Promising News

From Dispatches From The Culture Wars:

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of an atheist man from Missouri who was denied parole on a drug charge because he refused to submit to a religious rehab program and the state refused to send him to a secular one. The denial of his original grievance and his loss at the district court level are rather alarming, but it’s a good thing that the appeals court reversed them.

Randall Jackson was sent to Western Reception, Diagnostic, and Correctional Center (WRDCC), a rehab program that required the saying of the famous serenity prayer and other religious elements. When Jackson complained about that, WRDCC told him to just pretend that it all meant something else. When he filed a grievance with the Missouri Department of Corrections and requested to be sent to a secular rehab program, he was denied. He appealed that denial and was again rejected and forced to stay in the program. He finally left the program and was then denied parole for failing to complete it.

Which is promising, however:

This is not a complete victory. The appeals court remanded it back to the district court to actually hold a trial in the case and issue a ruling. And with the district court being the same one that dismissed the case “with prejudice” in the first place, I’m skeptical that he can get a fair outcome. But then it would likely be appealed again to the much more reasonable appeals court. What needs to happen ultimately is that referrals to religious rehab programs as a condition of anything needs to be outlawed. It’s almost inconceivable how that could not be a violation of the First Amendment. You can read the full ruling here.

This is an issue that I think mainly gets swept under the constitutional rug due to a lack of complainants with standing.  (I could very well be wrong, I admit not having looked into the amount of cases challenging similar laws.  Feel free to correct me.)  Personally, when confronted with the option of traditional 12 step treatment programs, either in place of incarceration or as a condition of parole, I was never willing to risk further incarceration by challenging the religious nature of the programs.  I shut up and dealt with the programs  I am sure a healthy percentage of people facing the same choice make the same decision.  It is a shame, because not only do the 12 step based programs have extremely poor success rates, in my opinion they are completely useless for anyone coming to them with an atheistic mindset. There are other treatment programs.  Not every rehab is based on the religious 12 steps.  If we want to get serious about treating addiction in the United States, we need to see what treatment programs the evidence supports, and start referring people to them, instead of sweeping the whole problem under a 12 step rug.

Rachel Held Evans Makes Sense….

From the CNN Belief blog, by Rachel Held Evans:


On March 24, World Vision announced that the U.S. branch of the popular humanitarian organization would no longer discriminate against employees in same-sex marriages.

It was a decision that surprised many but one that made sense, given the organization’s ecumenical nature.

But on March 26, World Vision President Richard Stearns reversed the decision, stating, “our board acknowledged that the policy change we made was a mistake.”

Supporters helped the aid group “see that with more clarity,” Stearns added, “and we’re asking you to forgive us for that mistake.”

So what happened within those 48 hours to cause such a sudden reversal?

The Evangelical Machine kicked into gear.

Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said the decision pointed to “disaster,” and the Assemblies of God denomination encouraged its members to pull their financial support from the organization.

Evangelicals took to Twitter and Facebook to threaten to stop sending money to their sponsored children unless World Vision reversed course.

Within a day of the initial announcement, more than 2,000 children sponsored by World Vision lost their financial support. And with more and more individuals, churches and organizations threatening to do the same, the charity stood to lose millions of dollars in aid that would otherwise reach the poor, sick, hungry and displaced people World Vision serves.

So World Vision reversed course.

Stearns told The New York Times that some people, satisfied with the reversal, have called World Vision headquarters to ask, “Can I have my child back?” as though needy children are expendable bargaining chips in the culture war against gay and lesbian people.

Many of us who grew up evangelical watched with horror as these events unfolded.

As a longtime supporter of World Vision, I encouraged readers of my blog to pick up some of the dropped sponsorships after the initial decision. I then felt betrayed when World Vision backtracked, though I urged my readers not to play the same game but to keep supporting their sponsored children, who are of course at no fault in any of this.

But most of all, the situation put into stark, unsettling relief just how misaligned evangelical priorities have become.

When Christians declare that they would rather withhold aid from people who need it than serve alongside gays and lesbians helping to provide that aid, something is wrong.

