Wednesday, November 5, 2014

An open letter to the people who "don't really follow politics"

That's it. Someone needs to tell you people off, and I'm in the perfect mood to do it today.

I would venture to guess that there are more people in America who "don't follow politics" than people who do. They are many reasons for this. Mainly my guess would be that people just have more pressing concerns; the kids need baths, it's almost dinner time, I'm working 2 jobs to make ends meet, etc.  And I get that. Life is busy for all of us.

What I DON'T get are some of the other reasons; American Idol is on, I'm going to Buffalo Wild Wings to get drunk, I need to find out which Kardashian is pregnant now. We are increasingly becoming a nation of grown children, obsessed by our own urge to be constantly entertained. If it's boring, we don't need to do it. We're like little dogs in our ability to be distracted by shiny objects.

And it's infuriating to me.

I know that not everyone enjoys politics. I can appreciate that I find the whole thing more interesting than most. But for the love of God people, this really does affect you!!!!

You seem to be just willfully ignorant about the fact that who represents you in government actually makes a difference in your life. They get to pass laws that govern how you live your life, and you have to deal with it! Don't believe me?  Here are a few examples:

1) Was it simply awful to be subjected to the barrage of campaign ads you had to endure while you were trying to watch American Idol? That was made possible by Citizens United, which allowed unlimited amounts of money to be spent in campaigns. Citizens United was brought to you by conservative Supreme Court Justices who were appointed by conservative Presidents. Oh, but you probably don't even know what "conservative" means, do you?

2) Like birth control? Did you ever get any of it from a clinic like Planned Parenthood? Did it keep you from getting pregnant when you didn't want to be? Well clinics like those rely heavily on federal funding, which can be easily pulled by a conservative government. And what's more, they're already trying to pass laws to make it so that your health insurance doesn't have to cover your birth control. Have fun paying full price for those pills every month!

3) Do your kids go to a public school? Are you tired of getting that long list at the beginning of the school year that asks you to pay for everything right down to the kleenex in the classroom? That is because of underfunded schools. You could fix that!!

But you don't. None of you do. You prefer to bitch and moan about what "the government" does, as if you have no control over who is actually IN the government.  You are so busy staring at shiny objects that you have NO IDEA what your lawmakers are doing behind your backs.

Yesterday, I lost my state representative.  He was the kind of guy that was still idealistic about his job, and actually worked hard for the good of his community. He actually got to know his constituents and took the time to listen to them and help wherever he could. And I don't blame his loss on the Republicans. I blame it squarely on you. People who don't vote because you're too damn lazy and disinterested to take 10 minutes out of your day to go fucking vote already!

And if you don't want to follow politics, America makes it easy for you! We have a two-party system (for now). Pick one and get on board! They even put the name of the party on the ballot in case you have no idea who the candidate is! It's simple!

Have no idea who you even WANT to vote for? Here, take a quiz. This quiz will tell you who to vote for! It's ridiculously easy!!!!!

The apathy is just stunning to me. I can't even wrap my god damned brain around it.  We actually live in a country where the common people can choose their leaders, and a majority of them don't even bother!

And as a result, we live in a country where the rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting poorer. It's taking more hours at work just to support a family, and I wonder how long it will take for people to get fed up enough to actually want to DO something about it.

I think of all the struggles of the past: unions, abortion, corporate regulation. We're going to have to fight all of those battles all over again, because people have gotten so lazy and complacent that they've just watched all of their rights slowly go away.  If all of you people who "don't follow politics" started following it, even just a little, we could change SO MUCH in America. Maybe you wouldn't have to worry about going bankrupt because your kid got sick. Maybe you could afford to take a vacation once in awhile. Maybe you wouldn't have to go back to work six weeks after giving birth. We are all living at the mercy of corporations right now, and most of us don't even realize it.  And we do nothing to change it.

I don't even know why I bother some days. Why do I waste my time trying to make things better, when clearly so many people just don't even give a shit? I'm sure I'll get my motivation back eventually, but for now, I need to just stew about the sorry state of the American people for a little while.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Catholic Radio

I've had the occasion to travel from my small town to the Minneapolis-St. Paul area (what we locals affectionately refer to as "the cities") several times in the past few months. It's roughly a two and a half hour drive, which isn't so bad, but there are only so many hours of This American Life I can listen to before I start to tune out.

And so, as I approach the middle of my journey, which is the St. Cloud area, I always see not one, but two giant billboards for the local AM Catholic radio station. With two giant billboards enticing me, how could I NOT listen? And boy am I glad I did! I've learned SO many good things from listening, and my life has been so enriched by the teachings of the one true church. 

