute. To see a person in a color blind setting is to not see the incredibly sexy,(in my opinion ), almond skin tone of the person before you. For me it is accentuated in women because I am male. The reverse is applicable to females. I see the awesome attributes that my senses allow me to see and that is the way that humans are supposed to percieve things.

The bottom line for us animals is that you have us at “Hi gorgeous,” no matter what sex you are or color. My barometer measures it at “DUUUUUUHHHHH” for attractive females no mater what color!

I am currently 46 yrs old and would caution any person against marriage because of the overwhelming negative feedback that I have gotten from my friends and from the miserable marriage that I, myself am in. I have young children that I cannot hurt so I am trapped, that is why I urge all of my listeners to reconsider the torture of marriage!

 

Marriage

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You know, ALL of my friends aged around 40 or so have miserable marriages male OR female. I take this as the institution of marriage is a passe thing and needs to be disregarded. Why ruin a good long term relationship with the death spectre of marriage? There are what, 0.5-10% of people who will describe their marriage as good and half of those are lying? So what is the benefit besides legal? I say that the law needs to be adjusted to consider the people who are too smart to resign themselves to the dungeon of marriage. 

I am unsatisfied I can tell you. The reason is because I cannot separate myself from my wife without her making the lives of our children miserable. She is so shallow that she cannot let me go and move on, she has to let the children know how much she is suffering! Unreal! I am willing to not fuck with their heads in this manner but she seems to derive a satanic glee in doing the exact opposite. She has her own career but will fight me to the end to get child support even though I want equal custody. This is because she co depends her deadbeat parents and forces me to take care of them even though their actions allowed their drug addict friends to rape her twice before the age of 10. I have tried to help her in this area but have been told that I do not qualify to tell her how to run her life. 

I have tried to break away with disastrous consequences all the way around. I implore my readers now to examine the families of the people that they are considering marriage too and urge them to consider the greatest choice of long term relationship WITHOUT paper involved. Yes, I am against marriage as an institution of the weak and brand it as a religious institution of bondage!