September 20, 2018

Putting Priests on Pedestals Permits Perpetration

Protestant reformation church
I was raised in a mainstream Protestant denomination of Christianity, and I was required by my family to attend the church near our home between the ages of 9 and 17. My attendance at this particular church started about age 9 because that was when we moved to this location from another state. My attendance at this particular church finally ended at about age 17 because my family had finally tired of having to fight me every Sunday about how much I hated it.

For this post, I want to focus on the years between about 9 and 13 because this was before I was experiencing any significant doubts about gods or religious dogma. During this time, I was a believing Christian. I also want to focus on this time because it was a time when I was fairly impressionable, especially at the younger end of it. Whatever skeptical tendencies I had been developing had not yet been applied to religion.

September 18, 2018

Can #MeToo Derail Brett Kavanaugh's Lifetime Appointment?

Justice Clarence Thomas
By SCOTUS [Public domain], Wikimedia Commons
Now that Judge Brett Kavanaugh has been accused of sexually assaulting a woman when he was in high school and the accuser, Dr. Christine Blassey Ford has come forward publicly, it sounds like we are likely to hear from her in a public hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. It will be interesting to see if we have learned anything since the now infamous hearings in which Anita Hill was questioned about Clarence Thomas in 1991. I certainly hope we have.

I remember watching Hill's appearance before the Senate committee. I found Hill to be extremely credible, and I was embarrassed to see members of the Senate treat her like they did. They seemed to have contempt for her, but she struck me as incredibly brace. The allegations against Thomas did not seem like the sort of thing anybody would make up. Some of them were way too bizarre (remember the pubic hair on the Coke can?).

I found myself wondering what the hell was wrong with Thomas. In fact, I haven't stopped. There was no way he'd be confirmed, I thought. Boy, was I was naive! Not only was he confirmed, but public opinions about his confirmation shifted in a more favorable direction following Hill's testimony. It was almost as if the public liked what they heard about Thomas during those hearings.

Reason and the State of the Liberal Union

State of the Union, 2018As you know, we have three branches of federal government in the U.S. which are supposed to serve as checks and balances on one another. To the dismay of those of us on the political left, the Republican Party controls the presidency, Congress, and will soon control the Supreme Court (in the sense that it will soon be more conservative than it is now). I think it is becoming increasingly difficult for those on the left to keep claiming, "This is not who we are." It is who roughly half the country is, and far too few of the half insisting otherwise have been willing to vote. So here we are in a country that looks more politically conservative than some of us would like.

In the short term, it seems like the political left would be wise to focus on the 2018 midterm elections, especially the key House races. It seems possible that the Democratic Party could gain control of the House. And if they fail to do so, their prospects for mounting effective opposition to President Trump become even bleaker than they already are. As for the Senate, Democrats probably need to be more oriented toward losing as few seats as possible. Gaining ground there in 2018 seems unlikely; however, that could change for 2020 depending on what happens between now and then.

September 17, 2018

Educating the Public About Atheism

education letters
Atheists in the United States who are tired of being viewed as second-class citizens (or worse) can learn a great deal from other social movements that have helped to reduce bigotry and encourage equitable treatment. Civil rights, women's suffrage, and gay rights all have valuable lessons to offer, but it often seems to me that the LGBT community may have the most to teach us.

It seems fairly obvious that most of the worst bigotry faced by LGBT persons comes about thanks in large part to fundamentalist Christianity. The same can be said for anti-atheist bigotry. There's also the issue of visibility. Just as many Americans used to claim to have never known a homosexual person, many still claim to have never encountered an atheist. They may acknowledge the existence of atheists in some distant "blue state" but not in the part of "real America" they inhabit. And yet, we are there. Like many in the LGBT community, many of us try to conceal this part of our identity because we fear the consequences of revealing it.

September 15, 2018

Some Lifelong Catholics Thinking of Leaving the Church

Catholic church interior
Photo link
Amidst all the Catholic-related news, most of which has been pretty damn depressing, I thought I'd share a bit of good news from an unexpected source. Some will dismiss it as trivial or say that I am being overly optimistic, but I can't help thinking that what I am about to share is a good sign. It might even indicate that we could be on the verge of something big when it comes to the necessary demise of the Catholic Church.

My parents recently returned from a brief trip to a resort with 7 other couples, all of whom have known each other for more than 20 years. Most were neighbors or knew each other because they had kids in the same schools. Most have moved away but not too far away, or at least not too far away year-round. All retired long ago and are getting up there in years. I think it is cool that they are still able to get together no matter how much their paths have diverged in the last decade or so. Here's the interesting part: of the 8 couples, my parents were the only ones who are not Catholics.