6 Reasons not to send your daughter to college? Reprehensible.

English: Source: http://historyproject.ucdavis...

English: Source: http://historyproject.ucdavis.edu/khapp.php?SlideNum=1963 Public Domain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A very misguided and ill-informed website that calls itself “Fix the Family” has a blog with an article arguing against sending women to college. This sort of misogynistic, short-sighted advice is, unfortunately, playing to a rather large audience (the comments to their blog post were over 3,000 -though the ones I saw were very critical).

I was sent this link by someone that thought it was something worth reading. Let me bust that bubble.

The post is rife with fallacy and outright nonsense. For instance, the writer says “college and education have very little to do with each other [...] graduates receive a diploma, not necessarily an education.” The implication is that “wisdom” is something you get from sources they approve of and that colleges are focused only on training for jobs. This is so far from truth that the writer is either severely misinformed or outright lying. Universities and colleges provide educations that cannot be obtained from simply visiting the internet and reading books -the discussions and, very often, debates that go on in college classrooms are without comparison.

But the writer believes women and girls should be “educated in the catholic faith” (whatever that means). When held up against an actual university education program, an “education in the catholic faith” might as well be a study in fairyology or a class from “Hogwart’s.”

The writer attempts to poison the well of arguments that he (undoubtedly a he) knows are coming by positing his “reasons.” He begins by claiming he is not against education (see the above paragraph) and that he does not believe in oppressing women or limiting their opportunities.

So what are his reasons?

1. “She will attract the wrong types of men.” Seriously. That’s what he wrote. I kid you not. His argument is that if she’s educated the man will be lazy and use her for her income. What a maroon.

2. “She will be in a near occasion of sin.” Whatever the fuck that means. He asks, “is a degree worth the loss of your daughter’s purity [whatever that is], dignity, and soul [whatever that is]?” The only real term he appears to have used is dignity and if a father has that low of an opinion of his daughter’s ability to cope with the world, then her loss of dignity was at his hands years before being old enough for college.

3. “She will not learn to be a wife and a mother.” Yeah, that’s not sexist at all. Does the writer think that men should not learn to be husbands and fathers? Or that college teaches this? The disparity between the writers twisted ideas of equality is… well… twisted.

4. A degree is too costly (I’m paraphrasing). He basically makes the argument that life is tough, so while gamble that spending money and low-interest loans on a degree will be a benefit. To support this argument, the writer cites a half dozen peer-reviewed longitudinal studies that demonstrate the wasteful nature of loans versus career outcomes. Oh, no wait… he didn’t do that at all.

5. “You don’t have anything to prove to the world.” Yep. That’s this sexist, misogynistic, prick’s fifth reason a “girl” shouldn’t go to college. Apparently this dickhead thinks women choose education to “prove something to the world” whereas only men choose to better themselves and the world through education. Girls. Those selfish biotches.

6. “It could be a near occasion of sin for the parents.” Whatever the fuck that means. Seriously.. wtf is a “near occasion of sin?” I get that religious people believe there is this thing called “sin” that everyone should be worried about (but ever notice they seem to be the most afflicted with it?). But wtf is a “near occasion” of it? Does the writer go on to describe parents that almost or “nearly” rob liquor stores to pay for their daughter’s college tuition? Nope. Instead he switches into a criticism of birth control. Who the fuck cares?

7. “She will regret it.” I ask: why would a women be more likely to regret an education than a man? Moreover, what studies support this assertion? The answers, of course, are they wouldn’t and there aren’t any.

The writer is a catholic nutjob, writing on a blog for a site run by catholic nutjobs. The bios of the site staff each describe men with stay at home wives and home-schooled children.

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Possible Sexual Misconduct is a Subject of Interest for the Superstitious

Listen ... Rape is a polictically volatile top...

Who is more the dick? The dick, or the dick that follows him?

With recent allegations, accusations, rumors, etc. about rape, elevatorgate, and the misogynist, hate filled rhetoric being flung like feces in a primate exhibit within the atheist community, public personalities within the superstitious community are clearly amused.

At Wm. Dembski’s “Uncommon Descent” blog, the creationist nutbars are having a good time with it. And they’re quick to point out that other atheists are giving PZ Myers‘ new book one-star ratings at Amazon (i.e. John Loftus).

