They Pledge Allegiance... a myth,
About the founding of our nation;
And to their beliefs,
Which are unsupported;
One religion's,
With theocracy and conformity for all.

The following poem has been passed around the internet for the last decade; it claims to be a new “Pledge of Allegiance.” I’m not sure how this is a pledge to the United States, it is certainly not a pledge to any principles of democracy or plurality. All together it is an example of the cultural fight over Christian Privilege and Christian Supremacy in America.

Now I sit me down in school
Where praying is against the rule

False. Any student can pray in school so long as it is not disruptive, like praying when the teacher is is instructing the class. It is simply prohibited that teachers or faculty can lead students in prayer as part of a school function. As a taxpayer funded institution, this is a simple measure that keeps schools from violating the Establishment Clause.
For this great nation under God
Some Americans agree with that statement, but many do not. Christians have no more claim on this country than any other citizen. Arguing otherwise is equivalent to arguing that non-Christians should be considered second-class citizens.
Finds mention of Him very odd.

If Scripture now the class recites,
It violates the Bill of Rights.

If the class is “reciting” scripture as part of religious instruction, damn right it violates the Bill of Rights. How else would the author have it? Every teacher instructing students on their personal religious beliefs? Does the author want public school teachers who are wasting time in their Math and English classes by instructing students on Baptist doctrines, Catholic doctrines, Muslim doctrines, Mormon doctrines, or Scientologist doctrines. How is that useful for public education, or right for the teachers to do? Or is it that the author would like to force schools to teach all students in the United States his own particular brand of religion? Again, this is a gross demonstration of how many Christians are not fighting for their religious freedoms, but for their Christian Privilege because they don’t like that its legitimacy has been challenged.
And anytime my head I bow
Becomes a Federal matter now.

This is simply an untrue and inflammatory remark.

Our hair can be purple, orange or green,
That's no offense; it's a freedom scene.

Why would that be an offense? Is the author arguing that dying your hair is immoral or corrupt? As long as students aren’t dying their hair in class I am baffled at how one would think it hurts students.
The law is specific, the law is precise.
Prayers spoken aloud are a serious vice.

Only if they are disrupting the class. Arguing otherwise is another dishonest attempt to inflame the audience.

For praying in a public hall
Might offend someone with no faith at all.
In silence alone we must meditate,
God's name is prohibited by the state.

And another lie. The only thing that is prohibited is for the school to sponsor or lead a prayer. Students can pray, aloud, or in silence, to any deities they wish.

We're allowed to cuss and dress like freaks,
I don’t know any teachers that allow cussing in their class room. And it is simply untrue that cussing in school is protected by any regulations or laws.
And pierce our noses, tongues and cheeks.
They've outlawed guns, but FIRST the Bible.

Outlawed guns? Why does the author feel the need to continuously lie? And such easily disproved lies as well. The Second Amendment still stands, people can still own guns. No one has been trying to change that. Though if he means that they’ve banned guns from schools, then that’s true, but I feel no sympathy for that grievance. And it's an outright lie that the Christian bible has been outlawed from schools.
To quote the Good Book makes me liable.
No, but this lie might.

We can elect a pregnant Senior Queen,
And the 'unwed daddy,' our Senior King.

Can’t say that I’ve ever heard of this happening, so first I’d like to demand evidence. Second: So? Like the hair and piercings, I fail to see how this is relevant to argument. Unless, (as implied by the next line) the author wants our public institutions to be used to turn people into social pariahs for not fitting traditional family categories.
It's 'inappropriate' to teach right from wrong,
We're taught that such 'judgments' do not belong.

Another outright lie. Right and wrong are taught in school all the time. You have history, and literature, and the history of the sciences. All of which are filled with lessons of right and wrong. Does the author really want teachers to teach students to judge on perceived morality of life choices? What if their ideas about moral lifestyle conflict with his own? Of course he doesn’t want them to teach any set of ideas about moral lifestyles, he wants the schools to teach his beliefs. Privilege and Supremacy rearing their ugly heads again

We can get our condoms and birth controls,
The most proven method of reducing the rate of unwanted teen pregnancies is good sex education and access to birth control. If you care about helping teens, then you should be for this.
Study witchcraft, vampires and totem poles.
I’m sorry, but is the author making the claim that schools teach witchcraft, etc.? Evidence please. Otherwise, students can study whatever they want outside of class.
But the Ten Commandments are not allowed,
No word of God must reach this crowd.

Again not true, the Ten Commandments are taught in schools in the context of their historic place in Western Civilization. It only crosses the line when the teacher tries to preach about them to students. Also, I wonder, which religion’s version of the Ten Commandments does the author want indoctrinated into his children? There are multiple versions in the Old Testament, and different groups enshrine different versions.

It's scary here I must confess,
When chaos reigns the school's a mess.

Chaos, really? I hope the author is simply ignorant of the ever increasing stringency of No-Tolerance policies at public schools. Otherwise, he is yet again being purposely dishonest to his audience. Schools are monitored like prisons, and more schools across the country are trying to exert control and disciplinary jurisdiction over their students even when they are not in school. We have the laptop webcams spying on students in their homes, and students being thrown off sports teams for “suggestive” pictures on their Facebook pages that were taken over summer break. Schools are not falling to chaos, they are becoming police states.
So, Lord, this silent plea I make:
Should I be shot; My soul please take!

Hey wait a minute; I thought the author was upset that guns were banned from schools!
I would call this a prayer, but really this is a pledge to Christian Supremacy in the form of a poem. It is only disguised as a prayer, and no benevolent god would be pleased by a prayer riddled with so much dishonesty.

I know that as a Christian, it is difficult to see Christian Privilege, the same as it is difficult for me to see white privilege or male privilege. My wife and I didn’t see how pervasive Christian Privilege was until after we found ourselves on the other side, and then we were amazed that we’d missed it before. I’m certain that many who agree with or express the sentiments found in this pledge are not actually bigots, they simply haven’t stepped back to consider how much special treatment has been given to Christians in this country.

If this is the case for you, I understand completely. But I hope that now you’ll take a moment to consider the views of the other 70 million American citizens who are non-Christians (approximately 22%), and stop pushing the idea that you entitled to privileges and recognitions from our government that non-Christians don’t enjoy.

In search of reason,



"No Description Needed"

While in some parts of the country LGBT individuals and communities have nearly succeeded in winning the same legal rights that their heterosexual neighbors enjoy, the fight isn't over yet. There are still too many people pushing back, allowing a miasma of homophobic attitudes that lead to bullying and harassment. Ultimately, too many innocent children and teens suffer because of this.

Organizations like Americans for Truth about Homosexuality are part of the problem. They deny it, they say that they want to help these people. But let's look at some of their own words.
  • It is immoral to “mainstream” homosexuality to children in schools in the guise of teaching tolerance and diversity.
  • “Bullying” in any form is wrong and must be stopped. But it can be addressed without promoting acceptance of homosexuality.
They actively attack any effort to teach about diversity and tolerance. They consider it an infringement on their rights to have their children told in school that it's okay if a classmate is gay, or - heaven forbid - if they are. They want "Homosexuals are abominations" and "Fags are going to burn in Hell" to be protected religious speech in the classroom. They believe it is a sin, so they should be able to tell the fagot to his face how evil they think he is. Somehow, this is different from bullying.

