Why the Recent Spate of “Religious Freedom” Bills May Be a Good Thing

Anybody who has been paying attention to politics recently has probably heard about the “religious freedom” bills that have been hitting a number of states recently. It’s a little mind boggling that all of them have been making it to state legislatures all at the same time, with similar language, but so far it’s been very difficult to actually track where they are coming from. Usually when bills like this are all proposed simultaneously, there is somebody not only writing the model legislation but willing to claim it. So far it’s been difficult at best to track down the origin.

Regardless, what started in Kansas has grown to a number of other states including Georgia, South Dakota, Tennessee, Hawaii, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oregon, Idaho, Alabama, Michigan, Maine, West Virginia, and is being considered in Utah. Most famous has been the recent veto of a bill that passed both houses of the Arizona legislature.


Go see why this might be a positive thing in a couple of ways in the full post over at Queereka.

Lowered Expectations + Vague Statements = Person of the Year


By now you’ve heard that the Advocate has named Pope Francis its person of the year. In perhaps one of the most cringingly apologetic and sycophantic pieces published about the Supreme Pontiff, Lucas Grindley reaches to draw the barest scraps of meaning out of the most innocuous of statements. In fact, reading this piece, you’ll notice that most of the article is Grindley doing little more than repeating himself or explaining why other people deserve the praise more. I almost feel as if the editorial board made the decision, and poor Lucas was tasked with writing it up. But let’s examine this article to see if we can divine the thinking that makes what appears to be pandering to pop culture lionization into a legitimate choice.

As I mentioned, the first six paragraphs are about how other people should have been given this honor. Grindley focuses especially on Edie Windsor, the brave woman whose case got a part of DOMA thrown out in court. It’s followed by this remarkably cop out


Thus begins my new piece for Queereka. Read the whole article on that site.

First US Administration to Actually Address Bi Issues

Bifurious Femininja

I want this to be a real manga (via)

I generally don’t like to make a big deal around token gestures. It’s one thing to talk about things and another to actually do something. But this does seem like an important step.

For the first time in history, a representative from the White House will be holding a roundtable discussion on bisexual issues, specifically how bisexuals are affected by public health problems, partner violence, and several other subjects that are usually discussed in the context of monosexuality. It will be hosted by White House LGBT liaison Gautam Raghavan on September 23.


Thus begins my latest contribution to Queereka. Go take a look to read the rest.

Confronting the “Best Arguments”

Most people are pretty sure they’re right. Not necessarily about everything, but there are a few things they feel absolutely confident about. I know that I feel free damn confident about most of the stuff that goes up here, and when I’m not I will say so. However, there are two implications to this confidence: either I am really, truly amazing and right about everything I believe, or I am wrong about some things and haven’t heard the right argument yet.

It’s the latter that I find people banking more more and more. Let’s look at some examples:

What are marriage advocates to do? How can marriage—a thorough defense of which requires deep theological reflection or the complex natural law web of anthropological, historical, social, and scientific ideas contained in [Robert George’s] What is Marriage—compete with “all you need is love”? – Eric Teetsel, “On Winning the Marriage Debate


Not for Hitchens the rich cross-cultural fertilization of the Levant by Helenistic, Jewish, and Manichaean thought. Not for Hitchens the transformation of a Jewish heretic into a religion that Nietzsche called “Platonism for the masses.” Not for Hitchens the fascinating theological fissures in the New Testament between Jewish, Gnostic, and Pauline doctrines. – Curtis White, “Christopher Hitchens’ lies do atheism no favors


“Either this group is completely ignorant of arguments for and against God’s existence or they’re ignorant of the best theistic scholarship.” – Anugrah Kumar, quoting William Lane Craig, “Christian Philosopher William Lane Craig Calls Atheist Hotline a ‘Wrong Number’” (warning that the Christian Post is particularly annoying with its ads, with video ads that keep restarting if you pause or mute them)

We often see this regarding religious or theistic arguments, but it’s becoming quite popular among people who continue to put forward bad arguments: simply claim that the person who doesn’t buy into them hasn’t heard all the really good reasons why we should buy into what they’re saying. I think it’s a variation on The Courtier’s Reply.

I’ve encountered this before with theists and when I ask them to actually present those really good arguments, I will generally get a form of Pascal’s Wager. Occasionally I will get the Kalam Cosmological Argument and very rarely anything different. Unfortunately, both Pascal and Kalam are very easily debunked. In fact, I took a look at Craig’s ReasonableFaith.org (which is not as cool as a reasonable conversation, let me tell you) and it’s almost all Pascal and Kalam. You don’t have to believe me, go check it out yourself. I fact, if you check out his “The New Atheism and Five Arguments for God,” (for example) you can see that he brings up Kalam, but also the Thomstic Cosmological argument, the Moral Argument, the Teleological Argument (which is by far the most ridiculous and easy to argue against, as far as I’m concerned), and the ever absurd Ontological Argument, which is really just such a joke on the face of it that I’m going to assume it was developed by Dr. Frank-n-furter. Though I will point out that he forgot the Argument from Tigers.

I’ve looked at that site for a while now and see very little that isn’t a variation on these five, so I can’t help but ask Dr. Craig…where are you hiding these “best arguments”? Because the ones you presented are all childishly simple and only really convincing to people who want to agree with the premise.

