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DevinCook, and Jacobolus. Today I am taking a respite from the wonderful world of mental health, apostasy, and AD/HD to talk about the sujet du jour:

The shitshow that is American politics.

In general, I try to avoid discussing politics on this site, seeing as political news is pretty much unavoidable most places these days, and nobody wants to hear about it.

To my readers outside the United States, I probably follow your coverage of American politics more closely than I do American news, so I’m aware of what most of the world thinks of the United States and of Americans in general.

It’s humiliating to be reminded every day that an ignorant bunch of racist, homophobic, gun-toting xenophobes living in isolated pockets in the most conservative (and least populated) states throughout my country handed an incompetent nitwit the election thanks to the arcane, wibbly-wobbly math of the Electoral College¹, which apportions…

… oh fuck it. I don’t even understand.

Nobody understands.

CGP Grey does, thankfully.

So if you’ve been paying attention to the flurry of lies and spin coming out of the White House since the Orange One and his deplorable band of criminals took over, one of their favorite lines is to insist that “the American people” voted for Donald Trump, as if his winning the Electoral College vote grants him the mandate to ban Muslims from entering the country, building his fucking wall along the U.S/Mexico border, pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord… etc.

Except that we didn’t. Here’s how it breaks down.

How Did Americans Vote in the 2016 Presidential Election

That “Voting-Eligible Population” is particularly important because it excludes anyone under age 18, along with non-citizens, convicted felons (depending on state law where they reside), and mentally incapacitated persons².

Roughly 1 in 40 Americans are prevented from voting due to a felony record, and thanks to racial disparities in policing and sentencing, many of them are non-white. Something as simple and non-violent as copyright infringement or possession of marijuana without intent to distribute (i.e., for personal use) can land someone with a felony conviction.

Thus, permanently denying them the right to vote.

According to Michael McDonald’s website analyzing the results of the 2016 election votes, 3,249,802 Americans were ineligible for this reason.


If you’ve been paying attention recently, one of the Mangled Apricot Hellbeast’s primary obsessions since the election is the fact that he lost the popular vote.

By roughly 2.9 million votes.

It appears to literally be driving him crazy—which is terrifying when you consider that this is the man who holds the nuclear codes.

Since November, he has repeated the baseless claim that he would have won the popular vote “if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”

Besides the Russian hackers operation, there is no evidence of any voter fraud, let alone three million votes. That’s insane—and yet, that is precisely the narrative being peddled by the current U.S. administration.

So this “witless fucking cocksplat” of a president has ordered the formation of a commission to look into supposed voter fraud.

And this past Friday, that commission released 112 pages of unredacted emails of public comment in response to their request to the states for hand over voter information, including sensitive personal data such as birthdates, partial Social Security numbers, party affiliation and felon status³.

My favorite response was the Mississippi Secretary of State responding that “the commission can ‘go jump in the Gulf of Mexico’.”

But what is especially frightening about this recent initiative is the unprecedented move by this administration to cast doubt on the integrity of the results from the popular vote, seemingly in order to lend themselves the appearance of legitimacy that will allow them to carry out their reign of reckless incompetency unopposed.

However, the most striking feature of the results from the 2016 election is the fact that nearly 94 million Americans did not cast a vote for president. They may have voted for their local representatives, but 40.7% of the voting-eligible population essentially cast a vote of no confidence in how Americans elect their president.

It speaks to how disconnected many people feel from Washington, D.C., and how fed up many are with the divisive partisanship, lack of effective leadership, and utter lack of appealing candidates that were the hallmarks of the 2016 American election cycle.

The upset that resulted in the Republican victory speaks to the reality that the concerns of Americans in many (especially rural) parts of the country have gone unheeded for too long. Life is a struggle for significant parts of the population while a disproportional minority at the top enjoy undeserved tax breaks and kickbacks.

Clinton’s loss speaks to the influence of Russian meddling, yes, but also the reality that the Democratic party has lost touch with a majority of Americans in the middle and working classes, to the point that it cost them many states that traditionally go blue in elections—namely, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Ohio, Michigan, and Florida.


The point of all this is that although the United States government is currently helmed by a sexual predator and racist Cheeto, the reality is that he does not speak for a vast majority of Americans—72.7% of us, to be precise.

