Category Archives: Religion

Mike Pence, Matt Walsh, respect, and trust


A Christian conservative blogger named Matt Walsh posted an article to Facebook (and something to his blog as well) the other day in support of VP Mike Pence. I’ll let Mr. Walsh describe it himself:

I decided to check the headlines tonight and this is the “news story” I saw being reported by dozens of outlets. You see, Vice President Pence will not eat a meal alone with a woman other than his wife, and the media wants us to realize that this is a humongous scandal. Many of the mindless hyenas on Twitter have been cackling about it, because apparently it’s hilarious and bizarre for a married man to forgo dinner dates with other women.

Well, I confess that my wife and I must join the puritan club with Mr. and Mrs. Pence, because neither of us would go out for a meal alone with a member of the opposite sex, either (other than family, of course). In fact, I would go so far as to say that a married man shouldn’t be hanging out with another woman one-on-one in almost any situation, whether there’s a meal involved or not. I’m radical like that, I guess.

Mr. Pence and his wife (as well as Mr. Walsh and his wife) have agreed that neither will eat with someone of the opposite sex without the other one there. I don’t have a problem with that. It’s their marriage and far be it from me to tell someone else how they should conduct their marriage (though Mr. Pence has no trouble doing that). But the implication that the Pences and Walshes are invariably right and anyone who disagrees is wrong is so condescending and holier-than-thou it’s scary.

From his blog article on the same subject:

Listen to the vets who’ve been in it for 20 or 30 years or longer. You’ll find that the vast majority of them would agree with Pence, or, at the very least, understand his approach and respect it.

How does he know the “vast majority” of long-married couples would agree? Sounds to me like the old echo chamber is rearing its ugly head again – he writes a conservative Christian blog, and the majority of his readers are probably conservative Christians too and thus agree with him. But he seems to think that their views match those of the general public. Maybe they do and maybe they don’t, but unless you’ve got some actual evidence, you can’t just go asserting things like that.

…if you have no boundaries other than “don’t cheat,” you’ve set yourself up for failure. Inevitably, if cheating is your only boundary, even it will eventually be crossed. …We must take active and purposeful steps to protect ourselves from stumbling into sin and betrayal. If we take no such steps, we are much closer to doing the thing “we would never do” than we’d care to admit or imagine.

Speak for yourself, pal.

Frankly, when I have some time to myself, I much prefer to either spend it alone, reading or fishing or something, or with male friends who I share a fraternal bond with. A man can’t have that kind of bond with a woman. It’s an absurd proposition.

Why the hell not?

Gail and I celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary last October, so that makes me a vet in Walsh’s view.  By “understand his approach and respect it”, I suppose that’s arguably correct in that I don’t think Pence is an idiot for having this pact with his wife. What I really disagree with is the implication that because he (Walsh) thinks this way, that’s the correct way of thinking. On his blog Walsh has the various taglines “Absolute truths”, “Christian columnist and political incendiary Matt Walsh is an extremist — if truth is extreme”, and “Matt Walsh is a blogger, writer, and professional sayer of truths.” How cocky do you have to be to post your opinions and call them objective truth? If that statement was there once, then OK, I might believe he meant it jokingly. But three times?

We’ve reached full Idiocracy, folks. Prudence and wisdom are openly mocked. And mocked, I should mention, mostly by people who’ve never been married or never managed to stay married. You’d be hard pressed to find someone in a successful and stable marriage who thinks it’s silly for spouses to have policies like this.

<Raises hand> Again, if we’re splitting hairs, I suppose he’s technically correct. Do I think it’s silly to have such a policy in your marriage? No, but is it necessary? Also no. At least not for everyone.

I’ve been married to my wonderful wife for over twenty years and we are very happy, thank you very much. I have many female friends and I have had one-on-one meals with a few of them. Gail’s known about such meals when they’ve happened and never batted an eye because she trusts me. Similarly she’s done the same with male friends, and it never bothered me either because I trust her.

