Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Whoa....somebody's comin'...somebody's comin'!
Baby: The other other white meat!

I was reading a post on one of my favorite blogs, Hemant Mehta's Friendly Atheist earlier today, on the Freedom From Religion Foundation's recent billboard campaign in Florida. I wholeheartedly support the effort, as I am completely for the separation of church and state as well as the desire to let other non-believers know that they are not alone. There are a shit-ton of us, and we'll gladly stand right beside you, or even allow you to buy us a beer.

As I've said many times before, I completely support the right of the individual to believe or not believe whatever they please. I've recently converted to Pastafarianism myself, not out of any real conviction that the Flying Spaghetti Monster (sauce and cheese be upon Him) actually exists, but rather because it makes just as much sense as any other religion. And at least, with the FSM, you get to eat really well, drink a lot of beer and dress up like a pirate instead of going to church: Three of the biggest goals in my life down in one move. And, on the off chance that Our Noodly Lord (basil and garlic be upon Him) does exist, I get to go to the Beer Volcano and Stripper Factory in the sky. It's a better version of Pascal's know, because of the beer and strippers. That combination makes anything better. (Seriously, think of ANYTHING at all off the top of your head. Now add beer and strippers. See?!)  But I'm off topic yet again. Point: individuals can have any religion they want, but the U.S. government, by design, cannot make or pass any law that endorses or decries any of them and therefore must act in a secular fashion for the common good. So, good on ya, FFRF. Keep it up.

Now, on to the real meat of this piece. (heh. Meat. Piece. I will NEVER tire of dick jokes.) In wanting to read a little more on subject of the FFRF's billboards, I clicked through to a story on Tampa Bay Online  covering it. It seemed a little biased against the FFRF, but nothing too extreme and that's really par for the course, so no surprise there. Toward the end of the article, however, a quote brought up something that's been bugging me awhile:

"David Clarke, a Tampa psychologist and author of several Christian books, says he supports the right to post these billboards but 'feels sorrow' for the sponsors at the same time. "Without God," he said, "life is meaningless and there can't be any real morality.'"

 I really don't have a problem with religious folks feeling sorrow that I haven't embraced a (or more specifically their) god. Nor do I have too much of a problem being prayed for (I used to, but generally the sentiment comes from the heart. It's pointless, but harmless all in all. I do, however have a BIG problem being prayed at, which happens far more often.). I suppose if I truly felt that everyone who didn't believe the same way I did wasn't going to the Beer Volcano, I'd be sad about it, too. The thing that has really cottaged my cheese for a long time, even before I fully let go of the idea of God, however, is Clarke's last sentence: "Without God," he said, "life is meaningless and there can't be any real morality.'" Fundies have been claiming the moral high ground since forever, so there's no real shock to it, but I'm going to offer yet another counter argument, if only because this dude is supposedly a psychologist and should know better.

Clarke and others of his ilk argue that religion (around these parts that means Christianity, but really, the sentiment is pretty interchangeable across the Big Three) is necessary because God lays out the way we ought to live. Through the bible, humanity is given its moral compass, and without believing that there's a god to please, a heaven to aspire to and a hell to avoid, we'd all just go around stabbing each other, raping anything that moved, and eating babies. And that's just asinine.

Morality isn't a religious mandate, it's a biological one. We come from a long line of social creatures. Long before we built cities to live in, we still lived in groups. Over the long millenia to get us where we are, our morality has evolved. We ought to treat others well because we're all connected as a species, and its the best chance we have of surviving and thriving. We all have the same basic desires (with a few kinks thrown in here and there according to personal tastes): food, shelter, love, happiness, etc. It really doesn't take a divine revelation to tell us what's good and what's not. It's the Golden Rule at its simplest: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. That was around long before the idea of Jesus (they just kinda shoehorned it in there. Gives the J-man a little more philosophical heft.), and with any luck it'll be around long after it, too.

To quote Penn Jillette: "Believing there's no God means I can't really be forgiven except by kindness and faulty memories. That's good; it makes me want to be more thoughtful. I have to try to treat people right the first time around."

