Thursday, March 30, 2006

Book Recommendation: Blankets

I haven't read many graphic novels, but this was one of the most beautiful books I've read.

[T]his sensitive memoir recreates the confusion, emotional pain and isolation of the author's rigidly fundamentalist Christian upbringing, along with the trepidation of growing into maturity. Skinny, naive and spiritually vulnerable, Thompson and his younger brother manage to survive their parents' overbearing discipline (the brothers are sometimes forced to sleep in "the cubby-hole," a forbidding and claustrophobic storage chamber) through flights of childhood fancy and a mutual love of drawing. But escapist reveries can't protect them from the cruel schoolmates who make their lives miserable. Thompson's grimly pious parents and religious community dismiss his budding talent for drawing; they view his creative efforts as sinful and relentlessly hector the boys about scripture. By high school, Thompson's a lost, socially battered and confused soul-until he meets Raina and her clique of amiable misfits at a religious camp. Beautiful, open, flexibly spiritual and even popular (something incomprehensible to young Thompson), Raina introduces him to her own less-than-perfect family; to a new teen community and to a broader sense of himself and his future. The two eventually fall in love and the experience ushers Thompson into the beginnings of an adult, independent life. Thompson manages to explore adolescent social yearnings, the power of young love and the complexities of sexual attraction with a rare combination of sincerity, pictorial lyricism and taste. His exceptional b&w drawings balance representational precision with a bold and wonderfully expressive line for pages of ingenious, inventively composed and poignant imagery. (Publishers Weekly, via amazon)

Monday, March 27, 2006

Taking a Break

I've decided I need to take a break from blogging. Not because of the recent craziness, but just because I'm spending too much time online and I'd like to take some time off. I've turned off comments for now. Also, I probably won't be reading or commenting on other blogs, either.

Best wishes to all.

An Apology

So I posted about a hot-button topic and then went away for the weekend, leaving my blog unsupervised. I never delete posts based on content, but I'm usually around to steer the conversation a little and ask people to be more civil when necessary. I'll resist writing such controversial posts before I go away in the future.

This blog would be boring without differing opinions, so I hope that those who felt ganged-up on or treated uncivilly in that thread will keep coming back.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Christians More Likely than Secular to Support Torture

The idea that Christians are more moral than atheists is such bullshit. And if my use of the word "bullshit" upsets you more than the data in this table, you've got a real problem.

Survey by Pew Research Center for the People & the Press Oct. 12-24, 2005; nationwide survey conducted among 2,006 adults. Via The Secular Outpost who got it via Andrew Sullivan.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Bad Religious Arguments: Pascal's Wager

Pascal's wager goes as follows:

First, Pascal assumed that one could not use reason alone to determine if God exists, but rather must make a decision to believe or not to believe. (I object to this assumption on two grounds - first, that we may indeed use reason to rule out many definitions of God, and second, that one cannot necessarily *decide* to believe in or not believe in God. However, that's outside the scope of this post.)

Based on this assumption, Pascal argues that we should make the most rational choice, which can be thought of as a wager. The choice may be best represented as a matrix:

 God existsGod does not exist
Wager for GodInfinite rewardInsignificant relative to infinite reward/punishment
Wager against GodInfinite punishmentInsignificant relative to infinite reward/punishment

Now this of course makes a number of suspect assumptions which are also outside the scope of this post, particularly that God will reward those who choose to believe or act a certain way merely to achieve Heaven or avoid Hell.

However, the part I would like to focus on is God. If Pascal's Wager is to work, we must know which God to follow! Surely Pascal had in mind the Christian God, but the wager doesn't work if we pick the wrong God. In order to make the most rational wager, we must look at all the potential gods.

There are several questions we must consider. First, we may estimate a probability for each religion being the correct one. Second, we may compare all the various Heavens and Hells to see if some are better than others. Third, we may compare the various religions to find Gods which are more tolerant of those who believe in the wrong God. Finally, we must consider how likely it is we will succeed in pleasing a particular God if we try our best.

How may we estimate the probability of each religion being correct?

One possibility is to simply create a ratio of followers of each particular religion over all believers. Some religions may be combined while others must be separate. For example, if being either an Anglican or a Catholic will get you in the same God's good graces, we may safely combine them. However, if being a Mormon will get you in trouble with the Catholic God and vice-versa, we must consider them separately. A simple ratio doesn't seem like a very accurate measure of probable correctness, but it may be the only measure we have, if we're assuming (as we are) that one cannot use Reason to determine if a given God exists.

Heaven and Hell

Would you prefer 72 virgins or an eternal beis midrash? Harp music or nirvana? While any eternal Heaven may serve as "infinite good" for the purposes of our wager, we might have a personal preference for one over another. Everything else being equal, we should pick the religion with the most appealing Heaven. Similarly, not all Hells are equal. We can certainly rule out those religions with limited or no versions of Hell (sorry Orthodox Judaism and Buddhism.) We must avoid the worst Hells we can. To me, the Catholic (and certain other branches of Christianity) Hell seems by far the worst and most eternal.

Is a God Tolerant of Non-adherents?

We may safely throw out all the Gods who are tolerant of non-adherents, since we need not fear following the wrong God if He is the correct one.

How Hard is it To Please a God?

If we decide that we like one God's Heaven the best and fear His Hell the most, we still have to consider whether we will please Him if we try. If, for example, we will never please Him no matter how hard we try, there's no sense wagering on Him, since we'll be screwed either way. I would rule out Jehovah's Witnesses, for example, since their God only allows 144,000 people into Heaven and I don't like those odds. Certain other religions have exceedingly difficult standards, and others still are impossible to succeed in without having been born a certain way.


Based on careful consideration, I recommend a branch of Christianity which has 1) a large number of followers, 2) a very good Heaven and a very scary, infinite Hell, 3) an intolerant God, 4) and a relatively easy path to Heaven. For example, a Christian denomination that demands only that you believe in Jesus seems perfect.