In fact, the policy is so obvious that it shouldn’t even need to be stated out loud. Only ridiculous and immature people who have no concept of how husbands and wives should operate could possibly laugh at a married couple for actually respecting each other, as the Pences clearly do.

I don’t see how “you can’t go for dinner alone with Bob because you might end up sleeping with him” is showing her respect. Similarly, “I promise not to go out for dinner alone with any woman because I might end up sleeping with her” isn’t showing respect. How about “I promise not to sleep with anyone else”? You said that as part of your marriage vows – isn’t that enough? If you have to make other rules to make sure you don’t break that one, what’s stopping you from breaking the “I won’t eat lunch with another woman” rule?

Personally, I have no desire to go out with women other than my wife. I have no desire to maintain friendships with women.

Good for you. But don’t presume to speak for all men, and don’t pretend that your opinion is somehow more valuable than anyone else’s. I do have friendships with women that I want to maintain. These friendships are threats to neither my marriage nor theirs.

Have there been people who did stray from their marriage vows in such a situation? I’m sure there have been many. Maybe for those people, avoiding such a situation would have been a good idea. But don’t assume that everyone is at similar risk. Does Mr. Walsh prevent Mrs. Walsh from going to Wal-Mart by herself just in case the feeling of shoplifting comes over her, even if she’s never stolen anything in her life? To paraphrase Mr. Walsh’s own blog, “Do you believe your spouse is literally impervious to the sin of theft? If you do, please tell us how you managed to climb to Heaven and marry an archangel.”

Matt Walsh whines about his values being openly mocked while openly mocking the values of those who disagree with him. I’m not mocking anyone except Walsh. If you want to make that agreement with your spouse and you both honour it, good for you. But don’t imply that those of us who have not made that agreement must (a) be philanderers, (b) have unhappy marriages, or worse (c) not know as much about marriage as Matt Walsh, the Speaker of Truth™.

This whole article doesn’t even touch the other big issue here. It’s fine for Walsh and his wife to make this kind of pact, but Mike Pence is the Vice President of one of the most powerful countries in the world. If he refuses to be alone with a woman who isn’t his wife, what are the odds he’s going to hire women for important roles in his administration? We already know that both Pence and Trump think of women as second-class citizens, so it shouldn’t be surprising that they won’t be hiring many. But isn’t it possible that the Chancellor of Germany needs to have a private meeting with Pence at some point? Is he really going to cancel the meeting if his wife can’t be there? Does the Vice President of the Unites States really need a fucking chaperone?

Apparently, I don’t exist


On an episode of Law and Order, a defense attorney is cross-examining a witness (testifying about what killed the deceased) in what looks like a slam-dunk case. The attorney knows the case against his client is very damning, and is trying to find some “reasonable doubt” for the jury to latch on to, with no luck. Finally, in desperation, he asks “It is possible that something else killed him?” The witness replies matter-of-factly, “It’s possible that death rays from Mars killed him. But I don’t think so.”


Noted evangelist Ray Comfort has decided that atheists don’t really exist. Note the way he words it: “There can be no such things [sic] as an atheist.” He’s not just saying that atheists don’t exist, he’s saying they can’t exist. Seeing as I am one, I was curious to know why Mr. Comfort doesn’t believe in me. So I read it.

Comfort is the same guy who once did a video with former actor Kirk Cameron about why the banana is “the atheist’s nightmare” – because it’s conveniently shaped for human hands, it has a non-slip surface, has a biodegradable wrapper, and other nonsensical reasons. Obviously, it must have been designed by God. This is ridiculous on a number of levels. First off, the banana he describes is one of a number of types of banana, and others don’t have the same qualities. Bananas don’t grow all over the world, which you’d think they would if God had designed them to be human food. The coconut was presumably also designed by God but grows in an inconvenient location and the wrapper is much more difficult to get through. There are lots of things that grow on plants that have many of these qualities but are poisonous. But most importantly, the banana he describes was not designed by God at all; it is the way it is because of hundreds of years of domestication – we keep and cultivate only the plants that grow the bananas the way we want them.

