Showing posts with label Politics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Politics. Show all posts

Monday, February 11, 2019

"Socialized Medicine" Vs Free Market Healthcare: A Critique — Part 2


This is part 2 of a critique of Chuck Braman's argument for pro-capitalist healthcare, The Real Right to Medical Care vs. Socialized Medicine. To read part 1 click here.


About halfway through the section of his blog post entitled The Right to Medical Care and the Causes of the Medical Crisis, he turns on Medicare and Medicaid:

These programs were instituted to make the increasingly expensive medical care more affordable to the poor and the elderly. However, since such programs represent an even further collectivization of costs than collectivized insurance, drawing their funding as they do from the entire body of taxpayers rather than from a smaller body of insurance holders, they have lead to the pricing of medical care beyond the reach of the uninsured middle class. As a result, their implementation has lead to the current call for complete socialized medicine.

As per the investopedia article I cited in part 1, it is not Medicaid and Medicare that are primarily driving up the cost of healthcare, it's other factors that are the result of a for-profit system. There are arguments however, that Medicaid and Medicare contribute to rising healthcare costs by settings prices too high for services which the private market then is influenced by. Chuck's view is that this is what makes many people think the solution is to have the government pay for all insurance. I argue that this misses the point.

Private healthcare costs are going up because of price gouging by the hospitals and medical equipment providers mainly because with healthcare—especially emergency healthcare—you don't have the option of shopping around. You don't know what tests are needed or how much they will cost. You're in a state of panic, pain, fear, and ignorance. You're not a doctor. You're not in a position to be negotiating the cost of things with doctors and nurses. You're not in a position to be shopping around for the best deal. This is a completely different kind of market from buying shoes or a new TV. And people like Chuck do not realize that. Or if they do, they foolishly think it doesn't make a difference.

Chuck then machine guns through eight different reasons why he thinks socialized medicine fails and why past implementations of socialized medicine are the reasons why the existing system is failing. Let's break them down one by one.

First, of course, is the increase in prices which necessarily follows when one is able to bid on a limited supply of goods and then pass the expense off to an anonymous group. Such bidding on government-supplied goods leads inevitably to government-imposed price controls and rationing as the only possible means of controlling costs, followed thereafter by the government's further refusal to allow anyone to bid the price up any further even using their own money.

Limited supply of goods? Are we talking about the limited supply of doctors due to medical licensing? There will always be a limited supply of goods. Does Chuck think that the supply is artificially limited due to licensing? Would it be fixed by allowing anyone to practice medicine? Chuck doesn't define socialized medicine, and he makes no acknowledgment that it's different from single payer. On single payer, the doctors, nurses, hospitals, device and drug makers are still privatized. But without cost controls in place, they can jack up the prices to as high as can be. That's why in the US you see cases of $629 band aids. And this is why the cost of prescription drugs, as well as almost every kind of test costs more in the US than other counties, and this makes healthcare costs about twice that of all other developed countries as a percentage of GDP.

Source: Mother Jones

Sunday, February 3, 2019

"Socialized Medicine" Vs Free Market Healthcare: A Critique — Part 1


I really, really love debunking viewpoints and arguments that I think are wrong. I mean like really love it. I'd write critiques of views all day long if I could and had the time, but I have this pesky thing called a job which sucks out the day's prime hours.

But on par with my love of critique, here I want to begin a series of posts critiquing a free-market libertarian's defense of market based healthcare. This will also be a learning experience for me. I use critique as a way to better familiarize myself with opposing viewpoints, and I'd highly recommend others strongly consider debate as a form of learning as well.


There's a lengthy blog post called The Real Right to Medical Care vs. Socialized Medicine by Chuck Braman, who's a giant fan of Ayn Rand's views on markets and economics. In it he tries to argue that socialized medicine leads to a crisis and that the best way to fix this ailing problem is "pro-capitalist reform" in the healthcare industry. I'm going to be breaking this down in a series of posts section by section where ever I think it's incorrect (which will be most of it). So here it goes.

