Skeptimus Prime » LBGT One atheist's thoughts on politics, religion, and philsophy Wed, 22 Apr 2015 06:30:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Herman Cain claims homosexuals are possessed. Tue, 14 Apr 2015 16:02:31 +0000 Continue reading ]]> After Obama’s recent statements against Gay reparative therapy Herman Cain saw an opportunity to attack the former and defend the latter, and in doing so appeals to the notion that gay people have homosexual urges because they are possessed by demons.

If Obama has his way, a deliverance minister trying to free people from evil spirits would be forbidden by law from doing so. A person in a state of demonic oppression could not be helped because the official position of the United States government is that this state of demonic oppression is a good way to be, and no one should try to change it.

I don’t think Obama understands it this way. I don’t think he believes in any spiritual world whatsoever, nor do the people who will portray a commentary like this as odd, weird, crazy, etc. When you’re not intelligent or curious enough to understand something, you mock the whole idea of it. Any who supports a bill like this is saying that families who want help for a person oppressed by homosexuality should not be allowed to seek it.

Notice he suggests that people who don’t believe in demonic possession are stupid and incurious about how the world works, not exactly a charitable way to view your opponents, but what is really bizarre about this line of thinking is that human history is filled people who believed in demonic possession, and by and large is was intelligent and curious people, many of whom identified as Christian, who dispelled the notion that disease and mental illness were caused by demons, not that homosexuality would reasonably qualify as either of those.

Also, while I’m not a legal expert, I’m pretty sure claims of demonic possession fall under the legal definition of spectral evidence, and thus cannot be taken into consideration by our courts or elected officials. How was this guy ever a contender for president?

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Kentucky Governor wants us to know that Democrats can make terrible arguments against gay rights too. Fri, 03 Apr 2015 18:17:55 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration filed an amicus brief with the supreme court on March 27th arguing the state’s ban on same-sex marriage isn’t discriminatory because it applies to straight people, too.

The brief has this to say:

Kentucky’s marriage laws treat homosexuals and heterosexuals the same and are facially neutral. Men and women, whether heterosexual or homosexual, are free to marry persons of the opposite sex under Kentucky law, and men and women, whether heterosexual or homosexual, cannot marry persons of the same sex under Kentucky law.

He makes the argument using a curious interpretation of the 14th amendment’s equal protection clause, arguing that since the ban applies to everyone equally it’s not a violation of the said clause.

If Christians opposed to gay marriage, like Beshear, want to understand the problem with this argument I’d suggest that they imagine a scenario in which the federal government has made attending Christian churches illegal. They would protest that they have freedom of religion, but the government points out that the law is applied equally, after all it’s not just Christians who are prevented from attending Christian churches, the law applies to everyone equally, and you everyone is free to attend a Muslim mosque or church of scientology so there is no violation of the 14th amendment.

How well do you think this argument would go over with those opposed to gay marriage? Not very well I suspect. The reason should be obvious, while equal application of the law is necessary to guarantee equality, it is not sufficient on it’s own to guarantee it. The thing is they should already know this, if they really thought equal application of the law was sufficient for equality they wouldn’t have fought the ACA’s contraception mandate. Yet this terrible legal argument keeps showing up from people who ought to know better.

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Video games, Atheists and insults… Fri, 06 Sep 2013 01:56:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]> I’ve been playing the rerelease of Final Fantasy XIV since it came out, which explains why I haven’t been blogging lately. There are a lot of things I enjoy about playing MMO’s, not the least of which is the personal interactions. There is something I find interesting about joining a group of people from around the world that I may have never met and working together to to accomplish a goal, even if the goal is imaginary.

However, I often find myself in a love/hate relationship with the social aspects of MMO’s, as I happened to find myself last night. I was in a party I joined through “duty finder,” which is a queue system for the dungeons in the game. Since the dungeons cannot be completed by yourself the queue will put random players looking to complete the same dungeon in a party together. You can meet some cool people this way, but you can also meet some not so cool people as I did last night.

Within ten minutes one of the players made a mistake which made another person in the group angry. What followed was 20 minutes of listening to the two people complain and name call, including homophobic slurs like “faggot.” I kept my mouth shut and just finished the dungeon. Perhaps I should have said something, but I usually find that asking people to not use such language causes them to simply start going after me under the false assumption that I’m thin skinned. I also know I only have to listen to them for a bit and then they are gone for good. Of course, it disappoints me when I see gamers behave this way. As a large group of nerds we have plenty of reasons to be more sensitive to the other humans hanging out on this tiny ball in space we call earth, so it disappoints me when I see people fail badly at it.

Now, as much as it disappoints me when my fellow gamers behave like this, it disappoints me even more when fellow atheists do so. As with gamers we are a group of people who ought to recognize the need for respect but often do not. Take this recent story in which a bakery who refused to bake a cake for a gay wedding is now closing down as an example.

Now, let me be clear about a few things. I am not on the side of the bakery in regards to their choice not to serve their customers. They were running a secular business and thus are subject to civil discrimination laws. Nor do I accept the owners argument that they were not discriminating.

It’s definitely not discrimination at all. We don’t have anything against lesbians or homosexuals, It has to do with our morals and beliefs.

This argument doesn’t work because discrimination is an act not a belief. I accept that their religious beliefs were the cause of the refusal to serve these homosexual customers, but it doesn’t change the fact that they refused to serve them because they were gay. This is pretty much the dictionary definition of discrimination. You can argue that companies should be allowed to discriminate if you wish, but don’t pretend it isn’t discrimination.