(Note that Comfort has since semi-recanted, saying that he now realizes that the argument was invalid because of the way the banana was bred. But now he says that it’s kind of still valid because God gave us the ability to do the breeding in the first place.)

Anyway, his reasoning for why atheists don’t exist is as follows:

To say categorically, “There is no God,” is to make an absolute statement. For the statement to be true, I must know for certain that there is no God in the entire universe. No human being has all knowledge. Therefore, none of us is able to truthfully make this assertion.

While this is undeniably true, it’s also completely meaningless. An atheist is not someone who claims to know for a fact that God does not exist, he’s someone who believes that God does not exist. Even the people who put atheist messages on billboards and buses phrased it as “There’s probably no God.” Not “unequivocally”, not “definitely”. “Probably”. I don’t need to know everything about everything in order to believe this. Can I prove it? No, but I’m not trying to and no atheist has ever (seriously) claimed to be able to. You see evangelists claiming “proof” of God all the time, but none of them has ever actually provided any.

During Bill Nye’s debate on evolution with Ken Ham, each was asked about what would make them change their minds. Nye responded as any skeptic would – if there was actual evidence, I’d change my mind.

We would need just one piece of evidence, we would need the fossil that swam from one layer to another; we would need evidence that the universe is not expanding, we need evidence that the stars appear to be far away, but they’re not. … Bring out any of those things, and you would change me immediately.

Ham responded that nothing possibly could:

And so, as far as the word of God is concerned, no one’s ever going to convince me that the word of God is not true.

So if I were to ask Mr. Ham whether it’s possible that he’s wrong, it’s pretty clear what his answer would be: no, it’s not possible. If Mr. Ham asked me, however, I’d happily admit that it’s possible I’m wrong. It’s definitely possible that there’s a God who created the universe 6000 years ago and then decided to leave no incontrovertible evidence of his existence and make the universe look exactly like it would had it been created in a big bang 14 billion years ago. But I don’t think so.

Want smart independent kids? Stay away from Texas


This is truly frightening. This is a direct quote from the official platform of the Texas Republican Party:

We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.

Yes, the Texas Republicans are officially opposed to teaching kids how to think critically. They want their children to blindly believe whatever they are told.

This is a blatant ploy to gain votes from the strongly religious, of which Texas has a great many. If from the time a student was born, he has people telling him that the Earth is 6,000 years old and humans and dinosaurs were around at the same time, we definitely don’t want his teachers to start “challenging the student’s fixed beliefs” by introducing stuff that contradicts that, like geology or paleontology or pretty much any other branch of science. If mommy and daddy tell you that evolution isn’t true and God did it all, well we wouldn’t want to “undermine parental authority” and have Junior go and start thinkin’ about it, now would we?

The fact that this is the Texan governing party’s official position and they want to make this law makes me weep for the children of Texas.

One reason I could never live in Texas. Well, this and the scorpions.

Reason


I recently heard a Christian song called “Oh, What A Reason”. When the song began, it sounded to me like many other Christian songs, and I kind of tuned out. Then the line “There’s nothing in this world worth living for” caught my attention. This didn’t sound like a lyric from a Christian song, more like some depressing emo band.

After a couple of google searches, I was unable to determine who wrote the song; the closest I found was a link to a youtube video of someone named Lauren Talley singing it. Here are the lyrics I found online, reproduced without permission, since I don’t know who to ask:

I’ve been blessed with so many things, God’s been good to me
I have family and friends who share in all I do
But if I lose it all and I am left with nothing
If I have the Lord I know I’ll make it through
 
He’s the only reason I live, but oh, what a reason
He’s the only reason I live, but oh, what a reason
There’s nothing in this world worth living for
It only leaves you empty and longing for more
Oh, He’s the only reason I live, but oh, what a reason
 
