By HonestDiscussioner

Religion, Philosophy, Politics, and anything else I'd like to talk about


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

10 Reasons Why It's Okay To Be Mean If You're a Libertarian

Recently I have been convinced to abandon my long-held liberalism so that I may adopt the only intellectually defensible position ever created: Libertarianism. Yes, my evil statist beliefs have been exposed as the naieve ramblings of a severely inferior mind that couldn't, at the time, grasp the unique and complex beauty of the anarchist position. My stupid, harmful beliefs are behind me now thanks to a blog post by Chris Cantwell titled "Top 10 Reasons Libertarians Aren’t Nice To You", an erudite masterpeice of literary critque of my former liberal associates with a clear and concise arguments that not only explain the seemingly crazy behavior of many libertarians but exposes the shortcomings of every position that isn't Chris Cantwell's.  As an introduction to my newfound political affiliation I'd like to give my own blatantly inferior take on the ten reasons why libertarians aren't nice. This won't be nearly as amazing and infallible as Mr. Cantwell's work, I'm merely a n00b, yet hopefully my interpretation of his (what I can only assume one day will be) legendary work will serve as a baseline, a marker for which I can compare myself to when I one day master the ways of the libertarian. Keep in mind: Every argument I'm about to make I got from Christopher Cantwell. So without further comment, let's begin

10 Reasons Why It's Okay To Be Mean When I Do It!


10. Consistent ridicule distracts from the real issues

If only people would listen to reason, they'd know how right we libertarians are.  Now I'm not going to justify this claim, like Mr. Cantwell I'm merely going to assert that the only people who are reasonable are the people that ascribe to libertarianism. No rational person has ever been wrong about anything or held what later was found out to be a massively incorrect position. It is a wonderfully powerful argument, because I can dismiss anyone who disagrees with me as wrong or irrational because since they disagree with me that proves they are wrong.  We know it proves they are wrong because if they were right they'd be agreeing with me, which is true because those that agree with me are right. These points can just keep going on and on . . . like a circle. Maybe we should call it a circular argument of sorts. That's catchy, people like round things like gold coins which we'll use a lot of when we go back to the gold standard.

Now we've noticed that on occasion people who aren't libertarians resort to ascribing certain people with negative descriptions. Whether or not this is ever justified is not something we need to consider; the fact is that other people do it on occasion so we can totally justify doing it almost all of the time with reckless abandon. 

This name calling we see in politics today has been a recent development and totally not a tactic used consistently since the dawn of politics. Though we claim to believe it's unfortunate, we might as well join in because comforming to social norms is all what libertarianism is about. Taking a prinicipled position is only a good idea when it's convenient for us. It's really your fault that we're assholes to you; if you would just stop being so wrong all of the time we'd go easy on you. Remember, anything bad is the fault of statists, that's how we know we're right.

9. We don't waste our time with people who know what they're talking about

Since the only worldviews that are reasonable are ones I agree with, if you have a well-thought out position that differs it must mean you are entirely hopeless. The ones we are really targeting are people who have no clue what they are talking about. If you've ever been told things like facts about how the world works or read any sort of political theory your chances of subscribing to libertarianism drop drastically. It must be the government's fault. It's also because people who have read these things clearly aren't looking for any sort of objective truth, we know this is the case because they haven't found libertarianism yet. Let me be clear: The only people we are interested in are those that have yet to be informed about anything so we can fill their heads with what we believe before anyone else does, because that's the only way they'll ever believe it. Liberals don't become conservatives (except when they do), conservatives don't become liberals (except when they do). What people often forget, is that if we try to find common ground and work with people who don't necessarily follow our entire agenda, we risk both of us benefiting and getting what we want instead of us just getting what we want. Compromise is for other people, and we don't do what other people do except for what I described back in #10 as a way to justify our actions. In that case it was okay to use the tactics of successful people, but not here because reasons.

If you've ever come to a conclusion that differs from mine, you are obviously dumb. Smart people are perfect, so if I perceive you disagreeing with Mr. Cantwell, the person who is right about everything that has to do with libertarianism, that means you must be not very smart. Pay no attention to this when I contradict myself a few more points down the list. Also, get really used to me contradicting myself, so used to it that you stop even bothering to notice.

