Saturday, January 30, 2016

Atheist Ramblings: People Love To Hate Richard Dawkins

Ya, ya, ya, I know. You hate Richard Dawkins. Unless you are one of those people that love Richard Dawkins. Then you love Richard Dawkins. I can't think of many other figures who people either wildly love or people wildly hate aside from, say, Hitler. 

Where do I stand when it comes to Richard Dawkins? I like him. I just can't help but like him. To me, he is a likeable character. Others don't see that, but I do. I just like him, his style, his ideas, his intelligence and his cool accent. I do see him as a smart guy who says a whole lot of spot on things. Perfect? Of course now. I don't worship him as a messiah. I see him as a guy with ideas that I tend to agree with and like. 

Is he cantankerous? Yes, in a soft, gentle voiced kind of way. Is he more cantankerous than anyone he is challenging? Nine times out of ten (a number I am pulling out of my butt) the answer is no. 

Hey, there is nothing wrong with stirring stuff up at times, especially when it needs to be stirred up. And Dawkins is not afraid to do just that, no matter how much it pisses people off. And, frankly, sometimes the people that he pisses off deserve to have someone piss them off. And, more often than not, they are going to be pissed off about something anyway. 

Case in point: The most recent controversy that Richard Dawkins is part of where he was supposed to be a speaker at the Northeast Conference on Science and Scepticism (NECSS), however, he tweeted a video that has been deemed highly offensive (which, it is and it isn't. I thought it made some good points) and now he is no longer going to be speaking at said event. I wrote about the whole incident here at Reverb Press. 

Man, do I feel that NECSS made a bad move. Why? I felt that Dawkins actually handled the entire situation around the video quite reasonably. I see what he saw in the video and the message it sent. I get it. I understand. It counters extremist ideas and hypocrisy. It does so in a crude, yet rather humourous fashion, quite frankly. But, someone at NECSS didn't like it. And, as a result, Dawkins has been turfed as a speaker, which seems to be the way it is these days. It really doesn't seem to take much to get ditched as a speaker. One misguided tweet here or there, and bam, everyone hates you. And it seems that those getting turfed the most are people on the left being pissed off at other people on the left. What's the deal with that?? The left doesn't seem interested in actually talking and discussing things amongst one another. It just seems to have this script that all on the left are supposed to go by and if you don't, gawd forbid, you are in deep trouble, man. You are cut out of the pack, vilified, demonized, left for dead. It's a left eat left world out there, people. 

Now, I feel that I am pretty far on the left. But, come on my fellow lefties, you guys are sticks in the mud! You get pissed off and offended way too easy these days. People are condemning Dawkins saying he is his own worst enemy. No. He isn't. The left is it's own worst enemy and I feel like it's crashing in around me, going all bonkers. In fact, in many ways, I think people like Richard Dawkins are the only SANE ones left on the left.   

So, ya, fine, you don't like Richard Dawkins. You are entitled to not like him. Just, chill out a bit, okay. Not everyone is going to say everything you want them to say exactly how you want them to say it all the time. Getting pissed off and cutting fellow leftists out because they tweeted a video you don't like just doesn't seem like the mature and reasonable way of dealing with it. Let's chat, let's talk, discuss openly, debate, but this whole shutting people down and pushing them out? Really? Do we need to be doing that?

Friday, January 22, 2016

Hey! Stop Circumcision Shaming! I’m Not A Mutilated Freak!

I’ve heard the often nasty rhetoric around circumcision by die-hard uncut penis lovers, and all I can say is, please stop with the circumcision shaming! I hear people say that circumcision on boys is mutilation. They say that it is child abuse to circumcise a child. There is, to some, a special place in hell or whatever suitable equivalent for those who have chosen to circumcise their child. Gawd! Stop it! Just, stop it, alright!

Look, I am a 42 year old dad who was circumcised when I was a baby. I do not see myself as mutilated in the slightest. I don’t feel for a second that I was abused as a child. I see no lasting negative effects in the slightest.

At the time I was circumcised, it was a relatively common procedure. For my family, it had nothing to do with religion. My parents were given an option and they decided to have me circumcised. The argument at the time is that it is easier to keep a cut penis clean. And, although I have nothing to compare it to, I do find that, yes, it is quite handy to have that flap of skin gone, quite frankly.
And as far as I am concerned, they did nothing wrong in choosing to have me circumcised. I was a baby. I did not know what was going on. I do not see any drawbacks to what happened. None. Zero. Zip. Nadda. It was not what I would call a traumatic event in my life. I had no clue. I have no memories of it. All I know is that I now have what I have, and I am quite happy and pleased with that. And I wouldn’t change it even if I could. It was a good decision on the part of my parents, I think.

