Sunday, July 31, 2011

My view of marriage

I've been going through various articles and essays that attempt to give a secular argument against same-sex marriage, and I realized something surprising: some people have a fundamentally different view of what marriage is, and (more importantly) should be, than I do. It's not even a religious view, per se. I suspect that in the battles over same-sex marriage, this fundamental difference is going to be one of the biggest hurdles to overcome by supporters of same-sex marriage, even when religion doesn't make an appearance.


Yes, some people genuinely believe and argue that the primary purpose of marriage is to have and raise children. Joe Hargrave posted a piece in September 2010 at the American Catholic website making that very argument:
In my view only procreative unions should be recognized as valid and worthy of benefits, incentives, and the word “marriage.” For [Andrew Sullivan] is correct; to recognize non-procreative heterosexual unions and not homosexual unions has the following effect:
It creates one class of people, regardless of their actions, and renders them superior to another.
Procreative unions (including polygamy, though it is not superior heterosexual monogamy) ought to be superior to all other unions.
Now, it wasn't that long ago that I argued against Bishop DiMarzio referring to marriage as if it were just about procreation. I also objected strongly to him seeming to treat marriage as a vocation, or job. At that time though, I didn't realize that there might be a wider group of people who see marriage in much the same way. I will undoubtedly have to return to this argument another time, but today I wanted to just get my view of marriage out there and on the record.

I see marriage as a commitment to a relationship, a relationship built on romantic love, trust, communication, and respect. It's a way of saying to the world "we're going to stick this out and try to make this relationship work, because that's how much we mean to each other." Financial benefits, procreation, and other such things are all completely secondary to this basic foundation, and in fact not even necessary. I am well aware that this is not the historical viewpoint of marriage, but I do not think that I'm alone in seeing marriage this way. Given the vast number of book and movie romances that seem to put love first and foremost, I don't see how I could be the only person to view it this way.

When you see me arguing in support of same-sex marriage, remember that this is the foundational view, the basic premise, that I'm holding. Some of my arguments probably won't make much sense without it.

Anti-gay bullying in Anoka-Hennepin School District

Amidst everything else, I've recently become aware of a horrendous issue in Minnesota's Anoka-Hennepin School District. It seems that the district has a "neutrality policy" in place that prevents teacher's and other staff from discussing LGBT issues.
 Teaching about sexual orientation is not a part of the District adopted curriculum; rather, such matters are best addressed within individual family homes, churches, or community organizations. 

 This has contributed to an atmosphere of bullying in the district that has led to seven suicides attributed to bullying and harassment based on perceived sexual orientation or failure to conform to gender stereotypes. The school district does have an anti-bullying policy in place, and believes that is sufficient. Clearly, they are wrong. As Dale Schuster, a former student in the district, put it back in September 2010, “How do you stop the anti-gay rhetoric without explaining why it’s wrong in the first place?”

That's exactly it. It may seem like a good idea to avoid the issue by not talking about it, and to leave contentious issues such as LGBT lifestyles and rights to parental upbringing, and I can sympathize with the idea. It's the same basic thought that exists in many groups and families "We don't discuss politics or religion, and thus avoid fights." But this isn't a small private group or family, and the results of not talking about it are playing out under the noses of the staff. It's all well and good to say that bullying is bad, and as long as its reported we'll deal with it. But it won't be reported, not always, not even most of the time. If they bother to think back to their own days in school, staff knows this.

There's stigma attached to being a "tattle-tale." It's ridiculous, it shouldn't exist, but its there. While we can attack that stigma as well, we must still deal with the source and root of the harassment and bullying, and we can only do that by being willing to talk about it.

Here's the website for the Anoka-Hennepin School District that they've put up to deal with this. I suggest contacting them.

Monday, July 25, 2011

I have a question

And it's a serious question, because I really want to know:

Can anyone, anyone at all, show me a secular argument against same-sex marriage? One that doesn't rely on religion and "God said so"?

Let me know in the comments, please!

Monday, July 18, 2011

A little prayer

Apparently, this little prayer is showing up on Facebook:
Let Us Bow our Heads..... Dear God I come to you as humbly as I know how. I confess my sins, those known and unknown. Lord you know I am not perfect and I fall short everyday of my life, but I want to take time out to say thank you for your mercy. Thank you for my health, my family and my friends, the roof over my head, food on my table, and everything I have..... AMEN RE-post if GOD has blessed you in any way
Nice, isn't it? I do have a couple issues with it (besides the obvious). "I confess my sins, those known and unknown." How? How can I confess my unknown sins? If I don't know about them, then it's not very reasonable of me to feel guilty about them. That way leads to paranoia. This line goes back to the idea that we are constantly, in thought and deed, sinning, i.e., pissing God off. Sure, we sometimes do things that are unethical, but we haven't realized that they are unethical. If someone points out such a thing, and convinces me that I've committed an unethical act, then I'll cop to it, and do what I can to correct the situation. That would be appropriate. Assuming that I've done something wrong without it being shown to me, not so appropriate.

"Lord you know I am not perfect and I fall short everyday of my life,": well, I'm not perfect by my own standards, but I wouldn't say that I fall short every single day. Some days, I do pretty damn good, thank you very much.

"but I want to take time out to say thank you for your mercy." : I have a pretty good life, but even so, as I look around, if this is mercy? Well, then God has an odd idea of mercy. Rather, I would say "thanks for not being an even bigger asshole."