Oh, and there’s the very popular “it’s a mystery“. That works for a lot of things.

Going to the Teetsel piece, we see basically the same argument being made for conservative principles. The problem is that people just don’t understand the wealth of thought and philosophy that goes into being a conservative, and are instead distracted by pop culture and celebrities. Liberalism, according to Teetsel, is the result of an abandonment of thought to shiny entertainment.

This is even more absurd than the Ontological argument. Teetsel is trying to tell us that the ideology that aligns itself with people who think somebody rose from the dead (several people, actually), the ideology that consistently denies the findings of science, the ideology that has never been right about a social issue since the founding of this country (and not too often before), is the thinking person’s option?

As David Sessions points out in this article for Patrol,

So Teetsel can’t pretend that the gay rights movement won simply by circumventing an intellectual debate. They had the intellectual debate when the religious right so took its own position for granted that it thought it didn’t need to argue; when the right finally started playing catch-up, even the most sophisticated versions of its ideas were too far outside the mainstream for a secular democracy. The right didn’t lose because of the “packaging” of its ideas, it lost because those ideas themselves were defeated in battle. (Similarly, Romney lost the election not because he didn’t get the conservative message across, but precisely because he did.)

This is also a lot like Penny Nance’s preposterous assertion on Mike Huckabee’s show that conservatives on college campuses are being “bullied” because they can’t explain their opposition to things like same-sex marriage. The sad truth is that they are able to articulate their positions just fine.

So, here’s the deal: we’ve heard your arguments, and they suck. I’m sorry, I don’t know if you’re just really invested in these things being true that you miss the obvious flaws in what you’re saying or what, but these arguments are truly awful. Fortunately, you don’t have to feel awful for having had them: you can change your mind. In fact, that would be great.

But if there are arguments that you’re hiding from me, ones that suddenly make it plausible that a wizard who lives on a cloud is up there mucking about with our lives, or that magically makes welfare queens a reality, or that convinces me that I’m a bad person for a propensity to not only be attracted to men but also act on it, now’s the time to break them out. Seriously, I don’t know what you guys are waiting for. Isn’t it time, after all this joking around, to break out the real “best arguments”? These are the gag arguments, right?


What the Comics Industry Can Teach the Atheist Movement

The other day I was pretty harsh on DC for their choice not to cast Stephanie Brown as the new Robin, and their apparent hostility toward the character in general. That hasn’t changed, but I do want to give DC credit for something they’re rolling out.

DC will be adding the first mainstream trans* character to their books. She is a supporting character, Batgirl’s (Barbara Gordon) roommate. No powers, no funky reason for not being cisgender, just a character with whom we can empathize. Writer Gail Simone, who could make an engaging and character-driven narrative out of a paperclip factory expense sheet summary, said she wanted to create “a reality based character.”

…a character, not a public service announcement … being trans is just part of her story. If someone loved her before, and doesn’t love her after, well — that’s a shame, but we can’t let that kind of thinking keep comics in the 1950s forever.

I also think it’s great that she spoke to people in the trans* community before creating the character, to make sure that she presented Alysia Yeoh as a realistic portrayal, not a stereotype.

Let’s jump over to Marvel, specifically Avengers Academy, which I’m trying to catch up on all of the post-Fear Itself issues of. Basic premise: when Norman Osborne was in power after the Marvel Civil War, he kidnapped a group of kids with powers, abused them, and brainwashed them to fight for him. They are eventually rescued by Hank Pym (and the rest of the Avengers) who decides to start a school to help them overcome what Osborne did to them, give them a stable environment, and train them to use their powers. After the events of Fear Itself, Pym opened the school to anybody who wanted to join and recruited two other kids.

Now, if we look at the lineup, the class leader, Reptil, is a Hispanic kid from the suburbs. White Tiger is the sister of the original White Tiger, the first Hispanic super hero in the Marvel universe (both in terms of first published and first to appear in the context of the story). We also have an Asian girl (not a diminutive, they’re all teenagers), Hazmat. Outside of race, there are two queer kids: Lightspeed, who just joined the team and is openly bi, and Striker who came out as gay to her (and later to a press conference, because you can do that if you’re being trained by an Avenger).

And, of course, Pym is an open atheist.

Many of the Avengers Academy plots focus on developing these characters, and in a lot of cases the way that they relate to the world as a minority of some sort or another often gets some spotlight. White Tiger feels that she has to live up to her brother’s legacy, not just in being a hero, but specifically in being a Hispanic hero, while Reptil doesn’t see the point of focusing on his race at all. Lightspeed gets frustrated since she’s still having trouble accepting her sexuality and not wanting it to become her defining characteristic, but Striker just sort of came out and seems to be having no problems with it at all.

“What does this have to do with atheism?”, I hear you cry.

The other day, Richard Carrier at FtB wrote about how Phil Mason (Thunderf00t) basically used creationist tactics to make a video in which he decried a speech Carrier gave and made it seem, through editing, that Carrier was saying something he wasn’t.

Carrier does a fine job of pointing out all of the dishonesty in Mason’s video, but there was one part of it that stuck out for both Carrier and I. Emphasis his.

Now Thunderf00t lays into minorities (timestamp 15:16). He sneers (literally: listen to his voice) at my call for atheist organizations to be more responsive to and cooperative with minority atheists and minority atheist groups.