Chuck starts out:

For decades the cost of health care, unlike the cost of other economic goods, has risen relative to prices in general and to people's incomes. The cost of health care is now so high that a radical reform is necessary. The current type of reform being advanced by the Clinton administration, however, is an anachronism. It is, to be exact, the enactment of a full system of socialized medicine, a system based on the mistaken and discredited tenets of Marxism, which will aim to reduce the cost of our partially socialized medical system by means of its full socialization accompanied by price controls and rationing.

It's definitely true that the cost of healthcare has gone up far faster than inflation and the cost of other services. But according to an article on investopedia, healthcare costs are going up rapidly because of six primary reasons: (1) skyrocketing administration costs, which by the way "socialized medicine" wouldn't require, (2) not negotiating drug costs, which would save hundreds of billions and which every other developed country does, (3) defensive medicine whereby doctors order unnecessary tests even when they know the diagnosis so they won't get sued, (4) using expensive mix of treatments like mammograms, MRIs and Caesarean sections more often than other developed countries plus an over reliance on more expensive specialists instead of primary care physicians, (5) the wages and work rules that enable high pay-commanding specialists, and (6) branding, which results in an industry where the prices are made up and set as high as they can be.

Having universal healthcare can solve many of these problems because they're caused by for-profit incentives.

Image via halbertwealth.com

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Survey: Few Americans Find Meaning In Faith


An interesting survey from Pew came out recently that detailed where Americans find meaning in life and it showed a relatively small number mention spirituality or faith.

A hot topic in the debate between atheists and theists is where millions of people will find meaning, once they've left religion for atheism. It is argued, mostly by social conservatives, but even by some liberals, that religion is the largest provider of meaning in life and that in the absence of traditional religion the void left by that absence of meaning will be filled by anti-social elements, like drug addiction, and radical ideologies, be they far Right or far Left.

Well, Pew's survey seems to challenge that perspective, at least somewhat. Despite Americas being seen as a highly religious population among the Western nations, only 20% of the respondents in the survey even mentioned spirituality and faith as something that provides them with a sense of meaning. Family by far topped the list, with nearly 70% mentioning it, followed much lower by career and money, at 34% and 23% respectively.

Americans most likely to mention family when describing what provides them with a sense of meaning

Despite the fact that when the survey is measured by what is the most important source of meaning, faith comes in second, I am positive that these numbers will be decreasing in the next few decades due to the ongoing rapid secularization of the US.

Religion second to family as ‘most important’ source of meaning in lives of American adults

And not surprising, black Americans mention spirituality the highest of 3 racial groups, corresponding with the known high levels of religiosity among them.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

The Satanic Temple's Protest for First Amendment Rights


I recently came across this video from Vice about The Satanic Temple's push to get a plurality of religious representation at the Arkansas state capitol grounds. The back story is that they have a monument to the 10 Commandments on government property, violating the separation of church and state, and if not removed it should at least be accompanied by monuments to other religions, like Satanism. Seems fair enough, but of course this is not going over well in the deep Christian south.

It is amusing to see just how real residents of the state take the statue of Baphomet — a catoonish representation of the "Adversary." They literally believe a statue will bring upon Satan's wrath. It goes to show you how far we still need to progress on the secularization of the US.



Tuesday, December 4, 2018

70% Of Americans Support #MedicareForAll


I had no idea that that 70% of Americans supported Medicare For All, but a recent survey from Reuters says just that. I'm sure the number is up dramatically in recent years, given the abundant failures with our existing system, and the newfound momentum on the Left for universal healthcare. Most Democrats in the US are openly supporting a Medicare For All system, and it seems inevitable that we'll eventually get it.

Personally I support a Medicare For All system, even though I'm not firm on how an exact implementation would work, as there are many ways it could be implemented. I'm also openly looking for people who disagree and are willing to debate this with me. Nothing makes you learn a topic better than debating it.

So if anyone opposed to Medicare For All and who supports a free market style system wants to debate in the comments below, feel free.


Sunday, July 8, 2018

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Won!


So, in the past 2 weeks the big political news has been that 28 year old first time candidate for New York's 14th congressional district, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, won the democratic primary by double digits.

She won to a large extent, not by playing racial identity politics, as had been reported, but by offering a targeted progressive platform that included universal healthcare (which most Democrats either don't want or are too afraid to run on) and tuition free college and trade schools (paid for, in part, by taxing Wall Street speculations).