So let me summarize the collective wisdom I've gained onto you, fair readers.

1.) If you're not married, don't have sex. Not any. Not ever. Especially if you're female. It's probably the worst thing you could ever do. You're going to break your parents' hearts and probably die of a horrible STD (and that's only after you've totally ruined God's plan for your otherwise perfectly planned life). Sex is demeaning (if you're female) and the "hook up culture" will only leave you broken, and a shell of your former, pure self. Especially if you're female. Besides, you can't really enjoy sex unless you are fully giving your future to the other person, by which I mean consenting to give birth nine months later and raise a child for the rest of your life. Also, watching rom-coms will make you slutty. Especially if you're female.

2.) If you ARE married, have sex. Lots of it, all the time. Why? Because babies, that's why. Babies are a gift from God and will do nothing but add to your enjoyment of life and bring you tons of fun and happiness. And don't even think about birth control. Having babies is not a choice to be made, it's a blessing from above. You made the choice to have kids already when you said those wedding vows, and there's no going back now. Only God knows how many kids you can handle. You may be thinking, "but what about my high blood pressure, or financial situation, or sanity?" Doesn't matter. Keep in mind that God will provide. Afraid of mounting medical bills from having all those babies, or the cost of food, clothing, etc? Not to worry. God has already thought about all of that for you, and decided you'll be just fine with 25 kids (and more than likely, they'll all be healthy and perfect anyway). You can always make more money. It's easy. Too many people these days spend all their time worrying about how babies will affect their lives, instead of considering that babies are totally awesome!! They have cute smiles and say cute things and look so cute in their cute little outfits. And you really don't want to be one of those schmucks only raising one or two boring kids, do you?

So basically, what I've learned is that the Catholic Church is extremely concerned about how much sex you're having, and why you're having it. Only they know the true purpose and gravity of sex, and how it affects people. If you would only take their advice, it would all be smooth sailing from here on out. So don't screw this up people!! Or, I guess, DO screw it up, but only if you're married and want to have dozens of kids, as is your duty to God. Especially if you're female. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

A Frosty Review of "Frozen"

I heard the other day that some conservative Christian group is frothing at the mouth over the Disney film Frozen. Apparently, not only does it promote witchcraft (these guys do know that witchcraft isn't real, right?), but also, gasp, lesbianism!! I hadn't yet seen the movie when I heard this but I thought to myself, "a Disney movie incorporated some openly gay characters? Cool!"

I decided to actually buy the DVD/Blu-Ray combo of the movie, since not only had I heard such great things about it from everyone I know, but I also rarely get an opportunity to watch "girly" movies at my house. When you live with 2 sons and a husband, you get a lot of Transformers, cars, and aliens, but not a lot of singing, dancing, or ballgowns. Had you asked me ten years ago (before I had kids), I would have smugly told you that this was a purely social construct, and it's only because we encourage boys and girls to consume different types of media that they have any "preferences" at all.

I've since come to the realization that boys and girls are just different. This doesn't mean that ALL boys like trucks and ALL girls like dolls. It just means that even when you paint your boy's toenails and try so hard to assure them that there are no "boy colors" and "girl colors," they're still probably going to gravitate to Spiderman over Cinderella. Not all, but most.

Anyway, back to Frozen.

I was excited to see this one because I'm a HUGE Broadway fan, and the amazing Idina Menzel (aka "Adele Dazeem") voices one of the main characters. Plus, my brother had told me it was very "Broadway-ey."

So I was severely disappointed to find out that I hated most of the music. Except for the one song that was the big hit of the film, "Let it Go," the rest of the songs kind of sucked. Which my husband enjoyed pointing out again and again throughout the film. Also, I was dismayed to find that there was NO gay plot-line after all! Only a sweet story about two biological sisters performing acts of "true love" for each other.

So that was disappointing. But like any Disney movie for kids, it had a mix of good and bad themes throughout. So without further ado, here is my list of the good, the bad, and the ugly from Frozen:

  • That one song was okay.
  • There is a lesson to had about not letting fear rule your life.
  • The love story between the sisters trumped the romance between the lead male/female characters. That was nice.
  • Josh Gad. I LOVE Josh Gad. And the reindeer. He was funny.
  • The lead female character was kind of bad ass and dorky at the same time. That was a nice change for Disney.
  • It turns out that deciding to marry someone you just met that day is probably a bad idea. Unless you've known them for like a month, in which case it's probably "true love."

