January 18, 2021

Caught in the Grip of Two National Traumas

frozen tree

For many Americans, a long-running national trauma will finally come to an end with the inauguration of Joe Biden on January 20. To these Americans, the presidency of Donald Trump was a disaster that deserves to be characterized as a "national trauma" for many reasons. And while I suspect that most understand that the time for recovery and rebuilding will extend long past January 20, Biden's inauguration presents at least a symbolic ending of the trauma. They will be celebrating, and they deserve to do so.

We should also note that many other Americans are experience what some of them regard as a national trauma of a much shorter duration, one that began with what they perceive as a stolen election. While this group does not have the facts on their side, some of them likely feel every bit as traumatized as the first group. They are not going to feel like celebrating because their anticipated ordeal is just beginning. As humanists who might still remember 2016, I think it is important to resist the impulse to rub their faces in it.

January 15, 2021

The Social Media Dilemma: Boycott or Stay and Be Reasonable

boats frozen in the snow

Suppose there was a social media platform out there somewhere that you considered problematic for whatever reason. Maybe it is rife with conspiracy theories, creationism, racism, misogyny, opposing political viewpoints, Scientology, or whatever else you might find objectionable. Or maybe it is less about the user-created content found there and more about how the platform is run. Perhaps the owners routinely sell user information, manipulate content to inflame emotions, censor information based on religious objections, prohibit the individual you regard as the greatest president of your lifetime from using the service, etc. Should you refuse to share your content there so as not to contribute to the platform in any way, or should you share your content there because the sort of people on that site are even more in need of being exposed to rational voices than the rest of the population?

The argument for taking your content elsewhere seems compelling. By sharing it on this platform, you are contributing to it. The presence of your content could attract new users to the platform. Even if it doesn't, it is giving current users a reason to stay. If you genuinely dislike what is happening on the platform, it makes sense that you wouldn't want to contribute to it in any way. Instead, it seems reasonable that you'd go in search of an alternative or use this as an opportunity to scale back the time you spend on social media.

January 11, 2021

Christians Who Push In-Person Worship Do Not Value Human Life

COVID-19 church

You are "pro life," are you? Great! Can we assume this means you value human life and not merely the lives of potential children? Can we also assume this means you are taking the public health recommendations seriously and doing everything in your power to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus because you are appalled by how many people it has already killed? No? Then you no longer get to claim to be pro life and expect to be taken seriously. Instead of being taken seriously, your hypocrisy will be pointed out. Frankly, we've had about enough of it and can no longer ignore it now that it is endangering our lives.

Anyone willing to place their preferred superstition above human life is not pro life. In fact, I'm not sure that anyone willing to place their preferred superstition above human life shouldn't be considered morally deficient in some important ways. We need to be clear that this is exactly what is happening. Many Christians are continuing to gather together for in-person church services no matter what. This should make us angry because it is making a bad situation worse.

January 9, 2021

Is Twitter Partially Responsible for the Trump Insurrection?


Twitter has policies governing those who use their service. If a user violates these policies, their account may be suspended or even banned. Although their enforcement of these policies is implemented in a haphazard and frequently inconsistent manner, there is at least one thing we can say with great confidence: they have not been applied to Donald Trump. Trump has repeatedly violated Twitter's policies, tweeting things that would have resulted in almost anyone else being banned. Twitter has repeatedly responded to public pressure by claiming that they have allowed Trump to do what he does because his account is newsworthy and that they regard it as a public service of sorts. Now that Twitter has finally banned Trump's account, I can't help but wonder whether they deserve some of the blame for the recent Christian nationalist terrorism at the US. Capitol.

By giving Trump a pass to say whatever he wanted on their platform for the majority of his term, Twitter has been providing him with a platform to spread hatred, foment division, and even incite violence. It has been clear to many of us that this has had negative consequences. If Trump is now liable for doing this, how can Twitter not share some of the responsibility? If Trump is now at fault for what happened at the Capitol, doesn't Twitter deserve some portion of the blame?