What Would Jesus Do?

Back before the pandemic times, which sometimes feels like ages ago, I would occasionally see people wearing little bracelets with WWJD stamped into them. It would seem a curious question to ask: “What would Jesus do?” Strange to try to peer into the mind of a being that many Christian’s believe has “ways that are not our ways”, and does not seem to think like we do.

Let’s remember here that Jesus is, after all, the same God as the God of the Old Testament. That guy had no problem smiting entire towns, or even allowing Satan to make Job suffer just to show off how faithful he would remain. Do you really want to think about what that guy would do?

But let’s assume that we’re only talking about the Jesus of the New Testament. The gentle being who never lost an argument, and always had a quick retort for those who asked him trick questions. WWJD is essentially asking “what would God do?” in a particular situation, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that people love to project their own opinions onto others who may or may not agree with them. Projecting your worldview onto others is just something that many people like to do, but it doesn’t necessarily represent reality.

Take this study about assessing the will of God with respect to same-sex marriage. It’s still a divisive topic for some even though it’s been legal in most of the industrialized world for years. When people are asked to pray and assess what God (who is Jesus according to Trinitarian Christians) would think about same-sex marriage what we find is that people come to a conclusion based on what they already believe. Social conservatives agree that God dislikes same-sex marriage, while social liberals agree that God would allow sax-same marriage.

Isn’t it strange that God agrees with everyone? It’s a curious result because both cannot seemingly be true at the same time, unless God is like Mr. Rogers, who when asked a question by a child would typically ask them what they think, and would then agrees with whatever answer they gave. God being like Mr. Rogers might be possible, but that doesn’t do much for the WWJD question. It would seem that asking “what would Jesus do” is really just a fancy way of asking “what do I think of X”, with the added benefit that your opinion would seem to be backed up by God rather than just your opinion.

While I have no significant problems with the WWJD bracelets (I’m certainly not about to tell people that they shouldn’t wear them), I do hope that when they ask this that they realize they are just projecting their own opinion onto the situation and treat it accordingly. Believing that you have God on your side doesn’t mean that you do, or make you right, and does not mean that any actions you take are laudable.

Binary Thinking

There a problem I’ve noticed and it seems to be particularly bad within the COVIDiot crowd. You can see it when they make their arguments about why they don’t want a life saving vaccine, or why they shouldn’t wear masks. Tell me, how many times have you come across something like the following:

Even vaccinated people are getting sick. I’m not going to get vaccinated if it’s not going to give me immunity.”
or perhaps even
People wearing masks still get sick, so masks have no effect on the virus. It’s just a mechanism to make us compliant to big government intrusions.“[1]

You can see it within the Christian community when they offer up Pascal’s wager and make the assumption that it’s either Christianity or atheism, without considering the possibility of other choices.

All of these are examples of binary thinking. Binary thinking can be dangerous because it ignores the nuances of situations, or in the case of vaccines where it ignores that there may be benefits beyond the simple “get sick”, “won’t get sick” dichotomy. Even when it comes to mask wearing we know that there are benefits even if they aren’t going to completely protect you (and yes, before anyone gets into it, there are good studies showing that masks do have some protective effect against transmission of the virus.)

On the “get sick – won’t get sick” dichotomy, to think of it only in binary terms would also ignore the benefits that getting the jab is known to have, even if it doesn’t offer complete immunity from the virus. We already know that the majority of new cases, and in particular hospitalizations and ICU admissions, are coming among those who have not yet been vaccinated, even though they now represent a minority of the population. States with the lowest rates of vaccination are the ones with the highest case loads and the most at risk of hospitals being overrun. We know that those who are most likely to die of the virus are those who have not been vaccinated, again representing a minority of the population.

False binaries are an easy, but seductive, trap to fall into. We, as humans, seem to like to think in binary terms, but it isn’t always correct to do so.

[1] I’m not even going to get into some of the insane depths of conspiracy thinking that people will engage in.

