The Insanity of the 2nd Amendment

The recent shooting in Tucson, Arizona has me thinking about gun laws recently. I have found this topic to causing to fixate and become paralyzed with anger. I couldn’t figure this out originally. I live in Canada, have never been to the states (shut up). Why was I in such a fit every time I thought about this? And then I read one of Jerry Coyne’s recent posts and remember Greta Christina’s excellent post about atheists and anger. Anger is not bad. In fact, it is transformative and the driving force of every social movement in human history. I should be angry that innocent people die needlessly every day. So here goes some anger.

The 2nd Amendment is by far one of the dumbest laws still in existence:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

I don’t on which planet single individuals constitute a “well regulated militia.” The statistics are no better: This is depressing and enraging.

  • In 2007, guns took the lives of 31,224 Americans in homicides, suicides and unintentional shootings. This is the equivalent of more than 85 deaths each day and more than three deaths each hour.(1
  • On average, 33 gun homicides were committed each day for the years 2002-2007.
  • On average, 46 gun suicides were committed each day for the years 2001-2007.
  • A federal government study of unintentional shootings found that 8% of such shooting deaths resulted from shots fired by children under the age of six.(2)
  • Abused women are five times more likely to be killed by their abuser if the abuser owns a firearm.(3)
  • Firearm-related deaths and injuries result in estimated medical costs of $2.3 billion each year – half of which are borne by U.S. taxpayers.(4)

This is the tip of the iceberg. And their problem is becoming Mexico’s and Canada’s. However, the mentality of the States (at least some of them) is that more guns equals safety. This is blatantly false. When comparing ownership levels by state and gun deaths we see correlation. And the US is not the only place where this is visible. Although there is more of a correlation between suicides and gun ownership than murders and ownership(bottom of page 4).

One thing that is for certain: I’ll be looking at these numbers when I start hear back from employers.

And why on Earth is it easier to buy a gun in some states than it is to buy pharmaceuticals (and cheaper) or contraceptives?

Unfortunately, I doubt gun owners are going to be convinced by statistics, and this is why anger is needed. We need passionate responses to cowardly acts of murder, not more guns. We need family and friends to help and intervene to saved loved ones. We need everyone to stand up for what is right for all citizens and to the defend those who cannot defend themselves.

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Why are we funding Homophobia?

My former high school board Halton Catholic Board has decided that gay-straight alliances are to be banned because they are against the churches teachings. What progressive movement isn’t against the churches teachings?:

“We don’t have Nazi groups either,” rationalizes board chair Alice Anne LeMay. “Gay-straight alliances are banned because they are not within the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

“If a gay student requests a gay-straight alliance they would be denied,” she says flatly. “It’s not in accordance with the teachings of the church. If they wanted to have a club outside of school, fine, just not in school.”

Why is it every time some social conservatives talk about gay rights they have to mention Nazis or doing drugs? Of course LeMay thinks her comments were taken out context. Here’s the context: you banned something because it had the word “gay” in it, and when asked about it, you mentioned Nazi groups, thinking that this was going to be newsworthy.

There are so many reasons why this story is disappointing and upsetting:

1. Haven’t we gotten to the point where it’s obvious that this is not a choice and that people who are gay are in no real way different from people who are straight.

2. Why are we calling the board out on all the other teachings of the church they ignore? They don’t ban divorce students from attending school. They don’t ban children born out-of-wedlock. They don’t ban children whose parents use contraceptives or had vasectomies or tubaligation. They don’t ban tattoos or students who have premature sex. There are more examples.

3. This is school board, an organization that is supposed to create an open environment for learning. From their press release on the matter:

​The Halton Catholic District School Board has always been and continues to be committed to the safety and well-being of all of our students. We have and will continue to provide a number of supports to all students, including dialogue groups that focus on inclusion, to ensure that each student feels safe, respected and is free from any form of persecution in our schools. Our priority is to promote equity, inclusion and respect for the dignity of each human being in our system.