Now, it’s bad enough that T-f00t says this kind of stuff. I’ve come to believe that he is, as Carrier suggests, indeed a sociopath and absolutely incapable of empathizing with other human beings. But surely his trollish little minions can’t all be sociopaths. Here’s a few of the comments (emphasis theirs):

You are also a complete fool when doing marketing analysis, as TF conclusively demonstrated in his video with the ratio between believers and atheists. Only a person with infinite resources would waste resources targeting “black atheists” when they could target “atheists without restricting it by race” or even addressing “theists” or the entire population. You are the one employing racist logic here Carrier, not TF…And to compare it to the state of the Republican party is laughable. They have problems because the minorities are the majority, but in our case there is a well defined theist majority as TF showed you and it is the very fact that they are a majority that is the entire problem. – Illusio


You should focus efforts on a specific minority and it’s not a racial group but rather a religious group (Muslims). Given that Islam’s influence in the world is far worse than Christianity’s and virtually no free society has ever been founded on Islamic principles, I’d appreciate any campaign aimed at convincing Muslims to renounce their faith and also helping them avoid problems within their community (all 4 schools of Sunni Islam mandate the death penalty for apostasy).

It makes no sense to attack Christianity primarily when Islam is on the rise and is causing many problems in the world, not because of “extremists” twisting its “peaceful teachings” but because of fundamentals of Islamic theology which are inherently hostile to non-Muslims, women and personal freedom. – Dan


I know there was at least a few more that seem to have been erased because Carrier doesn’t deal with that sort of shit on his blog (nor is he required to). The basic premise, though, is that since minorities are so small (race, sexual orientation, gender, etc.), then there is no point doing any sort of outreach to them at all or bothering to address their specific concerns.

Not only is this lazy, it’s kind of pathetic. Mason and his minions seem to think that listening to minority atheists, talking about problems that are unique to them, and inviting them to speak at conferences is somehow this great burden, this overwhelming task that will bring in sub-standard speakers and thinkers just because they happen to be Latin@, or black, or queer, or women. This falls under the presumption that white men have been primarily the face of atheism for so long because they’re just better at thinking about these things, and that somebody can’t be a minority and brilliant.

The way I got into the atheist movement as an activist was not through Dawkins or Harris or Hitchens. I haven’t even read Dennett. While I respect the Four Horsemen, I don’t much like Dawkins or Harris, who I find far too disconnected from the lived experiences of actual atheists, and while their work is fantastic and insightful, I just have no impulse to really go back to it for anything other than the occasional reference. Hitchens I adored for a number of reasons, but I think that, again, he let his philosophy get in the way of empathy far too often.

No, I joined because I saw a post by Jen McCreight when BlagHag was still an indie blog about LGBT inclusion and why her atheism gives her an objective foundation for queer advocacy (both in terms of humanist principles and the rejection of religious dogma that is far too often the source of homophobia). From there she moved to FtB where I discovered JT (originally because he had a cute picture up, I admit, but he turned out to be actually brilliant), who pointed me to Greta. I started reading Ed because “Dispatches from the Culture Wars” is an awesome name for a blog and I’m a politics geek. Eventually I also saw how awesome Ashley was, and Kate from there, and eventually even Miri, who is made of pure sunshine (in that she’s bright, enlightening, and will burn the fuck out of you if you’re not smart).

Their examples got me involved in blogging and RL activism. And I wouldn’t be here if Jen didn’t take some time to talk about something other than why Pascal’s Wager is ridiculous.

Talking about issues that interest minorities in one respect is a good way to get another conversation going. DC and Marvel both realize this, and they took the incredibly easy step of diversifying their casts, because when you see yourself (or a part of yourself) in a character, you’re more likely to connect with them and want to come back. Similarly, if you see yourself in a movement, you want to contribute to that movement.

No, it’s not enough to “treat everybody the same: like human beings.” Yes, you should treat everybody like human beings, but not the same human being. We all have different cultures, life experiences, day to day issues, and personal hangups. In many cases, the minority that a person identifies with experiences a lot of the same types of thing, and trying to address that shows people in those minorities that you actually care about this. When you say that you “treat everybody the same,” what you’re saying is that you treat everybody like a middle class white man, ignoring the unique circumstances those people have lived. You should treat everybody well, but just because leaving your church didn’t cut you off from all social connection doesn’t mean that the black guy from Memphis had it so easy, and it is almost no effort to deal with that.

Characters like Alysia Yeoh and the students at Avengers Academy are not attempts to fill quotas or diversify because it’s “trendy,” they are attempts to recognize that there are a lot of different types of people in the world, and it takes the barest minimum of effort to incorporate that. Minorities can be super heroes and the friends of super heroes. They are a part of life, and inviting them into our stories or our movements gives us perspective, makes us better.

Being kind, showing consideration for others, paying attention to people who are generally ignored: these are all Good Things, things we should be embracing. We cannot simultaneously listen to the marginalized while denying their marginalization. We cannot pretend that discrimination is a personal choice and not a systemic problem, so my just saying something like “I don’t see color” means that racism (for example) doesn’t exist or I can never again do anything racist. Most importantly, we can’t just make the same arguments against faith and religion over and over again and hope to reach people on the strength of our philosophy when they’re more concerned with the problems they face in their day to day lives, as if accepting logical arguments is a test and anyone who doesn’t do so isn’t smart enough for the Atheist Club.

