Sunday, July 31, 2011

Myers Briggs & Religion

Being "rational" is not considered a desirable trait by some people.  I know!  How could they think that way?  Or um... feel that way?

Different people are different, according to the Myers-Briggs typology.  I am an INTP or sometimes INTJ.    So are the majority of internet atheists, (2nd poll here, 3rd poll here)

The brief description of INTP seems like the total recipe for an atheistic skeptical online blogger:

Seek to develop logical explanations for everything that interests them. Theoretical and abstract, interested more in ideas than in social interaction. Quiet, contained, flexible, and adaptable. Have unusual ability to focus in depth to solve problems in their area of interest. Skeptical, sometimes critical, always analytical.

INTJ, the larger half of the INT- atheist world also has a skeptical mindset:

Have original minds and great drive for implementing their ideas and achieving their goals. Quickly see patterns in external events and develop long-range explanatory perspectives. When committed, organize a job and carry it through. Skeptical and independent, have high standards of competence and performance – for themselves and others.

My polar opposite, ESFJ, sounds like someone who would enjoy belonging to a church:

Warmhearted, conscientious, and cooperative. Want harmony in their environment, work with determination to establish it. Like to work with others to complete tasks accurately and on time. Loyal, follow through even in small matters. Notice what others need in their day-by-day lives and try to provide it. Want to be appreciated for who they are and for what they contribute.

According to the way I was trained in Myers-Briggs at work, people can learn to develop the opposite qualities in themselves.  I have scored almost 50-50 on all but "N" at various times since I first took the test ten years ago.  During one training session my coworkers were shocked that I came up as an "I" because I'm sociable, and I was a manager in a people-oriented job.  I learned to act "E" when I had to.

So... can Christians & other "irrational" believers learn to be more rational?   Would they want to?  Should we try to be more like them, or at least give some thought to how they think? ... oops, feel?

The Kiersey site describes the rational group (NT) as being a minority:  "Rationals are very scarce, comprising as little as 5 to 10 percent of the population. But because of their drive to unlock the secrets of nature, and to develop new technologies, they have done much to shape our world."  This low percentage is similar to the low percentage of non-believers in the world.  Perhaps this is why atheists are a minority: because other people have a totally different approach to life.  We need to take this into account when communicating with them.
Just look at how "irrational" they are.  They "have a personal relationship with God."  They know that God is real because they feel something and they value their feelings more than their thoughts.  They like belonging to a "faith community."  (Just calling it a "church" isn't good enough anymore)  The crazy extraverts will even go to megachurches to get all feely.  They think that "trust" and "faith" are values that should be placed about reason and reality.
Take a look at our opposites, the SF's :
SFs tend to approach life and work in a warm people-oriented manner, liking to focus on realities and hands-on careers. They are often found in human services and in careers that require a sympathetic approach to people. They tend to be less interested in careers that require an analytical and impersonal approach to information and ideas. SFs are often found in the clergy, teaching, health care, child care, sales and office work, and personal services.

Clergy!  Not a coincidence, I'm sure! 
Maybe we need to track down some ESFP or ESFJ atheists and make them our spokespeople, instead of people like Richard Dawkins or other scientists expressing the atheist viewpoint.  You don't have to rely on a rational approach to become an atheist.  Or maybe rational NTs need to express why rationalism is more realistic in more touchy-feeling terms.  Even if you think Myers-Briggs is bullshit, there's something to the dichotomy between rationalism and whatever isn't rationalism (if you call it "irrational" they'll be irrationally upset and post nasty rants to the comments here!  Remember, they don't think).

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Lest we forget about Elevatorgate...

Here's a (male) lawyer's point of view, with some excellent observations:

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Norway Tragedies: Book Review/Analysis

I had just finished reading Extreme Killing, a book on serial killing and mass murder, when the attacks in Norway happened.  At first, it was reported that Islamist terrorists set off a bomb, and then when the second phase of mass slaughter by firearm happened, the news went out that it was a right-wing Christian fundamentalist behind it, not an Islamic fundamentalist.  As atheists, we can point to more and more religiously-motivated atrocities but that's as fallacious as Christians citing Stalin.