I am also not particularly sad that they are closing down. Ideally this is how capitalism works. If your company does something that makes people not want to shop there then you go out of business. It’s tough luck for you that you are on the wrong side of history and you went out of business because of it.

However, there is a part of this story that I do have a problem with. Due to this story the owners have reported receiving abusive/threatening communication from fellow atheists and supporters of LBGT rights. Including, according to the Blaze, threats that they be raped, and shot.

One quote from an email they received:

You stupid bible-thumping, hypocritical bitch.  I hope your kids get really, really, sick and you go out of business

Such behavior should be unacceptable, these people, despite their discriminatory attitudes, are still human beings, and their children are innocent of any wrong doing in this so they should not be a target in any of this. We really ought to aim to be better people than this and to treat people with more respect.

This certainly isn’t to say the other side does any better, the article on the blaze about this story is full of comments declaring that anyone who thinks the bakery should have served the lesbian couple are secretly communists who want to turn America into a fascist police state, while simultaneously failing to notice their behavior is no better than those they are criticizing. However, our opponents irrational behavior should not be treated as an excuse to behave irrationally ourselves.

Whether you are playing a video game or trying to enact social change we should at least start the conversation with the assumption that people can be reasoned with. We certainly do not know these owners well enough to conclude that they are beyond reasoning with about these issues. We might be able to reason them out of the prejudices, however, insults and rape threats are most certainly not going to change their minds.

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Street preacher beat during Seattle gay pride event. Fri, 02 Aug 2013 23:08:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]>  

This happened, if you remember, early last month. I meant to write something about it there but got caught up in other things so I’m writing something about it now. One of the reasons I’ve been slow to write something is that it’s rather hard to find details about this story. Even now, nearly a month after the story broke, I’ve had trouble finding news about the story from an unbiased source. Most of the information from the story comes from ideologically biased Christian sources who view the event as more proof that Christians are being persecuted and LGBT activists are evil violent people. Just look at some of the comments on the fox news article to see this in action. Though to be fair there have been some more balanced views of the issue like the post from Christ and Pop Culture.

First let me say that violence is wrong. These people didn’t deserve to be beaten. Though there behavior was crass, unnecessary and they should have known that that their presence would likely cause negative reactions from the crowd, they should not have been attacked.  Unless someone is behaving violently first we have no right to become violent ourselves, A.K.A. self defense. Of course it’s possible the preachers were doing something to drive the altercation before the recording started, but from what I can gather from the story this seems to not be the case. So we do our movements no service when engaging in this sort of behavior unprovoked.

However, as I mentioned, Christians who oppose LGBT rights have been claiming that this as an example of how Christians are being persecuted and that the liberal LGBT movement is more intolerant than the Christian right which they decry for being intolerant. These people are wrong on multiple counts. First it should be noted that there is a highly unreported fact in this story. The main instigator of the violence against these preachers has been arrested 29 times since 1995, and has been convicted at least once for domestic violence, as reported here. Further, if you watch the whole video you see several other attendees try to separate this man from the preachers several times before violence ensued, because most of the people in the LBGT movement decry violence as much as anyone and could see that the man needed to cool off. Several other people got up in the preachers face and were rude and even tried to take away his sign but never touched him. However, even the man who eventually ended up punching the preacher actually advised a large crowd of people to disperse moments before the violence started by letting people know that police were coming. I can only assume that someone from the pride parade had called to complain about the presence of the preachers. The man who would eventually start punching the preacher actually started walking off with a few others.

What actually sets off the altercation is another man running up and trying to grab the sign away from the preacher. I imagine that he probably thought by running up suddenly without warning he would catch the preacher by surprise and run off with the sign. Unfortunately the preacher is about a foot taller and doesn’t let go. What resulted was a several seconds of tug of war between the two people while other people from both sides attempted to join in. After several seconds both of the men, as well as some others involved, fell to the ground, and the preacher ended up on top of the other man. This caused the man who had been leaving to run back over to help, seeing the preacher on top of another man and likely being already angry he probably assumed the preacher was attacking the man, and began to punch the preacher from behind. Of course, it’s hard to tell from the video if the preacher was actually punching the man underneath him, seconds after the altercation ended the man who was on the ground did intimate that he had been punched at least once by the preacher.  It is also important that many of the other LGBT supporters there acted quickly to separate those who were fighting and and handed the broken signs back to the preachers after separating them.

It seems clear here that for Christians to complain about persecution or the horrible behavior of LGBT people is simply nonsense. The Christians held up signs intentionally designed to aggravate LGBT people at a gay pride parade, and unsurprisingly tempers between both groups flared until they hit a boiling point. It seems more like this is just a general example of how mob mentalities can cause anyone to do things they might not normally do. It doesn’t seem that any of the activists there set out to start a fight, a few of them just made a series of unwise choices that exacerbated a tense situation until violence happened. It’s not the first time humans have done this and it unfortunately wont’ be the last.

I would also argue that Christians who seem to think of this as an example of how they now face the same kind of persecution, for their religion, that gay people face, for their sexual orientation, is simply false equivalence.  Gay people have faced decades of violent acts in this country from people with very similar messages to the one the preachers had, and many of these acts ended with much worse results than the preachers got. In fact hundreds of gay people have been straight up murdered by people who have imbibed bigoted notions about gay people based upon church teachings. There is a Wikipedia page about this which I looked up and was startled to find just how many times this has happened just in the last decade.

