Our rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness
can only be secured by a state strictly separated from religion

31 August 2011

Ayn Rand As Atheist: Skepticamp Talk

By Ari

I delivered a twenty-minute talk August 27 at Skepticamp in Colorado Springs titled, "Ayn Rand As Atheist." I open with the American Values Network attack on Ayn Rand for her atheism, then I describe what her atheism actually entails.

Somebody pointed out that I may not set up an early quote about duty well enough; it comes from Rand's Red Pawn (in Early Ayn Rand) and it comes from a character whose views Rand criticizes as typically Communist.

This post originally was published at Ari Armstrong's web page.


30 August 2011

GOP Gay Disparagement, Like Alcoholism, a Choice

By Ari

I have already (tentatively) predicted that Obama will win reelection next year, and nothing coming out of the Republican Party causes me to doubt this. (Of course, it is still early, and the economy as well as the Middle East are especially volatile right now.)

Rick Perry, who I figured would rise to front-runner status, has managed to turn the religious right's social agenda into his campaign. Consider this headline from yesterday's Los Angeles Times: "Rick Perry signs anti-abortion pledge." This is the same issue, more than any other, that cost Ken Buck his senate seat last year.

Now a page of Perry's 2008 book causes Perry to follow Buck down another dead-end path: toward comparing homosexuality to alcoholism. Lynn Bartels has the details over at the Denver Post.

There is a difference between the comments of Perry and Buck, though.

In order to establish the full context, I'll quote from Perry's book On My Honor (page 70) more extensively than Bartels does:

Though I am no expert on the "nature versus nurture" debate, I can sympathize with those who believe sexual preference is genetic. It may be so, but it remains unproved. Even if it were, this does not mean we are ultimately not responsible for the active choices we make. Even if an alcoholic is powerless over alcohol once it enters his body, he still makes a choice to drink. And, even if someone is attracted to a person of the same sex, he or she still makes a choice to engage in sexual activity with someone of the same gender.

A loving, tolerant view toward those who have a different sexual preference is the ideal position -- for both the heterosexual and the homosexual. I do not believe in condemning homosexuals that I know personally. I believe in valuing their lives like any others, as our God in heaven does. Tolerance, however, should not only be asked of the proponents of traditional values. The radical homosexual movement seeks societal normalization of their sexual activity. I respect their right to engage in individual behavior of their choosing, but they must respect the right of millions in society to refuse to normalize their behavior.

The key point here that Bartels ignores is that Perry recognizes the political right of consenting adults to engage in homosexual sex. That's centrally important. Secondarily, Perry calls for "valuing" rather than "condemning" homosexuals. That's a good start.

Unfortunately, Perry's position is essentially "love the sinner, hate the sin." In comparing homosexuality to alcoholism and saying it deserves only "toleration" (as opposed to open acceptance), Perry is basically saying there's something wrong with homosexuality. And that position is wrong.

Given that Bartels (and others) have compared Perry's remarks to those of Ken Buck, it is worth returning to Buck's statements on the matter.

Here's what Buck said, extemporaneously, on Meet the Press: "I think that birth has an influence over it [homosexuality], like alcoholism and some other things, but I think that basically, you have a choice." As I have pointed out, Buck's remark is technically correct. It is indisputably true that "birth has an influence" over sexual orientation, but that "you have a choice" about your sexual partners. For example, some heterosexuals have gay sex or remain celibate, and some homosexuals have straight sex.

Buck's problem was two-fold. First, his comparison of homosexuality, something inherently fine, to alcoholism, something inherently bad and destructive, was a bad one. However, again his remark is technically true; there does seem to be an inborn component to alcoholism. Perry's remark is worse because it was written (as opposed to extemporaneous) and because Perry draws a tighter connection (versus Buck's remark about "some other things").

Second, Buck was an idiot for not leading with the story about how, as a prosecutor, he pursued hate-crime charges in a transgender-related crime. So here we had a prosecutor whose record was strongly pro-gay rights, being smeared by his critics and the media as some sort of knuckle-dragging troglotyte. That was very unfair toward Buck, though he's the one who set the tone of the discussion. (Note: I actually disapprove of "hate crime" legislation, because I think all crimes are hate crimes and that harming a heterosexual person is just as bad as harming a homosexual one. Plus I worry about starting down the road to thought crimes. But my motivation is much different from that of the religious right.)

Significantly, Buck quickly clarified: "I wasn't talking about being gay as a disease. I don't think that at all.