The reasons, I think, are explained fairly well in this book.  It is not as deeply analytical as I was expecting considering the authors' credentials, but it made several good points that helped me place this attack into a rational framework right away.  The first half of the book is about serial killers, most of whom mainly seek power over individuals and many of whom include rape in their attacks.  The second half discusses mass-casualty attacks such as happened in Norway.  They analyze different types of attacks and different types of motivations.  For each point, they give a brief description of a specific case, detailing the perpetrator's background, recent events in his/her life,
motivation(s) and methods.

According to the book, the psychological basis for mass killings is externalization of blame.  The killer has not been successful at school, work, or family life, and rather than accept responsibility, he blames outside influences.  And yes, it's almost always a "he."  The women who have committed mass killings have a similar profile to the men who have done it, e.g., extreme psychological investment in a single aspect of their life, like their career.   A lot of them do attack the people with whom they've been in conflict, for example killing their spouse then going to work and then killing the boss and HR officials "responsible" for his job loss.

When they can't blame a specific person for a catastrophic failure, they may blame a group of people.  This could be an extension of specific people, such as the entire workplace when only a few "stood in the way" of success, or blame for an entire class of people, defined by race, religion, nationality, etc.  One killer attacked Asian children because of xenophobic hatred.  The Luby cafeteria massacre was motivated by hatred of all the residents of the town.  The person may also decide that society at large is to blame, which makes everyone a potential target for a seemingly "random" murder.

While a lot of people refuse to accept responsibility for their failures without turning to murder, a history of belligerance, gun ownership (especially enthusiasm for guns), and domestic violence add to the mix to create the toxic stew of a bitter, ineffectual loser with the ability and motivation to kill in a big way.

The book didn't include terrorist attacks other than McVeigh's bomb.  The next edition will probably pair McVeigh with this guy.  The motives and background are similar: military training, externalization of blame focusing on the government, right-wing leanings, and sympathy for a religious cause.  They both targeted government buildings and made a point of killing children.  The one somewhat unique ingredient in McVeigh's psyche was his belief that he was avenging the deaths of others.

One thing the book doesn't address is why people like this think their murderous rampages will somehow bring about changes they want to see.  Even bin Laden's externalization of blame to Westerners had a modicum of logic in his wish that the U.S. would expend its wealth fighting terrorism ... which he believed would reduce the impact of the U.S. in the Middle East.  He was wrong, but at least he had a "vision," however twisted.

These mass killers don't seem to think past exacting their revenge on whoever they believe has ruined their lives.  They're still irrational, even if they don't qualify for the insanity defense or if they have been able to make and carry out a methodical plan.  When has anyone ever decided on a political party or course of action based on the desires of terrorists?  I think the IRA may be able to take a little credit for a change in British policy, but only a little. 

I can't imagine people in Norway thinking "Wow, I've been so mistaken in voting for the Labour Party.  I'm switching to the right wing party right now!" or "Sheesh I've been worshipping Allah all this time when really I should have been a Christian!"

I think where religion enters into these things is that the stories of the Bible give the believers many role models to follow.   God didn't target individual homosexuals in Sodom & Gomorrah; he wiped out the entirety of the population to punish them for allowing homosexuals in their midst.  He wiped out the whole world with The Flood.  He kills the firstborn sons in Egypt.  He orders the death penalty for disobedience to one of his hundreds of commandments.  This "loving" God seems to really "love" killing.

Religion gives extremists and crazies a framework for their anger and sometimes even helps them define their targets, but the driving force is an inability to accept the difficulties of life.  Getting fired for threatening to kill your boss is not the fault of your boss, it's your fault.  Getting divorced because you beat up your wife isn't your wife's fault, it's your  fault.  Not being able to turn your military successes into a successful civilian career isn't probably anyone's fault, except possibly your bad education or your ADHD.

Sometimes shit just happens, or doesn't happen.  Some people just don't learn how to get along in society, so they blame society rather than their inability to learn how to behave, or lack of desire to.  Or maybe it's because you played video games for hours on end throughout your teen years rather than whip up a little courage to break the ice and meet some kids IRL to hang out with.

Serial killers sometimes have revenge motives too, attacking stand-ins for the girls who rejected them in high school or for their heartless mother.  Mass killers are also attacking stand-ins for the people who "wronged" them.  You can even include bin Laden and Hitler in this group because they didn't kill the actual perpetrators of whatever wrongs they thought they were avenging.