So Pascal's Wager (assuming we agree with its basic assumptions) is only a bad religious argument if you're arguing for a different religion.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Atheists are America's Most Distrusted Minority

Just when I was starting to wonder why I bother defending atheism:

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (3/20/2006) -- American’s increasing acceptance of religious diversity doesn’t extend to those who don’t believe in a god, according to a national survey by researchers in the University of Minnesota’s department of sociology.

From a telephone sampling of more than 2,000 households, university researchers found that Americans rate atheists below Muslims, recent immigrants, gays and lesbians and other minority groups in “sharing their vision of American society.” Atheists are also the minority group most Americans are least willing to allow their children to marry.

Even though atheists are few in number, not formally organized and relatively hard to publicly identify, they are seen as a threat to the American way of life by a large portion of the American public. “Atheists, who account for about 3 percent of the U.S. population, offer a glaring exception to the rule of increasing social tolerance over the last 30 years,” says Penny Edgell, associate sociology professor and the study’s lead researcher.

Edgell also argues that today’s atheists play the role that Catholics, Jews and communists have played in the past—they offer a symbolic moral boundary to membership in American society. “It seems most Americans believe that diversity is fine, as long as every one shares a common ‘core’ of values that make them trustworthy—and in America, that ‘core’ has historically been religious,” says Edgell. Many of the study’s respondents associated atheism with an array of moral indiscretions ranging from criminal behavior to rampant materialism and cultural elitism.

Edgell believes a fear of moral decline and resulting social disorder is behind the findings. “Americans believe they share more than rules and procedures with their fellow citizens—they share an understanding of right and wrong,” she said. “Our findings seem to rest on a view of atheists as self-interested individuals who are not concerned with the common good.”

The researchers also found acceptance or rejection of atheists is related not only to personal religiosity, but also to one’s exposure to diversity, education and political orientation—with more educated, East and West Coast Americans more accepting of atheists than their Midwestern counterparts.

The study is co-authored by assistant professor Joseph Gerteis and associate professor Doug Hartmann. It’s the first in a series of national studies conducted the American Mosaic Project, a three-year project funded by the Minneapolis-based David Edelstein Family Foundation that looks at race, religion and cultural diversity in the contemporary United States. -- Atheists identified as America’s most distrusted minority, via iidb. [emphasis added]

So Americans are more unwilling to let their children marry atheists than marry members of any other minority group, plus they associate atheism with criminal behavior, rampant materialism, and cultural elitism. This just makes me sick.

(This is my second post today. Don't miss the first one.)

The War Prayer

It was a time of great and exalting excitement. The country was up in arms, the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and spluttering; on every hand and far down the receding and fading spread of roofs and balconies a fluttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun; daily the young volunteers marched down the wide avenue gay and fine in their new uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and sisters and sweethearts cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as they swung by; nightly the packed mass meetings listened, panting, to patriot oratory which stirred the deepest deeps of their hearts, and which they interrupted at briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears running down their cheeks the while; in the churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country, and invoked the God of Battles beseeching His aid in our good cause in outpourings of fervid eloquence which moved every listener. It was indeed a glad and gracious time, and the half dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and cast a doubt upon its righteousness straightway got such a stern and angry warning that for their personal safety's sake they quickly shrank out of sight and offended no more in that way.

Sunday morning came -- next day the battalions would leave for the front; the church was filled; the volunteers were there, their young faces alight with martial dreams -- visions of the stern advance, the gathering momentum, the rushing charge, the flashing sabers, the flight of the foe, the tumult, the enveloping smoke, the fierce pursuit, the surrender! Then home from the war, bronzed heroes, welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory! With the volunteers sat their dear ones, proud, happy, and envied by the neighbors and friends who had no sons and brothers to send forth to the field of honor, there to win for the flag, or, failing, die the noblest of noble deaths. The service proceeded; a war chapter from the Old Testament was read; the first prayer was said; it was followed by an organ burst that shook the building, and with one impulse the house rose, with glowing eyes and beating hearts, and poured out that tremendous invocation

God the all-terrible! Thou who ordainest! Thunder thy clarion and lightning thy sword!

Then came the "long" prayer. None could remember the like of it for passionate pleading and moving and beautiful language. The burden of its supplication was, that an ever-merciful and benignant Father of us all would watch over our noble young soldiers, and aid, comfort, and encourage them in their patriotic work; bless them, shield them in the day of battle and the hour of peril, bear them in His mighty hand, make them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset; help them to crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and country imperishable honor and glory --

An aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up the main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister, his long body clothed in a robe that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a frothy cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even to ghastliness. With all eyes following him and wondering, he made his silent way; without pausing, he ascended to the preacher's side and stood there waiting. With shut lids the preacher, unconscious of his presence, continued with his moving prayer, and at last finished it with the words, uttered in fervent appeal, "Bless our arms, grant us the victory, O Lord our God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!"

The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside -- which the startled minister did -- and took his place. During some moments he surveyed the spellbound audience with solemn eyes, in which burned an uncanny light; then in a deep voice he said:

"I come from the Throne -- bearing a message from Almighty God!" The words smote the house with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he gave no attention. "He has heard the prayer of His servant your shepherd, and will grant it if such shall be your desire after I, His messenger, shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say, its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men, in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause and think.

"God's servant and yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused and taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him Who heareth all supplications, the spoken and the unspoken. Ponder this -- keep it in mind. If you would beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon a neighbor at the same time. If you pray for the blessing of rain upon your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse upon some neighbor's crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it.

"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the pastor -- and also you in your hearts -- fervently prayed silently. And ignorantly and unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. the whole of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant words. Elaborations were not necessary. When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory -- must follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it -- for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

(After a pause.) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits!"

It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

Mark Twain

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

A Rotating, Orbiting Earth is a Factless, Observation-Denying Deception

WHAT IF - God has allowed the deceptive power of Satan to be great enough thus far to prevent Creationists (and other believers in Bible inerrancy) from seeing that Copernicanism--just like evolutionism--has NO scientific proof whatever to support its "science-fiction" claims?

A good question. From I'd like to say this post is a parody in honor of Purim, but the site seems like it's for real.