For example, some people contend that the State is capable of doing good, even if it is in the most minor capacity. If they think this they must be crazy, because we've cited clear instances when the government has done bad. If the state has done anything bad or made mistakes, they couldn't have ever done anything good. Let me reiterate: this is Chris Cantwell's reasoning for calling people dumb, they list reasons where something went right while there exists things it also did badly at. It's just like those people who think Michael Jordan was a good basketball player, not realizing he actually missed thousands of shots throughout his career. Idiots.

So when you see us debating people, it's only because we want to make them look bad in front of people who don't know any better. This is why act like assholes to them, because assholes that throw shit everwhere always come out smelling fresh, right?

8. We have no idea how change works

Libertarians who want to win elections aren't true libertarians. Only ones that conform to Mr. Cantwell's rigid definition of what a libertarian is count as libertarians. Just like Scottsmen that don't wear kilts aren't really true scottsmen (or wait, is it that those that do wear kilts aren't true scottsmen? I forget which one I prefer to be the objective definition that everyone else should follow), so too is it the case that libertarianism is defined only how Mr. Cantwell sees it and we can exclude or include people as we see fit to suit our own political agenda.

The nature of the State is to make false promises to bait support from the people it victimizes.  No one ever wanted to do something good for people within government. Chris Cantwell I'm certain is a pyschic with powers that can go back into time and read the minds of everyone in government ever. Now contrast this with the private sector, which never tries to victimize people or give them an unfair shake, or monopolize a vital service and then charge exhorbitant prices for it.  The private sector is always good, and if it isn't, it'll be fixed real soon by the invisible hand of the market. Government is always bad, as we went over in #9, it can't have done any good when it also does bad.   The government, on the other hand, promises things and if you don't count all of the successes, you only have failures. So the government can only fail. Flawless logic.

Chris Cantwell knows that no one has a right to be a ruler, and though technically that argument would only apply to a dictatorship or monarchy and not a democratically elected representative because no one asserts they have a "right" to rule, his phrase is just so damn catchy and badass citing minor details like "facts" don't matter here. The real "fact" is what we're trying to do is make the state as non-functional as possible, and when we do we get to take credit for being right about the now non-functional the government is.  We're just your friendly neighborhood sabatour. You're welcome. 

7. We think we're the only ones who get frustrated

Remember that time you had a discussion on a topic you've previously discussed with someone else? Of course you don't, that just doesn't happen.  Once you've discussed something, it gets resolved immediately and you never have to worry about talking about it again. Libertarians, however, have the magical ability to distrupt this otherwise infalliable law of the universe. We actually discuss libertarianism frequently with people, and when they don't immediately buy into everything we have to say, just because it's a radically different take on a long-held principle that we're hating on as though it was the spawn of Satan and Ann Coulter, the latter of which I now can count on my side, and isn't that a plus?

Now as you know, people always begin a discussion with an intuative understanding of the other person's position and what their knowledge and arguments consist of.  If you are really into video games and think RPG's are the best, everyone will know what games you don't play so they can judge you on the merits of those games. With Libertarianism, our stupid opponents always begin at the beginning, as though they don't believe all Libertarians agree on everything.  Why should we explain to you how roads are supposed to work without government if the last person we tried to explain it to didn't automatically accept and agree with our explanation the first time we gave it?!?! We've explained why we're right already, the fact that people still disagree with us is a testament to their stubborness and stupidity. You clearly have no clue what you're talking about, so we really aren't interested in engaging with you. Now to be fair, I earlier pointed out that those kind of people are the only ones we're interested in, but to continue being fair we did agree you'd ignore all my contradictions.

The problem is you only listen to your team.  Unlike we libertarians, who always give careful and thoughtful analysis of everyone's argument. We take the time to rationally consider what people have to say, and we'd never have to write an entire article explaining why we actually don't do that very thing like Mr. Cantwell's article certainly didn't do. Confused yet? You're probably a statist.

6. Just because your choice is between Mad Max and Fallout doesn't mean you don't have a choice.

People always ask us "what if" questions. "What if once we establish a governmentless society without a centralized defense we get overwhelmed by a society that has a centralized army?" or "What if a strong economic force begins to dominate and control more power than even the government now weilds only now without any way to actually fight against it through representation?" or "What if you started taking your medication?" The answer to all of these questions is that since I'm able to answer them, that makes me free and that's all that matters.What I might believe might lead to an immensely unstable and dystopic world of poverty where you're simply trading a governmental power with a corporate power that has even less accountability to the people, a world not far off from other dystopic literatures we've invented, but now your hot dog at 7-11 is $1.00 instead of $1.06 so that balances it out.