History of violence against LGBT people in the United States

And most of these instances didn’t involve gay people showing up at somebodies church with an obnoxious sign that called Christians bigots or something equivalent to what these preachers were doing; these were people who were just minding their own business living life when suddenly they get accosted by people and beat to death. Now, some Christians might point out that these people are violent criminals and should be locked up, that they rightfully decry such violence too and it isn’t fair to judge them by the actions of their worst adherents. To them I say, yes, which is exactly why you shouldn’t Judge the entire LBGT movement by it’s worst defenders either. Still, you should take the time to acknowledge that the existence of people who have beaten homosexuals to death on the basis of similar arguments to the ones the preachers used might just give some of the pride parade attendees cause to be just a bit nervous with of such men present at their rally, Further, it ought to encourage sensitive, thoughtful people, whatever their religious beliefs, reason to present their arguments in a less combative manner in the future.

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DOMA, Prop 8, and various rants about the decision Fri, 28 Jun 2013 06:28:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]> So most people probably know the news about one of the key parts of DOMA being overturned, giving married gay couples federal benefits. Also the courts refusal to rule on prop 8, making my new home state of California the thirteenth state to legalize gay marriage.

Not all of DOMA was overturned, of course, only the part that bared the federal government from recognizing the unions, so I can’t say the job is done. Yet, while I join gay rights advocates throughout this country in celebration of this victory some people were not so happy. 

Bill Donohue of the Catholic League suggests an amendment to the U.S. the constitution banning same sex relationships, undeterred, it seems, by the miniscule chance of ever getting a two-thirds majority in either the senate or the house to make such a thing a reality.

Former Governor Mike Huckabee and the Dan T. Cathy owner of Chick-fil-A expressed their displeasure. Though Mr. Cathy deleted his post shortly afterword’s.

5 people in robes said they are bigger than the voters of CA and Congress combined.And bigger than God.May He forgive us all.

— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) June 26, 2013

Tony Perkins had this to say:

While we are disappointed in the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the court today did not impose the sweeping nationwide redefinition of natural marriage that was sought. Time is not on the side of those seeking to create same-sex ‘marriage.’  As the American people are given time to experience the actual consequences of redefining marriage, the public debate and opposition to the redefinition of natural marriage will undoubtedly intensify.

In a sense I actually agree with him. As American’s realize that the negative consequences of redefining marriage are little to nothing and everything is fine public opposition to people like Tony Perkins will intensify. His statement honestly seems like nothing more than a rationalization. Support for gay marriage has been improving, and the biggest divide is over age not politics. 73 percent of those under 30 support gay marriage compared to 53 percent of the general population so in all likelihood those as time passes fewer and fewer people will support his cause, and unless Perkins is totally ignorant he knows it.

I found justice Scalia’s criticism particularly interesting. He descents by saying this:

But the Court has cheated both sides, robbing the winners of an honest victory, and the losers of the peace that comes from a fair defeat. We owed both of them better. I dissent.

This is strange to me, does Scalia really think that gay rights advocates did not work hard for this victory just because it was won in a court case instead of in congress? Does he really think that most of the those against gay marriage would gracefully accept defeat if it came from congress instead of the supreme court? Since I was once a fundamentalist I have the odd distinction of having been on both sides of the debate, and his dissent makes no sense to me.

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Just a little follow up on the debate I did back in April Fri, 07 Jun 2013 02:20:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]>  

Sorry, I’ve not been posting lately, I’ve been super busy with packing and moving for my move to Oakland with my fiancé. I have a couple of posts I would like to work on but have been too busy to write them.

Anyway, there was a bit of a conversation on my opponents web site back in May about the debate. I was too busy to continue it, and quite honestly didn’t see much point given some of the weird arguments being employed, but I thought I’d repost the comment section that came from here, read it and tell me what you guys think.

  • Jim,
    Definitely an interesting exchange both during and after the debate. I could definitely see the effect opposing worldviews have on the interpretation of the issue.
    I find it interesting when atheists like Dylan or Dan Barker make a point to describe themselves as “former fundamentalist Christians for XX years” when they introduce themselves as if that should deliver some sort of impact to the minds in the audience. Maybe it does for some people. But I don’t think claims like that carry any weight whatsoever with someone who desires to be faithful to the Christian worldview and listens to what God has told us about the nature of his creation. I don’t have any problem Dylan making that sort of claim and see it as him freely indicting himself as a rebel similar to who Paul spoke of in Romans 1. It’s bold, if anything. He knows he’s in rebellion and needs to repent. I’m not the only audience member that sees that in his claim.
    I also found it curious how Dylan seemed to be using “Risk Assessment when considering homosexual acts” as a sort of trump card to any evidence that those acts might cause unwanted harm to the persons engaging in them. Further, it was curious that he dismissed your argument by claiming you were exaggerating the statistics. So, he’s not concerned? At what point do the statistics or the nature of the consequences become concerning for Dylan? Regarding what we should do about our concern, we need to be doctors to understand that some of the health risks are life-threatening? We’re just supposed to keep quiet or say “Gosh, I don’t know if homosexual acts could lead to something like AIDS, you’ll have to ask a bona-fide doctor for an expert opinion on that.”? Come on, that’s not very compassionate or very loving, but I can see how it aligns with an atheistic worldview. Based on the previous debate, Dylan also remains unconcerned about 50,000,000+ lives ended in the US alone since Roe v. Wade. But to be fair, I gathered that he either sees the unborn as some non-human life form which eventually becomes a human, or at least if he does see the unborn as a human life, there is some gradient upon which he judges the value of one life over another depending on one’s age, developmental state, or some other arbitrary degreed property. Getting off topic…
    Last, I wish there could have more time to focus on the same-sex marriage issue. I would have been interested to hear more of Dylan’s possibly scientific explanation of why there is no difference between heterosexual unions and homosexual unions, despite the fact that one as a group by rule can produce the next generation and the other cannot. Why does the government bother to grant marriage licenses to heterosexual couples? What benefit do heterosexual marriages bring to the State such that the government would promote them by granting certain privileges to those who partake? Why should the government be obligated to grant the same privileges to groups of people that do not as a group by rule return the same benefit? Those are the root questions that Dylan didn’t convincingly argue for in either the debate or his post-debate blog.
    Thanks again for the great debate BPR.

