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

31 August 2012

Bigotry Against Religion: Philosophy in Action Podcast

By Diana Hsieh

In the 26 August 2012 episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, I discussed bigotry against religion, and I thought it might be of interest. The question was:

Is criticism of and opposition to religion a form of bigotry? In its entry on bigotry, Wikipedia claims that a "bigot" is "a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices, especially one who exhibits intolerance and animosity toward members of a group," and that "bigotry may be directed towards those of a differing sex or sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, nationality, region, language, religious or spiritual belief, political alignment, age, economic status or medical disability." I hear the charge of bigotry bandied about, often reflexively, particularly by theists when atheists criticize their faith-based beliefs as irrational. Is open criticism of and disrespect for religion a form of bigotry? Or is "bigotry" a loaded concept to be used by anyone whose belief system is critically challenged?
My Answer, In Brief: Bigotry is not holding fast to an unpopular opinion, but rather unjustly attacking people solely due to being members of some group. Criticisms of religion – and of religious advocates and adherents – so long as they stick to the facts (including about people as individuals) are not bigotry.

Download or Listen to My Full Answer:


Tags: Atheism, Racism, Religion

Relevant Links:To comment on this question or my answer, visit its comment thread.

A podcast of the full episode – where I answered questions on voting for third-party candidates, self-interest in parenting, bigotry against religion, and more – is available as a podcast here: Episode of 26 August 2012.

Philosophy in Action Radio broadcasts every Sunday morning and Wednesday evening. For information on upcoming shows and more, visit the Episodes on Tap.

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30 August 2012

No Personhood on Colorado's Ballot in 2012?

By Diana Hsieh

Colorado Personhood Measure Falls Short Of Ballot:

Backers of a controversial fetal personhood measure in Colorado have failed to gather enough signatures to get the proposal on the November ballot, Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler announced on Wednesday.

The measure, which would define a fertilized egg as a person, fell nearly 4,000 short of the 86,105 signatures it needed to qualify for the ballot. The proposal has appeared on statewide ballots in Colorado twice before, in 2008 and 2010, and was soundly rejected by the voters both times.

A spokeswoman for Personhood USA, the anti-abortion group behind the nationwide push for fetal personhood laws, contended that the Secretary of State's office had made a mistake in counting the ballots. "We have more than enough valid signatures that were discounted by the Secretary of State's office," Jennifer Mason told The Huffington Post.
It sounds like Personhood USA will appeal Secretary of State Scott Gessler's ruling, so for now, we just have to wait and see.

Colorado's Republicans must be (secretly) cheering and hoping, because personhood did them a lot of harm in the 2008 and 2010 elections.

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29 August 2012

GOP and Voting Strategy

By Diana Hsieh

Note: This is cross-posted from my blog, NoodleFood.

Wow, this essay -- It Is Infuriating That I Can't Vote For A Fiscal Conservative Without Also Supporting Religious Aggressives -- was a huge breath of fresh air for me. Here's a few quotes:

At some point, I actually would like to vote for a Presidential candidate who has the balls to really tackle our budget problem. Because, as a country, we really do have hard choices to make. And now is the time to have leaders who are actually willing to lead (read: make unpopular decisions), instead of spineless yes-men who quake at the thought of saying or doing things that most people don't want to hear.

And given that the folks who say they will take a hard line on those sorts of fiscal decisions tend to be Republicans, I assume that to vote for such a fiscal conservative, I would probably be voting for a Republican.

And I would would be fine with that.

Except for one thing...

Thanks to the radicalization of today's Republican party, voting for a Republican fiscal conservative would also mean supporting Republican Religious Aggressives who want to expand the scope of government to such an extent that the government will be telling me what I can and can't think and do on certain subjective moral and cultural issues--and enforcing this legally.

And that's a non-starter.
And:
In short, I support freedom.

The Republicans do not.

The Republicans support increasing the size and scope of government to such an extent that it strips away freedom and limits the choices Americans can make because some people believe these choices are "just wrong."

And that's a bummer.