The rest of the piece is similarly worth reading.  Voices like Rachel Held Evans’ are important not just in Christian communities, but also the larger secular world.  It is important to remember that for as loud as bigoted Christian groups can be, they do not speak for all Christians.

Moving a Comment from My “About” Page Here…..

For no reason other than I wasn’t even aware the “About” section allowed comments.

From Kevin McKinney:

The shame in all of this is that you expect someone else to pay for things for you. That is where the divide lies between conservative and liberal. I choose to take of my own life. Does that suck sometimes? Yes it does. Does it make my life rough sometimes? Yes it does. However, I am able to look at myself in the mirror each morning knowing I am not leaching at the teat of someone who does pull their weight. It’s s shame that this is how it is. Your time would have been better spent looking for a job that would pay your bills and offered health insurance. I still firmly believe that anyone in this country no matter where you come from can become anyone they want to be. There may even be hope for you to “pull your own weight”. I have no problem with anyone doing anything they want to do as long as no harm comes to anyone else and I am not required to pay for it. I also do not feel the need to carry someone when they are perfectly capable of carrying themselves. Handouts do little more that perpetuate the cycle of dependency. I welcome your reply.

Carry on.


Oh, my “welcome” reply?

Fuck off, Kevin.


Sorry, that’s my reply.  You dropped this comment onto my “About” page, a page that for people who haven’t bothered to read it doesn’t include anything on the social safety net.  Your comment is a rant against said safety net that amounts to little beyond patting one’s self on the back for not needing public assistance while assuming that I, on the other hand, have a firm suckle clenched on the government teat, even including the condescending statement that “(t)here may even be hope for you to “pull your own weight”.  Thank you for that assumption.  Not that it is any of your fucking business, but not only am I not a beneficiary of any social assistance, I also pay $400 a month for treatment that I am eligible to have covered by assistance because I can afford the expense, and want the assistance dollars to be there for those with no other options.

Just because you “firmly believe” that anyone “in this country” (by which I will assume you mean the United States) can become “anyone they want to be” doesn’t make it true.   It all sounds so alluring in your world, a world where upward mobility is common and jobs that offer fair wages and benefits are everywhere for anyone willing to spend a little time looking.  I could point out how your arguments reek of privilege.  I could point out how your “blame the poor” mentality is not supported by the evidence.  I could give you the debate that you so obviously desire, dropping random comments into blogger’s “About” pages.

But I won’t, not because there is no point in arguing with a true believer, although that argument can be made, but rather because after your “(t)here may even be hope for you to “pull your own weight,” comment, all you really deserve is a nice “fuck off.”


What Part of Cosmos Will Deal With This?As th

As readers of my blog are no doubt aware, the “Letters to the Editor” section of my local fishwrap is one of my daily must-reads.  Sadly, the section has been a bit boring recently, with a distinct lack of letters that I suspect arrived at the paper scrawled in crayon.    Thankfully someone at the Altoona Mirror decided to emulate a Mr. Timberlake, only instead of sexy, they chose to bring the crazy back.

Before I let the writer’s words speak for themselves, I want to point out that as far as I can figure out, this was sent in response to nothing in particular.  No, this bit of pseudo scientific religious babble appeared out of the blue, lurking on the Opinion page, laying in wait for an innocent rational person to read, leading no doubt to countless spit-takes, face palms, and catastrophic head explosions.

I warn you.  If you are drinking a tasty beverage while reading today, finish swallowing before you go any further.  Cleaning coffee off of monitors is no fun at all.  With that out of the way, on to the “Wait, What?!?” goodness.  (I was thinking about responding to this letter, but other than “you are so wrong you aren’t even wrong” I don’t even know where to start.)

Science Lesson

For years now, scientists have been trying to find the elusive “dark matter,” which they claim comprises over 90 percent of the universe.

They are also seeking the answer to why the galaxies are accelerating outward instead of slowing down from the big bang.

It just so happens that their dark matter is a globe of water surrounding the heavens.

It is the mass contained in this water that is providing the gravitational pull on the galaxies, causing their acceleration.

It is also possible that this water has frozen into a solid dome and, therefore, cannot collapse on itself. This would then provide a stable frame of reference until the galaxies reach it and their energy starts to melt it.