  • Must EVERY film that is marketed to girls require a romance as one of the main plot points??! Do we need every girl to think that the single most important thing in life is getting married??!! You don't see this same theme in films targeted to boys. Yes, there is an occasional romance thrust at them, but it's not usually such an important part of the story. And we are talking about children here! They have plenty of time to worry about romance when they grow up. Does it have to be the only thing Hollywood keeps throwing at them?
  • And on the point of romance, I'm so sick of seeing the idea thrown at kids of any gender that there is "one true love" out there for everyone. This idea is harmful. It keeps people in bad relationships for much too long, and keeps young people from exploring their options when it comes to partners. When kids grow up with the idea that once they find their "soul-mate" then everything will just magically fall into place, we're setting them up for a lifetime of disappointment. The movie does give a slight nod to this idea, but solves the problem with a second "true love."
  • Does every female lead character in the world of Disney NEED to be a Princess? What is it with Princess worship? I just don't get it.
  • The idea that hearts are more important than brains. Brains are just a changeable feature able to be manipulated, but your heart, well, ALWAYS trust that.
  • The "poor little rich girl" theme, again.
  • Do I even need to say it? The eyes!!! Ugh! Disney, please stop with the girls having eyes that are 15 times too big for their faces!! We get it. You're trying to make them sexy and more appealing, but it's just creepy and unsettling. 
  • And while you're at it, do all of them need a 2 centimeter wide waist and size -2 feet? It's just weird.

So there you have it. One person's opinion. As of this writing, my 4-year-old son is on his 4th viewing of Frozen, so I guess it does have some cross-over appeal. But if I woke up tomorrow and saw that Disney was making a movie with some honest-to-god gay characters, I'd be pleased as punch.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

More than 50 Shades of Gray

I think I may have finally figured out what it is. That thing. The thing that separates liberals from conservatives. The thing that, when you peel back all of the arguments and rhetoric about everything, is at the heart of the disagreement between the left and the right.

Are you ready?

Here it is.

Uncertainty. Ambivalence. Complexity. Ambiguity. Skepticism. In short, shades of gray.

This may be common knowledge to many of you, but it really feels like an epiphany to me. The reason that I hold so many of the opinions I do is not that I'm so sure of the rightness of my own thinking; it's the fact that I know I don't know everything.

It's the reason so many liberals like to cite scientific studies and focus on "evidence-based practices." We know that our own knowledge on any given subject is limited, and therefore we look to experts who spend more time studying the topic than we do.

We are comfortable with moral ambiguity because we know that morality isn't always necessarily black and white. We know that the idea of "good guys and bad guys" is misleading.

Life is complex. People are complex. And the world is messy. We know that not everyone thinks and acts exactly like us, and so we try to reserve judgement for when we know more about a situation, and make allowances for diversity and variation.

When I wrote my last post about abortion, I had someone arguing with me about when I think "life" begins. I told him that I don't know, which is why I don't think it should be up to me to make that decision for someone else. He kept pressing me for an answer and seemed very perplexed at why I could not make an absolute decision. The fact is, I don't know when a person starts becoming a true "person." I know that a cluster of cells is different than a newborn baby. But is there a moment between month 3 and 4 when a fetus becomes more "human" than it was before? Maybe. But since that is a philosophical question, it seems to me that the best course of action is to leave the decision up to the woman involved, because I don't know what's going on in her life.

I've also been arguing about voter ID laws over the past day on Facebook (yes, I enjoy arguing).  So many people think that since voter ID makes sense to them, and since it wouldn't affect them at all, then we should do it. I mean, who needs "research" or the opinion of professionals who actually specialize in voter fraud when we have some stories we heard one time about someone voting in place of their dead uncle? People don't seem to want to look outside their own bubble and find out more about what is actually going on in any given situation for someone else.  They'd rather have the certainty of knowing they're right.

I've been trying to watch "The House I Live In" for the past day or two (I've gotten about halfway through it at this point) which is a film about America's "war on drugs." It's a fascinating topic, but most conservatives won't give a second thought to what's going on in the lives of prisoners. They're drug dealers, they belong in jail, that's it. Any attempt to explain the background of someone who's in jail is just "making excuses for their crime."  They don't worry too much about the death penalty because the person being executed "deserves it."  They don't give a second thought to all of the complexity of situation and room for human error that exists in any human-based undertaking such as our criminal justice system.

