More on Christian Parenting

Yesterday I posted about Adrian Peterson’s use of conservative Christian ideology to justify abusing his child.  The issue is still on my mind, so I thought I would follow up with another post, this one not directly related to the Peterson issue, but perhaps more frightening.

I decided it would be appropriate to have a discussion about the moral issues surrounding Peterson’s actions with my students.  One of them (and of course for the sake of anonymity I will not reveal names or even class sections) said that she had been raised in a strict Christian home, and that corporal punishment had been frequently resorted to.  She is young and I’m assuming single, but she said that when she has children of her own, she will be sure to spank them.  The reason for this, she said, is that she thinks it is important for children to fear their parents.

Fear?  Really?  I would rather have my children respect me, which is not the same as fear.

Again, I am not accusing all Christians of supporting child abuse — not by a long, long way.  But as I suggested in my last post, within the fundamentalist section of the Christian community, there survive some really archaic — and reprehensible — attitudes regarding women and children.

Christianity Used to Justify Child Abuse

Certainly everyone has heard that Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings has been indicted for child abuse.  Pictures of the child can be found online if anyone wants to see fisthand the severity of the abuse.  But what is also notable is that Peterson is using his version of Christianity to justify his despicable actions, and has even said that by interfering, the public is “usurping” God’s role.  So God was on Peterson’s side as he beat his four-year-old child with what has been described as a “switch,” causing injuries to the boys back, buttocks, legs, ankles, and scrotum, along with defensive wounds to the boys hands.

I am not accusing all Christians of endorsing such nonsense, but many fundamentalists do, and it makes me think that they are removed by a very small degree from Islamic fundamentalists.  If it had not been for cultural and historical forces such as the Enlightenment and the Rights Revolutions of the twentieth century, they would be exactly the same as their Muslim counterparts.

In any case, let’s hope the NFL does the right thing and starts to expel abusers, like Peterson and like Ray Rice, the Baltimore Ravens receiver who cold-cocked his then fiance, from the league.

Learning Must Move Over for Indoctrination

So the other day my daughter, who is just starting fifth grade, brought home a form for me to sign.  It had to do with religious release time.  I could indicate that yes, I want her to participate, and select a church, or indicate no, I did not want her to be involved.  I chose the latter.  But the more I think about this, the more bothered I become.  We spend how many millions of dollars on public education, and then everything has to come to a screeching halt once a week so some kids can be removed from the classroom, taken to a church (or temple or mosque), and indoctrinated.  Meanwhile, the kids who remain in school are not allowed to actually learn anything, because that would constitute an unfair advantage vis-a-vis their church attending peers.  Is this irrational, or what?  If parents want their children to go to church, why not just take them on Sunday, or Wednesday evening, or whatever?  Why must public schools halt their important work for this nonsense?  Certainly, this is an unreasonable intrusion of religion into secular affairs, and thus a violation of the first amendment.  What does everyone think?

Interfaith Dialog – What’s the risk?

While we are waiting for a chance to start our conversation with the Community Presbyterian Church, I have been contemplating what it might be like, what we might find ourselves discussing other than the things I think we should be discussing and whether there are risks to our group and our perspective in this dialog. I started writing all these thoughts down and commenting on the thoughts of others on the notion of common ground with the religious and, finally, exploring some of the ideas of Chris Stedman as the designated atheist speaking on behalf of an interfaith dialog with the believers. Stedman has a large number of detractors including PZ Myers and it is worth considering their critiques of his position as well.

This turned into a small disaster as I discovered the post was getting enormously long. I realized no one would read the whole thing or watch the extended video in which the topic is discussed at a conference in Australia. So this is a somewhat trimmed down version. It’s still too long I guess, but I can’t see breaking it up into pieces.

Continue reading

Boghossian responds to Vischer

A while back I posted a link to a podcast/video produced by Phil Vischer who was the original developer of the loathsome Veggie Tales, a kids cartoon show intended to indoctrinate them in fundamentalist christianity. In that link Vischer and his minions were supposedly providing a review and critique of Peter Boghossian’s new book, “A Manual for Creating Atheists”. They seemed not to have understood the book and declared that they were the smart ones who knew what faith was about. I didn’t agree.

At the time I thought it would be interesting, but unlikely, that Vischer would actually engage in a discussion directly with Boghossian. Apparently others thought it would be an interesting conversation too and Vischer responded after a few months by actually inviting Peter to participate in one his podcasts where they would discuss their differing ideas about faith and its “virtues”.

The video of this podcast is provided below and it is an interesting listen. It seems to boil down to Peter trying to get Vischer to use language more precisely and not confuse faith with trust or confidence. If they all mean the same thing, then faith is just confidence or trust without the evidential quality that the other two words carry with them. This seems to mean that faith is a poor cousin as it were of the other two words, but Vischer claims it is actually the best of the lot…but without evidence. I wasn’t able to concentrate fully on this at my initial listen, so I’ll have to relisten to see if there is anything more to the argument. It is a civil discussion and interesting in that regard at least.

If you have the time and patience to listen carefully, it makes me think a bit about having this kind of discussion with the Presbyterians. Some day perhaps. It also seems to be a good example of how Boghossian can engage in a Socratic dialog around another person’s faith claims and get them to start the glimmer of doubt. Peter doesn’t convert Phil in this podcast, but it was interesting to see how his questionning led Vischer to begin to refine his language a bit. They didn’t get to the end of the dialog by far, but maybe Boghossian will return to continue the conversation. I will have to check once in a while.