I also see some very familiar hate rhetoric, re-purposed for this cause: "The liberal media – which is now practically an arm of the homosexual movement." Hello antisemitism, I see your stereotyping tactics have found a new home.

These people are actively demonizing our LGBT friends and neighbors. And any of us who support the right to marry the one you love.
"Many homosexual activists are anti-religious bigots"
"Their aim is to silence all opposition."
They call us the "militant" ones, but when was the last time you saw a bunch of gay rights activists beat up a homophobic Christian who was minding their own business? Or drag them behind a car? Or tie them to a fence to leave them to die? Or hang them? Or bully them everyday until they take their own life? And we're the ones supposedly "driven by hatred."



P.S. Support FCKH8 if you want to look good and can spare the cash. Let's make LGBT respect mainstream!

A Response to some YouTube Proselytizing

One of the nice things about having a Freethinkers blog is that I have a forum to share the irrational rants that are occasionally sent to me. This gem of an email came about from an exchange on YouTube.

First the video itself. It was linked to me by a friend in the atheist community, and until the very end I was convinced it was a satire of Christian beliefs. How ironic that a video that makes Christians gush about how wonderful their faith is, also stands out as an obvious example of the irrationality and disgusting morals of that very same faith. Atheists take note, we don't have to construct any straw-man arguments for those sitting on the fence, one of our best tools is the propaganda that Christians themselves produce.

If you think that I'm kidding about how much Christians were enthralled by this message, take a look for yourself on the comments page.

Final Thoughts on Proposition 8


There isn't anything new for us in Judge Walker's Conclusion and Remedies sections, but I found it gratifying to read. My own thoughts on Proposition 8 are below.

Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples. Because California has no interest in discriminating against gay men and lesbians, and because Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis, the court concludes that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.

[PAGE 135]


Plaintiffs have demonstrated by overwhelming evidence that Proposition 8 violates their due process and equal protection rights and that they will continue to suffer these constitutional violations until state officials cease enforcement of Proposition 8. California is able to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, as it has already issued 18,000 marriage licenses to same-sex couples and has not suffered any demonstrated harm as a result, see FF 64-66; moreover, California officials have chosen not to defend Proposition 8 in these proceedings. Because Proposition 8 is unconstitutional under both the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses, the court orders entry of judgment permanently enjoining its enforcement; prohibiting the official defendants from applying or enforcing Proposition 8 and directing the official defendants that all persons under their control or supervision shall not apply or enforce Proposition 8. The clerk is DIRECTED to enter judgment without bond in favor of plaintiffs and plaintiff-intervenors and against defendants and defendant-intervenors pursuant to FRCP 58.


[PAGE 136]
To pass Prop 8, its proponents spent millions fueling homophobia in California. They alluded to threats against many groups. Businessmen were threatened by gay marriage because with its legalization they would not be able to discriminate against gay clients. What they didn't tell you is that regardless of Prop 8, discrimination against gays is as illegal as a business discriminating against any other minority. Churches were threatened, because if Prop 8 wasn't passed then they would be forced to hold services for gay weddings. This was a straight up lie, no church or clergy are required to recognize or officiate any marriage, religion is not a prerequisite for the civil institution of marriage.

The worst was the vague threats that gay marriage supposedly made against children. The implications were that children would turn gay if they were told about gay people in school. Or that it is religious discrimination for schools to have zero tolerance policies about gay bashing. Or that it infringes on a parents rights to have to acknowledge to their children that there are people that they disagree with in the world. But Proposition 8 didn't address any of these so called problems anyway. With the passing of Prop 8, there were still gay individuals in California, still gay couples, still gay parents, still gay teens in the schools. They do not suddenly disappear because you take away their rights.

Proponents tried to argue that Prop 8 was not about homophobia, that it was about defending traditional marriage. That is a lie of course, allowing someone else to marry can never impede your own right to marry. Proposition 8 was really about the notion that homosexuals are inferior. Go onto YouTube and listen to their commercials. These people consider it to be an infringement on their rights when they have to acknowledge the existence of gays and lesbians. Proponents of Prop 8 feel it does them harm to treat homosexuals as equals in public life. That's it.

As far as the wild accusations that Judge Walker should have decided to recuse himself, I have two quick points to make:
  1. It is not a "well known fact" that Judge Walker is openly gay. He has never publicly stated his sexual orientation. And don't you think if this were true the Religious Right would have been shouting from the rooftops from the moment he was selected from the case? No, the accusation came out the day that he ruled Prop 8 unconstitutional.
  2. It shouldn't matter what his sexual orientation is. To paraphrase another commentator of the decision, to say that a gay judge is unqualified to rule on a case concerning gay rights is like saying a black judge is unqualified to rule on a case concerning civil rights, or a female judge is unqualified to rule on a case concerning women's issues. To say that only someone from the majority is impartial enough to rule on a discrimination case against a minority group is ridiculous.
So there it is, a breakdown of the 136 page decision. I hope you found this valuable. As always, I welcome any thoughts or questions pertaining to the subject.

Fighting for equality,


Equal Protection and Proposition 8


The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment is designed to help progress the American promise of equality through expansion of federal powers. The Federal government has both the power and the responsibility to overturn any State or local laws that infringe on the equal protections of our citizens. Laws that discriminate against certain classes of citizens must only do so in a way that promotes a legitimate and rational interest of the state. Judge Walker reviews each of the arguments of rational basis that proponents of Prop 8 presented, and found that none of them were credible.

Plaintiffs challenge Proposition 8 under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. Each challenge is independently meritorious, as Proposition 8 both unconstitutionally burdens the exercise of the fundamental right to marry and creates an irrational classification on the basis of sexual orientation.

[PAGE 109]

Vicarious Redemption

Val and I haven't been blogging in a few weeks because of a move, but now that we are (mostly) settled we shall try to pick up the pace again. And I will finish the last bits of the Prop 8 decision this week /facepalm.

For today, I'll share with you an excellent argument from Christopher Hitchens.

"The concept of vicarious redemption is the most repulsive. The one that none of his followers troubles to deny....The idea that by throwing your sins onto somebody else, onto a scapegoat, you can have them abolished. That is a disgusting and immoral doctrine. You can not relieve people of their responsibility. The moral rot of Christianity is exposed in its central doctrine." -September 7, 2010 Debate: Does Atheism Poison Everything?
As you may know, Hitchens is currently battling cancer. He seems to still be doing well, if weakened from it. Still speaking publicly, while being realistic about his chances.

I'm at a loss of how to express myself, "best wishes for recovery" doesn't seem to sufficiently say what I feel. That's one trouble with being a Christian-raised atheist, the language that I have for conveying certain ideas or feelings is still steeped in religion.

I hope that Christopher Hitchens recovers from his cancer. And if he doesn't, I hope that he continues to enjoy the time that he has left, and feels he has contributed up to the end to the debate that he enjoys so much.

In search of reason,


This is (one of the reasons) Why I Won't Be Quiet.

This article from the Washington Examiner showed up on my Facebook news feed the other day. I'm not sure why it was posted, or why I went to read it. But I did, and it angered me enough to leave a comment.