On Abortion and Bodily Autonomy

I found the below graphic floating around on social media recently and I think it really does a good job of describing the pro-choice arguments. As much as I dislike abortions, I understand that bodily autonomy demands that we allow women the freedom to choose. I don’t want the state to dictate how my body is used for others as that is a choice for me alone to make.

I don’t know where this originated, but here it is.

Last night, I was in a debate about these new abortion laws being passed in red states. My son stepped in with this comment which was a show stopped. One of the best explanations I have read: ‘Reasonable people can disagree about when a zygote become a “human life” – that’s a philosophical question. However, regardless of whether or not one believes a fetus is ethically equivalent to an adult, it doesn’t obligate a mother to sacrifice her bodily autonomy for another, innocent or not.

Body autonomy is a critical component of the right to privacy protected by the Constitution, as decided in Griswold v Connecticut (1965), McFall v Shimp (1778), and of course Roe v Wade (1973). Consider a scenario where you are a perfect bone marrow match for a child with severe aplastic anemia; no other person on earth is a close enough match to save the child’s life, and the child will certainly die without a bone marrow transplant from you. If you decided that you did not want to donate your marrow to save the child, for whatever reason, the state cannot demand the use of any part of your body for something to which you do not consent. It doesn’t matter if the procedure required to complete the donation is trivial, or if the rationale for refusing is flimsy and arbitrary, or if the procedure is the only hope the child has to survive, or if the child is a genius or a saint or anything else – the decision to donate must be voluntary to be constitutional. This right is even extended to a person’s body after they die; if they did not voluntarily commit to donate their organs while alive, their organs cannot be harvested after death regardless of how useless those organs are to the deceased or how many lives they would save. That’s the law.

Use of a woman’s uterus to save a life is no different from use of her bone marrow to save a life – it must be offered voluntarily. By all mean, profess your belief that providing one’s uterus to save the child is morally just, and refusing is morally wrong. This is a defensible philosophical position, regardless of who agrees and who disagrees. But legally, it must be the woman’s choice to carry out the pregnancy. She may choose to carry the baby to term. She may choose not to. Either decision could be made for all the right reasons, all the wrong reasons, or anything in between. But it must be her choice, and protecting the right of body autonomy means the law is on her side. Supporting that precedent is what being pro-choice means.

Please excuse any typo’s I made in transcribing the text of the image.

Texas’ Abortion Law Comes Into Effect

In case you haven’t heard, because maybe you’ve been living inside a cave to hide from the COVIDiots, Texas’ SB 8 law came into effect this week which effectively criminalizes abortion after 6 week, and enables private citizens to become bounty hunters for women who seek an abortion after the time limit.

Disappointingly, the US Supreme Court has refused to hear an emergency appeal by an abortion provider, allowing the law to come into full effect and effectively gutting the Roe v Wade standard that was set nearly 50 years ago. If the law stands, and women are punished for seeking abortions after 6 weeks, this will substantively change the legal landscape of the United States with respect to abortions.

But what does this law actually mean for women of Texas, and other conservative states where this law will likely be replicated? In part it depends on who you are and what means you have available to you.

For women that have the financial means they will simply travel out of state to have the procedure done. Perhaps they take a short vacation off to California, or some other state, where such draconian restrictions on abortions are not applied. For those who have the means this will, at worst, be a minor inconvenience. Don’t be surprised if conservative politicians send their mistresses off to Europe for a vacation when an accident happens.

But what about those without the financial means to get out of the state to get what they need? Most likely they will turn to the black market, or to some kinds of unsafe home procedures. These are the women who will be most impacted by this new law. They will be forced to use unsafe methods of terminating their pregnancies. The major problem with this law is that it does nothing to deal with the root cause of the situation – women who get pregnant when they do not want to be.

