Fighting Against the Trump Presidency: The Environment

While I tend to focus on general topics on this blog, I’m trying to post resources this week on how to focus your dollars, activism, and efforts on reducing the harm from this year’s election. This will be a multi-part series of short entries, focusing on a variety of causes that you can get involved in to mitigate some harm.


Jeremiah Traeger

Jeremiah Traeger

We have been missing milestone after milestone to curb global warming, and we need to take action as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the Donald Trump presidency will not only undo the minimal gains we have made recently, we will actually go backwards. This is terrifying, as this is something we urgently need to take action on.

Our President-Elect really does think global warming is a hoax (yes, he lied in the debates).

His only “solution” is advocating clean coal, a dubious prospect.

Donald Trump has tapped Myron Ebell to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, who flat-out denies that climate change exists.

Trump is looking to step out of the Paris Climate Agreement as soon as possible.

And under a Republican-led congress, Trump could do serious damage to climate change research funding, NASA funding, as well as slashing regulations to curb carbon emissions in the United States.

We are behind on preventing climate change from doing serious damage. We need to reduce our fossil fuel usage as much as possible and get off coal. We need to transition as much as possible to other energy sources, such as hydrogen, solar, and wind energy. While we transition to that, we can utilize nuclear fuel to have an efficient energy source that, while it creates waste, is much more containable than gaseous emissions. These will not only help reduce emissions, but help the United States become energy-independent and not rely on Middle-East relations for a reliable fuel source. This need to be done globally, in partnership with other nations.

How Can I Help?

Unfortunately, this is very difficult to address on a global scale, but you can still help by contacting your representatives when needed. It is their job to listen to you. Pressure them every opportunity you can to help protect the environment.

Joining the League of Conservation Voters will help you keep up on these issues. You can donate to them and participate in actions with them to help educate the public on this deeply important cause.

You can also take basic steps to reduce your carbon footprint. If it’s within your means to do so, consider putting some effort into changing your behaviors and lifestyle to have a low-footprint life. One of the best ways to do that is to reduce your meat intake. Livestock and Agriculture accounts for about one-fifth of carbon emissions. Beef is one of the worst offenders, requiring ~28 times more land than the average livestock category. Even if you can’t eliminate meat from your diet, consider reducing it. You can set aside eating meat during certain days of the week, or eliminate beef from your diet. Small steps help!

If it’s within your capabilities, you can also:

-Install LED lights in your house, which will be more efficient.

-Make sure your tires are inflated to make sure you get the most out of your gas tank.

-Reduce your driving time, by carpooling or biking.

-Stop relying on the AC, put on an extra sweater or jacket and turn down the heat by a few degrees.

-Unplug your gadgets from the wall, as vampire energy drains a surprisingly large amount every day.

Aside from that, there are a couple defense funds that you can donate to EarthJustice to fight environmental-based legal battles. You can also donate to the Natural Resources Defense Council to advocate for environmental campaigns and fight similar legal battles.

Please feel free to share this piece with others who are concerned with relevant issues.


Fighting Against the Trump Presidency: LGBTQ Issues

While I tend to focus on general topics on this blog, I’m trying to post resources this week on how to focus your dollars, activism, and efforts on reducing the harm from this year’s election. This will be a multi-part series of short entries, focusing on a variety of causes that you can get involved in to mitigate some harm.


Jeremiah Traeger

Jeremiah Traeger

During the Republican National Convention, Donald Trump promised to help the LGBTQ community. In context, though, he only did this by throwing another marginalized group under the bus – Muslims. He linked the Orlando shooting to Islamist terrorism (a dubious connection), and promised to protect members of that community by championing policies and lists rooted in anti-Muslim bigotry. If you’ve spent any time listening to the LGBTQ community, you’d know that this isn’t a comfort to a majority of them. In fact, most of them are downright terrified of Trump being in office.

Trump has stated he will sign the First Amendment Defense Act, which would allow discrimination against LGBTQ members of society under the banner of “religious freedom”.

Donald has also expressed support (and to be fair, also opposed) for bills like HB2, which are authoritarian laws that dictate which bathrooms we can use, targeted at transgender individuals.

Furthermore, if Trump really wanted to show that he cares about queer and trans folk, he would not have accepted Mike Pence as his Vice President. It’s almost the joke that Trump needed to check off all the boxes on bigotry and he wasn’t homophobic enough, so he used Mike Pence to round off that ticket. Pence is terrifying for queer and trans issues.

