7.24.2021

Free Expression is For Atheists Too And Should Not Be Limited By Religious Privilege

mic on a stand

One of the many important things about the right to free expression is that it is supposed to apply to all of us and not just to some people. That is part of what it means when we refer to it as "a right." It is supposed to apply to atheists as well as religious believers, for example. It is also worth noting that just because we have the right to free expression does not mean that anyone must listen to us. The evangelical Christian standing on the busy street corner aggressively proelytizing at passersby may have the right to do so. This does not mean you must listen. You can opt to ignore him and go on your way. It also doesn't mean that you could not instead decide to stand your ground and engage in some free speech of your own.

When one of the many evangelical fundamentalist Christians living in Mississippi bangs on my front door and tries to talk to me about Jesus, I am under no obligation to listen. I can shake my head in disgust and shut the door if I want to. Alternatively, I can speak my mind. After all, this person has just interrupted me for an extremely stupid reason and is currently standing on my property. I can point and laugh if the mood strikes me. Or if I would prefer, I can explain that I do not believe in gods and that I find the notion of someone peddling this sort of nonsense to be objectionable.

7.22.2021

What is Secular Humanism and How Does it Differ From Atheism?

portrait of woman

Secular humanism is much broader than atheism and entails many things that atheism does not. This is easy to understand if you remember that atheism refers to nothing more than the lack of belief in any sort of gods. Some people do not like to hear this and disparage what I just said as "dictionary atheism." I find this unfortunate since communication is impaired when we forget that words have meaning. We don't need to expand atheism to include everything secular humanism includes, and we don't need to demand that all atheists become secular humanists. It is okay for them to co-exist as having distinct meanings. Unlike atheism, secular humanism takes us much closer to something resembling a worldview. So what is secular humanism?

7.21.2021

Denial of Scientifically Based Medicine Poses Danger to Public Health

vaccination

Until relatively recently, countless Americans had the experience of looking at members of fringe religious groups who refused life-saving medical care in favor of prayer and other superstitious healing rituals and shaking their heads in disbelief or disgust. Reactions like these were by no means limited to atheists; they were shared by plenty of mainstream Christians. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed this phenomenon in at least one important way: the denial of scientifically based medicine is no longer restricted to the fringes or solely linked to religious belief. I suspect that it now has far more to do with which of the two main political parties one supports and where one gets one's news.

While I realize that relatively few Americans seem to be interested in how people living in other parts of the world perceive us, it is clear that our failure to take COVID-19 seriously is a source of puzzlement. Understandably, some have been asking, "What the F--k Is the Matter With These People?" It is a good question and not one that is easy to answer. In a word, I'd say that one important part of the answer is propaganda. It cannot be a coincidence that the portion of our population that gets its news from Fox News has very different attitudes toward vaccination than those who do not. Our vaccination numbers are wildly different between political parties, and they reflect what one would expect given that one party has long embraced hostility to science.

7.19.2021

Weaponized Outrage Can Undermine Valuable Activism

outrage eye

I'm not sure what to call it when one political faction strategically uses another faction's propensity to outrage against them. I feel like this needs a label of some sort so we can talk about it, and that's why I'm going with "weaponized outrage" until someone thinks of something better.

One of the better examples of weaponized outrage I can recall from the last few years was the whole arming teachers nonsense. Faced with the prospect of proposals to restrict access to firearms beginning to gain ground, Republicans floated the idea of arming school teachers. Most of those doing so were clear that they were not referring to all teachers and that none would be required to carry weapons. It didn't matter. Twitter and Facebook exploded with outraged liberals blathering on about how all teachers would soon be required to carry guns. Before long, the outrage drowned out much of the attention the gun control proposals had been receiving. If this was a deliberate tactic to use the left's outrage against them to undermine gun control efforts, it seemed to be quite effective.