He does not speak for us, or represent the type of American ideals set out in documents like the Constitution (which he clearly hasn’t read). He is the ugly face of an ignorant minority who are desperate to turn back the clock on progress towards realizing the dream of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness for all.

He is Not My President.


Endnotes:

¹ None but a handful of Americans understand the Electoral College, which was ultimately established in 1787 to preserve the institution of slavery in the United States by way of the Three-Fifths Compromise, wherein black slaves were counted as three-fifths of a person for the purposes of census taking in order to grant states with high slave populations more votes in the electoral college.

² McDonald, Michael P. “What is the voting-age population (VAP) and the voting-eligible population (VEP)?” United States Elections Project. July 7, 2017. Accessed July 17, 2017. http://www.electproject.org/home/voter-turnout/faq/denominator.

³ Neuman, Scott. “Vote Fraud Commission Releases Public Comments, Email Addresses And All.” NPR. July 14, 2017. Accessed July 17, 2017. http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/07/14/537282309/vote-fraud-commission-releases-public-comments-email-addresses-and-all.

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Water_and_oilEaster with my family could’ve been better.

It also could’ve been worse.

As with any group of people, family gatherings have a tendency to be tense. Disagreements arise. Remarks are misinterpreted. Old grudges revived.

These things seem more likely to occur when people disagree over some fairly fundamental beliefs. Like the existence of the supernatural, and the basis of one’s morality based on said belief in the existence of the supernatural. It seems silly, but it’s amazing how many things can go wrong out of this disagreement.

I actually missed lunch with the family yesterday on account of not getting an email saying that people were eating around 12:30p instead of 1:30p. I was coming from a picnic that my former fundamentalist group held in the morning at a local park. The weather was gorgeous, and we had a great time of just being together, talking, and enjoying nature.

By the time I got to my sister’s house, my dad had just gone home, my mom was getting ready to leave, and my sister had just put her kids to bed for their afternoon nap. So it was just my mom, my sister, her husband, and me, standing in the kitchen, talking.

It’s still unclear where things actually went wrong. I suppose it started when my sister made a remark about “Obama phones.”

If you’ll recall, during the 2012 election, there was a viral video in which a woman yells the praises of Obama, claiming (among other things) that “he gave us a phone.” This video was instantly picked up by media outlets like FOX News and other conservative blogs and used as evidence that President Obama was turning the United States into the Welfare States.

I pointed out that that program to supply low-income individuals with access to phones was not, in fact, started by the Obama administration but has actually existed for decades. I couldn’t remember yesterday which administration the program began under, but a quick Google search and a Forbes article from 2012 points to the 1980s.

That led to further comments about “Obamacare” and welfare fraud (“people selling their food stamps for cash”), and claims that, due to the ACA, many people have had their health insurance cancelled and are now being forced to pay more in premiums. That may be true. I don’t have exact figures or details, but I know that many of those claims were exaggerated and even fabricated by Republicans to attempt to discredit the health care law.

After a brief intermezzo in which we discussed whether it was necessary for my sister to take her child to see a doctor, discussion somehow moved to marriage equality. And that’s where the real fun began.

I think it started with my mom saying something about how we may always have to “agree to disagree” about certain subjects—such as “gay marriage.”

“It’s just marriage, mom,” I said. “Not gay marriage.”

That turned into a discussion about suing Christian business owners who refuse service to gay couples. “How would you feel,” I asked, “if you walked into a photographer’s studio, not knowing the photographer’s beliefs, hoping to find someone to document your wedding, and were told instead that they don’t agree with your ‘lifestyle’?”

They didn’t seem to see any problem with this scenario. “Why would you want to force somebody who doesn’t support you to be part of your celebration?” my mom wondered. Which is a valid question.

“So if someone has a sincerely-held religious belief that forbids them from serving African-American clients, that’s okay?” I asked.

“That’s not the same,” was the response.

Because Black people are born Black, but gay people choose to be gay? And, by extension, we can simply choose not to be gay anymore—which is to say, to cease to be ourselves?

Then my sister accused me of showing as much intolerance of her religious beliefs as I’ve accused her of showing towards me. Maybe that’s true. It’s difficult at times not to let my incredulity show when they mention “sin nature,” make disparaging remarks about the President and Democrats, or sniff at climate change and science.