Where Christianity could actually do some good would be to stop celebrating their unearned forgiveness "through Christ's sacrifice" and teach their kids personal responsibility, accountability, and empathy for others.  If more people would be brought up to stop blaming others and look more at their own role in what happens to them in life, there would be fewer murders.  Even when unfortunate circumstances really are due to the actions of others, responsibility for coping with it rests with the individual.  Just saying "God has his reasons" is a poor substitute for a rational approach to dealing with one's problems.

The Norway attacker didn't die during his attack, so he will be one of the rare ones whose thoughts and feelings can be probed.  It will be interesting to see how closely he fits the profile that the peple who have gone before him have established.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

It's Chilly in the Atheist Universe

No, Elevatorgate isn't completely over.  It's made an appearance in the Scientific American blog.  It kind of makes me not feel so bad about not going into the sciences in college after reading this article about sexism in the sciences.  The definition of a chilly climate:

All these sorts of things seem tiny and insignificant by themselves, but they add up, and this produces a cumulative “chilling” effect that makes women feel unwelcome, like they don’t belong. That’s a “chilly climate.” The effect is subtle; sometimes we’re not even consciously aware of it. We just have that nagging feeling of being “less than,” unable to put our finger on why we feel that way.

The "sorts of things" are slights and come-ons and sexist talk and things like Elevator Guy's clumsy approach. 

This passage really resonates for me:

Sandler told me she first encountered the chilly climate for women as a feminist activist in the 1970s, sitting in a policy meeting in which she noticed that the few token women in the room were constantly being interrupted by the men. She decided to perform her own little social experiment, carefully keeping count of the number of times both men and women in the meeting were interrupted.

The results: women were interrupted (invariably by men) at least three times more often than the men. Sandler shared her results with her male colleagues, who were predictably defensive, claiming she must have miscounted or been biased in some way because of course they would never do such a thing. But the next day, when the meeting resumed, the men were far more careful not to interrupt when the women were speaking. Their awareness of the problem altered the way they treated the women in the meeting, even though they denied the problem existed.

And this exact thing has happened to me in meetings at work... even though women were the bosses, but men were the bullies.  During meetings there the guy I had to work closely with would actually hold his newspaper up and make a show of reading it while women talked.  My female boss at the time never called him on this behavior.  One of my other male colleagues took me aside and told me that word was I was not a "team player."  Every time I tried to get my "partner" to collaborate with me on anything he would literally shut up and not give me an answer.  He never said yes or no to my proposals.  He just refused to talk to me whenever I brought up my own idea.  He never proposed anything himself so I don't get how he could spread rumors about me not being a "team player"  considering that he had no idea what it means himself.

My career suffered very badly from this.  In fact I'm in Indiana and not D.C. because of it.  My boss had to consolidate divisions and lay off managers, and she chose a man in every case.  She also managed to get rid of all the non-Christians, all in one fell swoop.  It wasn't worth it to me to file a discrimiation case because if I won I have to work for that bitch and be around those asshole men who were elevated to higher responsibilities despite having poorer records of accomplishments.  In every measure that was counted in that job, my numbers were WAY above the man who got the position I felt should have gone to me.  While I was being innovative and working my buns off to meet or exceed departmental goals, he would be holding court with the other men and a few sycophantic women, sowing insubordination amongst the managers.  In a twist of irony, he didn't want the job.  It was too much like work, and he eventually quit.  So my boss wound up having to promote someone she didn't like because she had (illegally, imho) not advertised the new position when because she wanted her pets to be shoo-ins.  She fired her about a year later.  I have no idea who reports to her now.  I got tired of keeping up with the gossip.
So... women are in the minority in the sciences, and the sciences are the driving force behind atheist movements.  It would make sense that the same behaviors that women find demeaning and belittling at work in the sciences would be evident at atheist conferences.

At the monthly meet-up in DC I was often the only female and I didn't get that feeling at all.  The conversation was always stimulating and people came from a variety of fields.  Perhaps you get a different crowd when the gathering is a Metro stop away than when it's an international plane fare away.  On the other hand, I left my twenties far behind me, so I don't get hit on a lot anymore (which is a huge relief!).

I considered going to TAM (The Amazing Meeting) because I love Las Vegas and Randi's books were a huge part of my deconversion, but reading about how Elevatorgate permeated the meeting I'm kind of relieved not to have gone.  I'd rather talk about skepticism. But I may go next year. According to the blog, behavior changes as the sex ratio approaches 50/50 and it's getting close! That's cause for optimism.