  • Reply


    Dylan Walker4:29 PM

    Jim you have completely misread my intent of saying that I am a former believer, I know most believers think that I was never “truly” saved, and my mom thinks I will “return to the fold” someday. I only meant to imply that I know your belief system well because I lived it. You may conclude any thing you like about me including how I “need to repent” and it doesn’t really have any affect on me.
    If you want me to believe in god you need to prove he exists, I can’t rebel against something that doesn’t exist. I’m no more in rebellion against the Christian god than you are in rebellion against the Muslim one or the Hindu one.
    Jim, if you think that the sole reason for marriage is having children do you think that the marriages of heterosexual couples who do not have children are invalid? To me that seems like an absurd argument so arguing that gay people should not be able to get married simply because they are unable to have children is also absurd.
    Why does there have to be a benefit to the state? The state exists to benefit the public not the other way around. Only a totalitarian would argue that we exist to benefit the state.
    There is a recent story of an elderly gay couple in which one of them had developed Alzheimer’s. Even though they had been together decades and the other member had power of attorney a gold digging relative of the person who had Alzheimer’s had him committed, had a restraining order placed on the other person in this gay relationship and sold the house they have lived in more than a decade living him both homeless and unable to see his partner again. I don’t care what you happen to think this is WRONG, and it wouldn’t have happened if they had been able to marry.



    Dylan Walker4:34 PM

    Oh, and once again I will point out that AIDS is not a gay disease. It is communicable by all kinds of sexual contact as well as contact with other bodily fluids, such as blood.
    This sort of ignorance makes me feel like I’ve been transferred back to 1985.



    Vocab Malone6:03 PM

    I think Jim’s point is that when atheists (or Mulsims) say, “I was once a Christian” or “I used to believe everything you believe” or things like that, this claim does not automatically result in credibility in our mind. We have heard folks say this stuff time and time again and then we soon realize, said person has no idea what they are talking about.
    What makes it worse is when someone says, “I’m a former fundamentalist so I know.” Well, most evangelicals don’t call themselves fundamentalists. Only those not in the know lump fundamentalists and evangelicals together. Or Arminians and Calvinists for that matter.
    I mean, what do you think when you hear a Christian say, “I was once an atheist.” Do you think that means they understand *you*? I’m not saying we don’t believe you (in fact, I most certainly do believe you) or that you don’t know anything about Christianity (you know more than most atheists I meet about Christian doctrine).
    Dylan, Jim never said the *sole* reason for marriage was for having children. He also never said the #1 reason two men cannot get married is only because they cannot have children. It is easy to call an argument absurd but when it’s not the person’s argument, it does not really help anyone. Look again at some of his comment:
    “I would have been interested to hear more of Dylan’s possibly scientific explanation of why there is no difference between heterosexual unions and homosexual unions, despite the fact that one as a group by rule can produce the next generation and the other cannot. Why does the government bother to grant marriage licenses to heterosexual couples? What benefit do heterosexual marriages bring to the State such that the government would promote them by granting certain privileges to those who partake? Why should the government be obligated to grant the same privileges to groups of people that do not as a group by rule return the same benefit?”
    He specifically mentioned wanting a scientific explanation from you to defend your claim. He gave one example of the fact that homosexual unions are not the same as heterosexual unions.
    He also never said anything about us existing to benefit the state – he is a follower of Jesus Christ, for goodness sakes! He simply said if two women together do not provide the same benefits, then why should the state confer the same privileges to them? The answer is clear, the state should not, it is not in the public interest at all. But advocates push for this because they are really after forced acceptance and the legitimization of homosexual activity in the public square.
    And you, and the President, and the general populace may approve. But this does not mean that the Sovereign God to whom all are accountable approves – and neither should those whom are his people.



