Friday, September 25, 2009

Facebook is Sorry

I emailed facebook. They responded and aplogized for blocking my ability to share my blog through the internal email and messenger.

Sorry for the confusion. It appears that you were shown this message in error.

Unfortunately they have not fixed the error. I am working with the Facebook team to reslove the issue. I should have been a little less harsh with the Facebook team.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

By what Authority.....with what Basis in Fact?

As a young Mormon, one thing that always left me scratching my head was the idea that a church calling was a calling from god. I was taught that through personal revelation the the stake president called the bishop. I began to question this on a very literal basis first when our first bishop in the American Fork East Stake 12th ward was so outwardly hostile to my parents because they were "Jack Mormons". It came into question again when I was a teen and our bishop was arrested for molesting the boys in the ward.

As an adult I find it concerning that these folks are put in a position of authority over others. They are, for the most part, lay people with no real training in either their religion or other social science issues. They are allowed to council others and to give advice on issues such as sexual abuse, divorce, marriage, sex, homosexuality, and depression among other things.

Several years ago I was writing a pre-sentence report on a young man, returned missionary, who had plead guilty to Enticing a Minor Over the Internet, a Third Degree Felony. According to the investigator's report he entered a chat room solicited an investigator who was posing as an underage 13 year-old female for sex. In the same chat room was an age appropriate girl who was interested in his proposal. He turned down her advances in favor of the 13 year-old.

During the interview I asked him if he was seeking sexual offender treatment. He said he was meeting weekly with his stake president. I asked if his stake president was a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with a State recognized specialty in Sexual Deviancy? He said he thought his stake president was a HVAC technician. I told him that his stake president was grossly unqualified to counsel him on this matter. I asked him if his bishop was better qualified. He said, "No. He happens to be my father."

Later his mother told me that because his stake president spoke highly of the young man; it should warrant leniency from the court. Additionally his father, the bishop, and his mother both engaged in a plot to conceal the offense from his fiance's parents even though the court would likely impose sentence that would keep the young man from joining his fiance on their honeymoon(which happened).

Not only were both men not qualified to provide real world counsel to his young man they assisted in keeping relevant information from the fiance and her family.

For me, this came in to focus again on Sunday while I was reading the Salt Lake Tribune. An article discussed a LDS General Authority's stance on whether homosexuality was genetic. According to the article, Elder Bruce C. Hafen, stated, same-sex attraction is "not in your DNA,". The article refutes this statement with cites to the APA and other research that indicates that homosexuality is normal and may have a genetic component.

Elder Bruce C. Hafen, a General Authority is not a geneticist, a psychiatrist, he is not an LCSW or a psychologist. He is a lawyer. He has the expertise to take an argument to its absurd conclusion but to represent that behavior and sexual orientation is not normal when science indicates it may well be is reckless and callous. It also flies in the face a recent studies published out of BYU.

In the above examples these men of god are in a position to inflict pain without accountability(they represent the broad view of their doctrine or their congregations). They are all put in positions of authority over others and in the statements, actions, and naivety have undue influence on the emotional well being of fellow humans. The LDS church does not have a professional clergy that interfaces with the congregations like other churches do. It puts men, most with a limited understanding of church doctrine, in a position to excommunicate or otherwise discipline or pass judgement their neighbors. In many cases it it their own prejudices disguised as authority from god that lead them to cause harm.

Monday, September 7, 2009

McCarthyism on facebook

McCarthyism is the politically motivated practice of making accusations of disloyalty, subversion, or treason without proper regard for evidence.

McCarthyism is alive and well on facebook. I was chatting on facebook this evening to a friend in California who I had not spoken to in years. She asked me to send a link to my blog. So I did. I copied the blog link and pasted it into the chat window and got a message.
Warning: This Message Contains Blocked Content “Some content in this message has been reported as abusive by Facebook users.”

Okay, facebook users….the exchange of ideas represents abuse? I question, do not believe and challenge conventional religion and because you are uncomfortable with the discussion you report the post as offensive.

I am more upset at facebook. This is a social networking company that was founded by the concept of the free exchange of ideas on a peer to peer platform. I understand the need to limit content to exclude pornography, child pornography, hate groups etc. But there is no notification to the user that his post has been reported. There is no independent peer review of the content to determine it is offensive and no appeal process.

I guess I have run afoul of my religious friends and now a portion of my content has been blocked. I can’t mail it out on the facebook inbox or send via the messenger. No allegation of abuse has been sent to me, no opportunity to respond, no review of the evidence. I am not going to claim that my constitutional rights have been violated…because the government is prohibited from restricting legal free speech not facebook and not my facebook friends. I again ask the question….WHY IS THE CONVERSATION SO DANGEROUS!?!

Is the way the "War of Ideas" gets prosecuted?

It begs the question.....

I have been doing a bunch reading of late. I just finished the book God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, by Christopher Hitchens and am currently reading godless, by Dan Barker. They both discuss in great detail why they are atheists and how they came to that conclusion. I also found Sam Harris’ foundation the ”Reason Project”. Some of the concepts ring very true to and I have really wanted to discuss them out loud. I started a conversation with my lovely wife. It went kind of like this:

Her: I believe there is something more.

Me: what is your basis for that belief?

Her: Don’t try to change me. I have not tried to change you!

Sam Harris discusses a “War of Ideas” and I touched on that discussion in a previous blog post. I am finding that it may very well be ‘a war of ideas’…especially when an atheist asks questions. There is a rush to a defensive position. If someone asserts “I believe the moon is made of cheese” and you submit arguments based in science to refute the claim that is acceptable. If someone says” I believe the earth is 6,000 years old” (an assertion based in religious dogma) and you attempt to refute the claim you may be in for a very impassioned defense.

By asking questions and challenging the assertions contrived out of generational dogma, we are perceived to have crossed the line. By questioning we have lobbed the first stone. This brings me to the next point.

I read the following quote in an essay published by D. Todd Christofferson, an LDS Apostle.

“We need strong Christians who can make important things happen by their faith and who can defend the truth of Jesus Christ against moral relativism and militant atheism.”

I find two things interesting about this quote. The first is the concept of Moral Relativism. Stated simply moral relativism is the idea that morals and social moirĂ©s adapt to the needs of time and culture. It additionally accepts that the morals of one tribe may be vastly different the morals of another. To deny that Moral Relativism is alive and well in the truest believing Christians and their religions is manipulative. Ask, "why it is we do not sell our daughters into slavery anymore" and you inevitably get the response that ‘it was okay in that time and culture but it is not okay now.‘ Why don’t we practice polygamy in Utah now? Moral Relativism!

The second thing I found interesting was the term Militant Atheists. I Googled the term . I found several calls to action by Christians to defeat the militant atheists but I did not find a single atheist militia. The idea of actively pursuing the truth and questioning everything is considered a militant act? Are fundamentalists militant? What about Mormon missionaries who wish to bring me a message of Jesus Christ, are they militant Mormons?

On a daily basis I am the recipient of messages from religious people. Their facebook posts, blogs, politics, invitations to attend meetings, and television programming. I am not sure why, when an atheist asks a question or directly addresses what he/she believes to be a fallacy of religion, we are being militant.

Why is the conversation so dangerous?

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Hey Conservatives....Your Team!!!

My kids used to play a game during our long commute home from their charter school. They would point out the most unique, strange, homely people who were on the street and say " your team". Now the superstition was that you would be tied to that person in heaven. The idea was to assign the oddest menagerie of people to your opponent. I think Glenn Beck is about the oddest guy you could be tied too. Hey conservatives....Your team!