Then you have failed your priority. You have made gay students feel isolated and denied them a support group in a potentially hostile environment. You have shown that your desire to appease a god, who can’t be bothered with the simple task of demonstrating his existence, is more important than these students’ safety and well-being. You have removed one of the most powerful tools is fighting gay discrimination in our schools. How dare you say have their interests in mind.

4. Finally, the fact that this is a publicly funded school board is a disgrace. We are allowing government agents to teach gay discrimination based on superstition from an archaic book writing thousands of years ago by desert wandering. This needs to stop.

A simple analysis of 2007-2008 financial information for Ontario Education System demonstrates just under 32% of students are enrolled in the Catholic boards(Page 9) and just over 32% of full time administrators (FTA) are employed by the Catholic boards(page 9). So let’s say that 32% of the 19+ Billion dollars went to the Catholic boards. That’s approximately 6 Billion dollars. Now not all of this is spent on Catholicism.

Of this 32%, 33.35% of students were enrolled in high school and the rest, and 36.67% of FTA are in the high schools and rest in elementary schools. Let’s say this means 35% of the original 32% is spent on high school and 65% on elementary school. So of the 6+ Billion, 2.1 Billion went to high schools and 3.9 went to elementary schools.

The average high school student must take one religion a year out of 8. The average elementary school student is involved in (let’s say, I can’t find appropriate hour totals) 2.5 hours out 25 a week. There are a lot of religious assemblies and in some years (grade 3 eucharist and grade 8 confirmation) there is a lot more time per week. So 10% is not unreasonable. (If someone could point me to actual number because I am going off of memory, that would be great.) So the grand total spent on teaching religion in 2007-2008 school year was 650+ Million dollars. That is far too much money for complete horseshit.

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Dear Charles Lewis: You call that thinking?

You need to back to school. Holy Post has a lovely piece about how we, atheists, don’t really understand religion or believers, and by lovely I mean something closer to “go fuck yourself”:

You know who they are: Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins and the rest of their dreary crew who are out to prove how stupid religious people are.

I’m wondering if Charles Lewis has even read these books. The general premise is not to prove how stupid religious people are but to prove how stupid religious ideas are. They ask that we treat religious belief in the same way we treat every other idea in the world. I don’t believe Buddha, Genghis Khan, or the avatars of Vishnu were born of a virgin. I don’t believe Mohammed flew to heaven on wingéd horse. I don’t believe in wizardry, magic spells, or flying reindeer. I don’t believe in Zeus, Wotan, Thor, Athena, the Easter Bunny, or Unicorns. And neither do must people.

But there are many Christians who believe Jesus was born of a virgin, walked on water, rose from the dead. The real question is why do you believe such things. There are only a few such reasons, and none of them are reasonable: The Bible or some authority figure told you it was true. And I shouldn’t have to tell you why these reasons are mindless.

He continues:

But the [perennial debate between atheists and believers] is useless for one simple reason: most atheists do not have a clue what religion is about. They see religious people as blind sheep following a series of incomprehensible rules and dogmas and then scoff at their lack of enlightenment. They find the flaw in the painting and say it is all now ruined. Atheists are utopians who believe a perfect society can be built if only religion was not in the way.

I’m almost positive Mr. Lewis is familiar with the recent Pew Research Center’s Religious Knowledge Survey. So, we know about the religions (on average). He must mean we don’t understand the esoteric revelatory nature of religion, because the physics of walking on water and the biology of raising the dead are well understood, and no, not from the bible. But here’s the thing: Why would I understand something personally revealed to someone else if there is no objective way to determine its veracity besides revelations? I could tell it was revealed to me that potatoes can talk, but if I can’t demonstrate that “fact”, you shouldn’t believe me.

And since when are atheists utopians?:

Religious faith is, precisely because we are still-evolving creatures, ineradicable. It will never die out, or at least not until we get over our fear of death, and of the dark, and of the unknown, and of each other.–Christopher Hitchens

That sounds pretty non-utopian to me. I know that humans are not perfect, I try not to persecute them for making understandable mistakes which is more than I can say for the bible.

