Bookmarks for April 17th through April 18th

These are my links for April 17th through April 18th:

  • No Savings Found in Florida Welfare Drug Tests – NYTimes.com – Ushered in amid promises that it would save taxpayers money and deter
    drug users, a Florida law requiring drug tests for people who seek
    welfare benefits resulted in no direct savings, snared few drug users
    and had no effect on the number of applications, according to recently
    released state data.
  • Brandi and Russel Bellew, Parents, Lose Children After Son Dies Due To ‘Faith Healing’ – After 16-year-old Austin Sprout lost his life when his parents, Brandi and Russel Bellew, opted for prayer instead of medical treatment, their remaining six children are now wards of the state, the Register-Guard reports.
  • My Trousers and Airport Security | Jack of Kent – “I bet this makes you feel safer?” he says.
    “Actually, it doesn’t. Either security required me to take my trousers off, or it does not. Either my bag is too unsafe to travel, or it is not. I think this just shows bad decision-making. Bad decision-making by security does not make me feel safe.”

Religious Freedom

I think everybody has a basic fundamental right to religious freedom. If a person wants to think wearing magic underwear protects him from the evils of the world then more power to him. I happen to think that religious freedom by definition has to include freedom from religion too. The problem is that some people seem to think that they can use religious freedom as some sort of shield that allows them to do things that would be considered pretty crazy without the context of their religion.

Take for instance the case of 16-year-old Austin Sprout losing his life. Austin died because his parents prayed instead of seeking basic medical care. Thankfully the remaining 6 Bellew children have been taken away and the parents are being charged with manslaughter.

I recently wrote about the case of Cathy Samford being fired for being an unwed mother. The law doesn’t allow for the wholesale discrimination by an employer, religious or otherwise and I hope Ms Samford wins her lawsuit.

One person’s religious freedom ends where another person’s rights begin. If it’s some religion’s view that they’re tasked with God to kill all albino people, there would rightly be outrage and condemnation of those people. I think the same should go for cases like the two I’ve outlined here.

In conclusion, I will fight for your right to think that magic underwear protects you from evil (although I reserve the right to criticize you for it). Part of that fight includes our right to be from religion if we choose.

Bookmarks for April 17th

These are my links for April 17th from 10:46 to 12:23:

Quick hit: death and dying

I think about death and dying more than the average person. As I was catching up on my RSS this morning I came across this bit of info:

A friend tells the story of her father’s death. He died in a hospital. She wasn’t there when it happened. She was the only one of his children to show up after he passed. All that remained of this man was a brown shopping bag with clothes, a wallet, false teeth, keys. That’s it. That’s what’s left when you die. There’s no individual in sight. Just a bag with some junk in it. That’s what we, as individuals, are worth. To the extent that we understand our role as part of a wave of humanity, do our lives have significance

This makes me think about the people in old folks homes. These were once young people with lives with people who depended on them. They had parents and siblings and kids and jobs and everything. Now they’re just in this home, waiting and seemingly forgotten. It makes me want to go visit them. It seems bleak.

It also makes me think about my legacy. What are people going to remember about me after I’m dead? Will the things I’ve done mean anything to anybody? It’s this line of thought that’s allowed me give up gaming. I feel compelled to be productive because my life is limited and there’s still so much I want to do. After I’m dead and gone nobody is going to know that I had a maxed out mining character in Eve-Online nor will they know that I had a RR 8 Bard in Dark Age of Camelot. Those things seem like such a waste of time in this context.

Live life because it’s running out and you only get one.

 

Quick hit: hitting close to home!

As I was consuming my stream of news this morning I ran across this bit of text:

“Before I had a chance to fully express myself as an individual I had children of my own. So I feel the need to treat myself from time to time because it hurts that I never had a chance get to know myself. It’s also the reason why I waste cash buying my children lavish gifts they neither need nor want, at every opportunity.”

Yikes! This resonates with me… a lot.

Cathy Samford Fired For Being Unwed Mother

I’m not sure if you guys have heard but Cathy Samford was fired from Heritage Christian Academy for being pregnant while single. Click the link to read the details but HCA administration says:

“It’s not that she’s pregnant. The issue here is being an unmarried mother,” Taylor said. “Everything that we stand for says that we want our teachers, who we consider to be in the ministry, to model what a Christian man or woman should be.”

While Ms Samford’s attorney disagrees:

“It’s against the law to fire someone for them taking a pregnancy leave and you can’t preventatively fire someone. You can’t contract around anti-discrimination laws,” Walsh told ABCNews.com. “Just being generally religious or upholding Christian values is not enough to evoke the ministerial exception.”