Some more questions:

WHAT IF - Galileo offered no proof whatsoever for heliocentrism but did all he could to elevate secular science over Bible science, thereby contributing greatly to the establishment of the mindset that later served evolutionism so well?

WHAT IF - Creationists can know that Copernicanism is the demonstrable precursor of evolutionism both as Bible destroyer and as the guarantor that the anti-Bible false science establishment would become modern man's criterion of Truth Itself?

WHAT IF - the Bible teaches a stationary earth (just like everyone agreed it did until Copernican and finally Newtonian "mathematics" scared the churches into thinking that "science" had proof of heliocentricity)?

And that's just a few of them.

For your convenience, the site has been organized into twelve subject areas with at least ten articles each:

1) The following subjects confirm that the Copernican Model of a rotating, orbiting Earth is a factless, observation-denying deception that is the keystone which is holding up all of modern man’s false "science" and "knowledge".

2) Without alleged billions of years there would be no evolution "theory". Period. NASA and its global Space Agency Clones now supply those billions of years.

3) Trapped by their own words and deeds, anyone can discover how a Virtual Reality evolved universe has been consciously fabricated through "reconstructed math", computer manipulation of telescopes and cameras, lies about star distances, and endless assumptions...all dependent upon the vulnerable Copernican keystone.

4) In addition to the ongoing irrefutable evidence which exposes the 15 billion year evolution model as a contra-scientific fraud, the most lethal fact about that model has only recently emerged.

That fact tells all with ears to hear that the "creation scenario" from a "holy book" of the Pharisee Religion has been foisted upon the world disguised as a secular science model with no religious agenda.

5) The Bible teaches that the Earth is stationary and immovable at the center of a "small" universe with the sun, moon, and stars going around it every day. All observational and experimental evidence--and non-occult math, i.e., true science--supports the Bible teaching.

6) The Evolution Monopoly in public education in the USA can now be ruled unlawful under the same "Establishment Clause" of the Constitution that has been used consistently to defeat all challenges to that Monopoly in the Courts. These three links set forth an air-tight legal case for expelling Evolutionism from the schools.

7) Because of their total pro-Israel theology, the powerful "Christian Zionist" evangelical churches are, by default, the biggest supporters of the Talmud/ Kabbala-based Pharisee Religion. That Religion is killing Bible Christianity with: a) its evolution-based "creation model"; b) its control over demonstrably anti-Bible "Dispensationalist" doctrine of a literal Millennium. The Preterit alternative is also an anti-Bible decoy. The Kabbala and the Talmud--anti-Christ "holy books"--are the hidden destroyers of Bible-only Christian theology and morals and ethics.

8) The excuses Christian Churches have used to avoid standing up for numerous and abundantly plain non-moving Earth Scriptures--and the true science that supports those Scriptures!--are no longer valid excuses. The fact that the Pharisee’s evolutionary 15 billion year Big Bang Model has come out of the closet with its anti-Bible "creation scenario" leaves no more wiggle room for Christian Churches...and especially the "Creationists" in them.

9) A few examples (out of millions!) which show unarguable Design in the Animal world, the Physical world, and the Bible.

10) These links are pertinent to the subject of Islam in these troubled times.

11) These are just four miscellaneous links on the web page which relate to the Roman Catholic Church.

12) When the Pharisee Religion’s evolutionary "creation scenario is exposed during the Biblical Fall of Babylon time frame, many other contra-Scriptural teachings will come under the same withering Bible-only scrutiny...and will quickly fail the test. When the "Judgment [that] begins at the house of God" is over, the purge of all doctrines that fail the test will be completed, and the nucleus of the final Church--the Bride of Christ "without spot or wrinkle"--will emerge.

(via metafilter)

Monday, March 13, 2006

If God Exists, Everything is Permitted

More than a century ago, in "The Brothers Karamazov" and other works, Dostoyevsky warned against the dangers of godless moral nihilism, arguing in essence that if God doesn't exist, then everything is permitted...

This argument couldn't have been more wrong: the lesson of today's terrorism is that if God exists, then everything, including blowing up thousands of innocent bystanders, is permitted — at least to those who claim to act directly on behalf of God, since, clearly, a direct link to God justifies the violation of any merely human constraints and considerations. In short, fundamentalists have become no different than the "godless" Stalinist Communists, to whom everything was permitted since they perceived themselves as direct instruments of their divinity, the Historical Necessity of Progress Toward Communism. --Slavoj Zizek, Defenders of the Faith, via ambivablog

Of all the arguments against atheism, the argument from morality must be the worst. I've tried to refute it several times on this blog, but Dr. Zizek nails it.

If God exists, than whatever God says, we must do. More precisely, whatever we believe God says, we must do. When Abraham heard a voice telling him to murder his son, he prepared to do so. When the Hebrews were commanded to conquer the nations of Canaan, they did so. When Islamic terrorists hear the voice of God telling them to blow up a pizza shop or fly into some skyscrapers, they obey. When Deanna Laney saw signs from God that she should kill her children, she did so.

After all, what does morality mean in a theistic worldview? If God commands it, it must be moral. That's objective morality.

The theists will surely argue that God didn't exactly tell Abraham to kill his child, that conquering the Canaanites was indeed moral, that the terrorists are fooling themselves, and that Mrs. Laney was surely insane. Well, where does that leave you? How do you know if your interpretation of God's will is correct, if you aren't fooling yourself, if you're sane?

Don't you have to see if your perception of God's will aligns with your own sense of morality before you can act on it?

Aren't you really in the same boat as us atheists? Except more in danger of being misled by voices, religious interpretations, or religious leaders?

Friday, March 10, 2006

Correction: Abortions Did NOT Increase after George W. Took Office

In two posts about abortion this week, I quoted an article which said:

Abortion rates fell during pro-choice President Bill Clinton’s administration by 17.4 percent. Abortion rates have risen under “pro-life” president George W. Bush by 14.6 percent.

Random didn't buy it and could not find the source of that statistic.

In fact, after researching it myself, I found the page on the subject and they have this to say:

A number of politicians and organizations have been circulating an interesting and surprising idea: that abortions have gone up under George W. Bush’s watch. The claim is repeated by supporters of abortion rights as evidence that Bush's anti-abortion policies have backfired, or at least been ineffective.