Comic labels, from Marvel and DC to Archie, have consistently been at the vanguard of social change, and I think that’s amazing. We can also be at that vanguard, clearing the path for new people and new ideas to infuse our movement rather than shambling lamely behind, wondering why our once exploding campaign has stopped gaining ground, unable to convince even a rising demographic of non-religious theists to take the one last step.

The Personal and the Political

We live in strange, exciting, and unstable times. Perhaps most people do, or at least they feel that they do when they’re stuck in the middle of it, but it’s not unreasonable to say that things like the culture wars are coming to a head, reaching a zenith that began it’s arc a little over 30 years ago.

And that’s why I get a bit frustrated when I see so much attention given to articles like Brian Ambrosino’s piece for the Atlantic about coming out as gay while attending Liberty University.

It’s not that I have a problem with Ambrosino or with his story. While I find it somewhat unbelivable, I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that he was luckier than people like Marc Adams, who was forced to go to reparative therapy at Liberty because of his homosexuality.

That being said, Ambrosino’s article focuses on the people he encountered and entirely ignores the message being sent.

What do I mean? Let’s look at some examples.

She got up from her chair, and rushed over to me. I braced myself for the lecture I was going to receive, for the insults she would hurl, for the ridicule I would endure. I knew how Christians were, and how they clung to their beliefs about homosexuals and Sodom and Gomorrah, and how disgusted they were by gay people. The tears fell more freely now because I really liked this teacher, and now I ruined our relationship.

“I love you,” she said. I stopped crying for a second and looked up at her. Here was this conservative, pro-life, pro-marriage woman who taught lectures like “The Biblical Basis for Studying Literature,” and here she was kneeling down on the floor next me, rubbing my back, and going against every stereotype I’d held about Bible-believing, right-leaning, gun-slinging Christians.

When I heard her sniffle, I looked up at her. “It’s going to be ok,” she said. “You’re ok.” She nodded her head, squeezed my shoulder, and repeated, “I love you.”

She sounds like a really nice person, and I think that’s great, but it doesn’t change that the university officially prohibits any non-marital sexual relations which, by its nature, includes same-sex sex until such time as the law changes (and even then I suspect they won’t count the marriages as valid). This is the school that employs Matt Barber. He goes on to talk about the people who didn’t immediately start hissing and throwing holy water at him and seems to think that this is somehow remarkable or unique. But here’s where I really lose it.

Well, what about Jerry Falwell himself? After all, he did blame 9/11 on the gays. He did make that remark during service about “even barnyard animals knowing better than that.” He also did make certain to ban Soul Force, a gay-affirming Christian ministry, from stepping foot on our campus.

Yes. Yes, he did. He did all of those things and so much more. I agree with Chris Hitchens who said, “If you gave Falwell an enema, you could bury him in a matchbox”. He spent the majority of his adult life calling homosexuality a “perversion”, viciously attacking anybody who spoke positively of LGBT people, and violently abusing the English language in the process. He is in many respects the father of the organized anti-gay movement. Yes, he was a terrible person and should be remembered as such.

But what about when he opened the Liberty Godparent Home to take in unwanted children? Or when he hosted a forum on campus about homosexuality, and invited 100 prominent gay leaders to take part in the discussion? Or when he would drive around campus every night at lights-out to blow his horn and wave goodnight to all of us students?

What about those things? Seriously, what about them? Are we saying that it’s ok to hurt people as long as you help a comparable number of other people? It does not matter what else he’d done if he remained an unapologetic bigot the rest of his life. The animus that he has inspired in the religious right against LGBT people is still a driving force in today’s politics, and I’m supposed to give a shit that he drove around campus at grown-up bedtime every night re-enacting his personal version of the Waltons?

When I think of Jerry Falwell, I don’t think about him the way Bill Maher does. I think about the man who would wear a huge Blue Afro wig to our school games, or the man who slid down a waterslide in his suit, or the man who would allow himself to be mocked during our coffeehouse shows. I think about the man who reminded us every time he addressed our student body that God loved us, that he loved us, and that he was always available if ever we needed him.

Again, we have this attempt to humanize Falwell, but it falls a little flat. He slid down a water slide in his suit? He wore a blue afro wig? So? I wonder if Ambrosino is under the impression that in order to be a horrible bigot, you have to be one all the time to every person?

As to the rest of that paragraph, first of all, what does he mean “allowed”? I’ve mocked Jerry Falwell at many a coffeehouse, and my house, and now on this blog, all without his express or even implied permission. This is not a sign of goodness or humility. The very fact that the rules of Liberty University make it so that a student can be awarded “demerits” and subsequently fined (more on that later) for mocking Falwell or anybody else that they want to protect makes his forbearance in this regard pretty dastardly. “I will punish you for speaking your mind about people who we approve of, but I won’t enforce that if you light-heartedly rib me a bit at this one spot on campus.”

Finally, we get his proclamations of love. I really, really hate hearing shit like this from Falwell, because it reads as obligation, not actual feeling. He didn’t “love” those students. He didn’t even know most of them! Had never met them in person. But because his faith tells him he has to love everybody, he throws around the word and the concept to mean “not feel active, constant animosity.” I am much more inclined to believe Roberto Benigni than I am to believe these people who claim to love everybody without reservation, especially when they behave like Falwell.