As for the rest of the thanks, let me take them one by one.

"Thank you for my health,": Yes, thank you to my doctor and dentist, and their staffs. Thank you to my insurance company. Thank you to those who have taught me good health habits, and those who have encouraged me to maintain those habits I follow. Thank you to the supervisors and human resources manager at a previous employer who worked with me to give me the time I needed to get healthy when I was constantly sick, helping me with the medical leave paperwork, and keeping the job for me for when I was able to return. Thank you to my wife for the joy that research shows is helping me be healthier.

"[Thank you for] my family and friends": Thanks Mom for all your hard work and sacrifice over the years. I know it wasn't easy, and I hope you feel it was worth it. Thanks to my stepdad, for all your help both for me and Mom. Thanks Grandpa for teaching integrity by example. Thanks to the extended family for all the good times, and the help in the bad times. Thanks to every friend (and honestly, the best friends become family) that has ever shared a good time with me, and helped me through the rough times. Thank you for saving my life when I was suicidal. Thank you for teaching me about difference, and having fun in new ways. Thanks to my best friend, the man who has become a brother to me, for all the conversations that lasted for hours, and for letting me borrow your books. Thanks to my wife for sticking with me through all my bullshit, and for sexing me up so often (and for anyone who thinks its somehow crass or "not done" to give thanks for sex, are you saying you aren't grateful when you get laid? for shame). I could go on like this for hours, but thanks to you all, even if you aren't mentioned specifically.

"[Thank you for] the roof over my head," : Thank you to our realtor, you were great and actually listened and worked for us. Thanks to the mortgage broker dealing with us through email and phone calls, and getting us a great rate that let us have a better house than we thought we could afford. Thanks to the bank for the mortgage. Thanks to my in-laws for lending us money for the downpayment. Thanks to the roofers who fixed the roof. Thanks to the seller's realtor who talked his client into taking our offer, and thanks to the seller. Thanks to the guy who fixed our heater.

"[Thank you for] the food on my table": Thank you to everyone who works in the grocery store, and the chain of supply behind you. Thank you to my employer for giving me a job that pays well enough to get food on my table. Thanks to all the farmers. Thanks to the credit card company that I too often have to use to put said food on my table.

"[Thank you for] everything else": Thank you to my educators. Thank you to the police. Thank you to the soldiers. Thank you to construction crews that fix the roads. Thank you to everyone who ever wrote a book. Thank you to the bloggers who give me so much to think about and enjoy. Thank you to the journalists who inform me about the world. Thank you to the scientists who discover the universe's wonders. Thank you to everyone who has ever challenged my views, and not shied away from the discussion. Thank you to my internet and cable provider. Thank you to the inventor of Pepsi. Thank you to the garbage man. Thank you everyone for everything you've ever done for me.

While I didn't include everyone in those paragraphs that I should thank, one name that doesn't deserve to be there is "God." It's pointless to thank someone that's not real, and insulting to those who genuinely deserve my gratitude.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sorry I haven't posted much

To those who keep coming back here, thank you. I do appreciate it. And my apologies for not posting much lately. There are reasons, but I won't bother to waste your time with those right now. I should be able to get back in the swing of this shortly.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A few quick things

Just a few quick things I wanted to bring to people's attention:

First something I should have mentioned when I talked about my aunt's death. There's now a Facebook page called "Grief Beyond Belief" that's there to provide support and resources to non-believers facing death and other things to grieve about. The religious often have communities to aid them through grieving, but these usually come with phrases such as "she's in a better place" or "they're with God now." Obviously, that's not very comforting to non-believers. So, if you have a need for grief support, or wish to help provide some, or have ideas to help, go there, read the Info page, and if you wish, "Like" it.

Second, another Facebook page (ok, they're all Facebook pages). This one is "Support the Secularity of Public Schools." It seeks to gather together those who support maintaining the separation of church and state in publicly funded schools in the USA, and doing things like keeping non-science such as creationism out of the classroom. One really cool part? The admins are Damon Fowler, Jessica Ahlquist, Harrison Hopkins, and Zack Kopplin. The first three I've talked about before, but I haven't mentioned Zack. Zack's the guy who went toe-to-toe with the government in Louisiana to repeal a law that was clearly a stealth move to get creationism into the classroom again. He succeeded too. Seriously, check out his story, and join the group.

Third, there's a new political party being formed, and they've got a Facebook page, complete with charter and platform: National Atheist Party. Now, I'm not going to come out and say I fully and one hundred percent endorse this. I have a few quibbles with parts of the platform (needs more emphasis on education, for example), and frankly, I'm not sure that this is the best idea for moving forward with the atheist cause, or the humanist cause. But I'm not sure it's a bad idea either. If the goal really is to get candidates that are avowed atheists elected, well, that might be discriminatory as well. I'm personally happy to vote for someone who's not an atheist, so long as I can find sufficient common ground with the candidate's views and policy proposals. I also think the name might backfire from a PR perspective. However, I still appreciate what they're trying to do, and the platform positions I mostly agree with, despite quibbles. Therefore, I wanted to bring this to people's attention, and let them make up their own mind. So head on over there, take a look, and make a choice.

Oh, and one more thing. Apparently, I've fallen from the Light Side and joined the Dark Side, because I signed up for Twitter: @NathanDST. Still trying to figure it out (sorta), and not sure if I'll keep with it, but I'm there for the moment. Do what you want with that info (oh dear, that wasn't a Facebook page, was it? whoops).