5. Manipulation is a lot easier than teaching

All these discussions we’re having really boil down to economics. Your politicians and propagandists feed off of your prejudices and religious ideas and emotions because that’s the easiest way to manipulate you into acting against your own best interests. Kinda how in #10 we advocated using ridicule to manipulate your emotions, only it's okay when we do it. People could point out that we're hypocrites, and they are right. All Libertarians follow the hypocrite oath of "do no harm". We all know we're hypocrites, just as Mr. Cantwell is likely aware of his own hypocritical tendencies.

But yeah, if you haven't educated yourself about why we're right, then you're a loser. Just open up an economics textbook, where there is a 100% unilateral agreement that libertarians are right. It's not like there's a huge disagreement between those who think socialism is better vs. capitalism with a very small sliver of the academic scholars actually being libertarians in Mr. Cantwell's way. No need to check my facts on that, I've already done it for you and found we're correct.

5. We're the smarterest

Libertarians are smarter than everyone else. Let's take a large sampling of people, divide them by political affiliation and match the average IQ's of people who are libertarians with the average IQ of everyone else, as well as comparing it to the average IQ of indiivudal political affiliations. Actually, scratch that. That's dumb. That's what a statist would do. Instead, let's pick one organization that is really smart, like even people in the top 1% of intelligence don't get in, and let's pick about 50 of them and ask them what their political beliefs are. Then we'll cherry pick the sections where they agree with libertarians, things like wanting to remove drug laws and legalizing prostituion. Sure, liberals are for those things too, but according to Chris Cantwell this super smart society also overwhelmingly wants government out of healthcare. For example, the link he cites says "A public health care system that provides for the poor and the elderly was favored by a majority ranging from 67% to 74%".  That sounds like they are actually in favor of government run healthcare, but since they are smart people and smart people are libertarians, it must be a typo.  I mean, if it wasn't a typo that would make Christopher Cantwell at best grossly incompetent at reading data or simply lying through his teeth . . . so typo it is!

It would seem the fact that Libertarians are smarter is the death knell for all other poltiical ideologies, according to Mr. Cantwell. It makes perfect sense, after all, if libertarians are about anything they are about appealing to authority.

3. We are the only ones who feel our morality is superior

Unlike most people, we recognize that morality should be consistent. Non-liberarians recognize that their own morality is inconsistent and don't seem to care, but I'm here to inform you that's not how it's supposed to be. I know, you're probably shocked, you stupid statist. It's true though, it's better to have a consistent morality than an inconsistent one. I'll give you a moment to get over the shock.

Now notice that there are people that will say they adhere to a particular morality but are caught doing things they have earlier claimed were wrong to do. I'll only use examples of non-libertarians to further my cause. See, they do this because they have an inconsistent morality, not because they are either pretending to hold beliefs for personal gain or just simply that they aren't perfect. No, it's because their morality is inconsistent. This might not make much sense to you, because an inconsistent morality would be one that had a contraditction in it or couldn't be applied to some situations, and what Mr. Cantwell describes is people going against what is technically a consistent morality.  We might be inclinded to refer to Mr. Cantwell as someone who doesn't know what he's talking about, but we're not going to do that. Don't make me explain to you why he's always right again.

Mr. Cantwell also can't be wrong when he merely describes his morality, the non-intitiation of force, and assumes that its simplicity means it's entirely consistent. Consistently and simplicity sound like two separate ideas, but I assure you they are not. Go read another economics book, I'm sure you'll figure it out by then.

2. We're only asking for a complete revolution and destruction of the very foundation of civilization we've used since its dawn

If you'd like people to threaten you all the time, or "or have a stable society wherein there is a mutual cooperation and agreement on how to govern which protects against the disenfrahchisement of the already downtrodden" as most of your stupid statists put it, go right ahead. I mean, we think it would be a lot better if you had to pay for police services and that if you ever get sick you should just go off and die if you can't find enough charity because freedom, but whatever. If we do win, we'll allow you to submit to someone else's authority, which I'm certain will not wind up putting you into economic slavery.  I mean, if you were in a situation where you'd be force to sign a very unfair contract for a very long time or die of starvation, it wouldn't be that bad because you freely chose that. Therefore this criticism is invalid. Check and mate.