I’m sure there are other examples of popular religionists, creationists, and the like pointing and laughing at the atheist community for our in-fighting. We’ve seen some friendships apparently dissolved over issues like the so-called “elevatorgate” (this originated with Rebecca Watson who was propositioned by a man in an elevator at oh-dark-thirty in the morning while she was on her way to a hotel. She declined. Later, she told the story of this anonymous person on her YouTube channel and simply said, “guys, don’t do that.” In response, she received death- and rape-threats).

In a way, I rather like the in-fighting. It shows that atheists really are not sheeple. We don’t simply follow one-another –or so-called leaders in the community– just because they’re atheists. Just because we’re free from the spell of religious superstition, does not imply that we haven’t other spells that need breaking. Ideas about feminism or even what’s right and wrong when dealing with female discrimination and abuse at conferences and public events (or what even constitutes discrimination and abuse) are things where an obvious disagreement has emerged.

As a father of a girl going into her teens, I’m very interested in this sort of thing. To be frank, I’m a little more than concerned about the abuse atheists are flinging back and forth -the hatred and contempt. The in-fighting, while it has a good component, is probably mostly bad. I think what will emerge, however, will be a stronger, more resilient community of atheists.

Until then: keep laughing religionists. And keep linking to our discussions. We like your kids to get interested in what’s going on.

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The Religious Response to the Zuckerman’s Atheist Intelligence Study

Miron Zuckerman, a psychologist at the University of Rochester, recently published a study that probably all atheists have heard of by now. It turns out that we’re generally more intelligent than religionists. I won’t get into the study methodology or argue the validity of the results –I have some opinions on this. I thought instead that I’d highlight a few responses from the religious to the religious about this study.

From the Religion News Service:

Are atheists smarter than believers? Not exactly.” They emphasize that Zuckerman is careful to say that the results of the meta-analysis reveal that “intelligent people may have less need for religion.”

They go on to quote R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., who has “great concerns” about the study: “We do not draw support for our faith from scientific reports. Anyone whose faith is shaken by the claim that research proves that higher intelligence leads to lower levels of religious belief has a misplaced faith.”

And Congregationalist pastor, Lilian Daniel: “It’s not that intelligence leads to atheism, or education leads to loss of faith,” she said. “But I think there is a certain peer pressure as one moves up the educational ladder to dismiss all religion as fundamentalism. It’s one of the last acceptable biases in an environment that prides itself on being open-minded.”

From the Christian Post:

Study Draws Skepticism After Concluding Atheists ‘More Intelligent’ Than Their Religious Counterparts” They cited “strong criticism” of Zuckerman’s use of the word “intelligence” which they say “only considered an analytic framework of intelligence and did not address the impact that other forms, such as creative and emotional intelligence, had on a person’s overall aptitude in relation to an individual’s religious identity.” The Christian Post was also concerned that Zuckerman “narrowly defined a person’s religious influence as one’s involvement in part or all aspects of religious practice.”

Creative intelligence? Emotional intelligence? And how dare someone assume that religion means involvement in religious practice.

The CP was also bothered that Zuckerman didn’t address the personal impact that faith and unexplained meta-physical occurrences has on shaping one’s religious identity.”

Christian Today ran a very brief article on it: “Study links religious belief to intelligence,” just 11 sentences long. At first glance, they really had nothing negative to add, they simply reported the study and the results without critique. However, I read it again more carefully and noted that they included this sentence: ”Most extant explanations (of a negative relation) share one central theme – the premise that religious beliefs are irrational, not anchored in science, not testable and, therefore, unappealing to intelligent people who ‘know better’,” a quote from the study itself. Perhaps they simply took the tact of painting the research as snooty, elitist assumption. Or perhaps someone was genuinely trying to report in an unbiased fashion and thought this interesting. Hard to say.

Like I said, I have some opinions on studies of this nature. One of which is that it might be that what we’re looking at is a function of social conservatism rather than religiosity. Helmuth Nyborg conducted a very similar study in 2008 which seemed to show a link in just this area. The more conservative a religious sect was, the less intelligent the membership appeared. For instance, Pentecostals rated fairly low while Episcopalians rated fairly high. In fact, Episcopalians and Jews ranked marginally higher than atheists and agnostics in intelligence with his study.

All fascinating stuff and important to understand when trying to break the spell of religion.