Because I would like to support a true fiscal conservative at some point--our budget mess is a real problem.

But unless the Republican party returns to what it used to be, or a Democrat who is also a true fiscal conservative comes along, I fear that I am not going to be able to vote for one.

Because I just can't support what today's Republican Party supports:

Stripping away freedom and increasing the scope of government to the point where America won't be America anymore.
Hear, hear! (Please read the whole thing.)

In my view, the only way that the GOP will ever listen to the many, many Americans who are fiscally conservative and socially liberal is if those people stop reflexively voting for the GOP simply because the Democrats are marginally worse on some (but not all) key issues.

The GOP knows that evangelicals will sit home rather than vote for a candidate not to their liking; they know that they have to earn the vote of the religious right. As a result, the GOP has become increasingly unprincipled and compromising on every issue -- except its (utterly wrong) opposition to abortion and gay marriage.

In contrast, GOP politicians know that fiscally conservative and socially liberal voters will hold their nose and vote GOP just this once... and then again... and again... and again. Hence, GOP politicians don't even need to pander to those voters while campaigning, let alone actually satisfy them once in office.

The only way to crush the GOP's love affair with the religious right, in my view, is to punish the GOP at the polls by refusing to vote for their big-spending theocratic candidates. We must say, loud and clear, that we'll only vote for candidates who are genuinely committed to cutting spending, welfare programs, regulations, and more -- while not push any social conservative agenda either. Yes, that will entail some more pain from the Democrats -- perhaps very serious pain -- in the short term. Alas, I think that's the only way to turn around the GOP's ever-growing commitment to spending like mad while imposing biblical law.

I discussed these ideas about voting strategy in greater depth in Sunday's Philosophy in Action Radio Show. (In fact, I wrote this post before Sunday's broadcast.) You can listen to that segment here:


Links and other details can be found on the web page for the question.

My basic points were:
(1) The Founders did not create a two-party system by design.

(2) Voting is the least significant political act you can do, albeit still worthwhile.

(3) Fiscal conservatives need to be willing to refuse to vote for the lesser of two evils if they want better candidates.

(4) A good candidate from a third party is often a worthwhile protest vote.

(5) I don't yet know how I'll vote, although I'm most likely to vote for Gary Johnson.

(6) Acrimony over voting is wrong, pointless, and destructive.
I'm not too concerned with how anyone votes in this presidential election. I'm definitely not demanding that people vote in some particular way. The process of demanding better candidates from the GOP needed to start long before now... and it can only really begin after R&R either win or lose.

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25 August 2012

Two Questions on Philosophy in Action Sunday Radio

By Diana Hsieh

In Sunday morning's live broadcast of Philosophy in Action Radio, I'll answer two questions that might be of interest. The first question is about voting for third-party candidates:

Is it moral or practical to vote for third-party candidates? The Founders created a two-party political system. With features like geographic representation, first-past-the-post voting for Congress, and the Electoral College for voting for President, the Founders clearly wanted parties consisting of large umbrella groups of wide geographic and ideological interests. As a result, the United States has always had two and only two dominant political parties. Corrupt election laws, passed by these parties, now guarantee that except in rare instances (such as Jesse Ventura, of all people) only members of these two parties can be elected to office. Given these facts, what is the purpose of voting for a third party candidates? Unlike the two major umbrella parties, all third parties are composed of ideological kooks of many persuasions. Isn't a vote for a third party candidate thus immoral (for supporting kookdom) and impractical (since they can't win)? Wouldn't it be better to try to improve the two existing parties, or not vote at all?
The second question is about bigotry against religion:
Is criticism of and opposition to religion a form of bigotry? In its entry on bigotry, Wikipedia claims that a "bigot" is "a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices, especially one who exhibits intolerance and animosity toward members of a group," and that "bigotry may be directed towards those of a differing sex or sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, nationality, region, language, religious or spiritual belief, political alignment, age, economic status or medical disability." I hear the charge of bigotry bandied about, often reflexively, particularly by theists when atheists criticize their faith-based beliefs as irrational. Is open criticism of and disrespect for religion a form of bigotry? Or is "bigotry" a loaded concept to be used by anyone whose belief system is critically challenged?
Interested? I hope so! Here's what you need to listen to the live broadcast:
The full show will cover voting for third-party candidates, self-interest in parenting, bigotry against religion, intellectually inferior professors, and more. You can review all the questions for this episode here: Q&A Radio: 26 August 2012.