I understand that they feel that their country is being taken away from them piece by piece, and see recent, rapid social changes like the heath care act or marriage equality as a threat.

But it also seems to me that they are unwilling to see that their views have real implications for our relationship. I’ve evolved a great deal over the last couple of years. It must seem like overnight to them. However, it’s particularly hurtful to hear them say that they won’t come to my (hypothetical-someday) wedding when I played in my sister’s wedding in 2008, an event that my entire family celebrated.

I hope no one pictures my family like the ignorant, hateful people of Westboro Baptist, or even some of the anti-equality supporters featured in the documentary Question One. They are lovely, well-educated, caring people. They also happen to hold a religious belief that has shaped their worldviews in a particular way that conflicts with my worldview. And neither of us really seem sure what to do about that.

My mom made an observation after my sister left. As much as I feel that they refuse to accept the “new me,” I’m still viewing them through the eyes of a teenage boy terrified of them finding out that their only son is gay. Yes, rather than risk rejection from my family in 2011, I preemptively shut them out and cut off contact with everyone. Both my sister and my mom commented how hurtful it’d been that I’d defriended them on Facebook.

I still question whether that was the best course of action. Rather than recognize the efforts my family was trying to make, I allowed depression, despair and anger to influence my decision.

But where to go from here in rebuilding our relationship when we can barely agree on some of the basics? It feels like trying to mix oil and water.

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Franciscan_missionaries_in_CaliforniaOn Sunday, in the Wall Street Journal online, writer Dave Shiflett penned an opinion piece about the upcoming American Atheists convention in Salt Lake City, Utah — on Thursday, in fact: “Where Atheists Meet to Evangelize: Telling believers they are rubes may not be the best recruitment strategy.”

Frankly, I’m still not sure what to make of it. I don’t know what Mr. Shiflett’s personal religious views are, but his article contains a number of mordant jabs. “… deity-dissing group,” he calls American Atheists at one point.

“… suggesting that the uninitiated are delusional and feeble-minded might not be the wisest way to expand your brand.”

I’m reminded of what Julia Sweeney reports in Letting Go of God, what her mother says in a phone call after Julia is accidentally outed to them: “Everyone knows that there are those few people out there who don’t believe in God, but they keep it quietly to themselves!”

The timing of Shiflett’s article was curious, because on April 11, Kellie Moore wrote a piece in the Washington Post about the growing number of secular communities: “Don’t call it atheist church; secular communities are growing.”

Moore notes that many of the secular groups are geared towards families with young children, and that the children’s activities don’t include “teaching atheism.” In fact, they try to steer clear of any kind of indoctrination.

“Teaching atheism”? What would that even look like??

In my own Evangelical upbringing, a fair amount of time in church was spent teaching us theology and Christian apologetics, the systematic field by which Christians learn how to present a rational basis for the Christian faith and defend it against objections. Everything from having us memorize Bible verses to lessons on Sunday mornings about the Christian life were intended to prepare us to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).

Going between these two articles, it’s interesting to see how religious people superimpose their models of church and community onto atheist assemblies. To paraphrase Queen Victoria: “Whatever do atheists do?” They assume that, like them, our goal is to make more atheists; to break down the deeply held beliefs of Christians with cold, hard, scientific logic and rational arguments.

The popular image of an atheist is based on media figures like Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens, aggressive and vituperative voices bent on destroying any belief that isn’t founded in hard science or reality. We are portrayed as angry, bitter loners without a moral foundation or compass. A recent study covered today in Pacific Standard confirmed that Americans intuitively judge atheists as immoral.

One article on Crosswalk.com claims to expose “Chilling Strategies of Neo-Atheists.” If you’re paying attention, this is how Evangelicals portrayed Communists in the 1950s—godless, immoral atheists mobilized by Stalin to turn the United States just as Communist and atheist as the U.S.S.R.

Nicoll claims that part of the atheista strategy is to target the young and turn them into god-hating, anti-religious clones. (Transference much??) He then quotes philosopher Richard Rorty, who described his dream that students might enter college “as bigoted, homophobic religious fundamentalists” and leave full-fledged atheists.

