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A new Emoji

June 26, 2017 Leave a comment

Did you know that there’s a new emoji you can use with facebook? I’m probably late to finding this out, but if you “like” the LGBTQ page you get a rainbow flag emoji that you can use to like stuff. It’s a nice little honorary thing for the month, that some people will use once in awhile, and most people will never. Such an innocuous tiny piece of digital coding.

Which means, of course, that people like Josh Feuerstein have a problem with it. Josh is famous(ish) for being the jackass that ranted at Starbucks because they didn’t have the right order of magic images on their disposable paper cups around Christmas time. He was so angry that he implored his viewers to tell the poor guy or girl working that their name was “Merry Christmas” so that their preciously fragile sense of self-worth wasn’t shattered upon not being constantly reminded that Christmas was coming. This is despite the numerous and sometimes overwhelming items that Starbucks sold with the word “Christmas” on it, such as the Christmas blend coffee that they would heretically place in last year’s plain red cup.

Josh, has a problem because there isn’t a cross emoji in facebook’s arsenal of seven. With that he’s claiming some kind of persecution, because he, and those like him, want to feel persecuted. They need it, lest they admit that his religion (in general not specifically his version of it) has a stranglehold on this country. The average person you meet is some form of Christian with rare exception. Only when you shatter the umbrella term of “Christianity” into its various sects do other belief systems over take it: e.g. depending on how you define “none” they are the largest single group, but even then you have problems. “None” doesn’t mean “atheist” it means no officially religious affiliation which can include Christians that don’t belong to an official church, the “not religious but spiritual” crowd, and the lapsed. Out of ten people on the street seven are likely to be Christian in some form.

Those are facts, and if people like Josh Feuerstein were swayed by facts, we wouldn’t have people like Josh Feuerstein in the world. I want to caveat this: I know that most people don’t care, I know that most Christians don’t care. Just people like this.

Economically I follow the Adam Smith model. I’m all for free markets (this will be relevant shortly) on some things, I’m for regulation where it is necessary, and am against government intrusion for the conduct of business in general. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule such as when the conduct of business causes harm through either purpose or negligence. I say these things because I want the offended to realize: Facebook is under no obligation to cater to your delicate sensibilities. Also, Facebook is not doing this for any other reason than to generate revenue, it’s not about you and the special place you think you occupy in the universe.

Facebook is a company that generates profit. They provide a service in exchange for earning money, in a way that I don’t understand, that’s their sole reason for existence. So if Josh thinks that Facebook is even aware of who he is and how much he’s offended, he’s merely deluding himself into thinking he bears a greater place in the world than he does.

That’s all that is going on here. Facebook is looking for clicks and they’re getting it, and Josh is helping that along as people have been trolling his page to “like” his posts with the flag emoji. I, for one, would not even have been aware of this emoji if it weren’t for people like him complaining about it.

This is just another example of people like him feeling persecuted because other people are being included that aren’t him. No one loses equality when other people are given recognition. It’s not as though people with the flag emoji are given Facebook plus accounts or that their posts are given a special preference, they just have a little rainbow flag.

It’s not discrimination either because no one is stopping anyone from doing anything. There are no religious emoji whatsoever. Maybe if there was a Star of David, a Crescent, a Yin-Yang, and no cross he might have a point: but there aren’t. I’m willing to suspect that he’s probably not advocating for any of those emojis along with it: his ilk just want their version because they are losing the ability to not have to see things they don’t like. Pretty ironic coming from the type of person that usually screams about how people are too easily offended these days.

In a spirit of charity I’ll offer him a suggestion: don’t like Facebook’s inclusivity of LGBTQ? Then stop using it. Problem solved.

Categories: atheism, Uncategorized Tags: ,

The Interview

June 19, 2017 Leave a comment

A little break from the atheism to talk about the insanity of Alex Jones and the Megyn Kelly interview from last night.

Which I didn’t watch.

I didn’t watch it because I already know what’s about to happen, and he’s quite unbearable if you’re familiar with his shtick. I’m old enough to remember Pauly Shore, and it took halfway through the second movie before I thought, “Alright enough, it’s not funny anymore.” Jones is like that…minus anything that could pass for intentional comedy.

I didn’t boycott the interview, nor did I sign a petition, email an ad buyer, or put a long winded diatribe on facebook/twitter in which I chastised NBC or Kelly for airing the interview. In fact, this is what I wrote when I learned of the interview, “Alex Jones is an opportunistic piece of shit, but he tends to self-destruct when interviewed. Yes, he’s a Sandy Hook denier, but he’s also a total nutter. The interview might just expose him for being that.”