This approach not only makes sense logically. It is described in the very first chapter of the greatest textbook ever written.

Thomas J. Harclerode


I think it is safe to say I speak for the entire rational community when I respond, “Wait…..What!?!?!”

Cosmos: Too Soon to Judge, But…..

This past Sunday marked the premier of the Cosmos reboot, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Seth MacFarlane and the Fox Network’s remake of Carl Sagan’s classic science mini-series.  Fox did everything it could, so it seems, to make sure as many viewers as possible tuned in to the first episode, capping off the promotional blitz leading up to the premier with a statement from President Obama, and then airing the first episode on a myriad of channels.

While I do not believe this version of Cosmos has any chance of reaching the significance of Carl Sagan’s version, I also do not believe that is even a fair criticism.  The television landscape has changed more than most of us can even comprehend since the original airing of Cosmos.  Science fans, and those of us who mourn the day reality shows took over channels such as National Geographic will no doubt tune in each week.  For most of us, Cosmos will be a review of fascinating things we already know.  For me, the question is how many of those for whom this is new information will choose this over the other seemingly infinite entertainment choices?

For a series such as this, one episode is far too small of a taste to give a fair review.  I will definitely be tuning in next week, but that really isn’t saying anything.  With the lack of documentaries, especially astronomical/cosmological documentaries, now that shows like Amish Mafia dominate, Cosmos would have had to literally claim the Earth was 6000 years old for me to stop watching after one episode.  While I feel it is too early to pass judgement on the show, there are a few things I want to point out.

Hitting the positives first, the effects are awe-inspiring.  I have no doubt that Cosmos is going to feature some of the most impressive effects ever seen.  Hopefully they will draw people in who will stay and learn from the science.  Neil Tyson a rockstar.  He is the only science communicator who I think could fill the Carl Sagan role for the reboot, and this far in I think he is doing a fine job.  The most memorable part of the first episode, for me, was his snowy bus stop story of meeting Sagan.  I was already familiar with the story, but that didn’t stop it from bringing a tear to my eye.

Now a couple negatives….

First off, I think Fox really dropped the ball by not finding a sponsor willing to let them present the first episode either commercial free or with limited interruptions.  Maybe a block of ads right after the title sequence or something?  I know that ads are what pays the bills and allows shows like this to be made in the first place, but I find it hard to believe, with the amount of channels they were airing the premier on, that they couldn’t have found a sponsor or two willing.  The amount of commercial breaks was jarring and made it seem much more like just another documentary and less like the start of a special, 13 week event.  Of course, I can’t lay this criticism at the feet of Cosmos.  This ball was dropped by Fox.

The next issue I had though is all Cosmos, and I fully expect that most people will accuse me of picking nits over it.  And perhaps I am.  Of course, with a science documentary, the most important thing in my mind is getting the science right instead of reinforcing misconceptions.  Yet twice during the trip through the solar system the visual designers chose to either pick artistic license or popular misconceptions over reality.  First, by portraying the asteroid belt as described in multiple sci-fi flicks instead of astronomy textbooks, and then doubling down later in the trip by having the space ship weaving through a flock of trans-Neptunian objects when they came to the Kuiper belt.  Now I completely understand that showing the asteroid belt and the Kuiper belt as they are would make a much more boring shot than what they went with.  (The vast majority of both belts is empty space.)  That being said, by showing the belts as they really are, Cosmos could have helped fix a major misconception people have about the asteroid belt.  Instead, they chose to reinforce it.  Here, from Phil Plait’s first book, Bad Astronomy:

Astronomer Dan Durda puts it this way:  imagine a scale model of the solar system where the Sun is a largish beach ball a meter across.  The Earth would be a marble 1 centimeter in size located about 100 meters from the Sun.  Mars would be a pea about 150 meters away from the Sun, and Jupiter, the size of a softball, about 500 meters out.

If you collected all the asteroids in the main belt and balled them up, they would be in toto about the size of a grain of sand.  Now imagine crushing that grain of sand into millions of pieces and strewing it all over the hundreds of thousands of square meters between Mars and Jupiter in the model.  See the problem?  You could tool around out there for months and never see an asteroid, let alone two.