“… we are going to go right on trying to discredit you in the eyes of your children, trying to strip your fundamentalist religious community of dignity, trying to make your views seem silly rather than discussable.”

It’s true that some atheists share this view; that religious people are feeble-minded and that religion must be stamped out if humanity is to survive and thrive. Yet what Nicoll accuses us of sounds more like what Evangelicals having done since the inception of Christianity. “Give me the child of seven,” said Francis Xavier, “and I will give you the man.”

This is the distorted view of atheism that we have to contend with, just as many liberal Christians try to distance themselves from their bigoted brethren.

Honestly, how often does the average atheist think about religion? Probably not much. For those of us who follow the news (politics in particular), it’s difficult to ignore the presence of Christofascism, the kind of belief that seems eager to wield a sword to spread and enforce Christianity far and wide.

So were it not for city councils opening meetings with Christian prayers, daring anyone to bring a lawsuit; wedding photographers and bakers making martyrs of themselves in their increasingly bizarre war on marriage equality; and politicians trying to write their religious views about women’s bodies into law… well, most of us wouldn’t think much about religion.

The new Cosmos (with the amazing Neil deGrasse Tyson) is a reminder that there’s more than a lifetime’s worth of amazing things to think about and ponder!

Yesterday, I posted an article with the musing that punishing those who hold (increasingly) unpopular views about marriage equality “seems to run counter to the very message of the LGBT movement, which is that there’s room at the table for all. The real question is whether equality opponents are willing to sit at the same table.”

This is where I’m also at with Evangelical Christians.

The fact is that, until we invent spaceships to whisk us away to other planets, we’re stuck learning to live peaceably together on this one. The atheists I know are willing to reach out, to build a table where there is space enough for everyone, their views and beliefs (however strange). Because right now, outside of academia, we’re rarely invited to join the party. True, we often self-segregate, but mostly, that’s because we’re accustomed to not even being recognized.

We don’t want to necessarily make atheist converts. We don’t want to dash anyone’s hopes and dreams. Rather, we desire a renaissance of critical thinking—and less dogmatism. We want children (and adults) to be free to consider every possible idea and facet of human knowledge, and decide for themselves what they believe instead of being told that they must accept one particular narrative, without question, or burn forever in Hell.

That’s all.

Because it’s about time we started celebrating the wonder of being alive.

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ct_newtown_hall“We know that no matter how good our intentions, we will all stumble sometimes, in some way. We will make mistakes, we will experience hardships. And even when we’re trying to do the right thing, we know that much of our time will be spent groping through the darkness, so often unable to discern God’s heavenly plans.”

This was how President Obama addressed the people of Newtown, CT this past Sunday at an interfaith service for the victims of the shooting at Sandy Hook school. I’ll get to the appropriateness in a minute. (Hint: I’m not thrilled.)

As expected, the Christian pundits have been plying their trade, trying to remind people why they still matter. As Adam Sutler screams at his peons in the movie V for Vendetta: “I want this country to realize that we stand on the edge of oblivion. I want everyone to remember why they need us!” If you listen closely, you can hear the growing note of desperation in their voices.

Bryan Fischer of the Southern Poverty Law Center-certified hate group American Family Association was one of the first to sound off, going on his radio show to say that the shooting happened because we kicked God out of schools — meaning that the U.S. still isn’t a theocracy.

Mike Huckabee posted a diatribe on his website, blaming Liberals, gays, atheists, and feminists.

Focus on the Family founder James Dobson gave us his “honest opinion” on Monday: “Millions of people have decided that God doesn’t exist, or he’s irrelevant to me and we have killed fifty-four million babies and the institution of marriage is right on the verge of a complete redefinition. . . we have turned our back on the Scripture and God Almighty . . . has allowed judgment to fall upon us.”

Yes, Dobson just blamed me for the deaths of 26 innocent people. Classy guy.

But it was Obama’s speech on Sunday that caught my notice. He was the first President to ever acknowledge nonbelievers in a way that didn’t amount to, “Atheist scum!” and I was impressed that he met privately with each of the families of the victims before giving the address. He spoke honestly to parents, not just as the leader of our country but as a parent.

