Friday, April 1, 2011

Pell Grants = Welfare???

The GOP never ceases to amaze me. Today on HuffPost I read where Rep. Denny Rehlberg (R-Mont.) is claiming Pell Grants are the 21st Century's version of welfare. Let's be honest here, the fact is Republicans do not want people to get an education, plain and simple. If the masses are educated then they are more than likely not going to be Republicans. Therefore, Republicans are against education because they are afraid of losing their base.

The article goes on to prove how hypocritical the GOP's stance is, yet again. They were against Obama when he was wanting to tighten eligibility for students at for-profit schools (where the chance of graduating and/or having a career is slim to none), but now when the shoe is on the other foot they want to limit the grants awarded. The GOP never makes any sense, logically anyway. They do make sense if all you care about is corporations and the wealthy getting richer and the everyday man getting zip, zilch, notta!!!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Ethical Secularists

I read the following today and thank David Niose for his post. This was a question we discussed at length during my Philosophy of Ethics class last semester. I was lucky to have a very open minded Professor who understood one does not need to be religious to be ethical. In fact, as David Niose points out in many cases it is the opposite and secular individuals are the ones who often exceed the religious in acts of kindness and charity.

Misinformation and facts about secularism and religion
Even smart people perpetuate untruths about atheism and religion

Unfortunately, in his recent post, "Do we need religion to be ethical?" Thomas Plante, PhD, makes statements that perpetuate common misinformation with regard to religion and secularism. While I doubt that Plante intended the comments to be disparaging toward secular individuals, they most certainly are. In fact, considering that the statements come from an educated man and not some uniformed member of the general public, they are especially troubling.

Plante casually claims that religious people are "better citizens" and "behave better." And without citing any sources, he tells us: "Research has consistently found that religious people are less likely to engage in criminal behavior, marital infidelity, alcoholism, unprotected sexual activity. . ."

In other words, according to Plante, if you're not religious you might be a good person, but on average you are more likely to have these undesirable characteristics. This is a bold assertion that, of course, immediately puts secular individuals on the defensive. (Just imagine if the same claims were made against any other minority group.) It is precisely claims like these that lead to many Americans having an unfavorable view of atheistFortunately for atheists, agnostics, and secular humanists, there is no factual basis for Plante's claim that "research has consistently found" secular individuals to be more prone to such antisocial behavior. Consider, for example, a March 2009 academic article in Sociology Compass that extensively researched the subjects raised by Plante. The article, by Phil Zuckerman of Pitzer College, is entitled "Atheism, Secularity, and Well-Being: How the Findings of Social Science Counter Negative Stereotypes and Assumptions" and, unlike Plante's article, it cites detailed studies of the areas in question.

Zuckerman analyzed a wide array of data comparing religious nations to less religious nations and also, interestingly, religious states within the United States (i.e. "Bible-belt" states) to less religious states. While I encourage readers to examine the article directly through the link above, here are just a few of the highlights:

Criminal Behavior:

Citing four different studies, Zuckerman states: "Murder rates are actually lower in more secular nations and higher in more religious nations where belief in God is widespread." He also states: "Of the top 50 safest cities in the world, nearly all are in relatively non-religious countries."

Within the United States, we see the same pattern: Citing census data, he writes: "And within America, the states with the highest murder rates tend to be the highly religious, such as Louisiana and Alabama, but the states with the lowest murder rates tend to be the among the least religious in the country, such as Vermont and Oregon."

And these findings are not limited to murder rates, as rates of all violent crime tend to be higher in "religious" states. Zuckerman also points out that atheists are very much under-represented in the American prison population (only 0.2%).

Marriage and Family:

Zuckerman cites a 1999 Barna study that finds that atheists and agnostics actually have lower divorce rates than religious Americans.

He also cites another study, in Canada, that found conservative Christian women experienced higher rates of domestic violence than non-affiliated women.

Unprotected Sex:

As for Plante's claim that studies have "consistently " found that religious people are less likely to engage in unprotected sex, that claim is directly refuted by a 2009 study that found the reverse - teens who make religion-inspired "virginity pledges" are not only just as likely as their non-pledging peers to engage in premarital sex, but more likely to engage in unprotected sex.

Other Findings of Interest:

Happiness: The most secular nations in the world report the highest levels of happiness among their population.

Altruism: Secular nations such as those in Scandinavia donate the most money and supportive aid, per capita, to poorer nations. Zuckerman also reports that two studies show that, during the Holocaust, "the more secular people were, the more likely they were to rescue and help persecuted Jews."