So am I nit-picking here?  Perhaps, and if that is the only bit, to borrow Phil’s phrase, of bad astronomy we see in Cosmos (not going to mention the space ship making a sound as it passed by us in space, not going to do it….) I won’t hold it against the series as a whole.  It does worry me though.  What other bits of artistic license are we going to see them take?

I hope the viewers are tuning in, and I hope this Cosmos is a huge success.  I for one, want more things like this on the air, and less dynasties that involve the instruments of fowl genocide.



“You Could Move.” Advice That Stands the Test of Time.

The ignorant bliss lived in by many bigots never ceases to amaze me.  Starting a comment with the words “I’m not racist, but…” has zero chance of fooling anyone other than the person speaking.  The same can be said for the classic “some of my best friends are <fill in the minority>.”  While most people who use either phrase do so because outright bigotry is no longer acceptable in modern society, I have run into some who honestly believe it.  Cognitive dissonance has taken hold, and they truly believe they are not racist/sexist/homophobic.  When called out for their bigotry, they will argue never-ending that they are innocent of the charge.  Many will even get offended of the accusation.  Take this letter to Dear Abby from today’s paper: (Italics are mine as always.)

Dear Abby: My husband and I relocated to Florida a little over a year ago and were quickly welcomed into our new neighbors’ social whirl. Two couples in the neighborhood are gay. While they are nice enough, my husband and I did not include them when it was our turn to host because we do not approve of their lifestyle choices. Since then, we have been excluded from neighborhood gatherings, and someone even suggested that we are bigots!

Abby, we moved here from a conservative community where people were pretty much the same. If people were “different,” they apparently kept it to themselves. While I understand the phrase “when in Rome,” I don’t feel we should have to compromise our values just to win the approval of our neighbors. But really, who is the true bigot here? Would you like to weigh in? — Unhappy In Tampa


And this is what I mean when I bring up cognitive dissonance.  This letter writer has not only cleared herself of any wrong doing in the incident, she has gone so far as to turn the situation around and suggest that the “true bigots” in this case are her new neighbors.  Really?

Her and her husband move into the neighborhood.  They are immediately welcomed with open arms into the neighborhood social circle.  When it comes time for them to host the gathering, they invite the entire social circle, except the two homosexual couples.  The reason for the exception is immediately obvious, not just to the two couples who have been excluded, but to everyone else in the neighborhood as well.  Sorry, you can not pretend it is a coincidence that you invite everyone but the homosexuals.  Then after they had shown their true feelings to the rest of the neighborhood, they get their feelings hurt when the other neighbors start excluding them from the social gatherings.

The writer makes the statement that she doesn’t feel that they should have to compromise their values to win the approval of their neighbors.  And she does have a point.  Her and her husband are not being forced to “compromise” their values.  They are free to live in their house and be just as homophobic as they so desire.  Of course, that viewpoint is not going to score her any points in this neighborhood.

How the fuck did she expect the other neighbors to react?  Her and her mate were welcomed into the social circle with open arms.  They attended neighborhood gatherings and knew that not only were two of the couples homosexual couples, but the homosexual couples were included in the neighborhood gatherings, probably because none of the other neighbors give two shits if they are homosexual or not.  When it came time for her and her husband to host a gathering, they had multiple options.  They could have said they weren’t comfortable hosting the gathering.  They could have invited everyone in the neighborhood and just dealt with it.  After all, they were already socializing with these evil homosexuals at other gatherings.  No one was asking them to get gay married.  Just to welcome them into their home.  The same courtesy shown to them by all of their neighbors.  Instead they decided to highlight their bigotry by hosting the gathering without the sinful homosexuals.