The "Opinion Article" is basically just a summary of the longer article linked from another newspaper, but check out this part:
The Paine Foundation is part of the Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia, a tiny nonprofit (annual income: $14,000) seeking to purge religion from private life.
I've spent a lot of time in the past year investigating and interacting with nontheist groups. Everyone that I've met has been friendly and accepting, and while they may not agree with religion, they'll fight harder for everyone's right to practice it than anyone else I know. Not one group that I've seen is fighting to purge religion from private life. We tend to be the strongest supporters of "Do what you want as long as it doesn't interfere with someone else's ability to do what they want." David's statement is a hateful stereotype based entirely in ignorance, and I was compelled to tell him so.

My comment:
Okay, you generally did a good job summarizing The Morning Call article, but you got one thing very, very wrong. The Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia has no interest in "seeking to purge religion from private life." Their mission statement is on every page of their website and impossible to miss. But, since you obviously did, let me quote it here for you: "The Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia (FSGP) was founded in 1993 by Margaret Downey. Today, FSGP's community outreach efforts have changed the hearts and minds of many citizens who never met or talked to an atheist. FSGP sponsors activities, events and speakers to educate the public about the nontheist life stance. FSGP's efforts to keep religion out of government and government out of religion ensure Constitutional protection for theist and nontheist citizens alike."

Did you notice that last part? It's important. Please think before you go spouting off hateful stereotypes.
When Mike and I first dove into the world of non-theism, I was torn between being excited about all of these new ideas and wanting to just be quiet about it and not upset anyone. We could just keep pretending to be Christian, after all we'd already been doing it for a while and a 'bad' Christian is better than an atheist. Our families wouldn't have to know or be upset. It was difficult to make the decision to tell our families, knowing that it would drive an uncomfortable wedge between us and them that would likely never completely go away. We chose to go ahead for two reasons:

1. We wanted to be true to ourselves, and we love our families enough that we didn't want to spend the rest of our lives lying to them.

2. There is a lot of hate for atheists in this country. Statements like the one above are common. Senators can call atheists "anti-American" and presidents can say that we shouldn't be citizens. News stations and newspapers can twist a message of hope and acceptance from atheists for atheists into one of hate (here, here, and here). There are so many more examples out there, but I won't take all of your time. All of these things are talking about me, my husband, and many of my close friends, who are all some of the most accepting, tolerant, and moral people I know. How would you feel? Would you stay silent in the face of such undeserved criticism? I won't.

Never stop questioning,


Due Process and Proposition 8


Two more posts and then we will get to the verdict (not that you don't already know) and my concluding thoughts on the matter of same-sex marriage and the campaign for Proposition 8.

The Plaintiffs challenged Prop 8 on the grounds that it violated both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protections Clause. Either charge, being true, is enough to force a responsible judge to rule that Prop 8 is unconstitutional. Judge Walker found both charges to be true, and examined each in detail in his Conclusions of Law section. I'll look at Due Process in this post, and Equal Protections in the next one.

Plaintiffs challenge Proposition 8 under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. Each challenge is independently meritorious, as Proposition 8 both unconstitutionally burdens the exercise of the fundamental right to marry and creates an irrational classification on the basis of sexual orientation.

[PAGE 109]


The Due Process Clause provides that no “State [shall] deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” US Const Amend XIV, § 1. Due process protects individuals against arbitrary governmental intrusion into life, liberty or property. See Washington v Glucksberg, 521 US 702, 719-720 (1997). When legislation burdens the exercise of a right deemed to be fundamental, the government must show that the intrusion withstands strict scrutiny. Zablocki v Redhail, 434 US 374, 388 (1978).

[PAGES 109-110]

What Do We Do With Crazy Ideas? The Anti-Vax Movement

The Anti-Vax movement.

It's one of those crazy, unfounded, ideas that makes me very angry, even more than normal, because I was taken in by it for a while. I heard it in passing, and the idea of "Oh yeah, we really do pump our kids full of so much stuff so early" stuck. Over time it evolved to "Huh, maybe there's some credibility to this, so many injections so young can't be healthy for them. I don't have kids yet, but I'll look carefully into which vaccines I'll allow." It might have progressed further, but Mike brought it up at one point, I voiced my opinion, and he (nicely) ridiculed me out of it. Since then I've done my research, and I'm much more hesitant to accept an idea just because it sounds plausible.

Here's Penn and Teller's take on it (NSFW language):

The Anti-Vax movement brings up a difficult question for which I can see two answers:

1. We combat the crazy idea early, with the outcome of debunking it or giving it credibility where it would otherwise have none.

2. We ignore the crazy idea, and allow it to fall off the radar unnoticed or, in the case of the Anti-Vax movement, gain a large foothold.

Which do you think works better? Is there a third option that I've missed?

Never stop questioning,


Atheists Bashing on the National Stage

A brief break from Prop 8 for something that jumped to my attention. A republican candidate for congress, Michael Stopa, told The Sun Chronicle that he thinks atheists are anti-American.
Michael Stopa... said he is convinced Obama is an atheist...

Stopa, a Harvard University physicist, said he has no proof for his claim, but says Obama has the radical anti-American views of an atheist.

"I have no specific evidence, but I think he's sympathetic to anybody who is opposed to America and American values," Stopa said.
Can you imagine if a politician said something similar about another minority? "Obama has the radical anti-American views of a Jew/Hispanic/etc." Say something similar to another group and the media would be all over it after a single news cycle. He would be held accountable for his bigoted remarks, and his party would be trying to distance themselves from his campaign.

If you have deconverted from Christianity or another religion, or if you were raised without attending church or temple, Michael Stopa believes that you are not a true American. If you have close friends or relatives who are not religious, Michael Stopa is accusing them of being opposed to American values.

I went to Michael Stopa's campaign site and left him a brief message.
Contrary to your claims in the Sun Chronicle, atheists are not "opposed to America and American values." I am a proud American and I cherish the civil liberties and religious liberty that my country guarantees. I suggest that you apologize for this hateful and ignorant remark.
If you are not religious or are friendly to those who are, I hope that you will also send him a message. And please, spread the word to everyone you know, especially if you happen to known anyone in Massachusetts. Maybe we can let people Mike Stopa and others know that it is not okay to shout "unamerican" at the 16% of our country that isn't religious.

In search of reason,


Findings of Fact for Proposition 8 Part III


The final section discussing the facts of the case. In this section of the Proposition 8 decision, Judge Walker is exploring whether or not there is any legitimate secular or government interests that are addressed by Prop 8. Why is this important? Because we are a constitutional republic, not a theocracy. Laws that are passed solely to enforce private moral or religious views, and in doing so infringe upon the rights of other citizens, are unconstitutional.

57. Under Proposition 8, whether a couple can obtain a marriage license and enter into marriage depends on the genders of the two parties relative to one another. A man is permitted to marry a woman but not another man. A woman is permitted to marry a man but not another woman. Proposition 8 bars state and county officials from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. It has no other legal effect.

58. Proposition 8 places the force of law behind stigmas against gays and lesbians, including: gays and lesbians do not have intimate relationships similar to heterosexual couples; gays and lesbians are not as good as heterosexuals; and gay and lesbian relationships do not deserve the full recognition of society.