I had to *lol* at this line, that I think sums it up:
"Feel free to quote The Social Network: 'You’re going to go through life thinking girls don’t like you cuz you’re a nerd, when really it’s because you’re an asshole.'"

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"Love God and Keep His Commandments"

I've started following this blog that posts news about church-state separation or lack thereof.  The latest case has fundy townies pleading that a 12,000 lb. granite 10 Commandments at a courthouse entry is "temporary."  They also tried to claim that since a private citizen paid for it, it wasn't government sponsorship of religion. The court disagreed. 

After reading the story I looked at the picture of the monument, and I had to LOL at the slogan at the bottom:  "Love God and Keep His Commandments."  Some of the arguments of fundies who want to put the commandments into courthouses refer to the (false) idea that civil law derives from many sources, including the Ten Commandments.  I'm relieved to read that they weren't delusional enough to make that argument with a rock that says "Love God and Keep his Commandments."

The only overlap between civil law and the commandments prohibits things that are prohibited in all cultures:  murder, theivery, and lying.  And in the U.S., lying is only a crime in limited circumstances, such as perjury.  This is why Fox News is still in business.

If they want to have something on their front steps that reminds people about "The Law" it should say "Love your country and obey its laws."  Of course, they don't want to obey its laws.  They want to flout them.  Fortunately, there are higher legal powers in the U.S. with better sense.  I'm relieved to see justice done in this case.

The ACLU won a $1 remuneration.  Makes me want to donate to them! 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

God doesn't kill people. People kill people.

It's not just Christians who rationalize God permitting the death of an innocent child.  Buried in the description of the funeral of Leiby Kletzky, the Orthodox Jewish boy who was murdered this week, we find this gem:

At one point the rabbi of the synagogue that Leiby attended recalled the boy’s devotion to his studies.

“He was such a good learner,” the rabbi said, according to a translation. “He used to pray all day. It was a pleasure to have him in the class. We’re not the boss. Everything is as God wanted it.”

Why the hell would God want a schizophrenic pedophile to kidnap, kill, and dismember a young child?  That's flipping insane!  Yet Christians and Jews alike rationalize the irrational this way.  It's supposed to give them some kind of comfort, but I don't see how.  If I were that boy's mother I'd slap that rabbi!

I used to live pretty close to that neighborhood, and I knew a lot of Jews, from cultural Jews who were atheists, to nutty Lubavitch Hassidim.  There's a kind of fatalistic thinking in my old neighborhood.  Almost every day I might hear someone shrug and say "Whaddayagonna do?" Italians, Irish, and Jews say it in equal numbers in that corner of Brooklyn.  I just assumed it was because life in the big city is such an uphill struggle every day.  Life is exhausting, and you learn quickly not to sweat the small stuff.

Child murder isn't "small stuff" though.  That boy did not deserve to be victimized and killed.  The Old Testament God can't possibly have any grievance with the Borough Park neighborhood like he did with Sodom & Gomorrah.  Borough Park people are the chosen of the chosen - observant and obedient in more than just their goofy clothes.  They're not crazyass nutters like the Lubavitch nor atheists.  There's just no reason for God to want that boy to die unless God is a crazyass nutter.

According to Rabbi Simmons, on, that Brooklyn rabbi today was dead wrong.  Bad things come about because of free will, blah blah blah about a dozen reasons, and then he goes on to name eight "ground rules."  During the years that I attempted to be a believer, I took great comfort in some of the ideas he expresses there, but not for any supernatural reasons.

This comforting advice is part of the reason why believers think that atheists must be unhappy.  They get common sense advice and some uncommon advice from religious leaders but the best stuff doesn't require any supernatural intervention.  I think the worst stuff is the supernatural, like saying that God had planned for an eight-year-old boy to be kidnapped and killed.  You could secularize the typical rationalizations of religious responses to bad stuff happening, such as Simmons' ground rules, and wind up with something much more helpful and comforting than the convoluted stuff religion throws at you.  For example:

Ground Rule #1  "The Possibility of Evil," or Shit happens.  Some people are sick and people around them will suffer.  Others are just selfish.  And then there's lightning, tornadoes, earthquakes.  They happen because it's part of nature for these things to happen.  It's nothing personal.  The boy was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  There was no more reason to this than there would be if he'd been struck dead by a lightning bolt.