Now, my wife and I have two sons. They have penises, as sons tend to do. We have not had them circumcised. Why? It’s just not recommended anymore. It was offered, we declined, and life went on. I wouldn’t change that choice either. But, I know there are parents out there who will make the choice, and the choice, although quite controversial at the moment, is not a bad one if they decide to go with it. They don’t deserve to be shamed or demonized for making the choice.

I often hear male circumcision being compared to female genital mutilation, a practice that is done in some countries where the clitoris of a female is removed. I would not compare the two in the slightest. I do see them as quite different. I don’t think there is any evidence that female genital mutilation is beneficial in the slightest. There is, however, evidence that male circumcision may help reduce urinary tract infections, and possibly help prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases like herpes and human papillomavirus, according to pediatric disease specialist Dr. Joan Robinson who spoke with the CBC.

Despite this, the Canadian Pediatric Society doesn’t recommend routine circumcision, which brings it in line with similar organizations in Europe and elsewhere. And that is fine, indeed. But for those who wish to go ahead with the procedure at least there is some evidence that it can be beneficial from a health and hygiene perspective.  There doesn’t seem to be many organizations containing the word Pediatric in it that are pro-circumcision these days. The times have changed. But, given the information available, there will be some who still choose circumcision. Is it really wrong? Are we really talking about what some see as the worst possible thing a parent can do for a child? I don’t think so.

Now, I am not advocating that anyone should get a circumcision. I’m not pushing circumcision on anyone. I am just arguing that for those of us who have had circumcisions, the idea that I or my parents are some kind of barbarous freaks and that I have been mutilated in some brutal way is nonsense and a tad insulting. No, make that terribly insulting, hurtful and ridiculous.  It is circumcision shaming as far as I am concerned. Anti-circumcisers are often spouting off about the evils of circumcision…while sitting next to people that have been circumcised. Hello? Are you listening to yourselves? Like, come on! Just….shut up, would ya? Just stop circumcision shaming! Some people are circumcised and that is okay. Deal with it. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Folly In A Donald Trump Ban

So, the UK is deciding whether or not it will ban Donald Trump from entering the country. They are doing this because, well, Donald Trump is a loud mouth idiot who said he would close America's borders to Muslims if he was elected.

Now, of course, this is a stupid, stupid thing to say. Yes, Donald Trump is an idiot who says stupid, idiotic things.

But here is the deal, and why I think it's pretty hypocritical of the UK to look at banning the guy.

Donald Trump is a loud mouth presidential candidate. He isn't a leader. He's a candidate, and one that most likely will not make it into power.

Meanwhile, the UK is letting in actual leaders with real power from countries like Saudi Arabia or China that have actually DONE far worse than Donald Trump could possibly do. So, this idea of banning a loud mouth for saying stupid things while letting in horrible dictators who have done horrible, horrible things seems to be a waste of time and energy.

I do not like Donald Trump. I believe earlier even I referred to him as an idiot. And yes, indeed, he is an idiot. But isn't a despot. He isn't a brutal dictator. He hasn't sent people to their death for blasphemy. He hasn't sent anyone to any labour camps. He hasn't actually done anything but express a rather stupid, stupid idea.

Seems rather ridiculous to me to rush to ban the guy. Call him out for what he is: an idiot! But, it is completely hypocritical to tell him he can't come in, but openly embrace far more horrible people. 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

I Am STILL Charlie Hebdo. #JeSuisCharlie

Once again, Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical magazine best known for being shot up by Islamic extremists pissed off that they did cartoons featuring their prophet Mohammad, is once again in hot water.

Now people are upset because they made a cartoon criticizing the fickleness of the media and public opinion when it comes to refugees, highlighting the difference in views between the image of Alan Kurdi washed up on a beach in Turkey, and the sexual assaults that happened in Copenhagen on New Years Eve.

It has been perceived as being insensitive, racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic and every other horrible thing that it can be called, mostly by people who misinterpret it (including a staggering number of media outlets).

I have been defending both the cartoon and Charlie Hebdo. Here is a response I made in the comments on a Facebook post by the BBC. It was stated that defending Charlie Hebdo based on the idea of free speech isn't a great reason, and it was questioned why Charlie Hebdo chose this particular way to express their views. It was felt they shouldn't have drawn this, that it was just something that shouldn't have been done because it was in bad taste.