Here's what I think it all basically boils down to: liberals don't want people to suffer needlessly when we can do something about it, and we don't want people to be dicks about everything. Beyond that, the conversation is wide open and we're willing to change our minds if the circumstances change or the situation becomes clearer.

So, if you want to be a liberal, keep an open mind and don't be a dick. Now go about your business.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Bodily Autonomy


It’s a thorny topic. Just saying the word out loud makes most people squirm. And there are passionate people on all sides of the debate that feel equally strongly about their positions.

I was just challenged by a conservative Christian friend of mine to read a post from the “The Matt Walsh Blog” on the “bodily autonomy” argument for abortion. I read it, and now I’m responding. This post will make a lot more sense to you if you first read the original article, which you can find here. Read that first and then come back here.

Are you back? Okay, let’s get started.

First I need to point out that whoever wrote the original letter to Matt was very misguided in their use of language. Calling names and berating people does not strengthen your argument, nor does it help the person you’re having a discussion with see your point of view and take it seriously. So there’s that. I wouldn’t have written the letter in quite the same way.

But anyway, here is my point-by-point rebuttal of the rebuttal to the argument. Again, if you haven’t read the original post, or at least skimmed it, you’re going to be completely lost. So read it and follow along.

1. Matt is correct that the relationship between mother and child is different than the relationship between you and a random stranger. Of course it is. There is nothing quite so meaningful as the bond between a mother and her child. As a mother, I’m astutely aware of this. But I think the fundamental misunderstanding comes from the fact that the bodily autonomy argument isn’t necessarily meant to be an argument about morality; it’s about legality.

What we are saying when we say that a woman should have the sole right to determine what goes on inside their own body is that the government should not have a say in what you do or do not use your body for. Whether you think having an abortion is “moral” or not isn’t really the question. The question is who gets to make that decision for you? You, or the government?

A better analogy would have been this: if your child needs a kidney transplant, should the government compel you to give them your kidney? Again, keep in mind that I’m NOT asking whether or not you would do it (I think we all would if we could). The questions is, “should the government compel you to do it?” And if they should, should it only be for biological children, or adopted children as well? I cannot stress this enough: this is not about morality or what you would do in a specific situation; it’s about what the law would compel you to do, and who gets to make that law, enforce it, and carry out the punishment for it.

And before you ask, yes, I am also in favor of legalized prostitution, drugs, piercing, and pretty much whatever else you want to do with your own body.

2. How a person gets pregnant is irrelevant. Pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting should not be a punishment for having sex. It’s easy to say that everyone who has ever had sex was making a mature decision and they should live with the consequences, but that’s just not the case. Have you met a teenager recently (or ever been one)? How a person gets into the condition they’re in shouldn’t be relevant to the treatment they receive or their ability to control their own body. If I am injured while snowboarding, should I just deal with the broken leg?

3. Again, this goes back to point number 1. It’s not about the morality of the situation or what we think a “good parent” should do. It’s about whether or not they should be forced to do it by the government, or thrown in jail for it.

4. I don’t even know how to comment on the whole “natural order” thing. It assumes that there is a god that created a natural order that we always have to stick by no matter what. If that’s the case, then I guess we also can’t ever use birth control, or shave our legs, or eat Hot Pockets®. It sounds like Matt thinks we shouldn’t ever go against the “natural order,” so does that mean we should eschew dentistry too? I’m just leaving that one alone.

5. The first problem I have with this one is his terminology. The use of the term “abortionist” is specifically meant to make a doctor sound like a criminal, which I guess is his point, but it really bothers me. I’ve met abortion doctors, and they are anything but creepy, trench coat wearing butchers (although, when we make abortion illegal, we will see many more of those types around). They are doctors trying to do what is best for their patients. They are not doing it to make money (or else they would be charging a helluva lot more). I have the same problem with the term “abortion industry.” There is no abortion “industry.”

But I digress. Matt claims that abortion involves an embryo or fetus being “crushed, dismembered, poisoned, or torn apart,” which leads me to believe that he doesn’t actually know how an abortion is done. Depending on the stage of pregnancy, there are different methods, and the later the pregnancy is, the harsher the method becomes. I won’t lie; it does make me uncomfortable. But I keep coming back to the same question: “Is it the government’s job to tell another woman what she can do with her body?”