Ground Rule #2  Intervention.  Chance doesn't have a brain capable of forming intent, so stuff happens equally to good and bad people.  Lottery winners are no more deserving than any other players of the lottery, and murder victims are not deserving of their fate either.  Randomness is random.  Nothing personal.

Ground Rule #3  Our time on Earth is limited.  There will be both bad and good.  Shockingly bad things are only shocking because good/beneficial things are so common.  The boy suffered for one or two days but had a great life for the rest of his eight years.   Likewise the people around him.  This is not an everyday experience for them.  They can choose to focus on the good in the world in order to put the horrors of child murder into perspective.

Ground Rule #4  The Big Picture: there are unintended consequences to "good" things (i.e. "No good deed goes unpunished," another slogan I learned in Brooklyn!) and "bad" things alike.  Some things are random, some are the direct result of some previous random event.n Keeping a nuanced perspective can help us go on.  Resilience is in our DNA, or else we wouldn't have been able to spread out around the world.

Ground Rule #5 Opportunity for Growth.  The more experiences we have the more we can relate to other people.  Difficulties "build character," they say (whoever they are).  All of our experiences contribute to who we are, and we can choose to bring something "good" from something "bad."  It's hard to think of a way that something good could come of something so horrible, but there probably will be, like the man who took precautions during a tornado warning for the first time because of the recent example of Joplin and wound up surviving.

Ground Rule #6 We're all human.  We're all mortal.  Nobody is immune to the types of things that happen to humans (unless you've been vaccinated against contagious disease!)  Again, nothing personal.  No reason.  No plan.  Children sometimes die.  There are horrible people and horrible diseases and horrible people who get horrible mental illnesses.  Even when DNA or some choice points to a specific instance, it's still impersonal. Some other little boy could have been that man's victim that day.

Ground Rule #7  We're all part of the human race and the "Community of Man."  This is because we evolved as a social species and we have organized larger and larger units.  Live like your life depends on the kindness of strangers because it does.

Ground Rule #8  "What goes around comes around" was coined as a supernatural principle but there's an element of truth to it.  Kind people attract kind people, and bitchy people attract uhhh nobody.  Another expression I learned in Brooklyn is "Water seeks its own level."   I associate with a lot of believers not because they're believers but because they're nice people.  I've known some believers who are horrible horrible people.  I've met some atheists I don't care for, too.  This won't protect me from tornados or  serial murderers, but people recognize their own "kind" and nice likes nice.  Perhaps the secular Ground Rule #8 should be "Don't be an Asshole."

What I wish believers would realize is that the best ideas and the best qualities of their religions are secular.  When they rationalize to make their God make sense, they are using their brains!  They've already taken a huge step toward living a rational life when they rationalize how a fairy tale could apply to real life.  To the extent that any holy book offers good advice, it's pretty much identical to what they would come up with on their own without referring to the holy book. 

All they need to do is throw out the book and use their minds.  If they're too stupid, that's okay... just find someone smarter to help them.  Someone who exists in the real world!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Prayer at Medal of Honor Ceremony -- WHY?????

The Medal of Honor is rarely awarded to someone whose bravery didn't cost them their life.  In this case, it cost the soldier a limb.  He deserves the honor and recognition of the award, but I don't see why they needed to begin the ceremony with a prayer (video). It's followed by a presidential speech.  Why not start with a generic speech by a general, and then the president could bring up all the points the chaplain worked into his prayer, without the rhetoric of "God" blessing the nation and making us special blah blah blah

The chaplain starts by crediting God but then segues to the guy's honor and courage, then goes back to asking God for blessings again.  At the end, he quotes Calvin Coolidge (not a Biblical "author"): "A nation that forgets defenders itself will be forgotten..." and then follows with a very Christian ending "in thy holy name, Amen."

The man's colleagues were saved by his bravery and quick thinking, not by prayer or a higher power, or else they'd be awarding the Medal of Honor to Zombie Jebus instead.  They were honoring a PERSON and they didn't need to sully his accomplishment by referencing an invisible sky daddy, even if they believed there was a sky daddy behind it.

It cheapens the award to make him share the credit with a God, and it denigrates other soldiers to call upon God for continued safety instead of the bravery of the soldiers themselves.  If that's not reason enough to eliminate prayer during government ceremonies, I don't know what is.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Gideon and Armpit Fart Guy

Elevatorgate is still haunting the atheist blogosphere, and this post at The Atheist Experience brought a new perspective to the issues.  What fans of Elevator guy and trolls everywhere have in common is that everyone has a freedom of association right.