I never told Dr. Falwell that I was gay; but I wouldn’t have been afraid of his response. Would he have thought homosexuality was an abomination? Yes. Would he have thought it was God’s intention for me to be straight? Yes. But would he have wanted to stone me? No. And if there were some that would’ve wanted to stone me, I can imagine Jerry Falwell, with his fat smile, telling all of my accusers to go home and pray because they were wicked people.

Again, we have an example of where he seems to think the perfectly mundane is somehow extraordinary. You mean Jerry Falwell wouldn’t have either actively attempted to or idly allowed other people to violently murder you with rocks? Shocker! No, even Falwell would have realized that calling for stoning of gay people was a political non-starter, a public advocacy that gets you nothing but a job writing curriculum for Ron Paul’s homeschool program.

Not endorsing murder while trying to make the lives of LGBT people as miserable as possible is not some sort of praiseworthy act. Ambrosino discusses part of Falwell’s strategy earlier in the article when he says that the big fear wasn’t that gay students would be kicked out, it’s that their fellow students would spend time publicly and conspicuously “praying for” them, which indicates to me that when he says that most of the students weren’t bigots, what he means is that most of them weren’t actively calling for his murder, but certainly had no problem harassing queer students with their “prayers.”

And let’s not forget that not automatically expelling students even suspected of being gay like at BYU or BJU is not some act of altruism, it’s an act of greed. You see, at Liberty University when you break any of their ridiculous rules, you are given demerits. In order to remain in good academic standing, you have to clear those off the books, and the way to do that is by paying fines to the university. So instead of just kicking them out, they bleed gay kids (and kids who curse, watch R-rated movies, or hug for more than three seconds) dry of their cash first, then kick them out for not clearing the demerits off the books. That’s not tolerance, it’s a scam to bilk more money out of their students on top of the tuition they pay for a sub-standard education.

The thing is, I have absolutely no doubt that one on one Jerry Falwell was a gracious and kind person. He wouldn’t actively spit in my face, at the very least. Similarly, I think the “dinner table debate” between Dan Savage and Brian Brown showed that Brown doesn’t carry lighter fluid to set all gay people on fire wherever he goes. I have no doubt that Antonin Scalia is a wonderful host despite being one of the most corrupt and statutorily challenged Justices currently sitting on the Supreme Court, and would treat me as an honored guest if I were to go to his home. Just as I wouldn’t call him a homophobic, misogynistic, wingnut who’s approach to jurisprudence is “whatever I don’t like is illegal.”

We often will treat people in front of us differently than we treat them in the abstract. That’s why dehumanizing tactics like the ones that Falwell perfected are so useful: it’s harder to show animosity to people who you know as people than it is to show it to a vaguely defined group that you can make embody everything that people will fear the most. It’s why I know several people who think that queer people are perverts bent on the destruction of America and banishment of god from all corners of life, but also think I’m a good guy.

What Ambrosino seems to be arguing is that a person’s personal behavior should be used to counterbalance their public behavior, and I can’t buy into that. Unrelated good works don’t cancel out terrible actions, no matter how good they are. No amount of personal kindness makes up for political viciousness.

When you’re involved in activism on any level, the ability to maintain healthy relationships depends on your ability to recognize that people are complex, and sometimes it is necessary to attack a person’s position, even if they are close to you. It’s not always easy, but pretending that personal graciousness gives somebody a public free pass does nothing but enforce that bad behavior has no social consequences. This doesn’t mean that you have to jump down everybody’s throat about everything, but it does mean that reminding them not to use “gay” as a slur, or that something being a “sincerely held belief” doesn’t make it any less bigoted, are entirely appropriate, even to your friends.

We can’t pretend that the political and the personal are separate realms that never intersect. Even my pro-LGBT friends who vote Republican are still voting for policies that will negatively affect me, and they need to know that I adore their personal support, but I can still be fired in my state for who I am and they are facilitating that. Sorry, but that’s the case.

The way that we approach those closest to us is different than the way we debate in public, but a realization that our friends can and should be better people should always be present. We, too, can and should be better people, so hopefully our friends will be there to help us leave bad ideas behind and embrace better ones.

Intersectionality Fails

The trick to social justice is that it is generally about supporting marginalized groups because they are marginalized. It addresses power and, more to the point, the consolidation and abuse of power by the groups that wield it in an effort to protect the benefits that come with their favor within society. Even groups like homophobic crusaders that are becoming less favored socially still maintain vast control of the workings of society, so they continue to be addressed as a powerful group, despite arguments to the contrary.

That’s why when I see things like this post from Chief Conversationalist Kristycat, I cannot help but facepalm to near unconsciousness.

For those who haven’t clicked the link (click the link), Kristycat talks about the unfortunate habit of radical feminists to be extremely trans*phobic and to use the language of the people who oppress them in an effort to oppress trans*women, invisibling them and denying their right to define themselves because of some absurd idea that transitioning is some invidious plot by men to take over the female identity, simultaneously reducing “womanhood” to strictly being about genitals.