But the claim is untrue. In fact, according to the respected Alan Guttmacher Institute, a 20-year decline in abortion rates continued after Bush took office...

So where did this idea come from?

The claim that abortions are rising again can be traced back to an opinion piece by Glen Harold Stassen, an ethics professor at Fuller Theological Seminary. His article originally appeared in a web and e-mail publication of Sojourners, a Christian magazine, in October 2004. Several other outlets, including the Houston Chronicle, also ran a similar piece co-authored by Stassen and journalist Gary Krane. The articles generated a good deal of discussion on a number of both liberal and conservative blogs.

Describing himself as “consistently pro-life,” Stassen reported that he “analyzed the data on abortion during the Bush presidency” and reached some “disturbing” conclusions. "Under President Bush, the decade-long trend of declining abortion rates appears to have reversed," he said. "Given the trends of the 1990s, 52,000 more abortions occurred in the United States in 2002 than would have been expected before this change of direction."

Stassen's broad conclusion wasn't justified by the sketchy information he cited, however. Furthermore, a primary organization he cited specifically as a source for historical data now contradicts him, saying abortions have continued to decline since Bush took office. More about that later.

And where is that 14.6% number from?

According to Stassen, "Eight states saw an increase in abortion rates (14.6 percent average increase), and five saw a decrease (4.3 percent average)." A version of the piece in the Houston Chronicle reported instead that four saw a decrease with a 4.3 percent average.

I apologize for quoting the article without doing a quick Google search to check the figures.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Law: Should We Punish Sinners or Focus on Effects?

Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies. --Groucho Marx

The article I linked to in my post about abortion combined with JDHURF's latest post about drug legalization got me thinking. It seems that the disagreements I have with with social conservatives on both issues stems from one fundamental difference between how we think about the law.

Social conservatives think that if something is "wrong," it should be illegal. I think that the law is a tool societies should use to effect beneficial change.


Let's take abortion, which we will assume for the sake of argument is "wrong." Social conservatives say, "Well, it's wrong! Therefore it must be illegal!" However, there are several problems with this line of reasoning.

First, if you believe abortion is wrong, you must want to decrease the number of them. As I wrote in my abortion post, Democrat Bill Clinton was very successful in reducing the number of abortions: abortions declined by 17.4 percent during his time in office. (Compare George W. Bush, the "pro-life" politician, under whose rule abortions increased by 14.6 percent!

Second, you must consider the negative effects of criminalizing abortion. Based on pre-Roe America, it's obvious that women will continue to seek abortions, but that they will receive substandard care by non-physicians. Before Roe, there were anywhere from 100 to 1000 deaths of women per year due to illegal abortions.

Third, you must consider whether there are other "wrongs" caused by making one "wrong" illegal. Setting aside the fact that you would be enforcing a law on women which more than 50% of women disagree with, there would be a sharp increase of unwanted children. Note that this is where criminalization really lags behind other methods of reducing abortions, morally. Under Clinton's style of reducing abortions, they are reduced because potential mothers have more support. They have sufficient health care, sufficient money to support their children, and sufficient day care to watch their children. In other words, not only are abortions reduced, but the babies born as a result are wanted and cared for! If abortion were made illegal without enacting the typically Democratic system of providing for mother and child as well, you'd end up with a lot of unwanted children who couldn't be adequately provided for. Most likely, in twenty years, you'll have a whole generation of criminals.


Some liberals and most libertarians are in favor of drug decriminalization. Most conservatives, moderates, and many liberals are in favor of keeping them illegal. I believe that we should seriously consider decriminalization, because again, I believe the law should be used to effect positive results rather than to reflect simply what the people think is bad. I think we can do better.

Here are the problems with current drug laws: First, they don't significantly reduce drug usage. According to most surveys, almost half of all American adults have tried marijuana at least once. Any high-schooler will tell you marijuana is as easy to get as is beer. Second, they send a lot of otherwise innocent people to jail, which ruins lives, breaks up families, and possibly turns otherwise innocent people into criminals by reducing career prospects and convincing them that they are already criminals anyway. Third, current drug laws make drugs more dangerous. A heroin addict, for example, needs to get heroin, but has no idea of how pure the heroin he manages to procure is, what besides heroin is in the "heroin," whethere it even is heroin, etc. This leads to a huge number of deaths by accidental overdose. Fourth, drug laws sometimes prevent law-abiding citizens from the best medical treatment. Marijuana provides relief for glaucoma, nausea and lack of appetite due to chemotherapy, and some other medical maladies. Doctors sometimes want to prescribe it, but lawmakers overrule them.

So, what's the alternative? Luckily, we have some examples of legal drugs which are just as dangerous as some illegal ones. Tobacco is the number one cause of preventable death in America and is arguably more addictive than most of the illegal drugs. Yet instead of criminalizing it, America has taken more measured action, resulting in decreased usage, something which we can't say about drug use!

Americans smoked fewer cigarettes last year than at any time since 1951, and the nation's per capita consumption of tobacco fell to levels not seen since the early 1930s, the association of state attorneys general reported yesterday.

Using data the federal government gathers when it collects taxes on cigarette sales, the group found a 4.2 percent decline in 2005 alone and an overall drop of more than 20 percent since tobacco companies reached a legal settlement with the states in 1998.

Association leaders and other tobacco-control advocates hailed the decline as a sign that sometimes-controversial developments triggered by the $246 billion settlement have been effective. The drop was a result, they said, of factors that include the sharply higher cost of cigarettes, restrictions on cigarette advertising and a shift in public perceptions as the dangers of smoking are more aggressively and widely publicized. --Smoking In U.S. Declines Sharply: Cigarette Sales At a 54-Year Low


Let's put some reason back into public policy. Politicians do too much emotional argumentation, and the citizens do too much agreeing. Don't let politicians use their one-size-fits-all arguments! Abortion is bad, make it illegal. Drugs are bad, keep them illegal. Pornography is bad, make it illegal. To quote Jesus one more time, "You shall know them by their fruits." Vote for politicians whose policies actually help! If someone claims to be against behavior X, yet X increases during his tenure, vote him out! Spend some time figuring out what actually works. It's easy to say you're "pro-life," "pro-family," "tough on crime," etc, but if you don't back it up, you're just one more blowhard politician.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Jewish Atheist in the Press!