1. Whenever someone ties to harm the general populace with negative actions, after trying lots of different ways to resolve the matter peacefully you will always resort to forcing them to stop their harmful behavior

Polite discussion in politics is an illusion. Whenever somebody doesn't get their way they always force the other person to comply with their wishes. Well, assuming you don't count every election in the history of our country and the vast majority of instances where representatives voted. Okay, so maybe that's too harsh. We do at least have a system system wherein disagreements on how to proceed as a civilization are done through a civil vote that let's those in power at least be partially accountable to the people they govern, and that the system works just as it's supposed to, people actually go along with a majority rule in order to support actual stability . . . but since that's not what we want it's the worst thing imaginable.

Also, just try to imagine what would happen if people told you what to do before you voted on it. This completley different scenario isn't one you'd like is it? Ha! Gotchya! When you do something in reverse order and you don't like it that means the original order must also be bad. When you eat the ingredients for a cake and then put yourself in the oven it's just as pleasurable as if you did it the right way.

We libertarians are, surprinsgly, able to count and know that we have lower numbers. This means we're inevitably going to be forced into things, like being taxed for using governmental services instead of getting them for free, or being forced to follow through an agreement by which we purchase property from the government that we know ahead of time is taxable (or property that was once owned by the government and is still under that same agreement). Sure, we could just not participate in the government and live on our own without ever paying any taxes, but that's inconvenient. I mean, have you ever eaten a stuffed crust pizza before? You can eat it backwards.  Unfortunately, Pizza Hut doesn't accept payment in gold because they hate freedom like the rest of you. What, do you expect us to not benefit from all the things the government has helped run? Or maybe my own stuffed crust pizza? That'd take effort. We're not that principled.

We have no way of escaping this violence (and still be able to eat stuffed crust pizza). This violence of being threatened be forced to pay the amount we agreed upon by entering into the system. Really, you should be thanking us, because we really want to shoot you in the face for making us stick to our agreements. Yes, we actually believe we should be shooting you in the face for what you've done to us. So now you understand why you should do things our way, because if we ever get in the position where we can shoot you in the face for being a statist, we totally won't take it. If there's anything libertarians are associated with, it's a calm and rational reaction to problems, like completely eliminating any sense of governance to be able to buy diseased meat if I feel like it. It's just so simple, even someone who has no idea what they are talking about would think of it!

Most of you probably can't keep up with any of these points, so let me simplify it for you: You're wrong, Christopher Cantwell is right. Just believe everything he says without question, recognize how you've utterly failed your species, and move on to go work for five cents an hour in a coal mine without any saftey precautions because saving lives might hurt the bottom line. You'll probably be dead within the year, but at least you won't have Uncle Sam forcing you to have health care.

Monday, May 12, 2014

What's Your Anti-Religion?

Back in mid-2006, The National Youth Anti-War Media Campaign was authorized by Congress, and with it came a slew of advertisements discussing various people, places, and things of which their existence is responsible for preventing certain individuals from turning to or otherwise using illegal drugs. Things like music, sports, and even one's own parents were suggested as things to rely on to avoid using dangerous and addictive substances. It was a very exposed media campaign, with it's slogan still being used today in some circles, despite the specific campaign no longer receives any federal funding.

The premise was fairly straightforward: Challenge people to come up with something they love or otherwise appreciate and focus on that thing to avoid the temptations of illegal drugs and alcohol. The key to this is that each individual is asked to come up with their own anti-drug. They aren't simply informed "basketball is an anti-drug, so is long walks on the beach" because those who lack athletic skill and have sun-sensitive skin likely won't find much inspiration in those activities. In other words, people are a nuanced group who utilize things like drugs for various reasons. You can't put a violin in everyone's hand and expect drug use to crash down to zero.  However for some people, a good role model will prevent them from turning to drugs. For many people, a significant other will keep them on the straight and narrow. Still others, the camaraderie of a sports team. All of these things can replace the need for drugs in one's own life under certain contexts. That's what the ad campaign got right.

Many people can relate to this.