Pence has advocated for diverting money from HIV/AIDS research to focus on conversion therapy, or in other words, torturing gay people into not being straight anymore. It should go without saying that this is an ineffective treatment.

He voted against the Employee Non-Discrimination Act, and opposes it calling it “wages war on religious freedom in the workplace.”

Pence opposed the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Pence has signed a bill allowing a COMPANY to cite its own religious beliefs as a defense when being sued by a private party, leading to potential discrimination against LGBTQ folks.

Under this presidency and with a conservative congress, LGBTQ folks are currently worried about many issues. If a Scalia-like judge is appointed to the Supreme Court, this puts Marriage Equality in Jeopardy. It also puts into question whether transgender rights will be upheld in future court decisions.

On a legislative level, repealing the ACA is terrifying because LGBTQ folks are at risk for discrimination or loss from providers. Sexual orientation and gender identity may not be protected classes nationwide.

RFRA-like bills in certain states also have a history of abusing and misusing “religious freedom” to infringe upon the rights of LGBTQ folk, and this will be exacerbated under this current administration.

Trump could easily overturn a few executive orders as well. These include undoing an order preventing federal contractors from engaging in anti-LGBTQ discrimination, an order protecting LGBTQ in HUD-funded programs, and an order requiring public schools to treat trans people equally.

If you want to help, you can volunteer your time at a local organization that helps homeless youth (the LGBTQ community is disproportionately affected by homelessness). You can also seek out your local PFLAG organization and get involved with them, and learn how to help as an ally.

If you have money that needs to be given to people, you can send your money to the above organizations. There is also the Trevor Project, which is a suicide prevention group with a hotline that focuses on LGBTQ issues (their number is 866-488-7386). There is also Trans Lifeline (877-565-8860), which works the same way but specifically for transgender folks. You can support the Transgender Law Center, which fights legal battles specifically for transgender individuals. Another way to help is by supporting document changes for trans people, like this GoFundMe.

I should also throw in that I’m currently a part of the American Humanist Association, and looking forward to a project making shelters more trans-inclusive. The AHA is here, and they have an LGBTQ alliance specifically applying humanist principles towards making the world a better place for queer and trans people.

Also, simply make sure to reach out to your queer friends and family, and show that you appreciate them. Listen to their concerns, and be available for their needs.

Please feel free to share this piece with others who are concerned with relevant issues.

Fighting Against the Trump Presidency: Free Speech

While I tend to focus on general topics on this blog, I’m trying to post resources this week on how to focus your dollars, activism, and efforts on reducing the harm from this year’s election. This will be a multi-part series of short entries, focusing on a variety of causes that you can get involved in to mitigate some harm.


Jeremiah Traeger

Jeremiah Traeger

Donald Trump is threatening to be, with no exaggeration or hyperbole, the most anti-free speech president we’ve ever had. I will debate anyone on this. The only reason we shouldn’t be concerned is when he is unlikely to fulfill his campaign promises (which is admittedly often, since he rapidly changes position and often takes positions that are unenforceable).

Among the things he has done –

Donald has threatened “closing parts of the internet”

Donald has threatened to “open up” libel laws to sue the press.

Trump is no stranger to SLAPP suits, which are frivolous lawsuits which penalize people who have valid criticism but do not have the resources to defend against a false libel suit.

He completely misunderstands the First Amendment and thought that protesters against him were violating his free speech.

He has removed press members from covering his events with no explanation.

He wants to deport Colin Kaepernick for expressing dissent against America.

He has stated that the FCC should fine a journalist for insulting him, as well as threatened to sue a PAC critical of his behaviors against free speech.

A consistent theme in his behavior both in the campaign cycle and post-election has been to show a blatant lack of transparency of the press. Furthermore, while he may be too incompetent to carry out any real harm, his current cabinet pick behavior makes me worried that he will pick someone out that will be capable of doing such things.

What can I do?

Consider being a regular donor to the American Civil Liberties Union. They have defended a variety of free speech issues. Unlike our orange overlord, they have supported people’s right to protest the ACLU. Consider being a contributor to the work that they do?

You can subscribe to a print newspaper, such as the New York Times or the Washington Post. Seriously. Right now, the media relies on a news model that is based on “clicks”, which exacerbates skew and causes people to share unreliable sources. Print media is far more balanced, and with the rise of the internet it has been harder and harder to get reliable reporting. You can help by supporting this medium.