Honestly?  I would have loved to have been at this party, if just to see how they explained the absence of the two homosexual couples to the rest of their neighbors.  I mean, these are neighborhood gatherings.  I am sure it was noticed that they were not in attendance, and I am sure someone brought it up innocently.  “So, couldn’t Alan and Ted make it tonight?”  “Oh, I thought for sure Beth and Sue would be here tonight, they haven’t missed one of these in years.”  Did they lie?  Try to pretend that they were invited and just didn’t show up?  Something tells me, from the letter writers tone, that she was quite honest with the answer.  “Oh, we didn’t invite them.  We don’t want to get AIDS on our drapes, we just had them cleaned.  Also, we have a dog, and I didn’t want to have to keep an eye on her around those faggots all night.  You know how they will fuck anything.”

An exercise I suggest for the letter writer would be to rewrite her letter exactly except replace the word “gay” with any other minority and read it back to herself.  Such as:

Two couples in the neighborhood are gay black. While they are nice enough, my husband and I did not include them when it was our turn to host


Two couples in the neighborhood are gay Hispanic. While they are nice enough, my husband and I did not include them when it was our turn to host


Two couples in the neighborhood are gay interracial. While they are nice enough, my husband and I did not include them when it was our turn to host

Then she can ask herself the questions she asked Abby.  Perhaps she will even realize that if the only backlash her and her husband receive is being excluded from social events and “suggestions” that they may be bigots, she should consider herself lucky.  I personally would have called her a homophobic bigot to her face before leaving her gathering the instant I found out why the other couples were not there.  No suggestions needed.

Oh, Abby does respond, and calls the letter writer out for her bigotry.  You can read it at the above link.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t close to the previous Abby’s classic “You could move?” retort.  In fact, I think I will close up with that letter, for those of you who don’t know how ahead of her time the original Abby actually was:

Dear Abby:

About four months ago, the house across the street was sold to a “father and son”—or so we thought.

We later learned it was an older man about 50 and a young fellow about 24.

This was a respectable neighborhood before this “odd couple” moved in. They have all sorts of strange-looking company. Men who look like women, women who look like men, blacks, whites, Indians. Yesterday I even saw two nuns go in there! They must be running some sort of business, or a club. There are motorcycles, expensive sports cars and even bicycles parked in front and on the lawn. They keep their shades drawn so you can’t see what’s going on inside but they must be up to no good, or why the secrecy?

We called the police department and they asked if we wanted to press charges! they said unless the neighbors were breaking some law there was nothing they could do.

Abby, these weirdos are wrecking our property values! How can we improve the quality of this once-respectable neighborhood?

Up in Arms

Dear UP: You could move.



The Abortion Rate Falls Again, No Thanks to the Anti-Choice Movement

In what is good news for all, excepting those who make up the so-called “pro-life” movement, the nations abortion rate dropped significantly between 2008 and 2013, according to a new report the Guttmacher Institute released.  Let’s turn to our favorite advocate for women’s rights to health care, Amanda Marcotte over at RH Reality Check for the details:

Last Monday, the Guttmacher Institute released a new report showing the abortion rate dropped 13 percent between 2008 and 2011. This news was no big surprise to pro-choice activists and journalists, who have long argued that increasing social acceptance of contraception and generally relaxed attitudes about sex generally make it easier to prevent unintended pregnancy. But anti-choicers are unhappy about the abortion rate drop. (Which is again no surprise to pro-choicers, who know antis depend on the sense of a world in decline to fundraise, but may surprise most people who mistakenly believe anti-choicers care about fetal life.) In particular, they don’t like the researcher’s inference that better contraception use is the likely cause, because, say it with me now, the anti-choice movement is about punishing sex, not saving life. So the strategy is to deny that contraception has anything to do with it and instead take credit for shaming women out of abortion.

“Punishing sex, not saving life…”  Where have I heard that before?  No matter.

Charmaine Yoest of Americans United for Life, in particular, was all over the news media, trying to get credit for it, grumpily claiming that the Guttmacher report “fails to acknowledge the impact of pro-life legislation.” (She also insinuated elsewhere that abortion providers are just straight up lying and performing more abortions than they say.) Since the numbers can’t be attributable to the massive uptick in abortion restrictions—most of these went into effect after the end of the study period—the narrative has emerged that the increased lobbying by anti-choicers somehow alerted women previously unaware that some people disapprove of abortion to instead carry otherwise unwanted pregnancies to term. Catholic News Agency gathered a bunch of anti-choicers together to take credit for changing the “culture.” They quote Michael New attributing the shift to “changes in public opinion” on abortion. SBA List’s Marjorie Dannenfelser also tried to credit the rise in lobbying on the issue with, “our nation is indeed growing weary of the destruction wrought by legalized abortion on demand.”