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Atheist shoe maker discovered a bias in the US Postal Service


Shoes (Photo credit: benhobden)

Atheist shoe maker, Atheist Berlin (fantastic looking product, btw), sent 178 packages to  89 people in different parts of the U.S., each person receiving one package prominently  branded as ‘Atheist’ merchandise, and one not. As a result, the atheist branded packages were, on average, 3 days later in arrival than the non-atheist marked packages. But that’s not all. They were also 10 times more likely to disappear! 

For those who live in the U.S., particularly in the bible-belt, this probably comes as no surprise. But it’s still a fascinating study. The “atheist marking” was apparently a packing tape similar to the kind you might see with “fragile” marked on it. Instead, it had the Atheist Berlin logo, which is the word “atheist” followed by a solid black circle.

As an epilogue  the company says it will no longer use the atheist tape to seal or mark packages and, instead, send them plain brown wrapper.

Its a shame that they cannot use their logo, especially since they appear to be a solid, quality product. I only just discovered the shoe line and may one day end up with a pair myself. The soles have a reverse of “ich bin Atheist” embossed so that they leave that phrase wherever you walk. Another version has “Darwin Loves” on the bottom.

The study report page on their site allowed comments and the funniest of commenters said:

If you end up with a surplus of Atheist tape, you can send it to me in the states. I promise not to stick the end to the door handle of a post office, put the roll on a stick, hold it out the window of my car, and drive around the post office until the tape is gone.

Of course there were some Christian nutters calling atheists “fucking morons” and the like. Typical “Christian love.”

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Is Atheism a Religion?

Christian Atheist (Peter Lumsden, d. 2007)

Christian Atheist (Peter Lumsden, d. 2007) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That’s the title of an article at the Christian Post by Brittney R. Villalva. There, she cites the American Religious Identification Surveys as well as a recent PEW poll, all of which indicate a rise in “nones” and non-religious, including atheists and agnostics.

Not surprisingly, she also speaks to the growing fear that religious bigots have about this:

The growing number is a concern for some Christians, who fear that atheism could turn into a belief system that surpasses the separation of church and state laws.

She accurately represents most atheists I know by pointing out that we don’t religious superstition entering public policy decisions with government. But, when she quotes David Fowler of the Family Action Council of Tennessee who says, “[b]but they do want their own beliefs about God’s nonexistence to influence public policy,” she (and Fowler, obviously) misrepresent the non-religious in general and atheists in particular. I know of no atheist that wants their own beliefs about the non-existence of a god to influence public policy that goes any further than keeping superstition out of public policy. Nor does the author of the article give any example of what this might mean.

Instead, she seems more interested in being the spokesperson for Christians who would like nothing more than atheism to be declared a religion so they can use that angle to keep our points of view and opinions out of public schools. There is a growing effort to continue to eliminate science and reason from public schools, making it easier for the religious to shroud their children in ignorance and superstition. They believe that if atheism can be declared a religion, then that means evolution cannot be taught.

Doesn’t make sense, I know. But I’ve been a part of more than one argument, mostly online, where this has come up. Somehow, Christians (probably Muslims and other religionists as well) equivocate “evolution” with “atheism.” One really has little to do with the other, except that both are positions based on reason and critical thought. Oh, and both are positions that refute Christian mythology. But they are distinctly independent beyond that. One need not understand biology and evolution in order to be an atheist. And one need not be an atheist to see that evolution explains life on the planet (examples include Kenneth Miller and Francis Collins).

The author makes an argument that atheism is a religion, but no where in the article does the author bother to define “religion.”

I challenge a religionist (or anyone for that matter) to provide a definition for “religion” that maintains it’s utility yet includes an atheist perspective. I’d be very interested to see what such a definition looked like. To date, the best definition I’ve yet to see for “religion” comes from Daniel Dennett (one of the so called Four Horsemen of New Atheism). He defined religion as a “social system whose participants avow belief in a supernatural agent or agents whose approval is to be sought”[1]. Simple and straightforward. And it has great utility. A few people dislike it because it exclude Theraveda Buddhists, but I actually like it because of that exclusion.

Other attempts to define a religion that can include atheism will invariably make the definition so cumbersome as to destroy its utility. Suddenly anything can be a religion, from baseball and crochet to stamp collecting and masturbation.

Atheism is not a religion. It’s a lack of it.

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  1. Dennett, Daniel (2006). Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. New York: Penquin, p. 9. []
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What are Conservatives Conserving?