To join the live broadcast and its chat, just point your browser to Philosophy in Action's Live Studio a few minutes before the show is scheduled to start. If you attend the live show, you can share your thoughts with other listeners and ask me follow-up questions in the text chat.

If you miss the live broadcast, you'll find the audio from the episode posted here: Q&A Radio: 26 August 2012.

Philosophy in Action Radio broadcasts every Sunday morning and Wednesday evening. For information on upcoming shows and more, visit the Episodes on Tap.

I hope that you join us on Sunday morning!

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23 August 2012

Personhood USA Gets the Facts Wrong about Georgia Ballot Measure

By Diana Hsieh

Personhood USA is rather less than accurate in its latest newsletter. It begins:

Voters in Georgia turned out to support a Personhood amendment with a super majority of 66% earlier this month, proving once again that everyday Americans from across the country believe that the right to life extends to all human beings.
In fact, the measure did pass by 65.7%, but the ballot measure was limited to the GOP primary, not in any general election. Here's what LifeSiteNews reported:
A strong majority of voters participating in Georgia’s GOP primary yesterday supported a non-binding ballot question on whether to grant state constitutional recognition of personhood for the unborn child.

Sixty-six percent of voters in Tuesday’s GOP primary expressed support for amending the Constitution of Georgia in the future to grant the “paramount right to life” to all human beings from their earliest biological existence until natural death.

The amendment question won in 158 of 159 counties, garnering 593,250 votes of the 902,512 cast statewide, according to Georgia Right to Life (GRTL), which spearheaded the question. The group noted that, in most counties, support was between 71% to 78%.

Yes, that's a bad sign for the GOP, which will continue to isolate itself and lose general elections with "personhood" on its agenda.

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21 August 2012

The Morality of Cloning: Philosophy in Action Podcast

By Diana Hsieh

In the 29 July 2012 episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, I discussed the morality of cloning, and I thought it might be of interest, given that much opposition to cloning is religious at root. The question was:

If cloning humans were possible, would it be wrong? Most people think that cloning humans, if possible, would be terribly immoral and creepy. What are their arguments? Are those arguments right or wrong? Also, would cloning a person without his or her consent be some kind of rights violation?
My Answer, In Brief: Although many people respond to the thought of cloning humans with repugnance, the major arguments against cloning are not persuasive. A cloned child is just a child with an older identical twin, and its parents would have all the usual challenges of good parenting.

Download or Listen to My Full Answer:


Tags: Children, Cloning, Ethics, Parenting, Personal Identity, Psychology, Rights

Relevant Links:To comment on this question or my answer, visit its comment thread.

A podcast of the full episode – where I answered questions on the morality of cloning, hypocritical allies, standards of beauty, capitalism versus altruism, and more – is available as a podcast here: Episode of 29 July 2012.

Philosophy in Action Radio broadcasts every Sunday morning and Wednesday evening. For information on upcoming shows and more, visit the Episodes on Tap.

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17 August 2012

Mississippi's Legislator Calls for Death for Gays

By Diana Hsieh

Andy Gipson, Mississippi Lawmaker, Won't Apologize For Citing Bible Passage Calling For Gays' Death:

The Mississippi state lawmaker who cited a Bible passage on Facebook calling for gay men to be "put to death" has taken to the social networking site again to refuse to apologize for the remark.

Rep. Andy Gipson (R-Braxton) went on Facebook Friday to say that although he has been receiving emails and calls from around the country about his citation of Leviticus 20:13, as well as Romans 1:26-28, in a May 10 Facebook post on President Barack Obama's endorsement of gay marriage, he will not say he's sorry. The emails have come in response to a petition calling on the lawmaker to issue an apology and to meet with LGBT groups in Mississippi.