Religion, ironically given its purported status as an anti-drug, operates within our society in a very similar manner to drugs. While some people do accept religion mainly on intellectual grounds, the vast majority of people at least seem to believe in religion for the sake of utility. They need religion to fulfill something, be it to find purpose, structure, to alleviate fear or anxiety, or to provide a social outlet or sense of community, etc. At the very least it is these aspects which keep people coming back to the trough of religion when serious intellectual and moral problems arise within its doctrine. Much like drugs can provide their own unique social culture, alleviate pain or anxiety, and even treat legitimate diseases (or their symptoms\side effects of treatment), religion has associated with it a social and psychological dependency that can be both alluring and difficult to break away from.

It's long been held that education is essentially an anti-drug for religion. The more education you have, the less religion you will have. While not entirely going against that claim this article advocates for a slightly more nuanced view wherein education is only an antidote to some forms of religion but can actually increase religiosity in some limited contexts like religious participation, and in other contexts like belief in the afterlife it is allegedly neutral.

So is education an anti-religion? If the study is to be believed it's not, and I agree with this assessment. Education is not "an anti-religion", it's **my** anti-religion and the anti-religion for millions of people. It earned this status as something that fulfilled the only need that religion had fulfilled for me at the time: answers to life's questions about the complexity of life and the universe, answers I had previously turned to religion for and always just assumed were well established as factually accurate by the vast majority of experts (boy was I surprised!).

Education: My Anti-Religion

If, however, my entire identity had been wrapped up in religion instead of couched in the pursuit of truth and honesty then education would most likely not have been my anti-drug. If I had been gripped in the fear of my own mortality at the time of my education, that too may have prevented the anti-religious effects of college from taking hold. Or if I only had friends and relationships within the context of Christianity that too might have resulted in me never even questioning Christianity in the first place. The context of each individual will determine whether or not education will actually bring down their religiosity, which is why you see the overall effect of education resulting in a decrease worship. It's also why you don't see it working across the board, just like dropping off free sports equipment in the inner city isn't going to prevent 100% of drug use but it will significantly discourage it. 

It's also not surprising that people who are both educated and religious have a greater participation rate; people who have higher education likely don't work as many weekends and have a bit more free time than the working poor, those who overwhelmingly lack higher education. It's also not too surprising that people would still believe in the afterlife; being rich isn't going to make you immortal, at least not with current technology.

In the online forum in which I found this article, the poster took this information and drew the conclusion that religion will simply always be with us. To quote:
"Here the authors at once notice a steady decline of adherence from 1965 - 1993, but also notice a gigantic growth in evangelical churches around the same time, rising as high as +1,232%.These complexities show in reality that religion, chances are, will never go away, but ebbs and flows in complete cultural complexity. Over the course of several generations, many churches decline rapidly, but just as much others can rise just as rapidly."
This isn't quite supported by the data. Oh it's true that religious adherence has been in steady decline, and it's true that evangelical churches have been on the rise, but the more important statistic is the former: more people are leaving religion than are hitting the subscribe button on Evangelical church's metaphorical Youtube pages (do people still do that?).

Religion may never die, and could be with us until the extinction of our species, but it could also go away. How? Well, when everyone has found their anti-religion. When the reasons for religion's existence outlined earlier are either no longer needed or are grossly outweighed by alternative and more attractive measures. In the meantime various churches and theologies will spring up in order to take advantage of cultural and historical shifts, but they've been peddling the same products with the same benefits since time immemorial. Whereas earlier in our civilization's history it would have been almost unheard of to not have some form of religion nowadays many societies exist wherein the majority of people do not ascribe to a religious belief. This is due to either the removal of some of the needs for which religion provided or a competing and superior product that drew away customers from their religion dealers. Should society evolve to the point where the products of religion become entirely antiquated, should technology provide perfect prosperity and social outlet, should science provide more answers to the fundamental questions of what it means to be human and unlock a deeper understanding of the human mind, religion may very well go the way of the dodo.

When can we expect this to happen? I have no idea. As the old saying goes, atheism is a non-prophet organization.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Exposing Conservative Propaganda - Liberals Protesting Koch's 100 Million Dollar Donation

Today you may have noticed, if you happen to peruse random conservative websites or have facebook friends that do, a veritable storm of conservative outrage over a protest that occured over the weekend by groups who would generally be associated with the left side of politics.