Related Piece: If the Alt-Right Actually Cares About Free Speech, they Need to Ditch Donald

Please feel free to share this piece with others who are concerned with relevant issues.


Nationalism is Mankind’s Worst Religion

Jeremiah Traeger

Jeremiah Traeger

No Religion Required, as you well know, prides itself on speaking out against religious bigotry and privilege of all stripes. Religious harm clearly poisons our everyday life, and it doesn’t take much effort to understand why. I don’t speak at all for No Religion Required, and I don’t pretend to, but in my mind there is clearly a strain of religion that is worse than any other, and its name is Nationalism.

Make no mistake, while it’s an ideology that masquerades as a secular one, it takes no work at all to see that adherents follow it on a supernatural level. In America, we have our own deities and they are known as the founding fathers, and we appeal to them in times of vehement disagreement as if they are on our side at all times. Like the gods of old, they had massive moral failures. They owned slaves. They raped slaves. They kept women in their place. But like the gods of old, we overlook them with the excuse of “historical context” and treat their word as gospel. And if you don’t bow to their infinite wisdom or even acknowledge their ideas as anything other than sacrosanct, then you are easily dismissed.


[Image: The American Flag with the sun shining from behind, forming the image of a cross]

Nationalism has its ministers, but here we call them politicians. They are able to spout off whatever they want and their adherents accept it as the gospel truth. No need for fact checking.

Nationalism has its martyrs. When a Christian is killed, Christians claim the victim as someone who died for their Christ. When a soldier in the military is killed, any redneck can claim them as their own and say they died for any right that’s convenient at the time, including the right to harm another.

Nationalism has its own hellfire. Instead of “think of your eternal soul”, though, it’s “think of the women and the children!” This can be used to justify anything. Should we go on a reactionary war that lasts decades? Should we lock up people possessing small amounts of substances and call them criminals? Should we withhold civil rights from anyone who isn’t a straight cis white male? Under the “American way of life”, these are all justified under the flimsy excuse of protection. We shouldn’t treat this country like an experiment, we should keep it as it has always been so we don’t have to risk our children’s lives.

Religions have xenophobia, but Nationalism exacerbates it. Christianity has its chosen people against the Amalekites, and Islam has its chosen people against the Jews. But in Nationalism, the chosen people are the citizens, who have divine importance over anyone else. Who is the problem? The Japanese! The Chinese! The Russians! The Syrians! The Mexicans! Theistic religions have the advantage that their racism is more subtle and a thing that can be swept under the rug, while Nationalism is blatant. This may make you think that the problems of Nationalism should become more apparent, but this is not the case. No, under Nationalism, this bigotry is embraced. And any time you question it, you are a heretic to the country.

Like other religions, Nationalism changes to suit who it fits. This allows people to decide what a “true American” is, not unlike a “true Christian”. Politicians are allowed to mold this concept over so they can address the true Americans. These dogwhistles allow the congregation to try and make the nation as close as it can to it’s true self, which occurs at the expense of anyone who falls outside that ideal. Anyone who addresses true America is “speaking their mind”, and anyone outside that follows a hidden agenda. They are agents of the deceiver, and they are working against this ultimate crusade for heaven.

This is so pernicious, that even those who find themselves on the opposite side still have to capitulate to it. Unless pacifists and revolutionaries say “god bless America” at the end of every speech, or talk about how great of a country it already is, then they might as well be destroying everything good about this nation.

And don’t even think about speaking out against it. If your country bombs someone else and you have the audacity to question it, then you hate its martyrs that we call soldiers. The same will happen if you criticize the president in times of struggle. You can’t say anything about its flag. Did you sit down in class while the rest of your class swears a loyalty oath to that symbol? Prepare to be publicly shamed and re-educated. Did you take a knee when someone sang a hymn to bombing our enemies? It doesn’t matter if you are doing it because you think the country is treating its citizens inhumanely, you are criticizing the nation and shaming the martyrs! This will not be tolerated.

Nationalism is worse than religion, because it can co-opt any religion it wants as part of its cause. Think of all the Conservative Catholics, the Conservative Baptists, the Conservative Mormons, who consider each other to be heretics, yet each is engaged in divine struggle for the Lord on high. They co-opt their faith into their politics to steer the country on their own holy mission. Think of the Islamist states in the Middle East who tie their country to the words of their holy books and the words of their Imams. Think of the crusades and every holy mission that a country has used to justify bloodshed.