[PAGE 85]

59. Proposition 8 requires California to treat same-sex couples differently from opposite-sex couples.

60. Proposition 8 reserves the most socially valued form of relationship (marriage) for opposite-sex couples.

[PAGE 86]

61. Proposition 8 amends the California Constitution to codify distinct and unique roles for men and women in marriage.*
[*Previously in the decision we saw how the facts show that these "distinct and unique" gender roles are outdated, and have no other legal recognition or enforcement outside of the Prop 8 amendment.]

[PAGE 87]

62. Proposition 8 does not affect the First Amendment rights of those opposed to marriage for same-sex couples. Prior to Proposition 8, no religious group was required to recognize marriage for same-sex couples.

[PAGE 89]

63. Proposition 8 eliminates the right to marry for gays and lesbians but does not affect any other substantive right under the California Constitution. Strauss, 207 P3d at 102 (“Proposition 8 does not eliminate the substantial substantive [constitutional] protections afforded to same-sex couples[.]”) (emphasis in original).

64. Proposition 8 has had a negative fiscal impact on California and local governments.

[PAGE 90]

65. CCSF would benefit economically if Proposition 8 were not in effect.

66. Proposition 8 increases costs and decreases wealth for same-sex couples because of increased tax burdens, decreased availability of health insurance and higher transactions costs to secure rights and obligations typically associated with marriage. Domestic partnership reduces but does not eliminate these costs.

[PAGE 91]

67. Proposition 8 singles out gays and lesbians and legitimates their unequal treatment. Proposition 8 perpetuates the stereotype that gays and lesbians are incapable of forming long-term loving relationships and that gays and lesbians are not good parents.

[PAGE 93]

68. Proposition 8 results in frequent reminders for gays and lesbians in committed long-term relationships that their relationships are not as highly valued as opposite-sex relationships.

69. The factors that affect whether a child is well-adjusted are: (1) the quality of a child’s relationship with his or her parents; (2) the quality of the relationship between a child’s parents or significant adults in the child’s life; and (3) the availability of economic and social resources. Tr 1010:13-1011:13 (Lamb).

70. The gender of a child’s parent is not a factor in a child’s adjustment. The sexual orientation of an individual does not determine whether that individual can be a good parent. Children raised by gay or lesbian parents are as likely as children raised by heterosexual parents to be healthy, successful and well-adjusted. The research supporting this conclusion is accepted beyond serious debate in the field of developmental psychology.

71. Children do not need to be raised by a male parent and a female parent to be well-adjusted, and having both a male and a female parent does not increase the likelihood that a child will be well-adjusted. Tr 1014:25-1015:19; 1038:23-1040:17 (Lamb).

[PAGES 94-95]

72. The genetic relationship between a parent and a child is not related to a child’s adjustment outcomes. Tr 1040:22-1042:10 (Lamb).

73. Studies comparing outcomes for children raised by married opposite-sex parents to children raised by single or divorced parents do not inform conclusions about outcomes for children raised by same-sex parents in stable, long-term relationships. Tr 1187:13-1189:6 (Lamb).

74. Gays and lesbians have been victims of a long history of discrimination.

[PAGE 96]

75. Public and private discrimination against gays and lesbians occurs in California and in the United States.

[PAGE 97]

76. Well-known stereotypes about gay men and lesbians include a belief that gays and lesbians are affluent, self-absorbed and incapable of forming long-term intimate relationships. Other stereotypes imagine gay men and lesbians as disease vectors or as child molesters who recruit young children into homosexuality. No evidence supports these stereotypes.
[The case against these stereotypes takes nearly four pages of facts revealed during the trial.]

[PAGE 98]

77. Religious beliefs that gay and lesbian relationships are sinful or inferior to heterosexual relationships harm gays and lesbians.
[The judge takes an additional three pages citing evidence given during the trial to support this.]

[PAGE 101]

78. Stereotypes and misinformation have resulted in social and legal disadvantages for gays and lesbians.
[Nearly three pages of evidence supports this fact as well.]

[PAGE 103]

79. The Proposition 8 campaign relied on fears that children exposed to the concept of same-sex marriage may become gay or lesbian. The reason children need to be protected from same-sex marriage was never articulated in official campaign advertisements. Nevertheless, the advertisements insinuated that learning about same-sex marriage could make a child gay or lesbian and that parents should dread having a gay or lesbian child.
[Four pages of evidence]

[PAGE 80]

80. The campaign to pass Proposition 8 relied on stereotypes to show that same-sex relationships are inferior to opposite-sex relationships.

[PAGE 108]
Proponents of Proposition 8 failed to demonstrate any government interest for denying civil rights to same-sex couples. The amendment did nothing to protect the rights of Christians or the safety of children, because the only thing it would have protected is a Christian's ability to discriminate against gays and lesbians, and possibly forestall explaining homosexuality to their kids. Bigotry and denial are the only religious "rights" that Prop 8 is protecting.

On the other hand, the plaintiffs clearly showed how Prop 8 works against several legitimate government and social interests. It also legitimizes government and public discrimination of gays and lesbians by enshrining false stereotypes as legal justifications. These charges alone would be enough to overturn most laws targeting minorities, and coupled with the lack of legitimate state interest, Prop 8 is clearly in violation of our constitution. In the next post I'll review Judge Walker's explanation for why this is.


Fighting for equality,


Findings of Fact for Proposition 8 Part II


More on the Findings of Fact from Proposition 8 today, I'll just jump right into it. You might notice that there are very few finding enumerated per page, there is a great number of supporting pieces of evidence for most of the facts in this section. If you want the full text of the decision to see the supporting evidence, click here.

42. Same-sex love and intimacy are well-documented in human history. The concept of an identity based on object desire; that is, whether an individual desires a relationship with someone of the opposite sex (heterosexual), same sex (homosexual) or either sex (bisexual), developed in the late nineteenth century.

43. Sexual orientation refers to an enduring pattern of sexual, affectional or romantic desires for and attractions to men, women or both sexes. An individual’s sexual orientation can be expressed through self-identification, behavior or attraction. The vast majority of people are consistent in self-identification, behavior and attraction throughout their adult lives.

44. Sexual orientation is commonly discussed as a characteristic of the individual. Sexual orientation is fundamental to a person’s identity and is a distinguishing characteristic that defines gays and lesbians as a discrete group. Proponents’ assertion that sexual orientation cannot be defined is contrary to the weight of the evidence.

[PAGES 71-72]

45. Proponents’ campaign for Proposition 8 assumed voters understood the existence of homosexuals as individuals distinct from heterosexuals.

[PAGE 73]

46. Individuals do not generally choose their sexual orientation. No credible evidence supports a finding that an individual may, through conscious decision, therapeutic intervention or any other method, change his or her sexual orientation.

[PAGE 74]

47. California has no interest in asking gays and lesbians to change their sexual orientation or in reducing the number of gays and lesbians in California.

[PAGE 76]

48. Same-sex couples are identical to opposite-sex couples in the characteristics relevant to the ability to form successful marital unions. Like opposite-sex couples, same-sex couples have happy, satisfying relationships and form deep emotional bonds and strong commitments to their partners. Standardized measures of relationship satisfaction, relationship adjustment and love do not differ depending on whether a couple is same-sex or opposite-sex.

