June 28, 2017

Embracing Christian Extremism to Fight Islamic Extremism

Stop Terrorism

I don't think that the optimal strategy for dealing with the threat posed by Islamic extremism (i.e., Islamism and jihadism) is to double-down on Christian extremism and establish a Christian theocracy. Secularism strikes me as a far more desirable solution than attempting to replace one form of religious extremism with another. I suppose I might be wrong. Perhaps there is some reason I'm not thinking of as to why Christian extremism is a more effective approach, but I seriously doubt it. And even if Christian extremism was somehow successful in defeating Islamic extremism, then we atheists would still be left with Christian extremism. It seems like less religious extremism of all varieties would be preferable.

June 26, 2017

Republican Health Care: Is This the Best We Can Do?

However close we might have come to having a real debate over health care in the U.S., it seems that it may soon be over. In yet another reminder that elections have consequences no matter how poor voter turnout may be, the Republican side of the debate has all but won. The question about whether access to quality health care is a right for all Americans or a luxury reserved for those few who can afford it appears to have been answered (i.e., health care is a privilege). And in all fairness to the Republicans currently occupying Congress, I suspect that this decision was made prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act when Democrats turned their backs on single payer and embraced the insurance industry instead.

I think it is at times like these - when we are facing the prospect of several million Americans losing health insurance followed by deep cuts to Medicaid - that we need to reflect on the sort of nation we want to be. It sounds like we would much rather expand our military and resume investing in our nuclear arsenal than prevent our fellow citizens from descending into poverty due to an illness. And rather than investing in public education or working to resolve a vast array of social ills, we'd prefer to expand our prison system.

June 25, 2017

Rituals I Miss

Lord's cup and Bread
By John Snyder [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
I haven't smoked a cigarette in over 20 years. Every once in awhile, I suddenly experience a craving to do so. This always surprises me because there is very little I miss about smoking.

I don't miss the taste or how it made my clothes smell. I don't miss the expense of buying cigarettes or the stigma associated with smoking, something I imagine must be far worse today than it was back then. I certainly don't miss feeling short-of-breath or having occasional coughing fits when exercising. And since I never smoked frequently enough to become physiologically dependent on nicotine, it seems puzzling. But of course, there really is no puzzle here. I know what I miss; I miss the ritual.

I miss opening a new pack of cigarettes. I miss going outside, even in the crappy weather, to smoke. I miss holding the cigarette. I miss carrying a lighter. In fact, I miss practically everything having to do with a lighter (i.e., carrying it, using it, refilling it, playing with it). I miss this so much that I recently considered buying a Zippo even though I realized I had absolutely no use for it. The self-control did eventually kick in and prevent the purchase, but it was a close call.

June 22, 2017

Dismissing Calls for Civility as Privilege

Be Courteous Share the RoadThere have been quite a few articles like this one from The Clarion-Ledger appearing across various media outlets lately. I've seen several over the past couple weeks. It seems that even Ted Nugent got in on the action. Of course, it isn't like these public appeals for civility are anything new. I recall seeing an even more impressive flurry of them back in 2009 when Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) shouted "You lie" during a speech President Obama was giving to Congress. Little did we know at the time that those days might soon be remembered fondly for their civility compared to the times in which we now live.

I tend to agree with most of these calls for civility. I can usually appreciate where their authors are coming from (though not so much in Nugent's case). I typically find myself thinking that those who write such articles have a valid point. I too would like to see more civility. I'd like to see people treat one another better. And of course, I'd like to see far more reason and far less tribalism.

But these sentiments are not what this post is about. Instead, I'd like to comment on one of the more common objections I've heard to the calls for civility: that calls for courtesy or civility are primarily a way for those with "privilege" to maintain it. Evidently, only those with privilege can concern themselves with such things. Those without privilege have no such luxury. In essence, the claim is that appeals to civility are vehicles of oppression.

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