    Dylan Walker8:02 PM

    I’m not aware of a strict demarcation between “fundamentalists” and “evangelicals,” I’ve known many Christians who consider themselves both, just like I am an atheist, and skeptic and a humanist.
    Of course there is quite a bit of difference between Arminian thought and Calvinist, but that really wasn’t the point, all I was saying is that he misapprehended my reasoning for saying I was a former fundamentalist, I was not thumbing my nose at you merely stating that I had recognized your arguments and typical of believers.
    Now, I cannot respond to arguments he did not make so if he wants to bring up other ways in which the homo and heterosexual relationships differ I can respond to those, he brought up an example and I told him why I think that example is not a good argument. If he wants to bring up other examples then he can posit them himself.
    He said, and I quote:
    “What benefit do heterosexual marriages bring to the State such that the government would promote them by granting certain privileges to those who partake?”
    This statement indicates to me that Jim feels that the state grants the privilege of marriage because it benefits the state in some way. Again just pointing out why I don’t agree. Marriage is a right not a privilege, and it need not benefit the state at all to be granted. I’m part of the public and it IS in my interest to see gay marriage legalized, as well as the interest of many gay people. To claim it is not in “public interest” requires that you believe that the only people who actually count are you and yours and those who do not share your beliefs or religion do not deserve equal say, fortunately the bill of rights does not allow Christians that sort of authority.
    “And you, and the President, and the general populace may approve. But this does not mean that the Sovereign God to whom all are accountable approves – and neither should those whom are his people.”
    Fine, but allowing gay marriage does not require that you personally approve, it only requires that you let all those people out there who either don’t believe in god, or don’t agree with you about what he says live their lives too.
    Telling me god does not approve is pointless until you (or god himself) proves he exists, as far as I’m concerned he is a concept that people thought up and not a real entity, but that is besides the point. We live in a secular democratic republic, this means your opinions about what god wants are irrelevant to how we ought to run the country and what rights we ought to give people. If you think otherwise then you might as well label yourself a dominionist and get it over with.


  • Jim9:37 PM

    Dylan said:
    “I only meant to imply that I know your belief system well because I lived it.”
    Yes, I know that. As Vocab correctly commented, my main point was that your claim to know our belief system well does not give you any credibility in our minds. You don’t know it as well as you think you do. Case in point…
    Dylan said:
    “If you want me to believe in god you need to prove he exists”
    Yes, I want you to believe in God. No, I don’t need to prove to you that he exists for that to happen. If you understood our belief system you would understand that God is not in the dock, and you are not the judge.
    Dylan said:
    “Jim, if you think that the sole reason for marriage is having children do you think that the marriages of heterosexual couples who do not have children are invalid? To me that seems like an absurd argument so arguing that gay people should not be able to get married simply because they are unable to have children is also absurd.”
    No, I do not think that heterosexual marriages that do not produce children are invalid. But again, as Vocab noted, I wasn’t making an argument that having children is the sole reason for marriage. Although, children are certainly central to why government sanctions marriage. I was pointing out a reason why heterosexual unions are different than homosexual unions – which they clearly are, biologically. Two men cannot come together to procreate and neither can two women. Only a man and a woman can do that. Even in the case of artificial insemination, a man and a woman have to be involved.
    Dylan said:
    “Why does there have to be a benefit to the state? The state exists to benefit the public not the other way around. Only a totalitarian would argue that we exist to benefit the state.”
    First, we are the State. Those of us who make up society, are the State. Second, part of government function is to prohibit, permit, or promote behaviors to help society flourish. The government promotes behaviors that bring benefit to society often by granting certain privileges to those who partake. The government obviously promotes marriage between heterosexuals by granting them privileges. So, what benefits does the State experience from traditional marriage? I know you think it’s a civil rights issue. It’s not. You are misguided as to why the government promotes the institution of marriage in the first place. It’s not because two people love each other. It’s not a right to have your relationship promoted by the State, it’s a privilege.


  • Jim9:37 PM

    Dylan said:
    “Oh, and once again I will point out that AIDS is not a gay disease. It is communicable by all kinds of sexual contact as well as contact with other bodily fluids, such as blood.”
    Correct. But, I never said it was a “gay disease.” You apparently misunderstood my comment to mean that I thought homosexual acts create AIDS. What I actually said was engaging in homosexual acts could lead to something like AIDS. As in, AIDS is a potential consequence of homosexual contact, since sexual contact is a means by which HIV is transmitted from person to person. Of course, heterosexuals can receive HIV from a sexual partner too, but MSM is a particularly high risk group for such a consequence. The CDC agrees: “MSM account for nearly half of the 1.1 million people living with HIV in the United States (52%, or an estimated 592,100 total persons. MSM account for more than half of all new HIV infections in the United States each year (61%, or an estimated 29,300 infections).” But, as you’ve already expressed, statistics are just being exaggerated by folks like Vocab and myself. You are not concerned. It’s just 592,100 poor risk managers – big deal, they probably should have just been educated better to take more precautions. I, on the other hand, am grieved by the fact that over half a million lives may be cut short because these people willingly engaged in unhealthy behavior.
    Dylan said:
    “This sort of ignorance makes me feel like I’ve been transferred back to 1985.”
    LOL, Come on down and get out of the DeLorean, you misunderstood.

A couple of points here on Jim’s posts which I think employ some very strange logic. He argues that I don’t understand his religion because I ask for proof, but I would submit that he doesn’t understand atheists very well.  I understand quite well that many varieties Christianity teach that it is wrong to ask for physical proof. I even know the proof texts that Christians would use to argue that.