For those too lazy to read, the AE poster draws an analogy between Elevator Guy, whose social skills are somewhat lacking, and a guy who doesn't know better than to make armpit fart noises constantly.  Armpit farts have their place, but everyone gets tired of it, and Armpit Fart guy won't get invited places.  It's a matter of being socially acceptable in the context of normal associations.  If people don't want to hear your armpit farts they don't have to. 

That's freedom of association.

The analogy for Elevatorgate is that a woman doesn't have to hang out with someone she doesn't like.  But I think it extends to a wider community too.  The blogosphere is a kind of community with neighborhoods and homes.  This blog is my blogosphere home.  Just because I have the drapes open on the picture window doesn't mean everyone who passes by is welcome to come into the living room and piss on my furniture.... or make armpit farts.

So I have the right to stand at my door and say "yes, you may come in" to the people who behave in socially unacceptable ways, and "no" to those who don't.  And I have the right to decide what is socially acceptable in my internet "house."

Friday, July 8, 2011

Casey Anthony hysteria

While athiests have been distracting themselves over whether it's okay for a man to invite a woman to his room late at night in an elevator in a hotel, the rest of the world barely noticed because CASEY ANTHONY WAS FOUND "NOT GUILTY"

Google news gives you some indication of the hysteria with the number of stories it links:

Casey Anthony Story:  all 13,399 news articles »

Space Shuttle's final launch: all 8,336 news articles »

House cancels July recess:  all 32 news articles » (to work on the deficit issue)
Karachi violence leaves 95 dead:  all 715 news articles »

Will & Kate in Canada: all 4,921 news articles »
127 people die in plane crash in The Congo: all 340 news articles »

Harold Camping moves into nursing home:  all 233 news articles » (he had a stroke a month ago)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

My Take on "Elevatorgate"

Here's the recipe:
One atheist girl ventures into the male-dominated realm of atheism and gives a talk that includes a bit about not liking being treated as a sex object.

Add one atheist boy who has no idea that after you see the atheist girl give a talk you may feel you know her a little but she doesn't know you from ... uh... Adam.

Put them together in an elevator late at night.

Stir in one ill-conceived pick-up line in which geeky boy invites geeky girl to his hotel room. 

She says no.  He shrugs.  She blogs about the irony of being sexualized right after giving a talk about not liking being sexualized.  Boys who could have been him blog that it's no big deal.  Girls who could have been her blog that it is too a big deal.  A few atheists who have actually had sex weigh in.  A few men who imagine themselves equal to atheists who have actually had sex put their foot in it because they think that watching porn has taught them what they need to know about how to pick up women in elevators.

Then a big dick stirs the pot.

The pot boils over.

Oh what fun!

Here's the funny part:  most of the people who are frothing at the mouth over this actually know a little about evolution.   Some have even studied evolutionary psychology - you know, the science of why we have courtship rituals instead of using rape to further the species and how we differ from bonobos or chimpanzees.

Our courtship ritual involves approach and rejection or approach and reciprocation.  We all know that.  Why is it such a big deal that 1) a man approached a woman and 2) the woman rejected the advance?

Apparently, it needs to be spelled out.  As a student of krav maga and veteran of the dating scene in a big city, I am going to explain it to the clueless among you.  (You don't know who you are!)

Mating is a highly dangerous activity.  Both parties have to feel safe for it to be consummated, and if one party doesn't feel safe it's just not gonna happen unless the other party is a rapist.  Men, if you don't know this already:  approaching a woman you don't know is a threatening act!  DUH!  She doesn't know if you're a rapist or a Don Juan or Mr. Perfect.  You have to show her she can trust you before you invite her to your boudoir!  ALL women except perhaps "special" ones should assume strange men are potential rapists.  "Better safe than sorry" is a kind of evolutionary version of Pascal's wager.

Further, most men do understand this.  Asking a woman to your room out of the blue is just plain stupid and indicates that either 1) the man is just plain stupid or 2) the man thinks the woman is just plain stupid.  Men, this should be your last move, not your first one!  So right there, Rebecca was absolutely correct to think something was very wrong.  Going to someone else's territory would have put her in a very vulnerable position.  She was already away from home, so her own room was barely a sanctuary for her.