Unlike religions, in America at least, nationalism has the force of law behind it. The Steven Andersons of the world can praise the death of 49 queers and allies being slaughtered, but he doesn’t get the resources and the laws to help him do that more. Meanwhile, your senator can turn your tax dollars into bombs and use it to destroy innocents. If a church tries to tell you where you’re allowed to pee, you have the freedom to avoid the building. When the church twists the governor’s arm, however, then you aren’t safe behind closed doors. When something has the word of law on its side, no matter how immoral or unethical, it can be treated as the gospel truth. Especially if it’s because “we are a Christian nation.”

Last week Nationalism won.


[Image: A bronze, nazi belt buckle with the words “Gott Mit Uns” over an eagle resting on a swastika. The words in German translate to “God With Us”. Source: Wikimedia Commons]

I vow to criticize bullshit in all its forms until my dying breath. Bullshit comes in many forms, and it’s vile and pernicious in the form of religion. Religion gives a pass to evil under the false guise of morality, it gives a pass to nonsense under the mantle of faith, and it gives authority to people fucking us over for personal gain. And we’ve let it do it again.

I’m a millennial. Fascism, nationalism, and racism were a part of the history books when I was growing up. I was taught that there would still be evil people doing evil things and that I would have to deal with that, but prejudice was supposed to be a thing behind us. I suppose I was deeply mistaken. We’ve been passed the buck to try and see if it works for this generation. Think it will work this time around?

I’m not going to stop fighting. I’m never giving up hope. I just hope that global warming doesn’t solve the problem of man’s inhumanity to man first.

Hope After Donald Trump


Sylia Gray

On the late evening of November 8th and the following early morning, many of us good Americans, and perhaps the people of the world, were deeply alarmed by the incoming presidency of Donald Trump. Many of us are understandably worried, frightened, upset, angry, confused. And these emotions are natural and justifiable. We are humans.


I’m writing this message because I want to inspire hope, because we have imminent big problems that will come during the next four years under Trump administration. Sulking and crying and being angry about this 24/7 is not going to solve anything. I don’t think it’s healthy for us and will not do us any good. It’s okay if you want to take some time to grieve for this nation, because right now, that’s what I’m doing too. But at some point, we need to get back on our feet, get our act together, and do something to fight back. We’re talking four years of an impending disastrous national (and possibly global) nightmare. It will be hard. I know. But Trump’s victory is beyond any one person’s control. What can I or any one person do about it? What happened on election night has already happened. I can’t think of any way we can go back to change the outcome of this election. The only thing I can think of that we can do is go forward by not worrying about the things outside of anyone’s controls, which only leads to failure and stress. Ever since I heard the news on election night and all through the following day, I’ve been asking myself “Is there a silver lining to all of this?” What about looking for things that are within our control? Things we can do individually and collectively to cope and survive the imminent hell that’s coming? I am truly inspired by many people in our secular and LGBTQ movement. We are fortunate to have many warriors in our movement such as Callie Wright who inspires me through the activism she does to fight for her rights and the rights for all of us. I’m inspired by David Smalley, Jerry DeWitt, Bobby and Ashley Cary, Morgan Stringer, Jeremiah Traeger, Ari Stillman, Trav Mamone, Ishmael Brown, too many names to name in our community who actively support and fight for our cause, whether it’s women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, freedom of (and from) religion, equality, Humanism, etc through podcasting and social/political activism.


[Image: A worn-out American flag, where the colors have faded and the stripes are tearing apart]

The Trump administration will bring us a rough four years ahead that will undeniably challenge us over our rights and our freedom. It will feel like we’re stepping backwards. But for every one step backwards, we, as a nation, have to get our acts together and push ourselves to take two steps forward.

Donald Trump is just one man. He is not a god. He does not have god powers or any kind of super human abilities. He is just one man who happens to be rich with enormous influence and privileges, and now has executive powers. But underneath all that, he is still just one man. He may use whatever executive power he will have against us. But, I believe that the moment his administration begins, there will be powerful forces gaining strength and momentum from all over the country that will work against Trump beyond his control from day one. I refuse to be a victim of a Trump administration! We don’t have to be a victim of Trump’s administration! I want to be a part of this force! We can all be a part of this force and lend every ounce of strength we can to it to make it bigger and stronger.