The law also makes no exceptions for rape, a particular omission that seems to only further punish women who have already been violated. Worse yet is that a woman who is raped and has an abortion could, at least in theory, be sued by the rapist for aborting the fetus that he forced a woman to carry.

At the end of the day we’re still going to see women getting pregnant, who do not wish to be, and will be forced to give birth against their will. Ultimately, the hyper conservative politicians who endorse this bill don’t really care about reducing demand for abortions, they just want to look like the tough guys who are putting their foot down on some undesirable behavior. If they did want to reduce abortions they could make policies that help reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, but that’s just not the socially conservative way.

When I look at what Texas has done all I see is a bill that appeals to their base to remind them that there are women who are having sex when they don’t want children (apparently a faux pas among some social conservatives.) These politicians could have enacted laws that actually reduce abortions by reducing demand. That would mean doing things like: Increasing the quality of sex education. Increasing the availability of LARC’s. Providing free contraction to women of child bearing age. We know that these things work, and we know that prohibition does not. We know that the war on drugs has failed. The war on alcohol failed. The war on women’s reproductive rights will also inevitably fail, but that could take years, during which time who knows how many women will suffer the consequences of bad policy. It really is a sad time for Texas and other socially conservative states.

As a final note, while I don’t want to sound like a fear-monger, I wouldn’t be surprised if, in the near future, Republicans start to work on making commonly used methods of birth control much harder to acquire, either by attacking insurance coverage, or by making the products less available. They’ve already made their marks on abortion and the war on women’s reproductive rights shows no signs of end in the US. The polarization of the United States continues.

Would You Think I’m Insane?

Let’s play a little game, shall we? I’m going to describe a hypothetical situation, along with my response to it, and you’re going to tell me if you think my response is rational, or batshit fucking crazy, or somewhere in-between. Sounds fun, right? Let’s do it.

Here’s the situation: I find out one day that you’ve committed some action that has caused me some degree of harm. It can be whatever you want, stealing, killing one of my family, writing libelous claims about me in the local newspaper, whatever. Use your imagination.

Now in response to this harm against me I decide that I must have vengeance for this, but I am willing to forgive you for whatever awful thing you’ve done to me. But here’s the weird thing: In order to forgive you of whatever tragedy you’ve inflicted upon me, I need cut my arms with a sharp knife so as to draw blood. That blood will act as a payment for the crimes that you have committed against me. I will then forgive anyone who promises to love me and remember that I bled for the crimes that were committed against me.

Now tell me honestly here: If somebody came up to you on the street and told you this wouldn’t you think this person needs to be committed? I know I would. So why is it that when we get the comparable story of God and the demi-god sacrifice of Jesus that we aren’t completely horrified that this is what God needs in order to be able to forgive us? We should, quite rightly, think that God completely is off his rocker, yet Christians seem to think that the Christian salvation story is the greatest story ever told. So why is it weird when we do something completely messed up like inflict additional injury to ourselves for somebody else’s crime, yet “normal” when Christians offer it to us as the supposedly best method that God had available for salvation? This messed up shit is the best that a supposedly omnipotent and omniscient being could come up with?

I think one of the worst parts is that God is supposed to be all knowing and all powerful, so I fail to see how our “sin” could possible be able to hurt him in the first place. Frankly, the idea that our paltry “sins” should ever require God to sacrifice himself would seem to be a complete absurdity.

I don’t know about you, but I find the Christian salvation message to be so ghastly that I never want to be part of it. If Christianity is true then the Christian God must be insane and unworthy of worship.

God and the Damned

If what many Christians tell me is true then one day we find many humans in hell being tormented as they did not believe in Jesus at the moment before they died. Of course, it’s always possible that God reaches out them just before they die and gives them what they need to become Christians, but that only begs me to ask: Why not provide this earlier? Why wait until the last possible moment?

