Social Justice and the Problem With Humans

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I was listening to Citizen Radio this morning and their discussion got me thinking. They were discussing the LGBTQ people who, in states that now have legal marriage, don’t want to be married. They also discussed that there are people even within that community who are not good people, just like there are in every other community. Let me explain why I bring this up.

I once attended a Take Back The Night rally, which focuses on violence against women. Myself, and others, were informed by some volunteers that they don’t need or want men around at all. We’re no use to them, and they don’t want us volunteering.

I once listened to a member of the LGBTQ community very vehemently shame another because they publicized their coming out. When I expressed that shaming anyone is inherently wrong, I was chastised because “how dare you, a straight person, say anything to me? All you fuckin straight people just think it’s cute that we want rights too, but you don’t actually care.” Others agreed with him wholeheartedly.

The thing is, many of us who are very active allies to various causes often make a caricature of a people as a cause, instead of as people. Then, when we encounter people being…well…people, we’re shocked at how they act. Every movement, for every cause, is made up of people. People should be the reason we join these causes. People can also be good or bad. That’s how people work.

At Take Back The Night, we ended up being welcomed with open arms by others in the group, and enjoyed marching and volunteering for the cause. I’ve been very active in the LGBTQ community, as an ally. Even, as in the example from Citizen Radio above, those who don’t choose to exercise the rights they’re fighting for, understand why they’re fighting. Others may not choose to fight at all.

I have an old friend who is a middle aged gay Catholic. We were good friends for years. He believes that if he doesn’t choose to utilize rights for himself, he doesn’t care if anyone else has them. He’s chosen not to remain a part of my life because I speak out against the abhorrent actions of the Catholic Church.

The thing is, even as much as he is against social movements in general, everyone who fights, fights for him too. Rights are universal, whether you choose to use them or not.

In the same way, people are universal, whether you choose to acknowledge it or not. People are people, good and bad, mean or nice.

Contributor: Robert Sacerich

Robert is a Philosophy of Science and Bioethics student, as well as blogger and science advocate/activist. He has worked extensively within the secular community for various secular nonprofit organizations and public communication causes.

See his full bio!

Thank you for reading Rationality Unleashed! You can “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @rationalityunle. For any questions, concerns, or comments beyond what can be placed in the comments section of the blog, email us at admin@rationalityunleashed.net.

On Rationality and Losing Friends

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Today has been an interesting day. I’ve had friends pointing out the loss of friends for various reasons. They became vocal about their atheism. They spoke out against pseudoscience. It’s sad whenever I hear about this. Unfortunately, that’s how things end up.

You see, people get very defensive when their closely held beliefs are questioned. This is natural.

When I started speaking publicly about my atheism, I lost a lot of friends. Many of them left my life in spectacularly vile ways, too. It was definitely something to see.

At first it hurt.

Then, when I started speaking publicly against pseudoscience, I lost more friends. Many of them left in even more vile and hurtful ways.

I was a bit numbed to it by then.

When I began speaking publicly about the problems in politics, I lost far more friends. They left in the worst possible ways.

Then, I realized….they aren’t hurting me. They’re hurting themselves. Not only are they losing a friend, they’re refusing to hear any ideas that differ from their own. They can never grow.

Today, I look at my friends…and I realize that I have far more, and far better friends than I had before I decided to speak out.

That’s the best feeling possible. Keep doing what you do. Keep speaking out. Keep being a good person. Those who walk away added nothing to your life to begin with.

Contributor: Robert Sacerich

Robert is a Philosophy of Science and Bioethics student, as well as blogger and science advocate/activist. He has worked extensively within the secular community for various secular nonprofit organizations and public communication causes.

See his full bio!

Thank you for reading Rationality Unleashed! You can “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @rationalityunle. For any questions, concerns, or comments beyond what can be placed in the comments section of the blog, email us at admin@rationalityunleashed.net.

Dr. Gaylove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Gay Marriage

There has been a lot of debate about a particularly touchy subject in modern American culture, gay marriage. It has recently seen a surge of support and seventeen states in the USA have legalized it. Some of the arguments against gay marriage are as such: It is bad for families and the children of gay parents, that gay relationships will be taught in schools and become accepted, and that gays and gay marriage are against God’s will. However, there are fiscal, social, and moral reasons in favor of gay marriage that in my opinion trump the reasons against it. By legalizing gay marriage the economy stands to gain from taxes, licenses, and additional revenue from weddings. I have also found evidence that contradicts the fears from the opposition about gay parenting. There is also the issue of bullying of gay teens and children of gay couples that, with the legalization of gay marriage, might very well disappear.

