Saturday, December 8, 2012

Open Thread

Maybe someday I'll create a "Contact Me" form.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

DA Threatens Teachers for Doing Their Jobs

Today I came across a disturbing entry in the American Life League's "Wednesday STOPP Report - March 31, 2010." (STOPP stands for "Stop Planned Parenthood.") (The report can be found here.)

The entry linked this letter (pdf) from Juneau County Wisconsin District Attorney Scott Harold Southworth. In the letter Southworth encourages local school districts "to temporarily withdraw from human growth and development instruction, effective with the 2010-2011 school year, until the Wisconsin Legislature amends or repeals these new mandates." The sex education mandates are contained in 2009 Wisconsin Act 134. The justification for this recommendation involves specious claims such as that the Act "Promotes the sexual assault of children."

The claim I found to be most alarming was this:
Exposes our teachers to possible criminal liability – §948.40 of Wisconsin's Criminal Code deals with “Contributing to the Delinquency of a Child.” Anyone who intentionally encourages or contributes to the delinquent (criminal) act of a child can be charged under this statute. For example, if a teacher instructs any student aged 16 or younger how to utilize contraceptives under circumstances where the teacher knows the child is engaging in sexual activity with another child — or even where the “natural and probable consequences” of the teacher's instruction is to cause that child to engage in sexual intercourse with a child — that teacher can be charged under this statute. The teacher need not be deliberately encourage[sic] the illegal behavior; he or she only need be aware that his or her instruction is “practically certain” to cause the child to engage in an illegal act. Moreover, the teacher could be charged with this crime even if the child does not actually engage in the criminal behavior. Depending on the nature of the child’s behavior, the teacher could face either misdemeanor or felony charges with maximum punishments ranging from 9 months of jail to up to six years of prison.

Now I'm no legal expert, but if such trumped-up charges were to be leveled against a teacher, wouldn't the charges originate from the District Attorney’s office?

I see this letter as nothing more than a thinly veiled threat by Southworth that he would abuse the power of his office for the purpose of malicious prosecution, in hopes that the threat will cause others to yield to his extremist anti-education political agenda.

I don't know what to do with this information. Who protects the public from rogue District Attorneys?

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel covered the story on April 6.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Brain Droppings, Installment I

Here I am on day 5 of my blog, wondering "What now?"

I originally created this blog for two reasons. The first was that after being banned from Bryan's blog, for a laugh I decided to see how difficult it would be to get around the ban. (As it turned out, creating a new pseudonym and a fake e-mail address was sufficient.) Then I began engaging with the regulars again, but was concerned that eventually my comments would again be deleted. (Eventually has turned out to be a longer period than I anticipated.)

The second was that I had tweaked my medications, causing me to feel a bit manic for a couple of days. I've found that one of the safest ways to channel manic energy is to start a new, inexpensive project.

But now the dust has settled. I have one "follower" (Hi, Cathy!). The people who asked me to expand on my views either received enough information to satisfy their curiosity, received information that they couldn't process because their worldviews differ so sharply from mine, realized that they were no more likely to change my mind than I was theirs, or all all of the above. So those conversations have ended.

What now?

I've poked around Blogspot looking at random blogs, to see what others do. Based on a very small sample, with no actual quantitative analysis, most bloggers seem content to blog about their lives, or their children, or their hobbies. Quite a few of the blogs I reviewed have received fewer comments in years than I have in these few days.

If all I'm concerned about is how many comments I receive, I could trigger negative comments by going to pro-life blogs like Jill Stanek's, and giving opinions at odds with the local groupthink. At least one of the comments I have received appears to be a drive-by obtained in this manner.

I realize, however, that supportive comments are harder to come by. This is understandable, because I rarely comment on others' blogs unless I think of something to say that hasn't already been said.

I created this pseudonym 6 years ago, so I could speak my mind, without having to worry about prospective employers Googling the name on my resume and finding my views incompatible with their moral sensibilities. No one IRL knows about my pseudonym except my wife, my therapist and my ISP.