And the frustrating thing is, pretty much all of feminism is that same message!  You define yourself.  Your identity is your own.  You have agency, you own yourself, no one else is allowed to tell you who you are.  You create your own identity.  You are more than the definitions other people want to put on you; you can reject them, you can insist that other people accept you on your own terms, as who YOU say you are, not as who they think you should be.  Feminists – radical feminists like UK Feminist over here – accept that fully when it comes to themselves.  But somehow the idea of extending that same right to someone else is foreign to them.  It’s rank hypocrisy.

I would like to go on a small digression at this juncture to, again, point out that “radical feminism” is a thing, a real thing, that is not synonymous with “feminism.” Again, please click the preceding link to get a more detailed explanation of the difference. But my point is that I am not appending a scary-sounding adjective to another word to mean “feminists I don’t like” so I can later say that I’m not against such-and-such thing, but just don’t like an extreme version of it. This is very little different than people who talk about “militant homosexuality,” which apparently means “gay people who would like to not live in the closet” or “militant atheism,” which means wearing t-shirts that advertise our non-belief (because, as everybody knows, many a South American government has been toppled by militants doing nothing more than wearing Che Guavara t-shirts. Also, Che Guavara was a monster, stop wearing those shirts).

So, we’ve established that there is at least some evidence that there are radical feminists who see their marginalization is bad, but the marginalization of trans*people to be totes ok. So when Phil Mason (Thunderf00t) talks about “radical feminism”, he’s clearly talking about the trans*phobia exhibited by actual radical feminists, right?

Hahahaha. No.

Thunderf00t is one of the people who considers “radical feminism” to mean something along the lines of “you’re talking about things I don’t want to talk about!” And, of course, he compares Atheism+ to Hitler and McCarthy, because that’s a clever and original argument!

Mason is virulently anti-feminist. Now, he will claim otherwise because he knows women and some of the women he knows don’t care when he bites their legs. Again, we see much of the same brand of meaningless tripe in this video as we do in screeds from privileged groups when they seek to oppress minority groups. He speaks a lot about how “extreme” feminism is, how against critical thinking it is (this is the atheist version of a fundamentalist saying that something is “against common sense”), and then talking about “divisiveness” and the ways that feminism in the atheist movement is separating people who otherwise agree and weakening our message.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: division is not always a bad thing, and I would rather be divided and standing on the side of justice than united in injustice. These types of arguments are used to try and reframe the debate in such a way that those who are calling for positive changes are instead attempting to tear down whatever institution that are trying to change. It reminds me of the first episode of All in the Family, where Mike arrives and gets into an argument with Archie over the Vietnam War. Archie accuses Mike of hating America, to which Mike explains that it’s because he loves America that he doesn’t want it to be involved in illegal and pointless conflicts.

To which Archie replies with meaningless slogans and drowns out Mike’s arguments by singing a patriotic song. Some things never change.

So, we have radical feminists arguing against trans* rights, we have an atheist arguing against women’s rights. That’s it, right?

Nope. We now have a lesbian arguing that acronyms that include people other than gay men and lesbians waters down the QUILTBAG message and tries to determine who can be in the “Gay Club”.

In this case, the person is Ciara Mc Grattan writing for the Irish publication GCN (Gay Community News).

I propose it’s time to simplify and perhaps employ a modicum of moderation to the unwieldy beast of LGBTLMFAO initials. Do you sleep with people of the same sex? Welcome to Gay Club. In a relationship with someone of the same-sex? Welcome to Gay Club. Trans and exclusively attracted to people of your gender? Welcome to Gay Club. Attracted to both sexes? Good for you, but unless you’re with someone of the same-sex, you aren’t part of Gay Club.

On one hand, at least this acknowledges that trans* people are the gender that they identify as, but it also eliminates them from the queer umbrella, saying that the “T” was just “tacked on”. And bisexuals? Well, unless you’re actively dating somebody of the same-sex, sorry, you’re basically straight. In much the same way as the religious right, it reduces bisexuality to a function of outward expression rather than an inborn trait.

So, I’ve rambled on quite a bit now, but what point am I trying to make? The point that I’m trying to make is that I am always disappointed by failures at intersectionality. It astounds me when a group that is or has been traditionally marginalized then turns on other marginalized groups, often accusing them of trying to piggyback on their work.

The instant classic “My Feminism Will Be Intersectional or It Will Be Bullshit!” addresses this idea pretty nicely through example.

And I am screaming this because I want to convince you, I want to get it through you that this is not a choice or an abstract concept or an intellectual exercise. I am not screaming because well, you know, I just discovered intersectionality and OMG SO COOL GUYS. YOU NEED TO READ THIS. No. My feminism NEEDS to be intersectional because as a South American, as a Latina, as someone who knows certain parts of the Global South intimately by virtue of being a Southerner, as an immigrant living in Europe, as a woman, I am in the middle of what I like to call the “shit puff pastry”. The shit puff pastry is every layer of fuck that goes on above me, below me, by my sides, all around me. And in this metaphorical puff pastry with multiple layers of excrement, I am the dulce de leche that is supposed to make it palatable so that someone else, more specifically the kyriarchy, can eat me.