Apparently we evil heartless liberal hippies, according to some websites, have sunk to a new low. Fox News called us WARPED, Frontpage Mag refered to liberals as insane.

What did we do to earn this ire? What has the left done that so outraged conservatives? Have we convinced mothers to abort their fully grown adult children? Have we put forward legislation to ban all forms of self-defense? Abolished the miltary while giving out free condoms and Satanic Bibles?

Allegedly, we've protested a donation of 100 million dollars to a hospital. To be fair, that's pretty bad. It's even worse than that though; we're apparently protesting it based soley on hatred of the donor, David Koch of Koch Industries. Websites like The Blaze proclaim "Here’s How Much Some Union Activists Hate the Koch Brothers". The Daily Caller runs with the headline "Liberals protest $100 million donation to hospital because David Koch gave the money"

To be honest, such a thing is truly terrible; anyone looking such a gift horse in the mouth, anyone that would deny a hospital lifesaving funds because they disagree with the politics of the donors should be ashamed of themselves.

The catch is that it's pretty much a bullshit claim.

Don't get me wrong, the donation isn't bullshit. David Koch is a cancer survivor himself and has donated prolifically over the past decade to medical research and infrastructure in a number of areas. Nor is the fact that liberals protested over the weekend bullshit. Indeed they did, including the Democratic representative of the hospital's district Ben Kallos. All that is true. There is still a very large pile of bullshit here.

When looking at the google search for Koch hospital donation as of March 11th 2014 you will see a plethora of conservative websites decrying all of what was discussed above. Out of the dozens of websites spanning multiple google result pages (yes, I went that far) there was a very consistent trend: Not a single one of them had a single quote from the protesters. Not a single one had referenced any reporter having asked the protesters why they were protesting. The closest thing to a quote came from a single tweet from one of the organizations that were present:

So I started doing some digging. I had to go multiple pages back in the google search results, farther back than I had in years, and I came across this article:

It turns out that the Nurse's union had been upset at what they perceived were changes following Koch's donation to the hospital that seemed to be anti-labor and anti-union. Whether this is the case or whether the union was overreacting to unrelated changes or occurrences we can only guess, but it seems obvious that the issues had gone back a while as the above article was from mid December. There was more to the protest than simply "Because Koch".

I had no idea how right I was.

This lead me to find that David Koch's donation to the hospital actually occured almost a year ago; it was announced on the hospitals website on April 2, 2013. So why would they be protesting a donation that occured so long ago when they've already broken ground on the new Koch Center?

Some of these conservative articles were kind enough to point out who was doing the protesting. The main "culprit" was the same Nurse's union listed in the Biz Journals artcile. The other two groups? The NAACP and another workers union.

This wasn't a protest over the 100 million, it was a protest over the influence and changes to labor that occured after the donation had been made!

I thought that would be enough. I thought that given this information there would be more than enough to tell conservatives that they needed to either modify their claims or come up with some startling evidence that it was mainly hatred of Koch that caused them to want to give up 100 million dollars.

It was so much worse than that for the conservative argument. The 100 million dollars had next to nothing to do with the protest. The Daily Kos article discussing the then upcoming protest did not even mention the 100 million, the closest thing mentioning that Koch's money goes towards hospitals already well-funded and able to give care while ignoring hospitals with heavy needs in poorer areas. The Nurse's union facebook page was silent on it too.

That's right, dozens upon dozens of conservative websites claimed liberals were protesting something they actually weren't.

Instead, the protest centered around Koch's opposition to affordable healthcare, mainly Obamacare, but other initiatives as well that would decrease availability of hospital beds. The protest also focused against the philosophy of gearing healthcare towards the ultra-wealthy, which Koch's actions support given that most of his money seems to go to hospitals that are only in wealthy areas while poorer districts are largely ignored. The only association was that the protest was being held next to the where the new hospital wing (named "The Koch Center") was being built, but also that center is two blocks away from where David Koch lives in affluent Upper Manhattan. His residence was as much of a target of the protest as the upcoming Koch Center.

You can argue against the union's politics. You can argue that they are biased. You can argue that they really, really hate David Koch. You cannot argue in good faith that this protest was simply "Because Koch" or that the only reason they didn't want the donation was because of the donor. As far as I can tell, you can't even argue that the protest had anything to do with the donation at all, let alone that it was the main focus of the event.

