Stop using shitty arguments about veganism

I’m not particularly talkative about my veganism. I’ve never been much of an activist for any cause (I refuse to count posting facebook links as activism). I prefer to do my best to be rational about my opinions and ethics and let my life speak for itself. It certainly doesn’t help that “pushy vegan” is a common cultural trope (and, let’s be honest, silencing technique) that I would rather not play into. So, generally speaking I just do my thing and try my best to ignore the overwhelmingly meat-obsessed culture around me.

But the thing is, I don’t just hate needless animal suffering. I also hate shitty, irrational arguments and I find it really hard to shut up and let people make them. Exposing shitty arguments is part of the reason I’ve written for Crocoduck (the rest of my reasons are the sexual favors and casual Fridays). So, I feel compelled to discuss the shitty, irrational arguments about veganism. I say about, not against, because the bread knife cuts both ways, and I find shitty arguments in favor of veganism to be every bit as rage worthy as the ones against it. [Read more…]

Ben Affleck VS. Sam Harris and Bill Maher

Ben Affleck is enjoying some social media flattery after butting heads with Sam Harris and Bill Maher last week.

This is the kind of conversation that I actually have a difficult time taking sides on. I definitely don’t have the stomach to support Affleck’s wide-eyed version of reality, where mainstream Islam preaches gender equality and tolerance. That’s just not the case.

But I also have a hard time with westerners foisting their value system on other countries. So, it bothers me when people like Harris and Maher argue that we need to promote change within another country’s society.

That being said, I would probably end up sitting on the Maher/Harris side of the table.

At the end of the day, Maher and Harris are arguing for human rights and Affleck is simply calling everyone racist, which doesn’t really address the issue.

If you think I’m an idiot, let me know in the comments. Seriously. I’ll happily change my stance if the argument is solid.

Slavery is bad, m’kay?

I can’t believe I even need to say that.  But there it is.  A Christian acquaintance recently objected to my criticisms of the Bible.  (For context, I posted this image.)

A few days later, hallelujah!  A rebuttal was posted, explaining that slavery in Biblical times was more “indentured servitude” than slavery, and that slavery in the Bible wasn’t such a bad thing, really.  Biblical slavery was like being part of the family!  (No, seriously, there are actually people who say this.)

Now, to be fair, in the Old Testament, there were two types of slaves – Hebrew slaves, and slaves taken from other nations.  The laws governing the ownership of Hebrew slaves were significantly more humane than those governing Gentiles owned by the children of Israel.  For instance, in Leviticus 25, there is a clear contrast between the two classes of slaves:

Hebrew slaves:

39 “‘If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and sell themselves to you, do not make them work as slaves. 40 They are to be treated as hired workers or temporary residents among you; they are to work for you until the Year of Jubilee. 41 Then they and their children are to be released, and they will go back to their own clans and to the property of their ancestors. 42 Because the Israelites are my servants, whom I brought out of Egypt, they must not be sold as slaves. 43 Do not rule over them ruthlessly, but fear your God.

Gentile slaves:

44 “‘Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. 45 You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. 46 You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.

See how that works?  You must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly, and you can only keep them for six years.  Anyone else?  Whatever.  Yours forever.  Pass them down to your kids as an inheritance.  SWEET.

But, but… it was like being part of the family, right?  It wasn’t a bad life for those slaves, right?  Silly atheist, you’re confusing slavery in America with Biblical slavery – two totally different things!

Ahem.

20 “And if a man beats his male or female servant with a rod, so that he dies under his hand, he shall surely be punished. 21 Notwithstanding, if he remains alive a day or two, he shall not be punished; for he is his property.(Exodus 21:20-21)

Huh.  I don’t know about you, but being beaten with a rod isn’t acceptable treatment in my family, regardless of whether my “smiting” puts me in a morgue.  Should I die immediately or a couple of days after the beating, I have a feeling our judicial system would view it as something slightly more problematic than a property loss for my assailant.  And — I’m gonna go out on a limb here — even if I fully recovered from this figurative beating, it would still be legally actionable.  Because, you know, BEATING SOMEONE WITH A ROD.

Historically speaking, slavery was never a super awesome situation (for the slave, anyway).  Theologian William Barclay, in his study of the letter to the Ephesians, examined the historical context in which Paul’s epistles were written:

…basically the life of the slave was grim and terrible. In law he was not a person but a thing. Aristotle lays it down that there can never be friendship between master and slave, for they have nothing in common; ‘for a slave is a living tool, just as a tool is an inanimate slave.’ Varro, writing on agriculture, divides agricultural instruments into three classes—the articulate, the inarticulate, and the mute. The articulate comprises the slaves; the inarticulate the cattle; and the mute the vehicles. The slave is no better than a beast who happens to be able to talk. Cato gives advice to a man taking over a farm. He must go over it and throw out everything that is past its work; and old slaves too must be thrown out on the scrap heap to starve. When a slave is ill it is sheer extravagance to issue him with normal rations.

There’s a lot more where that came from, but you get the idea.  If not, allow me to sum up: SLAVERY BAD.

