Monday, October 29, 2012

The Left Hemispheres Podcast Episode 5.5 More Halloween Hijinks

Steve, Adam and Jack continue their conversation from last week with discussions about Slenderman and Jesusween. As afore mentioned we had some leftovers from last week's show and we decided that rather than let them go to waste that I'd cut up a little bonus episode. It's not a full episode, but we're still recording this week despite Huricane Sandy and there'll be another full episode this weekend.
Enjoy and Happy Halloween.

Check out this episode!

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Known Universe ~ Hans Zimmer - Time

Friday Link Dump ~ 10/26/12

Monday, October 22, 2012

BEHIND THE VEIL: Never-Before-Seen Footage of Secret Mormon Temple Rituals

All you need is enough people to believe and a tax-exemption and you too can turn your contrived cult started by a known fraud into a "respected" religion. Maybe even get one of your cult leaders elected!

via newnamenoah (shared by Peter Boghossian on Facebook)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Left Hemispheres Podcast Ep. 05: Halloween Spooky Doom

This week Steve, Adam, and Jack discuss Doctors who claim to have seen heaven, Free speech, and Halloween Myths

(Note: We know this episode is a little late to air, sorry about that. Had some real world problems that prevented me from cutting the episode on time. However, we have a lot left over from this episode so I'm going to try and cut a bonus episode with all the stuff that didn't fit between now and Halloween. :) -Jack)


Friday, October 19, 2012

LH Podcast is Delayed. Here's David Attenborough's Version of "It's a Wonderful World."

Due to "real life" getting in the way, the Left Hemispheres podcast episode 05 will not be released tonight. It will, however, be released this weekend so please stay tuned.

In the meantime,

Missouri Preacher Beautifully Trolls City Council!

Wait for it...

via Gawker

Friday Link Dump ~ 10/19/12


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Romney is a Never Nude

"Replace the word 'gay' with my name."

The following is a status update of a friend on Facebook. I wouldn’t normally share a Facebook status, but this is a brilliantly simple point along on the lines of “if being gay is a choice when did you choose to be straight?” retort. Please share this in whatever manner you may choose.

I am sharing this status because I feel it truly strikes a chord and as an LGBTQ ally I feel this needs to be said because I could replace Kristen's name with many of my friends' names and even thinking that people would feel this way about them breaks my heart.

From my friend Kelly Stewart's friend Kristen:

Dear Friends who are thinking about voting against same-sex marriage:

When you hear or read the "anti" side making comments about gays, replace the word "gay" with my name.


Kristen getting married is a threat to all families.
Kristen cannot be a good parent.
Kristen doesn't love, it is only lust.
Kristen shouldn't be allowed to marry.
Kristen is what is wrong with this country.
Kristen is 'fixable' with electroshock therapy
If Kristen can marry then we should just let people marry animals.

I hope that this contextualizes the argument for you.

The "gay movement" is simply about people who are in love and want to spend their lives together. It’s about a legal recognition and protection of my commitment to my partner and eventually our family.

Now, back to my "gay lifestyle" (grading student papers, editing a manuscript, preparing a conference presentation, supervising family therapy students, maybe getting frozen yogurt later...).

The horror

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Paul Wallace and "The Real Problem With Atheism"

Once again we dive into the HuffPo tripe with Paul Wallace’s “The Real Problem With Atheism.” This time, however, I am not going to conduct a proper dissection; going through line by line. There really is no need. I’m going to summarize the author’s points below and encourage you to read the original if you care enough to bother. It’s HuffPo Religion section nonsense. So, you know…whatever. 
  • Paul Wallace is scared of New Atheism.
  • Atheism is too optimistic.
  • Atheism is optimistic because science is optimistic.
  • Science can’t answer all of life’s questions.
  • This scientific, and therefore atheistic, optimism is blind to suffering.
  • Life is suffering and science (therefore atheism) cannot answer suffering.
  • Therefore Jesus.