Oh, fucking please.

Bluntly put, this is all just hand-waving nonsense. Public opinion on abortion has remained relatively stable since it was first legalized and the small bits of up-and-down movement don’t really correlate with actual abortion rates. More importantly, the argument only works if you ignore the fact that not having an abortion means you will have a baby. It’s not uncommon for anti-choicers to gloss over this fact, as bizarre as this is, but this case is particularly egregious. This is simple enough for a kindergartner to figure out: If the abortion rate was falling because women were choosing to have babies instead, the birth rate would go up right as the abortion rate went down. But the writer Adelaide Mena admits in the piece that the birth rate is going down too. What do they think is happening here? Women who want abortions but refuse them are thanked by God by making their pregnancies go away? Do they think we’re undergoing a sudden downturn in fertility? It’s kind of hard to parse, since they outright refuse to accept that contraceptive use is as universal as it really is.  Honestly, I think they just hope gullible readers overlook the discrepancy.

But no amount of hand-waving can fix this for the anti-choice movement. There is no real evidence that stigmatizing and shaming abortion stops women from having abortions. The most that it does is makes them feel really bad about it—which I have to imagine is a consolation prize for antis—and to drive it underground. Shame doesn’t stop women from having abortions, however. Women have abortions for financial and personal reasons, and these reasons are usually profound enough to overwhelm any pre-existing distaste for abortion pounded into your head by religious authorities and misogynist political movements. Abortion is a deeply personal decision. What politicians think about it, therefore, just doesn’t even register for most women who are faced with it.

Women do not decide not to have an abortion because you think abortion is a sin.  Sorry, they just don’t.

I would love to just continue quoting the whole article, but then you would have no reason to click over to RH Reality Check, give them some traffic, and perhaps seeing a few more articles you are interested.  Amanda’s closing however, I have to end with as well, although the bolding is mine:

The whole premise of the anti-choice movement is that getting pregnant should be the price you pay for having sex. It’s an entire ideological movement that mourns, as conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat grossly puts it, a society where “sex has been decoupled from marriage.” The abortion debate is really a stand-in for the unintended pregnancy debate. Anti-choicers see unintended pregnancy largely as a social good that forces some people to get married and punishes other people for the “sin” of having unsanctioned sex. It’s a form of social control, and conservatives love themselves some social control. Pro-choicers, on the other hand, view it through a human rights lens. We think women should be in control of pregnancy, not that pregnancy should be used to control women. Once you understand that, how it can be that anti-abortion people are discombobulated by a lower abortion rate and pro-choice people are excited about it makes perfect sense.

Oppressed Majority

Here is a French short film that reverses the roles of men and women.  It is worth 10 minutes of your time.  Thanks to RH Reality Check for highlighting it.


Sorry Sean, Young Earth Creationism IS a Religious Belief

After Bill “The Science Guy” Nye’s debate with Ken “The Bible is All the Science I Need” Ham, Sean McElwee wrote a piece for the Salon that, while also taking a cheap shot at so-called “New Atheists”,  made the claim that Young Earth Creationism is not a religious belief.

In a much-hyped event live-streamed last night, “Science Guy” Bill Nye set out to defend evolution in a debate with Ken Ham, the CEO of Kentucky’s Creation Museum. But there was a fundamental problem: Ham’s young-earth creationism is not a religious belief, and it certainly is not scientific. To put it bluntly, it is quackery.

While I have no argument with McElwee that YEC is quackery, claiming that it is not a religious belief is laughable.  I honestly do not even believe McElwee believes it, but it fits his pro-religion stance better if he can claim it is not a religious belief.