Clifford Singer wrote to inform me that he mentioned my blog in an article in Jewish Socialist magazine from the UK. The article is primarily a response to the infamous Jewish and Israeli Blog Awards:

Despite promising to 'showcase and increase awareness of the community's vast spectrum of bloggers', dissenting, left-wing or even moderately liberal sites were scarce among the nominees.

Later, he quotes Daniel Sieradski of Orthodox Anarchist and Jew School:

I get riled up because I have a hard time accepting that the Jewish community - which is primarily liberal and progressive - should appear to be so overrepresented by the religious right... The domination of the blogosphere by the Jewish right is a stain on our community and reflects poorly on us internally and externally.

Well said. Although there are certainly well-known liberal J-bloggers out there, we are seriously underrepresented. In 2004, Jewish Americans voted overwhelmingly for Kerry (77%-22%), but you certainly wouldn't guess that from the J-blogs.

Anyway, who cares about all that stuff? Here's the part about me:

If any talk of religious observance sends you into a cold sweat, head over to Jewish Atheist, whose 'About Me' description puts his stance succinctly: '1) I used to be a Modern Orthodox Jew. 2) I am now an atheist. 3) I believe that Judaism has a lot of beauty and wisdom, but that it also causes harm.' Jewish Atheist covers topics from creationism and 'Intelligent Design' to the ethics of giving to faith-based charities. His writing is forceful but never sanctimonious, and he avoids the overbearing style of one of his influences, Richard Dawkins. This has encouraged lively but respectful debates on his 'comments' pages - in contrast to other contentious blogs which degenerate into slanging matches.

Jewish Atheist also talks of his own break with orthodoxy and the pressures he faced. He mourns the loss of a community 'which I have not yet been able to replicate outside of Orthodox Judaism' but celebrates his personal and intellectual freedom. He writes too of overcoming guilt: 'Eventually, I came to the realisation that even though my parents were clearly embarrassed by me, it was not my fault. I was being true to myself and I had gone out of my way not to hurt anyone unnecessarily. If my parents couldn't learn to accept me as I was, it was their failing, not mine. It still hurt, but it didn't make me feel guilty any more.' [Links added --JA]

(Disclaimer: I'm a liberal/progressive but not a socialist. Also, like a good American, I spell "realization" with a "z." ;) So don't write angry emails.)

Monday, March 06, 2006

Literature As Spiritual Exercise

[T]he intellectuals of the West have, since the Renaissance, progressed through three stages: they have hoped for redemption first from God, then from philosophy, and now from literature. Monotheistic religion offers hope for redemption through entering into a new relation to a supremely powerful non-human person. Belief—as in belief in the articles of a creed—may be only incidental to such a relationship. For philosophy, however, beliefs are of the essence. Redemption by philosophy is through the acquisition of a set of beliefs which represent things in the one way they really are. Literature, finally, offers redemption through making the acquaintance of as great a variety of human beings as possible. Here again, as in religion, true belief may be of little importance.

From within a literary culture, religion and philosophy appear as literary genres. As such, they are optional. Just as an intellectual may opt to read many poems but few novels, or many novels but few poems, so he or she may read much philosophy, or much religious writing, but relatively few poems or novels. The difference between the literary intellectuals’ readings of all these books and other readings of them is that the inhabitant of a literary culture treats books as human attempts to meet human needs, rather than as acknowledgements of the power of a being that is what it is apart from any such needs. God and Truth, are, respectively the religious and the philosophical names for that sort of being. --The Decline of Redemptive Truth and the Rise of a Literary Culture, by Richard Rorty

As I've progressed in my journey away from Orthodox Judaism, I've found that neither philosophy nor empiricism have been able to replace it.

In my mind, philosophy suffers from the same problem as religion. As F. H. Bradley wrote (and Rorty quotes) "Metaphysics is the finding of bad reasons for what we believe upon instinct." Historically, philosophers have begun with their conclusions in mind (God exists, or doesn't, goodness exists, or doesn't, truth exists, or doesn't, etc.) and struggled to erect foundations to support their conclusions.

I was tempted to turn towards empiricism, or science. Science is alluring because it tirelessly roots out falsehoods, leaving only what is our best guess at the truth, becoming more correct as time progresses. As Rorty continues,

By the middle of the nineteenth century, it had become clear that mathematics and empirical science were going to be the only areas of culture in which one might conceivably hope to get unanimous, rational agreement—the only disciplines able to provide beliefs which would not be overturned as history rolls along. They were the only sources of cumulative results, and of propositions which were plausible candidates for the status of insight into the way things are in themselves, independent of the contingencies of human history. Unified natural science still seems to many intellectuals to be the answer to Socrates’ prayers.

The problem, though, is that while science may explain the physical universe more accurately than any philosophy ever created, it doesn't address the question of how to live one's life. Rorty:

Modern science, in short, has helped us see that if you want a metaphysics, then a materialistic metaphysics is the only one to have. But it has not given us any reason to think that we need a metaphysics. The need for metaphysics lasted only as long as the hope for redemptive truth lasted. But by the time that materialism triumphed over idealism, this hope had waned...

The literary culture’s attitude toward materialist metaphysics is, and should be, something like this: whereas both Plato’s and Hegel’s attempts to give us something more interesting than physics were laudable attempts to find a redemptive discipline to put in the place of religion, a materialist metaphysics is just physics getting above itself. Modern science is a gloriously imaginative way of describing things, brilliantly successful for the purpose for which it was developed—namely, predicting and controlling phenomena. But it should not pretend to have the sort of redemptive power claimed by its defeated rival, idealist metaphysics.

So if religion's out, philosophy's out, and even science is out, where does that leave us?