I live a life without god, and it is devoid of neither morality nor meaning. I aspire to kindness, though I may fail here and there. I treat people well. I give to charity. I help my brothers and my nieces with their homework. I've helped feed and clothe those less fortunate than me. I make my friends laugh. I do these things not so that I can be rewarded after I'm dead (though I will take a couple of bucks now, if you're giving it away), but because it makes me happy to do so. (It's not completely selfless, to be honest, since I enjoy the feeling it gives me to help someone out, and since I would hope someone would do the same for me if I needed it) I have never raped or murdered; I don't intentionally harm people at all. The last thing I ever stole was when I was a kid, and I felt terrible about it for a long time, even then not because I felt God would be angry at me, but because I stole something that belonged to someone else. The wrongness of the act was instinctual, not simply because I felt as though I would get in trouble. (Though I did, in the end. God's got nothing on my mom when she's pissed. I owe a lot more of my morality to her than to any god, that's for sure.)

So, that takes care of the morality. As for meaning: I have a lot of joy in my life. There are people I love and who love me. I have a wife I depend on and who depends on me. I have beer, cheesy midnight movies, Tom Waits music, Martin Scorcese, stand-up comedy, sunsets, glacial caves, romance, bromance, Shakespeare, Vonnegut, birthday parties, etc. etc. etc. Most importantly, I have the consequences of my actions, both good and bad, and I'd much rather make people smile. All that is enough for me. I don't need heaven, and wouldn't want it. It wouldn't be heaven if there's a hell, it would be unbearable. And if you think otherwise: fuck you, you selfish prick. :)

I don't want to say that I'm better than religious folks because of all this, that would be unfair. I'm better than some and not as good as others, the same as anyone else. There are plenty of believers that have had an amazing positive impact on just my own life; to discount them would be unthinkable. My point is we shouldn't be good because we want some big payoff from the cosmic slot machine; we should do what Aristotle, Santa and Bill Murray have told us to do all along: Be good, for goodness' sake.

And so, I leave you with a reading from the Loose Canon, one of the holiest books of Pastafarianism. Specifically, from the Random Number of Not Commandments, Suggestions:

"2. Thou ought not do stuff thou already knowest is wrong, like killing, lying, cheating, stealing, etc. Dost thou really need these carved into a rock?"

May your sauce be forever warm. RAmen.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Stop being a faggot and let gay people get married already!

I figured I should weigh in on the recent awesomeness of California's Prop 8 being overturned. It's a shame it passed in the first place, but it's great that its death has brought so much attention to how stupid it was. I caught a few minutes of a rant that our good friend and fear-mongering Christ Crusader Pat Robertson threw out just awhile after the news broke, and he said, with his usual aplomb:

"The homosexuals want to destroy the church and they want to destroy doesn't matter how sacred an institution is and how important it is to society, as long as there can be a confirmation that this lifestyle is acceptable." I get to rant a little. (It's been too long...let me just get on my ranting shoes here and dance a...well, a sad, awkward little jig since not only am I white and have no rhythm, but I'm a spastic diplegic and my legs don't work so good to begin with. Still, I try, dammit.) Let's take just this little snippet of Mr. Robertson's ideology and work with it on its own, shall we? (If we took the whole damn thing, I'd pull a Scanners and no one wants to clean brains and hair off stucco.) He says, firstly, that homosexuals want to destroy the church. Some do, I'm sure. I'm a straight, married man and I want to destroy the church. A lot.

Let me qualify that last statement: I have a problem with religion as an idea, sure. After a lot of self-searching, I just couldn't rectify the stories with reality anymore. It requires that you accept something as fact based on absolutely no quantifiable evidence, and it's got a lot of crazy ass stories that are just, when you get right down to it, silly. However, I am a firm believer in individual rights, and one of those is the right to believe whatever crazy ass thing you want (or the right not to), so long as your belief does no harm to anyone other than yourself. You or I can harm ourselves all we want. I smoke and drink, and I know these things can harm me, but I don't force others to do the same.

And this is where religion as an institution comes in. Imagine no religion, as one of the better Beatles once said. Would we still have war? Absolutely, we're animals, after all, and animals fight for territory and survival. That's one of the nastier aspects of evolution, but it's an observable fact. Can't blame that all on religion. But would we have terrorism, most of which is largely based on fanatical religious beliefs? Probably not. No fanaticism, no fanatics. Wars would be a lot more honest, I can tell you that: "My dick's bigger than yours! BAM! Dead."  Would we still have child molestation? Sadly, yes. Psychological aberrations are not the sole realm of the faithful, and I'm sure plenty of people have touched kids without god telling them it was ok. But would we have the powerful shuffling them around like some twisted Find the Pedophile shell game; or worse, outright denying that the perpetrators did anything wrong? Nope. No church, no parishes to ship them to. We'd have to deal with the family and friends of said criminals and nothing more. And pedophiles, once they're exposed, tend to lose friends fast.  I'm not going to go into the denial of positions authority to women, but suffice to say that the argument there is not in religion's favor, either.

