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

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

Monday, September 4, 2017

Nuance People, Nuance!



I've been inspired to write a short rant about how we need to promote the idea of nuance in our social, political, and ideological views. To me these nuances are common sense, but all too often in today's discourse they are all but forgotten.

  • You can hate Nazis and white supremacists and still be critical of the Black Lives Matter movement. 
  • You can be critical of US and Western foreign policy and still think that Islamic terrorists are inspired by the Islamic religion to commit violence.
  • You can agree with basic feminism, which is gender equality, and still be critical of many proponents and ideas of third wave feminism. 
  • You can think political correctness has gone too far and still agree that we should have some basic norms of respect and decency. 
  • You can think political correctness has gone too far and still be a liberal or a conservative who's against racism and sexism.
  • You can stand up for the freedom of speech for people with hateful ideologies and still be against what their ideology is about.
  • You can think Islam is a sexist, homophobic, and violent religion and still respect the human rights of Muslims.
  • You can stand for trans-rights and not be transphobic for not wanting to have sex with them.
  • You can stand for the rights of racial minorities and be critical of the crime problems and social issues in their communities.
  • You can be a liberal and be critical of Islam, contemporary feminism, and political correctness.
  • You can be a Republican or a conservative or even a Trump supporter and not be a racist, sexist, homophobic, Nazi sympathizer.
  • You can be for higher taxes on the rich and more government regulation and recognize that some tax laws and government regulations hurt the economy.
  • You can be an atheist and think that religion has positive social benefits.
  • You can think that there is legitimate criticism of Islam and not be an anti-Muslim bigot.
  • You can agree that some racists criticize Islam and not all critics of Islam are racists.
  • You can think that immigration needs to have controls and limits and not be a racist xenophobe.
  • You can stand for the rights of Muslims and not be a Jihadist.
  • You can support a political candidate and not agree with all their positions.
  • You can support a public figure and not agree with all their positions.
  • You can be critical of the State of Israel and not be an anti-Semitist.
  • You can be critical of the Palestinians and not be a Zionist.

These are just some of the nuanced views that are possible that today's social, political, and ideological debates seem to completely leave out. Because we've become way too tribalistic and black and white in our thinking, what we need to do is constantly remind ourselves and others that nuance exists. It's more important now than ever. As I think of more nuanced views in my interactions, I will be adding them to this list. If you have any suggestions to add, mention them down in the comment box and please spread the word!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Black Lives Matter: A Brief Critique


In the past few years the Black Lives Matter (or BLM) movement has become a prominent fixture on the issue of police killings, particularly towards African Americans. Here I want to offer a short critique of the movement and it's ideology on some areas where I think criticism is much needed.

First, I want to say that I of course think the lives of black people are just as valuable as any other race, and I'm aware that black lives matter really means black lives matter too. Meaning, that black lives matter in addition to other lives, they are of equal worth and value. The way I see it, the BLM movement should ideally be seen as black people raising their hands in the face of racist mistreatment saying, "Hey, our lives matter too and our worth as individuals should be treated as equal to others."


On that very basic point, I agree. Black lives matter too. But I've noticed that quite a few BLM advocates have to clarify this distinction often enough that it makes me think, why not just change the name of the movement and hashtag to #BLMT or #BlackLivesMatterToo? It's just three extra letters and it would clear up an enormous amount of confusion by people who think the BLM movement is to say that only black lives matter, or that black lives are more important to other lives, and that's not what it stands for.

So that's my first critique. My second critique makes use of an analogy. If there is a population of people affected by two diseases that are killing them, disease A and disease B, and disease A kills 96% of this population, and disease B kills only 4% of this population, and if my life goal was to care for the lives of this population, which disease should I be focused on, disease A or disease B? Obviously, any logical person would say I should focus on disease A since it's killing a far greater percentage of the population. And yet, the BLM movement is a movement focused almost entirely on the 4% of deaths of black Americans attributed the police officers, regardless of the race of the officer. If the BLM movement seeks to promote the lives and worth of black Americans, why not focus primarily on the homicide rate in the black community that overwhelmingly involves black on black homicide? For every black person killed by a police officer in the US, there are about 23 cases of black on black homicide. If it was my life passion to care about black lives, I'd be focused on that, because that's what's killing the vast, vast majority of black people in the US who die by violence. So I think the BLM movement needs to reconsider its priorities.

Thirdly, since the BLM movement has no official membership, anyone taking up a BLM banner and marching in the streets suddenly becomes a representative of BLM. This allows bad actors to tarnish the name of BLM and there seems to be no process by which this can be eliminated. BLM officials need to better distinguish themselves from hooligans who commit violence in their name.

BLM Activists blocking a highway in Baltimore
Fourthly, the BLM leadership, to the extent there is any, doesn't seem interested in weeding out activists in its ranks who make absurd demands or use questionable tactics in raising the group's awareness. Blocking highway traffic is not a good way to make people realize that black lives matter. What if you or your loved one was dying of a heart attack and needed to get to the hospital and couldn't make it in time due to BLM protesters blocking traffic and they died as a result? Rushing the stage at a Bernie Sanders rally and grabbing the microphone before a liberal white crowd and telling everyone that they're proponents of "white supremacist liberalism" is not a good way to make people realize that black lives matter.