For the Socratic idea of self-examination and self-knowledge, the literary intellectual substitutes the idea of enlarging the self by becoming acquainted with still more ways of being human. For the religious idea that a certain book or tradition might connect you up with a supremely powerful or supremely lovable non-human person, the literary intellectual substitutes the Bloomian thought that the more books you read, the more ways of being human you have considered, the more human you become—the less tempted by dreams of an escape from time and chance, the more convinced that we humans have nothing to rely on save one another.

In another essay, Redemption from Egotism: James and Proust as Spiritual Exercises, Rorty writes that:

the best way to achieve Heideggerian authenticity—the best way, as Nietzsche said, to "become who you are" —is not to ask "what is the truth?" but rather to ask “what sorts of people are there in the world, and how do they fare?"

Answers to this question are provided by novels like Steinbeck’s, Zola’s and Stowe’s—novels that tell you about the wretchedly poor. They are also provided by novels like James’ and Proust’s that tell you about rich people expanding their horizons. Reading either sort of novel may help the reader to transcend the parents, teachers, customs, and institutions that have blinkered her imagination, and thereby permit her to achieve greater individuality and greater self-reliance...

The work in question is that of enlarging oneself.
That requires being ready to be bowled over by tomorrow’s experiences—to remain open to the possibility that the next book you read, or the next person you meet, will change your life. Increased rationality—increased coherence of belief and desire—cannot close itself off from this possibility of disruption without falling victim to cant. You are such a victim insofar as you believe that you already possess criteria for judging the value of any books or people you may encounter—criteria that will provide you with good and sufficient reasons for tucking each of them into some familiar pigeonhole. To avoid such victimization, you must give up one of the dreams of philosophy—the dream of completeness, of the imperturbability attributed by the wise, of the mastery supposedly possessed by those who have, once and for all, achieved completion by achieving enlightenment...

[W]hat novels do for us is to let us know how people quite unlike ourselves think of themselves, how they contrive to put actions that appall us in a good light, how they give their lives meaning. The problem of how to live our own lives then becomes a problem of how to balance our needs against theirs, and their self-descriptions against ours. To have a more educated, developed and sophisticated moral outlook is to be able to grasp more of these needs, and to understand more of these self-descriptions...

Novel-reading often increases tolerance for strange, and initially repellent, sorts of people. But the motto of the novel is not "to understand all is to forgive all." Rather, it is "Before you decide that an action was unforgivable, make sure that you know how it looked to the agent." You may well conclude that it was indeed unforgivable, but the knowledge of why it was done may help you avoid committing actions that you yourself will later find unforgivable. That is why reading a great many novels is the process by which young intellectuals of our time hope to become wise. This hope is the same that drove young intellectuals of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to read a great many religious and philosophical treatises.

I've been a fiction reader since I was three. I've lived a thousand different lifetimes, lived as people from countless cultures, real and imagined, people with philosophies similar to mine and those who were completely alien. It may be that access to this multitude of personalities is what made me feel that Orthodox Judaism was too small for me even before I read Hawking and Dawkins. Hawking and Dawkins may have convinced me that Orthodox Judaism isn't true in a literal sense, but it was fiction that made it seem insufficient in a broader and perhaps more important sense.

I agree with Rorty that there will never be an end to the questions, that no religion, no metaphysics, and no grand scientific theory of everything will ever, ever satisfy our thirst for "redemptive truth." The best we can do is to broaden our experience as much as possible, always growing, always assimilating other people's wisdom.

I suggest reading both essays if you're interested. I've only excerpted small parts.

Friday, March 03, 2006

The Pro-Life Track Record of the Democrats is Superior

In response to my last post, Sadie Lou commented that she agrees with progressives on most issues other than abortion and war. I don't want to discuss war right now, but I think there are a whole lot of Americans out there who would vote Democratic if not for the abortion issue.

I found an interesting article in Tikkun magazine (published by the Rabbi Michael Lerner of my last post) by a pro-life Democrat that I'd like to share.

The abortion issue is dragging Democrats down in the heartland...

After living for the past fifteen years on the West Coast, what struck me most in returning to my native Midwest during a presidential campaign was how loud and clear I heard the message “don’t vote for a candidate who won’t protect life” in local newspaper editorials, ads, bumper stickers, and friendly conversation. With two weeks to go before the election, pro-life efforts were ramped up even further. I emailed the Kerry campaign about the feeling in the air here, and how I thought Democrats would lose the election if we didn’t modify our message on abortion. Late on election night, Wisconsin, not surprisingly, was still too close to call. It ended up being one of the last states called, but it finally went for Kerry. The pundits labeled it “powder blue.” We had won the battle in Wisconsin, but, polls ultimately revealed, the Democrats had lost the war, not surprisingly, on “moral values.”

The author of the piece, Nina Kohl, had an abortion at 19. She now describes herself as pro-life. Although she admits she "is not in a position to judge anyone," she is passionate about "providing alternatives to abortion and sparing others the suffering it can cause."

The Democrats need a new way of talking about our position on abortion. The Republicans have got us on the defensive on cases like “partial-birth” abortion and we’re so backed into a corner that we end up defending the indefensible. We need to go on the offensive and talk about the fact that the pro-life track record of the Democrats is superior to that of the Republicans. Abortion rates fell during pro-choice President Bill Clinton’s administration by 17.4 percent. Abortion rates have risen under “pro-life” president George W. Bush by 14.6 percent.

How could a President who protects a woman’s reproductive rights lower the abortion rate? By protecting her from poverty, inadequate healthcare coverage, jobs without flexible schedules, lack of affordable daycare, limited access to contraception and sex education, and fathers who don’t take financial and emotional responsibility for their children. Perhaps the Republicans have latched on to making abortion illegal because addressing the issues that drive demand for the procedure is so outside the realm of the Republican agenda. But addressing these issues is solidly inside the realm of our Democratic agenda. In essence, it is the Democratic agenda.

She argues, quite convincingly, that Democrats do a much better job at reducing abortions than do Republicans:

Instead of the full range of highly effective strategies the Democrats can offer for reducing abortions, Republicans pretty much have one strategy of questionable effectiveness: make it illegal. The only other strategy they have proposed is one with no effectiveness at all: a program that recommends people not have sex outside of marriage. You can snicker at how comically unrealistic that is, but I applaud their idealism. I honestly do. Because the truth is, the very best antidote to abortion isn’t contraception, it’s responsibility. If we didn’t have sex outside the context of emotionally committed, stable relationships, abortion wouldn’t be an issue.