What Wallace fails to understand is this atheistic optimism doesn’t come from science, but from the realization and acceptance that life is not a cosmic “North Korea”; to steal an analogy from Christopher Hitchens. We are not locked into pre-destiny either karmically or via an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent deity. Conversely, we also not locked into a cosmic game of “What’s Behind the Door?” where we have free will, a plethora of conflicting rules, and serious consequences for missteps. This atheistic optimism is borne from the divorce from our lives the concept of eternal punishment and reward. We are free to live our lives not at the whim of a capricious tyrant, but according to ourselves. I do not expect the religious to take comfort in that or find it acceptable. They cannot as it is antithetical to their “reality.” To live according to your own conscience is seen as arrogant, sinful, and selfish. This lie is a great mechanism to control people.

We are all free to accept and help people out of human compassion and understanding. Not due to a risk-benefit cost analysis. For Wallace to state that atheists are unconcerned with the suffering of others is to not understand atheists as people. We must be just another group that conflicts with his worldview. Yes, “atheism” is unconcerned with suffering of people. It is unconcerned with everything aside from the question of whether or not a theistic entity exists. Atheists as people, however, have more concerns than just that single issue and many are concerned with and work to ease the suffering of others. Again, Wallace either doesn’t care to know this or ignores it. It is a profoundly myopic view.

I can’t speak for every atheist, but I too am cautious about “scientism.” For me, science is not a philosophy to live one’s life by. It is a useful tool to answer questions of reality and yes it can answer a lot about the human condition. Without a proper understanding of the aspects of our lives that we can quantify, we cannot begin to answer the questions that aren’t easily quantifiable. Philosophy also has its place to ask the questions that are important to humanity. It is also useful to ask questions in a manner that science can begin to tackle.  This is not a slippery slope back into metaphysics or theology.

Wallace likes to make a big deal that he is both a Christian and physicist. I completely understand how a religious person can employ the scientific method while not being skeptical about religious claims. It’s called doublethink. What bothers me is that Wallace and others who claim to accept and practice science; fail to understand its purpose and application or they purposely misconstrue it for their own agenda. “Science” is not optimistic. That is like saying a hammer is optimistic. Science is a tool to answer questions and by attempting to elevate science to a philosophy they seek to minimize its relevance somehow. This is along the same lines of the canard that science or atheism is a religion and therefore potentially false; which I never understood as it leaves the door wide open door to ask if their religion is false (of course it’s not). Sidenote: IF (if if if) we were to conduct the thought experiment using science as a religion would it not have more evidence, predictive power, and internal consistency then any religion? Just a thought…I digress…

The purpose of Wallace’s article and the argument contained within seem not so much to call out atheists for their incorrect stance and arguments regarding theism. It is also not an attempt to return “sheep to the flock.” I think Wallace is trying to convince himself and others like him that atheism is wrong.

Wallace writes about his fascination with atheism: 
For years I read their books, lurked furtively about their blogs, and came to know a number of atheists personally. My fascination has been persistent and powerful enough to baffle me: Why should I care so much?
A scary question. As a professor of physics and former working scientist, I have told myself that I care because the New Atheists claim that science — of all things — disproves God’s existence. During my years as a seminary student I told myself that I care out of theological interest. But what really scared me was the possibility that my fascination was an index of my own unconscious unbelief. I gradually began to ask myself: Am I a closet atheist?
Of course Wallace’s answer is “no”, but his logic is based on a bad premise. Atheism isn’t optimistic because science is optimistic. It is optimistic because god probably does not exist and religions are false. This is good news indeed!

Like Smoke

Some people still believe that *fossils were put underground by by God (or Satan) to test our faith.  This appears to be a small subset of Young Earth Creationists. Some believe that due to the biblical account of history, dinosaur bones cannot be older than a few thousand years.  This is a ludicrous claim and I have no intention of writing a “Creationists be crazy” post.  What I find interesting about this claim and others like it is the psychological process of denying objective reality.  Any belief that is maintained in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary is usually the case for two reasons:

1. The individual is sheltered or insulated from external ideas or otherwise uneducated/undereducated about contradicting concepts.
2. The individual is aware of alternate ideas and has discarded their content or their source.

The Young Earth Creationist dogma is a perfect example of this sort of willful ignorance because it follows the skeleton of a rational argument.

A.  If the bible is written by  God
B. And the bible reveals the age of the Earth to be less than 6,000  years old.
C.  Then the Earth is young.

