1.15.2022

Prevention is Key to Improving Resistance to Harmful Big Lies

Trump pop art

The mainstream news media in the United States have been calling it the "big lie." That seems like an apt description for the blatantly false claim that Donald Trump won the 2020 presidential election; he didn't. The election wasn't stolen. He lost. In some ways, simply characterizing this as a lie doesn't seem to go far enough. It isn't just false; it is harmful. It has already inspired violence. Thus, this isn't a question of assessing potential harm since we have seen actual harm. In that way, I suppose the "big lie" has something in common with religion. Maybe it has more in common with religion than some would like to admit.

1.12.2022

Secular Activists Cannot Allow Religious Parents to Steer Public Schools

children learning in school

Parents ought to have a voice in the education of their children. After all, parents are (or at least ought to be) sufficiently invested in their children as to care about what they are learning in school. And yet, having a voice does not mean being the sole or even a primary decision-maker, especially if we are talking about public education. In the context of public education, I believe the that educators (i.e., the teachers hired by the school) should be the primary decision-makers. They should listen to the parents and take the parents' wishes into consideration, but the decision of what to teach and how to teach it should ultimately be theirs. After all, public education is not about catering to parents, some of whom are dangerously misinformed, but about preparing all children to function as contributing members of our society.

I think this is a controversial position for at least two reasons. First, many people do not seem to understand that the mission of public education is to serve the public good and not anyone's individual interests. Many parents do understand this, but those who do not tend to cause significant problems. Second, far too many religious parents view education as a threat to their desire to indoctrinate their children into their preferred religion or to maintain control over whatever religious beliefs might afflict their children. Because of this second reason, it seems to me that public education is one of the primary domains where secularism and secular activism are needed. It is not just the future of these children we need to worry about; it is how they will impact the rest of us.

1.10.2022

Where We Might Be Today If Trump Had Approached the Pandemic Differently

signposts

I recently found myself thinking about what a different place we might be in today if Donald Trump had taken a different approach to the COVID-19 pandemic in two key areas that would have still been consistent with his public persona. First, suppose he had embraced face masks from the very beginning, urging his supporters to wear pro-Trump face masks as a way of protecting their communities while sticking it to the liberals. Second and far more important, suppose he had not only promoted vaccination but had done everything in his power to take credit for the fact that we had vaccines in the first place. Neither of these departures strike me as being inconsistent with who he seems to be, and I suspect that they would have made a real difference in the number of COVID-19 deaths we have experienced in the United States so far.

1.08.2022

Stop Claiming Your Religion Makes You a Better Person and Show Us

magic floating Jesus

"I'm a Christian, and I believe..." I'm willing to listen to this sort of thing from time-to-time, but I'd like to make a suggestion. Instead of (repeatedly) telling us what you believe, show us what you believe by living it. I know you want me to believe that your religion has made you a better person. I am open to the possibility that it has, but I'd like to see it in action. Setting aside the possibility that you might be a good person with or without your religion, show me through your actions that you are a good person and that your religion has contributed to this. If you are right about what your religion can do, this should be fairly easy.

When I was growing up, I had a close friend from a Mormon family. We didn't talk much about religion since that sort of thing was discouraged in the part of the U.S. where we lived, but some of what he told me about his religious beliefs sounded quite strange. One thing I could say for him and his entire family was that they almost always seemed happy and like they got along extremely well. He attributed this to his religion, and I didn't argue the point. If that was true, they were a damn good advertisement for their religion. They didn't have much interest in broadcasting it to others; they just lived it. I can't claim all the Mormons I've encountered were like this, but I will admit that I grew up with much more positive attitudes about that religion than I might have otherwise.