Yet the text of the speech itself was disappointing, and even a little disturbing. Whether he was quoting from 2 Corinthians, talking about the grace of [the Christian] God, or referencing the ineffability of the Divine plan, it was entirely too religiously partisan for many.

Everyone’s favorite atheist PZ Myers thought the speech was a “slap in the face” to the parents of the murdered children. Atheist blogger Vjack of Atheist Revolution wondered if it even occurred to Obama “how [the Christianspeak in his speech] might be perceived by those who do not share his particular superstitions.” Blogger Staks Rosch was also offended, writing that “twenty kids and six adults were just murdered and the President is talking about how God is lonely and wants some company.” Of course, that’s not what Obama meant, but still, that ought to have occurred to him.

Sarah Vowell wrote: “… in September [of 2001], atheism was a lonely creed. Not because atheists have no god to turn to, but because everyone else forgot about us.” It felt like that on Sunday. Just because atheists don’t believe in life after death doesn’t mean we have nothing to contribute to the nation’s grieving process. Ron Lindsay of the Center For Inquiry wrote on their blog:

Losing a child is tragic, but that tragic loss should be recognized and not obscured. In recognizing the depth of this loss we also recognize the inestimable worth and value of the child, his or her uniqueness as an individual — not as a small part of some vast, cosmic, incomprehensible plan.

Maybe instead of giving us a mini-sermon, the President could have left religion out of his remarks and addressed the community and the nation as a parent, and as a human being. In fact, I wish he could have said something like this, which is the most moving statement I’ve read concerning the shooting. It comes from a Buddhist, Susan Piver:

Nothing can make this okay. There is no explanation that helps. Blaming lack of gun control, insufficient guns, or inadequate mental health care may be entirely reasonable and valid, but it doesn’t matter. No matter how right you are (or aren’t), it doesn’t change the grief, rage, or numbness. Using ideas to treat or metabolize feelings doesn’t work. Then what? I’m afraid that there is not much we can do other than to be absolutely, irredeemably heartbroken. It turns out that this is helpful.

The normal human response to tragedy like this is to try to fix it and make everything as it was. I think this stems from childhood, when we look to Mommy or Daddy to put things right. Our parents are our first gods and goddesses, all-powerful and capable of no wrong. We adore them. But at some point we grow up and see them for who and what they are: ordinary human beings, just like us. And that scares us. It scares some people so much they they go out and do horrible things.

Piver got it right. More gun control laws won’t bring anyone back, nor will it stop some lunatic from getting their hands on more guns, or a different weapon entirely, and killing more people. Until we understand that peace doesn’t come from legislation but from learning to let go, there will be no peace.

So maybe the answer to Newtown isn’t to rush out and try to find an answer – because in these cases there usually isn’t one, especially when the gunman robs us of a rationale – or to demand more laws before the bodies are even in the ground. Maybe it’s to do the counter-intuitive thing, to stop trying to find someone to blame, and just be sad. Because, ironically, that’s how the healing begins.

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“Immediately after the [9/11] attack, seeing the [American] flag all over the place was moving, endearing. So when the newspaper I subscribe to published a full-page, full-color flag to clip out and hang in the window, how come I couldn’t? It took me a while to figure out why I guiltily slid the flag into the recycling bin instead of taping it up. The meaning had changed; or let’s say it changed back. In the first day or two the flags were plastered everywhere, seeing them was heartening because they indicated that we’re all in this sorrow together. The flags were purely emotional. Once we went to war, once the president announced that we were going to retaliate against the “evildoers,” then the flag again represented what it usually represents, the government. I think  that’s when the flags started making me nervous.”
— Sarah Vowell, The Partly Cloudy Patriot, p.158

A few days ago I finished listening to Sarah Vowell’s Unfamiliar Fishes, an account of the American annexation of Hawaii in 1898. As a public radio listening, I’ve had the biggest crush on her voice since being introduced to This American Life and hearing her work on that show.

In case you’re not familiar with the story, the annexation of Hawaii came about through the deliberate intervention of the grandsons of American Christian missionaries. The Kingdom of Hawaii occurred five years previously in 1893, led mainly by anti-imperialist American citizens. Basically, it’s another chapter in the all-too-real horror story of imperialist manifest destiny and American exceptionalism; this notion that America has been called by God to “Christianize” other countries and bring their peoples under the authority of Christ—i.e., rich white men armed with the certainty that their theology is the right one, and that their cause is the only just one.