As marriage is a government sanctioned union, there are tax benefits, visitation rights, and many other benefits allotted to married couples that aren’t afforded to unmarried people.  This also means that the government needs a financial reason to legalize gay marriage, and that’s where the Williams Institute, a Think Tank for UCLA Law School, comes into play. They recently did a study on the economic benefits of legalizing gay marriage, using Washington State as an example. It explains that roughly 9,500 same-sex couples will get married in the first three years of legalization alone, and that the revenue from that could be as much as eighty-eight millions dollars to the local and state economies. This economic boost could increase tax revenues by eight million dollars, a much needed increase. Those numbers could be even bigger on a national level, increasing federal tax revenue and a general boost to the economy all over. In the meantime, the seventeen states that have legalized gay marriage enjoy the benefits of marriage tourism, where people come from out-of-state to spend money to get married there. While millions and possibly billions of dollars might not save the country from the current debt, it is a much needed revenue increase that can’t be denied.

Several anti-gay groups tend to use the argument that gay marriage is bad for the children who will be born to or adopted by gay parents. This is based on the assumption that children require both a mother and father figure to succeed. They also tend to compare lesbian parenting to single mothers because there is no “father,” and some statistics show that kids of single mothers have higher delinquency rates due to not having a father.  This same argument is used against gay male parents because there is no mother figure. This statement is nonsensical, a single mother is only one person, just because there isn’t a male father figure does not invalidate the fact that there are two parents, each capable of taking care of the child financially and emotionally. The argument that there would be a lack of a male role model in the case of a boy child is also illogical, as an uncle, brother, or close friend can also serve to fill these roles if need be.

I have found an article published by PubMed, the online branch of the US National Library of Medicine entitled Gay marriage, same-sex parenting, and America’s children, by William Meezan and Jonathan Rauch that indicates that gay marriage isn’t harmful to children of gay parents. According to the article, “First, marriage may increase children’s material well-being through such benefits as family leave from work and spousal health insurance eligibility. It may also help ensure financial continuity, should a spouse die or be disabled.” It goes on to say that gay marriage might increase the stability and durability of gay relationships, thus creating a stable home environment. It also says that legalizing it would also create more acceptance of gay people, thus reducing any bullying that might be endured by the children of gay parents.
One other issue that I will touch on briefly before I present further evidence is the moral issues that religious groups bring up in regards to gay marriage. Some religious groups say that being homosexual is against God, and that gay marriage just normalizes being gay. They continually cite religious reasons as to why gay marriage shouldn’t be allowed. They claim that marriage is a tradition based in religion, and though it might be based in religion, it is in fact a legal matter. Separation of church and state exists for a reason, so that in regard to legal issues the churches cannot affect the decisions. There are gay citizens whether religious people like it or not, and they are requesting the right to be legally married, which requires government consent. The benefits of marriage are strictly legal ones, and thus any argument against it based on religion is false reasoning, and subject to dismissal.

The other concern that is brought up against gay marriage is that gay relationships will be taught as normal in schools and grades as young as kindergarten. I have always found this to be an absurd assumption, as when I was in school I don’t recall ever being taught about straight relationships except in second hand form, such as the letter Abigail Adams wrote to her husband John Adams regarding female liberation after the Revolutionary War. However, even if gay relationships were talked about as being equally as valid as straight relationships, this is not a problem. It creates acceptance and tolerance where previously there was none. I think that the fear is that kids will be taught about sex in regards to gay relationships, but that aspect of relationships is not taught until sex education starts in most cases. The fear that kids will be taught about gay sex in school is, in my opinion baseless, as straight sex isn’t talked about now, as such gay relations wouldn’t be explained either. Fearing that a child will be taught about sex in school is almost laughable in an age when most kids have cell phones, computers, and internet, and are able to look these things up on their own.

The real problem with schools regarding gay people is bullying and the general lack of acceptance. If gay marriage was legalized there is a good chance that acceptance of gay people would increase. I found some statistics on bullying of gay students and found some surprising numbers. The article I found was called Bullying in School, Harassment Puts Gay Youths at Risk, and was taken from the website Mental Health America. Gay students are two to three times more likely to commit suicide than straight students, and four out of five gay students said that there are no supportive faculty members at school. Another distressing statistic was this one, “One survey revealed that 22 percent of gay respondents had skipped school in the past month because they felt unsafe there.” Schools clearly need to be safe for a student to learn well, and with gay marriage illegal, being gay becomes taboo. If gay marriage is legalized it is my firm belief that acceptance in schools will rise, and lessen the amount of bullying that gay students receive, thus ensuring future success.

The reasons against gay marriage are easily countered by facts, and the moral reasoning against gay marriage is actually immoral as it denies basic rights to loving, consenting adults.

