July 17, 2019

Democratic Candidates: Big Structural Change or Incremental Change?


If you have been following U.S. politics lately, especially from the perspective of someone on the left, you have undoubtedly heard the theory that the Democrats should nominate a more moderate presidential candidate because such a candidate will have broader appeal to the whole electorate rather than just the more progressive segment of the electorate. This theory has some appeal. A centrist candidate ought to have a broader appeal than a far-left candidate. While the centrist candidate certainly did not work in 2016, that may have had more to do with the specific candidate. Unfortunately, this theory is difficult to evaluate. I'm not sure those pushing it are doing much more than speculating.

A recent poll found that 54% of Democratic primary voters preferred a candidate who "proposes larger scale policies that cost more and might be harder to pass into law, but could bring major change" vs. 41% who preferred a candidate who "proposes smaller scale policies that cost less and might be easier to pass into law, but will bring less change." This makes it sound like a more progressive candidate is likely to have greater appeal to Democratic primary voters than a centrist. This is not surprising, and it may indicate that the party will end up nominating one of the many progressive candidates. But even if it does suggest that, it doesn't tell us much about how such a candidate would do in a general election.

July 16, 2019

Religion in the Workplace: An American Problem?

conference room

Long before I started Atheist Revolution in 2005, I had my RSS reader set up to bring me posts from several excellent atheist blogs and websites, as well as many news sources related to atheism, church and state issues, etc. Sifting through this information every week provided me with a fairly broad perspective since I was careful to include several sources from outside the United States. It did not take me long to notice that people living outside the U.S. often expressed surprise that so many of us are frequently exposed to religion in the workplace. They had a hard time believing that such a thing could happen in an otherwise civilized country, and who could blame them?

My experiences are certainly skewed by living in one of the most religious and politically conservative states, but I do not seem to be alone in having frequent experiences with religion in the workplace. Besides, I encountered milder forms of this problem in two other regions of the country before moving to Mississippi. I have come to view the phenomenon of religion in the workplace mostly as a reflection of the fact that religion in general and Christianity, in particular, are an important part of public life in America. Far from being persecuted, Christians enjoy a great deal of privilege when it comes to their religion being regarded as the norm.

July 14, 2019

Mike Pence is a Real Christian


I am not particularly fond of Christian privilege. Given the choice, I'd like to see it disappear sooner than later. One implication of this stance is that I try not to do anything that might strengthen Christian privilege. This is why I'm not inclined to join in with those who love to seize on an example of Christian wrongdoing and use it to claim that the wrongdoer is a "fake Christian." I understand that these efforts aim to point out hypocrisy; however, I think they subtly feed Christian privilege by implying that a "real Christian" would not commit bad acts. I don't know about the rest of you, but that certainly hasn't been my experience with many Christians. I see little reason to promote the notion that Christians are morally superior to anyone else.

The recent outrage toward Vice President Mike Pence based on his demeanor while visiting Border Patrol facilities in Texas is not difficult to understand. Its scope and intensity made me wish that social media had been what it is today when Dick Cheney was having people tortured. As far as I'm concerned, Pence should be criticized, and I see little wrong with efforts to highlight the discrepancy between what he claims to believe and how he behaves. I just think that this probably could be accomplished without suggesting that Pence is not a "real Christian."

July 13, 2019

Atheists Dehumanizing Religious Groups on Twitter

a curious sheep

All the major social media platforms have been receiving increased scrutiny around their policies and the often selective manner in which they enforce them. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and others have been accused of unfairly penalizing conservatives. Getting to the bottom of these accusations can be challenging for many reasons. If a social media platform were to decide, for example, that they would immediately ban anyone who expressed anti-LGBTQ+ slurs, we'd have to expect that most of those getting banned would be social conservatives, religious fundamentalists, and the like. Even if the policy was enforced as described, its impact would disproportionately affect conservatives.

Twitter has been receiving quite a bit of attention for recently expanding their "hateful conduct policy" to include "content that intends to dehumanize, degrade, or reinforce negative or harmful stereotypes about a protected category." The part that has been drawing the most interests from atheists active on the platform is the following specific mention of religion:

We also prohibit the dehumanization of a group of people based on their religion.
This has led to a combination of serious and tongue-in-cheek concerns about how this could impact the ability of atheists to criticize religion on Twitter. The change is still too new for there to be much more than speculation; however, some believe that atheists are already being penalized.

July 12, 2019

Time Traveling for Jesus

pocket watch in the sand

When I was a child, I found the subject of time travel to be a fascinating one. If I had a time machine, what would I do with it? What points in time would I visit and why? I enjoyed TV shows and movies involving time travel, but one thing that always irked me was how so many of these mixed up time travel with other kinds of travel. If I had a time machine here in Mississippi and I used it to travel back to 1955, I'd be in Mississippi in 1955. That's a scary thought! It never made any sense that a time machine would take me to different points in time and to different physical locations at those points in time. Needless to say, the Bill & Ted films fell apart for this reason in spite of their positive message.

Unfortunately, it seems like much of the appeal of time travel involves this idea that we could not only travel through time but through space as well. The idea of being able to visit important historical events is appealing, but doing so would almost always require this combination of time and space. The alternative would be to have a portable time machine one would take to the right location and then use the machine to go back in time. Thus, if I wanted to see what my father was like at the age of 16, I'd have to travel to the correct city in California first and then use my time machine to go back in time.