[PAGE 77]

49. California law permits and encourages gays and lesbians to become parents through adoption, foster parenting or assistive reproductive technology. Approximately eighteen percent of same-sex couples in California are raising children.

[PAGE 78]

50. Same-sex couples receive the same tangible and intangible benefits from marriage that opposite-sex couples receive.

51. Marrying a person of the opposite sex is an unrealistic option for gay and lesbian individuals.

[PAGE 79]

52. Domestic partnerships lack the social meaning associated with marriage, and marriage is widely regarded as the definitive expression of love and commitment in the United States.

[PAGE 80]

53. Domestic partners are not married under California law. California domestic partnerships may not be recognized in other states and are not recognized by the federal government.

[PAGE 81]

54. The availability of domestic partnership does not provide gays and lesbians with a status equivalent to marriage because the cultural meaning of marriage and its associated benefits are intentionally withheld from same-sex couples in domestic partnerships.

[PAGE 82]

55. Permitting same-sex couples to marry will not affect the number of opposite-sex couples who marry, divorce, cohabit, have children outside of marriage or otherwise affect the stability of opposite-sex marriages.

[PAGE 83]

56. The children of same-sex couples benefit when their parents can marry.

[PAGE 84]
California law does not make distinctions between same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples in any area beyond the question of marriage. They can have families and raise children, but they must do so without the same rights and recognitions that opposite couples enjoy. So if you want greater social and family stability, allow them to marry.

Unfortunately there are some that either recognize this weakness in their argument, or are even more bigoted than the Alliance Defense Fund (the proponents of Prop 8). Some Christians are complaining that the anti-gay movement in California being too "soft" by only focusing on marriage.

The YouTube channel iloveJesus420 is compiling a large selection of anti-gay rights activists at work. These people thing homosexuality is by dirty by definition, and should be illegal. Would they advocate removing the children of gay parents from their homes and putting them in the foster system? Would they advocate prosecuting homosexuality with jail time? I hope not, but when confronted on the street with these questions they just say they defer to "god's word" or that they will "pray you see the evil of your ways," and walk away.

That's all they have folks. No arguments, no evidence. Just a moral compass calibrated on an old book's sense of cleanliness, and prayers.


Fighting for equality,


Findings of Fact for Proposition 8 Part I


From what I understand about the law (granted much of this I've only learned within the past couple of weeks, so please correct me if I am wrong) the most significant part of the Proposition 8 decision was the Findings of Fact section. Judge Walker enumerated 80 facts about the case that led to his ruling. The following section, Judge Walker's Conclusions of Law, will only hold as much weight with the Appeals Court as they want it too. The can essentially start from scratch in their interpretation the law if they wish.

The Findings of Fact will carry a lot of weight however. Unless evidence is given that one of the Facts of the case is incorrect, they must be used to weigh in on the appeals decision. Judge Walker took great care in listing and supporting many facts of the case that help to show the State has neither the interest, nor the authority, to discriminate against same sex couples.

EDIT: "appellate courts are required to review only the evidence in the court record and to give great deference to Judge Vaughn Walker's findings of fact. He was there, after all, presiding over the trial, and the appellate judges weren't." Tip of the hate to Lisa Bloom at CNN for giving a better explanation of why the Findings of Fact are significant.

There are three sections of Findings of Fact that are relevant (the fourth is non essential to discussions of law, like who the plaintiffs and defendants are). Each section is asking a specific question about the evidence, and how it does or doesn't support Proposition 8. I'll deal with "Whether any evidence supports California's refusal to recognize marriage between two people because of their sex" today, and address the other two later in the week.

Nearly all of the facts listed had sub-points to them, so I've included page numbers in case you are unsure what one is, or why the evidence points to that fact. Full text of Judge Walker's decision can be found here. As usual, emphasis is added.

19. Marriage in the United States has always been a civil matter. Civil authorities may permit religious leaders to solemnize marriages but not to determine who may enter or leave a civil marriage. Religious leaders may determine independently whether to recognize a civil marriage or divorce but that recognition or lack thereof has no effect on the relationship under state law.

20. A person may not marry unless he or she has the legal capacity to consent to marriage.

21. California, like every other state, has never required that individuals entering a marriage be willing or able to procreate.

[PAGE 60]

22. When California became a state in 1850, marriage was understood to require a husband and a wife. See Cal Const, Art XI § 14 (1849); In re Marriage Cases, 183 P3d at 407.

23. The states have always required the parties to give their free consent to a marriage. Because slaves were considered property of others at the time, they lacked the legal capacity to consent and were thus unable to marry. After emancipation, former slaves viewed their ability to marry as one of the most important new rights they had gained. Tr 202:2-203:12 (Cott).

24. Many states, including California, had laws restricting the race of marital partners so that whites and non-whites could not marry each other.

[PAGE 61]

25. Racial restrictions on an individual’s choice of marriage partner were deemed unconstitutional under the California Constitution in 1948 and under the United States Constitution in 1967. An individual’s exercise of his or her right to marry no longer depends on his or her race nor on the race of his or her chosen partner.*

26. Under coverture, a woman’s legal and economic identity was subsumed by her husband’s upon marriage. The husband was the legal head of household. Coverture is no longer part of the marital bargain.*

[*Both of these are examples of how marriage has been redefined as a legal institution since our nation's founding]

[PAGE 62]

27. Marriage between a man and a woman was traditionally organized based on presumptions of a division of labor along gender lines. Men were seen as suited for certain types of work and women for others. Women were seen as suited to raise children and men were seen as suited to provide for the family.

[PAGE 63]

28. The development of no-fault divorce laws made it simpler for spouses to end marriages and allowed spouses to define their own roles within a marriage.

[PAGE 64]

29. In 1971, California amended Cal Civ Code § 4101, which had previously set the age of consent to marriage at twenty-one years for males and eighteen years for females, to read “[a]ny unmarried person of the age of 18 years or upwards, and not otherwise disqualified, is capable of consenting to and consummating marriage.” Cal Civ Code § 4101 (1971); In re Marriage Cases, 183 P3d at 408.

30. In the 1970s, several same-sex couples sought marriage licenses in California, relying on the amended language in Cal Civ Code § 4101. In re Marriage Cases, 183 P3d at 409. In response, the legislature in 1977 amended the marriage statute, former Cal Civ Code § 4100, to read “[m]arriage is a personal relation arising out of a civil contract between a man and a woman * * *.” Id. That provision became Cal Fam Code § 300. The legislative history of the enactment supports a conclusion that unique roles of a man and a woman in marriage motivated legislators to enact the amendment. See In re Marriage Cases, 183 P3d at 409.

[PAGE 65]

31. In 2008, the California Supreme Court held that certain provisions of the Family Code violated the California Constitution to the extent the statutes reserve the designation of marriage to opposite-sex couples. In re Marriage Cases, 183 P3d at 452. The language “between a man and a woman” was stricken from section 300, and section 308.5 (Proposition 22) was stricken in its entirety. Id at 453.

32. California has eliminated marital obligations based on the gender of the spouse. Regardless of their sex or gender, marital partners share the same obligations to one another and to their dependents. As a result of Proposition 8, California nevertheless requires that a marriage consist of one man and one woman.