Finally,

Atheists are under the ridiculous illusion that religious people think that all they have to do is call out to God and help will be on the way. If it were so, Jesus never would have gone up on the cross. The crucifixion is not a contradiction and the anti-religious cannot get their heads around that. Faith is not the avoidance of trouble, it is facing it head on and then finding holiness.

No, we believe that if you claim prayer works (or make any positive claim), you should be able to demonstrate that it is more effective than placebos or doing nothing, which it’s not. Also, Jesus went up on the cross because he (allegedly) decided he wanted a blood sacrifice of himself to himself for sins he knew were going to happen as a result of his own creative perfection(?).

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Religious Privilege and Roxanne’s Law

It’s been awhile. I’ve had job applications and thesis work. Hopefully I’ll be able to get to previous posting levels.

Roxanne’s Law is a proposed amendment to the Criminal Code of Canada. For some context, Roxanne Fernando was a 24 year old women who was murdered by her boyfriend when she refused to have an abortion. While I agree that the sentiment of this bill is good, the substance of the bill is just religious privilege.

My biggest problem with this bill is when reversing the main points it’s the strategy of every anti-abortionist out there:

The bill would allow pregnant women to press charges when they find themselves facing coercion to abort. Such empowerment could prevent coercion from escalating to violence like it did with Roxanne. Ideally, it would act as a deterrent to coercive behaviour in the first place from boy friends[sic], husbands and families.

Because we all know that no one has ever forced a woman to carry an unwanted baby to term. See Daigle v. Tremblay. It’s the opposite of the Roxanne Fernando case without the murder. No special laws concerning abortion and forcing a woman to term were enacted as a result of this trial. So why should any special laws be enacted for this case? Although, the supreme court did rule that the fetus does not have rights according the the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in this case.

The Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada does a fabulous job of tearing this bill a new stoma.

This bill is at best redundant and at worst a nightmare for women in Canada.

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Where are all the liberals?

Not surprisingly the democrats fucked upped the midterm elections. Everyone saw this coming from a mile away. Since then I have been contemplating a few things about politics and politicians who are left leaning:

What happened to all the liberals who would stand up for a women’s right to choose? Or affirmative action? Or responsible immigration policy? Or many other civil rights?

The current democrats seem to be the most feckless, undirected, incoherent political party in the world. They let the minority dictate both houses. Although the senate dysfunctionality seems to be ridiculous nature of the filibuster. They let anti-choice members of their own party dictate the structure of the healthcare bill which shows how toothless they are. They never seem to run on what they have accomplished even if the list is huge.

I think the democrats need a better house whip; The republicans house whip works fairly well. Hell, I even miss the republican liberals. I do not know enough about Nixon’s entire presidency to say whether he was good or bad for the US or the world. However, his environmental and civil rights policies, including the clean air act, the desegregation of schools, and ending the Vietnam war, were all significant.

So please liberals, stand up, have some spine. You are in the right more often than the party of “no” and “no new ideas.”

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Religion and Politics

These are the strangest of bed fellows. This is not a recent trend, but it is still one I can’t stand. It has become even more prevalent in the states due mainly to the Cordoba Islamic Centre in New York (aka the “Ground Zero Mosque” or the “World Trade Centre Mosque”).

Politics Daily has been interviewing politicians about their religion and the Cordoba Islamic Centre in New York. I have two major problems with this. Knowing a person’s religion tells you nothing about how they are going to vote on certain important issues like the economy or healthcare. Even if they tell how they are going to vote it is not uncommon for them to change their mind, especially when it comes to taxes or the economy after a change of power.

My second issue with this concept is that it elevates religion in constitutional matters. It really shouldn’t matter what a candidate’s religion, the constitution (of any healthy country) should separate church and state.

All religion seems to do in politics is reinforce the us vs. them mentality. What I see when a politician using religion to court votes, I see a pandering asshole who realizes his arguments couldn’t hold water.

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Does Scalia even read his speeches beforehand?