Deuteronomy 6:16 for instance:

Ye shall not tempt the LORD your God, as ye tempted him in Massah. (many translations use the word “test” instead of “tempt”)

So the problem isn’t one of understanding it is one of rejection. Namely I reject the notion that one should believe any claim without evidence. If God exists but does not wish to proof himself then that is his problem not mine as I am perfectly happy not believing in him. If he wishes me to believe in him but refuses to provide evidence of his existence in a manner consistent with good standards of evidence per the nature of the universe that he created (assuming he exists) then he is foolish or just a horrible being. The fact that Jim can, with a straight face, suggest that he wishes me to believe a claim he is making but then act like it is totally reasonable to refuse to provide any evidence for said claim makes it clear that no reasonable dialog is possible with him on the subject of his religion.

In a previous conversation he claimed to be an engineer, he did not say in what field but I imagine that no one in his job would take him at his word in such a way. I’m just not willing to treat god claims as a special exception when it comes to demands for proof. A lack of belief in a claim does not mean one misunderstands it, in fact to properly accept or reject a claim one must understand it. He states that I am not the judge, I would point out that I am, in fact, the only one who can judge if a claim has been proven to my satisfaction.

He agrees that a lack of reproduction does not invalidate straight marriage but then argues the lack of reproduction is a valid reason to reject gay marriage. On the point I’m not sure if Jim is intentionally being obtuse or honestly lacks the ability to understand why these two statements are logically contradictory.

Of course the claims that they are really just concerned about people’s well being ring hollow. Consider this quote from the CDC’s website on smoking.

Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States. Each year, an estimated 443,000 people die prematurely from smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke, and another 8.6 million live with a serious illness caused by smoking. Despite these risks, approximately 46.6 million U.S. adults smoke cigarettes. Smokeless tobacco, cigars, and pipes also have deadly consequences, including lung, larynx, esophageal, and oral cancers.

So when Christian groups start denying smokers civil rights because they “care” I could at least believe they are being logically consistent. For instance, when they start fighting to keep smokers from jobs that work with children because they might encourage kids to smoke or other comparable issues. Until then I will call this concern exactly what it is, a made up justification to push their religious ideas onto everyone else.

Then there is the ridiculous personal attack that Jim engages in by claiming I just don’t care about the half a million people that died or whatever. Allowing people to make their own choices is not the same as not caring about what happens to them, but Christians do love to characterize atheists as unfeeling automatons with no empathy. Jim, if you ever read this, understand that it is my empathy that drives me to fight for gay marriage and if you spend even a little bit of time reading my or any of 1,000 other atheist blogs out there you would find that we care about a variety of people very deeply.

The points I made about how the incorrectly quoted studies or quoted studies that were outright fraudulent stand because both Vocab and Jim failed to address any of my criticisms except to just baldly assert I was “biased.”

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Debate on Homosexuality/Gay Marriage: Argument from “Just Saying” Fri, 19 Apr 2013 19:24:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Vocab offered as part of this debate something I have heard from Christians and other theists before, the notion that if we know that certain life style choices (like homosexuality) are unhealthy they feel required to let those people know, because they care about people’s well being.  This is an attempt to answer the charge that fundamentalists are either homophobic or bigoted towards homosexuals. To a certain extent I actually accept this argument. Of course to be clear I think there are quite a few people out there both Christian and not who are in fact bigoted towards gay people but I accept that many Christians like Vocab are in fact well meaning in their assessment even if their conclusions are not well supported by the science.

I do have several problems with this statement though. First, as I have shown, much of the information that fundamentalist Christians are providing are either outright wrong, subject to conformation bias, or presented in a such an obviously biased manner that no one really takes it seriously. Vocab, who is certainly one of the more knowledgeable believers I have debated this topic with, still falls prey to these same problems. The point is just to ask a simple question, would you rather get medical advice from a doctor or a theologian? Christians like Vocab want to give homosexuals medical advice but the advice is typically very bad and given by the single group that homosexuals are least likely to listen to anyway. It is like being told that eating red meat is dangerous to your health by a member of PETA. Even if they turn out to be right you know there are other motivations there at work besides your physical health.

The reality is that everything involves risk, it’s not like heterosexual sex can’t put you at a higher risk for some things as well. For this reason doctors and psychologists don’t generally set out to control people’s behavior, they simply offer people advice to avoid as much risk as possible and then let people make up their own minds. Yet, when I tried to Google search homosexual health risks while writing this I noticed that the entire first page of results were filled with sites from Christian groups most of whom included many factually incorrect claims and at best failed to correctly reference the studies they based their claims on, I had to go to the second search result page to get a legitimate medical website. Since people can easily find out what they are at risk for by consulting with a doctor, and that information is likely to be more reliable than the advice coming from religious groups, I might humbly suggest that fundamentalist Christian apologists might want to stay out of medicine. If their efforts have any effect at all it is probably to stymie access to real medical information.

I said at the beginning of the show that every time I dig into a new statistic that some religious groups has come up with on this topic I find out that the study was flawed in some serious way. Nothing in this discussion suggests I’m wrong about that estimation.

To wrap up this series of posts, during the debate vocab asked us what the government should encourage.  A good question, my answer is that we should encourage social justice and equality. We should create a society where people are allowed to marry the person they love. I can also tell you what I don’t want to encourage. I don’t want to encourage a society where people’s rights are limited because of things like the shoddy ad-hoc pseudo-science that often seems to fly in fundamentalist circles.