I don’t know the circumstances of every pregnancy. What I do know is that if you’re seeking a late-term abortion, you probably aren’t there because you just didn’t feel like being pregnant anymore. Often times there is a fetal defect, or a life-threatening condition for the mother. Since I don’t know what’s going on in every case, I shouldn’t be the one making the decision. And neither should my congressman. I know that it’s easy for some people to look at women who are having abortions as “careless,” and “selfish,” but keep in mind that you do not, and cannot possibly know what is going on in every situation. That’s what it comes down to.

6. He’s right. The argument does put me in the precarious position of allowing for a woman to do harmful things while she’s pregnant. I really hate it, but I don’t think it should be illegal for a woman to do reckless things while she’s pregnant. I think she should be encouraged not to do them, and assuming she wants to have a baby, she won’t do them, but at the end of the day, I don’t think she should be thrown in jail for them. Because again, it puts the government in control of what she does with her body.

7. Please refer to point number 5. Here’s where I have a problem. He uses the word “moral” again. This is not a discussion about morality, it is a discussion about legality. You may be surprised to know that I am a lot more bothered by late term abortion than by first-trimester abortion. But my solution to this is not to outlaw ALL abortion. It’s to make first trimester abortion more accessible to women who are seeking it. Unlike a lot of pro-lifers (who equate an embryo with an infant), I DO think there is a difference between a 2-day-old zygote and a 35-week-old fetus. However, since the question of “when life begins” can be a muddy one, depending on what you consider to be “life” and what your specific religion (or lack thereof) tells you, I think the most reasonable course of action in the law is to make life begin at birth. Again, we are talking about legality, not morality.

8. This one gets into the semantics of the word “body.” The bodily autonomy argument only addresses the use of your body and its parts. What Matt is talking about here is really a philosophical argument that I don’t think applies. Pregnancy requires more or less the same thing of every female body it is affecting. Parenthood does not.

For example, I could have chosen to breastfeed my children, but I didn’t. Did I get thrown in jail for it? No, because there are alternate means of feeding a child and the government doesn’t require me to use my body to nourish another person, even if I gave birth to them. It would be easy for someone to make a moral pronouncement about what a “bad mother” I am, if they didn’t know I did it for medical reasons. I was on a medication that was unsafe to take while breastfeeding. Fortunately, the government did not step in and make that decision for me. I made it with the help of my doctor, the way medical decisions should be made. And you know what? Even if I just “didn’t feel like” breastfeeding, I shouldn’t have been thrown in jail for not doing it, because it’s my body.

9. Come on. Just, come on. Really? Doing what you want with your body is not the same as doing what you want anywhere with your body.

10. See point number 8.

The crux of the issue here is that pro-lifers seem to think this is as easy as making a decision about what you would do or what a “good person” should do. But it’s not. It’s a thorny issue precisely because it has to do with pregnancy and motherhood, which are profoundly important things. But being pro-choice does not mean “I think abortions are great and I think everyone should have at least one.” Nor does it mean “every unplanned pregnancy should end in an abortion.” All we are saying is “abortion should remain legal.” At the core, that’s really it. We’re not “pro-aborts” as Matt so callously refers to us. We are people who think that the government has no place in telling us what should or should not go on in our uterus, and that our lives are complex enough that we are in the best position to make decisions for ourselves. At its heart, it’s really a Libertarian ideal, which is why I find it perplexing that Libertarians such as Ron Paul are anti-choice.

It’s hard to be in agreement on this issue because we are starting from different points. The pro-life community generally starts with the premise that every fertilized egg is a “soul” that God has sent to Earth for a specific purpose. When you’re an atheist, as I am, you don’t see it that way. You see that embryo as a potential person, but not one that is equal to the living, breathing woman that is currently pregnant. In my view, that is probably the single biggest reason that we’ll never agree on this issue. 

There are many, many other issues that cause division when it comes to abortion, but this post has already gotten extraordinarily long, and it is supposed to be focused on the bodily autonomy argument, so maybe I’ll tackle the other arguments and issues another day. You can read more about my views on abortion here.

But let me end with this statement. I really wish the pro-life community would do less judging of the women who have abortions, and work harder to prevent the need for them in the first place. Birth control, comprehensive sex-ed, assistance for people living in poverty; all of these things reduce the need for abortion in the first place, but the pro-life community in general seems so determined to NOT provide these things either. There is SO MUCH we could do together to prevent unwanted pregnancies, but when you spend all of your time trying to outlaw something that will still happen if it’s illegal, you miss the opportunity to really make a difference. And that makes me sad.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Mouths to Feed

The reduction in S.N.A.P. benefits (otherwise know as food stamps), has been all over the news in the past few days. We've been told that in order to keep government spending under control, the best course of action is to make sure hungry people get even less to eat. Seems logical, right?  I mean, people love a free handout, and if you give them food for free, they're just going to abuse your generosity and keep coming back for more.

