The Lower Quote, As If You Didn't Know, Is By Richard Dawkins, Son.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Steve Tourloukis' "Confusion"

It has come to my attention that a dentist in Hamilton who promotes 'Christian values' in his family:
"...is currently suing his kids’ public school board for failing to warn him in advance about when, specifically, the school’s teachers would be discussing subjects like family values, marriage and sexuality in class."
He used a letter, known as the, "Traditional Values Letter", as his focal point. The letter was written by a guy named Phil Lees who heads the Family Coalition Party as well as the hilariously named PEACE (Public Education Advocates for Christian Equity), because as we all know, Christians are SO oppressed in this society. I mean, one yearns for the day when Christians can openly worship in buildings large enough for all the congregation to come together within, maybe even have their own school board in this secular society to promote their "values". It's sad how downtrodden these poor people have become. You can hardly even find someone willing to openly admit they're a Christian these days.

Oh, right, it's the opposite of that.

Tourloukis was quoted as saying:
“I’m not an extremist, but I must ensure that my children abstain from certain activities that may include lessons which promote views contrary to our faith...We know other denominations like Jehovah’s Witnesses and Muslims are excused for certain activities. Does our being Christian disqualify us from equitable treatment?”
In other words, "We see those OTHER homophobic, backwards, archaic, religious parents getting to pull their kids out of their classes when any sort of progressive ideas are being taught, so we should be able to keep our collective heads in the sands of the past as well! Waaaaahhhh!"

The letter itself is rather staggering in its cluelessness about how...how...12th century it sounds. For example, check this part out:
“We raise our children from a Biblical-Christian world view and exposing them to concepts and values that are in conflict with the values taught at church and home will lead to confusion"
Do you see what they're doing there? They're equating the word "confusion" with the word "discussion". It's not the same thing at all. When their kids at school are exposed to another child whose family might consist of two moms, that will lead to the first child asking a question at home about the situation. This will make the religious parent(s) have to explain their backwards, homophobic, nonsense to their child, corrupting them with the idea that the two-mom family is somehow "un-natural", "unacceptable", or "unhealthy". That, in turn, may lead to problems at school.

Apart from the homophobic ideas in the letter, there are also basic facts about health and the world around us that they would prefer if their children were ignorant about, thank you very much. For example, they would like it if they could take their kids out of class if/when the teacher starts:
Providing a false sense of security with regard to the effectiveness of condoms in preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases
Wow. What do you even say to that? It flies in the face of facts and is an attitude more in line with former South African presidents and health ministers. The word, "facepalm" comes to mind.

The letter repeats the former go-to quote of religious people trying to argue for their religion to be included in public schools:
"Secular Humanism, the value system often assumed by public institutions as acceptable to everyone, has been identified as a religion in the courts."
Weeeeellll, yes and no. What they are basing this assumption on is a ruling in the U.S. Supreme court from 1961 (Torcaso v Watson) wherein the judge made an after-note with respect to his decision which said:
Among the religions in this country which do not teach what would generally be considered a belief in the existence of God are Buddhism, Taoism, Ethical Culture, Secular Humanism, and others.
The letter that Tourloukis uses and that Lee wrote is referring to this quote, but they are either deceitful or ignorant because this is clearly referenced on many websites as being an obiter dictum, a legal term meaning, "said in passing" and holding no legal weight. Basically, this has no relevance on the ruling and is the judge's opinion.

The gist here is that, no, secular humanism is not a religion and as has been pointed out, being secular and being religious are antithetical. It would be like trying to be a slovenly neat-freak.

In a rational society, a statement such as the following would set off quote a few alarm bells, mostly because of its resemblance to what a cult would say. Replace "Biblical-Christian" below with "Jim Jones'" and see how scary it becomes:
As a family, we adhere to a set of values based on traditional Biblical-Christian principles. I/we believe that it is our responsibility, to teach these values to our children, and that the application of these values is important for achieving eternal life.
Get that? "Eternal life". I get that you might want to achieve this...I guess you can call it a "goal", but pulling your kids out of school because, "gay people are bad, evolution isn't real, condoms don't protect you, and our Sky Fairy made the Earth for us to use as we will", makes you crazy, and we can't have a public school system based on crazy.

I get that Steve Tourloukis wants his kids to be good people, and that the people from the Family Coalition Party and PEACE just want the best for their children, but keeping young people from hearing ideas contrary to their upbringing and having discussions is how we advance as a species. It's how we move forward and get our next generation to do better than we did at coming together and making this a great place to live (both our country and the world as a whole). Don't be afraid to talk about ideas, people.

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Friday, September 07, 2012

Feminism, Harassment, Conferences, and Assholes on the Internet

Yeah, I know, I never write anymore. Life and all that.

Recently there have been quite a few articles, twitter posts, and blogs about harassment in the atheist/skeptic community either at conferences, on the web, or in real life. It is depressing to see thoughtful, intelligent women leave the online communities they are so integral to (or created outright) because of ignorant, incessant, and cowardly bullying. It is also, sadly, not surprising that the women and men who stand up to these (mostly anonymous) bullies just end up with tens, hundreds, or in some cases thousands of letters and comments making threats and insinuating violence against them.

In real life, hearing about ordeals like this one or this one made me feel like I had to write a quick post to say:

What the fuck is wrong with you guys?

I realize you want to have sex with these women - why else would you start talking to her on the bus? You sure as fuck wouldn't ask *me* what *I'm* reading, even if you didn't see my wedding ring. And really, pulling your dick out in a bar and forcing the girl you want to have sex with to touch it? How many times has that actually worked? Has that EVER worked? I mean, on women you didn't pay to fuck you.

When I was in university we had a guy who hung with us whose pick-up methods were, shall we say, questionable at best. He would essentially ask women directly if they would come back to his place to fuck. His argument was that it saved everyone time; those who weren't interested would tell him to get lost or just walk away, and the very small percentage who said yes, well, he just saved a few hours of dancing and small talk.

At the time I remember thinking that he was a nice guy but I certainly wouldn't want him dating any of my close female friends (I have no sisters...or brothers for that matter). This was the extent of the scummery we dealt with. It seems that now, however, threats of rape and violence are rampant within the anonymous haven of the internet, and at conferences - none of which I have attended yet - there are policies being loudly proclaimed to keep the women safe and the clueless dummies from waving their dicks around like semaphores (or biting women's legs).

I get that in bars, alcohol gets involved and people's boundary identification systems perhaps get a titch off kilter. I have been in a bar before and had a woman in front of me turn around, look at me, then grab my crotch. It was awkward and I put an end to the situation quickly, but this is vastly different from what most women have to endure in a similar encounter.

Reversed, the man is usually larger, stronger, and physically intimidating. In the horrible stories linked above, one woman sat on the bus unable to do anything to stop the terrific abuse being hurled at her while the other was forced to touch the penis of some perveted asshat even though YOU SHOULD NEVER PULL YOUR DICK OUT IN A BAR AND FORCE A STRANGE WOMAN'S HAND ON IT.

That's really one of those things like, "Do Not Use Hair Dryer In Shower"; it's something you never thought you'd need to point out, but here we are, standing in the shower with a bunch of fucking morons and their hair dryers. And somehow, we're getting yelled at and threatened for telling the fucking morons to either get out of the shower or let go of the electronics.

The admittedly vague and circuitous point of this post is to say that I am firmly in the corner of the atheism plus crowd, the inclusive crowd, the humanist/rationalist/skeptic crowd who loves women and treats them as equals on all fronts.

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