I should also point out that this doesn’t mean that you have to have ALL THE FEELS for every subject. There are a lot of forms of oppression that I simply don’t discuss that often here, even when they matter to me. For example, I sincerely would like to see more acceptance of kinky individuals in the mainstream, and the word is the first of my self-description in the About section of this blog, but the fact of the matter is that even having been part of that culture for several years, I don’t feel qualified to examine that, any more than I feel qualified to talk about child soldiers.

Blogs and activists tend to find their focus, and that’s ok. As passionate as I am about highlighting the dangers of belief in demons, prayer healing, and evil witchcraft, Leo Igwe is much better at it than I am, and can more accurately portray those problems. I think that the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverful movements are terrible things that encourage cult-like behavior, but Libby Anne is much better at talking about that than I ever will be.

The thing is, while you’ll hear mostly about atheism, LGBT issues, and feminism here (and comic books and rock/folk music), there is a complete lack of denigration for the plight of those other groups. You don’t see me saying that people who complain about the Christian Patriarchy tendency to homeschool so they can control their children’s education are overreacting because the kids can always read the truth on the internet. I’m not making twenty minute videos saying kids abandoned by their parents for “casting spells” are just “professional victims.” And you don’t see me saying that kinky people can’t be feminists.

If it is wrong for the powerful to oppress the marginalized, then it has to be equally wrong to ally, explicitly or implicitly, with the powerful to perpetuate that. To fight it? Absolutely! But purchasing rights for yourself at the cost of rights for others does nothing but further entrench the status quo. We can, and should, all sit at the table without having to eat one another.

Bryan Fischer Plays Make Believe

OK, this is no big surprise. The man plays make believe about everything. He is a one-man fantasy factory, if the only fantasies you want are blood-soaked epics where minorities persecute majorities until an angel shows up and sickles people into stadia of blood. But what I always find adorable is when he plays make-believe by pretending to know how the law works, and setting up dialogues that read like a five-year-old’s idea of what a court case looks like.

In his latest piece for Instant Analysis, what used to be called One News Now and is the American Family Institute pretending it has a news service (see? They all like to play these sorts of games there), Fischer tries to make the point that even the DOMA and Prop 8 cases going to trail, especially to the highest court in the land, is a loss for his side of the culture wars. I’m inclined to agree on that point, but then he lays out a hilarious fantasy conversation between a judge, as played by Craig T. Nelson (or Jesus, or him. I’m not sure Fischer knows the difference), and a bumbling lawyer who apparently got his law degree yesterday and is played by Jim Carrey on barbiturates.

But let’s begin with his introduction to this greatest court scene since To Kill a Mockingbird.

We are faced once again with the dreary, dismal prospect that one black-robed tyrant, Anthony Kennedy by name, will decide marriage policy for 315 million Americans.

Our Founders must be rolling over in their muskets and powder, aghast at the servile submission of a once-free people.

I bolded the above sentence because I’m somewhat angry at Fischer. Not because of his backward and horrible beliefs, which do sicken me, but because he makes this way too easy. I mean, Ceiling Cat be praised, this is what we expect a parody of a wingnut to say! “Rolling over in their muskets and powder”? Is this because the Founders were famously all shot out of canons upon their death? Is this an allusion that, like the hymn Jerusalem, the Founders slept with dangerous loaded weapons and were buried the way they lived?

Anyway, we continue.

When Prop 8 was first challenged in federal court, this is how that initial court appearance should have gone.

Judge: “The people of California have amended their own state constitution to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Mr. Attorney, I’m looking in vain for that article of the federal Constitution that explicitly grants me any authority whatsoever to disenfranchise 7 million voters and set aside a state constitution I do not like. I have read the Constitution forward, backward, sideways, and from right to left and I still can’t find it. Can you?”

Ohhh! Ohhh! Me! I can!

The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority

That’s actually the entire purpose of the Supreme Court. That’s why it was ruled in Marbury v Madison  that “an act of the legislature repugnant to the constitution is void.” There is a reason why the vast majority of cases that the Court takes up they end up overturning at least part of the law in question, because if the law is valid, they have no need to grant cert in it in the first place. Only in cases where they are actively seeking to establish precedent on contentious legal matters do they take up laws that they then proceed to uphold.

But in Fischer’s world, courts are only good when they support god’s law, as read by Bryan Fischer.

Anyway, back to Fischer’s Fantasies.

“Well, your honor, it’s implied in there somewhere. Like in the 14th Amendment.”

“Mr. Attorney, I have read the 14th Amendment repeatedly, and I find no mention of the phrase ‘state constitution’ and in particular I find no mention of the word ‘marriage.’”

First of all, see what I mean about our fictional lawyer getting his law degree yesterday? It’s part of this right-wing fantasy that they are automatically smarter than everybody else, but since their reasoning often makes no sense, they have to design their straw men to be so dumb as to no longer be believable. Listen to the recordings from the trial yesterday and tell me if you can imagine Ted Olson (who is a conservative, but arguing for marriage equality) ever saying, “it’s implied in there somewhere”. Also, if you can imagine any judge in the country who hasn’t heard of the ninth amendment and the avalanche of court precedent that a professional reading of any part of the Constitution requires.

“Uh, well, they’re not in there, your honor. But, you know, the Constitution is a living document, so I’m sure it’s grown by now to include all that.”

“Mr. Attorney, I am not interested in some penumbra or emanation, I want chapter and verse. Where does this Constitution explicitly grant the federal judiciary the authority to overturn state Constitutions?”