This article about Scalia is full of contradictions and oddities. It begins with the following:

Scalia outlined a long list of Christian beliefs that he said are greeted with derision by the worldly — dogmas including Christ’s divinity, the virgin birth and Christ’s resurrection.

Does this mean that Scalia is other-worldly? And I keep hearing how atheists are the arrogant ones.

The article continues:

The Catholic justice cited a story in The Washington Post that described Christian fundamentalists as “poorly educated and easily led.”

“The same attitude applies, of course, to traditional Catholics,” Scalia said, “who do such positively peasantlike things as saying the rosary, kneeling in adoration before the Eucharist, going on pilgrimages to Lourdes or Medjugorje and — worst of all — following indiscriminately, rather than in smorgasbord fashion, the teachings of the pope.”

Scalia said believers should embrace the ridicule of the world.

“As St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians,” he said, “we are fools for Christ’s sake.”

Scalia noted that Christ described his followers as sheep and said no one will get into heaven without behaving like “little children.” Scalia warned, however, that reason and intellect must not be laid aside where matters of religion are concerned.

“Assuredly, a faith that has no rational basis is a false faith,” Scalia said.

In a sarcastic reference to cult leader David Koresh, he added: “That is why I am not a Branch Davidian.”

Where do I even begin? First he asks catholics to embrace every teaching and policy of the pope no matter how ridiculous. Then, he says this shouldn’t be done uncritically. This is a complete dichotomy. He is not a Branch Davidian because they cannot demonstrate their claims.

However, the Catholic Church is no different. How exactly would you prove transubstantiation or the immaculate conception. I could go on indefinitely about the beliefs of the Catholic Church.

The oddities continue:

It isn’t irrational to accept the testimony of eyewitnesses to miracles, Scalia said.

“What is irrational,” he said, “is to reject a priori, with no investigation, the possibility of miracles in general and of Jesus Christ’s resurrection in particular — which is, of course, precisely what the worldly wise do.”

Scalia cited the 10-year-old case of a priest in the Washington archdiocese who was said to have the stigmata. Statues of Mary and the saints appeared to weep in his presence. Reporters for The Washington Post did a story and were unable to find an explanation for the strange phenomena.

Eyewitness testimony is the most worthless form of evidence. So, yes it is irrational to accept it without supporting evidence.

We don’t reject Jesus’s resurrection because no evidence has been provided to suggest it happened except a book. Provide credible evidence and we’ll believe. Stigmata and weeping statues? Really? The weeping statues that the Catholic Church has accepted or verified is tiny. Why is the church the only one who can determine if the statue isn’t a fake? They allowed the Shroud of Turin to be tested, which showed it’s a fraud. As for stigmata, there are more likely psychological issues related to self-mutilation.

Finally,

While he may take his personal faith seriously, Scalia told The Catholic Review he doesn’t allow it to influence his work on the high court.

“I don’t think there’s any such thing as a Catholic judge,” Scalia said in an interview with the newspaper of the Baltimore Archdiocese. “There are good judges and bad judges. The only article in faith that plays any part in my judging is the commandment, ‘Thou Shalt Not Lie.’”

Scalia said it isn’t his job to make policy or law, but to “say only what the law provides.”

This is a complete load. Scalia has actually said the cross represents all dead not just Christian dead:

Justice Antonin Scalia responded that the symbol in the context of a war memorial carried a more general meaning. “The cross is the most common symbol of the resting place of the dead,” he said.

Mr. Eliasberg said, “There is never a cross on the tombstone of a Jew.”

Justice Scalia, who is usually jovial even in disagreement, turned angry. “I don’t think you can leap from that to the conclusion that the only war dead that that cross honors are the Christian war dead,” he said. “I think that’s an outrageous conclusion.”

This is just another example of Christian privilege.

(Sorry about the lack of posting lately. I’ve had thesis work and marking to that has taken most of my time lately. I’ve haven’t even had time to go grocery shopping. I’ve been living off of peanut butter and jam sandwiches for the past few weeks.)

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Mmmmm…Sacrilicious

Is the Catholic Church so desperate for members they’re willing to claim fictional characters as members? Apparently so. I wonder if they glazed communion wafer.