We'll see.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Technical Difficulties

I've received multiple reports (well, two) of people receiving errors when attempting to comment on my blog. I've seen similar errors myself. If one waits a minute or two, then tries again, the comment is usually accepted.

It's not (just) that I'm a cheapskate, using a free blog service. My wife won't allow me to spend money on frivolous things (like blogs or internet porn) until I am once again gainfully employed.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

My Deconversion

I've had a request to describe how I came to realize that there is no god or gods. (No, really!) I know, it's a boring topic. I'll try to keep it brief.

(By convention I capitalize the name of the Christian God, but use 'god' to refer to a nonspecific deity.)

I was born and raised Roman Catholic. I've received the sacraments of baptism, communion, penance and confirmation.

I first started questioning religion around the age of 11. The first manifestation was in fighting to have my Sunday mornings free. I didn't get very far with that.

My doubts progressed until age 17, when I decided that the bases for Christianity (original sin, etc.) were literally incredible, and I decided I no longer subscribed. Being a high school senior living at home, I was not ready to rebel against my parents, so I went through the motions for show.

At age 18, while off at college, I decided that the concept of a supernatural creator-of-the-universe was unsupportable by any evidence I was aware of. I decided to make a pact with myself: I would spend the next year watching for any indication that the world was not as it would be if there were no supernatural beings affecting anything.

When I returned home for the summer after my Freshman year, I announced to my mother that I would not be attending Mass with her any more. She threatened to evict me from my childhood home. I called her bluff. She did not follow through. Win!

At age 19, I declared my experiment to be over. My conclusion, to borrow from Julia Sweeney: "Oh my God! There is no God!" I decided to continue to watch for contradictory evidence, but my working theory would be there are no gods, no afterlife, nothing but the natural world. What you see is what you get. I've seen nothing in the last 25 years that has contradicted this worldview.

Shortly thereafter, I received a survey in the mail that used the word "atheist." When I looked up the word in the dictionary, I discovered that this label fit me. I proceeded to the campus library to learn more of atheism.

Somewhere around this time I went through a period of grief. I learned that this is normal for people who lose their belief in life after death.

I've often wondered why I developed the ability or willingness to examine supernatural claims with the same critical eye that I would use for learning about the natural world, when most people just compartmentalize the supernatural as something to be kept separate, not to be questioned. I've never come up with any satisfactory explanations.

I don't have any traumatic experiences that I can establish as a trigger. My deconversion was the result of gradual self-exploration.


Reader Sally said she attempted to comment on this post (see Technical Difficulties above), then posted the comment elsewhere. I am going to take this as implicit permission to share her comment here in her stead:
Arium (aka Joe),

I have read your “deconversion” story as well as your other posts and the comments left by readers. Thank you for posting it in response to my request elsewhere. All I feel moved to say is that I am not impressed by it. I have heard it before, from many others in many places and in many variations. So you couldn’t find “proof”? As I have come to understand it, we have no right to expect anything more from God than we have already been given: our lives, the planet, the universe, one another. We did not create all of this reality and its benefits to us. That is miracle enough to impress me and inspire my awe.

If anyone has a right to expectations it’s God, who has the right to expect us to behave properly and to use all that God has given to us with respect, humility, and gratitude.

There are plenty of books and blogs out there by former atheists who have arrived at the other end of your road and finally understood–intellectually and emotionally–what they were missing. Now these are stories that impress me! And teach me and move my heart. You, my dear, seem stuck in adolescence.

Of course there are plenty of Christians out there who need to have a lot more humility about their faith and a lot more compassion for those who can’t believe. After 20 years away from the Church, I now treasure the faith I have and I don’t take it for granted, because it has saved my life, which I now live in the hope that it will be used to help save the lives of others. I pray that one day you will be able to accept that gift as well.

Peace be with you,

Sally, I have no doubt that you "have heard it before," just as I have heard many variations on "religion requires faith" in my lifetime. Such is the nature of the irreconcilable differences in our worldviews.