That’s the question Carl Sagan posed with Part II of his book Billions and Billions. And its still a question I ponder today.

A recent comparison of obesity and congressional support (both by state) for the Affordable Healthcare Act has revealed an interesting correlation. It seems the fattest states are the most likely to have opposed Obama’s healthcare initiative.

Most educated=darker shades

Most opposed states at bottom; most obese to the right

Interestingly enough, these are also the least educated states. Most people who are opposed to Affordable Healthcare simply don’t understand what it actually does. Contrary to the misguided leadership of their representatives (who aren’t really doing a good job of representing their constituents when you think of it), the ACA actually holds people accountable for their healthcare, both physically and fiscally.

The talking heads would have us all believe this is some form of socialism or “Stalinism” where the State automatically picks up the tab, but the reality is that this already happens. Hospitals cannot turn away someone in need of healthcare. Consequently, people who should be making routine or scheduled visits with their physicians instead go to the Emergency Room since they cannot be turned away. And the taxpayer picks up the tab.

With ACA, this is all but eliminated. Moreover, people will start visiting their physicians more often, probably to get told to lose weight and be involved in a more active and healthy lifestyle.

Is this what conservatives are conserving? Their energy? Or are they keeping their constituents fat, lazy, and fed, but under-educated so they don’t learn any better.

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Florida to Strike the Establishment Clause from its Constitution?

U.S Postage Stamp, 1957

The Religious Freedom Amendment, a proposed amendment 8, to the Florida constitution would change the wording of section 3 of the document to allow public funding of religious organizations. That is, tax dollars from all citizens of Florida would be available to fund religion[1].

Currently, section 3 states, “[t]here shall be no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting or penalizing the free exercise thereof. Religious freedom shall not justify practices inconsistent with public morals, peace, or safety. No revenue of the state or any political subdivision or agency thereof shall ever be taken from the public treasury directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution.”

Amendment 8 would replace the last sentence with, “[n]o individual or entity may be discriminated against or barred from receiving funding on the basis of religious identity or belief.”

As you can imagine, several secular organizations have rightly stood up and cried foul. Humanists of the Treasure Coast has joined with the Secular Coalition for America to fight the effort, which, according to many, is primarily an effort to find a way to get public funds to religious (i.e. Christian) schools.

Those are the facts of the situation. Now here’s my take on it:

Two things become readily apparent. 1) religious schools have largely failed at getting creationist pseudoscience and nonsense introduced to the masses through public schools and they cannot afford to let all the public school kids simply come to them for free. 2) the religionists haven’t really thought this through.

If public funds in Florida can get used on religious schools, then the religious are in a position to expand their classes and, of course, teach what they want. The religious are very good at appealing to the masses and, as a parent, I can tell you that I’m constantly on the look out for a school where my child will be safe. Public schools are rough and the religious can very easily make their classrooms look appealing. Next step, teach that evolution is wrong and creation is right; that contraception is bad and abstinence actually works; that homosexuality is an affliction and “teh gey” can be prayed away. And so on.

But it’s clear that they haven’t thought this through. What happens when a madrasah is created for Muslims (LA governor Jindal learned this the hard wya -see below)? What happens when a Jewish, Muslim, or Wiccan school doesn’t get an equal share of funding? Then it becomes apparent that the State is favoring a particular cult of religion and not actually protecting religious freedom. And, even if these things do not come to pass, the amendment is unconstitutional and will doubtless end up at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Maybe what we need to hope for, as secular people, is that this *does* go that route. Because such a battle will shine a lot of light on the tax breaks that religion already gets. That elephant in the room, where churches get to exist in neighborhoods where they take advantage of street repair, public services like fire and ambulance, and other services will be exposed. Not to mention the public scrutiny on the lifestyles of the leaders of mega-churches that rake in millions (if not billions) of dollars annually, none of it to be shared with the public.

The religious have never been very good at understanding “religious liberty.” They should leave it in the hands of experts. Secularists.

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  1. Non-believers say proposed Florida amendment is backdoor to religion in government []
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Hell’s Angel

Cover of "The Missionary Position: Mother...

Cover via Amazon

I’ve yet to read Christopher Hitchens’ biography of Mother Theresa, The Missionary Position, but I think it’ll be high on my list now that I’ve viewed “Hell’s Angel,” a documentary narrated by Hitchens and, I assume, based on that work.

