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

29 September 2012

A Religious Wedding for an Atheist Groom: Philosophy in Action Sunday Radio

By Diana Hsieh

In Sunday morning's live broadcast of Philosophy in Action Radio, I'll answer a question on a religious wedding for an atheist groom that might be of interest. The question is:

Should an atheist refuse to have a religious wedding? I'm an atheist, but my fiancĂ©e is a not-terribly-devout Christian. My parents – and her parents too – are Christian. Everyone wants and expects us to have a religious wedding, but I don't want that. My future wife would be willing to have a secular wedding, but she prefers a religious one. Mostly, she doesn't want to argue with her parents over it. Should I insist on a secular wedding? Or should I just let this one go? What's the harm, either way?
Interested? I hope so! Here's what you need to listen to the live broadcast:
  • Who: Dr. Diana Hsieh and Greg Perkins
  • What: Philosophy in Action Q&A Radio: NFL Referees, Religious Weddings, Food Safety, and More
  • When: Sunday, 30 September 2012, 8 am PT / 9 am MT / 10 am CT / 11 am ET
  • Where: Philosophy in Action's Live Studio
The full show will cover greed in the NFL dispute with referees, a religious wedding for an atheist groom, preventing information overload, food safety in a free society, and more. You can review all the questions for this episode here: Q&A Radio: 30 September 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: 30 September 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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24 September 2012

Link-O-Rama

By Diana Hsieh

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20 September 2012

Friday: CSG in Federal Court

By Diana Hsieh

The Coalition for Secular Government's case challenging Colorado's campaign finance laws will be heard in Federal Court tomorrow. The courtroom is open to the public. So if you'd like to attend, you're welcome to do so.

The case will start at 9:30 am, and it will likely last the day. It will be held in the Alfred A. Arraj United States Courthouse (901 19th St. in Denver). It's being heard by Judge Kane in Room A802.

I'm really excited by the potential of this case. I'm a bit nervous too, as I've never testified in court before. Happily, my job is simple: I just need to tell the truth about CSG, and leave the heavy lifting of the legal arguments to my fabulous attorney from the Center for Competitive Politics.

Update: Never mind! The trial has been postponed for complicated (but good) reasons that I'll explain later.

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19 September 2012

Prayers of Atheists: Philosophy in Action Podcast

By Diana Hsieh

In the 9 September 2012 episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, I discussed prayers of atheists, and I thought it might be of interest. The question was:

Is it wrong for an atheist to pray? I used to be a Christian, but I've not believed in God for many years. However, I still pray when I'm under stress, even though I know that it doesn't accomplish anything. What's the harm in praying to a non-existent being?
My Answer, In Brief: It is wrong for an atheist to pray: it's degrading to your integrity, and it's poor thinking.

Download or Listen to My Full Answer:


Tags: Atheism, Epistemology, Integrity, Prayer, Psycho-Epistemology

A podcast of the full episode – where I answered questions on fear of rape, conflicts between family members, prayers of atheists, bans on smoking, and more – is available as a podcast here: Episode of 9 September 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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18 September 2012

Personhood 2012: Ballot or No Ballot?

By Diana Hsieh

According to Colorado's Secretary of State, the proposed "personhood" amendment won't make the 2012 ballot due to lack of signatures -- and that decision is final. The Denver Post reports:

The Colorado secretary of state's office said Tuesday the proposed anti-abortion "personhood" amendment will not be on the 2012 ballot — no matter the outcome of proponents' planned legal action to prove they collected enough voter signatures.

The ballot certification deadline was Monday. Even if a judge rules personhood sponsors' petition was sufficient, the measure would have to wait for the 2014 general election, secretary of state spokesman Andrew Cole told The Post Tuesday.
However, that's not the end of the story. Personhood USA takes a different view:
Personhood USA founder Keith Mason said Tuesday supporters have a 30-day window to take legal action challenging Secretary of State Scott Gessler's Aug. 29 determination that the Personhood Amendment failed to make the ballot — falling short by 3,859 signatures.

Petitioners collected 82,246 valid signatures of the 86,105 required, according to state officials. "We have until Sept. 28 to file our lawsuit. And the more we look, line by line, the more confident we are we have enough signatures," Mason said. "We have recovered thousands of signatures."
Personhood USA seems serious in their desire to make a legal challenge, as seen in this September 14th email to supporters:
We need your help! Last month we told you that volunteers worked tirelessly to collect over 112,000 signatures to get the Personhood Amendment on the ballot in Colorado. But the Secretary of State in Colorado has denied our request by claiming that we are 3,700 signatures short of qualifying for the ballot. This a purely political act, as many of the signatures discarded were actually valid signatures!

We must file a court challenge within 30 days, and we fully intend to do so. But we need your financial help! In order to continue our fight for the unborn and protect all innocent life we need to raise over $50,000 to combat the political machine in Colorado. ...
They might win that legal challenge -- or they might lose it. Basically, right now nobody knows whether "personhood" will be on the ballot in 2012 or not.