In other words, “Might makes right” (i.e., the Bush doctrine).

The same belief that led the United States to invade and occupy Iraq for 8 years, 8 months and 3 weeks, and Afghanistan since 7 October 2001, is the same one that led nineteenth century American columnist John L. O’Sullivan to remark of Oregon: “That claim is by the right of our manifest destiny to overspread and to possess the whole of the continent which Providence has given us for the development of the great experiment of liberty and federated self-government entrusted to us.”

Stand there with a straight face and tell me that the current American foreign wars (i.e., occupations) aren’t experiments in American democracy.

A nineteenth century cartoon of a schoolhouse overseen by a glowering Uncle Sam scowling at childlike representations of rebellious Philippines, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and Cuba has this written on the chalkboard:

The consent of the governed is a good thing in theory, but very rare in fact.

England has governed her colonies whether they consented or not. By not waiting for their consent she has greatly advanced the world’s civilization.

The U.S. must govern its new territories with or without their consent until they can govern themselves.

And when I hear Mitt Romney saying things like, “God did not create this country to be a nation of followers. America is not destined to be one of several equally balanced global powers,” I hear the boats being readied again, as they were in  1820 when the first Protestant Christian missionaries arrived in Hawaii, to dispatch his manifest destiny theology like a virus to foreign shores.

I am becoming increasingly ashamed to be an American. Not only are our students some of the least educated in the Western world, but we’re also the most strongly religious Western country. Every time a Republican opens their mouth to say that women can’t get pregnant from rape, or that homosexuals are the cause of hurricanes, I feel as though the country I was born and raised in is being pulled from my hands just a little bit more.

In 2006, Grace Church Roseville, the church I grew up in got a new pastor. He was young, with fresh, new ideas about how to engage the community and “grow the flock.” At first things were okay. Like any new relationship, we knew it would take time to get to know him and adjust to the change in leadership. But then things started to change in a not-so-exciting direction. Sermons were watered down to appeal to a wider demographic. (The senior pastor now apparently delivers talks from an iPad.) Thousands of dollars were spent refurbishing the sanctuary, with special attention paid to lights in order to “enhance the worship experience” (i.e., put on a flashier show). The point at which I checked out was when they wanted to buy a professional barista machine. I remember sitting in church one Sunday, and as though I’d just woken up, I thought: “This isn’t my home anymore.” The physical room was the same, but it had changed to the point where it was unrecognizable as the place I’d known.

So now conservative Christians are trying to force their anti-gay agenda on this country, attempting to overturn the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and derail efforts to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. They claim to not hate gays, and perhaps they truly don’t—which makes their work all the more hideous for throwing LGBT Americans under the bus in order to further their political agenda and pander to an ultra-conservative voter base. Because the truth is that there’s a lot of money to be had from evangelical Christians—money that isn’t going to feed the hungry, help the poor and sick, or relieve global suffering.

Apparently stopping those godless faggots from not hurting anyone is more important than being like their Christ.

Regardless 0f what happens in this election, this country is less of a home to me now thanks to conservative bastards like Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, Tony Perkins and Maggie Gallagher. The fact that they’re still being taken seriously makes me wonder if there’s anything left to fight for here.

Sic transit gloria mundi.

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On the way up to my boyfriend’s place this weekend I was listening to the audiobook of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, which I’ve read and listened to several times so I mostly revisit just to hear Dawkins and his wife Lalla Ward read. They could recite the periodic table of elements and I’d still listen.

Earlier this morning I was going through email, RSS, Facebook and Twitter feeds (thank you, HootSuite) and came across an article on Upworthy about The Top 8 Ways To Be ‘Traditionally Married’ According To The Bible. It’s that infographic that’s been going around the Internet for months, and is actually a pretty concise description of what a traditional, “biblical” marriage looks like—according to the Bible.

But as I opened the page, the following bubble popped up…

What exactly do global warming and same-sex marriage have to do with each other? I don’t really need to explain my stance on same-sex marriage, but when it comes to global warming my opinion is fairly nuanced. Just as same-sex marriage is a complex issue that can’t be distilled down to “agree” or “disagree,” global warming isn’t as simple as everyone makes it out to be.