The boycott that erupted in response to the interview was an understandable one. Though I was mystified by it’s sole focus: the Sandy Hook denial. It’s horrible, it’s absurd, but it’s nothing more than he does on a daily basis. It’s also not the only thing he denies happened. I have a joke in my skepticism classes that every single time a shooting occurs it takes 24 hours, at the most, before Jones will either deny it happened or call it a false flag. I’m rarely wrong with that prediction (the baseball shooting was a remarkable exception).

We should be clear about what he’s saying with the Sandy Hook massacre. He’s not saying that the lone gunman didn’t do it, and that it was a coordinated attack by the deep state, or whoever his boogey man was at the time. He was saying that it didn’t happen. Everything from the dead bodies, the grieving parents, and the school was staged. I’ve looked into this theory, it is part of my job, and it’s just bad. I don’t buy into any conspiracy theory, maybe the Taylor Swift/Katy Perry feud is just marketing, maybe Ali’s first championship fight was a thrown fight (not on his behalf though, the theory is that his opponent was heavily in debt), maybe Michael Jordan’s foray into baseball was a secret suspension due to his gambling problems, but those are all theories that require few people and a low amount of moving parts to accomplish.

The 9/11 Conspiracy theory, in it’s absolute vastness, did raise some questions that I had to look up. I never once doubted the actual story, but there were some weird anomalies (which is all that theory relies on: anomaly hunting) that made the conspiracists somewhat reasonable, i.e. jet fuel and I-beams; but all of that is easily explainable.  I say reasonable because it’s a theory based on incomplete information filled in by a hack screenwriter and a rather decently produced “documentary” that was started as a teaser for an X-Files type movie.

The Sandy Hook theory was pure fiction. It wasn’t based on incomplete information, it was based on a fetish-like need to protect guns. There is very little anomaly hunting (home value listings were dropped to zero shortly after the shooting but then were fixed by the new year) and the “if you squint and want to believe it” idea that there existed crisis actors. Jones was the lead propagator of this theory. Even going on CNN at the time to claim conspiracy, though not going far enough on air to spout the “it didn’t happen” theory.

Any major event, again minus the baseball shooting, he’s on the radio in between hocking bullshit “nutritional” supplements and gold, claiming that it was a plot by the government. I get why the boycott groups focus on this theory of his: it was horrific even by mass shooting standards, the parents of the deceased children received hate mail and death threats. Yet everything from the Pulse Night Club shooting to the Boston Marathon bombing was fair game as well.

I have no issue with the boycott. Don’t want to watch it, don’t. Don’t frequent companies that sponsor the show, even write asking them to stop sponsorship. Those are fine.

However, that’s also the rub. The people, like me, who are familiar with him don’t want to watch him, but there’s a lot of people that aren’t and I have to agree with Bill Maher with people like this: they die in sunlight, with one important difference. The difference between someone like Jones and Yiannopolis is that Yiannopolis is a professional troll. His whole thing is pissing people off by being such a flagrant asshole (I mean pearls? C’mon, this isn’t the 1930s) giving him light doesn’t matter. Jones on the other hand, is regarded by a certain aspect of conservatism as a fringe guy that some people believe. Yet no one looks too hard at him.

Giving him this type of interview exposes his belief. William F. Buckley Jr. threw the John Birch society out of the GOP in 1962 for their outrageous claims regarding water fluoridation, and that then president Eisenhower was a Soviet sympathizer (or at worst, a Soviet Agent). While the Birch society has started as just a conservative group it quickly, under the operation of its founder Robert Welch, turned into the kind of nuttery that we see in Alex Jones today. This is important because the president has not only appeared on Jones’ Infowars, but endorsed his views, and given them press access.

This is a guy who talks about “life extension technology” and began screaming about “inhuman intelligence” on his show. He’s probably the biggest driving force behind the pizzagate attack and I doubt many people were aware of who he is or what kind of things he says. They probably regarded him only as another right wing pundit who is a little more extreme than the rest of them. Now however, he can’t be merely regarded as that, but instead as the insanity spouting conspiracy nut that he is. Hopefully this will encourage more people to denounce his views, maybe even the president.

 

 

The Irony of the Protest

June 12, 2017 Leave a comment

Not that one. The gay pride parades in various cities over the last few weeks don’t gain much notice to me for the simple reason that I don’t like parades unless I’m in them. Otherwise it’s just a bunch of standing around and waiting.