Now you may have tried a lot of things to find real happiness
But if you’ve looked very long, then you know it can’t be found
Until you find the Lord, in the power of His Spirit
Jesus will be your reason to live and He’ll never let you down

Now, I’m an atheist, but I’m not one of those uppity atheists that think that Christians are all moronic brainwashed sheep. So be aware that when I question these lyrics, I’m not questioning them because they refer to God. I’m questioning them because they have implications about the Christian faith that I cannot imagine are true for the vast majority of Christians. Many Christians believe that their faith in God is the most important thing in their life, and that’s fine, I get that. But that’s not what this song says. It does not say that God is their favourite reason to live, or a very important reason, or even the most important reason. It says that God is the only reason to live. The only reason.

“There’s nothing in this world worth living for / it only leaves you empty and longing for more” – is that really what devout Christians believe? That their family, their friends, their career, they’re all meaningless? Real happiness “can’t be found”? At all? Ever?

If this is really how the songwriter feels feels about his/her life, well, quite honestly I feel sorry for them. Personally, I believe that real happiness can be found, because I’ve found it. I have many reasons to live, and that’s without faith in God. Maybe whoever wrote this song should try give atheism a try.

La la la la la


My letter was not published. But there were two other letters published, one who agreed with me and one who did not. In case the links don’t survive for long, here are the letters in their entirety. First, the guy who agreed with me:

Thousands of biologists have confirmed on the micro scale that organisms change over generations.

On the macro scale, these observations have been confirmed in the fossil record, which shows both diversity and similarities among species that indicate a common ancestor. This has led to the theory of evolution.

Other scientific theories include the germ theory of disease and the theory of electromagnetism.

Creationism is not a scientific theory. It is philosophical speculation that an intelligent being created the universe. It cannot be tested and has no data to support it. As such, it has no place in science classes.

The other guy’s letter is not available online (though the above letter is there twice) but it said:

Another left-brain-thinking scientist tries to tell us to look at the beauty of creation as one big accident.

I really hope that second guy is not a teacher. Yes, life itself is a truly remarkable thing, and intelligent life even more so. But you can’t just ignore the overwhelming scientific evidence that evolution has happened and is continuing to happen. Doing this in favour of a belief that cannot be proven (or even, as the first letter writer suggests, tested) is the scientific equivalent of closing your eyes and covering your ears and yelling “God did it! La la la la la I’m not listening to the evidence! La la la la la

(Aside: The really ironic part of the second letter is that according to a Wikipedia article on brain function, the whole left-brain-vs.-right-brain thing isn’t real science either.)

Maybe the building blocks of life were created by God. Since we don’t know for sure how that happened, I have to admit that the idea is at least plausible even if I personally don’t believe it. Maybe God created the first seeds of life and then allowed evolution to take it from there. Look at that, we’re both right! Everybody wins!

Teach all theories? Yes, if it’s actually a theory


There was an article in the Hamilton Spectator a few days ago about how evolution not being taught in Ontario schools until Grade 12 biology, a course which is not mandatory. As a result, we have students in Ontario universities that have never learned about evolution or natural selection and think that it means “people came from monkeys”. In today’s Spec, there is a letter to the editor in response to this article, which states:

Evolution may be a valuable lesson but it is still a theory. The title seems to imply that Darwinian theory equals truth.

The teaching of ‘intelligent design’ and ‘creationism’ are theoretically just as valid.

The teaching of all three in a science curriculum would help students to learn, analyze, discern and decide for themselves what data is relevant and to find their own truth.

Isn’t that the best education?

I just finished writing a response and emailed it to the Spec. My response:

The writer is confused about the use of the word “theory” with respect to the theory of evolution. Evolution is a fact — scientists have observed it happening. The theory of evolution describes why and how it happens, not whether it happens.

A scientific theory is not just a guess. The theory of evolution is no more a guess than the theory of gravity. We may not understand all the details of how evolution works, but there is no question that it is happening.

Intelligent design, on the other hand, is pseudo-science that is not supported by any facts, only religious faith.

We’ll see if it gets published.