June 2018 Archives

Godless Mom suggests that atheists get more joy out of life than theists. "The other day," she begins, "I noticed this tweet:"

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Aside from the fact that Mary seems to have missed the point of the poem, Mary has offered up the same sentiment I hear from so many theists: atheists are joyless.

"Here are seven ways atheists are free to feel joy," she continues, "without the burden of dogmatic shame or guilt." I've excerpted some of her explanations, but they're worth reading in full:

1. Sex!

2. Celebrating the joy of others!

We find profound amounts of joy knowing we are on the right side of history, and even more joy can be derived from being able to separate ourselves from those who would judge another based solely on who they have fallen in love with. You see, trying to actively prevent certain people from loving certain people, is an act against love and against joy. It defies the very idea of joyful living.

3. Discovery!

4. Saying "I Don't Know"!

Saying, "I know for certain that God created us" gives you no need to further investigate our origins and eliminates the possibility of you learning something new about it. Saying we don't know, leaves us open to discovering something new about our existence... and that would be a discovery that would bring a great amount of joy to those who were open to learning about it.

5. Sunday mornings!

Godless Mom lists several sub-items, and then comments that "These are just a few of the things that bring more joy than a sore-bum from being stuck in a cold, hard pew, surrounded by corpses on crosses, listening to a man warn you of the eternal fires of hell."

6. The joy in knowing this life is all we have.

7. Masturbation!

8. No Hell to fear!

An atheist is free to live their lives without the fear of hell [...] believe in compassion and empathy and love, not torture. It's not so hard to believe that choosing compassion over eternal torture is a far more joyful way to live, is it?

9. We are not being watched!

Today's most populous religions come with deep shame. They make people feel guilty for who they are, and how their bodies function. Fear is driven into the devout and obedience is cultivated via threats of damnation. These things are directly incompatible with joy.

Facing facts is not cold or hard or joyless. Facing facts gives us freedom. It gives us the freedom to live with far more joy than your book would have you experience. It gives us the freedom to live life in reality and celebrate our own humanness.

Are atheists more joyful than religious people? I doubt we can prove that... but to assert that we are joyless is completely unfounded. We live with a great deal of joy... joy that many of you will never know.


gun laws

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NPR's Martin Kaste writes that "In the wake of the Parkland high school massacre, there's been renewed interest in 'red flag' laws, which allow courts and police to temporarily remove guns from people perceived to pose a threat." Kaste talked to clinical psychologist Aaron Kivisto, who researches gun violence prevention:

He's completed a new study study ["Effects of Risk-Based Firearm Seizure Laws in Connecticut and Indiana on Suicide Rates, 1981-2015"] of the effect of red flag laws in Connecticut and Indiana, two states that have had such laws on the books the longest.

"In Indiana, for example, there have been some years where 80 percent of all gun seizures have been due to a concern for suicide rather than homicide or domestic violence reasons," he said.

The results seem positive so far:

"In Indiana, after the enactment of the law [in 2005], we saw a 7.5 percent decrease in firearms suicides in the 10 years that followed," Kivisto said. "We didn't see any notable increase or decrease in non-firearms suicide." [...] "And so when we looked at it from 2007 and beyond, [gun suicides in Connecticut] decreased by 13.7 percent," Kivisto said.

Gun permit laws, do affect murder rates, according to this new study:

"Requiring handgun purchasers to obtain a license prior to purchase was associated with a 14 percent reduction in firearm homicide," says Cassandra Crifasi, at the Center for Gun Policy and Research at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. [...]

"There are lots of conversations right now about gun policies that are effective at reducing violence," she said, "and this study adds to a fairly robust and growing body of literature showing that requiring prospective handgun purchasers to obtain a license is one of the best policies to reduce violence."


update (8:15pm):
The ATF is beholden to the NRA, writes Jezebel:

In an apparent attempt to placate gun sellers and the gun lobby, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives routinely allows dealers that violate gun laws to hold on to their licenses. [...]

These violations go far beyond the routine clerical error made by a gun seller, which are often seen as innocuous as long as they are corrected. Instead, the Times report found repeat offenders who have sold guns to prohibited gun owners--like those with a felony conviction--as well as gun sellers who don't run background checks, and yet they still have a license to legally sell firearms.

The NYT's report is damning:

As they inspect the nation's gun stores, federal investigators regularly find violations of the law, ranging from minor record-keeping errors to illegal sales of firearms. In the most serious cases, like a sale of a gun to a prohibited buyer, inspectors often recommend that gun dealers lose their licenses.

But that rarely happens. Senior officials at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives regularly overrule their own inspectors, allowing gun dealers who fail inspections to keep their licenses even after they were previously warned to follow the rules, according to interviews with more than half a dozen current and former law enforcement officials and a review of more than 100 inspection reports.