And because of this we are left with a bit of a conundrum. If God is all knowing then it is assured that God knows about the inevitably wailing and gnashing of teeth that the damned are sure to make. If God is all loving then God will want to save them from this eternal fate of agony and torment. If God is all powerful then God could surely break them out of hell and make sure that they are not tormented. So why even have a hell in the first place?

I think the reality is that when we die that’s it – once the brain is dead there is no more consciousness. I also believe that hell is only a device to scare people into continued belief, even if they find the evidence lacking. While I was never scared of hell, I know that many ex-Christians did (and still do) fear this.

If Christianity is true then Jesus is a sadistic monster and simply cannot be the kind of being that we are told that he is. Any being who would allow anyone to be tormented eternally for not believing[1] simply is not worth worshiping in the first place. Such a being is incompatible with the idea of hell.

[1] I know, Christians say that we’re sinners and that is the reason we are sent to hell, but that’s nonsense given that the most basic criteria for salvation (at least according to protestants) is whether you believed in Jesus.

I Watched: Pray Away

Last night I sat down and watched the documentary Pray Away on Netflix. For those unfamiliar it’s a documentary related to gay conversion, interviewing mostly former leaders of Exodus International. I’ll try not to spoil anything about the movie itself, although this post will describe details from the movie. If you’re uncomfortable with that, watch the movie first and then read my post. Keep in mind that this really isn’t a movie review so much as a post pointing out some thing’s that caught my eye.

Christians Talk Like Idiots

“The Lord put this on my heart”, and “he is one of the first fruits” are two sentences that stood out for me, being spoken by some Christians, that reminds me how silly evangelicals sound when they talk. Why does an all powerful God communicate with you via your subjective feelings? That’s just absurd. “I feel like God wants me to do X” is functionally indistinguishable from what your subconscious wants you to do.

The absurdity of this kind of “Christianese” has been talked about by others. Seth Andrew’s did a conference talk entitled “Christianity Made Me Talk Like an Idiot.” If you have some time it’s a pretty entertaining video.

Gay Conversion Is About Hating Yourself

If there’s one thing that Christianity, in particular fundamentalist and evangelical Christianity, does very well it’s teach people to hate themselves for being human. Christianity focuses on some unobtainable image of what you’re supposed to be and makes you hate yourself for failing to achieve that standard. This inevitable failure leads to people becoming more committed to Christianity, like a fat person trying to lose weight by dieting (cutting off calories) and then finding that they rebound six months later. People are told that they need to work harder to “get with the Lord”, so that the Holy Spirit will regenerate them, but this will always lead to some failure down the road. The idea simply cannot be achieved. Most versions of Christianity can be summed up as: You are, at your very center, a sinner, created by God to need God to save you. Failure reinforces that you need God but somehow never a failure on God’s part.

Many Christian denominations believe that having same-sex attractions is fundamentally disordered. Those who are attracted to the same-sex have something wrong with them and this needs to be changed. This is where Christianity goes off the rails trying to alter reality.

The biggest problem is that all of the evidence tells us that you don’t get to choose who you’re attracted to! You cannot simply will yourself to be attracted to somebody that you do not find attractive. They are fundamentally trying to get you to change something that you cannot will to be different. It’s a bit like trying to will yourself to have red hair. Your hair color isn’t something that will mutate by your will – and by extension neither will who you find attractive.

Some Are Still Christian

From the “apparently apostasy is hard” department, I find mind boggling that their are still homosexual Christians, particularly ones that have moved on from their fundamentalist “we believe everything in the Bible” denomination to more liberal denominations. To me it’s a lot like looking at black Christians and seeing how they’re rationalized away the slavery that their religion allows for, all while worshiping that same God who couldn’t make it clear that slavery was harmful. Gay liberal Christians would seem to have rationalized away the fact that the holy book, which is generally the basis for their religion, and has nothing good to say about homosexuals. Apparently an all powerful God couldn’t get it right the first time.

