Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Google plus, meet me.

Hey look, I'm on Google+ now! Look for me as "Nathan Salo Tumberg," if you happen to be on there.

Thanks to Ophelia Benson for the invite. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Very brief update

I apologize for not posting recently (how do prolific bloggers, like Hemant Mehta or Ophelia Benson, do it??). I did have a post up that I took down regarding belief, because I somehow posted it unfinished. I'll be working on that one as well. At any rate, I've just finished reading the next article I'll be addressing in my series dealing with secular arguments against same-sex marriage. You can read the article I'm looking at for yourself here (feel free to send me any thoughts you have on it). The pdf download is free. It's a scholarly article, and fairly long, so I'm going to be going through it again before I post anything about it, and might have to do it in multiple posts.

I appreciate everyone who keeps showing up to read my writing, even when it takes me a while to get something posted.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Support education, and go against Perry's anti-LBGT stance

I don't normally promote Facebook pages, but in this case, I'll make an exception. I get to support high school education while going against Perry and his anti-LGBT stance? I'm all over that! 
One Million Strong Against Rick Perry
We have to do a project for high school. We have to run a campaign to support a politician or to go against. I choose to go against Rick Perry! For his stands on LGBT Rights!! 
Go there, "Like" the page, and help out. Maybe we can get this page to really hit one million!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Belief matters

There's an idea that permeates certain parts of our culture. I've seen it in the religious, and the non-religious alike. It's an idea that seems ok at first glance, and has a warm fuzzy feeling to it. Here it is, in essence:
It doesn't matter what you believe, as long as you're happy and not hurting someone. Can't we all just get along?
Put like that, I too have an instinctive desire to simply agree and shut up. Yet, I can't, and here's why: belief matters. It absolutely, positively matters what you believe. Sometimes it's of great consequence, and sometimes it's of very little consequence.  But it matters.

Belief matters because it has direct, and sometimes indirect, effects on our actions. It can't help but do this, or put another way, we can't help but act according to our beliefs. If you believe that apple seeds contain enough cyanide to kill, you probably will make sure you don't swallow them when eating an apple. If you believe that ginkgo biloba can enhance your memory, you're more likely to spend money on it.

Those are small beliefs; it's even easier to see how large beliefs affect us. If you believe that "what goes around, comes around," or some version of karma, you're more likely to let certain offenses pass, since karma will bite them in the ass. On the other hand, if you believe that there's no such thing as karma, you're more likely to see a value in confronting the offense, rather than let it pass. If you believe that there's an afterlife, then you're more likely to be willing to risk your life, since death is not the end. But of course, if you believe there is nothing like an afterlife, then you're less likely to take that risk.

Our beliefs can also affect our happiness and general satisfaction. If you believe that everything works out for the best, always, you might be less likely to give in to depression when the going gets rough. Of course, you might also be less likely to work as hard as you need to get past that rough patch, since things "always work out." It's not always clear how one's beliefs will affect your emotions or actions.

But affect them they will. When I believed in reincarnation, karma, and a God that loved me, I made a conscious decision to consider ethical dilemmas as if all that wasn't true. Mostly, I think I succeeded. Yet, that decision was itself influenced by the belief that I had to share a world with people who didn't agree with me, and that there was a possibility, however small, that I was wrong.

This is why I care what you believe. Your beliefs affect what you do, and what you do might affect me. When it doesn't, that's when I quit caring -- but only until the next belief is confronted. I am happy to get along with you, with anyone, so long as your belief doesn't cause harm, or at least, is very unlikely to cause predictable harm, and so long as it doesn't interfere with the rights of others. But I will not say it doesn't matter what you believe.

After all, I'm sure it matters to you.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Dealing with a few secular arguments against same-sex marriage (second of however many posts it takes)

Back to dealing with secular arguments against same-sex marriage. This is my second post on this subject. **EDIT: The first one is here.** When researching this topic (thanks again adam), it came as a slight surprise to find that there are gay people out there who don't actually support the fight to provide marriage equality. Upon reflection, it shouldn't have come as a surprise, given how diverse people are, but it did.

In 2009 a group of people identifying itself as "Queer Kids of Queer Parents Against Gay Marriage!" wrote a single blog post speaking out against the fight for legal same-sex marriage. For the most part, they seem to be against it because there are other issues that they feel are more important, but they also believe that queers and queer families are different as a class from everyone else.
Having grown up in queer families and communities we strongly believe that queers are not like everyone else. 
That's from the last paragraph, and in fact, I'm going to start with that idea first, because it seems to underlie much of what they say.

I am not sure if the term "queer" is meant to represent only gay, lesbians and transexuals (they mention "trans" at a couple points) in this case, or if bisexuals and others who's gender expression is outside the norm are included as well. I'm going to assume that they're including everyone. And that's exactly what's wrong with that statement. It's a blanket statement, an over-generalization, that by its sheer breadth ends up excluding people.