No, I want to draw attention to the anti-Sharia demonstrations that happened. You know of which I speak, where a few dozen “Real ‘Mericans'” decided to protest against a thing that wasn’t happening, isn’t happening, and is nearly impossible to happen. I think the joke about these protests is that they might as well be protesting against term limits for unicorns.

Let’s play hypothetical here and figure out the steps it would take to get just one Sharia law in place. First you would have to have a city or municipality that has enough of a Muslim population in the US to create the demand for the law. Where is that place?

Our best bet would be Detroit. The city of…Robocop? Or is brotherly love? I forget which. In either case a quick search of the demographic breakdown of Detroit shows that Wayne County in Detroit, with an astonishingly high Jesus denying percentage of 3.5% of the population. That’s pretty small, the “nones” (my people I guess) make up a whopping 54% of the population. We’re more likely to get a statue of Lawrence Krauss in the middle of the county than we are just one Sharia Law on the books, but I suppose the entire area could be Gerrymandered like Austin Texas and maybe that would gain the Islamic population a whole seat on the city council.

Step 2: Now that we have our population we need to get our demand. So what law? Sharia law is just Islamic religious law, and like literally every other religion adherence to the law depends on two main things: the place where you were born and what family you were born into. If we even assume that there are no half-assed Muslims, i.e. the equivalent of those Catholics that only go to church on Christmas, Easter, and whatever family event is occurring (funerals and weddings), there’s still a Sunni/Shia divide that we’d have to assume away for the sake of our experiment. Most Iraqis, which are the sect that immigrated to Detroit in the 80s, are Shia so we’ll just run with that. Not that it really matters because I’m not to up to date on religious laws regarding particular sects of Islam. So let’s just run with a bill that forces women to wear the head scarf in public.

Step 3: Pass the bill. How on Earth could this be done? Unless the group took over every seat on the city council, then the mayor’s office, they would still end up fighting for the law in court. There’s no way that one of the numerous Christian nut jobs like Ken Ham, wouldn’t file a suit against the law before it was passed. There’s no way that the Freedom From religion Foundation or the ACLU wouldn’t file a suit before the law was passed. An executive order couldn’t get this one through.

However, since we’re in the imaginative dream land, let’s assume it was passed. Now it still has to contend with first amendment lawsuits. Now, this would be interesting because all of the Christians who argue for prayer in school love to point out that the “separation of church and state” isn’t in the Constitution so they would have to either admit that the Islamic head scarf law was fine because that’s what the people wanted or they would have to eat crow admitting that it was just a convenience argument for them. Nevertheless, we not only have two hundred years of court cases forming a firm foundation for the excise of religious laws, but also the guy who wrote the Amendment explaining the “separation of church and state” as what he meant. The law wouldn’t make it through the local court.

Unless they took over the local court, in which case it would still be fought at the state level, and there’s no way we can reasonably pretend (or unreasonably) as we have done thus far that the state of Michigan would get an Islamic majority or take over the court system.

Again, we’ve had to assume that this fictional Islamic majority would also want the law.

So what is the protest about? Stoking fear of something that cannot happen in order to make other people feel special. I’ve never read the Man of la Mancha, but I’m told that this is like that. Tilting at windmills, because it’s easy to fight an imaginary enemy than a real one.

I opened this post mentioning the pride parades for a reason. I wonder how many of the people who attended these Anti-Sharia law protests are also on board with LGBT equality. I’m guessing there’s very little overlap between the two on a Venn diagram. I wonder how many of those same people are in board with equal rights between the sexes and think that a woman should maintain autonomy over her own body. Do any of these anti-Sharia people think that there ought to be prayer in schools and that the government should be showing Christmas/Easter displays?

Don’t let them lie about it: this has nothing to do with freedom. The irony of the protests is that these people want the exact same thing that those who would like Sharia law want: religious theocracy. It’s just they want their religion to be the one in charge and not someone else’s. It’s why they get so upset if a school decides not to serve bacon during Ramadan but see absolutely nothing wrong with the same school serving fish on Fridays during Lent. They have more in common with ISIS than they would ever admit.

Mythicism

June 5, 2017 3 comments

Mythicism is the belief that person: Jesus of Nazareth, was not a real person. Now, every atheist rejects the notion that Jesus was anything other than a regular guy. The belief that a figure named Jesus may have existed, who was also a an apocalyptic preacher may be accepted. However, to restate the definition, there are those who think that the actual figure was just a character alluded to by a handful of individuals trying to create a new system of belief.