That's hugely frustrating for me. All plans to update Ari Armstrong's and my 2010 policy paper The "Personhood" Movement Is Anti-Life are up in the air until this matter is resolved. Right now, I'm not sure what kind of revisions we'll want to make, because we may want to talk about the new language of the 2012 ballot measure or not.

Also, I don't know whether I'll want to raise money for those revisions or not, as I did in 2010. I'm not willing to slog through the burdens and risks of reporting again, as would be required if "personhood" makes the ballot, unless, that is, the court rules in our favor next week. In that case, I won't have to report, even if "personhood" is on the ballot. That would be awesome.

Gah! The uncertainty is just killing me. These matters will be resolved soon, I know, but time is running short!

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14 September 2012

Blue Laws: Philosophy in Action Sunday Radio

By Diana Hsieh

In Sunday morning's live broadcast of Philosophy in Action Radio, I'll answer a question on blue laws that might be of interest. The question is:

Do "blue laws" violate rights? Many communities have "blue laws" – such as prohibitions on selling liquor, or even cars or other goods, on Sundays. Are these laws violations of the separation of church and state?
Interested? I hope so! Here's what you need to listen to the live broadcast:
The full show will cover judging people struggling with temptations, judging others when flawed, chivalry as a virtue, blue laws, and more. You can review all the questions for this episode here: Q&A Radio: 16 September 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: 16 September 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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12 September 2012

Fear of Rape: Philosophy in Action Podcast

By Diana Hsieh

In the 9 September 2012 episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, I discussed fear of rape, and I thought it might be of interest, given that the matter has been hotly debated in the atheist community. The question was:

Should men be sensitive to women's fears of being raped? Recently, I became aware of an ongoing debate among the online atheist community regarding proper conduct of men toward women they do not know. In a June 2011 video reporting on a conference, "Skepchik" Rebecca Watson talked about her experience of being asked to the room of a strange man in an elevator at 4 am. That invitation made her very uncomfortable, and she thought it was very wrong to so sexualize her. Her comments created a firestorm of controversy. Do you think that men need to be sensitive to women's fears about being raped? Should women have such fears around unknown men?
My Answer, In Brief: When dealing with strangers, a person should always be aware of the context, so as to avoid seeming to be threatening to the other person. Moreover, men need to take some extra care in dealing with women they won't know. That's because women are more physically vulnerable than men, and because prominent women are often subject to threatening sexual harassment.

Download or Listen to My Full Answer:


Tags: Atheism, Communication, Crime, Dating, Ethics, Feminism, Harassment, Rape, Respect, Rights, Sexism, Violence

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 fear of rape, conflicts between family members, prayers of atheists, bans on smoking, and more – is available as a podcast here: Episode of 9 September 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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10 September 2012

Dr. Eric Daniels on Progress in American History

By Diana Hsieh

In Wednesday evening's episode of Philosophy in Action Talk Radio, I interviewed Dr. Eric Daniels on "Progress in American History."

If you missed the live broadcast, you can listen to the audio podcast. You'll find that posted below, as well as on this episode's archive page: 5 September 2012: Dr. Eric Daniels on Progress in American History.

Talk Radio: Episode: 5 September 2012

Many people on the political right regard America as steadily decaying since the founding era. Yet in fact, America has improved in many ways – not just in technology, but also in its culture, economy, and laws.

Dr. Eric Daniels is a research assistant professor at Clemson University’s Institute for the Study of Capitalism. He has a Ph.D. in American History from the University of Wisconsin.
Listen or Download:


To automatically download every new episode, just subscribe to the Philosophy in Action Podcast RSS Feed in your music player:

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05 September 2012

Eric Daniels on Progress in American History: Wednesday on Philosophy in Action Radio

By Diana Hsieh

In tonight's episode of Philosophy in Action Talk Radio, I'll interview Eric Daniels on "Progress in American History." I thought that might be of interest!

Many people on the political right regard America as steadily decaying since the founding era. Yet in fact, America has improved in many ways – not just in technology, but also in its culture, economy, and laws. History professor Dr. Eric Daniels will explain why we should not wish to turn back the clock.

Dr. Eric Daniels is a research assistant professor at Clemson University’s Institute for the Study of Capitalism. He has a Ph.D. in American History from the University of Wisconsin.


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. By listening live, you can call the show with your questions and experiences, as well as post comments and questions in the text chat.

If you miss the live broadcast, you'll find the audio from the episode posted here: 5 September 2012: Eric Daniels on Progress in American History.

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 tonight!

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04 September 2012

Appeals Court Rules Against Gessler

By Diana Hsieh

Court rules against Gessler in campaign change:

An appeals court says Secretary of State Scott Gessler overstepped his authority by raising a financial disclosure threshold for political groups and that the change violated state law. The Colorado Court of Appeals issued the ruling Thursday, affirming a lower court's decision. At issue was a change from Gessler's office to raise the financial disclosure threshold for political groups from $200 to $5,000.

Opponents argue that raising the threshold would make it easier for political groups to avoid disclosing financial interests for ballot initiatives. Gessler maintained that his aim was to bring state campaign-finance laws in line with a federal appeals court ruling.