Imbedded in this message is a toolbox for discounting any idea, no matter how reasonable or factual that does not gel with the identified religious ideology.  It’s the ultimate appeal to authority with the semblance of a syllogism.  It provides the framework for every other unsubstantiated claim.  We can simplify it even more to apply to an entire worldview:

A. If the bible is written by God
B. And there are facts that disagree with the bible’s claims
C. Then those facts are wrong

Armed with this basic thought process, a believer is free to disregard any evidence to the contrary of the the claims they make.  They are not subject to the laws of nature: their God lives outside of these laws.  They are not subject to the shared reality that most of us inhabit.  They see the world as it “truly” is.  You cannot pin down their God to any criteria of character or abilities.  He is the Alpha and Omega.  He is the perpetually moving goalpost.   You cannot hold the idea of God in your hands.   Just when you think you have him, he’s gone.  

You simply can not prove the existence of a being without identifiable attributes.  If this were any other claim, it would be laughable.  Here’s where they get you.  Due to the self-contradictory content of scripture,  people can make virtually any specific assertion about the will of God.  They can mine any quote or “interpret” any text to promote any agenda.  Their claims do not need to stand up to logical scrutiny because of the built-in ultimate appeal to authority.  In the end, your claims about God’s will says more about you than about God.

"I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do, because I notice it always coincides with their own desires." ~ Susan B Anthony

They can take this amorphous concept and bend it to whatever end they choose. The tenets can and often do change with the speed of revelation. If you believe that human nature is foul and depraved, your god is likely to be Angry Authoritative God.  If you think that all humanity is cut from the same cloth (and that cloth is full of rainbows and sunshine) your god is probably the Warm and Fuzzy God.  Take your pick.  There are plenty of biblical references to support both.

*Author's note:  I found dosens of internet conversations/blogposts about the Creationist (Christian, Mormon and Jahova's Witness) claims that fossils were planted by Satan to test humanity's faith but I could not locate any books or essays from theists on the subject. If any of you can find them please leave links in the comments.  Thanks.

Monday, October 15, 2012

'Living Biblically' Not Good Enough For Christian Publisher

Some of you may remember Rachel Held Evans from a story awhile back about her attempt to live “biblically” for one year and record it (I suspect there are plenty of things she didn't do, otherwise she would be in jail). Well, she has written a book about it and one of the largest purveyors of Christian books, LifeWay, isn't exactly supportive. They have declined to carry the book.

Rachel Held Evans’ upcoming book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, tracks her yearlong attempt to follow all of the Bible’s instructions for women, from making her own clothes to “submitting” to her husband.

My first reaction to the headline and subtitle of the article about Evan’ book, Her Year of Living Biblically: An evangelical blogger spent 12 months following the Bible. Then she wrote a book about it. Now some Christian bookstores won’t sell it, was that hopefully she rejected her faith based on that exercise. Alas no, that has not happened. However, it has caused strife in the evangelical Christian community and for that I applaud her. So often these people don’t think and don’t allow others to think for themselves as is the case here. Strife is good for that. So what is the problem with her book?

The story begins in March, when Evans mentioned on her blog that her editor had suggested she remove the word vagina from the book’s manuscript to appease strict Christian bookstore content standards. “If Christian bookstores stuck to their own ridiculous standards, they wouldn't be able carry the freaking Bible,” she wrote, adding that, despite her annoyance, she had acquiesced to the request because, hey, no author wants to risk losing sales. Her publisher told her they expected 40 percent of her book’s total sales to come from Christian bookstores; LifeWay is one of the biggest sellers, with 160 stores in 26 states and a robust online business, and its standards are considered the strictest.

The word: “vagina.”

Oh I know I was horrified too! Just the thought of having to read that word with my eyes causes me great offense and consternation. My stars!

As the article states there are likely other factors involved, but it seems that “vagina” is either the main issue or the excuse. Even if the word “vagina” is the excuse being used, that is still illustrative of the conservative evangelical mindset.
Though Evans makes many conservatives unhappy when she writes things like “I learned to be a feminist from Jesus,” or when she challenges popular church leaders and theologians, she considers herself a member of the group, not an outsider, and is an increasingly prominent voice in the evangelical community.