– Prometheus

 

Sources:

Angeliki Kastanis, M.V. Lee Badgett, and Jody L. Herman. “The Economic Impact of Extending Marriage to Same-Sex Couples in Washington State.” Williams Institute. Williams Institute, Jan. 2012. Web. 10 Apr. 2013. <http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/research/economic-impact-reports/estimating-the-economic-boost-of-marriage-equality-in-washington-state-sales-tax-2/&gt;.
William Meezan, and Jonathan Rauch. “Gay Marriage, Same-sex Parenting, and America’s Children.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2005. Web. 10 Apr. 2013. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16158732&gt;.
“Bullying and Gay Youth.” Mental Health America. Mental Health America, n.d. Web. 11 Apr. 2013. <http://www.nmha.org/index.cfm?objectid=CA866DCF-1372-4D20-C8EB26EEB30B9982&gt;.

Thank you for reading Rationality Unleashed! You can “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @rationalityunle. For any questions, concerns, or comments beyond what can be placed in the comments section of the blog, email us atadmin@rationalityunleashed.net.

Changing the Conversation in 2014

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As we enter the new year, let’s take a look back at what the greater discourse has looked like these last few years. It seems that rational discourse has been pushed to the fringe, and the bizarre extremes have become the mainstream. This is a problem, not just for those of us who seek rationality, but for everyone, as it leads to typically poor outcomes. The blame for this lies on the shoulders of everyone, of all sides of the political spectrum, all religious and philosophical ideologies….this is what we need to change.

General Politics

The GOP is no longer the party of conservatism. They’ve been hijacked by the religious far right.

The Democrats are no longer the left. They’ve become centrist at best.

Dems don’t want small government. Neither does GOP. No politician wants small government…because they’d be out of job.

The current discourse about “small government” always revolves around keeping the government out of our healthcare and away from our guns. These are the same people who want the government to regulate what women can do with their bodies and who can get married.

It isn’t an honest conversation.

Our country is suffering while rich white men in Washington squabble about ideologies. Enough is enough. It’s time to tell Washington that we won’t let THEM freeload any longer. They need to do their jobs or lose their jobs. This shouldn’t be negotiable.

End the drone program. Stop spying on the American people. Stop focusing on regulated women and the LGBT community. Let’s work on jobs and the economy.

Gun Debate

The simple fact is that the gun control measures in America need reevaluated. Currently, every time someone says “gun control,” the gun proponents erect a giant strawman that claims the government wants to take away their guns. Many conspiracy theories follow.

With this ideology, an honest conversation is impossible.

What we want are sensible measures to ensure that only responsible, mentally stable, non-criminal citizens have access to firearms. Unfortunately, every time there’s a shooting or the debate is brought up, the NSA muppets make a big fuss and all the gun shops have big sales by claiming Obama is coming for your guns. The ONLY people winning here are the gun companies making a fortune off of your stupidity.

Social Safety Nets and Minimum Wage

The fact that these are such a big conversation amazes me. The biggest uproar I always hear revolves around food stamps. The claim is always about all of these ingrates who are freeloading off of the system and eating up all of our hard earned tax money.

This is dishonest, and takes away from any real conversation to solve the problem of poverty.

In reality, only about 2% of tax dollars go towards food stamps. Only about 10% of those are for people who are not working. The problem isn’t that people are getting food stamps. The problem is that that many working people need them to survive. The problem is the wage inequality in America.

I keep hearing that these people should just get a better job. This usually comes from people who have no idea what it’s like to be unemployed and struggling. Currently, there are 3 job seekers for every open position. More than half of those positions are part time or minimum wage themselves, yet often requiring quite a bit of education and experience. After all, in this market, employers can pay peanuts to massively over qualified people and get away with it.

Again, this is not conducive to an honest conversation.

Gender Equality

Today, we have misogynists calling themselves “Men’s Rights Activists.” These people claim that all feminists want is superiority over men, and that they should be fighting for the rights of men as well. We have feminists who seem to think the movement is about middle and upper class white women marching against “the man.” They seem to forget about the fact that the most discriminated against women are those of minority races in America.

This is hugely detrimental to any honest discourse.

Let me break this down a bit. First, let me address all the Men’s Rights Activists out there. Is forced male circumcision bad? Yep. Should men be able to get paternity leave? Yep. Should men not get put down for deciding to be stay at home dads? Yep. Should feminists be fighting for those things? Nope. Do you know why? That’s not what the movement is about. Should people be fighting for those things? Absolutely. It shouldn’t, however, be done by degrading those fighting for women. Men have always held a place of privilege in America. Fixing the few problems men may face may be your soapbox, but insulting feminists and claiming that feminism is somehow horrible because men may have some problems is sorta like stubbing your toe and telling your friend who had his leg blown off to suck it up because you stubbed your toe. Get over yourselves, please.