33. Eliminating gender and race restrictions in marriage has not deprived the institution of marriage of its vitality.

[PAGE 66]

34. Marriage is the state recognition and approval of a couple’s choice to live with each other, to remain committed to one another and to form a household based on their own feelings about one another and to join in an economic partnership and support one another and any dependents. Tr 187:11-16; 188:16- 189:2; 201:9-14 (Cott).

35. The state has many purposes in licensing and fostering marriage. Some of the state’s purposes benefit the persons married while some benefit the state:*

[*Judge Walker lists the many benefits, feel free to check Page 67 if you're curious]

[PAGE 67]

36. States and the federal government channel benefits, rights and responsibilities through marital status. Marital status affects immigration and citizenship, tax policy, property and inheritance rules and social benefit programs.

37. Marriage creates economic support obligations between consenting adults and for their dependents.

[PAGE 68]

38. Marriage benefits both spouses by promoting physical and psychological health. Married individuals are less likely to engage in behaviors detrimental to health, like smoking or drinking heavily. Married individuals live longer on average than unmarried individuals.

[PAGE 69]

39. Material benefits, legal protections and social support resulting from marriage can increase wealth and improve psychological well-being for married spouses.

40. The long-term nature of marriage allows spouses to specialize their labor and encourages spouses to increase household efficiency by dividing labor to increase productivity.

[PAGE 70]

41. The tangible and intangible benefits of marriage flow to a married couple’s children.

[PAGE 71]
From this I gather that it is beneficial for the state to allow as many consenting adults to marry as possible, because it promotes health and economic stability for both spouses and their children.

Previous definitions of marriage are based on antiquated assumptions that genders are biological (rather than social constructs as anthropologists would argue) and therefore gender roles are in no way malleable. I can only assume that proponents of Prop 8 would be equally opposed to households where the father is the primary caretaker and the mother is the primary provider because of the reversal of traditional gender roles.

More significantly, while proponents want to stress the interest of children in passing Prop 8, by denying marriage to same-sex couples they are actually denying a more stable home life for the children of those couples.

Comments are welcome as always, especially for the next few posts because there is so much here and I can only bring up a small amount for a blog post.


Fighting for equality,


Proponents' Defense of Proposition 8

The LDS Church spent tens of
millions of dollars campaigning
for Proposition 8, and organized
the majority of volunteers.


Today I continue with the second part of Judge Walker's Opinion, with the case and witness testimony of the proponents of Proposition 8. Judge Walker takes note of the fact that the ballot proposal and campaign to pass Proposition 8 was justified on very different grounds than the case that proponents of Prop 8 used in court. This is significant because, as the expert witnesses for the plaintiffs note, much of the support for Prop 8 was built around discrimination and inaccurate stereotypes of gay and lesbian couples. Some sections made bold for emphasis, all-caps emphasis is from original.

The ballot argument submitted to the voters summarizes proponents’ arguments in favor of Proposition 8 during the 2008 campaign. The argument states:

Proposition 8 is simple and straightforward. * * * Proposition 8 is about preserving marriage; it’s not an attack on the gay lifestyle. * * * It protects our children from being taught in public schools that “same-sex marriage” is the same as traditional marriage. * * * While death, divorce, or other circumstances may prevent the ideal, the best situation for a child is to be raised by a married mother and father. * * * If the gay marriage ruling [of the California Supreme Court] is not overturned, TEACHERS COULD BE REQUIRED to teach young children there is no difference between gay marriage and traditional marriage. We should not accept a court decision that may result in public schools teaching our own kids that gay marriage is ok. * * * [W]hile gays have the right to their private lives, they do not have the right to redefine marriage for everyone else.

The key premises on which Proposition 8 was presented to the voters thus appear to be the following:

  1. Denial of marriage to same-sex couples preserves marriage;
  2. Denial of marriage to same-sex couples allows gays and lesbians to live privately without requiring others, including (perhaps especially) children, to recognize or acknowledge the existence of same-sex couples;
  3. Denial of marriage to same-sex couples protects children;
  4. The ideal child-rearing environment requires one male parent and one female parent; 
  5. Marriage is different in nature depending on the sex of the spouses, and an opposite-sex couple’s marriage is superior to a same-sex couple’s marriage; and
  6. Same-sex couples’ marriages redefine opposite-sex couples’ marriages.
[PAGES 6-7]
Pay particular attention to numbers 2 and 3.

2. Proponents would "allow gays and lesbians to live privately" so long as no one is "required" to "recognize or acknowledge [their] existence." What right does a person have to prevent another human being from doing something on the sole basis that they don't want to have to acknowledge their existence? It is your right as a parent to teach your children that homosexual marriages are wrong, that non-Catholic weddings are not real, that arranged marriages are immoral, or that divorce should be forbidden. But you do not have a right to force others to believe as you do, to force others to refrain from actions that cause you no harm just because you don't like them, or to take away their rights as a way to express your "free speech."

3. Protect children from what exactly? In what way does allowing gay couples to marry endanger children? See what plaintiff Paul Katami had to say to this during his testimony.
Katami described how the Proposition 8 campaign messages affected him. (Tr 97:1-11: “[P]rotect the children is a big part of the [Proposition 8] campaign. And when I think of protecting your children, you protect them from people who will perpetrate crimes against them, people who might get them hooked on a drug, a pedophile, or some person that you need protecting from. You don’t protect yourself from an amicable person or a good person. You protect yourself from things that can harm you physically, emotionally. And so insulting, even the insinuation that I would be part of that category.”)

[Page 26]
In order to get people to vote for it Proposition 8 was vaguely worded to appeal to emotion and private moralities. When Prop 8 went to court, proponents changed their arguments to claim that the the State had an interest in banning same-sex marriages. Here is how Judge Walker explained it.

Plaintiffs' Case Against Proposition 8

Judge Vaughn R. Walker
Judge Walker's Opinion is a whopping 136 pages long, and I know there won't be many people that want to take the time to read such a long legal document. So for this series of posts I will try to condense the most important aspects of the ruling, and where I feel particularly strong, voice my own thoughts on the issues. For the most part I will only be explaining the context of each section, Judge Walker's opinion in totality does an excellent job of revealing how Prop 8 has no justification other than religious bigotry.

This post and the next will be summaries of the cases and witness testimony for the plaintiffs and proponents of Proposition 8. Following that will be the meat of the opinion, the huge list of Findings of Fact outlined by Judge Walker, divided into three categories. Finally I'll summarize the Conclusions of Law that explain on what legal grounds Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.

The plaintiffs for this case were two same-sex couples, denied the right to marry because of Prop 8. Domestic partnerships are legal in California, but they are not federally recognized, nor do they carry the same cultural significance.

Emphasis added in all following sections.