As somebody who walked away from their religion decades ago, I have a hard time understand how somebody can make the huge step to walk away from their fundamentalist denomination, but not see the otherwise glaring problems with their religion as a whole. I understand that indoctrination, and social pressure, are powerful, but you would think that being told that you are broken would push more of them even further away. What makes it even harder for me to understand is that a big reason that I wanted nothing more to do with the Catholic Church was their antiquated positions on sex, sexuality, and other “moral” issues. Frankly, if there really is an all-powerful God who came to Earth to be one of us, why was Jesus so silent on these obvious problems? If Paul really did get revelation from Jesus then Jesus must have approved of Paul’s homophobic message, or Jesus would have told him to say otherwise. In other words, either homosexuality really is as detestable as the Bible makes it out to be, or there is no all powerful, all knowing, being that created us, cares about us, and wants the best for us. I don’t understand how there can be any middle ground here.

In the end it’s not something I can, or even would, make people do. I cannot force anyone to leave their religion. All I can do is show them what is wrong with their religion and hope that they choose wisely, without being ruled by fear and indoctrination. It’s certainly better that these people are liberal Christians, rather than bigoted and hateful ones, but I think the world would be even better for most of us if there were no Christians at all.

The Absurdity of Anti-vaxers

I have to admit, I find the anti-vax movement to be a bit funny. Not “HAHA” funny, more like “what the fuck is wrong with you” kinda funny. I swear that if today’s anti-vax morons were around 60 years ago we’d still have smallpox running loose inflicting it’s devastation. I’m also sure that they’d be convinced that small-pox is just a conspiracy to get people to comply with the government.

It is only because of a massive drive to vaccinate the world that we’ve completely eradicated smallpox (save for the samples that labs like the CDC still have around), and polio is on the verge of death as well. Even chickenpox’s, a near rite of passage for children when I was young, is incredibly rare today because we’ve managed to vaccinate most children against that disease – even their parents don’t’ have to face the risk of shingles outbreaks should they be able to afford the vaccine. It is vaccines that have managed to hold back the tide of some deadly diseases and are one of the major reasons that infant mortality has declined to the levels that it has. Vaccines are one of the greatest achievements that humanity has ever produced, along with modern sanitation systems, and antibiotics.

And yet we have idiots running around who are convinced that somehow they’ll be implanted with a tracking device, become sterile, or whatever the latest quack-fuckery of the day is, should they take the COVID-19 vaccines. It’s mind-boggling how much anti-intellectual stupidity there is floating around when it comes to vaccines.

Getting vaccinated, even with a single dose, means that you are vastly less likely to die from COVID. Of all the deaths that are happening in the US from COVID, virtually all of them are now in those who have not been vaccinated, and the vast majority of those deaths could be prevented simply by getting everyone vaccinated. And this is the absurdity of the situation. Imagine where we would be today if COVID didn’t kill 600,000 Americans in the last year and half? But yet the people who are afraid of vaccines, and don’t get vaccinated, are the ones who face orders of magnitude higher likelihood of death should they become infected with COVID. It’s crazy.

I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather take a 1 in 60,000 chance of some severe complication from a vaccine than take a 1-2% chance of dying should I contract COVID (which around 10% of Americans have already contracted.) It’s not like vaccines are something new, and we haven’t already researched thte snot out what these things do, and what kinds of long term affects they have. Vaccines have proven themselves to be safe and effective and yet there is still a significant amount of the population that is more concerned about dreamed up risks than well quantified risks from a deadly virus.

At the end of the day what makes me the most sad is that COVID will probably be a concern for everyone for a lot longer than it should have be, largely because there is a segment of our worlds population that either doesn’t understand, or doesn’t care, about what vaccines are and how effective they are at preventing unneeded deaths.

The Delta variant, which is much more contagious and dangerous than all the other variants, doesn’t care if you’re liberal or conservative. The only thing that’s going to stop more deaths from happening is getting every single eligible person vaccinated. Only our trained immune systems will prevent more needless death. Sadly, it’s really only our primitive ape brain stands in the way.