As reported by the Intercept, she won in the parts of the district that tend to be the most gentrified (read: most white). So to chalk up her success merely to changing demographics is a bit dishonest. It's the narrative many establishment Democrats want to believe is true, since they do not want Ocasio-Cortez's progressive agenda.



I can't say I agree with her entire platform. I'm not on board with the abolish ICE position and the seemingly open borders attitude permissive on most of the Left. As Milton Friedman said, you can't have open borders and a social welfare state. I think Democrats need to have a serious conversation on their position on illegal immigration. They have to ask themselves what level of immigration enforcement are they willing to accept, since many do indeed seem to want open borders.

Aside from that there's much more I agree with Ocasio-Cortez on than disagree, especially on the free college and universal healthcare parts, and the end to our expensive and destructive drug war. It was reported that she's a pretty strong Catholic. But who cares? She's not traditionally Catholic on same sex marriage or abortion—the issues that tend to be the most divisive, and she's thoroughly progressive on every issue. Religion doesn't matter to me. It only does if religion is justifying positions I disagree with, and if it's used to violate the separation of church and state.

So given how blue the 14th district is, she will no doubt win the general election in the  November midterms. I just hope that when she gets to Washington she won't become corrupted. Her stance on not taking money from big donors will hopefully keep her working for the people.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Justice Democrat Alexandria Ocasio Cortez


As I've mentioned in the past, I am a supporter of the Justice Democrats, a political action committee whose primary purpose is to run Democratic candidates who do not take money from corporations.

In New York state's 14th congressional district, where I grew up, the Justice Democrats are running a thoroughly progressive candidate to challenge the incumbent Joseph Crowley, who's decent, but is far too cozy with big business. We need members of congress who represent the people, not corporations. And the only way to do that is the get corporate money out of Washington. That is the goal of the Justice Democrats, and that's why I'm supporting Cortez for congress.

A wonderful video of her campaign has surfaced on YouTube and is getting rave reviews from many high profile progressives. Check it out below.



Now I'm aware that there's an SJW bent among the Justice Democrats and I'm aware of what they did to one of its founders, Cenk Uygur, where they forced him to resign from their board when 20 year old blog posts of his thoughts on women that were deleted were dug up, was an incredibly stupid move. But, as much as I'm critical of hard line SJWs, getting money out of politics is more important in the larger scheme of things. And so that's why I support the Justice Democrats.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Abortion And Anti-Natalism Part 1: Anti-Natalism Analyzed


It recently occurred to me that I've never made a formal argument for abortion on my blog, although I've certainly touched on the topic in various posts. I've been inspired to write about abortion because of my recent interest in the idea of anti-natalism. So I plan on spending two blog posts writing my thoughts about each topic, culminating in an argument for the ethics of abortion.

Anti-natalism is the view that not procreating is preferable to procreating because life necessarily involves some degree of suffering and there is an asymmetric relationship between suffering and pleasure such that the experience of suffering outweighs the experience of pleasure. So for example, on that latter part, imagine you were offered a week long vacation to anywhere in the world where you can do anything you wanted and all expenses would be paid for you making it totally free. But, in order to get the free vacation, you must submit to a certain amount of physical torture first. This physical torture would involve massive amounts of pain but not include any life lasting physical defects, like broken bones, scars, etc. Just pain. You also get to negotiate how long the torture will be, with the ability to bargain it down. The bargaining starts at 1 week in length, the same length as the vacation. The question is: what would be the longest amount of time you'd be willing to be tortured for a week long all-expenses paid vacation in paradise? Would you be willing to be tortured for a week? A day? An hour? A minute? A second? None at all? Chances are the maximum amount of time of torture you'd be willing to endure is not equal to the amount of time of pleasure you'd get on the vacation. In other words, if you were forced to endure an equal duration of torture to the pleasure of the vacation, you would likely not agree to the deal.

And that's because you recognize that there's an asymmetry between pain and pleasure. 1 minute at the spa getting pampered is not equal to 1 minute of torture. Now what exactly that ratio is between pain and pleasure is perhaps subjective, but virtually all of us recognize that there is an asymmetry, and we factor that into our calculations for ourselves and our loved ones when we make a cost-benefit analysis of difficult ethical conundrums.