Assertions that attempt to minimize the injustice and outrage of slavery in Biblical times are not just silly – they’re dishonest.  They require a blatant disregard of clear Biblical texts and historical evidence.  You can’t truthfully dodge the issue of the Bible’s failure to condemn owning human beings as slaves.  And if the only way you can defend the Bible’s track record on slavery is to lie, you’re hardly in a position to rhetorically stick it to militant lady-atheists like me.

Pascal’s Wager is for Chumps.

Over Easter weekend, I noticed my social media news feeds were peppered with several variations on a theme of “Happy holy days to my Christian and Jewish friends, and uh, atheists… GOOD LUCK.”  In other words, “Hoo boy!  Prepare for a rude awakening when you die, unbeliever!”  Thanks, concern trolls!

These hilarious best wishes for unbelievers’ eternal repose strike me as a lowest-common-denominator reframing of Pascal’s Wager.  The internet being what it is, the holy perspective is couched in veiled threats of damnation.  “That good luck I wished you?  IRONIC.  You’re gonna burn in hell.”  Pascal was slightly more subtle, but his point was very similar.

Pascal’s logic, nutshell-style:

Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. (…) If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. (…) Wager, then, without hesitation that He is. (…) There is here an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain, a chance of gain against a finite number of chances of loss, and what you stake is finite. And so our proposition is of infinite force, when there is the finite to stake in a game where there are equal risks of gain and of loss, and the infinite to gain.

Well hey, that makes sense, right?  If the religious folks are right, they get to go to heaven and we fry.  If they’re wrong, they lose nothing, or at least, it’s a very finite loss. Except for one minor quibble I have: it’s not entirely honest. [Read more…]

Cardinal Turkson Thinks Being Gay Is A “White Thing”

Peter Turkson

This man is, apparently, one of the top candidates to become the next Pope. So, it seems only appropriate that we run him through the ringer.

Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana might make history by becoming the first black pope. Ironically, he doesn’t seem to understand segregation. Being gay, for example, is just a white thing according to Turkson. I guarantee that if a white cardinal said “being meek is a black thing,” then we’d have Jesse Jackson appearing on CNN faster than I could find the power button on my remote.

In a recent interview with CNN, Turkson was asked about pedophilia in the Catholic church. His answer came in two parts:

  1. The pedophile scandal is really just a gay scandal.
  2. It’s a white thing, so Africa won’t have a problem. Because, again, being gay is just a white thing.

This is the same person who defended Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill, which is often called the “Kill the Gays” bill.

Wait, if being gay is a white person’s problem, why do we need an anti-homosexuality bill in a country populated primarily by non-white people?

Also, Turkson mentioned that hatred toward homosexuals is rooted in African tradition. I guess it’s important that we stick to our roots. Though, I bet he wouldn’t defend tradition so heavily if America re-instituted its tradition of enslaving black people from Africa.

I honestly don’t know what to exactly make of this mess. The church does an excellent job of ignoring that “loving your neighbor” stuff that Jesus was always talking about, but Turkson seems to be completely ignoring all of the racial hate and segregation that we’ve spent centuries undoing.

Recently it seemed like we were making forward progress when it came to the church. Obviously, it wasn’t happening quickly, but still. Pope John Paul II was completely outspoken in his opposition of apartheid. Even Pope Benedict XVI said that the usage of condoms by male prostitutes could help reduce the “evil” in the act. I don’t know about you, but that sounds a lot like “I don’t agree with condoms, but it might help reduce the risks of sex when these damn kids engage in the activity.” And now, when a black Pope may be elected, we take this gigantic step back. There’s no digging for hidden agendas or interpretations in these words. It’s pretty clear what Turkson is saying.

What a shame. I actually started to have some faith in the Catholic church for a change. Just goes to show you what happens when I start to trust the church.

Time For Lent? We’ll Just Give Up Something Trivial Instead Of Giving Back

Lent, the time where we must give up something for 40 days and 40 nights because Jesus did the same in the desert, has begun.

Personally, I think that he and Satan just chilled, sun bathed, and drank mead. But that’s just me.

All of our Facebook feeds have undoubtedly been exploding with people proclaiming what they’re giving up. But seldom do you ever hear of someone giving back for Lent.

Let’s go back in time, shall we? It was the 90s and I was a young boy, attending Sunday school on Thursday nights as was mandated by the powers that be in Massachusetts. Whenever Lent was coming up, we were told that we had two duties: First, we had to give up something we normally love for 40 days – typically something completely trivial. It was easy to live without chocolate or Nickelodeon for a few weeks. However, we were also told we would have to do something kind for 40 days that we wouldn’t normally do.

Why the hell don’t we hear more about this particular Lenten ritual? Why is everyone so anxious to give something up, but never willing to lend a hand? Sure, Jesus refrained for 40 days, so we must do the same, but Jesus was also a pretty nice fellow. Haven’t you read the Jefferson Bible? It’s a book about this guy who did a lot of really nice things. His name was Jesus of Nazareth.