A Gessler spokesman says the state is leaving itself open to expensive constitutional challenges, but that the secretary has not decided whether to appeal the latest decision.
The opinion is available as a PDF. The main issue seems to have been whether Scott Gessler had the authority as Secretary of State to change the threshold for campaign finance disclosures for issue committees, not the rule itself.

However, the court did seem to read the "Parker North" (Sampson v. Buescher) case as some kind of isolated decision, without implications for the constitutionality of the current $200 threshold. The court wrote, in part:
We do not agree with the Secretary, in any event, that Sampson created a gap in the law, triggering his obligation to
promulgate a rule. The Tenth Circuit panel declined to address the facial challenge to Colorado’s campaign finance laws, and only held that the application of these laws to the plaintiffs in that case unconstitutionally burdened their freedom of association. See
Sampson, 625 F.3d at 1249. Consequently, Sampson provides persuasive authority with regard to future applications of the
campaign finance laws in a similar context, but does not render these laws completely inoperative. See Sanger, 148 P.3d at 410­11.
That's wrong, I think, and I hope that gets relitigated. In addition, I very much hope that the Colorado legislature will change the law on the threshold for reporting for issue committees -- to some level much higher than Gessler's $5000 limit.

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03 September 2012

Prominent Priest Defends Pedophiles, Blames Victims

By Diana Hsieh

Rev. Benedict Groeschel -- a well-known Catholic priest, lecturer, and television host -- defended pedophile priests and blamed their victims in a recent interview. Here's the transcript of the relevant section:

Part of your work here at Trinity has been working with priests involved in abuse, no?

A little bit, yes; but you know, in those cases, they have to leave. And some of them profoundly -- profoundly -- penitential, horrified. People have this picture in their minds of a person planning to -- a psychopath. But that's not the case. Suppose you have a man having a nervous breakdown, and a youngster comes after him. A lot of the cases, the youngster -- 14, 16, 18 -- is the seducer.

Why would that be?

Well, it's not so hard to see -- a kid looking for a father and didn't have his own -- and they won't be planning to get into heavy-duty sex, but almost romantic, embracing, kissing, perhaps sleeping but not having intercourse or anything like that.

It's an understandable thing, and you know where you find it, among other clergy or important people; you look at teachers, attorneys, judges, social workers. Generally, if they get involved, it's heterosexually, and if it's a priest, he leaves and gets married -- that's the usual thing -- and gets a dispensation. A lot of priests leave quickly, get civilly married and then apply for the dispensation, which takes about three years.

But there are the relatively rare cases where a priest is involved in a homosexual way with a minor. I think the statistic I read recently in a secular psychology review was about 2%. Would that be true of other clergy? Would it be true of doctors, lawyers, coaches?

Here's this poor guy -- [Penn State football coach Jerry] Sandusky -- it went on for years. Interesting: Why didn't anyone say anything? Apparently, a number of kids knew about it and didn't break the ice. Well, you know, until recent years, people did not register in their minds that it was a crime. It was a moral failure, scandalous; but they didn't think of it in terms of legal things.

If you go back 10 or 15 years ago with different sexual difficulties -- except for rape or violence -- it was very rarely brought as a civil crime. Nobody thought of it that way. Sometimes statutory rape would be -- but only if the girl pushed her case. Parents wouldn't touch it. People backed off, for years, on sexual cases. I'm not sure why.

I think perhaps part of the reason would be an embarrassment, that it brings the case out into the open, and the girl's name is there, or people will figure out what's there, or the youngster involved -- you know, it's not put in the paper, but everybody knows; they're talking about it.

At this point, (when) any priest, any clergyman, any social worker, any teacher, any responsible person in society would become involved in a single sexual act -- not necessarily intercourse -- they're done.

And I'm inclined to think, on their first offense, they should not go to jail because their intention was not committing a crime.

What has the Church learned in terms of preventing this?

We've been screening seminarians for decades. That's nothing new. I've been doing it for 40 years, for our old community -- the Capuchins -- for the diocese, for our small religious community. ... It takes a lot of time -- four or five hours -- to do a psychological screening, and I don't have a lot of time. There were times in the past when I'd do 30 of them. I'd do it for our community and our sisters.

Also, it's very expensive. Now, I never got a nickel, but it costs between $800 and $1,200 for a psychological battery. I used to teach psychological evaluations.

You know, we've reduced considerably the number of seminarians, and the Church is going to be in plenty of trouble as time goes on -- one pastor for two or three parishes. So permanent deacons, laypeople, deaconesses -- if you don't want to call them that -- you're going to need a lot of people helping to keep the parish going. And that may not be a bad thing at all. Years ago, in the New York Archdiocese, you were an assistant for about 25 or 30 years before you became a pastor. We're making men pastors with five years' experience.

It was too long before, and it's too short at present.
I'm speechless, but given the way that the Catholic Church has protected -- and continues to protect -- pedophile priests, I'm sure that these views are quite common in the church hierarchy, even if usually hidden.

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