While I agree that the earth is warming, I don’t think that human activity is 100% responsible. There are many plausible explanations for the trends we’re observing, such as increased solar activity (a theory backed by CERN scientists concerned about charged subatomic particles from outer space) or geomagnetic reversal (which is a rather more frightening prospect than global warming).

To be clear, I think we should be doing more to keep our air clean and not pollute. It doesn’t make sense to use the water in your own backyard as a sewer, and we have future generations to think about. Plus, interplanetary travel isn’t yet possible and we have limited resources on the earth, so why spend money you don’t have?

But it bothered me that I was only given two choices to a question I didn’t entire agree with. If I went with the affirmative, I was agreeing with the idea that same-sex marriage should be legal and that humans are responsible for global warming trends. If I went with the negative, I was saying that there are other forces at work besides human activity and that same-sex marriage shouldn’t be legal. It’s one of those “gotcha!” tactics, such as when politicians sneak piggybacked legislation into bills. The addition of a repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell to an otherwise unnoteworthy defense spending bill is one such example.

There are other examples of how this tactic is used to trap people into agreeing or disagreeing with certain positions, but it illustrates how emotional appeal instead of intellectual argument is employed. On the issue of same-sex marriage, conservatives voters are being caged into supporting the denial of equal treatment of the GLBT community. They hear things like, “If gay marriage is legalized, your children will be taught about homosexuality in school!” which is code for “Your children will be taught how to be homosexuals!”, as if in addition to the safe sex and AIDS prevention curriculum in health class they’ll also receive tips on how to properly fellate a penis and cruise for men in a gay bar. A Christian may not agree with the majority that homosexuality is wrong, but with the looming spectre of the “gay agenda” and the demonization of homosexuality they may not see that they have a choice.

The Daisy ad from Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 presidential campaign that effectively won him the election is an example of how conservatives are using scare tactics and emotional appeal (pathos) to cloud people’s judgment…

In fact, most of the conservative efforts to pass constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage appear to be taken from this iconic minute-long commercial. It appeals to a primal fear in human—that of some harm coming to children. With the threat of the Cold War and nuclear holocaust, the juxtaposition of the girl plucking daisies with the mushroom cloud was a frightening reality for voters in that election.

In one of his essays, David Sedaris illustrates the power of guilt by association:

As we pulled into the station, I recalled an afternoon 10 years earlier. I’d been riding the Chicago El with my sister, Amy, who was getting off two or three stops ahead of me. The doors opened. And, as she stepped out of the crowded car, she turned around to yell, “So long, David. Good luck beating that rape charge.” Everyone on board had turned to stare at me. Some seemed curious, some seemed frightened, but the overwhelming majority appeared to hate me with a ferocity I had never before encountered. “That’s my sister,” I said. “She likes to joke around.” I laughed and smiled, but it did no good. Every gesture made me appear more guilty. And I wound up getting off at the next stop rather than continue riding alongside people who thought of me as a rapist.

There was no evidence that he was a rapist, but all it took was the mere suggestion that he might be to convince a car full of strangers that he was the most vile human being on earth.

In the same way, conservative anti-gay groups have employed this subtle but effective approach in demonizing gay rights. With the allegation that homosexuality is eroding the moral fiber of our country and that it puts children and families at risk, it becomes very difficult to overcome such claims because of the passionate emotions those images evoke. And, as we know, emotions can make people irrational. We’ve seen this in nearly thirty different state campaigns to ban same-sex marriage, and it’s worked—overwhelmingly and inexorably.

So are you the kind of person who believes that global warming exists and gay people should have the freedom to get married?

144. natch

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On April 15, 1912, the RMS Titanic hit an iceberg while en route from Southampton in England to New York City. I don’t need to say much about the disaster. There are documentaries and movies enough on the subject. The most poignant aspect for me about this story is the breakdown of survivors and those who died. The majority of the victims were men, as men were expected to give up their seats on the lifeboats for the women and children. 1,387 men died in the water that night.