The Due Process Clause provides that no “State [shall] deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” US Const Amend XIV, § 1. Plaintiffs contend that the freedom to marry the person of one’s choice is a fundamental right protected by the Due Process Clause and that Proposition 8 violates this fundamental right because:
  1. It prevents each plaintiff from marrying the person of his or her choice;
  2. The choice of a marriage partner is sheltered by the Fourteenth Amendment from the state’s unwarranted usurpation of that choice; and
  3. California’s provision of a domestic partnership —— a status giving same-sex couples the rights and responsibilities of marriage without providing marriage —— does not afford plaintiffs an adequate substitute for marriage and, by disabling plaintiffs from marrying the person of their choice, invidiously discriminates, without justification, against plaintiffs and others who seek to marry a person of the same sex.
The Equal Protection Clause provides that no state shall “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” US Const Amend XIV, § 1. According to plaintiffs, Proposition 8 violates the Equal Protection Clause because it:
  1. Discriminates against gay men and lesbians by denying them a right to marry the person of their choice whereas heterosexual men and women may do so freely; and
  2. Disadvantages a suspect class in preventing only gay men and lesbians, not heterosexuals, from marrying.
[PAGE 5]
It's a very simple argument, the citizens of California do not have the ability to vote for discrimination of a minority. The Fourteenth Amendment asserts that states shall not deny any federally recognized rights on the grounds of "states rights." Californians can no more vote to ban gay marriage than they can vote to reinstitute slavery.

Biblically Sanctioned Marriages Explained for Non-Christians

I promised that I would be posting more on the Proposition 8 decision, and I have been working on it. The hardest part is that so much is worth reading. As I get my notes organized, here is a fun clip on what biblical marriages look like.

In search of reason,


Housekeeping Note

I received an e-mail this evening, threatening violence against us for being atheists, being part of the "facsist homo agenda" and not giving Christians enough respect. I'm not too concerned about this one but I am going to take greater care to guard our anonymity. So the privacy settings of our profiles are updated and I've removed comments that had our pictures next to them. In all but one case it was easy to put them back in with the Without A Clutch logo, and that conversation was way off topic anyway. Hopefully we won't have anymore problems.

In search of reason,


Feeding trolls with honest questions - Continued

I promised to follow up on the conversation I was having with the Christian evangelizing on an atheist discussion board, and we're in luck, it continued.
Hi Mike,

I would have to say that your humanism sign over to the right of your blog caught my attention this morning.

Could you explain to me, in 1 paragraph what humanism means to you?

I am here to share Christ with you.

That means tell you God loves you, which He does and what he has done for you to be forgiven.
As a follower of Jesus, we must stay with the gospel message.That is why I only post what I have. If I could answer all of your questions, it still would not have anything to do with you believing the gospel message.It is the Holy Spirit working in your life that convinces you and convicts you, not me or anyone else.

I have to work for 24hrs, so I will not get back to you until Tuesday.
Have a good Monday.

I was happy to answer his question about what I take from the philosophy of Humanism, but I also wanted to give him one more chance to address my questions.

Guest Post - Amanda on her agnostic theism

This entry is about my personal beliefs. I would never expect anyone to read it and change their own beliefs; it's simply an informative essay. If you have any questions, I'd love to answer them in the comment section.

In order to fully understand my religious beliefs, I need you to first strip away the title of “Jewish.” I will re-apply this title later in the post, and explain the part it plays. But first you need to understand my core religious beliefs, which are my own and not necessarily a part of Judaism (although they were developed because of the lessons the Torah has taught me).

In scientific pursuits, we first ask a question. Once we investigate this question, more often than not, we end up with more questions rather than finding a definite answer. Eventually, we end up with some answers, and a heightened understanding of the universe and its structure. But even then, there is often a gap in our understanding. In order to illustrate this, I like to picture a stone arch. Each piece in the arch is necessary for it to stand, but most important is the keystone at the top – the wedge-shaped piece that allows the two sides to support one another. Imagine that the stones in the arch are facts; knowledge derived through scientific endeavors. And now imagine that the keystone is invisible. We can’t see it, but we can see its outline, and we can use that information to inform our understanding of its structure and function. We know there must be something holding up the other pieces, and we know where it must sit, and its approximate shape. Moreover, we can even assume it’s made of the same material as the rest of the arch. But we still can’t see it or know its exact nature for certain.

It is my belief that the last unknown in each scientific field will all lead us to the same conclusion. We will eventually find a construct at the center of existence that affects all things, is a part of all things, and is necessary and essential to existence. I originally found this concept in the Hebrew name for God. It has four letters (which is unique because all other words in Hebrew have three-letter roots), which stand for “I Am Who Am,” and has been interpreted to mean that God is the source of existence. Not in the sense that he woke up one day, pointed his finger and created the universe, but in the sense that he is in everything, he is everywhere, he IS existence itself. Eventually, I realized that because science is the pursuit of studying the universe, and God is the universe, there is no reason why religion and science can’t both be right.

This is where I get to the core idea that makes my personal beliefs possible. I find that Christians often find this concept challenging because it so directly contradicts what they have been taught. Aside from that, however, it’s a fairly simple idea: the stories told in religious books are metaphors. Every component of the Bible, the Torah, the Koran and any other myth used to worship or explain our existence is metaphor meant to educate us about the nature of the universe, and moreover, to inspire us to explore it. This goes for God as well.

I don’t believe God is a bearded father figure in the sky, looking down on us and creating miracles. That version of God is a story, told with the intent of inspiring people to explore the world around them, and to ask questions of nature, and never be satisfied with just one answer. As such, no religious book is necessarily wrong or right. They are all attempting to describe the same thing.

I do believe, however, that it’s wrong to teach someone to ignore science. And it’s wrong to emotionally handicap someone by teaching them that God should be feared, life should be feared, and the afterlife is a giant test of their moral fiber. I believe it’s wrong to tell someone to shut their eyes and let the universe do the work for them. And I believe it’s wrong to tell someone that prayer provides results. All of these things make people weak and vulnerable, and blind them to the beauty of the universe. It’s healthy to embrace randomness and statistical probability. Nothing happens for a reason, unless you consider causal factors and other conditions surrounding the event to be a reason.

In my life, I use the ceremonies surrounding Jewish holidays to acknowledge that life is diverse, the universe is big and weird and full of randomness, and that there is something out there worth knowing. I pursue this something through my scientific pursuits, and celebrate it through Judaism.

Theists think too,


Boies on Prop 8 Ruling: No Legitimate Argument Against Gay Marriage

I was very happy about the ruling against Proposition 8 last week. I've been reading Judge Walker's opinion, and I'm surprised how much fun it is. Over the next week I will try to concisely summarize the main points made in the judge's opinion.

In search of reason,


Feeding trolls with honest questions

I was visiting an atheist discussion board on Facebook and found that a large number of the discussion threads had been started by a Christian with the intent to proselytize. Most even advertised this fact with titles like this:

If you say so... All of these discussion threads were started by the same person, first name Shawn. I don't have a problem in general with theists coming onto atheists sites to try to proselytize, but starting 10 discussion threads in less than a week is just spamming. Many people have tried to engage him fairly, but had little success. He evaded questions, changed the subject, and quoted bible verses. Not very useful when you goal is to convince someone that you're right. I decided to have some fun and put a challenge to him. I admit that I start off on the rude side, but he was starting the debates and then ignoring questions and counter arguments, you can only be so polite if you want to get their attention at that point.

Me: Shawn, you obviously don't care about the facts. You haven't answered a single question or rebuttal. Appeals to emotion about "god's sacrifice," emotional blackmail of being "eternally separated," and Jesus ASCII art shouldn't convince anyone with a 5th grade education of anything. You assert all of these things about god, but you'll never convince us they're true when you still haven't proven your god exists.

