I hate it when my phone charger doesn’t reach my bed.
The Internet may be the most powerful democratic force in the world. Theoretically, every user has an equal voice. There are still a few problems, of course. Every once in a while a user encounters a seriously problematic idea. Send in the trolls.
A tweet I read by Lauren Dubinsky (wife of Max Andrew Dubinsky, whose hyper-creative multimedia is worth checking out) this morning said:
Two replies followed thus:
In the first reply, Gabriel Gadfly (surely his birth name) poses what seems like an honest question. Do homeless atheists, in general, feel uncomfortable receiving aid from faith-based support centers? We will get to his question in a moment.
Meanwhile, both Lauren and Godless Atheist have made claims.
Lauren’s claim is based on her personal experience on the ground. Personal experience is good, but can be misleading. It’s easy for me to have an experience that is counter to the norm. But if Lauren’s sample group was large enough, we’d say her claim is statistically safe. So, Lauren, you’re off the hook for now.
Godless Atheist’s claims are:
1) many religious groups force their religion on them in return for food
2) much of the support is state funded
You, the reader, have a choice. You can believe these at face value, or you can question them.
If these claims were made in an academic setting, these arguments wouldn’t fly because they completely lack evidence, are unspecific, and are logical fallacies. They aim to persuade through rhetoric rather than evidence.
We are not in an academic setting here, but that doesn’t mean we throw out our brains. It’s simple to see when someone is making a broad claim to change someone’s mind, but doesn’t have a sufficient basis to do so.
At best, Godless Atheist’s claims contain several logical fallacies found on this beautiful illustrated chart: 1) Appeal to Ignorance, 2) Appeal to Popular Belief, 3) Division (or Spotlight), and 4) Sweeping Generalization.
At worst, Godless Atheist saw an opportunity to stir up angry debate. For now, we will give him or her the benefit of the doubt, and deal with why this claim they’ve made is such a problem.
1) Appeal to Ignorance: In both claim 1 and claim 2, Godless Atheist has not given any evidence for, but has not received any evidence that points the other way. Their own ignorance plies our own ignorance until one of us becomes better informed.
2) Begging The Question/Red Herring: Because it’s a common thing for states to fund humanitarian work, it’s not a stretch to make, or believe, claim 2. But what is the author’s intent with this comment? Are they trying to undermine the work that religious groups do because funding comes from the government? This would be like saying the work of teachers doesn’t matter because the government funds schools.
3) Sweeping Generalization/Composition: Claim 1 applies the characteristics of one or a few of these “religious groups” on all of the religious groups. This is unfair. It’s equivalent to calling all American citizens pro-war, because of their government’s position and their military prowess. (This links with guilt by association)
4) Generalization: Use of the word “many” and “most”: these are vague and generalizing, and can steer evidence very poorly, in the same was as using superlatives like never or always.
5) Appeal to Emotion (Fear): Use of the term “force their religion”. A vague term to begin with, no definition, examples, or evidence has been given. Has Godless Atheist observed an instance of this which they can cite? Forcing religion, in this situation, seems to me to be a general statement expressing potential discomfort from encountered ideas that are foreign to a person. And this happens every single day.
6) Division/Generalization: If a religious group exists that does proselytize to needy people before they give them anything, that group would not be representative of the majority. It is completely unfair and untrue for Godless Atheist to use words like “most” in their claim.
So, let’s get back to Gabriel, who has been waiting patiently to have his question answered. If Gabriel is in earnest, can we find the answer to his question? Yes, we can! We will need to ask the only people qualified to answer: homeless atheists themselves.
But I’m pretty sure that if we do ask them (and there may be none, or very few, or very many), that they’re likely not going to all give us the same answer. I’d say it’s safe to assume that some will say yes, some will say no, and some will give a conditional answer.
But to further the discussion, why don’t pose a corollary? Do religious people feel uncomfortable receiving aid from non-religious organizations? Do religious people feel uncomfortable buying groceries from an atheist supermarket cashier or receiving tax breaks from secular governments? Sometimes it helps frame the nature of a question to think about its reverse.
If Gabriel’s question is not in earnest, it might instead be an incendiary comment meant to stir up debate on a completely unrelated topic, for example, whether religious groups oppress others.I chose to take some time out of my morning to respond to this discussion at the risk of feeding a troll, because I believe we can all do our part to make the Internet a place where good ideas are valued and fallacies aren’t simply let off the hook.
Some social conservatives (Christian ones, at that) argue that feminism is to blame for the breakdown of marriage and society. One well-known evangelical sadly suggests that feminism turns women into “lesbians who hate their husbands and kill their children”. But I’m sure he means it in love.
Some of the Christian church, reading into admonitions from 1st Letter to the Corinthians and elsewhere, has selectively used scripture to legitimize their culture’s own existing sexism, instead of envisioning a culture where “there is no male nor female, slave nor freeman, Greek nor Jew” (Galatians 3:28, same author as 1st Corinthians).
One cannot quote the Letters to the Corinthians while disregarding context. An explanation could be that the people of Corinth wrestled with a pagan culture whose primary association of women’s involvement in religion were as temple prostitutes. If this is true, then Paul’s admonitions, offensive when read void of context in modern times, actually safeguarded the reputation of early Christian Corinthian females, rather than instructed female disempowerment.
Both Christianity and feminism desire for fullest human flourishing, freedom from all forms of oppression and compassion for the powerless. Both involve aims of justice and self-reflection. Both involve seeing others as equals. And I would argue that Christianity and feminism can inform and empower each other.
Christians could claim Christ for the ranks of feminism, but tagging @Jesus #feminist is thinking too small. According to Christian belief, God is infinite, eternal, and transcendent. Humans invent schools of thought and academic fields by which we try to interact with and change the world. So instead of forcing Jesus into boxes, no matter how nice they look in the IKEA catalogue, let’s allow him to deconstruct ours. He promises “behold, I make all things new”.