And therein lies the basic argument for anti-natalism:

  1. Suffering is guaranteed in every human life. 
  2. Because there is an asymmetry between suffering and pleasure, such that the impact of suffering far outweighs pleasure, 
  3. In the moral calculus to have a child the heavier weight of the potential suffering overrides the weight of potential pleasure.
  4. And thus, it is better to not have a child than to have one.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Video I Made Last Year On The Pro-Truth Pledge


This is a video I made last year for my friend John Kirbow on him taking the pro-truth pledge. I made several videos like this, most of them were for The Atheist Conference that is now dead. But some of that footage is still usable, and I will find a way to repurpose it. For now, check it out. I plan on creating a YouTube channel (or several) to make videos like this in the future.



Monday, February 19, 2018

Social Justice: The New Religion Of The Left?


Traditional religious belief is dying, especially among younger generations like millennials (AKA Gen Y) and the new generation below them, Gen Z, as I just blogged about. And the Left in particular is jettisoning traditional religion at a phenomenal pace. Between 2007 and 2014, disbelief in god grew among liberals from 10% to 19%, according to PEW. While this is all music to my ears, a growing concern I share with traditionalists is what is going to replace traditional religious beliefs?

In recent years, it seems that an answer is starting to emerge. Traditional religious belief is being replaced by social justice philosophies as religions. Social justice is in a way becoming the new religion of the Left.

Social justice is a broad term generally referring to "a concept of fair and just relations between the individual and society." Legitimate social justice is perfectly fine and reasonable, but in recent years "social justice" has morphed into a new ideology based on an obsession with exaggerated perceived "victimhood" and "oppression," where getting the right gender pronouns are as important as actual racism. Today the pejorative "social justice warrior" (or SJW for short) refers to the kind of person for whom social justice is important, but who is gravely mistaken as to what real justice and fairness is, and how it pertains to individuals and society.

For example, an SJW will argue for "equality" but then insist that all differences in equality of outcome are due to racism and/or sexism and not other factors. So the fact that there are more men in physics and engineering, or more male CEOs, they will argue is due to cultural or institutional sexism, and not because more men simply like those professions and strive for those positions. They will insist that we have a 50/50 representation of men to women in all fields that women don't already dominate and that "fairness" means equality of outcome. And any challenge of this as an idea, or as a practicality, will get you tarnished as a sexist who's enabling the patriarchy.

And this is when social justice starts to become a new religion: there's an idea of the way the world works and the way it ought to be regardless of the facts, these ideas are held with dogmatic fervor, and anyone challenging them will be ostracized and effectively accused of heresy, which encourages extreme tribalism, group-think, and ideological purity.

Here are some of the dogmas of modern day social justice philosophy:

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Atheism Doubles Among Generation Z - But Are Only 6% of US Adults Atheists?


A new Barna poll has come out recently which reports that Atheism Doubles Among Generation Z from 6% of all US adults to 13%. This is no surprise to many who pay attention to cultural trends as it's well known that religiosity is dropping precipitously.


But I do take issue with the idea that only 6% of US adults are atheists. Technically, the 6% comes from people who identify as atheists, not those are are atheists. That is an important distinction. Many people who are atheists don't identify as atheists for a variety of reasons, and that means the number of people who identify as atheists will always be lower than the number who actually are.

PEW Research's numbers from a few years ago stated that, "Nearly one-in-ten U.S. adults overall (9%) now say they do not believe in God, up from 5% in 2007." But only 3.1% of Americans are "atheists" according to their 2014 Religious Landscape survey. So 3.1% of American adults reported themselves as atheists, but 9% don't believe in god, which would make them atheists. So PEW's own numbers show that there are nearly 3 times as many actual atheists than reported atheists.

As someone who wants the world to be less religious in the future, I'm excited about the results from the new report. But I take issue with the idea that only 6% of US adults are atheists. The real number is much higher, and may be as high as 26%.

I hope that in the not-too-distant future, as millennials become the largest voting block in the US, their higher rates of irreligiosity will change the political landscape to finally once and for all get influence of religion out of American politics. And then, hopefully, we can have real policy debates with facts and evidence without religion ever interfering, like they do in many other first world nations.