I too have come across examples of former atheists turned Christian. Of the few who I have listened to closely, I've been left with the impression that they were predisposed to religious belief, and it was just a fluke that they had been nonbelievers at one time. The first public example that comes to mind is Marvin Olasky, who, to my recollection, coined the term "Compassionate Conservatism." (Wikipedia disagrees.)

In my mind I am most assuredly not "stuck in adolescence." Adolescence was a time in which I dealt with conflicting issues of seeming to have received more than my fair share of libido, and having been taught that I would go to Hell for masturbating. I am very happy to have gotten past that time in my life. (I considered this as a possible explanation for why I was able to escape the bonds of religion, as I discussed above, but I figure that I couldn't have been completely convinced that I was going to Hell, or I would not have experienced the period of grief I described.)


Since apparently this term is not as easy to look up as I thought, I'll explain:

Cisman is shorthand for cisgender man.

From Wikipedia:
Cisgender (pronounced /ˈsɪsdʒɛndər/) is an adjective used in the context of gender issues and counselling to refer to a class of gender identities formed by a match between an individual's gender identity and the behavior or role considered appropriate for one's sex. Cisgender is a neologism that means "someone who is comfortable in the gender they were assigned at birth", according to Calpernia Addams. "Cisgender" is used to contrast "transgender" on the gender spectrum.

I placed that in my bio to show in my own subtle way that I make an effort to be sensitive to LGBT issues. I try to be cognizant of my cisgender privilege (my heterosexual privilege, my male privilege and my white privilege), but sometimes I fall short, which is the nature of privilege. Gentle corrections are welcome.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Bryan's Refugees

Since apparently at least one of my compatriots has found my blog, so far, I'll initiate sharing of stories of what we may have said that compelled Bryan to ban us and delete our comments. (Personally I consider deleting comments, then accusing the commenter of lying, generally to be bad form, but I suppose when one is running a ministry one is more concerned about ensuring that comments stay on message.)

Here's my story:

Bryan was unhappy that I had objected to his claim that President Obama is evil for, among other violations, having rescinded the Mexico City Policy. Bryan responded by providing several links, mostly to MSM sources, that he seemed to believe supported his case.

His links included the following, which I used for my response:
Washington Post
Reuters UK

I responded with the following:
The last paragraph of the Washington Post article:  "Lifting the Mexico City Policy would not permit U.S. tax dollars to be used for abortions, but it would allow funding to resume to groups that provide other services, including counseling about abortions."

No tax dollars for abortions.

The information contained in the topic from Religious Tolerance was even more telling:

Under "1984 Background:"  "Thus, an agency's funding might be cut off from its contraceptive/family planning counseling services in one country if it had any abortion activity in the same or in another country."

Under "2003: President Bush partly abandons Mexico City policy:"  "An anonymous senior White House aide said: 'Any agency that provides treatment for AIDS will get the money - as long as none of the funds are used for family planning purposes or for abortions - except in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is in danger.'"

Thus purpose of the Mexico City Policy was not to defund abortions, because abortions are not otherwise funded.  The purpose was to hinder "contraceptive/family planning counseling services," a goal that is supported by only a tiny minority of the U.S. public.

From Reuters:  "George W. Bush reinstated it on Jan 22, 2001, in one of his first policy moves as president, saying: 'It is my conviction that taxpayer funds should not be used to pay for abortions or advocate or actively promote abortion, either here or abroad.'"

Here Bush intentionally deceived us by falsely associating the Mexico City Policy with ending taxpayer-funded abortions, which the Mexico City Policy did not affect.

I also had posted another comment, which I reposted as a comment to Violet's post here. (Based on the location of his ban announcement, this post may not have been included in the decision, although I can understand why my opinion would be considered controversial.)

Would anyone else care to share?

(For those who do not know who I am talking about: no, I am not going to provide a link.)

OUT Campaign

The Out Campaign: Scarlet Letter of Atheism