"To be clear, I want the world to know that I do not, cannot, and will not apologize for the inspired truth of God's Word. It is one thing that will never 'change,'" Gipson wrote. "Anyone who knows me knows I also believe that all people are created in God's image, and that all people are loved by God, so much so that He gave us the truth of His Word which convicts us of the reality and guilt of our sin, and He gave us His Son Jesus who paid the full penalty for all our sins, by His grace through our faith in Him as we repent of our sin. John 3:16. It is this message that I preach every Sunday. I sincerely pray God will reach someone through this message."
What passage from the Bible did he cite?
The passage from Leviticus that Gipson first cited reads: "If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads."
Most Christians draw selectively from their "Old Testament," either ignoring or embracing its barbaric condemnations of homosexuality as they please. Of course, they have a right to believe whatever wacky claims they please, however immoral and indefensible. What's not right -- and not acceptable in a free society -- is attempting to give those religious commands force of law.

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15 August 2012

Campaign Finance Lawsuit: Preliminary Injunction Sought

By Diana Hsieh

The Center for Competitive Politics just posted a press release about their filing of a preliminary injunction in CSG's campaign finance lawsuit.  If we win, I won't have to file campaign finance reports while litigation is pending.  (Hallelujah!)

DATELINE: Tuesday, August 14, 2012

CONTACT: Sarah Lee, Communications Director, 770.598.7961

ALEXANDRIA, Va. - The Center for Competitive Politics' (CCP) legal team filed a motion for preliminary injunction late last night on behalf of a Colorado group, Coalition for Secular Government (CSG). CCP asks that a federal judge in Colorado enjoin Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler refrain from forcing CSG to register as an "issue committee" until their constitutional claims can be heard. Otherwise, CSG will be unable to speak until a potentially lengthy litigation has run its course.

Last month, CCP filed its lawsuit on behalf of CSG in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado, questioning whether Colorado can force small educational groups to register with the state before writing or publishing philosophical and policy analysis that mentions a state ballot initiative.

The case stems from the efforts of Colorado resident Diana Hsieh. Hsieh, who holds a Ph.D. in philosophy, organized the non-profit CSG together with her friend Ari Armstrong in order to promote a secular understanding of individual rights, including freedom of conscience and the separation of church and state. Because of unconstitutionally vague state laws, confusion as to what constitutes political speech and what is covered under a press exemption, and a refusal by the state to abide by a federal court order, Hsieh and CSG have found it nearly impossible to carry out the activities of a small non-profit group without fear of running afoul of Colorado's complex campaign finance laws.

CCP Legal Director Allen Dickerson hopes the motion for injunction in the case will free the group from the administrative burden of registering as a political group, allowing them to speak freely until their case can be fully considered by the federal court.

"Given the strength of its case, we hope CSG will be allowed to speak unfettered until, and if, a court determines that they must register as an issue committee," he said. "It makes little sense to force them to register - and limit their speech accordingly - only to turn around many months later and tell them they had a constitutional right to speak freely all along."

No hearing on the motion has yet been set.

The Center for Competitive Politics promotes and defends the First Amendment's protection of political rights of speech, assembly, and petition. It is the only organization dedicated solely to protecting First Amendment political rights.
In related news, a federal judge recently struck down some of Secretary of State Scott Gessler's campaign finance rule changes. The Denver Post reports:
A judge on Friday invalidated some campaign finance rules changed by Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler. Denver District Judge J. Eric Elliff upheld one rule defining what can be considered electioneering communications. But he invalidated a rule that would have capped penalties for some campaign finance violations. He also rejected rules affecting who must file campaign finance reports. ...