I REALLY Don’t Like Stupid People

NatGeo Wild, an affiliate of National Geographic, is a fairly new channel I discovered, and quite possibly one of the last hold outs from the encroachment of reality shows onto educational networks (Nat Geo Wild does have two reality shows that I know of, but they both focus on veterinarians.)

One of their shows, “Stranger Than Nature” focuses on bizarre happenings in the natural world, such as the Sailing Stones of Death Valley.  The one I saw the other night focused on, among other things, the Montauk Monster.


Strange isn’t it?

This bizarre thingy washed up on the shores of–you guessed it!–Montauk, New York in July of 2008.  People were immediately freaked out by the appearance of this alien creature washing ashore mere miles from the Plum Island Animal Disease Research Lab, and many were positive that it was some kind of captured alien or mutant hybrid created by the government.

It’s a raccoon.

I want to be clear that “Stranger Than Nature” did not buy into the hysterical hype surrounding the beastie, they declared Case Closed at the end of the segment, and then moved onto a case about an elderly Swedish woman killed by a moose, but what got me were how many morons stepped forth to proclaim “I’ve never seen anything like this!”

Really, Gweedo?  Forgive me if I don’t take the word of a “Jersey Shore” reject seriously.

Even now, people look at the hairless corpse and beaky mouth and say “That ain’t no f**king raccoon!”  Blissfully unaware, I guess, that hair and the soft tissues of the mouth are some of the first things to go when a body decomposes.  “But wait, there’s more!” the dumbass witnesses paraphrasingly shout, “The corpse disappeared.  If it’s just a raccoon, why would someone take the body?”

Gee, good question.  What could possibly explain a body that washed up on shore suddenly vanishing?  Secret government agents?  Aliens?  Secret alien government agents?  Waves?

“No!  Not a raccoon!” they still shout, “Notta, notta, notta raccoon!”




Who’s Lying, Who’s Self-Justifying – Our Monthly Meeting on August 26, 2014

The program at this meeting moved away from topics associated with religion and atheism. We ventured into the sphere of skepticism and critical thinking in the difficult area of sexual communications. Claims of sexual assault are often embedded in a cloud of ambiguities and our reactions are frequently based on preconceptions and deeply embedded beliefs for which we seek confirmation rather than face conflicting evidence.The speaker was Carol Tavris who is a psychologist. She made her presentation at the The Amazing Meeting (TAM) in Las Vegas this summer.

The consensus was that this was a very good and thought provoking talk. Leave your impressions in the comment area.

Taking a Bite Out of Educational Television

Last year, the Discovery Channel stirred a firestorm–or maybe a Sharknado–of controversy with its docufiction “Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives,” which kicked off last year’s Shark Week.  As the title implies, this fake documentary posits “evidence” that the Megalodon, a truly gigantic shark that grew to over 60 feet in length and fed on whales 28 to 1.5 million years ago, is still alive and attacking rental boats off the coast of Africa.  With help from doctored photos, misinformation and actors, Discovery convinced millions of viewers that the largest ocean-going predator ever to walk…um…swim the Earth was back with a tourist munching vengeance.

Not to be outdone, they topped themselves with two more docufictions this year, “Megalodon: The New Evidence,” which reminds me forcefully of Animal Planet’s “Mermaids: The Body Found” and “Mermaids: The New Evidence,” and “Shark of Darkness: Wrath of Submarine,” which focuses on modern folklore of a 30-foot great white stalking the people of southern Africa.

The docubullcrap on Submarine was particularly chilling.  As with Megalodon, they treated the whole thing as a serious matter, even when claiming that this particular shark had learned how to prey almost exclusively on humanity by teaching itself to breath while holding still (so as to beat our sonar).  As obviously fake as that is, they once again fooled millions into thinking a giant shark with the mental sharpness of Sir Isaac Newton was stalking Africa’s “Shark Alley.”

So what are the facts?  Not many: it isn’t impossible that a great white shark could grow to thirty feet–the longest on record being twenty-three, keeping in mind that we don’t really know how big they can get–but the odds of a shark getting that large are rather unlikely.  As for Megalodon, it died long ago.  A mixture of climate change, competition from the newly evolved pack-hunting orcas, and a sudden drop in its prey stocks led to its downfall.  The mockumentaries claim that it could have moved into deep water to hunt giant squid–similar to the sperm whale–but there is no evidence Megalodon could even survive the pressure of those depths.  What’s more; Megalodon’s hunting grounds were tropical shallow seas, it would have had to evolve, not only a different physiology to hunt like this, but another personality as well.

Even if it did, if giant squid routinely wash up on shore, there’s no reason to believe a 60-100 foot shark wouldn’t.

Why am I so angry over this?  Because it’s the fucking Discovery Channel!  I know I shouldn’t have expected much, this being the same network that’s been overdosing on motorcycle mechanic and nudist Survivorman shows, but I couldn’t help but hope that at least freaking Shark Week would be free of bull-crap.

Well, we lost the History Channel, Animal Planet only runs truly educational television (like “Big Cat Diary” and “Crocodile Hunter”) early in the morning, and now Discovery is unapologetically citing ratings as an excuse to run bullshit (did I mention they were defending themselves for this blatant lying?) so I guess I’ll just have to accept that educational television is dead; it was killed by the cable network god called Ratings and its loyal followers, dumbass Americans.