Well, she is a woman speaking her mind and to mention feminism and Jesus is the same sentence is clearly a sin according to…umm…I can’t seem to find that reference... 

What’s oddest about this whole dustup is how uncontroversial Evans’ book is. For most readers, A Year of Biblical Womanhood won’t prompt any pearl-clutching. Its author is a devout Christian, the large Christian publisher Thomas Nelson is publishing it, and Evans calls its content “super-PG”—no bad words, and “not even that aggressively egalitarian or feminist.” There are actually two vaginas in the book: One is an anatomical reference to a woman raped in the Congo, which no one in the publishing process had a problem with. The troublesome instance is from a passage about a 16-year-old Evans signing an abstinence pledge card at a youth rally at church, where, she writes, she signed “my promise to God and my vagina." That kind of cheeky reference stuck out to editors trying to conform to LifeWay’s unwritten standards.

Evans stated that “I don’t know if they were more offended by my vagina or my brain,”

It’s possible, in fact, that this is about her brain—or at least what makes it from her brain to her mouth. Evans proudly identifies as evangelical, but not everyone will allow her that label. Last week, well-known pastor John Piper’s website hosted a harsh review of Womanhood, accusing the book of “question[ing] the validity of the Bible.” And author and theologian Denny Burk devoted a detailed blog post to why Evans doesn't qualify as an evangelical. Her offenses include insufficient deference to the concept of Biblical inerrancy—the notion that the Bible is completely free of error—and her willingness to serve communion to gay churchgoers.

The bible is clearly not inerrant. To think it so is to persist in delusion. Once that statement of faith falls away many other doctrinal beliefs are subject to scrutiny. That is why many think the bible must be inerrant or it is free to interpretation. If it is free to interpret, people will use their innate morality (see: non-religious) to judge the bible's morality; which let’s face it… doesn't have a great track record (i.e slavery, sexual assault, the gays are a-ok!, etc.). There is also the matter of power. Individuals free to interpret the bible themselves no longer need the church leaders to do it for them. That must be a bit of a downer if you have a degree in theology.

Also, just to point it out, the “Evans doesn't qualify as an evangelical” is a No True Scotsman fallacy. If only seminaries would teach remedial logic, a lot of this silliness could be avoided.

Finally, we have the old male-female double standard.

“Writers adjust our content to fit this very sanitized, very strict conservative mold, which means we’re not producing the best writing or the best books we can produce,” Evans says. “Everyone bends over backward to meet these demands.”

But no one knows precisely what those demands are. And Evans sees a difference between the leeway afforded to male and female authors. She rattles off several recent books written by men that include less-than-clinical usages of boobs and testicles. LifeWay carries powerful pastor Mark Driscoll’s recent advice book Real Marriage, which includes approving descriptions of anal sex, role playing, and sex toys within a conservative theological framework. (Driscoll wrote the book with his wife, Grace.)

That fucker Driscoll.

 “I often hear from evangelical leaders, ‘Oh we’re really eager to have more female leaders,’ ” she says. “I want to say, ‘This is my voice. This is what it sounds like.’ ”

Oof. That is all too common.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sierra DeMulder ~ Eleven Years

Matthew Shepard was murdered 14 years ago on October 12th in Laramie, Wyoming.  I wanted to post this the moment I heard it.  His story is a harrowing reminder of the destructive force of bigotry and hatred.

Sierra DeMulder is one of my all time favorite poets.  When you recover from this poem: visit her tumblr site and buy her book.

To learn more about Matthew's story or to make a donation, visit the Matthew Shepard Foundation here.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Family Research Council: Marriage Is Defenseless Against Homosexuals

I’m real salty today because my baseball team lost a big game last night. I completely recognize how insignificant that really is and I’m still fucking pissed. So fuck everyone and everything that gets in my way today (and maybe tomorrow). This includes FRC because they had the misfortune of being one of the first things I saw this morning. GRRRRR!

Shut. The Fuck. Up.

OK so let’s go through this. Join me for a nose bleed, won't you?  