But given traditional religion's decline, this brings up the next question: what's going to replace traditional religion? And that will be tackled in my next post.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Democrats Have Doubled Down In Identity Politics


So I was at a State Of The Union address watching party on Tuesday with a bunch of friends to see what Trump would say. Before his speech a disagreement broke out among the mostly Left-leaning audience about what the Democrats need to do in 2020 to win back the White House.

Several people were explaining to me their theory that the Dems have to run a non-white woman in order to secure the presidency. No white male or even (according to some) a white woman should be the Democratic nominee. Why? Because too many white people have gone on to be the nominee!

The entire time I was pushing back: what if we just focused on getting a really good, smart, and principled candidate who is naturally charismatic regardless of their race and gender? Wouldn't that make more sense than focusing entirely on their race and gender? My ideas weren't popular. A giant portion of Left-leaning people have doubled down and gone full speed into identity politics, and I'm afraid it could be the Left's demise and give Trump a 2nd term.

A really smart, qualified, white male candidate will get no respect from many people on the Left because he's white and male, and not because of anything he's for. The furthest away you are from being a white, heterosexual, cis-gendered male the better. So if you're a woman: check. If you're non-white: check. Gay? Check. Trans? Check. Disabled? Check. This means the perfect candidate for the identity extremist Left would be a black trans-female disabled lesbian. She'd get a certain number of votes merely for meeting every requirement in the non-white male oppression checklist.

I am all for non-white male candidates being president but first and foremost they have to have good positions on the issues. I will take a true progressive like Bernie Sanders despite his white-male-hetero-cis-genderedness, over the neo-liberalism of Hillary Clinton or Cory Booker. What matters to me is always competency and principles, not whether or not you pee sitting down or don't need sun screen lotion.

It seems unlikely that large numbers of liberals will discontinue thinking that the most important aspect of a presidential candidate is their race, gender, and sexuality, and not their views. Since the election of Trump it seems to be only getting worse. I have strong reservations that this is a winning formula for presidential success, given the large backlash against identity politics. So Trump might be president until 2024.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Is There A Difference Between Genuine Criticism Of Islam, And Anti-Muslim Bigotry?


I'm a huge fan of Muslim reformer Maajid Nawaz, and I think most of the criticisms against him are mislead. When it comes to the complex issues of Islamic extremism, Islamism, and reforming Islam for the 21st century, I really listen to his opinion. He gets it in a way that I think few others do, and it's in no small part because he's lived it. He was part of an organization called Hizb ut-Tahrir in his teens and twenties whose goal it was to spread Islamism around the world, and was later imprisoned in Egypt for 4 years due to his participation with them.

When I met Maajid in New York last September he was telling a group of men about how in the West you have two camps of people who each see Islam through the opposite extreme lens. On the political Right you have extreme Islamophobia — people who think all Muslims are terrorists who hate freedom and want to force everyone to live under Sharia law. And on the political Left you Islamophilia — the exact opposite of Islamophobia, where you have people who act as if there isn't a single genuine issue or problem with Islam itself, or with the behavior of Muslims, and who blame the West for every problem within Islamic countries or among Muslim peoples.


And so I think one of the most difficult questions for most people to answer, and one that is especially difficult for liberals to answer, is: Is there a difference between genuine criticism of Islam, and anti-Muslim bigotry? I asked this publicly in my panel at the Left Forum last year.

Because so many people, especially liberals, don't know the difference, they conflate the two, and often end up calling anyone who has genuine criticisms of Islam a bigot, an Islamophobe, a racist — or worse, a Nazi.

So what I want to do here is outline a primer on some of the differences between genuine criticism of Islam and anti Muslim bigotry to hopefully teach people the difference.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Talk Was Canceled, Free Thought Report


Well, my talk for the Long Island Atheists was canceled last minute apparently due to weather considerations. We had a few inches of snow that turned out to be nothing too bad, but nonetheless the venue was closed. My talk is now going to be rescheduled for January 19th at the same venue. In a way that's a good thing. It will give me more time to spice up my PowerPoint presentation to make it even better.