For those of us who are Bernie Sanders supporters, it is truly regrettable that he did not get the nomination for president that we believe he rightfully deserves. And as a Bernie-crat myself, I have a tremendous amount of love and respect in my heart for that man for who he is, what he’s done, and what he stands for. And I want to do everything I can to keep his revolution alive. I believe his revolution is not over. Far from it! He passed the baton onto us. And now it is up to us to take that baton and finish the job that he started. As Trav Mamone says through their humorous Bernie Sanders impression on their and Morgan Stringer’s BiSkeptical podcast, this revolution truly will be bigger than Donald Trump’s small hands. And I believe that this revolution can be a BIG part of all those forces that will be at work against Donald Trump on day one of his administration. We may be defeated for now, but if we want to win in the end, we need to get ourselves back up and keeps our hopes up. Stop all infighting, set our differences aside, and come together. Division is poison to our movement and it will kill us!






What Obama’s Conversation With Bill Maher Says About Privilege

Jeremiah Traeger

Jeremiah Traeger

Recently, our current president Barack Obama held an interview with Bill Maher to discuss a range of topics, from smoking to the nuke-happy carrot with corn hair that is running for president. Among the things brought up by Maher, an outspoken and famous atheist, were the rights of atheists and agnostics in America. He mentioned some of the current statistics on atheists in congress, and how we deserve more representation. As a supporter of Obama, the president’s response somewhat disappointed me.

“You know, I guess — my question would be whether there is active persecution of atheists. I think that there is certain… well, I think for a candidate… I think you’re right, that there are certain occupations — probably, most prominently, politics — where there would be a bias against somebody who’s Agnostic or atheist in running for office. I think that’s still true. Outside of that arena, though? You seem to have done alright with your TV show… I mean, I don’t get a sense… to the extent that they’re boycotting you, it’s because of your other wacky views rather than your particular views on religion…

…I think the average American, if they go to the workplace, somebody’s next to ’em, they’re not poking around trying to figure out what their religious beliefs are.”

This is an excerpt. You can read and watch the entire exchange on the topic here, it’s well worth your time. Obama definitely advocates some good ideas regarding religious culture and how we should curtail it. It’s just that… I’m disappointed with this particular statement.


[Image: Barack Obama and Bill Maher have a conversation seated next to each other]

Obama certainly had good reason to acknowledge that at the very least there is some discrimination against atheists in the political arena. Maher’s statistics aside, discrimination against atheist politicians hit the mainstream this year when it was revealed that a member the Democratic National Convention had conspired to out Bernie Sanders as an atheist. It’s clear that merely being a member of the “atheist” category in politics is perceived as smear-worthy. In fact, according to Gallup, atheists are a religious category (within the categories polled in the survey) that the least amount of people would vote for in America. 40% of respondents stated that they would not vote for an atheist, which was a higher rate of disapproval than Muslims, gays/lesbians, and women (38%, 24%, and 8%, respectively). The only group that had it worse than atheists was the socialist category, which 50% of respondents said they would not vote for.

Political statistics aside, the rest of Barack Obama’s statement leaves a sour taste in my mouth. He comes across as dismissive to the concerns of nonbelievers, and the best evidence he has to support what he says is merely Maher’s success. I find this to be a remarkably empty response. This is almost to say, “Well, atheists can’t have it so bad, since you did so well!” This is incredibly ironic, coming from a president of African descent. I live in his country where people on the right will often state that there is no more racism in America since, after all, we have a black president. This is a terrible argument for anyone who thinks about it for more than a second, and it’s disheartening to hear it not only used against me, but it’s also disheartening to hear it from the first person I voted for president.

Obama’s words here lack substance in the same way that there is faux-skepticism regarding how other marginalized groups are treated. Like the laypeople who insist that racism no longer exists, there are those who will flat-out assert that there’s no discrimination against women anymore. In August, the Pew Research Center released a poll asking people whether they thought women still had obstacles for achieving equal access to society. 63% of women polled stated that they felt that there were still obstacles, while only 34% of men agreed. Such is often the case when members outside of a marginalized group are blind to the everyday sub-par treatment of those who are in that group.