This is a common tactic of religious apologists.  Anything good and moral is due to religious beliefs, anything bad or immoral is due to either a persons base instincts or incorrect interpretations of religious doctrine.  Helping the homeless?  Religion.  Suicide bombings?  Incorrect interpretation.  Feeding the hungry?  Religion.  Hating homosexuals?  Misreadings of the Bible.  You can only follow this path so far.  You can argue that you can be a practicing Christian while accepting homosexuals as moral members of society.  You can not argue that Leviticus 20:13* is neutral on the issue.

I would challenge those with this opinion to produce a believer in YEC who does not believe for a religious reason, but in all actuality, it doesn’t matter if they can or not.  The only reason the vast majority of YEC’s believe in it is due to their religious beliefs.  Michael Luciano takes on McElwee’s argument, also at the Salon:

While creationism is certainly quackery, I take issue with the idea that it is not a religious belief. Creationism is a religious belief by definition. It is the idea that god created the universe and animals in their current form less than 10,000 years ago. This may not be McElwee’s belief, but it is certainly the belief of Ham and millions of other Christians. If McElwee truly believes that young earth creationism is not a religious belief, I challenge him to produce a scientist who rejects the creation account in Genesis, but is nonetheless a young earth creationist.


The accomodationist tendency to insist that manifestations of religion that they dislike aren’t actually religious in nature is both wrong and dangerous. Accomodationists want us to believe that religious people who are morally upstanding are that way because of their religion. Yet at the same time, they take great pains to explain that those religious people who do harm actually do so for reasons other than their faith, or because they fundamentally misinterpret the underpinnings of their religion.

The only thing being misinterpreted here is the essential nature of religion. Humans can be irrational enough without adding highly subjective doctrines and moral codes into the mix. As the physicist Steven Weinberg once said of religion, “With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”

You can’t religion when you like the result, and deny it when you don’t.  When you take religion, you have to take the condemnation of non-believers into the lake of fire along with the blessed are the meek’s.


*The text of Leviticus 20:13, NIV:

13 “‘If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.”


If Plan B is Unavailable, What is Plan C?

In discussions with anti-choice activists, one thing that never fails to shock and confuse me is their views of sexual education and contraception.  While abortion is the main target of their attacks, in recent years attacks on contraception has become more acceptable as well, perhaps fueled by the coverage mandates of the Affordable Care Act.  More than anything else, attacks on contraception, and education as well, expose the lie told by those on the anti-choice side: that they are fighting against abortion.

While some groups on the right try to paint Planned Parenthood and other abortion rights supporters as gleeful fetus eradicators, hell bent on insuring multiple abortions for every woman, the reality of the situation is that no one is a fan of abortion.  Sexual health workers and women’s rights activists both want a world where abortion is safe, legal, and exceedingly rare, and they try to bring this world about by concentrating on proven methods to reduce abortion.  To reduce abortion, you must reduce unwanted pregnancy.  To reduce unwanted pregnancy, you work to insure everyone has adequate sexual education as well as access to contraception.

For many on the anti-choice side, this is not an acceptable option, because for them it isn’t about abortion at all.  Abortion is nothing more than a divisive face they can put on the larger issue, which is the sexual immorality of women.  Sure, they want to stop abortion.  But they also want to stop women from having the ability to remove pregnancy from the list of consequences of premarital sexual relations.  If it was truly just about abortion, they would be right there with us, insisting on education and access to contraception.

In a perfect world, people would wait until adulthood to become sexually active.  They would use contraception when they did decide to become sexually active, and they would use it correctly.  As I am sure everyone realizes, this is not that world.  Teens, awash in a tsunami of hormones, have always had sex.  Access to contraception is not universal.  Teens who had the misfortune to receive an “abstinence only” education program, a policy supported by many on the so-called “pro-life” side, may believe that certain forms of contraception do not even work.

The law allows teenagers access to Plan B contraception in the event of unprotected sexual contact, a law fought against by many on the anti-abortion side.  But the law does not mandate the drug be stocked in pharmacies.  And in spite of the law, pharmacists, buoyed by anti-choice activists pressing religious belief exemptions, may feel it is their right to impose their morality on those they deem sinners.

Salon has a interesting piece on access to Plan B.  Give it a read.


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