One store was cited for failing to conduct background checks before selling a gun. Another store owner told investigators he actively tried to circumvent gun laws. One threatened an A.T.F. officer, and another sold a gun to a customer who identified as a felon. All were previously cited by the A.T.F. In each instance, supervisors downgraded recommendations that the stores' licenses be revoked and instead let them stay open.

"Of about 11,000 inspections of licensed firearm dealers in the year starting in October 2016," the piece continues, "more than half were cited for violations. Less than 1 percent of all inspections resulted in the loss of a license." Avery Gardiner, co-president of the Brady campaign, summarizes: "There's a small number of gun dealers engaged in really irresponsible practices, putting everybody at risk, and the A.T.F. knows exactly who they are and allows them to continue operating." "The inspection process is further complicated by laws that govern record-keeping in the gun industry," notes the NYT, "which forbid the A.T.F. to keep records electronically:"

The A.T.F. has historically struggled to meet its goal of inspecting each licensed firearms dealer once every three to five years. The United States had more than 130,000 active federal firearms licensees in 2017, including dealers, manufacturers and pawnbrokers, according to the A.T.F.'s most recent statistics. Resource limitations have forced the bureau to prioritize some gun dealers over others.

bigot baker

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NYT's Adam Liptak explains the bigot baker's big win at Trump's conservative SCOTUS:

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority in the 7-2 decision, relied on narrow grounds, saying a state commission had violated the Constitution's protection of religious freedom in ruling against the baker, Jack Phillips, who had refused to create a custom wedding cake for a gay couple.

"The neutral and respectful consideration to which Phillips was entitled was compromised here," Justice Kennedy wrote. "The Civil Rights Commission's treatment of his case has some elements of a clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs that motivated his objection."

Where is the verse declaring that same-sex couples can't have cake? Is it the same one that once prohibited African-Americans from eating at lunch counters?

Back to Liptak:

The Colorado Court of Appeals ruled that Mr. Phillips's free speech rights had not been violated, noting that the couple had not discussed the cake's design before Mr. Phillips turned them down. The court added that people seeing the cake would not understand Mr. Phillips to be making a statement and that he remained free to say what he liked about same-sex marriage in other settings.

Here are some comments from the ACLU:

"The court reversed the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision based on concerns unique to the case but reaffirmed its longstanding rule that states can prevent the harms of discrimination in the marketplace, including against LGBT people," said Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the ACLU. [...]

"Today's decision means our fight against discrimination and unfair treatment will continue," said Charlie Craig and Dave Mullins, client in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. "We have always believed that in America, you should not be turned away from a business open to the public because of who you are. We brought this case because no one should have to face the shame, embarrassment, and humiliation of being told 'we don't serve your kind here' that we faced, and we will continue fighting until no one does."

This decision sets back gay rights by a lifetime, according to Daily Kos staff:

In Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, a seven-justice majority--led by Justice Anthony Kennedy and including justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan--determined that Colorado unconstitutionally discriminated against Jack Phillips, a baker who refused to make a cake celebrating a same-sex wedding--that of Charlie Craig and Dave Mullins--because of his sincerely held religious beliefs.

"There's no silver lining," the piece continues:

Kennedy refers to the "dignity and worth" of gay persons and gay couples, to the recognition that we cannot be treated as "social outcasts" or inferior in those respects, but in the same paragraph writes, "religious and philosophical objections to gay marriage are protected views and in some instances protected forms of expression." These two statements are as inconsistent as any ever written.

When Kennedy writes, "Phillips was entitled to the neutral and respectful consideration of his claims in all the circumstances of the case," he legitimizes homophobia. It's also proof that he truly doesn't recognize the equal dignity and worth of gay people. There's precedent for what happens when the right of persons equal in dignity and worth to be treated as such clashes with others' religious claims to a freedom to discriminate.

Ginsburg:

Phillips would not sell to Craig and Mullins, for no reason other than their sexual orientation, a cake of the kind he regularly sold to others. When a couple contacts a bakery for a wedding cake, the product they are seeking is a cake celebrating their wedding--not a cake celebrating heterosexual weddings or same-sex weddings--and that is the service Craig and Mullins were denied. [...]

For the reasons stated, sensible application of [the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act] to a refusal to sell any wedding cake to a gay couple should occasion affirmance of the Colorado Court of Appeals' judgment. I would so rule.

Daily Kos reminds us of the following:

It's not just that courts matter: Every seat matters, from district court judges who decide solo or guide a jury through that process to appellate and Supreme Court jurists. Every voice changes the conversation; the balance of votes decides compromises.

Given the relative youth of the conservatives on the Supreme Court and the likelihood Trump will get at least one more nomination, this setback could last a lifetime.

self-pardon?

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Trump claims that he can pardon himself, while simultaneously proclaiming that he has done nothing wrong:

As has been stated by numerous legal scholars, I have the absolute right to PARDON myself, but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong? In the meantime, the never ending Witch Hunt, led by 13 very Angry and Conflicted Democrats (& others) continues into the mid-terms!

-- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 4, 2018

Truly, you have a dizzying intellect!

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