We'll see if Perry backtracks along similar lines. But, as a candidate, if you're spending your time backtracking, you're not moving forward.

This article originally was published on Ari Armstrong's blog.


25 August 2011

Upcoming Webcast Discussion of Circumcision and Religious Freedom

By Unknown

In my next live Rationally Selfish Webcast, I'll be answering a question on whether circumcision violates the rights of the child -- or whether a ban violates the religious freedom of the parents.

The webcast is on Sunday morning at 8 am PT / 9 am MT / 10 am CT / 11 am ET. You can watch the webcast and join in the text chat via www.RationallySelfish.com. Greg Perkins of Objectivist Answers will be my audio co-host, as usual.

Here's the full text of the four questions that I'll answer this week:

  • Question 1: The Validity of Introversion and Extroversion: Are "introversion" and "extroversion" valid as psychological types? Sometimes people classify themselves and others as "introverts" and "extroverts." What does that mean? Is the distinction valid and useful? Why or why not?
  • Question 2: Circumcision and Religious Freedom: Should circumcision be banned? Residents of San Francisco were supposed to vote on a ballot measure that would have banned circumcision, except in cases of medical necessity. (It was stuck from the ballot by a judge due to conflicts with state law.) Since circumcision is an millennia-old religious rite for Jews and regarded as essential to their covenant with God, would a ban on circumcision violate the principle of freedom of religion?
  • Question 3: Lobbying as a Career: Can lobbying be a proper career choice? Lobbying involves asking for various kind of favors from the government. Is that a profession that someone who values free markets should avoid like the plague?
  • Question 4: Working for a Statist Company: Is it immoral to work for a company that uses government to eliminate or hamper the competition? For example, if a company has brought antitrust lawsuits against its competitors, should you refuse to work for them?
After that, we'll do a round of totally impromptu "Rapid Fire Questions."

If you can't attend the live webcast, you can listen to these webcasts later as audio-only podcasts by subscribing to the NoodleCast RSS feed:
However, I hope that you'll join the live webcast, because that's more exciting and lively than the podcast.

You can also review and vote on the the ongoing queue of questions for upcoming shows. Please submit your questions too!

Finally, you can support the Rationally Selfish Webcast (and Podcast) contributing to our tip jar. We suggest $5 per episode or $20 per month, but any amount is appreciated. If you would prefer to send a check, please send it to "Diana Hsieh; P.O. Box 851; Sedalia, CO 80135." Please write "RS Webcast" in the memo field.

I hope to see you on Sunday morning!


03 August 2011

Islam Endorses Sexual Slavery for Girls

By Unknown

New Saudi Fatwa Defends Pedophilia as 'Marriage':

Muslim "child-marriage"--euphemism for pedophilia--is making headlines again, at least in Arabic media: Dr. Salih bin Fawzan, a prominent cleric and member of Saudi Arabia's highest religious council, just issued a fatwa asserting that there is no minimum age for marriage, and that girls can be married "even if they are in the cradle."

Appearing in Saudi papers on July 13, the fatwa complains that "Uninformed interference with Sharia rulings by the press and journalists is on the increase, posing dire consequences to society, including their interference with the question of marriage to small girls who have not reached maturity, and their demand that a minimum age be set for girls to marry."

Fawzan insists that nowhere does Sharia set an age limit for marrying girls: like countless Muslim scholars before him, he relies on Koran 65:4, which discusses marriage to females who have not yet begun menstruating (i.e., are prepubescent) and the fact that Muhammad, Islam's role model, married Aisha when she was 6-years-old, "consummating" the marriage--or, in modern parlance, raping her--when she was 9.
Notably, Fawzan is not saying that sex with a girl is permissible when she reaches sexual maturity. Rather, as he says:
The ulema [Islam's interpreters] have agreed that it is permissible for fathers to marry off their small daughters, even if they are in the cradle. But it is not permissible for their husbands to have sex with them unless they are capable of being placed beneath and bearing the weight of the men. And their capability in this regard varies based on their nature and capacity. Aisha was 6 when she married the prophet, but he had sex with her when she was 9 [i.e., when she was deemed capable].
Basically, a girl just need to be large enough to be under a man without being crushed, and then her husband, a.k.a. the man to whom she was sold into sexual slavery by her father, is entitled to do whatever he pleases with her.

If you can stomach to read about the real-life consequences of these policies for Saudi girls, go read the whole article.


02 August 2011

Those Tricky Gays

By Unknown

Just check out this dastardly "gay agenda"!


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