It's actually been demonstrated that women have a harder time identifying a rapist than men do.  Rapists' success comes from giving the appearance they are as safe as non-rapists in order to gain trust (think Ted Bundy).  They can also be successful by trapping a woman in a vulnerable place (such as the serial killers who attack prostitutes).  And in case we forget that some men are rapists and murderers, we have the news (formerly called "gossip") to remind us.  Notice that nobody ever finds naked men in ditches or ponds.  If there aren't enough real life rape-murders to remind women how vulnerable they are, we'll make up stories and call them "Criminal Investigation" or "Law and Order."

85-year-old woman getting mugged in an elevator
When in danger, we have a "fight or flight" instinct.  If you are in an elevator, you can't run away!  DUH!  If you are diminuitive and inexperienced in fighting, and you are in an elevator with someone bigger and stronger and potentially experienced in fighting, you are fucking doomed.  That goes for scrawny men, too.  Elevators are vulnerable places.  This is why there are security cameras in many of them.  It is also why people with normal social manners don't start conversations in elevators.  Nobody wants to have anything to do with anybody they don't know when they're in a tight space.

This happened late at night, and night time is dangerous for humans.  We don't see well at night and we don't react well at night.  If you are out late at night and someone wants to mess you up, you're kind of screwed just because of that.  Your brain is swimming in melatonin, and possibly alcohol.  Even if you could run away, could you take that first step before you get grabbed?  Could you run faster than your attacker?  Probably not.

Add to this the fact that she was an invited speaker at this event.  This is an honor and she no doubt felt flattered to have her THOUGHTS valued at the type of event where women tend to be in the minority.  If I had been in her shoes, I'd have been on a kind of high, feeling respected and perhaps admired, and if talk went well, competent.  Afterward she probably had a lot of engaging conversation with other attendees, which would elevate the buzz a notch or two.  And then moving instantaneously from that feeling to "Hey, piece of meat, let's get it on" (Not what he said, but what she heard) would be even more jarring than it normally would be ... in an elevator in a strange city in a strange country late at night with nobody around to help you.

My conclusions (based on my experiences and insight):
  1. Atheist gatherings need more women in attendance to teach clueless men how to behave!
  2. Being an atheist doesn't render one any more or less capable of doing something really stupid.
  3. Being a scientist doesn't make one particularly smart about male-female relationships.  Possibly the opposite!
  4. Being taken seriously for your opinions about atheism doesn't mean that people of the opposite (or even same) sex won't also find you attractive.  Again, possibly the opposite!
  5. She should be congratulated for merely being insulted and then blogging about the experience.  He's lucky she doesnt' know krav maga!
  6. Atheists disagree about things.  We only really agree on one thing, which is actually a non-thing.  Everything else is up for debate.
  7. Women are correct in assuming that all men are potential rapists until proven otherwise.  It's in our DNA to protect our DNA.
Yes, it's de rigeur for everyone to blog about this.  I didn't want to feel I'd missed the bandwagon.  If you have blogged about this, feel free to link to it in the comments section.

And p.s. about that krav maga video, I've learned all those techniques except for the last one, so if you meet me in an elevator, keep the conversation above the neck, m'kay?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

"Dead Assets" in Religious Holdings

From India:

Hoard of treasure uncovered in Indian temple
...Under orders of India's Supreme Court, officials since last week have been auditing precious royal offerings kept in underground vaults of the famed Sree Padmnabha Swamy temple in the coastal state of Kerala.

V.K. Hari Kumar, the shrine's executive officer, explained court-appointed observers were making records of the treasure. The stock-taking came after a legal petition over allegations of temple mismanagement.

...Indian media suggest the worth of the new-found religious trove is more than the nation's expenditure on education.

I wonder what would happen if the Mormons, Catholics, and megachurches were subject to the same kind of auditing.  Apparently some Indians are shocked to discover a parallel economy working through religion. They shouldn't be.  Vishnu's many arms are handy for grabbing up the wealth of believers!