The greatest number of casualties were, not surprisingly, amongst the third class passengers, of which there were 706 altogether. 84% (387 of 462) of male and 54% (89 of 165) of female steerage passengers perished. 66% (52 of 79) of their children didn’t make it either. The second class didn’t fare much better. Of the 168 men, 154 (92%) were lost. The second class women were luckier: of 93, only 13 (14%) died. Amazingly, all of the children in second class survived.

In first class, the men bore the heaviest toll, with 66% (118 of 175) never making it to New York City. Still, that’s significantly less than the lower two classes. Of the 144 women aboard in first class, only 4 (3%) died; and of the 6 children, only 1 didn’t make it.

That’s a lot of numbers, but those numbers speak volumes in terms of the human loss of life, of the drama of that story and of the terror and hopelessness that these people went to their deaths with. These were 1,514 individuals with their own unique stories, loves and losses that died in the water that night. Doubtless some of them died believing that their merciful God would save them or at least accept their souls into heaven—probably the greatest and cruelest tragedy of all.

It also speaks to the subjective standards by which human lives were weighed. Your chances of survival on the Titanic that night were predetermined by how much you paid for your ticket, and therefore how valuable you were based on your class. Steerage passengers were corralled below decks like animals and had little access to the lifeboats.

This brings me to my topic for today, which is a familiar topic for many who follow this blog: the religious opposition to gay marriage.

Today the ironically named conservative group Minnesota for Marriage posted a new “marriage minute” which addresses the question: “I have heard people talk about same-sex marriage interfering with ‘Religious liberty’ principles. What does that mean?”

This is probably the most popular argument from religious conservatives—that if marriage is redefined as genderless it will result in the persecution of religious individuals and groups. Churches that refuse to perform same-sex marriages will lose their tax-exempt status (which I and many others don’t think they should have anyway). Christians who speak out against same-sex marriage or gay rights will be thrown in jail. Christian businesses that refuse to, for example, print wedding invitations for same-sex couples will be fined or lose the business altogether. Basically… GAYPOCALYPSE!!

This is one of the loudest talking points for conservatives. They have the nerve and audacity to cling to the Constitution in order to protect their right to discriminate—laws never intended to enshrine religious discrimination or prejudice. Quite the opposite. As a cartoon on the website Slap Upside the Head reads, “Not being able to treat gays as second-class citizens makes me a second-class citizen!” ThinkProgress had a great article about this a few months ago titled “Inside NOM’s Strategy: Use ‘Religious Liberty’ As A Catalyzing Red Herring.” In it, they quote from a memo that included the following passage:

We have learned how to make the coercive pressures on religious people and institutions an issue in the United States. We will use this knowledge to raise the profile of government attacks on the liberties of religious people and institutions in Europe, both for internal domestic consumption in Europe and to halt the movement towards gay marriage worldwide. Our goal is to problematize the oppression of Christians and other traditional faith communities in the European mind.

So yet again, conservatives are resorting to fearmongering and post hoc reasoning in order to scare the Faithful into the voting booth in November. At the risk of invoking Godwin’s law, this is precisely how Hitler was able to gain support in Germany: by manufacturing a threat (in this case, that the Jews were responsible for Germany’s financial woes) in order to rally the people to his side. And as we know now, it worked quite effectively. Here we have groups like NOM and Minnesota for Marriage doing exactly the same thing in response to the “crisis” of the looming threat of gay marriage.

Why shouldn’t a business that refuses a gay couple for no other reason than their bigoted religious beliefs be sued? True, a business has the right to serve whoever they want to serve; and in Maryland, special provisions were put in place guaranteeing that this sort of thing wouldn’t happen. And frankly, we gays should boycott businesses that are not GLBT-friendly. However, at the risk of evoking an overused trope, there was also a time when it was acceptable for businesses to refuse to serve black patrons. As time went on, those businesses were pressured into change not by the government but by public opinion that came to view such behavior as prejudiced.

I say this a lot, but there is no reason other than homophobia bolstered by religious dogma for the GLBT community to be treated differently than the rest of hetero land. Their “scientific” studies are being discredited left and right. The medical and psychological communities haven’t been able to find anything wrong with gays. At what point do we just say “Enough!” to these people? We hear their fear, but we’re doing nobody a service by accommodating this nonsense.

Religious liberty ends where it senselessly tramples on the civil rights and liberties of citizens, and stands in the way of the inalienable Rights of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.