Feminism is as essential now as it was when it began. It’s not only essential in America, where most states still allow rapists to sue for child visitation, but worldwide, where women are forced to marry at age 10 and live forcibly veiled for fear of their life. When girls like Malala are shot for the crime of wanting to attend school, feminists need to be a loud voice. All feminists, not just white ones. When the minimum wage workers in America, who need all the help they can get to survive, are all too often women of color, THOSE are the voices that need amplified the most. Don’t forget that we are all in this together.

LGBTQ Equality

Homosexuality does not lead to anything except homosexuality. It isn’t a choice. It isn’t abnormal. It was criminalized, really, until the rise of the Abrahamic religions. In tribal culture and ancient civilizations, it was more often celebrated. “Traditional Marriage” is a myth. Their marriage has no effect whatsoever on yours. The LGBTQ community is also not only gay men. Those against it often focus primarily on gay men. Those fighting for equality often forget their transgender kin.

This thinking is harmful to the overall conversation.

These are people. These are people who were born differently than you. That doesn’t make them an abomination. It makes them people, no different than you. We all live our lives and we all want to be seen as equals. That’s part of what makes America great. Don’t let your fear of the different make you someone who destroys that integral part of our society.

Science and Medicine

Agricultural Biotech, GMOs, are not dangerous. Monsanto is not the root of all evil. Vaccines are not poisoning our youth or turning them gay or giving them autism. “Alternative Medicine” is inherently harmful to the overall understanding of medicine. Natural does not always mean good. Man made does always mean bad.

This is not conducive to honest and rational discourse.

Monsanto is a big corporation like any other. They are good and bad. They also don’t represent the entirety of the biotech industry. There are many types of GMOs. Each has different mechanisms and different technologies. No one has bought the FDA. Most of the things being spread about the industry is purely made of whole cloth. Educate yourselves. If you refer to any effect as from “GMOs” in general, then you don’t understand the technology enough to speak to it.

Vaccines are proven safe. Diseases have been eradicated because of them. A discredited doctor and a playboy pinup queen have no bearing on whether the science is sound or not. They aren’t a money making scam. If anything, the pharmaceutical companies lose money on them. Refusing them doesn’t just affect you. It affects those who cannot be vaccinated for other reasons. There are whooping cough outbreaks all over the country because of this idiocy. Even if you never get flu symptoms, you likely aren’t WHY we need the herd immunity for the flu vaccine. The flue kills mostly the very young and very old. Not getting vaccinated risks that you will be the cause of those types of deaths. Educate yourself. Speak to actual medical professionals, not some “mommy instinct” blog. Those who spread the anti-vaccination fear mongering should be charged with attempted murder, plain and simple.

There is no such thing as alternative medicine. There is proven medicine and there are scams. The “big pharma” that you think is pushing drugs on you to make money while suppressing the alternative miracle cures is the same industry that owns the alternative medicine companies. I hate to break it to you. Dr. Oz and people like that make more money off of your ignorance than pretty much any doctor. Educate yourselves. Too many people die because they choose magic over medicine. Don’t be that person.

Racism

Racism is not dead in America. It many not always be as blatant as it once was, but it’s present. It’s just more insidious now. It’s just as prevalent on the left as it is on the right. On the left, however, it’s very subversive. The same people yelling about equal rights and those damned redneck racists still avoid areas that are mostly populated by people of color. See my post on Passive Aggressive Racism for more details.

Veganism

This one is simple. There are good reasons to be a Vegan. Not everyone is a Vegan. Insulting those who are not vegan and calling them murderers makes you look like an idiot and makes people not want to be associated with you, thus discouraging them from even learning about Veganism.

On the other side, the constant flinging insults at Vegans needs to stop. Yes there is a vocal minority that acts like idiots. Don’t judge the whole by them. In the same way, EVERY movement has extremists like that. You wouldn’t want me to judge yours by them. Offering to eat “insert meat product here” in a Vegan’s honest makes you ignorant, not witty.

Conclusion

No matter what cause is yours, remember, those who fight for other causes aren’t downplaying yours by not talking about it. It just isn’t their focus. That’s not a negative thing. Fighting over it is not conducive to the conversation.

Today, there are allies that are not part of, but still fight for, many causes. Allies, don’t try to take over the conversation. It isn’t your narrative. Those who are of the cause, don’t look at these people with disdain because they aren’t like you. That ideology is why you need to fight for your rights to begin with. Work together. Make a better world.

Change the conversation.

Contributor: Robert Sacerich

Robert is a Philosophy of Science and Bioethics student, as well as blogger and science advocate/activist. He has worked extensively within the secular community for various secular nonprofit organizations and public communication causes.

See his full bio!

Thank you for reading Rationality Unleashed! You can “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @rationalityunle. For any questions, concerns, or comments beyond what can be placed in the comments section of the blog, email us at admin@rationalityunleashed.net.