Will the US Ever Achieve Herd Immunity

I was looking at the data over at this tracker, which has a number of interesting statistics about the US and COVID vaccinations. It was a rather sad reading exercise to say the least.

From the general trends, I really have to wonder if the US will even see 60% of the population getting both doses? Experts have estimated that we need somewhere around 70-85% of the entire population vaccinated in order to achieve herd immunity. The pace of vaccinations has begun to stagnate recently and what started out as an incredible start is now slowing to a trickle. Without something to step out the rate at which people are vaccinated I fear that the US will see a crippling wave of delta variant infections that will upend the apple cart. The chaos that ripped through India in previous months stands ready to cause similar damage to the United States if they don’t get their act together and work hard to immunize their population.

I also read today that Florida accounts for 20% of all new COVID infections happening in the United States.

And really, is it any surprise that Republican states have some of the lowest rates of vaccination, while strong Democratic states lead the charge for vaccinations? I also just saw today that modern Republican’s continue to lose confidence in science, so it’s not too surprising that their ignorance is leading them away from things that will actually protect them from this virus.

There has been a considerable effort by Republicans to undermine the strategy of getting people vaccinated, even though the very people undermining this strategy have almost certainly been vaccinated themselves. They’re happy to use the masses as a weapon, even if it means that people die unnecessarily, just so long as there is some political gain from it.

Sadly, the United States appears to be a shit-show when it comes to COVID. The proverbial asylum is being run by the inmates and they don’t (collectively) care if the building burns down around them. They’ve got their freedom (free dumb) and they’re not scared of a little virus that drowns you in your own phlegm. They will not comply.

I think, at this point, the only way the US ever is going to achieve herd immunity is by people getting sick, and probably millions more deaths as a consequence. It’s quite sad considering it doesn’t have to be this way.

Joe Biden, Crackers, and the Catholic Church Itself

I’d read recently that some US Catholic bishops would like to deny Joe Biden from receiving communion, and learned today that they have approved plans to move forward with this idea. To me this would seem to be a strange move by the Catholic Church. Why do they want to stop him from partaking in this particular sacrament? Apparently it has to do with his political (rather than his personal) position on abortion, namely that he doesn’t think abortions should be illegal.

Why is this such a strange position for the Catholic Church to take? For one thing not all Catholics are socially conservative, and do not agree that one must be against abortion to be good Catholic, and more than half of all US Catholics are in favor of legalized abortion. If that’s the case, what does the Catholic church plan to do with these people should they publicly declare their support for women who want to have control over their bodily autonomy? Are these bishops planning to cut off their proverbial nose to spite their face? If over 50% of US Catholics are in favor of legalized abortion then the best that this action will achieve is the polarizing of their membership with the indication the socially liberal Catholics are not welcome within the Church.

Nobody should take this as me wanting the best for the Church. They are a corrupt organization that has been involved in crimes against humanity for decades, and quite possibly centuries. As an organization I’d love to see it fall in the trash bin of history, but if these bishops agree that Biden isn’t worthy of communion it will only quicken the progress. If they were smart, rather than the dogmatic, uptight, and overly conservative, people that they are they’d leave this alone. Nothing good can come from any action they take against a popular Catholic US President.

What’s silly about all of this to me, as a sane person who isn’t convinced by Catholic dogma, is that they’re fighting over whether Joe Biden gets to play their game of “let’s eat magic crackers and pretend to nourish our souls.” Sure, it’s their club and they have the right to decide who’s allowed to play, but they don’t make themselves appear any less ridiculous. People are leaving the churches in droves and the Catholic Church is showing people the way out. What fools. BWAHAHAHA.

Dear Mr Biden, the Catholic Church is not a place for you. There is nothing for you to gain by being a member of that organized religion. Find something else that doesn’t see women’s reproductive rights as being a dividing line.