In fact, it’s not hard to find evidence of discrimination against atheists in society, even outside of the political sphere. The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) regularly protests violations of  the first Amendment’s separation of religion and government, and a large proportion of these violations are within public schools. Looking just at the examples FFRF provides, this includes prayer by school boards, disallowing freethought clubs while allowing religious clubs, the teaching of creationism, Bible distributions, Church meetings at public schools, prayers at graduation, forcing children to state the pledge of allegiance, mandatory prayer, overtly religious music in schools, religious fliers being sent home, “See You at the Pole” gatherings, and promotion of religious baccalaureate services. In every one of these cases, teachers in public schools across America overwhelmingly tend to side with those who are religious over those who are not. And for those nonbelievers who do challenge these violations, they face severe social consequences. Such was the case when in 2012 high school student Jessica Ahquist challenged a poster hanging in her public school making explicit references to a “heavenly father”. She was subsequently bullied by her school and her hometown, to the point of receiving death threats.

Atheists are judged as untrustworthy and immoral in general. It has been demonstrated through multiple studies that atheists are frequently viewed as people who would engage in immoral acts. Another Pew Study finds that in the United States a majority of people believe that someone has to believe in a god to be moral, which  is not true of any of the other developed nations within the study. A study by psychologists at the University of British Columbia and University of Oregon found that atheists are one of America’s most mistrusted groups, and in certain situations are roughly as trustworthy as rapists. Is it any wonder that there are atheists that are afraid to be out, particularly within the Bible Belt?

These are a couple of examples, but I could go on. I could talk about young atheists getting kicked out of their parents’ homes for expressing nonbelief, which Dogma Debate has set up a fund for. I could talk about atheists losing custody of their children. I could talk about how atheists aren’t trusted to do charity, such as when a soup kitchen turned down atheist volunteers or when a Children’s Home refused to accept over $28,000 from an atheist. I could talk about atheist advertisements getting turned down from billboard companies. I could talk about the atheist leaders I’ve watched who have had difficulty getting the right job because they were public figures associated with atheism. These and more forms of discrimination happen regularly in the United States. As someone who keeps up on religion based news regularly, I see this a lot. But as a Christian who is keeping his mind busy by running a country, Barack Obama is likely completely unaware.

In that case, could we attribute Obama’s ignorance on this issue to his privilege as a religious person? To be clear, while he certainly lacks white privilege (unlike me), he has the distinction of being a Christian just like 75% of the country he leads. No matter where he goes in America, people will value his faith*. He will never be discriminated against for having the “wrong” religion. While people will say terrible, awful things about him and threaten to have him assassinated, it will never ever be because he is a Christian. Were he a middle-class worker in America, he would never be treated poorly in the office because he’s a Christian, and in a job interview his faith would likely be seen as a bonus if he were to bring it up. He would never feel the fear that I and many other atheists have felt in disclosing their nonbelief in the office environment.

Privilege is sometimes hard to recognize if you have it, and it’s not a problem that only Obama has. It’s difficult to recognize that you may have unearned advantages in society, especially if despite these advantages you have everyday difficulties. If you aren’t part of a group that is marginalized, you don’t see the effects your privilege has on everyday life. Even if you are someone who is willing to recognize that you have privilege, it’s hard to know where that privilege lies unless someone brings it to your attention. I suspect this is the case with Barack Obama. It’s hard for me to blame him when he has the entire country on his mind, but his ignorance still exists, and that’s still a problem.

Barack Obama is not going to read this blog post, and that’s fine. The people who will read this blog post, however, are atheists, and they are likely aware of these many forms of discrimination they could potentially face. I would like them to consider how dismissed they felt when Obama said these things. If his words bother you, then maybe this is a chance to look at yourself in relation to other marginalized groups and how you view them. If you’re white, consider what it means to a black person when someone says “Black people have equality now, we have a black president.” If you’re male, consider how meaningless it is when someone says “there’s more women in college than men.” If you’re an atheist who is aware of the discrimination and bias we face everyday, then you should be more sensitive to the disadvantages of others, not less.**

Part of being a humanist and a skeptic is recognizing our human biases, and correcting them. If you can recognize Obama’s ignorance in his statement, then you should recognize that you likely have similar ignorance for other issues as well. I’m frequently appalled at how terrible many atheists are about speaking up for other marginalized groups, considering that atheists as a group also lack certain privileges. Perhaps Obama’s mistakes here can help inform us. From there we can move forward.