If the church takes Jesus’ gospel seriously, His good news touches all areas of life. Is your local church going along with what the world says or do they look different? The gospel presents humanity with a cosmos that is diametrically different to what exists in its absence.
As I write this, Malala Yousafzai lies in hospital the victim of Taliban gunshot wounds, and she inspires me to reiterate some thoughts from last year on the state of equal rights for women:
Women now make up more than 50 per cent of those attending post secondary institutions, but very few are making it to the top. As The New Yorker pointed out last year in ‘A Woman’s Place’, “Among the hottest new companies— Facebook, Twitter, Zynga, Groupon, Foursquare — none . . . has a female director on its board.” This isn’t only true for Silicon Valley. In politics only thirteen per cent of seats are occupied by women while in the corporate world many women are stuck in C-level jobs. The majority of women, it seems, fill what have been named “pink collar professions”, industries like clerical work or childcare that are often low-paying.
At the school where I teach, a female colleague shared with me that she was glad that I was taking a job in the elementary school. Her reason: because males carry a natural authority that women don’t possess. “The boys just don’t respect women teachers as much as male teachers”, she expressed. Regrettably her observation may be true, even if her reasoning isn’t. I am the first male teacher many of my elementary students will have had thus far, and many others have expressed their satisfaction that a man will lead this rambunctious male-heavy class.
Females have fought hard to gain an equal place in society. Now, in the 21st century, women appear to have equal rights (at least on paper). But how much has actually changed?
Conflicts surrounding gender challenge every society. Westerners gasp at the concept of cultures forcing women to cover themselves from head to toe or to undergo circumcision. Yet even in the perceivedly liberal West, our patriarchy is as notorious as any for diminishing women in the worst way possible: by silencing them.
Through history, there have been witch hunts, church splits over appointments of female clergy, and omissions of influential women from history books (see The Book of Women by Lynne Griffin and Kelly McCann). Yet unlike other revolutions, (and we believe women have had their revolution), it hasn’t really been considered cool to be an “f-word” . . . a feminist. Does the word stir up a glamorous image?
Women maintain the same basic rights as men. However, they remain constrained by our ingrained social values. Let’s be candid here: can we celebrate equality when a strong man is seen as “powerful”, but a strong woman is seen as a “bitch”? Or conversely, a passive man is seen as “weak” and a passive woman is the booming pornography industry’s bread-and-butter? If the majority of males view sexual content in which the woman’s role is degrading, it’s no wonder that diminishing attitudes towards females continue to prevail, or even worsen in our society. I was disgusted this week at a youth rally when a young supposed “world-changer” grabbed one of my female high school students… somewhere he shouldn’t be grabbing.
Listening in 2011 to Vancouver station The Peak FM the radio ad for the census form caught my attention. First, a female voice gently reminded citizens that the deadline was drawing near. Then an authoritative male voice came on and said, “by law, all households must complete a census form.” At first I thought nothing of it; coincidence, surely. Yet our common mental associations with females and males respectively are motherly compassion and fatherly authority. The radio ad, knowingly or unknowingly, played to our gender identity associations. Two weeks later, the roles were reversed on the ad. It made me wonder if someone else had picked up on it…
Reflecting back upon my elementary school anecdote, are we still teaching our children to respect dad (the forceful one) but not mum? If so, we are deeply ingraining attitudes that continue causing problems for women in an old boys’ world.
After watching this video, I am inspired and encouraged.
Kicking off the year with my grade 10 Personal Planning class, we’re examining the story of Pay It Forward and thinking of practical projects we can do in our community.
Also related is this fantastic list of kindness ideas, which will ensure no student is without one:
Are they even listening?
Can you hear me? All stock 40% off today only.
It’s all a dream. Do you know the Lord Jesus as your personal saviour?
All’s well that ends well. I’m devastated over my loss.
Claim your online prize now! Are you breaking up with me?
Speed limits strictly enforced
Words surround us like thick fog, swirling around every part of our day. What’s important blends with what is trivial, private with public, sacred with profane. Popular artists who have something contemplative to say have a hard time finding true listeners in this cloud of words. Many of the words are after your wallet. It’s difficult knowing what words to trust.
It’s easy to become disenchanted when you find you’re not truly being heard. Artists may turn sardonic as a coping mechanism; hear the sarcasm in Weezer’s “Pork and Beans” (hyperironically one of their biggest hits to date). Others leave the mainstream in search of greater independence. Successful ones like Dave Matthews can start their own labels. But they’ll be lucky if they get played on the radio any more, because the major labels drive radio with advertising money.
The problem is not with the artists, but with the malaise of an industry that conjures up concepts, feelings, and personalities to enchant consumers. It’s an industry that revolves around manipulation; an industry in bed with the media that surrounds us, feeding us day and night. It’s unlikely to challenge us to grow, to develop character, to think, or to use wisdom. It toys with loose definitions of concepts like love and happiness, losing the consumer in a haze of mixed messages. I don’t think it could define sex, and yet it manufactures meaning for masses of people in search of it.
“We are numb to things because there is so much white noise, but art can remind people they need to care.”
- Shepherd Fairey, artist
This is a moving insider look at the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota, with help from photojournalist Aaron Huey, artist Shepherd Fairey, and videographer Eric Becker.
I failed, for a long time…in not telling the story right. In some ways, poor places are easy to photograph. It’s a sad thing because I think that’s why people don’t go very deep, because you can go into a place that’s in rough shape and make pretty textural photographs. That’s what a lot of the stories about Pine Ridge are: pretty pictures about ugly things like gangs and violence. No one looks into how we got there.
- Aaron Huey, photojournalist