My atheist group volunteered at the local soup kitchen this week. It was the first time I'd ever done so, and the experience left me with an empty feeling in the pit of my stomach. With all of the political talk about the "takers" just trying to get a free ride, I would have thought I was going to witness all kinds of happy people enjoying their free dinner that they didn't have to work for.

But you know what I saw instead? Quiet people with their heads down, eyes averting ours, clearly embarrassed to be there, quickly eating as much as they could and then promptly leaving.  There wasn't much conversation between the people there, and no one seemed thrilled to be eating dinner at someone else's expense.  Maybe they were just laughing on the inside.

You know what else I saw? Kids. Lots of them. And babies too. Turns out children are totally dependent on whatever their parents can scrounge up for them to eat. Meanwhile, my own child was in the back room watching videos on my iPhone while eating half of what was on his plate and then saying he didn't want the rest because he didn't like it. He wasn't rude about it. He just didn't like it. And he knew that if he was still hungry later, he'd be able to come home to a warm house with a fully-stocked kitchen.

It just about killed me to see all of those kids, and the parents who were doing their best to care for them. I can't imagine not being able to feed my kids. I literally can't. I try, but I start to feel sick and have to stop imagining it.  I'm fortunate. Not because I'm smarter, stronger, better, or more hard-working than everyone else; just because of sheer dumb luck and circumstance. And my kids were fortunate to be born into my family, even though they didn't have any say in the matter. They're not better or more worthy of love than any of the kids at the soup kitchen. They're just luckier.

To suggest that we need to reduce the amount spent on food assistance because the people who are getting it don't "deserve" it is ignorant at best and cruel at worst. I have heard so much venom lately coming out of the mouths of people who've probably never been legitimately hungry a day in their lives.  The poor in this country have become political pawns, and the messaging that "they're just taking your hard-earned money" has been very successful.

You know who I think doesn't deserve my hard-earned tax dollars? Oil companies. Corporations that pay their employees minimum wage. Sports stadium owners. I can think of a thousand other places to cut money that don't literally leave children to starve. But then, hungry children can't vote, so it's easier to just ignore them.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

12 Thoughts on "Evolution vs. God"

Okay guys, this one’s a doozy. Undoubtedly my longest post to date. Get settled in and prepare to read.

Last week I was challenged by a Facebook friend of mine to watch a video called “Evolution vs. God.” It’s a You Tube video by Ray Comfort, who is described by Wikipedia as “a New Zealand-born Christian minister and evangelist.  Comfort started Living Waters Publications and The Way of the Master in Bellflower, California and has written a number of books.”  Comfort is a well-known guy in atheist circles, mainly for his assertion that the banana is proof of God, because the banana is so perfectly created to fit into the hand of a human. He is also a close associate of another atheist favorite, Kirk Cameron.

Always up for a good challenge, I watched the video and reported back to my Facebook friend.
I told him that I had so very many thoughts on this video, that I couldn’t possibly put them all into a single Facebook comment, so I decided to make a blog post out of them instead (I’m always looking for good blog material).

If you want to watch the video before reading this, you can find it here. I’ll warn you though, it was very hard for me to not shut it off after about 7 minutes of watching the same thing over and over again, but I muddled through.  However, I just can’t bring myself to watch it again. I’m already dealing with a kid who has pink-eye, so I’ve taken enough grief for one day. Therefore, my writing probably won’t match up chronologically with the video as I’m going on sheer memory here. I’m probably going to be all over the place. With that said, here are my thoughts:

Thought #1: The magic of editing.
This is clearly a carefully edited video. It is essentially a collection of “man-on-the-street” type interviews with people who the audience is supposed to assume are “typical” defenders of evolution (see thought #2). Naturally, we rarely get to see the “intelligent” answers. In fact, many of the answers I desperately wanted to see were cut out.  And I really question why some of the interviewees were given more time than others. However, editing is a common thing and I can’t really fault Comfort for wanting to get his point across by using what he thought were the statements that best proved his point. I can be annoyed by it though.