For many, their sexuality really is the only difference between them and mainstream society. I don't know how common that is, and frankly, it's irrelevant how common it is for purposes of this issue. Neither the authors of the article, nor anyone else, get to tell them that they are wrong to desire and seek what they could have had, but for the accident of their sexuality and gender expression. Not without making a serious effort to back it up, which the authors have utterly failed to do. The authors speak from personal experience when they say
Believe it or not, we felt incredibly safe, happy, taken care of, and fulfilled with the many queer biological and chosen parents who raised us without the right to marry.
Wonderful. I truly am glad that you had that experience. That doesn't mean that marriage is bad, or that the LBGT people who want marriage, legal marriage, are wrong to desire it. At various points the authors wax poetic about how wonderful and diverse their community is, claiming that as a strength (as well they should), only to turn around and try and stifle and squeeze others into their particular mode. It does not work that way.
We think long-term monogamous partnerships are valid and beautiful ways of structuring and experiencing family, but we don’t see them as any more inherently valuable or legitimate than the many other family structures.  We believe in each individual and family’s right to live their queer identity however they find meaningful or necessary, including when that means getting married.
I agree. So why do you want to stop people in the LGBT community from getting married, directly contradicting what you say here? Oh, right. The other stuff.
We believe that the argument for gay marriage obscures the many structural, social, and economic forces that break families apart and take people away from their loved ones.  Just for starters, there’s the explosion in incarceration levels, national and international migration for economic survival, deportation, unaffordable housing, and lack of access to drug rehabilitation services.  The argument for gay marriage also ignores the economic changes and cuts to social services that make it nearly impossible for families to stay together and survive: welfare cuts, fewer after school programs, less public housing, worse medical care, not enough social workers, failing schools, the economic crisis in general.
Every single one of these issues is important. Every single one of these issues needs to be dealt with. And every single one of them is, has been and will be discussed, and hopefully, dealt with properly. It's true, or at least appears to be true, that politicians sometimes bring up same-sex marriage in an effort to distract the populace and their opponents. Unfortunately, it's usually the conservative right introducing legislation to block the right to same-sex marriage. When someone proposes to enact into law discrimination, it must be challenged. To let it go unchallenged simply because there are other issues on the table only perpetuates the attitudes behind that discrimination.

When we fight for same-sex marriage, it is not just the right to marry that is being fought for. We're also fighting to be accepted, to have the culture as a whole, and people as individuals, recognize us as equals. As we make our arguments for the legalization of same-sex marriage, we are making the argument that it's ok to be gay, bisexual, or trans. When we make that argument, we're standing up against the bullying that has led to many LGBT teens taking their own life, or being kicked out of their homes because mommy and daddy couldn't deal with their child being a sissy. That acceptance makes it easier for our voices to be heard on every issue, including all the ones the authors mentioned.

Isn't that at least as important as all those other issues? (Hint: yes)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Quick heads up

I'm having some issues responding to comments right now (as in, I can't). I've no idea if it's on my computer's end, or blogspot's end. I've already tried the usual things for fixing it (cache/cookies clearing, restarting the browser), so I'm going to have to dig deeper.

Or I might get lucky and it will fix itself by the time I can get back to it again tomorrow.

UPDATE: Figured out. It just doesn't like blockquote tags. Maybe I should look into installing a different commenting system.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Dealing with a few secular arguments against same-sex marriage (first of however many it takes)

Previously I asked if there were any secular arguments against same-sex marriage, both here and on my personal Facebook page ("Occasionally, I think" has a page too, but I haven't been doing anything there since I haven't figured out how to get the "Like" button on this site; readers, should I try harder?). I had some great responses (and major kudos to reader adam for doing a great deal of work pulling together links to various arguments). I can't deal with them all in one post, so here's the first of . . . however many posts it takes.

Writer Pastor Eddie Thompson wrote an article at making three arguments against same-sex marriage, two of which could be called secular.

First up:
First, gay and lesbians already possess rights equally protected under the law. They have the exact rights that I have today. They can marry a member of the opposite sex if they so choose, just like I have done. I can't marry a member of my own sex, even if I wanted to. So, we have the exact same rights.
What they don't have is the right to marry the person that they have fallen in love with. What they don't have is the right to start and raise a family that person with the full legal assistance and protections that are enjoyed by those who are married. So no, gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals (such as myself), do not have the "exact same rights."  What heterosexuals have is extra rights compared to homosexuals and bisexuals, which makes Thompson's next statement really wrong:
What is being suggested by the gay agenda is not "equal rights" but "extra rights."
Not so much.

Moving on to Thompson's second point:
Secondly, consenting adults can do many things, but there are some actions restricted even to consenting adults.
This is true, but those restrictions must be justified. If they are not, then those restrictions must be lifted.
[. . .] There are reasons we place restrictions on marriage. Homosexuals have never received marital status in the history of mankind until recently. 
Well, as a factual matter that's not entirely clear. It's also irrelevant. As we've developed as a society and a species, we've come to realize that many things that we've done historically should not have been done, such as the oppression of women, slavery, segregation, etc. Tradition is not a sufficient reason to continue with any practice, not when there are good reasons to stop.
There is a reason for that. It is not productive to continue to shred the fabric of our society. The burden of proof for changing history’s traditional marriage should fall upon the supporters of the homosexual agenda.
How is allowing same-sex marriage going to "shred the fabric of our society"? If changing what we do and accept as a society in the interest of fairness, equality, and justice is "shred[ding] the fabric of our society," then I say shred away. As for the burden of proof, we've met that. The burden is now with those against same-sex marriage.
I have heard of no compelling reasons that suggest homosexual marriages are necessary to the well-being of our society.
I have heard of no compelling reasons to believe same-sex marriages are harmful to society, or that denying same-sex marriage is somehow "necessary to the well-being of our society." Indeed, a number of states and countries have been permitting same-sex marriage or civil unions (not the same thing, I know) for years, and those societies still exist.

Pastor Thompson's final argument is basically a religious one, and as such, I'm not going to deal with it in detail, except for one line, because it bugs me:
They want us to validate something we consider wicked. 
Just as those who agree with Pastor Thompson want us to validate something we consider wicked: the supremacy of heterosexual marriage over any other form of marriage between consenting adults.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A video on morality

A video that I found through Friendly Atheist by QuoliaSoup. It's quite good, and deserves a look.

If your screen is making it look really tiny on this webpage, like mine is, you should just watch it at YouTube so you can actually see the animation and images.