On behalf of its client Heritage Christian Academy (HCA), Liberty Institute responds

“As the U.S Supreme Court has recognized, the First Amendment grants schools like HCA religious freedom to make decisions on whom to hire and fire based upon religious reasons,” said Jeff Mateer, Liberty Institute general counsel.  “The U.S. Supreme Court’s 9-0 decision from earlier this year in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC makes clear that the First Amendment bars a school teacher’s wrongful termination action based upon an alleged violation of employment discrimination laws asserted against a Christian school.  Our Constitution protects Christian schools and other religious organizations like HCA from interference with their religious beliefs and practices.”

I looked up Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC and I don’t think the ruling means what Liberty Institute thinks it means:

The court ruled unanimously that federal discrimination laws do not apply to religious organizations’ selection of religious leaders.

Specifically:

The decision explicitly left open the question whether religious organizations could be sued for other reasons with the sentence “We express no view on whether the exception bars other types of suits, including actions by employees alleging breach of contract or tortious conduct.”

As to my personal opinion, I think the school is in the wrong here. I’m no lawyer but I don’t think private schools/organizations can discriminate against women like this then hide behind the shield of religious freedom. I think everybody is free to practice their religion as they see fit but religion freedom stops where the rights of other people starts. I actually think what HCA has done is immoral. They’ve fired an expecting mother who now has no insurance benefits and presumably their family income is now significantly less.

It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out in court and I’ll be following it closely.

Resources:

PodCamp Nashville 2012

Today was PodCamp Nashville 2012. They call it a tech “unconference” but you basically get to rub shoulders with some cool Nashville people in the tech and social networking scenes. Jen and I got to meet a bunch of people that we’ve only talked to on Twitter so that was a pretty big plus.

Our first session was Social Networking In Real Life by Dave Delaney. It was basically an overview of why and how you should do more than just network from behind the computer screen… instead you should be sure to go out there and meet the people you’re interacting with online. Also, bring coffee. 😉

Next up was How I Got Google to Pay Me $150,000 by Ross Jones of 2theTopDesign. Ross is a Nashville web design and SEO guru. It was an interesting session and Ross was even nice enough to hang out with us during lunch and answer some questions about our site etc. Cool guy. Be sure to check out his Nashville SEO Meetup group!

Our impromptu session was a session by Lucas Hendrickson about iPad apps! We talked about the iPad apps you use on a regular basis. I made myself notes to check out WriteRoom, Spacward Ho!, Jetpack joyride and Kingdom Rush. Additionally, the incase origami keyboard and hammerhead ipad case.

Next up was Building a Smart Social Media Strategy by Laura Click. This was the best session that I attended personally. That is, I got the most useful information that I’m going to be able to immediately help with running the social media strategies for Pampered You Salon. Stuff like Rapportive and SocialMention especially.

The last session Jen and I attended was Your Marketing is a Waste of Your Time……Unless You Start with Why by our friend David Beronja. The big take away is a lesson learned with the book, Start With Why. I’ve added it to my reading list and will be checking out the TED talk by the author, Simon Sinek.

This was my second “camp” experience with my first one being BarCamp 2011. This one didn’t disappoint and Jen and I got a lot of good info and made new connections. To top it off, I won a prize (see screenshot below)! I was the 1st one to tweet #pcnprizes when they told us what to do to win. Although technically, Jen’s tweet was in before mine but hers didn’t show up in the search. Very weird. 🙁 I will definitely be attending more camps!

PodCamp Nashville 2012

Angry Atheists

Last night I got into a “discussion” with an atheist, on the Internet, about religion. I’m sure that my Christian friends are looking at me with their “wow, that was a really stupid fucking thing to do” eyes but sometimes I’m kind of naive.  Eric is a friend of mine… we’re not very close friends as we’ve only met a couple times in person but I thought we had enough common interests and ideas about things that a better friendship could develop. Plus, I don’t actually know many other atheists and I really want to.

Eric says a good way to confront Christians is to ask them hard questions and I couldn’t agree more! He was asking a bunch of questions on Twitter with the same theme but here is the specific one that I was trying to address:

@ericragle: Serious question to Christians: would you kill me if your god told you to? No cop outs. Just answer. #teamjesus

As a fellow outspoken atheist, I thought this was a bad question. I thought it was a bad question based on my conversations and experiences with Christians. To me, this is a strawman question because I don’t know a single Christian who would agree with the premise: That God would ask them to kill a person. It’s a non-starter for all of the Christians I know and probably somewhat offensive.

The question is based on the Old Testament idea that God commands people to be killed. There is plenty of scripture to support this idea in the OT. The problem is that the Christians I know say that since Jesus died for their sins, they no longer have to follow all of the bad bits from the OT. They don’t have to stone their children to death for talking back nor do they have to stone people to death for working on the Sabbath.