Thought #2: Not all students of science are evolutionary biologists.
Much of the video is spent randomly interviewing science students at a university (not sure which one – UCLA maybe?). Most of them were studying fields such as chemistry, physics, geology, etc.  Just because someone is in college and is studying science, they do not automatically have a vast and thorough knowledge of evolution, especially since we were never told what year of college these students were in. From the looks of it, most of them were straight out of high school. People study for years to understand this stuff, so to expect people who are not experts to answer your random questions coherently is really pretty na├»ve. I myself would never claim to be an expert on the subject, as science has just never been my particular forte and I’ve never been interested enough to study evolution in depth.  If he really wanted to prove his point, the video should have relied more heavily on actual experts and less so on first-year students who were plucked off the sidewalk on their way to class.

Thought #3: Atheists do not claim to “know” that there is no God.
At one point, a woman who is interviewed says that she is not an atheist because she can’t be so arrogant as to claim that there definitely is no God.  There is also a famous Neil deGrasse Tyson quote used at some point in which Tyson basically says the same thing. But that is NOT the claim of atheism.  This is a pet peeve of mine. Atheists are simply claiming that we haven’t seen enough evidence to believe that your particular god is real. Christians are making the claim that a very specific god exists, and we aren’t buying it until we see some proof. That’s it. We aren’t claiming that we know for certain there is no god. Sure, anyone can find some crackpot to tell you that there is definitely, without a doubt, no god, but that claim does not represent atheism as a whole or even most atheists.  “Agnosticism” simply means we don’t know if there is a god or not. “Atheism” means we don’t believe there is one. Those are two different things, therefore most atheists, including myself, would classify themselves as “agnostic atheists.”

Thought #4: There is no such thing as “Darwinian Evolution.”
The term “Darwinian evolution” is used constantly throughout this video. It’s a term creationists often use, probably because it limits evolution to Darwin’s research and ideas. Yes, Darwin was the first prominent person to put forth the theory of evolution, but a lot of work has been accomplished in the field since then. So just to deny all of the other research that’s been done and assume that there was this one guy, Charles Darwin, who was solely responsible for “making up” evolution is just nonsense.  Comfort seems to think that “regular evolution” is just adaptation and survival of the fittest, and that “Darwinian evolution” makes the claim that one day a human baby was born to a monkey mother. No one is making that claim. Again, it’s nonsense.

Thought #5: No, you did not “stump” the experts.
There are many shots of biology experts being supposedly “stumped” by Comfort. One notable example is P.Z. Myers, Professor of Biology at the University of Minnesota. I saw Myers speak a couple of weeks ago at the Minnesota Atheists Conference, and I’m pretty sure nothing stumps him. There are several instances in the video where Myers is asked a question and then sits there with a bewildered look on his face. In many of these instances, we don’t get to hear his response, or at least all of it. But from my knowledge of Myers, I would guess that his bewildered look was due to his puzzlement at how such ridiculous questions could seriously be asked of him, and a realization that Comfort was not going to fully understand or accept his answer anyway. You cannot simply say magic words and expect someone to suddenly have a comprehension of biology; especially someone who is not genuinely interested in learning, but is instead just trying to catch you with a stupid look on your face for their own purposes.

Thought #6: Famous atheists have nothing to do with the validity of evolution.
There is a lengthy section in the video that questions the existence of “famous” atheists. The list they give leaves out most of the atheists I’ve ever heard of, and instead focuses on several well-known scientists and historical figures (such as Thomas Jefferson and Albert Einstein) who we speculate may have been atheists. It then takes a single quote from each one and declares them theists, disregarding any other quote they may have ever said about the existence or not of a god. This focus on atheism really has nothing to do with evolutionary biology, and I fail to see how making sure that these guys weren’t really atheists has anything to do with the subject at hand.  The fame level of a person doesn’t make their ideas any more or less valid. Where are all of the “famous” Creationists? I don’t know and I don’t care. It has nothing to do with anything.

Thought #7: I don’t think “evidence” means what you think it means.
Comfort spends a lot of time asking random people for “evidence” of evolution. He explains that the only “evidence” he will accept is something he can personally witness. He doesn’t “believe” in fossil records or really any kind of scientific evidence, so what is he expecting to get? And besides that, why is his burden of proof set so very high for scientific concepts, but not for God? He’s perfectly willing to accept that God is real without any such “evidence.” And he’s willing to accept creationism without witnessing it firsthand. Why the double standard? No, none of us were there a million years ago to “prove” evolution is true, but neither was Comfort there when Adam and Eve popped into existence.

