2008.03.31

Aborted Discussions

22.14.58 - Mark

The abortion issue is an ugly one for a lot of reasons, the obvious one is because the core issue is talking about ending the life of a something* that has a potential to be a living, breathing, contributing member of the human race. The topic only gets uglier there when you start looking at the physically disturbing subtopics like how a something* is aborted, the final minutes of a something*'s "life", the psychological trauma of those directly involved, the political maneuvering around the issues, the ethical questions that always get phrased with a steep bias then left unanswered, the history of violence around the subject, and the blatant (often intentional) ignorance of people who talk about this issue.

This last point isn't helped by the fact that both sides use language so carefully selected it puts most marketing departments and spin doctors to shame, which combined with a lack of clear cut definitions of the unloaded language makes it extremely hard to find unbiased information. Add in a heaping pile of religious extremists and you have such an ugly mess that most people won't look at the topic, let alone touch it with a 30 foot pole.

Those who try are usually blasted from the other side, and moderates tend to get yelled at from everyone. This is an old issue (abortion was mentioned in the original Hippocratic oath) but it's become so politically and morally charged the level of discourse has plummeted. Even smart people who love talking about politics and policy want to avoid the topic. It's infuriating before you even attempt to drag politics into the matter.

Just like in "civil" conversation, the abortion issue is a topic politicians don't want to spend time with. Unlike in civil conversation however they have a harder time ignoring it. So rather than holding intelligent debates on the subject they craft utterly useless legislation designed to appease the anti-abortionists (I voted for XYZ bill) without creating a law that dose anything new and only vaguely reinforces things already on the books so they don't piss off the other side. Or, if they're feeling confident (or don't mind being self-serving assholes), craft the language of the bill in a way that everyone who reads the thing knows that it will fail at some other level of government.

There are a lot of people who claim that if we "respect life" the problems of our world will go away. Aside from that fact that this is code for "believe in my god and you'll be saved" many of these people are the same ones who almost instantly called for this country to go to war after 9/11/01, and who don't see a little racism or homophobia as wrong - even when it means some unlucky people get beaten to death by hicks. We don't need to "respect life", we need to be more open minded, push for better communication, less radically religious opinions, and most of all more accepting of others and the decisions they make. Until we all agree to stop using loaded language and stop attempts at legislating according to some moral guidelines written over 2000 years ago, we're not going to find an acceptable solution to a topic that is in despite need of a fair, unbiased position.

* About the "something*": fetus, embryo, baby, and infant are all too often interchangeable terms in the abortion issue, and none of them seem to really do a good job of accurately describing a potential life. I'm tired of the loaded language used by both sides of the argument and in this post I tried to avoid using politically charged terms

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2007.12.22

An Atheist Christmas

00.48.57 - Mark

My family (and the friends that may as well be) is a mix bag of Religions, from atheists and agnostics to Christians from several denominations and even a would be Jew, and that's just our affiliations - there is a religious tolerance and acceptance and true appreciation for varied faiths that goes much further than intellectual knowledge or passive acknowledgments. Most of us have studied more than one faith - my brothers and I were all brought up in a Methodist Church while attending a Catholic School - and we've all settled on something we believe.

So when Christmas comes around and some extremist "Christian" goes off on ignorant rants on the "True meaning of Christmas" and makes attempts at protecting the Christian faith (The overwhelming majority faith in the United States) by trampling less well represented faiths we have a tendency to step up and defend. I've been doing it a lot this season and there are scattered traces floating around this site.

It's not an easy conversation to keep a conversation and quickly degenerates into lies and misconceptions so deeply rooted it's impossible to correct, then more bigotry, and with an end result of those of a "faith" arguing that if non-Christians don't like Christmas then they shouldn't celebrate it or any other "holy days".

There's a sad commentary in that.

I, as an extremely secular person, have spent most of this evening with friends celebrating the holidays. I've wrapped gifts to put under a decorated Christmas Tree (one nicknamed our heathen tree, and another we're calling the Hanukkah Bush), we've decorated sugar cookies, listened to seasonal music from half a dozen versions of the 12 Days of Christmas to Weird Al's "The Night Santa Went Crazy", we were eating some good food and drank some egg nog. All in all it was a wonderful evening spent with friends and family. It's been true several other nights this week, such as last Monday when we visited a festival of lights in Winston Salem

Yet by some twisted version "Christian" logic, I and a couple others involved, should be barred from such festivities because we weren't Christian. You have to imagine that anyone who would deny other's a good time because of something as trivial as a difference in religious beliefs, must be pretty unsure of their own convictions.

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2007.12.15

Whereas, I want to beat my head agasint a wall

00.56.50 - Mark

In the midst of the Iraq war, a failing economy, and other national issues, our Congress has found one issue so important that they managed to spare the time to recognize it. That issue is The Importance of Christmas (and Christians).

The fact that this bullshit resolution was not only introduced, but passed with 372 votes is fucking terrifying. I know congress critters aren't big on actually reading the things they vote on but surely they're obligated to read the Constitution a time or two. This thing just barely skirts a 1st amendment violation.

I'd try and argue it on points, but if I've learned one thing this holiday season, Christians get extra irrational at Christmas. Instead I'll just lift a paragraph from John Rodgers (excellent) post on the resolution:

... Christianity's been acting kind of needy lately. Like, "crazy girlfriend who suddenly believes you're thinking about how to pack your shit in ways she won't notice and sneak it out to the car, and so perversely thinks the way to keep you from bolting is to demand you tell her she's super pretty every hour, which, ironically, is what actually prompts you into thinking about packing your shit, even though you weren't before but now ..." needy.

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2006.10.31

A History of All-hallows Eve

18.33.42 - Mark

One of the best things about Halloween, other than free candy and geeks building haunted houses, is that it is one of the few holidays that has been completly secularized - so much so that its easy to find religious individuals (from a variety of faiths) that absolutly hate it and are calling for its destruction. Of course, part of their hatred of the holiday is that they are ignorant of its history, from Celtic traditions thousands of years ago to the Christian tradition of begging for "soul-cakes" which led to the modern trick or treating to the modern myths about apples with razor blades and poisoned candy.

For a more fleshed out Halloween History, check out this article on OmniNerd

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2006.04.17

They're Everywhere

23.42.43 - Mark

I managed to get past easter without making radical statements against organized religion, but these maps of the United States colored by religion is pretty neat. If I wasn't so tired/lazy at the moment I might even mess around with them in GIMP or Photoshop to see what sort of Master map could be drawn. Just glancing over them I could see patterns in some areas.

I tend to not want to really bury myself in it however. Segmenting the population by religion is pretty pointless, bordering on dangerous. In the end, we are all citizens of one (no matter how fucked up) nation.

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2006.04.04

Fear me! Oh, hold on a minute...

00.13.23 - Mark

... this survery says you already do. Similarily, don't feel the need to pray for me if I have to undergo surgery, it doesn't help (well wishs of course would be welcome)

I guess to finish off this post, I had a talk with a door to door evangelist the other day. Jehovah's Witness I think. Turned out to be an enjoyable hit and run philosophical discussion. For as many people "fear" atheists on principal, I wish more would have the guts to stand up and discuss what they really believe, not then their church leaders insist we all believe in.

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2006.01.06

Concerning...

14.00.07 - Mark

Should I be concerned when my American Government teacher mentions Pat Robertson and The Christian Science Monitor on the first day of class?

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