The tactic of beating Christians over the head with Old Testament scripture strikes me as Atheist 101; I’ve been there,  done that. I’ve tried to pin Christians down about stuff in the Old Testament but they dismiss my arguments based on the idea of Jesus dying for their sins. It took me a while of asking different Christians about Old Testament atrocities to finally understand that I wasn’t getting anywhere with that line of questions. I was reaching out to Eric with the best of intentions. I felt that I had this experience under my belt and assumed that since Eric was asking this question that maybe he didn’t have that type of experience yet. I was trying to bridge the gap by sharing my own experience and opinions. Hey, I’m an opinionated atheist, what do you expect? 😉

The discussion went off the rails and I’ve been trying to understand why so I don’t make the same mistake in the future. Here is the last tweet in the exchange if you’re interested in trying to follow it. I’m still turning this over in my mind but so far there are 3 main reasons I’ve come with up it as how it went off the rails.

  1. Trying to have a detailed discussion about something as complex and nuanced as religion is very hard in 140 characters. A lot of detail and back ground has to be left out because of that character limitation. I feel that if this discussion could have happened in person, it wouldn’t have ended up where it ended up.
  2. I made the mistake of assuming that most Christians are like my friends and family. My Christian friends and family are all pretty cool and reasonable people… they just have this peculiarity of thinking there is a magic man in the sky. 😛 I think Eric was mostly talking to/about Pat Robertson type Christians. You know, those idiots who think that God sent Katrina to New Orleans because the city was decadent.
  3. I was trying to make my point for too long. I felt like Eric wasn’t understanding me so I kept at it. Looking back, I realize now that he just didn’t agree and I should have just dropped it sooner.

I try real hard to understand Christian logic, such as it is, so that I can pin them down with the questions I’m asking them. Here are the questions that I’m asking Christians when the right opportunity presents itself:

  1. After natural disasters, it’s inevitable that a person is pulled from the rubble of a collapsed building alive and mostly unharmed.  That’s called a miracle by a lot of Christians (i.e., God personally intervened to save this person). If God gets the credit for saving the one person, who gets the blame for the hundreds that perished?
  2. If God loves us, why would he allow so many innocent people to perish in natural disasters like the tornadoes in KY? If he’s unable to effect the weather then he’s not omnipotent. If he chooses not to, does he love us?
  3. The #1 factor in your religion is where you’re born. If you are born in North America, you’ll probably be a Christian. If you’re born in the Middle East, you’re probably going to be Muslim. If you’re born in India, you’ll probably be a Hindu. Why?

Live and learn.

Birth Control Again…

I can’t believe that here it is 2012 and the GOP/social conservatives are trying to prevent women’s access to healthcare. If you’ve been living under a rock, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka, ObamaCare) mandates that insurance companies must provide women with free birth control if they want it as part of their insurance plans. The GOP & social conservatives of course object.

There are two main parts to this issue that I’d like to comment on. I fired off an angry rant a couple weeks ago but I feel compelled to talk about this some more.

First, social conservatives say that since some people have religious and moral objections to women taking birth control, that there should be some sort of opt out clause. That is, if Blue Cross/Blue Shield is run by a bunch of social conservatives, they shouldn’t be forced to provide women with birth control pills as part of their insurance plan. I call bullshit on that. Paraphrasing Barbara Boxer here but what if some religious nutters objected to people being vaccinated? Should there be some sort of option to allow insurance companies and businesses to not include being vaccinated as part of their insurance package? What if somebody objected to providing obese people with insulin for their diabetes? They weren’t living a good life style after all and they did this to themselves so the employer shouldn’t be forced to provide medical coverage to the fatties; personal responsibility! What if I ran a company and I objected to paying for the insurance of idiots? Not suffering idiots is surely part of my religion!

Why do some people think that “religious freedom” is some sort of magic, get out of free jail card? This is really one of the big problems with religion IMO. A lot of people think that their religion is above criticism and it’s been assigned this special place in our society. I get pretty irritated when people try to use the religious freedom shield to defend some asinine idea. If parents pray for their sick child instead of taking them to the doctor, they should be charged with a crime if the child dies. If old white guys are trying to prevent women’s access to healthcare, they should be called sexist idiots. Religious freedom to some of these people must mean the freedom to force their views on their employees.

Second, this really boils down to teh sex. That is, these people are really upset at the idea that women taking birth control allows women to have sex without the consequences of getting pregnant and that really seems to bother a lot of people. It’s surely a double standard. As I’ve said before, it boils down to slut punishment in my mind. Who are all these horny guys taking Viagra gonna have teh sex with if women abstain from having sex because they don’t want to get pregnant?

In conclusion, I fully support President Obama and the Democrats on this issue. Other people’s religious objections shouldn’t override people’s access to healthcare, period, carriage return, tab.