The problem with the idealism of the Republican plan is that they have no plan B. Their theory is that if you have high expectations, and provide no fallback, people will rise to the occasion. How effective has that strategy proven? A review of ten state evaluations has shown that federally funded abstinence-only programs have little impact. Sex education programs promoting abstinence-only until marriage, which teach teens only to “say no,” produced no long-term success in reducing sexual risk-taking behaviors or delaying sexual initiation. An independent analysis of recent federal data also showed little reduction in sexual risk-taking behavior among teens nationwide since the federal abstinence-only initiative began.

Belgium, a country where abortion is legal, has achieved the lowest abortion rate in the world, with sex education that recommends abstinence but stresses responsibility and teaches teens how to use contraception. Unlike the Republicans, Belgians have a plan B...

Under President Bush, "the decade-long trend of declining abortion rates appears to have reversed," according to Glenn Stassen, a professor of Christian ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary who is trained in statistical analysis...

Stassen says that rising unemployment and soaring healthcare costs are directly connected to the abortion rate. He notes that, "Economic policy and abortion are not separate issues. They form one moral imperative."

Stassen used data from the Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, the Guttmacher Institute, and reporting from individual states to determine that abortion rates in the U.S. had declined in the 1990s to a twenty-four-year low at the point that Bush took office. Many anticipated that, under a conservative president, the trend downward would continue, but just the opposite happened: 52,000 more abortions occurred in 2002 than the pre-2000 conditions would have predicted, and the abortion rate among those states reporting multi-year abortion statistics rose significantly.

What Stassen’s study showed is that there is a direct connection between economic hardship and abortion. Of women who abort, two-thirds say they can’t afford a child. Half say they don’t have a responsible mate and co-earner. And, among the 5.2 million Americans without health coverage since 2000, women of child-bearing age are overrepresented.

So Democrats are better than Republicans at reducing the number of abortions, but Republicans have are winning the rhetorical war with big but ultimately empty promises. How can Democrats convince pro-life voters?

The Democrats need to make a place for pro-lifers within the party...

The Republicans’ pro-life message is simple; it’s about making abortion illegal. The Democrats’ could send a more powerful pro-life message: We are working for a world where abortion is a rarity because women have the practical resources and support they need to prevent most unintended pregnancies and to carry to term those that do occur. Our broader pro-life agenda includes working for peace, economic justice, and environmental protection. On social issues we stand against the death penalty and for gun control. The Democratic Party is not only more effectively pro-life; it is more consistently pro-life than the Republican Party.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Why Religious Americans Should Be Liberals/Progressives

I recently watched Rabbi Michael Lerner on CSPAN discuss his new book The Left Hand of God: Taking Back Our Country from the Religious Right. I thought he had a very convincing argument about why so much of middle America has been voting Republican despite it being against their economic interests.

From the Amazon summaries:

Before detailing his plan, he provides an extensive survey of American history and ideology, rife with examples of dominant and controlling attributes favored by those on the right (the "right hand of God") who believe in a frightening world replete with evil and ruled by an avenging God. This contrasts with what he considers the loving, kind and generous tendencies of those at the "left hand of God," who instead believe in a compassionate and merciful deity.

He's concluded that America is in the midst of a "real spiritual crisis," one that has been recognized and exploited -- but not solved -- by the Republican Party. For the first half of the book, Lerner diagnoses the symptoms and causes of this crisis and argues that "the search for meaning in a despiritualized world ... leads many people to right-wing religious communities" and politics. Among the thousands of people Lerner and his colleagues have interviewed, some common concerns surfaced time and again: eroding societal values, America's troubling emphasis on money and greed, unstable families, the attempt to place monetary value on everyone and everything, and spiritual isolation. Right-wing religious institutions appeal to these concerns by providing communities of comfort and instructions on how to change this status quo; right-wing politicians promise to fix the problem by imposing their own solutions. No wonder voters of modest means are attracted. But as Lerner expertly details, the proffered solutions don't eliminate the concerns so much as they trade on their political value. Concerned about unstable families? Just outlaw gay marriage. Worried about popular culture? Impeach those activist judges.

I completely agree with Lerner's analysis. I believe that caring liberals and conservatives share many of the same concerns - America's troubling emphasis on money and greed, unstable families, the attempt to place monetary value on everyone and everything, and spiritual isolation.

I agree that liberals and conservatives want to fix these problems, but that conservative politicians have been much more successful in speaking the language. However, the Republicans offer quick-fixes which generally attack a scapegoat rather than going at the heart of the matter.

Lerner believes that liberals can do better:

And it's there, he argues, that liberals have the opportunity to craft a progressive "Spiritual Covenant with America," a blueprint that composes the second half of the book. From economic to family to national security issues, Lerner outlines a politics of meaning that connects traditional liberal values to what have been inaccurately defined as conservative concerns. The Left Hand of God is ambitious, sprawling and sometimes rambling, but it serves the vital purpose of articulating a progressive religious alternative to the conservative flavor of religion that has dominated American politics and society for the past 30 years.

I haven't read his book, but I'd like to explain why I believe that liberal/progressive policies are better-suited to solving the problems. Let's take one at a time the problems Lerner outlines as being of concern to Americans.

America's troubling emphasis on money and greed

America is incredibly materialistic. We're bombarded with advertising, and corporations like Phillip Morris and McDonald's dominate the American economy, raking in money while harming Americans. Something like 70% of Americans are up to their eyeballs (technical term) in debt because they spend more than they earn to keep up with the Joneses. Predatory lenders like credit card companies encourage this behavior, creating a generation of indentured servants. Americans want big SUVs, big houses, fancy clothes, and fancy jewelry. But deep down, they're unsatisfied.

The religious right blames secularism for the focus on money. Jesus of course preached that the love of money is the root of all evil, so all those focusing on money must be un-Christian. The religious right blames Hollywood, which in fact does fetishize money, and by extension liberals.

