Monthly Archives: December 2013
According to a CNN, a survey of the nation’s teachers indicates that “nearly three-fourths of the nation’s teachers say they personally would not bring a firearm to their school if allowed, but most educators believe armed guards would improve campus safety.”
If we truly want to keep our children safer while they’re at school, metal detectors and armed security personnel are not the panacea. Our country needs to pull it’s paranoid head out of it’s red, white and blue ass and prove that lives are more important than guns. We wouldn’t need to look to the government for gun reform if people who own guns would treat that “right” as a serious responsibility. It isn’t up to the schools or the government to raise children who are less likely to become violent. It’s up to parents and guardians to show kids what being responsible and respectful mean. Empathy and compassion are learned at home, not in our Lord of the Flies school system.
Our society is failing to address the underlying causes of gun violence — ignorance, poverty, and inadequate mental health care. Forget the Christian Right and their bullshit family values. Stop listening to the inflammatory rhetoric of the fearmongers. We are losing the sense of trust and community that a society needs to flourish.
A better future is something we should all be working toward together if for no other reason than a united and sincere desire to be decent human beings.
I’ve been wading around in the online atheist community via Twitter for a little while now and it’s been fascinating. There are times when I feel like an outsider, even an interloper, but it’s a social venue that allows me opportunities to interact with people from the U.S. and around the world like an amateur sociologist. As such, I’ve found that the atheist “community” is comprised of factions which don’t seem to agree on anything much but the most basic definition of atheism.
While I may be a new arrival to this burgeoning movement, I’ve been an atheist since before some members of this seemingly fractious group were even born. I’ve always been a self-supporting atheist and never felt the need to seek out other atheists — fortunately for me since back then social media consisted of telephones and letters, bulletin board notices and newsletters. When the first chat rooms came along they seemed to exist for the sole purpose of entertaining computer geeks and people who didn’t want to pay exorbitant charges for the sex hotlines. Today, I have access to a new world filled to overflowing with a plethora of opinions and ideas, questions and debates, and shades of atheism I didn’t know existed. I’m learning about atheists and agnostics, secular humanists, activists and dabblers, represented by multiple groups and organizations, books, podcasts, blogs and magazines — each trying to further the understanding and acceptance of secular interests, but each with a more narrow focus.
Within our vast social organism, various cultures, subcultures, and countercultures flourish and often clash — particularly online. Everything from the most innocuous and absurd skirmishes between Xbox One and PS4 devotees, to vegetarians and vegans lashing out at meat-eaters wearing leather shoes, to New Atheist and AtheistPlus zealots verbally eviscerating one another. Which brings me to a frustrating issue: non-theists sniping at one another.
Martin Pribble, an atheist blogger based in Australia, recently made a post titled Leaving the Tribe: Why I’m no longer part of the online atheism community, in which he explained that he now considers himself a “methodological humanist” rather than an atheist. He wants to focus his attention on ways we can improve the world, irrespective of religion or atheism.
He also points out that many of the current methods of debating theism are likely to be counterproductive. (I have to agree. I’ve seen fundamentalist Christians (and others) and “vocal” atheists often interact on the childish level of, “Oh yeah? If evolution is real why are there still monkeys?” vs “Oh yeah? Talking snakes are stupid!” The response to both being, “You’re an ignorant bigot.”) In his brief article Pribble says, “An argument can be much more convincing if it gives context and information instead of just derision.” This simple observation of fact, based on common sense and basic debating skills, has disconcerted some atheists in the online community in which “the best defense is a good offense” appears to be a popular game plan.
I only read two rebuttals of Pribble’s article and both were openly derisive. The first from Hemant Mehta, Friendly Atheist, who tempered his commentary with some civility even if he couldn’t completely stifle his inner snark:
Were any of those people convinced to give up their faith because atheists relentlessly called them “stupid” for clinging to beliefs they’d probably had since childhood? Probably not. In my experience, people are more likely to adjust their world views when they’re treated as intelligent — albeit misinformed — human beings. Of course there are fundamentalists who can’t be reached by any amount of factual evidence, regardless of the calm, rational manner by which the facts are presented, but does that mean we shouldn’t bother to try?
The other rebuttal, written by a guy named Tony, apparently during an apoplectic fit brought on by self-induced umbrage. Here’s a breakdown, paraphrased for the sake of brevity. [Bold, bracketed comments are my own interjections.]
Tony goes on to call Martin’s post a diatribe (I’m not sure he sees the irony in that), accusing him of being a disingenuous, self-serving, self-important/egotistical online atheist. Offering a petty “good riddance” to someone whom he feels belongs “on the sidelines” for having the audacity of sharing his “wishy-washy” opinions.
By that reasoning, calling out a believer for being inflexible and stupid is justified, but quietly suggesting that atheists — and those they hope to influence — might benefit from tempering their arguments is an affront? If I want that sort of fundamental bullshit, I’ll go back to church. Imagine what the world would be like today if Gandhi had behaved like a petulant, self-righteous prick rather than taking the high road.
By now everyone has heard of Ethan Couch, a fatuous, drunk 16-year-old young man who recklessly destroyed the lives of five people and their families.
Outside of Texas this horribly common tragedy would have gone largely unnoticed if it weren’t for the driver’s inexplicably lenient “punishment” for causing the death of four pedestrians and the permanent paralyzation of a passenger who was riding in the bed of the truck: rehab and 10 years probation rather than the 20 years in prison for aggravated vehicular manslaughter.
According to Daily Mail:
The public outrage however isn’t directed at the perpetrator, the person behind the wheel who chose to drink and drive. The anger is aimed at the judicial system which blatantly excused the egregious crime.
Psychologist Dr Gary Miller was brought in for the trial – an “expert” whose testimony Ethan’s parents had the financial resources to secure for their son’s defense. Dr Miller boldly held Ethan’s parents accountable for their child’s unfortunate behavior saying, “The teen never learned to say that you’re sorry if you hurt someone. If you hurt someone, you sent him money.” Obviously this wasn’t the first time Ethan hurt someone, and most definitely not the first (or last) time his parents paid for his privilege. Miller invented a clever and extremely offensive diagnosis which neatly summed up why Ethan should not be held accountable for his unfortunate actions – affluenza.
As offensive as the idea that being a spoiled brat can extenuate a crime, even more appalling is the abject malfeasance of Texas District Judge Jean Boyd who accepted “affluenza” as a justifiable excuse to send the kid to rehab rather than prison.
After a firm finger wag like that, Ethan will most certainly mend his ways.
Ethan’s parents are unquestionably terrible parents and are largely to blame for their son’s criminal lack of empathy, personal responsibility and remorse. If Ethan’s naughtiness is their fault, why aren’t they being sent to prison for creating such a child? Or perhaps society itself is to be blamed as we are complicit with a judicial system that often and blatantly proffers preferential treatment to the white and wealthy.
The point is moot. A person who deserved to be confined for the safety of others has simply learned that money buys freedom. The parents who raised a son to believe that he isn’t responsible for his actions have proven that it’s true. Individuals and families who suffer at the greasy, entitled hands of the wealthy will continue to suffer.
One can only hope that, when Ethan gets behind the wheel of the new truck his wealthy parents will surely give him, he kills only himself.