This isn't simply a lie, this is coordinated propaganda without any concern for the truth. Bullshit propagated to serve a political agenda focused not on human well-being but on attaining and consolidating power and privledge for people who already have more than their fair share. There is no way that this could have occurred without someone knowingly putting false information out there and not caring or perhaps even counting on it being complete and utter bullshit. No way that dozens of conservative sites all simply forgot to call up the website of the protest to see what it is they were protesting. If we are being immensely gracious to our conservative counterparts, they are guilty of terribly irresponsible journalism to the point they demonized an entire group repeatedly for the wrong reason, and twelve hours after they posted it none of those I've seen have posted so much as a mild correction let along a full retraction and apology.

What really gets to me is that we hear these "liberal horror stories" of this caliber once every few months on average. Nearly every single time, whether it is false Obamacare horror stories, or heavily edited video made trick people into thinking liberal groups were bad, nearly every time these bad stories about liberals turn out to be fake or greatly exaggerated.

Meanwhile the conservative horror stories we get on a near weekly basis are almost always confirmed to be true, whether it's new climate change denial, promotion of discredited science in the classroom, insistence on sexual education programs proven to increase abortions, unwanted pregnancies, and STD's, claiming that husbands can legally rape their wives or that rape victims can't get pregnant are even touted as strong points in conservative circles.

Go ahead and hate the democratic party, but if you are going to compare the morals and actions of the liberal and conservative movements and come up with anything less than horror when viewing the latter or understand it to be anything less than a force for repression and social regression then I do not see how you could be considered a reasonable person.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Why You Can't Be a Religious Freethinker

Look, let's be honest here. A term commonly used is a term commonly abused.  There will be people on both sides of a debate that for whatever reason misuse a term, try to advocate for a different meaning, or some other confusing endeavor which likely misses the point of either the discussion or the purpose of language in general.  This isn't always a problem, if you can define your terms clearly and avoid equivocation (e.g. someone defining atheists as those who assert god doesn't exist and then calling "weak atheists" not true atheists and really just agnostics still searching for god) then you can use terms however you'd like.  If you are misunderstanding the definition of a word or using it in such a way that it differs from the popular understanding without informing anyone of the switch, then you are causing problems or arguing in bad faith if doing it on purpose.

The term "freethinker" is no exception to this. There are people who wrongfully assume the word is a synonym for atheism, as blogger ElijiahT from Hashtag Apologetics argues in his post Confessions of a Christian Freethinker.  Elijiah cites six different sources that maintain the term "freethinker" as concerning one who holds to an epistemology based on logic, reason, or evidence (or something quite similar). This is indeed the common understanding of the term, and on some unfortunate occasions this definition is replaced and rendered incorrectly as mentioned above.

Where Elijiah first goes wrong is not including the fact that this occurrence is actually rather rare. Most people who identify as freethinkers do so for the right reasons; they hold to a specific epistemology. Even the definition from cites the specific epistemology as being the defining characteristic of a freethinker.  Those who don't understand that definition are generally in the minority, but it can often seem like a more widespread issue because very few believers in God are considered freethinkers, and this makes it easy for Elijiah to maintain that there must be some sort of bias inherent in the system:

Some attach skepticism of religious claims into the mix, but not all. It is unreasonable to say that religious skepticism is required for freethinking. If you’re absolutely required to reject the existence of God in order to call yourself a free thinker, are you really thinking freely? You’re not a freethinker unless you conform to our belief structure!’

 I don't think he's doing it purpose, but Elijiah is over-extrapolating the data. This seems to be his logic:

P1. The definition of a freethinker is X.
P2. One can use X to reach a conclusion advocated by a religion.
P3. It appears as though anyone who agrees with a conclusion advocated by a religion is disqualified by atheists as freethinkers.

Conclusion: Atheists are, en masse, misusing the term. They ironically display a lack of freethinking when declaring religious people in and of themselves not freethinkers. Religious people can and indeed should be freethinkers and there is no inherent contradiction.

This can seem sound when looking at it from very far away. If freethinking is about epistemology, then people who are Christians because of said epistemology are freethinkers and atheists just won't admit it. There must be some who follow such an epistemology, in fact what Christian really doesn't use logic in some way? Why, probably most Christians are freethinkers! Christianity seems logical and reasonable to them, after all.