I, am not sold on Mythicisim. My belief tends more strongly along the lines of real person/real preacher guy than likening Jesus in the same vein of Harry Potter or Gandalf. The reasons for this are many, but to be clear: I reject the notion that there is any supernatural aspect to the figure as I reject all supernatural aspects to anything.

Possibly this is due to my Catholic upbringing wherein I, for nearly half of my life accepted that Jesus was not only real but divine. There might a vestigial attachment that I am unwilling to reject. On the other hand we must get into what it means if the Mythicist position it true: and it would be a conspiracy on a grand scale.

Outside of the blogging, I am a PhD candidate in Philosophy. I teach at a college in NY, and the class that I teach the most is a course on conspiracy theories and skepticism. While I spend most of the semester going through informal fallacies and pseudo medicine, the first few weeks of the course are spent in defining conspiracies and how, prima facie, most of them couldn’t be true. The reason? People, in large numbers, are untrustworthy, fickle, and terrible at keeping secrets.

Not one person mind you. You can always find one person that’s good at maintaining secrecy. You can also find one person that can keep a consistent story in their head. Add another? It gets less likely, and with each person the secret gets less likely to be kept secret. In fact, if enough people know a thing, by definition, it’s no longer a secret. All of that being said, I find it unlikely that the figure of Jesus would be an entire fiction. There’s got to be at least some historical persona that the stories are attached around, or else, why would they be so contradictory?

Let’s assume, for the sake of falsification, that the mythicist position is true. What, exactly does that imply? First off it implies that the entire religion is based on a lie. Ok, fine, I’m an atheist and in some respect that’s true of all religions. However, that’s not what I’m driving at. That the religion is a lie, would mean that the central figure for whom the religion is based on is foundationless. This would be perplexing for a number of reasons. The first, and perhaps most important, is that it is completely unnecessary to base the religion on a figure in the first place. Daoism, while based on the teachings of Lao Tzu, doesn’t rely on the character of Lao Tzu for its teachings, it relies on the teachings themselves. Judaism, doesn’t rely on the fact that Moses wrote the laws, or brought the law to the people of Israel, but rather that the law itself is derived from God. You don’t need a “Jesus” for a religion, you just need a message that people are willing to believe, maybe you dress it up in some spirituality and a promise of extra-life reward, but the central preacher character need not be central to it.

Secondly, it seems that if a group of people got together to fabricate this character in order to create a religion, why wouldn’t they do a better job of it? Jesus does some pretty contradictory stuff in the tales of his life on Earth. He talks of peace, but then of bringing a sword. He talks about turning the other cheek, but raises his fist to those that he feels have defiled the temple. Everyone is saved, but there are those who are not. If a conspiracy is a foot, they didn’t do a great job of it. The first gospel is dated at around 70CE while the only contemporary writings are from Paul and he admits none of it comes from eye witness accounts but from “revelations.” So if this thing is being made up, perhaps have “Paul” put in a reference to when they were hanging out together. Conspiracies of this magnitude wouldn’t leave clues to the lie, despite what internet sleuths say regarding the moon landing, JFK, or 9/11. We might also have stories of his childhood, or something like that: cool stuff with dragons and raising birds back to life or whatever.

Finally, and this is probably my weakest assumption: where is the documentation of the argument over this character? Unless there was a guy in the second century named Jesus, who just backdated a bunch of stories with his name on it, there would have to be some kind of conflict over what that person did. Now maybe this is an explanation for the contradictory stuff, but I’m going to apply Occam’s razor and just say, “while contradictory, the multiple stories are best made up by individuals dressing up stories they heard from a guy who knew a guy who dated their third cousin.”

All of that is premise to my introduction to a series I’m going to do whereby I read through a book titled, “Jesus By a Preponderance of the Evidence” by Robert Palaszewski. This book is going to prove the divine Jesus and the truth of Christianity. The summary on the back says that it’s for “seekers and open minded skeptics alike.” This entire post’s point has been to show that while I’m an atheist, I’m also not susceptible to an argument just because I want it to be true…and believe me nothing would warm the cockles of my heart more than finding out the entire thing was based on what a couple of guys made up way back when.

I’ve done no pre-reading, and will only prepare as much as necessary for each post. Ill be posting these on the first Monday of every month. Starting now (by that I mean this is post 1).