I find it strange that the right-wing in the U.S. includes people who are against taxes yet think it's okay for the church to demand a 10% tithe.  The tithes supposedly go (at least partly) to missions overseas, where they build up the infrastructure and spread "The Word" at the same time.  If they got their way and the U.S. could no longer afford roads, bridges, water filtration or education, would they move their tithe money to the U.S. infrastructure?  Apparently India's religions have plenty of money locked up in their vaults to take over for Mother Teresa's cult.  Who knows how much money could be redircted to worthy projects if people in other countries & the U.S. gave up their fairy tales?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Vacation Bible School

I stopped believing in God through skeptical thinking: I found the whole idea of a supernatural entity as preposterous as the ideas of New Age nonsense.  Having recently tried (again) to belong to a church and read the bible and all the rest of it, I just couldn't see any particular reason to be a believer other than wanting to believe.

The Bible's Like a Box of Chocolates
That is apparently enough for many believers.  I doubt that most believers know who William Lane Craig is.  The Catholics I know haven't pursued religious education beyond catechism, or perhaps Catholic high school.  The evangelical Christians I know seem satisfied with psychological comfort.  Other than a few Bible verses that they quote frequently, they don't seem particularly well-versed in what their religion actually teaches. Many of the believers I have encountered have never actually read the Bible cover-to-cover.  If they go to church at all, they let their pastor's pablum suffice for "theology."  One I know insisted that nobody could ever memorize all 150 psalms even though monks have been chanting them from memory since about the Fourth Century (or even earlier).

For most of the history of Christianity, believers were indeed illiterate.  Slaves of the American South were even prohibited from learning to read, but they were Christianized nevertheless.  American education began with "Sunday School," when children were taught a few basics after church in order to learn to read.  After public education took over the task, "Sunday School" became religious education.

Now there is also "vacation bible school," a week when parents send their children off to be indoctrinated in order to get a break from them during the long hot summer.  Around here, they have bought the "Pandamania" system.  You see a child wearing panda ears and you know they're Christian.  Forget crosses and forehead smudges, yes, it is now panda ears that mark your children for Christ.  Here's the curriculum:

Day 1
Bible Point: God made you.
Bible Story: God creates the world. (Genesis 1)
Bible Verse: "Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!" (Psalm 139:14)

i.e., Creationism 101. You are complex, therefore Goddidit.  Everything else is complex too, uhhhh.  Let's sing a song!

Day 2
Bible Point: God listens to you.
Bible Story: Elijah confronts the prophets of Baal. (1 Kings 18:16-39)
Bible Verse: "You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord." (Psalm 139:4)

i.e., God listens to you say what he pre-ordained you would say.  So do you really have to say it?  Why does he pre-ordain it anyway?  And if blasphemy is a sin, then he knows you're going to say it and doesn't prevent you from saying it so you go to Hell and he has pre-ordained it.  uhh.... Let's sing a song and make bamboo crafts!

Day 3
Bible Point: God watches over you.
Bible Story: Jonah tries to escape from God. (Jonah 1-3)
Bible Verse: "Even in darkness I cannot hide from you." (Psalm 139:12)

Leave your happy bits alone. God can see what you're doing under your sheets.  Let's sing a happy song!  Wheee

Day 4
Bible Point: God loves you, no matter what.
Bible Story: Jesus dies and comes back to life. (Luke 23:1-24:12)
Bible Verse: "Lead me along the path of everlasting life." (Psalm 139:24)

So God knew in advance you'd eventually say or think something damnable, then he decided to make his good son suffer in your place.  So go ahead and sin all you want because God loves you!  Let's sing a happy song and pretend we're hungry pandas in a bamboo forest!

Day 5
Bible Point: God gives good gifts.
Bible Story: God gives Hannah a baby. (1 Samuel1:1-2:11)
Bible Verse: "You place your hand of blessing on my head." (Psalm 139:5)

Remember, kids... when you grow up you must procreate, and if you put your happy bits together with someone else's happy bits and someone winds up pregnant, you must have that baby even if it's the result of rape or incest, or is deformed or or will force you into poverty or will kill you.  Because babies are gifts.  God puts babies on your head.  uhhh  Let's put on panda ears and sing a happy song!

What does a panda have to do with any of this? It's a distraction. It keeps the children from thinking too hard about what they're being told. This quote from a review is very telling:

On our last day, we had a parent come for the first time. She cried during the entire program because of the presence of God's love and the love that was expressed for all the children especially her two daughters. This was truly a God sighting.

The other reviews mention how great the songs are, or they talk about the crafts.  They don't say anything about the theology of what they're supposedly teaching these kids.  They don't say anything about the Bible. They might as well be hari krishnas.