While I have been very critical of this one mistake that my president made talking to Maher, this was one problem in an overall positive message. In the rest of the segment, Obama did emphasize that we should not value people because of their religious beliefs or the lack thereof.  Not only does our president speak well of the separation of the church from the state, he makes it clear that in America that people of no religion at all should be treated as equals in social situations, not just legal ones. I appreciate that he mentions that here, and I’m happy that he has mentioned us in past speeches to the nation when he wasn’t talking directly to a left-leaning figurehead. I thank him for that. And because of that, I will end this piece on what I think he did get right.

“We should foster a culture in which people’s private religious beliefs, including atheists and Agnostics, are respected. And that’s the kind of culture that I think allows all of us, then, to believe what we want. That’s freedom of conscience. That’s what our Constitution guarantees. And where we get into problems, typically, is when our personal religious faith, or the community of faith that we participate in, tips into a sort of fundamentalist extremism, in which it’s not enough for us to believe what we believe, but we start feeling obligated to, you know, hit you over the head because you don’t believe the same thing. Or to treat you as somebody who’s less than I am.”


*Granted, not the conspiracy theorists who still think he’s a Muslim from Kenya.

**Keep in mind, the struggles of atheists are not the same as those of women or people of color. There are certain aspects that we can compare and contrast, and we can learn from each others’ struggles, but to draw equivalence between them would be a mistake.

“That’s Just, Like, Your Opinion, Man!”

Jeremiah Traeger

Jeremiah Traeger

I’m going for a short one today, in an attempt to get back on schedule for two posts a week!

It’s become apparent that one of the things this blog addresses is discourse, whether it’s conversation between two skeptics, or between a skeptic and a non-skeptic. You can find plenty of disagreement everywhere, but I certainly hold a higher standard for the skeptic side of any conversation, which is why I’m more likely to nitpick the skeptic and point out the flaws in their discussions. Even if the non-skeptic is way off base, I expect that out of someone to be more off base if they aren’t basing their worldview on evidence based methods.

One of the worst rebuttals I see between skeptics is something that should be referred to from now on as the appeal to “that’s just your opinion, man!” This is not an omnipresent rebuttal, but it is common and inane enough that it’s somewhat worth spending a few paragraphs discussing.

Usually this comes in the comments of an opinion piece, after a strong stance has been vigorously defended. Yes, opinions are subjective, and a position that benefits the person making their case may not be beneficial for someone else. But after this, some random passerby will feel that it’s necessary to point out that it’s merely the author’s position, and that not everyone will agree.

Fucking duh.


[Image: The Dude from the Cohen Brothers’ film, “The Big Lebowski” gives a sour look in a bowling alley]

We live in an age of information and the average person now has an unprecedented social reach. Not only can we instantly shout out everything on our minds to hundreds of people at once on a variety of social media platforms, we now have media such as blogs and YouTube channels for spreading our messages far and wide. It’d be nonsensical if we didn’t. The problem appears to stem from the idea that in front of every blog post or in every YouTube video there is an implied statement that says “based on my best information up to this point, I would like to make my case here.” And some people aren’t charitable enough or they are too dense to overlook that and state the obvious.

This also often goes for calling people “posturing” when they share their positions online, to smear someone as narcissistic or as an idealogue who thinks they have all the answers to everything. I can see why it’s easy to fall into that trap. Whenever I come across someone that I violently disagree with in a post, it’s easy for me to slap the “arrogant” label and leave. Even if that’s true, my problem seems to evaporate when I add the implied addendum to their statement. This benefits both parties, as they aren’t dismissed thoroughly, and if they are truly wrong about some things I am able to take them seriously and point out any actual flaws I see.

Even on this blog, some people might think of me as some self-important millennial who has all the solutions to the world, and I assure everyone reading that this isn’t the case. I know I have a lot to learn, and I encourage any legitimate rebuttals in the comment sections (I have yet to delete any comments). However, I do think I’m capable of making points that people will learn from and share. I’ve had people thank me for the things I’ve written that have encouraged them, and sometimes people I greatly admire will share something I’ve said. But this doesn’t mean I think I’m particularly important. Anyone reading my posts (or anyone else’s) should simply see each platform as a space for certain ideas, where it’s a given that they’re going to share their opinions.

So if something lacks substance, that’s fair enough. If someone doesn’t have evidence to support their case, that’s fair as well. If an idea is just shit, that’s fair game to point out, though I’d encourage constructive criticism. But if the best thing you can say to someone is “that’s just your opinion”, you’re just stating the obvious and wasting someone’s time.

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