Outlooks and Values: Zuckerman, citing numerous studies, shows that atheists and agnostics, when compared to religious people, are actually less likely to be nationalistic, racist, anti-Semitic, dogmatic, ethnocentric, and authoritarian. Secularism also correlates to higher education levels. Atheists and other secular people are also much more likely to support women's rights and gender equality, as well as gay and lesbian rights. Religious individuals are more likely to support government use of torture.

Of course, studies can be cherry-picked to present religiosity in a better light than above, and the point of this article is not to prove the moral superiority of secularism. Nevertheless, whatever Plante wishes to cite, it is impossible to claim that studies "consistently" support his claims of positive social outcomes correlating to religion. To the contrary, the weight of most data seems to indicate that religiosity is a poor indicator of social health or personal virtue.

To Plante's credit, he acknowledges that religion is not necessary for ethical behavior. Still, the thrust of his message attempts to make a case for religion (and implicitly critical of secularism) that simply isn't supported by facts. Most secular individuals would not argue with him when he asserts that religion might help some to be good, and even when he argues that religious institutions can sometimes help toward that end, but such claims do nothing to justify the perpetuation of plain falsehoods regarding atheists, agnostics, and secular humanists, falsehoods that in turn perpetuate prejudice against them.

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Monday, March 14, 2011

“English-Only” in Texas? | The Moderate Voice

I love this article. As you all know I am about as liberal as one can get, but I do believe that English should be our "official" language. However, I do agree with the article that correct English is a lost art form.

“English-Only” in Texas? | The Moderate Voice

Sunday, February 13, 2011

It is hard to escape Religion

You do not realize how much Religion is ingrained in our lives until you become an Atheist.

Have you ever really noticed how often people say they are going to pray for someone? Once you start to consciously take notice the number of prayers you see being passed along is quite enormous. I have no idea how any "God" could ever keep up with such demand. Instead of offering my prayers I have been saying that I hope so and so is better or that they are in my thoughts.

The next thing that has started to jump out at me is often people claim they are blessed. Me, well I say that I am lucky but honestly it isn't even luck but hard work that gets results. A friend the other day on Facebook had posted how great God is because she got over her sinus infection and was feeling better. Hmmmm??? I wonder if she even considered the possibility that it was the antibiotics she took for the infection and not the hand of God that made her feel better? I think the "I am blessed" comment is even more ludicrous than the "I will pray for you" comment. They are close runners but the blessed wins it, not only because it is blessed but because I prayed for it to win!

The last thing I want to mention is the "God bless you" when someone sneezes. As an Atheist what type of response are you supposed to offer when someone else sneezes? I guess the common answer would be Gesundheit, which if you are curious is German for health. I am not a fan of Gesundheit so for now I am open to suggestions.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


This is by far the most powerful post I have read. Take a moment and Imagine. Thank you Mr. Wise.

Let’s play a game, shall we? The name of the game is called “Imagine.” The way it’s played is simple: we’ll envision recent happenings in the news, but then change them up a bit. Instead of envisioning white people as the main actors in the scenes we’ll conjure - the ones who are driving the action - we’ll envision black folks or other people of color instead. The object of the game is to imagine the public reaction to the events or incidents, if the main actors were of color, rather than white. Whoever gains the most insight into the workings of race in America, at the end of the game, wins.

So let’s begin.

Imagine that hundreds of black protesters were to descend upon Washington DC and Northern Virginia, just a few miles from the Capitol and White House, armed with AK-47s, assorted handguns, and ammunition. And imagine that some of these protesters —the black protesters — spoke of the need for political revolution, and possibly even armed conflict in the event that laws they didn’t like were enforced by the government? Would these protester — these black protesters with guns — be seen as brave defenders of the Second Amendment, or would they be viewed by most whites as a danger to the republic? What if they were Arab-Americans? Because, after all, that’s what happened recently when white gun enthusiasts descended upon the nation’s capital, arms in hand, and verbally announced their readiness to make war on the country’s political leaders if the need arose.

Imagine that white members of Congress, while walking to work, were surrounded by thousands of angry black people, one of whom proceeded to spit on one of those congressmen for not voting the way the black demonstrators desired. Would the protesters be seen as merely patriotic Americans voicing their opinions, or as an angry, potentially violent, and even insurrectionary mob? After all, this is what white Tea Party protesters did recently in Washington.

Imagine that a rap artist were to say, in reference to a white president: “He’s a piece of shit and I told him to suck on my machine gun.” Because that’s what rocker Ted Nugent said recently about President Obama.