In other news, I came across the Freedom of Thought Report published by the the International Humanist and Ethical Union, which is to "document discriminatory national laws and state authorities which violate freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression."

Beginning in 2016 they put the report online where it breaks down every country.

They also have an interactive map version you can click on on the site. Hint: red is bad. And not only is most of the Islamic world the darkest red, China, the world's largest atheist country by population is too.


It's worth checking out. You can also download the "Key countries" report here.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Speaking At Long Island Atheists, Plus Nones Grow to 34%


I've been a bit more busy than usual and haven't been able to blog as frequently. I'm still working on the conference and putting together the finishing touches on a new talk I'm doing for Long Island Atheists this Friday. It'll be a precursor to my panel discussion at the conference, called Make Atheism Great Again, about how atheists can better respond to the most common arguments theists have. If you're in the Long Island New York area and want to hear an awesome PowerPoint presentation, RSVP here. We will likely go for drinks afterwards.

Speaking of making atheism greater, a recent American Family Survey has shown that the number of "nones" or people with no religious preference, which includes atheists and agnostics, has grown to 34%. Previous surveys by PEW in 2014 had shown the nones were up to 22.8% and a PRRI survey from last year showed the number of nones at 25% of the US population. (See here).

If these new numbers are correct, it would mean that the pace of secularization and decreased religiosity has been speeding up rapidly.

Courtesy of Secular Coalition for America

This is something I've been hoping would happen, which is the idea that the US would reach a tipping point where religion would give out and begin a rapid and irreversible decline, just like it has in Western Europe. I'm sure the likes of religious conservatives Roy Moore and Mike Pence have helped push this even further by exposing the insanity that happens when you take religion seriously.

The question of religion in the survey was as follows:


It reports atheists as just 5%, agnostics as 6%, and nothing in particular as 23% to get the combined 34% of no religion. Reporting the number of atheists is notoriously tricky. PEW's own surveys show how this is problematic, as they've had concurrent surveys that show it as low as 3.1% and as high as 9%. Other studies have the number of atheists at 26%.

It seems that how you ask the question matters a lot. It is still well known that many people think an atheist is someone who asserts with 100% certainty that god doesn't exist. But bare minimum atheism is simply lacking a belief in god. That's it. And that of course means many agnostics actually are atheists. This why when you ask people in surveys if they believe in god you get higher numbers of people saying no than you do asking people if they're an atheist.

But aside from semantic quibbles one thing is clear: traditional religious belief in the US is dying and the number of non-religious people might hit 50% in the next 15-20 years if these rates continue. That would truly be spectacular achievement.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Quote Of The Day: Phil Zuckerman On Why Secularism Can't Be A Scapegoat For Society's Ills


Happy Thanksgiving weekend.

The more secular a nation or state is the more peaceful, happy, and less violent it is in general. This is not to say that secularism and less religiosity cause peace, happiness, and violence to decline, I think the causation is the other way around. But the correlations between secularism and peaceful societies show that no one can say that declining religion will cause societies to collapse into violent, lawless states.

Phil Zuckerman, a sociologist at Pitzer College explains in an LA Times article from 2 years ago that the often heard scapegoating of secularism as the culprit of our nation's woes is horribly misled. (But don't expect religious conservatives to change their tune any time soon.)

Take homicide. According to the United Nations' 2011 Global Study on Homicide, of the 10 nations with the highest homicide rates, all are very religious, and many — such as Colombia, Mexico, El Salvador and Brazil — are among the most theistic nations in the world. Of the nations with the lowest homicide rates, nearly all are very secular, with seven ranking among the least theistic nations, such as Sweden, Japan, Norway and the Netherlands.

Now consider the flip side: peacefulness. According to the nonprofit organization Vision of Humanity, which publishes an annual Global Peace Index, each of the 10 safest and most peaceful nations in the world is also among the most secular, least God-believing in the world. Most of the least safe and peaceful nations, conversely, are extremely religious.

As professor Stephen Law of the University of London observed: "If a decline in religiosity were the primary cause [of social ills], then we would expect those countries that have seen the greatest decline to have the most serious problems. But that is not the case."