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Debate on Homosexuality/Gay Marriage: Sexism and it’s impact on the debate. Thu, 18 Apr 2013 20:37:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]> In the middle of the debate Vocab said something that I hear quite a bit from people who advocate against gay marriage or for more traditional gender roles in general. He said that marriage between a man and woman is needed in society because men are socialized by women, I suppose making them kinder and less violent, and that women get protection from men. I think this is a fair representation of his position but if he feels I  misunderstood his point here he may feel free to correct me.

At the time I said he was unfairly representing the sexes in this argument, but I will actually go a step further here and say that this line of thinking is sexist. Now before Vocab or any other Christians reading this get angry at this assertion, let it be known that I really try to careful in my application of words like sexist, but I do think it applies in this case. To be clear I don’t think the statement was indented to be sexist, but few people actually realize they are being sexist when they do it. I know for a fact that I have said and done things in my own past which I only later realized were sexist. So I don’t mean this statement as a personal attack but as a conclusion based upon thoughtful consideration about how I think men and women should relate.

In between segments the subject of Pastor Steven Anderson came up. This guy is a local preacher who believes our country was wrong to give women the right to vote. Friendly Atheist has written about him before. Vocab, rightly, distanced himself from Anderson’s position the same as I would, but there is a fallacy of extremes that is often employed here where people feel their position does not qualify as sexist, racist, or some other “ist” simply because they disagree with someone with a more extreme position than theirs. If I talk about racists, for instance, most people think of the KKK or skinheads, but most racism is far less overt that this. For that matter, even Anderson probably doesn’t think he is a sexist, though he is probably aware that many people think he is. He would excuse it by saying those people have been influenced by worldly values. So the fact that Vocab would likely reject the designation does not change the fact he advocated for limiting the rights of specific humans (I.E. homosexuals) based upon generalizations about gender. His statement was no better than suggesting a woman shouldn’t be a CEO because they aren’t competitive enough.

But what about all those studies that show men and women are different?  Well the problem is that the evidence actually does not suggest major psychological differences. Take a look at this recent study:

The interesting thing is that I have found when looking at studies like this is that when they take men and women as whole groups they can see a small statistical difference in psychological makeup. However, when they work from the other direction, that is when they take an individual’s psychological profile and try to determine gender by this factor alone the difference seems to disappear. The reason for this can be seen in how the two groups over lap in a bell curve. In two bell curves that overlap closely, like the one on the right, most of two groups fall within the overlap. This means that while there may be notable differences on the fringes of the two an average person in either group will usually be indistinguishable from a person in the other group. So when fundamentalist Christian groups start claiming that science backs up their position on gender differences you should now be able to point out why they are wrong.

Vocab’s position is therefore sexist in the way it portrays men and women in these stark terms while ignoring the aforementioned overlap between the two groups. Men are presented as being without self control until a woman somehow fixes them, I have seen similar arguments employed by people making apologetics for rapists. The notion that men are just barely containing desires to sexually assault should be offensive to men everywhere but it should also not be a surprising that anyone who believes in the concept of original sin would think this way. I also find it equally offensive that women are portrayed as weak and needing protection. I’ve written before on how I view Fundamentalist Christian thinking to be inherently sexist here: No war on women? I beg to differ. So you can read that if you want to hear more of my thoughts on the issue.

It is interesting to me that this argument could be used not just against gay marriage, but to favor forcing people to marry, after all a single man in his 30’s is just rapist waiting to happen according to this argument. How can we get men to behave if there isn’t a woman around to force them? How do women who don’t marry manage to survive? More importantly how does one deal with the reality that violence is much lower in the modern world while marriage, particularly marriage the way Vocab envisions it is less prevalent than most of human history. Further, the modern countries with the most traditional views of marriage are the ones with the worst problems of violence against women. As an argument against gay marriage or even an argument for traditional marriage in general it fairs very very badly.

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Debate on Homosexuality/Gay Marriage: Statistics Part 2 Wed, 17 Apr 2013 19:50:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]> The subject of ex-gays was also brought up quickly but we didn’t really get a chance to delve into it much. Fist I don’t much care whether people occasionally change their sexual orientation, that may be possible, but I find it irrelevant. For one thing these people may actually be bisexual and not aware of it. However my main problem with this is that even if sexual preference was 100% personal choice, even if I could simply wake up one morning and decide to be gay (and even most fundamentalists would not claim this) I would not care. Support for gay marriage about supporting the rights of people to marry whomever they love, regardless of gender, choice is a red herring in my opinion.

However, I will go one step further though and point out that the whole concept of ex-homosexual is undeniably wrapped up with gay conversion therapy, and the statistics there show that these programs rarely work and people who go through them have much higher rates of depression and suicide. so it seems a bit ridiculous to claim this is a healthy option.

Vocab claims to know ex-homosexuals, I’ll happily admit he may know such people but who cares? I know others who are, and in fact I am, an ex-Christian. I’m sure Vocab would not like anyone limiting his civil rights to practice his religion just because some people like myself decided to stop following said religion. This isn’t how civil rights work for good reason.

On the subject of gay marriage Vocab brought up a study done in Sweden suggesting that rates of divorce are much higher than that of heterosexual couples. Upon further research this turned about to be a perfect example of the poor way in which people in his camp frame statistics to make their case look strong when it is weak. First off, divorce is just as an important aspect of marriage laws as the actual marriage is. Relationships that end amicably are fine, but any relationship that ends badly may need legal involvement and marriage gives us such a system.