One of the invalidated rules said groups only had to file campaign finance reports if at least 30 percent of their spending was for or against a ballot issue. Elliff said the rule would have required issue committees with very little income, most of which is spent on election-related matters, to file reports while groups with huge budgets could spend big on election matters without having to file reports if the expenditures were less than 30 percent of their total spending.
I didn't like that 30% rule: it was poorly-constructed so as to disproportionately burden small groups. So I'm not sad to see that struck down, even though the result is that now we don't have any clear guidance on what counts as the "major purpose" that triggers filing obligations for issue committees like CSG.  That's frustrating.

I'm deeply unhappy that the rules capping fines have been struck down, as unlimited $50 per day per violation fines are downright obscene.  What sane person is willing to wade through pages of confusing and complex campaign finance regulations and then attempt to file detailed reports on expenditures and contributions over $20 — with the threat of thousands upon thousands of dollars of fines for innocent errors looming over them?

Read more...

13 August 2012

Personhood in Colorado for 2012

By Diana Hsieh

It looks like the religious right zealots of Colorado will have another "personhood" measure on the ballot in November. The Denver Post reports:

The Colorado Personhood Coalition Monday submitted more than 121,000 signatures to the secretary of state to get its anti-abortion measure on the November ballot.

The group, which claims 1,500 volunteers and the engagement of 500 churches in the cause, needs about 86,000 validated signatures to get the measure before voters again. This would be the group's third try since 2008 to amend the state Constitution.
That "personhood" measure will be joined on the ballot by a very good measure that would legalize marijuana, as well as a terrible (but lacking any teeth) measure on campaign finance. This 9 News story has the details.

Interestingly, the Denver Post reports that GOP candidate Joe Coors won't endorse "personhood":
This time around Joe Coors, now a Republican candidate for the 7th congressional district, will not endorse the personhood initiative, which would ban all abortions in the state, the campaign told the Post Wednesday.

"After its two failed attempts on the ballot, Coloradans have made their decision on this issue," campaign spokeswoman Michelle Yi said. "Joe respects the voters' decision and, for the next 90 days, will continue to focus on ideas to get our economy back on track by helping job creators start new businesses and expand their payrolls."
I hope that more GOP candidates do the same. Colorado voters have not looked kindly on candidates who endorse "personhood." If it wants to win, the GOP needs to focus on economic issues, not pushing an unpopular dogma of social conservatives.

Read more...

08 August 2012

The Emotional Manipulation Practiced by Pregnancy Crisis Centers

By Diana Hsieh

The Time I Tried To Get An Abortion From A Crisis Pregnancy Center:

I'd always been pro-choice, but I'd also always said I'd never get an abortion myself. Still, once I was actually pregnant, I was pretty sure from the beginning what I would do. And I felt better knowing that I could take a couple of pills and stop being pregnant that way, because I believed I wasn't very far along. A friend who'd had an abortion two years earlier told me there'd be a sonogram, but it was just procedure and I'd barely even know it was happening. Looking back, that's the only reason I stayed, because if I had known what a Planned Parenthood looked like I wouldn't have stayed in the place where I ended up.

It looked less like a medical office than a children's playhouse. But I didn't know any better. I had never even been to a gynecologist — I moved out of my parents' home a virgin, and I suppose I thought I could just avoid it afterwards.

A young woman sitting at a desk didn't look up at me or, when I gave my name and said I had an appointment, acknowledge she didn't find my name on her clipboard. She just told me to go ahead and sit down.

"I'm here for a medical abortion," I told the tiny older woman who approached me in the waiting room.

"Why do you want to do that?" she replied.

"Do we have to talk about this here?" I whispered. The waiting room was empty — I later learned this was because it wasn't even open — but it still felt wrong, abrupt. "Can we go into your office?"

First she handed me some pamphlets. I opened one and it was a graphic illustration of an abortion, a cutaway of a fetus being pulled apart. I snapped it closed, saying to myself, that's not what I'm doing. A medication abortion, what I wanted to have, wouldn't look like that.

The bed she led me to looked very much like it was in a doctor's office. I knew to expect the sonogram machine. That's when she started asking the questions –- what religion my parents were, where they lived, what they did for a living, what my boyfriend and I did for a living. The other girl, the one from the front desk, began the sonogram.