Thought #8: Science is not a “belief system.”
The main argument of this video seems to be that science is just another thing you have to have “faith” in.  After all, aren’t you just having faith in scientists instead of God when you “believe in” evolution? The problem with that oft quoted line is that it is not the scientists themselves we choose to have “faith” in, nor is it the books they write. It is the scientific method itself. When using the scientific method, there are specific guidelines one must follow in order to make a claim. This claim must be tested and then confirmed or refuted by other scientists (what we call the “peer review” process). No single scientist can make a claim and expect people to just take their word for it. Many other scientists have to test and agree on the same claim for it to be considered valid. This is one of the many reasons “Darwinian evolution” is an incorrect term. So when we say we have “faith” in science, what we really mean is that we have “confidence” in the scientific method to tell us what’s true about the world. True “faith” is reading a book written in the Bronze Age and believing everything it says because it’s right there in the book.

Thought #9: You can’t pick & choose which science you like.
At another point during the film, Comfort discusses the appendix and the vestigial tail, claiming that science has actually found a use for them, therefore they are not “pointless” body parts (furthering the idea of an “intelligent designer” – the same one who gave men nipples). That may or may not be true, but what astonishes me is that he looks to science to make that claim.  After spending the entirety of the video knocking science as nothing more than a “belief system,” he uses the very thing he doesn’t believe in to prove his point. What? Christians seem to use this tactic a lot; claiming that science is useless and then using it to back up their already held belief. But that tactic gets to the very heart of the difference between “belief” and “science.” With belief, you start with an answer and look for things to confirm that answer (ie, intelligent design is true, so let’s look for the evidence to prove it). In science, it’s the other way around. You start with a question and look for an answer. There is no “cost” to finding a different answer than the one you started out with. If evolution turns out to be incorrect, then it’s incorrect and we’ll move on and look for a different answer. If creationism is incorrect, well, that’s not really an option is it?

Thought #10: Of course rape is wrong (unless it’s in the Bible).
At some point, the video circles around to objective morality, as all religious discussions must. Although I can’t see what the discussion of rape has to do with evolution, Comfort goes there anyway. He asks several of the people, including P.Z. Myers, if rape is always wrong. Most of the people agree that yes, rape is always wrong, with the exception of Myers who tries to explain rape in the context of culture (which seems pretty pointless to me when you’re talking to Ray Comfort). But of course, what Comfort is trying to point out is that we heathen atheists can’t possibly have any real sense of morality when we seem to think that the whole world is just a product of animal instinct and “survival of the fittest.”  Well, here’s the thing: since atheists don’t have a book to tell them what’s “right” and “wrong,” we tend to live by a simple rule. And that rule is this: don’t cause harm to other people. That’s what “humanism” is. We try to live by a code of ethics which, at its center, prevents us from harming others. What is harm? Something that hurts (physically or otherwise) another person. We can generally judge harm by what other people tell us hurts them, or by what we know hurts ourselves. It’s not a perfect system, but it works for us. The general theory is that (through evolution) we developed a sense of empathy from learning that we survive better as a species when we take care of one another. But that’s a broad topic for another day. The basic answer is that rape being wrong really has nothing to do with the question of evolution. I would however point out that in the Bible, rape is mentioned several times in the context of how to do it correctly (you can rape your slaves for example). Again, another topic for another day.

Thought #11: Just because science can’t answer everything, that doesn’t make it all wrong.
One of the main sticking points creationists seem to have with evolution is the “missing link” conundrum, which I believe is brought up in this video (although it’s been a week since I watched it so now things are getting a little fuzzy. . .). Creationists like to contend that since there are “gaps” in scientific theories, then the whole theory should be thrown out. But science isn’t a static thing. It’s an ongoing process to learn the truth about the world around us. It doesn’t have all of the answers, but it does have a lot of them, and the things that haven’t yet been discovered do not negate all of the things that have been discovered. That’s why scientific research never ends. Scientists are constantly looking for more answers and more refined and specific answers than the ones they had before.

Thought #12: In conclusion
It is simply human nature to wonder why we’re here and what it all means.  Ray Comfort is trying to answer those questions and so are scientists.  My view is that even if our existence here is the product of billions of years of evolution (which is the answer that science currently points to), it doesn’t make life any less amazing and dare I say, “magical.” The Earth is still amazing, love is still amazing, our children are still amazing, and our experiences are still amazing. Atheists don’t suffer from a lack of wonderment simply because we don’t believe there is a god guiding everything.  In fact, I think we see life as even more remarkable because of the fact that it all happened by chance, not in spite of it. And Ray Comfort telling me I’m going to go to hell for using the mind God supposedly gave me doesn’t convince me of his position in the slightest. Sorry Charlie, no sale.