Secondly, marriage is simply not a very big deal in Sweden, most heterosexual couples don’t even bother getting married themselves. It is clear that marriage and relationships are envisioned very differently in that country than here so it is pointless to extrapolate from this data how gay marriage would play out in our country.

So what about studies of divorce rates in other countries?

So the first link here shows a study in which they measured the rate of dissolution of civil partnerships for homosexuals in Great Brittan (they don’t call it marriage there yet) and found that the statistics actually show lower rates than heterosexual couples. On top of that male homosexual couples actually had lower dissolution rates that the female couples.

The second link shows statistics that indicate that in states where same sex marriage is legal the divorce rates are again lower than than of heterosexual marriages. This one I find especially interesting because they are figures from the U.S.

The third study is interesting because it shows that the states with legal same sex marriage divorce rates for heterosexuals are lower than the national average as well.  Of course I am not suggesting that homosexual marriage is directly responsible for this, these numbers were lower before it was legalized. The point is that the states who are generally most religious and have the the largest number of people complaining that gay marriage will destroy the sanctity of the institution have the highest rates of divorce. It is interesting to say the least.

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Debate on Homosexuality/Gay Marriage: Statistics Part 1. Tue, 16 Apr 2013 19:50:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]>
One of the studies brought up claimed that Canadian homosexuals had an average life span equal to people living in 1871 in the same area. I managed to actually find this a published copy of this study. 

First off this study’s goal was to demonstrate that the effect AIDS was having on the gay community in that area. The first problem with this study is that it is rather old, it was published in 1997 and most of the figures were gathered in the early 90’s. Not only was AIDS infecting more people at this time but medical treatments for it have improved greatly in the last 20 years. On top of that the published study states that there were certain factors they did not control for like the fact that suicide rates are higher in most homosexual populations. Given the limited nature of the study as well as the age it is difficult to make any definitive conclusion here.

He also brought up gay bowel syndrome. I must confess that I was actually unfamiliar with this term though perhaps I had heard in before and had just forgotten it. I looked this term up too and was unsurprised that this term is no longer used by anyone in the actual medial community. It was a term coined in 1976 that was an umbrella term for a large number of problems. Even as early as 1985 a journal of gastroenterology had this to say about the diagnosis:

The “gay bowel syndrome” was first used to describe not a syndrome, but a list of conditions. The term hides the problems facing the gastroenterologist. Firstly, the sexual orientation of a patient may not be easily ascertainable in the setting of a general outpatient clinic. Secondly, many infections of the gay bowel are asymptomatic and are missed without full microbiological screening. Thirdly, coinfection is common and the organism isolated may not be causing the symptoms and signs. Finally, the bowel has limited and non-specific clinical and histopathological responses to many infections.

There seem to be a myriad of reasons why the medical community do not view this as an actual medical condition, so the fact that it is brought up at all by Vocab begs a question about the quality of the research he is relying on.  It is also worth bring up the general problem I have in bringing up an argument like this seems to be built upon an assumption that sexuality, and indeed in particular anal sex is the only meaningful thing about the relationships of gay men.  I’ve met quite a few gay men who would disagree with that. (I.E. all of them)

Another host of statistics were also brought up talking about how promiscuous the average homosexual is, on the statistics he brings up I cannot really speak in great detail because; though I looked, I could not find any reputable sites that verify any of the figures Vocab gave. I found many sites published by religious believers and other anti-gay advocates repeating these figures but no links to any studies or abstracts that I could examine to see how reliable these figures are.

I did, however, two studies that offer different figures. The first study can be found here, “So you think gay men are promiscuous?“. This one is based upon figures tabulated from OKCupid questions. It’s fairly recent, but to be fair it’s a self selected group so it may not be representative of the average gay person. However, it does at least show that there are some gay people who do not fit the stereotype.
Another study can be found here, The New England Journal of Medicine: Homosexuality. I found this study four pages deep in a Google search on the Wiki page about promiscuity. Though slightly older (1994) it has this to say:
Of heterosexually active adults in the general population, about 20 percent of men have had 1 sexual partner during their lives, 55 percent have had up to 20 partners, and about 25 percent have had 20 or more partners11. Some older studies conducted before the epidemic of the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) indicated that homosexual men were more likely than heterosexual men to have had a very large number of sexual partners14. More recent population-based studies have found this to be relatively uncommon. For instance, Fay et al.10 found that of men who had homosexual contact after the age of 20, almost all had 20 or fewer homosexual partners in their lifetimes. Of 1450 men in the sample, only 2 were reported to have had 100 or more same-sex partners10. The inconsistency in the data on the number of sexual partners of homosexual men probably reflects flaws in the sampling techniques of the earlier studies (e.g., recruiting subjects in gay bars) and their completion before the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) epidemic.

So there we have it, according to The New England Journal of Medicine, the studies Vocab brought up are generally discredited because of poor sampling techniques just like the study by Paul Cameron I brought up early on in the debate.

I don’t fault Vocab for not giving me the actual study names in the short discussion we had but perhaps if we continue this discussion at a later date he can provide links to the actual papers that make these claims. I won’t hold my breath on this one though because similar figures have been repeated among Christian circles for more than two decades now and I have yet to find someone who can actually point to a viable peer reviewed study backing them up. These figures usually come from conservative Christian think tanks and upon close examination the studies don’t hold up very well.

Tomorrow I’ll be posting about some of the studies about gay marriage that were brought up.

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