The Republican solution is to pay lip-service to religion. Let's put the ten commandments back in schools and courtrooms, tear down the wall between church and state, etc. But these solutions if enacted would do nothing to change the problem! The Republicans support Big Business, opposing minimum wages, environmental regulations, universal health care, higher gas taxes, and progressive taxation.

However, progressive thought is about fairness and equitable sharing. Progressives support universal health care, helping the poor, caring for the elderly and disabled, and progressive taxation. We want government to keep a close watch on corporations to prevent their tendency towards monopoly and unfair treatment of workers, consumers, and the environment. We want those who earn millions of dollars to pay a higher portion back into the country that supported them as they earned their money.

Unstable Families

Everybody knows that the divorce rate is out of control in America. Parents don't spend enough time with children, people live in all sorts of newfangled familial arrangements, etc.

Republicans do two things about this. They say, let's get people more religious and let's introduce legislation to encourage families with a mother and a father. They want to ban gay marriage, gay civil unions, gay adoption. They want to penalize unwed mothers, too, although they don't put it like that. They say we need a "culture of life," which refers only to abortion, contraception, and euthanasia, not war, lack of health care, or the death penalty.

Progressives agree that there's a problem. However, our idea is to help existing and future families stay together and provide a nurturing environment for children. We believe that the problem isn't, for example, gays wanting to marry, but that adults are too often thinking only of themselves and not their children or partners. We want to encourage all loving families, gay straight, single-parent if necessary, etc. We want to provide health care to families that can't afford it. We know that the single biggest issue dividing couples in America is money. We want to make it feasible for unwed mothers to raise their children well by providing child care when necessary and a fair, living wage for an honest day's work. We want there to be good educational systems which are absolutely necessary for children whose parents can't or won't provide good educations for them. We want to teach realistic sex ed which reduces unwanted pregnancy and disease as well as making condoms available when needed. We want parents to have access to mental health care when needed even if they can't afford it.

Spiritual Isolation

This one seems to be a slam-dunk for the religious right, right? They want to make religion more pervasive in America. They criticize the "liberal Hollywood elite" with their dodgy morals and many marriages. They criticize secular public schools. They blame "activist judges" and the ACLU for eroding the morals of America. They blame evolution.

But spiritual isolation is caused not by a lack of a specific religion, but a lack of closeness with other people, with love, and with meaning. The religious right contributes greatly to the sense of isolation by focusing on the punishing, angry side of God. They rail against homosexuality and Muslims and sinners. Progressives, on the other hand, focus on God's loving, providing side. We want corporations to treat people as human beings rather than mechanized labor. We want corporations to focus not just on the bottom line but on the effects they have on the nation and on the world. We want to fund the arts. Progressive religious groups focus on love, understanding, meaning, and the quest for peace. We believe that spiritual isolation is caused by the materialistic culture and an economy which requires both parents work long hours. We believe that class sizes in schools should be smaller, with more and better-paid teachers. We believe that we should spend less money on war and more money on helping our fellow humans. What if we spent as much on public health research as we did on Defense? Tens of millions of people could be employed helping others rather than joining the military or working in some bomb-making factory.


Republican rhetoric promises solutions to the "spiritual" problems facing America. Republican policies, however, do nothing of the sort. They focus on a few verses in Leviticus and take Genesis as literal history while ignoring everything God (and Jesus) taught about helping the needy, protecting the weak, and promoting peace. They fuel the greedy, debt-based culture we live in. They force people to work for corporations who show no social responsibility, who pollute our water and our air, who provide insufficient health care, who often don't pay enough for parents to get by on two full-time jobs. They underfund public schools, handicap sex-ed with idealistic "abstinence-only" nonsense, cut financial aid for poor students, fight programs which help the underprivelidged, and make our national debt skyrocket. They're quick to war and quick to draw from the underclass for its soldiers. They cut funds to NIH and politicize science.

Progressives want more for us. We want to help the needy, enable parents to be parents, educate children how they need to be educated, create meaningful jobs for corporations which are helping all people instead of just enriching the top 1%, protect the environment for our children and our children's children, etc. We believe that parents shouldn't be handicapped by the state for being gay. We believe in the promise of science to create cures and treatments for diseases.

If you're spiritually inclined, you should be voting for progressives.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Jewish Atheist Ponders A Name Change

When I was young, I used to admire intelligent people; as I grow older, I admire kind people. --Abraham Joshua Heschel

I've been experiencing a little bit of a softening towards religion. I still believe it false, yet the bitterness left over from my exodus from Orthodoxy has receded a bit. Sometimes I feel a bit trapped by the name and theme of my blog and blog persona.

Atheism isn't like religion. Religion is often a big, sometimes the biggest, part of one's life. Atheism, on the other hand, sort of fades into the background. In my non-blogging life, and when I'm not reading a headline about the latest homophobic legislation, I never think about the issue of God.

This blog is and has been useful for me to vent some of my anger and to interact with religious people in a way that I can't do in real life. (In real life, for example, it's considered pretty rude to question the very foundation of someone's belief system.) The arguments I've had on this blog and on others using this handle have clarified some of my positions and modified some others.

But the blog also skews things. The name itself sort of divides the world into an us vs. them thing (where "they" are far more numerous.) Atheism is sort of unique that way. You wouldn't find a blog called "Unicorn-loving Nonbeliever-in-Unicorns." Due to the overwhelming theism in our culture, atheism is an in-your-face stance.

But it's kind of silly since when it comes down to it, whether a person I know believes in God doesn't matter that much in the grand scheme of things. As Heschel writes, what ultimately matters more than what you believe is what kind of person you are. (I'm not saying that believers are "unintelligent," btw. I'm generalizing from the quote that the ideas about which we disagree aren't as important as the humanity we share.)

Also, I'm tired of arguing about evolution, the Bible, and morality.

Anyway, I guess I'm saying I'd like to branch out, but I'm not sure how or to where.

(This post semi-inspired by a post by True Ancestor as well as all the theistic and atheistic bloggers who speak the language of my soul, so to speak.)