Imagine that a prominent mainstream black political commentator had long employed an overt bigot as Executive Director of his organization, and that this bigot regularly participated in black separatist conferences, and once assaulted a white person while calling them by a racial slur. When that prominent black commentator and his sister — who also works for the organization — defended the bigot as a good guy who was misunderstood and “going through a tough time in his life” would anyone accept their excuse-making? Would that commentator still have a place on a mainstream network? Because that’s what happened in the real world, when Pat Buchanan employed as Executive Director of his group, America’s Cause, a blatant racist who did all these things, or at least their white equivalents: attending white separatist conferences and attacking a black woman while calling her the n-word.

Imagine that a black radio host were to suggest that the only way to get promoted in the administration of a white president is by “hating black people,” or that a prominent white person had only endorsed a white presidential candidate as an act of racial bonding, or blamed a white president for a fight on a school bus in which a black kid was jumped by two white kids, or said that he wouldn’t want to kill all conservatives, but rather, would like to leave just enough—“living fossils” as he called them—“so we will never forget what these people stood for.” After all, these are things that Rush Limbaugh has said, about Barack Obama’s administration, Colin Powell’s endorsement of Barack Obama, a fight on a school bus in Belleville, Illinois in which two black kids beat up a white kid, and about liberals, generally.

Imagine that a black pastor, formerly a member of the U.S. military, were to declare, as part of his opposition to a white president’s policies, that he was ready to “suit up, get my gun, go to Washington, and do what they trained me to do.” This is, after all, what Pastor Stan Craig said recently at a Tea Party rally in Greenville, South Carolina.

Imagine a black radio talk show host gleefully predicting a revolution by people of color if the government continues to be dominated by the rich white men who have been “destroying” the country, or if said radio personality were to call Christians or Jews non-humans, or say that when it came to conservatives, the best solution would be to “hang ‘em high.” And what would happen to any congressional representative who praised that commentator for “speaking common sense” and likened his hate talk to “American values?” After all, those are among the things said by radio host and best-selling author Michael Savage, predicting white revolution in the face of multiculturalism, or said by Savage about Muslims and liberals, respectively. And it was Congressman Culbertson, from Texas, who praised Savage in that way, despite his hateful rhetoric.

Imagine a black political commentator suggesting that the only thing the guy who flew his plane into the Austin, Texas IRS building did wrong was not blowing up Fox News instead. This is, after all, what Anne Coulter said about Tim McVeigh, when she noted that his only mistake was not blowing up the New York Times.

Imagine that a popular black liberal website posted comments about the daughter of a white president, calling her “typical redneck trash,” or a “whore” whose mother entertains her by “making monkey sounds.” After all that’s comparable to what conservatives posted about Malia Obama on last year, when they referred to her as “ghetto trash.”

Imagine that black protesters at a large political rally were walking around with signs calling for the lynching of their congressional enemies. Because that’s what white conservatives did last year, in reference to Democratic party leaders in Congress.

In other words, imagine that even one-third of the anger and vitriol currently being hurled at President Obama, by folks who are almost exclusively white, were being aimed, instead, at a white president, by people of color. How many whites viewing the anger, the hatred, the contempt for that white president would then wax eloquent about free speech, and the glories of democracy? And how many would be calling for further crackdowns on thuggish behavior, and investigations into the radical agendas of those same people of color?

To ask any of these questions is to answer them. Protest is only seen as fundamentally American when those who have long had the luxury of seeing themselves as prototypically American engage in it. When the dangerous and dark “other” does so, however, it isn’t viewed as normal or natural, let alone patriotic. Which is why Rush Limbaugh could say, this past week, that the Tea Parties are the first time since the Civil War that ordinary, common Americans stood up for their rights: a statement that erases the normalcy and “American-ness” of blacks in the civil rights struggle, not to mention women in the fight for suffrage and equality, working people in the fight for better working conditions, and LGBT folks as they struggle to be treated as full and equal human beings.

And this, my friends, is what white privilege is all about. The ability to threaten others, to engage in violent and incendiary rhetoric without consequence, to be viewed as patriotic and normal no matter what you do, and never to be feared and despised as people of color would be, if they tried to get away with half the shit we do, on a daily basis.

Game Over.

Tim Wise is among the most prominent anti-racist writers and activists in the U.S. Wise has spoken in 48 states, on over 400 college campuses, and to community groups around the nation. Wise has provided anti-racism training to teachers nationwide, and has trained physicians and medical industry professionals on how to combat racial inequities in health care. His latest book is called Between Barack and a Hard Place.