What about within the United States? According to the latest study from the Pew Research Center, the 10 states that report the highest levels of belief in God are Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and Oklahoma (tied with Utah). The 10 states with the lowest levels of belief in God are Maine, Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, Alaska, Oregon and California. And as is the case in the rest of the world, when it comes to nearly all standard measures of societal health, including homicide rates, the least theistic states generally fare much better than the most theistic. Consider child-abuse fatality rates: Highly religious Mississippi's is twice that of highly secular New Hampshire's, and highly religious Kentucky's is four times higher than highly secular Oregon's. 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Thinking About Taking The Pro-Truth Pledge


I've been a bit busy lately and haven't had much time to blog. I've been working with friends on putting together the first ever atheist conference in New York City and it's taking up much of my time. I'm currently in charge of recording and editing video promos for the event and this takes weeks of commitment. I'm also in charge of maintaining the site and various other event planning details.

I will have much more on this event in the upcoming weeks and months, but if you're interested, check out our site TheAtheistConference.com right now. Tickets just went on sale last week. We haven't heavily promoted it yet because we're waiting for a big event. But when the grand announcement is made, it will be made on all of our social media, including our Facebook and Twitter accounts, as well as my site of course. I will also be speaking at the event moderating a panel. Stay tuned!

I also have many lengthy blog posts in the pipe that will be published later this month, including a critique of the "God has morally sufficient reasons for allowing suffering" theodicy.

I will also be in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania this weekend for the annual Pennsylvania State Atheist/Humanist Conference. The Gotham Atheist contingent and I are going down there to help out and promote our conference. So that's going to take a few days away from blogging. I will hopefully have a lot in the second half of the month.


I've caught wind of the pro-truth pledge that's being talked about. In the age of Trump and rampant lying, asking people to take a pledge towards telling the truth is a necessity. There are people who are willing to lie about anything in order to further a political, economic, religious, or social goal. The ends always justifies the means, and it's leading to horrible behavior.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

An Analysis Of A Former Liberal Turned Trump Voter's Reasons In "Waking Up"


I came across a blog post by a "gay, former liberal" describing his experience "waking up" out of liberalism to support Donald Trump for president. While reading it I saw a number of problems with his logic and so I'm going to critique them here. It's very important we get out of our echo chambers and understand the mindset of those who think differently from us and know where exactly they go wrong.

The blogger is named Josh and describes himself as a "32-year-old single Christian gay guy, who is helping raise his 3 year old niece." Fair enough. One can be conservative and gay, and technically one can be Christian and gay, especially since nowadays just about every Christian makes up his or her own version of Christianity to suit their personality.

In his post Josh describes how he started out not being particularly political, but interested in conspiracy theories, and then later jettisoned that interest and got deeper into politics in the beginning of the last presidential election cycle. He writes,

Then something gradually happened… while watching the debates to crack jokes, I began internalizing the information, suddenly finding my eyes to begin opening. I became aware of ISIS, and others with the desire to come to America for the purposes of ending our way of life, and illegals pouring through our borders, costing taxpayers billions, and contributing to crime. I discovered our Veterans were being treated poorly, many homeless on the streets, while others are allowed to come to the United States illegally, reaping the benefits. A wide range of issues really started to resonate with me.

A few things. Yes ISIS are evil people hell bent on destroying our way of life (you know, the liberal way) and are driven by a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam. It's good to be aware of that and Democrats far too often do not acknowledge this.

Illegal immigration since the financial collapse in 2008 has been slightly declining — meaning, there's been a net decrease for nearly 10 years. But Josh is completely ignorant of that data, as is Trump, and almost all of his supporters.

As for the cost to tax payers, there's mixed data on this. Some right-leaning sources have the annual cost to tax payers at $113 billion, and many of these studies rely on estimates and include the cost of US born children of illegal immigrants who are themselves US citizens. Other studies have the number closer to $85 billion, and left-leaning sources say that there's an over all net-positive due to the consumer demand, tax revenue from income tax, payroll taxes, and the positive economic impact of lower priced goods from the cheap labor. But one thing's clear: giving illegal immigrants legal status and cracking down on work places that hire illegal immigrants off the books so that they do not pay taxes would dramatically lessen the tax burden they have on US tax payers.