So, that's why I want to destroy the church. I'm not going to take any steps to do so beyond pointing out the inherent goofiness and hatefulness of it all, because it's not my place to tell anyone what to believe, nor do I want that job. And so, we come to Robertson's argument about gay people wanting to destroy the institution of marriage. This one's really easy to refute: If they wanted to destroy marriage, why the hell would they be fighting so hard to get married? They'd do like that creepy guy you went to college with: Bang a whole lot of anonymous strangers and spend their 30's dating people ten years to young for them, all the while calling you stupid for wanting to settle down. And I'm sure some of them are, the same as some straight folks do. Funny, how if you take any group of people and stack 'em up against any other group, you find a lot of the same kinds of people. I wonder what that could mean. But I digress. Gay folks want to get married for the same reasons that straight folks do: TAX BREAKS! And, you know, love. Making a commitment like that to someone you love and being recognized for that commitment by the country that you live in is a powerful thing, and they just want the right to it the same as any of us. Trust me, as a married man I can attest to the fact that life is a whole lot easier when someone's got your back.

So, gay people obviously have no problem with the sanctity of marriage. And as to the sacredness of it, or of the church, I'm not sure to which Robertson is referring (I can guess, though), that's a meaningless word in terms of legal governance. Sacredness implies holiness which implies religion, which can not be endorsed by the government of this country in any form. What's sacred to me may not be sacred to you and vice versa. And it probably isn't, at least not to the point of ticking every box the whole way down.

The only reason to deny homosexuals the same rights as anyone else is bigotry, pure and simple, and the judge who made the ruling pretty much said just that:

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

Boom. Suck on that, Pat Robertson. Perhaps if the bible weren't so dead set against oral sex, he wouldn't hate gay people quite so much. I sense a little green-eyed monster on your shoulder, Pat. And he's in a sequined thong, dancing to "It's Rainin' Men"  and he's FABULOUS. (Damn right, that's a Pat-Robertson-needs-a-blowjob joke. Doing a post about gay marriage and not having a joke about fellatio is like having a rainbow with no pot of gold. Man that was a good simile.)

Conclusion: Pat Robertson is an ass. But he can say and believe whatever he pleases. He can hate gays and think they're causing earthquakes and ruining marriage and all other kinds of crazy shit. That's the beauty of the United States constitution. Another beautiful part of it: The whole separation of church and state thing. So, while you can personally believe with all your heart that we're all going to hell for eating meat on a Friday, you cannot pass any legislation prohibiting any other person from grilling up a steak before Full House starts. (It used to be on Fridays. Remember T.G.I.F? Man, those were some terrible shows.) And you cannot, despite your fervent, deep-held religious convictions, enforce any law denying gay people any right that everyone else enjoys. At least not in  Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Washington, D.C.
 Yeah, I know, it's not much, but it's a start. I'm from Massachusetts (Go Sox!), so that makes me proud. But I live in Texas, and I realize that gay marriage won't be legal here until they're forced to make it so. Hopefully rather sooner than later, but we'll see.

And today's title comes from both myself and Louis C.K. We both grew up in Massachusetts, and I'm sure he used many of the same words I did when growing up. We called each other "faggot" and "queer" (or to be more specific, "quare"), but we had no idea what it meant. We didn't know what gay was. There was no hate behind the word. To quote Louis, "You called someone a faggot because they were being a faggot. If I saw two gay guys blowing each other, I wouldn't call them faggots, unless one of them was being a faggot, like "People from Phoenix are Phoenicians....Hey, quit being a faggot and suck that dick!" I hope we come to a place in my lifetime when that word has as little venom behind it as it did when I was seven.

I leave you with a quote from John Adams, 2nd president and one of the people most instrumental in forming the union we now live in: “The government of the United States is not in any sense founded upon the Christian religion." Ooooh. Burn.