"It looks like you're about three and a half months pregnant," the older woman announced cheerfully.

Then she turned the monitor to me. I have so many little brothers and sisters. I was with my mother the first time she heard my younger siblings heartbeat. There was a heartbeat now, too.

By that point, I was crying hysterically.

"I think you're going to be a really great mother," she continued. "Wouldn't your mother love to take care of this baby?"

The younger girl was nodding and pointing at the sonogram. "Look how cute!" she exclaimed.

I clutched my hand to my stomach and in the sonogram screen, an arm lifted. I took my arm away and the arm went back down. "Put your hand back up!" the older woman said. I did, and the tiny hand went up again. That's the moment that I can't get out of my head, to this day.

"Look, it sounds like your boyfriend needs to come back and talk to us. I think he'd be a great dad."

I didn't say much. I just nodded and cried. I believed her. Maybe I would be a good mother.

After a few minutes, she left the room and a girl about my age returned, an intern from Utah. For what felt like about an hour, she told me why I should have the baby, and how her sister had had an unplanned pregnancy and had the baby, and how much they all loved it. She was so young and so honest. I told her everything. I was still crying.

The older woman returned and printed out the sonogram. "I want you to keep this and take it with you everywhere," she instructed. She told me to make a follow up appointment with my boyfriend, but I just ran out. I must have known even then that I was going to have an abortion anyway.
Go read the whole thing.

The simple fact is that a woman's emotions cannot tell her whether having a child would enhance her life and happiness -- or do it irreparable damage. That can only be determined by her best rational judgment. When "pregnancy crisis centers" prey on women's emotions, they're asking her to abandon her reason in favor of blind faith. Is it any wonder that these groups are the work of devoutly religious people?

Read more...

07 August 2012

Personhood Ballot Signatures

By Diana Hsieh

Signatures turned in for Colorado anti-abortion measure:

The Colorado Personhood Coalition Monday submitted more than 121,000 signatures to the secretary of state to get its anti-abortion measure on the November ballot.

The group, which claims 1,500 volunteers and the engagement of 500 churches in the cause, needs about 86,000 validated signatures to get the measure before voters again. It would be its third attempt since 2008 to amend the state Constitution.
That's likely more than enough signatures to get "personhood" on the ballot in Colorado for 2012... unfortunately. Once again, Ari Armstrong and I plan to update our 2010 paper: The 'Personhood' Movement Is Anti-Life: Why It Matters that Rights Begin at Birth, Not Conception.

Read more...

03 August 2012

Battered Women in Islam

By Diana Hsieh

Public slashing of Palestinian woman’s throat over divorce sparks protest:

BETHLEHEM, WEST BANK—The brutal killing of a battered wife in front of horrified witnesses in an open-air Bethlehem market prompted angry accusations Wednesday that Palestinian police and courts ignore violence against women.

Nancy Zaboun, a 27-year-old mother of three, had her throat slashed Monday after seeking a divorce from her abusive husband of 10 years. The husband was arrested at the scene and is the prime suspect, West Bank officials said. The case reverberated across Palestinian society because of the brutality of the attack. However, violence against women continues to be tolerated — similar to attitudes in other parts of the Arab world — and women’s rights activists say abusive husbands are rarely punished.

Zaboun was regularly beaten by her husband, 32-year-old Shadi Abedallah, at times so severely that she had to be hospitalized, said Haula al-Azraq, who runs a West Bank counselling centre where Zaboun sought help. Even so, Abedallah was never arrested. Police only made him sign pledges he would stop hitting his wife, said al-Azraq, adding that Abedallah himself is a former police officer.

Zaboun was killed after attending a hearing in her divorce case. She was walking on the steep paths of an open-air market — not far from the Church of the Nativity, marking the traditional birthplace of Jesus — when she was fatally slashed.
What can be said about such a case? Or about a culture and religion that does not merely tolerate such terrifying brutality against women, but actually encourages it?

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