Hitchens, in three 8-minute clips of the original BBC 4 documentary, paints a very different picture of this “saint” of Calcutta than is held by most people in the West. “Mother Theresa” is a name synonymous with “charity” and “good deeds” as well one who is “virtuous.” How many times have we heard someone referred to as “a regular ‘Mother Theresa’” or, my favorite, “she’s no ‘Mother Theresa,’ you know.” After watching this documentary, I’d take the latter as a compliment!

Hitchens reveals Theresa as someone who, intentionally or not, favored the rich and powerful while actually doing very little for the poor. Her Calcutta hospice is shown for the death-trap it probably was -I’m still getting over the interview of Mary Loudon, a writer and former volunteer, who was shocked at the mistreatment and negligence of the patients, including a 15 year old boy who required a trip to the hospital for treatment of a relatively simple kidney infection. Instead, he was according to her anecdote, consigned to death: “if you help one, you then have to help them all.”

Uh… yes. That’s what a real saint would do. Help them all.

The Missionary Position is next up on my reading list. In the mean time, I recommend the documentary, “Hell’s Angel” as well as documentary-log.com, where you can find over 50 documentaries on Religion, and scores more in dozens of other topics.

You can find the 3 part series here at documentary-log.com.

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Atheists are Cowards?

The author(s) of Blazing Cat Fur seems to have his or her panties in a wad over atheists. I realize it’s not hard to imagine that right-wing, conservative, religionist blogger might find himself in that predicament, but in this case he seems to be having a good time re-hashing that tired, old argument that atheists are always afraid to criticize muslims. This argument is, of course, completely falacious -even more than usual the way it is presented:

“[Atheists fear Muhammed] And run scurrying like cowards…

University atheist society president forced to resign after cartoon of Muhammad having a drink with Jesus is posted on Facebook…”

Blazing Cat Fur links, of course, to another article at Answering Muslims, which has a somewhat different take on the matter:

The president of the Atheist, Secularist and Humanist society at the prestigious University College London (UCL), Robbie Yellon, has stepped down over the controversy.

But the Society still refuses to take down the image – claiming its right to defend ‘freedom of expression’.

Secretary for the National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies, Michael Paynter,said: ‘Robbie stepped aside because he signed up as president to organise events and run a student society.

‘He did not appreciate the stress he would be under when dealing with a controversy like this, so he wanted to make way for someone else.’

When you got to the Facebook group page for The University College, London (UCL) Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society, you see that there’s been a bit of intra-group politics going on. Something that isn’t unique to atheists. From what little I’ve read, the out-going president has a differing opinion that many of the more hardline members. And his position is understandable: he’d like to foster debate, interaction, and eliminate some myths about atheists. But I also empathize and agree with the positions of those that take umbrage to limitations on free speech. It should not be okay for one group to silence another simply because they don’t want their beliefs and delusions discussed, debated, or even made fun of.

So, Blazing Cat Fur: where do you get “scurrying like cowards” and how do you arrive at “forced to resign?”

A small sample size (n=1) makes the author of that blog look very stupid. Particularly since that person was neither scurrying nor representative of the atheist population. From just the article BCF linked to, it was pretty clear he didn’t want to deal with controversy -no one “forced” him to do anything. Indeed, the point of the resignation was to not allow himself to be “forced” into something he wasn’t keen on!

BCF also linked to an atheist in Jakarta who was beaten, apparently in an effort to support the argument that atheists are cowards. It wasn’t clear how an assualted atheist in Jakarta, Indonesia relates to a university freethought club in London, England, but the implication is that since atheists aren’t speaking out about this obscure story, we’re “scared” of muslims and, therefore, aren’t “rushing out to defend this guy.”

Here are some criticisms of Islam and Muslims by atheists:

Atheism in Indonesia: Two Articles
About.com Describes Islam
Honesty: The Muslim World’s Scarcest Resource
When Debating Muslims
Are Atheists Afraid of Criticizing Islam?

Oh, and the UCL is apparently so afraid of Islam and Muslims they’re hosting a debate titled, “Do we need God?” on March 1, 2012.

Atheists aren’t afraid of Muslims. Christians are. And they project that fear on us.

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Godless: the movie

Staring Dan Barker, Daniel Dennett, Lawrence Kraus, PZ Myers, and many others in a conversation about one of “least trusted group in America” which “is also one of the fastest growing minorities.”

I just ordered my copy. Godless

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