And finally when it comes to the "contributing to crime" claim, it's true. Some illegal immigrants contribute to crime. But you know what? Some tourists contribute to crime. Should we ban tourists then? Of course not. Merely contributing to crime is not a justification to deport all illegal immigrants. You can't expect 11 million people to be completely crime free. Studies also show the crime rate of illegal immigrants is lower than that of native citizens. And over all crime in the US has dropped over the last 25 years, just as the numbers of illegal immigrants was rapidly increasing.

Monday, September 18, 2017

On Being Politically Homeless


Editor's note: this blog post was originally written in January 2016 and never published. After realizing this I've edited it to update it for today.

I've been wanting to write a blog post for some time about the politics and attitudes surrounding liberalism, "regressive leftism," Islam, and immigration. I was inspired by the events back in January of 2016 in Cologne Germany where groups of men who appeared to be of Middle Eastern and North African decent sexually assaulted hundreds of women and raped at least two. Some of those who committed the assaults may have been recently arrived refugees, and predictably, there were many conservatives saying "I told you so."

What I face here is a very complicated and tricky situation, and navigating it is like walking over a dilapidated roped bridge over a raging river: every step must be carefully planned.

I am at heart a liberal. I believe in liberty and equality and fairness and tolerance, and I despise racism and bigotry of all sorts. But the situation today regarding Islam, immigration, and political correctness is really challenging my liberal identity. Some of the things I hear coming out of the aptly termed "regressive left" are making me nauseous — while at the same time I can understand where they're coming from as a liberal myself.

Many people on the Left are genuinely concerned about racism and bigotry towards people of Middle Eastern or Asian ethnicity, but their political correctness inhibits them from acknowledging and coming to terms with the reality of what we face with Islam.

I am concerned about the rise of right-wing fascist groups and political parties in Europe and in other Western counties. I definitely don't want to see Europe go down that path. But at the same time, I'm concerned about rising immigration of people from Muslim majority counties into Europe. Just as I don't want to see Europe go down the road of right-wing fascism, I also don't want to see Europe in 30 years looking like Egypt or Saudi Arabia.

As a liberal, I want Europe to remain open and tolerant, but tolerating views that oppose that very same tolerance is in the long run problematic. There is a huge cultural clash between the disturbingly conservative views that many of those from Muslim majority countries hold, with the liberal, secular, and open European cultures. And labeling anyone who says that Europe should consider limiting its immigration a xenophobe, a racist, or a bigot, is highly unproductive. What many on the Left do not have any tolerance for is anything against their tolerance for multiculturalism. But meanwhile, they'll tolerate the sexism and homophobia of brown skinned Muslims because they're an "oppressed" minority in the West.

This level of hypocrisy is madness.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

England's 1677 Proposed Atheism And Blasphemy Bill


There's a scene in the second episode of the excellent documentary Atheism: A Rough History of Disbelief where Johnathan Miller meets with an archivist of the House of Lords and they search through the original drafts that would eventually become the 1697 Blasphemy Act. Miller discovers a frighteningly worded draft for a proposed Atheism and Blasphemy Bill, that luckily never made it into law. It proposed that

if any person, being the age of 16 years or more not being visibly and apparently distracted and out of his wits by sickness or natural infirmity, or not a mere natural fool, void of common sense, shall, after the day whereon the Royal Assent shall be given to this Act, be word or writing deny that there is a God [or deny either of the two Natures of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, that is, His being both perfect God and perfect Man, or shall declare that he believes not in God,] ..... that person, upon complaint thereof made to any Justice of Peace, are due proof by two witnesses, shall be committed to prison, there to remain without bail or mainprise, in order to his trial, at which trial being by his peers legally convicted, he shall have no benefit of clergy, but judgment of death shall pass upon him [and execution shall follow, without pardon or reprieve, of which he is by this Act made altogether incapable]; (Bold mine)

Imagine living in a society with a law like that? This sounds very much like the blasphemy laws in modern day theocracies like Saudi Arabia. It's a good thing we in the West live in a time where we have a separation of church and state, and where we've mostly come to our senses about the victimless crime of blasphemy. See the full wording below.


To watch the full documentary go here: Atheism: A Rough History of Disbelief 
See also the Report of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts

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