Well, the above bit where the judicial branch is designed to do just that, and the idea that the federal Constitution is the supreme law of the land, so violations of it, even in state constitutions, are illegal. That one is fish in a barrel.

The funny thing is the line about penumbras and emanations. Conservatives love to rail against this idea, as given name in Griswold v Connecticut that the rights established in the Constitution cover more than just the exact things mentioned in it. However, I think that Fischer would be very upset if, for example, the government said that there is no Constitutional right to attend private schools because Pierce v. Society of Sisters [268 U.S. 510 (1925) was decided by penumbral reasoning. Or that there is no place in the Constitution that says that a court can dismiss a case based on “standing,” which is an entirely penumbral reading of the above quotation from Article III, section 1. How about Sovereign Immunity, which prevents foreign nationals from suing states? All totally penumbral.

He goes on to set out two more entirely hilarious parodies of a court case from his warped imagination, all ending with “get out of my courtroom” Because that’s how the American justice system works. To borrow a phrase, “black-robed tyrants” get to decide on a whim what does and does not get heard at trial. It’s amazing how Fischer promotes capricious decisions by single, unelected people when they’re part of his perverted puppet theater.

We have become so accustomed to the dictatorial actions of unelected fascists on the federal bench that we have failed to see that we are no longer citizens but serfs. We now wait meekly and submissively for nine mini-gods swinging gavels like scimitars to tell us what marriage policy must be, long after we and our elected representatives have settled matters in precisely the manner outlined by our governing documents.
Except for that whole part about the judicial deciding what is and is not Constitutional. Those are also within “the manner outlined by our governing documents.” But, again, that only counts when courts make decisions that Bryan Fischer likes.
Listen, the SCOTUS has made a lot of decisions I dislike. Their abject loyalty to corporate interests really does make my stomach turn, for example, but they are the arbiters of law, not Bryan Fischer and his twisted imagination. I know it’s fun to play make believe, but at one point you really have to step out of your head and deal in the real world where “get out of my courtroom” is not a legal argument and people aren’t nearly as stupid as you wish they were.
Expect to hear a lot of this nonsense in the coming months, especially when the ruling on these two cases comes down, and don’t fall for it. Constitutional literalists are a lot like Biblical literalists: they are absolutely certain that they are reading plain language and, in an effort to make things as simple as possible, just read the parts that give them pantsfeelings about their pre-conceived notions.
Whatever happens in these cases, there is still a lot of work to do. Sometimes, it helps to laugh at Bryan Fischer, just to get a break.

NASA Can No Longer Afford Public Outreach

One of the most poignant and lasting memories of my childhood self was my obsession with space. This is nothing new, really. Lots of kids like space. This shouldn’t be a surprise. The thing is, it may be common, but a love of space never feels common. On the contrary, it feels special and grand. Sure, there are millions of other people who share that love, maybe billions, but compared to the universe, that’s still a pretty exclusive club.

So is just being from Earth.

While I may have found out that space is one of the most fascinating things (or combination of things) ever on my own, the catalyst for this revelation in me was when my school was visited by an astronaut. I don’t even remember his name, but I remember him talking about going up on the shuttle, doing experiments you can’t do on Earth, how we can one day start exploring again.

Unfortunately, more kids will not have the same opportunity I did. Due to the Sequester, NASA is having to cut all of their public outreach. No more school visits and informational websites, no more videos, no more attempts to promote work in STEM fields. All gone in an instant.

I cannot describe how much rage that inspires in me. Remember, the Sequester is dumb on purpose. It’s supposed to hurt. But it doesn’t have to happen at all.

Congress can repeal the Sequester and put in cuts that make sense. It would require that the troglodytes that are cheering it on because, you know, cuts, be worked around and shamed within an inch of their careers, but it can be done.

So call your representatives and senators. Let them know that science outreach means something. If we are to continue to advance our knowledge and remain competitive with the rest of the world, we need to embrace and promote STEM education, not feed it to the relatively small mass of ignorant trolls and their huckster leaders who have convinced them that science is a waste of money, a collection of opinions based on faith, rather than our best hope of building a better humanity that will one day spread to the stars.

“So I’m not going to marry one”

Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss is a real peach. He won his seat by attacking the patriotism and service of a triple amputee and Vietnam vet, and has since been making Georgians (of whom I know many) look bad, years before Paul Broun revealed the depths of stupidity one can find if they search hard enough. I was actually in Georgia when he last won re-election, enjoying a Great Big Sea concert in Little Five Points and blissfully unaware that this moron was getting another six years to cause problems.

So when I saw this quote, I was entirely unsurprised. “I’m not gay. So I’m not going to marry one.”

This is exactly the attitude I was discussing yesterday in regards to Rob Portman. Saxby Chambliss has no desire to marry a man, so that means that nobody else can either. If he did, he would first look for a way to make it so that only he could marry men, and reluctantly allow others to if he had to.

The more of that article I read, the more I see the narcissism of Republican lawmakers and cowardliness of red-state Democratic ones. This is especially true of the ones who claim it’s a “state issue” while steadfastly refusing to get rid of DOMA and any federal marriage benefits so that it actually is.

It’s still morning, but I had to share a little facepalming.