But let's delve deeper.  Let's talk about two fictional people named Chris and Karen, both of which call themselves Freethinkers. They both find themselves on an island with their families, but no recollection of their past lives. After a few years living on the island, they discuss their beliefs. Karen believes in many strange things. She believes in an intangible force which binds all particles in the universe together. She believes in inperceivable energy that can penetrate the skin and damage the very fabric of a human being. She believes that there are vibrations all around us that can tell us secrets of our surroundings if we only took the time to perceive them properly. Chris believes in none of those things. He can't see these things or perceive them. The very nature of them means his immediate senses can't detect them. His father taught him to not trust such things, and so he doesn't.

Theists have long defended the virtues of faith, yet now in the face of the scientific revolution and new atheism they want to adopt the moniker of one who acts through pure reason.

So who is a freethinker here? Chris? Karen? Both? Neither? On the surface it sounds like Chris is the freethinker and Karen the woo-woo person. What you didn't know was that our hypothetical people are deaf, and the beliefs that Karen holds to are (in order) gravity, radiation, and sound waves.  Karen reached these conclusions through empirical study of her surroundings. Chris, while often following the path of the Freethinker, does so on the authority of his father.  Even though Karen's beliefs seemed to the uninitiated as far-fetched, she is the much greater freethinker. And what do we find with our friend Elijiah?

". . .secondly, because when freethinking is properly understood, I think all Christians should be freethinkers.

In Luke 10:27&Mark 12:30, we are instructed to love God with our entire mind.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:21, we are instructed to test everything and to hold on to that which is good. And if God is the truth (John 14:6), then truth is to be treasured as a reflection of God Himself."

So we have the following position: You should be open-minded and utilize logic, reason, and evidence for your beliefs . . . because the bible says so. Elijah doesn't merely maintain that freethinking and Christianity are compatible, no no no. Christians should be freethinkers "because they are instructed to be". To quote Elijiah's article "#irony".

Such irony doesn't end there, he also quotes, which defines apologetics as:

" . . . challenging believers to think and thinkers to believe”.

But what does this actually say? Believers should use more thinking, but thinkers should just be convinced to believe. Were it truly a freethinking endeavor, it would merely be "Challenging people to think". After all, if you are a freethinker and believe that you have logic on your side, all you need to do to teach people how to properly think, to properly use logic. It's further worsened by following up with an appeal to William Lane Craig, who has repeatedly defined himself as being the direct opposite of a freethinker, and has encouraged other Christians to follow in his footsteps:

"For not only should I continue to have faith in God on the basis of the Spirit's witness even if all the arguments for His existence were refuted, but I should continue to have faith in God even in the face of objections which I cannot at that time answer."

For Craig, God is the conclusion. Christianity is the starting point. If evidence supports it, then use the evidence, but if the evidence is against it, the evidence is useless and should be discarded. All because of "personal experience". If you feel like God has contacted you in some way, then this must above all else be held to; pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.  That Elijiah would quote him as a defender of Christian freethought is rather telling.

The problem with being a "Christian Freethinker" is that even in trying to establish reasons why one should be as such, an appeal to religious dogma is made. It's that ingrained. Theists have long defended the virtues of faith, yet now in the face of the scientific revolution and new atheism they want to adopt the moniker of one who acts through pure reason. Christianity entails a level of faith and dogma, entities entirely inconsistent with freethought. Even if you started out neutral to the idea of god, and were convinced with nothing but logic and reason that Jesus died for your sins, there will be a plethora of beliefs within Christianity that one will generally be required to maintain but that cannot be empirically verified. Disagree? Fine, then you are describing yourself as a faithless Christian. You cannot have it both ways, you cannot be a member of the faithful and a freethinker at the same time. To attempt to do so is to try to hijack the moniker of an objective rationalist for the purposes of bolstering your position while continuing to use non-rationalist methods when it suits you.

Could someone believe in a god and be a freethinker? Easily. Plenty of deists are considered freethinkers. Could someone believe in much of what the Bible says and be a freethinker. Maybe, but such a person would likely not be considered a Christian by most of the rest of those that refer to themselves as such. Could followers of a religion be freethinkers? No, for with religion comes dogma and as dogma comes, so does freethinking take its leave.