Two more things about the sacrifice of Jesus, and I hope you take the time to actually consider and answer them.

1) How is such a human sacrifice not morally repugnant to you? If you wronged me, say burned down my home, murdered my wife, stole my lifesavings and spent it on hookers, I would likely have a hard time forgiving you. Should I then have my son be a human sacrifice so that I can forgive you? If you recognize that I had my son brutally murdered for your sake I will forgive you. How is that benevolence? I'm honestly asking you.

2) I don't understand how Jesus' death was a sacrifice. If I was offered the chance to rule eternally in heaven and the price was 30 years of trudging the earth, being mocked, a day of brutal torture, and 3 days in hell, I'd take it. That is a *very small* price to pay for ruling over all of heaven and earth for eternity, don't you think? Or did Jesus not rise to heaven after his death? Again, I'm not trying to mock you, I honestly want to know what you think.

Quiting Religion

Overcoming lifelong indoctrination, also known as losing your faith, doesn't happen overnight. It takes a lot of time and effort to brainwash someone into a religion, but once in place you are dependent upon it for your identity. Religious leaders understand this, and the most successful of religions invest a great deal to gain a captive audience where religious memes will go unchallenged taking root.

The religions that many Americans consider to be cult-like, Scientology, Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses, all attempt to cut off potential converts from outside influences. Before the brainwashing has taken root they are "vulnerable" to critically examining what the religion is telling them, and rejecting it, if those ideas are challenged by non-believers.

Mainstream Protestant and Catholic Christians may not take this approach with adults, but they have an easily captive audience in the form of their children. Pastor Gugger (formerly of Crossroad Christian Church in Farmington Hills, MI) frankly states, "We have to reprogram the children early." Reprogram them.

Without realizing it, he admits that knowing the Christian god and yearning for him is not the inherent human trait that they teach it to be. The children must be reprogrammed to accept it, and soon. Do not let them get old enough to question, do not let them become intellectually mature enough to critically evaluate what you are trying to teach them. Bring them to Sunday School every week, make sure to talk about god and the bible every day so that they remember that its words are inerrant. Send them to plenty of church retreats where they will be surrounded by hundreds of others who think exactly like we do. If we don't catch them early, if we don't reprogram them to accept Christianity before they learn to think for themselves, we might lose them forever.

But for as much effort and control of the social environment as is required to indoctrinate the laity, once a religion is successful in getting its talons in, it is an incredibly difficult process for you to shake its grip. You've been convinced that you need it, that it is an essential part of your existence and identity. You are trained to feel guilt for questioning or doubting it, and to fear what a bad person you would be without it. You're trained to see unusual events as confirmation of your faith, and trained to ignore or rationalize anything that might challenge that faith. It is easy to see the flaws and inconsistencies in all other religions, but the blind spot that has been cultivated through your reprogramming prevents you from applying the same criticisms to your own religion.

The deck is stacked against the individual, and so if that programming can fall away at all it will only do so gradually. The first things to fall away for me were the political and social agendas disguised as religion. The fear mongering of people that are different than me was incompatible with my values, whether those values originated from religious or secular sources in my life doesn't really matter. It was only much later and after great emotional turmoil that the rest of the superstitions of Christianity also dissolved from me.

Last week author Anne Rice posted via Twitter that she was quitting Christianity. Some in the secular community I follow have reacted with indifference, because she asserts that she still believes in God and Jesus, "What is the difference between a 'Christian' and a 'Follower of Christ?'" Not much, I do agree with that. But she has given up the anti-intellectual and intolerant aspects of her religion, and that is a difficult first step.

Will she ever give up faith and superstition entirely? Maybe she will, maybe she won't. For her sake I hope she will, with the scales shed from my eyes I can appreciate the wonderful diversity and complexity of our universe more than I ever could when I believed it was placed here intentionally. But even if she doesn't, at least she's condemned the Christian Reconstructionist agenda, and that makes her another voice of secularism, and a friend to atheists.

“I quit being a Christian. I’m out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of ...Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.”
-Anne Rice (Author) Via Twitter 7-28-10

In search of reason,


Love thy neighbor...

A lot of Christians spend significant amounts of time preaching about love. Many like to feel that their faith has the market on love cornered: "The world's love is a joke. It is as temporary and failing as our hearts. God's love is vast and eternal, and yes He has a jealous heart."

And yet so many Christians in this country treat their fellow man as if they have never heard of the concept of love. Devout and conservative Christians have held back the advancement of Civil Rights since our country's founding. In the Antebellum South Christians used their bible to defend slavery. Now they use their bible to deny equal rights for the LGBT community.

But that's not the worst of it. Intolerance hurts those closest to you the most. The gay son or daughter that is forced into "therapy" to "cure" them. The atheist child that is thrown out of the home for not believing the family religion. The lover that refuses to commit to you because they sincerely believe you are not a good person without religion.

I came across a letter at the Friendly Atheist that is an example of the last case. The woman is asking for advice, she wants to marry this man, but despite how much he personally loves her, he believes he has to hate what she is.

...For over six years I have been dating a wonderful man who I love with all my heart. He is everything I’ve wanted in a potential husband, and I know he loves me deeply. We’ve both been through previous marriages and both understand the importance of making sure that a relationship is solid before committing to marriage. We’re at the point now where I would love to marry this man. I cannot even begin to express how compatible we are. We agree on our overall views of marriage, relationships, child rearing, and employment and most importantly, we love each others’ company. There’s only one problem: I am an atheist, and he is a devout Christian. I take no issue with his Christianity except that I am not willing to compromise my beliefs and become a Christian myself. That apparently is a show-stopper.

He is more than willing to continue our relationship and has never had an issue dating me, but he says he doesn’t think we could be married because the bible says he should not be “unequally yoked” and because, as an atheist, I am “closed-hearted,” “selfish,” “have no moral foundation,” and of course am “eventually going to hell." Strangely, this has never stopped him from seeing me, dating me, or…well…otherwise enjoying my company.

He may act like he loves her, but his faith has warped it into a condescending and judgmental love.

I am incredibly lucky that my wife choose to stick with me when I shared my realization that I was an atheist. After an initial shock she realized that nothing that made me me had changed. She realized that she had a choice between loving me for who I am, or making her love for me contingent on conforming to her religious background.

While lucky in that respect, I have experienced that two-faced Christian "love" as well: told by a family member that I am evil, that I am doing the devil's work, and in the same breath that relative tried to convince me they love me.

Love isn't about judgement, love isn't about conforming. Love is when you will do absolutely anything for the other person for the simple reason that you want them to be happy and to do well. Love is about being willing to give your life to someone who thinks differently than you, not stringing them along until they convert or leave you.

I know many compassionate and loving Christians. But their compassion and love does not come from their religion, it comes from within. They have no spiritual advantage over myself or my wife when it comes to love, that is about who we are and what we stand for. The idea that love only comes from a divine source ultimately hurts themselves as well. I feel bad for the people that think they would be incapable of love without their religion.

Christianity is a great dehumanizing force. For all of the parables about love and tolerance, at its core is the message that without blind submission to a supernatural entity, each and every one of us is evil and worthless. When I let go of Christianity I was better able to love my neighbor, and to love myself for who I am.

In search of reason,