In fact, tactics like this will do more to hurt the movement than help it. It will make people think the BLM movement has been hijacked by a bunch of thugs who are going to use violence and intimidation to obtain their ever growing list of demands. The BLM movement needs an serious infusion of critical thinking and analysis among its ranks, and I don't see that happening.

Because of this I can't be a part of BLM. I can't march in their protests. I can stand by and support policies that help the problems many black people disproportionately face, but I cannot be a part of the BLM movement because of its flaws. And no, I'm not a white supremacist or a Nazi sympathizer because of this. You can hate Nazis and white supremacists and still be critical of BLM.

Nuance people, nuance.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

David Smalley - Eating Our Own: How You Can Save the Movement


Recently at the Gateway to Reason conference in Missouri, podcaster David Smalley of Dogma Debate gave an excellent speech on the divisions in the atheist community that are tearing us apart. The Atheist Conference we're doing in New York City is specifically about atheist unity and rebuilding our community so that together we're stronger and more able to fight for what we stand for.

Our agreements far outweigh our disagreements. We all need to stop freaking out when someone disagrees with us on one thing, especially when they agree with us on ten things. Nuance is a word we must all become familiar with and practice.

Listen to the valuable points he makes in this talk.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Debate: Has Political Correctness Gone Too Far?


Well, it turns out that I forgot to upload my debate on political correctness from a few months ago. I thought I had published it, but I guess I forgot when I went on vacation. So, here it is: Has political correctness gone too far? What do you think? Who made the better argument?


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Islam, Tolerance, and how to have The Conversation


This is the second panel discussion at the Left Forum 2017 which is on a favorite topic of mine: Islam. More specifically, how do we as liberals criticize the bad parts of the religion, without being labeled racist, anti-Muslim bigots? This is a question most liberals struggle to answer. So here, my friends and I, including a former Muslim friend of mine, have what I think amounts to a positive constructive dialogue with a class full of liberals at one of the largest gathering of liberals.

I hope that the word is getting out regarding the problems with the regressive leftist behavior, and that it can actually fuel the Far Right, which is the very thing we don't want. The Left needs to police itself. Liberals are not going to listen to the Right when it comes to the legitimate criticism of the Left. They will only listen to other liberals. And that's why this is important.


Sunday, July 9, 2017

A Homefront Counter-extremism Project: How to defeat the Far Right Insurgency


Back at the 2017 Left Forum I participated in two panel discussions that were recorded. On this first panel discussion, we talk about how to counter the Far Right. I must admit, I did zero preparation work for this, and it wasn't really a topic that I'm particularly passionate about. But I managed to squeak out a few good points. Enjoy.


I will have our video on Islam up tomorrow.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Drive By Blogging: Atheism Grows, Church/State Violations, 10 Commandments Destroyed, & A New Public Debate


As I've mentioned in previous posts, lately I've been much busier than usual. To make things worse I'll also be travelling in Europe for the second half of July. I'm going to London, Paris, and Amsterdam. In addition to that I'm still working on several side projects, like our upcoming atheist conference, and so I really haven't been able to blog at the frequency I used to.

That being said let me do a rapid "drive by" blog post on several issues I could have been writing about but haven't had the time to.

First, there was some recent big news that the number of atheists might be much higher than previously reported, which usually was down near the 3-5% range, even though PEW has recorded the number of people who do not believe in god at 9%. A new study claims that the real number of atheists in the US may be as high as 26%. The trick, it seems, is all about the questioning. Asking someone directly on a questionnaire if they're an atheist will lead significant numbers of those who are atheists to say that they aren't out of the stigma surrounding the term. So instead, two groups were shown a bunch of innocuous statements like "I own a dog," "I enjoy modern art," and were instructed to answer if they were true. But the test group had an additional statement: "I don't believe in God." When comparing the test group with the control group that didn't have the atheist question, the researchers conclude that about 26% of Americans do not believe in god.

This number seems closer to me to the real number. I meet so many atheists that the 3-5% range seems awfully low. It's well known that many atheists are in the closet. Atheists continue to be among the most disliked group of people in the US. That's why we have to fight the stigma, so that atheists aren't ashamed to openly express who they are. The study's results, although encouraging, has its critics. Even if the real number is less than 26%, if it's only 20%, I'd still be happy with the results. The trend is headed in the right direction after all.

In other atheist news, the Czech Republic continues to be one of the most atheist countries in Europe, if not the world, with only 29% believing in god according to a recent PEW Research survey. 66% of Czechs do not believe in god. The country is however, an outlier among Eastern Europe, where large majorities profess belief in god.

I plan on updating a rebuttal to the kalam cosmological argument with new refutations....eventually.

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