0:12 Federal Judge (himself a homosexual) Declares the U.S. Constitution guarantees right to homosexual marriage.
a)      It is irrelevant what Judge Stephen Reinhardt’s sexuality is. If it were a legitimate concern, using the FRC’s (and others) logic, then whenever a church/state case came up all religious judges would have to recuse themselves.
b)      The statement and idea that Judge Reinhardt declared “the U.S. Constitution guarantees right to homosexual marriage,” is misleading. Reinhardt ruling he stated:

 “Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples,”

This is an important distinction. Homophobic Christian theocrats are fond of saying (as they do later in this video) that recognizing same-sex marriage is a “special right.” As usual they are either blind or bullshitting. It is not granting a special right to cease hindering the rights of others when the right in question is enjoyed by others. In other words, it is not recognizing same-sex marriage so much as it is ensuring everyone is granted equal rights under the law. It’s called the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution motherfuckers. Look it up.

Another important point in the ruling overturning Proposition 8 is the following:

FF#19 Marriage in the United States has always been a civil matter.
Civil authorities may permit religious leaders to solemnize
marriages but not to determine who may enter or leave a civil
marriage. Religious leaders may determine independently
whether to recognize a civil marriage or divorce but that
recognition or lack thereof has no effect on the relationship
under state law.
a. Tr 195:13-196:21 (Cott: “[C]ivil law has always been
supreme in defining and regulating marriage. * * *
[Religious practices and ceremonies] have no particular
bearing on the validity of marriages. Any clerics,
ministers, rabbis, et cetera, that were accustomed to
* * * performing marriages, only do so because the state
has given them authority to do that.”);
b. Cal Fam Code §§ 400, 420.

This means that religious concepts of marriage and their ignorant, archaic beliefs are irrelevant in the eyes of the government. It cannot recognize them or it crosses the 1st Amendment line. Period.

0:26 U.S. Defense Department Announced that military chaplains will be permitted to perform homosexual weddings.

Notice the word “permitted” and not “forced.” Big difference.

0:32 Tony Perkins: “For nearly a generation we've neglected marriage leaving it nearly defenseless to homosexual activists who are now trying to redefine marriage out of existence.”

Complete fabrication. How does recognizing the rights of others amount to “redefining marriage out of existence”? It doesn’t. This is a red herring and an appeal to emotion, namely fear. I'm not even sure what to say about this it is so misrepresentative. If gays get married, marriage will still exist. Even the straight kind, just as god intended!

0:42 Tony Perkins cont: “Same-Sex marriage: it contradicts god’s will as revealed in the creative word.”

Prove it. Regardless, that is your god. Try as you might, others do not have to recognize your god or the backwards and immoral rules of your religions. I know Perkins and his ilk do not recognize the 1st Amendment except in some warped sense, but they do not get to inflict their religion on anyone.

0:47 “Violating god’s law only brings pain and heartache. Right is called wrong. Good is called evil.”

You’re god is an asshole. I think that is more of a reflection of you then the other way around.

0:56 “It is because we have yielded moral authority to the demands of special interests or the ruling of some aberrant judge. As a result, all of society suffers.”

Again, those are your morals. I reject your morals and you have no authority. You are the special interests demanding special treatment to inflict your religion on society. How exactly does society suffer because of same-sex marriage? Explain that. Quantify it. You cannot. Society would suffer if you had free reign. Society would suffer if you had the power to do as you wish in the name of your pathetic deity. Actually, I think society suffers because of you, your religion, and the hate and discrimination you peddle. You are a bigot, a coward, and a charlatan.

1:08 “The mother-father parenting arraignment is the one most conducive to the well-being of children; which is the key to a healthy and prosperous society.”

Again, prove it. Your brothers in bigoted arms Focus on the Family got their asses handed to them when trying to argue this point. You have shit.

1:22 And here we have a touching story about how the good Christian family has been exposed to the knowledge that gay people exist and raise families <gasp!>  by a horrible secular school probably run by Satan.

1:51 just listen to this line spoken by a Christian parent. Join me in weeping over the irony, friends.

2:09 The top comment on this video is so good: “the tears of the bully, nothing is so pure.” I mean really…

The rest of the video is just a call to “vote your values, your biblical values,” so they can take hold of the government and instill their religious values.*

So that’s it. I listened to that multiple times to transcribe sections of it and I think I’m ok.   

*What would happen if FRC and those like them gained control of the U.S. government? Well, might I interest you in some articles on Dominionism