I'm not defending it simply on the basis of freedom of expression. I am defending it on the fact that I do see it as an interesting cartoon that is, like I said above, an interesting reflection on changing attitudes in public opinion. We could express things in a million ways. Is there a need for this? No. There is also no need to misrepresent it. In the end, they are just doing what they have always done. They are known for their crudeness, but in that crudeness lie powerful messages. Taste? All subjective. Entirely subjective. I mean, even the jokes I tell on stage can be seen as tasteless at times. I guess because I enjoy this kind of stuff, and especially the sarcasm involved, it rings true for me. Plus, I admit that I have a soft spot in my heart for CH because what they do in terms of blasphemy is right up my ally, and reflects my jokes about religion. And the idea that a publication that mirrors my comedy style when it comes to the issue would get shot up is scary. Does this mean, if the wrong people heard my jokes, I would be vulnerable to violence as well? In the end, it's a matter of "Don't like it, don't look". For the most part, for decades, no one DID look. Now, suddenly, everyone is looking and being completely offended. Well, like I said, CH has not changed a bit. Everything around them changed.

As a comedian (as amateur and sporadic I may be), I do relate to Charlie Hebdo. I feel as though they get it and I get them when it comes to certain issues. Therefore, yes, I AM still Charlie, and for that matter have always been, and I so no reason why I probably always will be. And I don't feel a need to apologize for this, nor should Charlie Hebdo feel obligated to apologize for what they do. It isn't the kind of social critique that some might like, and I do get that. But, it most definitely is the kind that I like, and appreciate.  

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Atheist Ramblings V.3: Blasphemy and Apostate Laws

There are 13 countries in the world where atheists face the death penalty, all 13 are Muslim majority countries. There are many other countries, both Christian and Muslim that have blasphemy laws and will throw atheists in jail.

Where are religious leaders when it comes to speaking out against this brutality? Where is the church? Where are the mosques? Why are they not denouncing this horrid treatment of atheists? Why the silence?

We have people screaming about persecution of Christians. We have people screaming about Islamophobia. We have people upset, feeling their religions are under attack. But when it comes to death to apostates, blasphemers and atheists, there is absolute silence.

And then, then, the religious dare to scream about how angry and rude atheists are. A little rich, if you ask me. This is further demonizing atheists and feeding the problem. Good work, religious folks. Good work. Thanks for that. Thanks for all the help. Instead of speaking out against blasphemy laws or laws that put atheists to death, you get pissed off at atheists for speaking out against religion.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Oregon Militants Need Snacks, Ask For Free Handout

So, here is what I heard. Apparently, the Oregon militants who are holed up in a federal park kiosk of some sort are getting a bit hungry. Apparently, the put out an appeal for their supporters to send them care packages with snacks in them.

Wait a minute. They are asking for others to give them snacks....for free? That sounds like socialism to me, son. What we have here is an occupation of a federal building by a bunch of yokel redneck pinko commies! This just became worst than I could have possibly imagined. Who would have thought?

So, people, start sending your food donations to the Oregon militants....and turn the great US of A into a commie USSR state! McCarthy would be turning over in his grave over these commie Oregon militants!

Atheist Ramblings V.2: Are Atheists Angry?

Another day, another day of being an atheist. How about that atheism, eh?

Today's topic? Are atheists angry?

Well, that's like saying "Are Muslims terrorists"?

The answer is, no, not all atheists are angry. In fact, there are no shortage of atheists out there who don't even talk about their atheism. There seems to be this view by some that atheists are just loud mouth trouble makers out to ruin everyone's fantasies. Atheists are just mean, angry people that hate god.

Well, whatever.

I would say that over the past several thousand years of heretics and non believers being burnt at the stake or killed in other torturous ways, and the fact that at the moment there are 13 countries in the world (all Muslim majority countries) where atheists face the death penalty, I would say that if atheists are angry, they have a darn good reason to be. 

Atheist Ramblings V.1

I keep getting involved in conversations online about atheism with other atheists and folks who think atheists are stupid. To me, this whole atheism thing isn't all that complex. It's pretty straightforward and simple in fact. It could be the simplest, most straightforward ism there is. It is acknowledging there is no god or gods. Anything beyond that moves into a different ism.

It's safe to say that I am an atheist. I declare confidently that there is no god or gods as presented by any known religion. Does that mean there isn't a god? Well, if there is, then we need a new definition of what god is then. And then once that definition is clearly outlined we can determine if something exists that corresponds with that.

The gods that I reject are the gods proposed by religion. Does that mean there is not something out there that can be referred to as a god? Sure. I suppose. But let's define what one thinks that is first before we declare whether it is or isn't.

It is interesting how some wish to debate the existence of a god. If one is changing the definition as we go, we have a real problem, and some, particularily agnostics, do seem to like to do that. And that is fine, but what it illustrates is the ability to come up with ideas of what something may or may not be, not prove that what they propose is right or not.

Is asserting there is no god wrong? Is it right? Well, it's right in the absence of any sort of proof of proposed gods and lack of solid definition of something beyond that. So, ya, it is right. Could we find some evidence at some point that shows there is some sort of god? Who knows, but it seems to me our understanding of the world and everything around us is taking us farther away from this proof than towards it.

Just some rambling thoughts by an atheist.