Jesus taught people to love everyone and treat them equally. He didn’t teach people to refrain from chocolate for 40 days once per year. It’s a shame this isn’t a Lenten ritual we hear about more. If it were, I might also consider refraining from meat every Friday. Though, there’s something about taking a bite into that Friday steak that makes me feel like I’m sticking it to fisherman everywhere.

Plus, I’m sure Jesus and Satan shared burgers every Friday with their mead.

Creationism Has Merit

Jesus Creationism

I’m always a little confused when I run across a reasonably intelligent human being who also believes in creationism. Today, for example, I found an article by Ed Reep, a senior at Rutgers University. Rutgers is a good school, right?

Either way, Reep argues that, by providing evidence for god, he can set the stage for an easily-proven case for creationism.

In order to show the merit of creationism, I must first show that belief in God has merit, which is a far easier task. God’s existence, after all, is the best explanation for any supernatural phenomenon that might exist, so in order to reasonably demonstrate the existence of God, all I would have to do is reasonably demonstrate the existence of supernatural phenomena.

Wait. What?

How do we know that god’s existence is the best explanation for supernatural phenomenon? And which god are we even talking about? I have a preference for Jove, the Roman equivalent of Zeus, but I somehow doubt that Mr. Reep is talking about my beloved Jove. [Read more…]

Creationists Honestly Don’t Understand Humility

Eric Hovind - I know Everything

Eric Hovind has been clamoring for attention ever since he inherited his father’s creationist kingdom back in 2007. Typically, his attention-grabbing antics are simply misguided stabs at logical thought and a series of witless one-liners. It’s pretty entertaining to watch, which is why I follow his Twitter account.

But a couple of weeks ago, Hovind tweeted a little nugget of stupidity that’s a perfect metaphor for one of the major flaws in the creationist perspective; they’re genuinely confused by the concept of humility.

Hovind Tweet - Humility

Hovind’s comments were directed at Alex Botten, a British artist and podcaster, who recently goosed Eric with the following tweet:

Boten Tweet - Humility

The two of them, Hovind and Botten, have a bit of history together. “He’s sore that across several debates on the Fundamentally Flawed podcast, myself and my colleague Jim Gardner moved from stumbling bafflement to being able to confidently refute everything [he] said,” Botten told me via email. [Read more…]

A Missouri State Representative’s Attempts To Redefine Science

In a bizarre, albiet unsurprising, bit of legislation, Missouri State Representative Rick Brattin is attempting to recast the definition of Science so that it includes faith-based philosophies. Here’s the actual wording:

‘Scientific theory,’ an inferred explanation of incompletely understood phenomena about the physical universe based on limited knowledge, whose components are data, logic, and faith-based philosophy.

Obviously, Brattin is attempting to sneak creationism into the Missouri school system, but he’s doing it with a refreshing level of bravado. Most politicians try to mask their creationist nuttery in scientific lingo, but Brattin just whips out his balls and waves them in our faces:

If scientific theory concerning biological origin is taught in a course of study, biological evolution and biological intelligent design shall be taught. Other scientific theory or theories of origin may be taught. If biological intelligent design is taught, any proposed identity of the intelligence responsible for earth’s biology shall be verifiable by present-day observation or experimentation and teachers shall not question, survey, or otherwise influence student belief in a nonverifiable identity within a science course.

But redefining science isn’t enough for Rick Brattin. He wants to make sure that equal time is given to each position, so the bill requires that “course textbooks contain approximately an equal number of pages of relevant material teaching each viewpoint.”

Normally I wouldn’t be concerned with Brattin’s antics, but Missouri is right next door to Tennessee and Bill Haslam, the Governor of Tennessee, recently allowed a bill that would open the door for creationism. Plus, Louisiana lives in the neighborhood, and those guys are a bad influence.

Source: Ars Technica

Boy Scouts Are Reevaluating Their Anti-Gay Policies

Good news, everyone; the Boy Scouts of America, an organization that is known for its merit badges and bigotry, is reevaluating its national membership restriction on homosexuals. Deron Smith, the organization’s spokesman, explained that this wouldn’t necessarily remove the restriction, but would leave the decision up to the local branches. So, if you’re a gay scout from Arizona, you’re probably still banned.

“The BSA is discussing potentially removing the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation,”  Smith said in an emailed statement. “This would mean there would no longer be any national policy regarding sexual orientation.”

Unfortunately, the ban still stands if you don’t believe in their imaginary friend, Jesus. “(The Scouts) still have an aspect that excludes certain religions, and atheists,” said Scott Santen, an Eagle Scout who has become active in an alternative organization that was formed in defiance of the Boy Scouts’ social practices. Though, Santen also added that lifting the ban on homosexual members is “a first step.”

Just so we’re clear, this ban isn’t being lifted because of any newfound religious doctrine that recognizes homosexuality as legitimate. Religious organizations don’t make ethical strides on their own merit. They are dragged, kicking and screaming into modernity, and they never quite catch up.

So, yes, this is a necessary first step. Just like it was 50 years ago, when the rest of the country took it.

Source: STL Today