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The Hypothetical World and the Catholic Church

Tim Moyle has the latest anti-abortion screed over at Holy Post. It’s an exemplar of the Catholic Church’s way of thinking. Take a position and never change your mind no matter what new information comes to light, or apologize 400 years later.

The piece goes on to say:

Yet [anti-abortioners] do not stop. Indeed they believe that they cannot quit trying to inculcate what Pope John Paul II called a “culture of life.” For them, the issue of abortion is not a question of choice; it is a matter of life and death. Just as William Wilberforce was indefatigable in his crusade to end slavery in the early 19th century, spurred on by his moral conviction that change would eventually come, so too are the partisans of the anti-abortion movement inspired to continue their efforts for that they see as an equally righteous cause on behalf of the most vulnerable in society, the unborn.

The “culture of life”? In the Catholic Church? Is this not the same organization that spreads lies about condoms in the fight AIDS and HIV causing more infections? The same organization that condemns parents for using in vitro fertilization and deeming such children to not be fully human? A process that has created 4 million new lives on this planet. (And somehow, for going through such a process you are deemed selfish. While the result of a broken prophylactic and a drunken gropefest is deemed better.) I could go on indefinitely.

The analogy is also completely off. Slavery was the standard and no longer is. Abortion was not the standard, and in some countries is still not the standard.

If you’re going to be mad at someone for abortions, maybe you should take note that up to 50% of pregnancies end in miscarriage and large portions of these the mother is unaware that she’s pregnant.

Moyle continues:

We also fight for cause of life because those promoting abortion and euthanasia are a threat to all citizens. Do not think for a moment that in this “culture of death” the disabled, the sick and the dying will not lose their status as full human beings.

You mean in the same way in vitro children lose their status as full human beings? Abortion has been legal in Canada since in 1969, and in 1988, it became completely unrestricted. The number of abortions per year has been decreasing since 1998. If abortion is banned, women will lose their full human status as well. But this doesn’t seem to bother the anti-abortion movement.

Euthanasia is not legal in many parts of the world but the areas where it is legal the life expectancy of the nation or state is at least in the high 70′s to 80′s. (See life expectancy based on country and US States, and legality of euthanasia.) So in these cultures of death we have some of the highest life expectancies in the world. Whereas, in countries that have high restrictions on abortion there is a low life expectancy and high gender gap. Now of course, correlation does not imply causation. However, abortion rights and respect for women both legally and socially are undoubtably linked.

But the Catholic Church not understanding reality is a shock to no one. This is one of the major problems of living in a hypothetical world where you ignore the consequences of your decisions.

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Stupid Questions

And don’t tell me they don’t exist; This isn’t kindergarten.

A few blogs I read wrote about the importance of asking the questions. The art of asking questions is an important tool in learning new information. However, there has always been a class of questions that has annoyed me: This class is the “why?” class. The perennial favourite of children and the religious. (One day I may share the story of how, as a child, I was the second most annoying child at Hallowe’en using questions.)

Not all why questions are stupid, but a large number of them are. The major problem with this type of question is that it is asked far too early in a discussion or academic endeavour to have any significant meaning, or it is unanswerable.

For example, “why does the gravity exist?” Physics is working at resolving questions about gravity. If and when this is done, we can then consider the above question. However, asking such a question is completely loaded. What is even meant by such a question? Are we to take it that gravity has some intent or specific purpose in this universe? If it is the affirmative, what possible purpose is gravity suppose to have? Surely, these questions, if answerable, will be answered by information obtained by physics. As such the question is essentially pointless until more is known.

However, the dumbest question I’ve ever heard is “why are we here?” The only answer to such a question is “because your parents decided to have sex and the condom didn’t work.” Any other answer presupposes that humans have a specific purpose in this universe. A purpose that has never been demonstrated to any human being or to many humans. These humans never seem to have the same message, their messages are never verifiable, and of course, never to be questioned even though they never wrote these messages. So can stop asking this absolutely ridiculous question?

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