Lack of feminism is an existential threat to humanity

Population projections from the Science Magazine study

No, I don’t think I’m exaggerating here. The consensus for population growth has been that the world will peak at around 9 billion towards the middle of this century with a levelling off or even a slight drop-off. The main reason for this is that we’re having fewer children across the world – the effects of which will be felt decades later.

Now, a new study in Science that the UN and others are paying lots of attention to is adjusting the projections upwards based on more recent data. Things do not look good for sustainability. There is now a confidence interval of about 70% that the population will continue to rise throughout this century, getting to 11 billion by 2100. The region with adjusted figures is sub-Saharan Africa. It has a high population growth and a high average number of children per woman. One of the adjustments is that fewer people are dying of AIDS than expected – we are making inroads into the epidemic faster than we thought. The second is that the number of children per woman is not dropping as fast as projected. For example, the average woman in Nigeria will have 5.5 children – which means the current estimates peg the population at an unbelievable 914 million by 2100.

I tend to be skeptical of single studies that try to revise long-established scientific consensus. Plus I’m not sure how we can predict population so confidently without predicting future fertility rates – which can change dramatically due to cultural shifts – all the way to at least 2070. That might just be my ignorance of demographic studies.

Still, this is a reason to worry. A population of 11 billion will stretch our already ailing global food, water and medical systems to breaking point. The implications on global poverty and oppression are also pretty bleak as more people will make systemic change harder. But there’s also a potential existential threat. Right now, population growth isn’t actually the strongest driver of global warming. That’s because most people don’t live in countries that produce a lot of emissions per person. The bulk of emissions come from a few places. But as the population grows and as countries get richer in general (and emit more per person as more people have fridges and cars), this may change. That 11 billion might cause enough emissions to make today’s environmental catastrophes seem quaint. Maybe even to the point that the planet becomes uninhabitable.

So what does this have to do with feminism? Everything. The study listed two major reasons the birth rate has remained high:

  • Contraception and family planning resources have not spread as much as expected
  • The cultural preference for larger families remains, driven by a lack of opportunities for women’s lives outside the home

Now, part of the first reason can perhaps be blamed on systemic poverty, corruption, lack of infrastructure and so on. But the rest is directly influenced by anti-feminism and traditional gender roles. The basic pre-conditions that are needed for an entire society to have autonomy haven’t changed – it’s the ability of women to control their reproduction in both a direct (ie. medical) and indirect (ie. cultural) level.

Not that readers from outside of sub-Saharan Africa should get all self-congratulatory about how much better “our” countries are at doing these things compared to “those” countries. There are nefarious forces from inside Western countries with deep pockets who are committed to – and effective at – influencing policy along regressive lines. Not that countries like Uganda, The Gambia and Nigeria (which have recently introduced horrible anti-LGBT legistlation) don’t have their own actors with their own agenda. They do; but being targeted in a sustained campaign is a big deal. It worked for California in Proposition 8 and can potentially work anywhere. Cough cough major religious institutions opposing contraception and abortion.

So, as if the intrinsic reasons to support feminism and gender equality weren’t enough, you might add “humanity is doomed otherwise” to the list. This is one of the most important battles in a war to the death. The war is being waged in every country in the world but it’s not being won fast enough. The stakes are the lives of billions.

The post Lack of feminism is an existential threat to humanity appeared first on Fail Blue Dot.

Curiosity’s historic comet photo

pia18591-main-replacement-mer_css_long_0r_anno

Photo Credit: Curiosity on Mars – NASA Rover Opportunity Views Comet Near Mars.

According to NASA:

NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity captured images of a comet passing much closer to Mars than any previous known comet flyby of Earth or Mars. The images of comet Siding Spring were taken against a backdrop of the pre-dawn Martian sky on Sunday (Oct. 19).

Images of comet A1 Siding Spring from the rover’s panoramic camera (Pancam) are online at:

http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/spaceimages/details.php?id=PIA18591

http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/spaceimages/details.php?id=PIA18592

http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA18617

Researchers used Opportunity’s Pancam to image at a range of exposure times about two-and-one-half hours before the closest approach of the nucleus of comet Siding Spring to Mars. By the time of closest approach at about 87,000 miles (139,500 kilometers), dawn had lit the sky above Opportunity.

“It’s excitingly fortunate that this comet came so close to Mars to give us a chance to study it with the instruments we’re using to study Mars,” said Opportunity science team member Mark Lemmon of Texas A&M University, who coordinated the camera pointing. “The views from Mars rovers, in particular, give us a human perspective, because they are about as sensitive to light as our eyes would be.”

Similar articles


Suggestions encouraged

Hey, gang — you know Freethoughtblogs and Skepchick sponsor a whole science and skepticism track at the Convergence science fiction & fantasy convention in Bloomington, Minnesota every year, right? It happens over the Fourth of July weekend, but the planning begins in November — it’s a fairly involved process!

So I’m mentioning it now so that you can put it on your calendar and make advanced plans to attend. But I’m also asking you all to make suggestions. Next month, we submit a list of proposed panels to the con planning committee, and they make the final decisions about which ones to schedule…and that means we have to get creative now. Got any ideas? Share them here in the comments.

Here’s the Skeptic track panels from last year, to give you some inspiration. If you’re hoping to attend, feel free to suggest what you would like to hear about. Even if you aren’t going, please do inspire us anyway.

Mary’s Monday Metazoan: Zombies!

Browse this list of images…all of them of real, live, genuine zombified organisms. Just in time for Halloween!

zombie-spider

A brief #gamergate roundup

I have never seen an own goal as dramatic as GamerGate — it has exposed a whole vast collection of unpleasant characters. Here’s a list of the “bad apples” of gamergate, who are categorized as a ridiculous mob of d-list right-wingers. In particular, take a look at Mike Cernovich, who we’ve encountered before — what a piece of work. What we’re learning is that it has always been this way, and i’s alway been a misogynistic movement with a lot of overlap with the same harassing atheists.

They’re an ugly bunch. It’s good to see them expose themselves like this.

Dirty Little Secret: Plenty of Jehovah’s Witnesses Hate Their Door-to-Door Proselytizing As Much As You Do

The City of Melbourne enjoyed suffered experienced an invasion of some 70,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses this past weekend, all there for their international convention. Graeme Hammond used to be one of them – door-to-door haranguing and all – and explains what drives the Witnesses to keep going in the face of understandable exasperation, even hostility.

[The] leaders require that all Witnesses, from children to the frail-aged, devote their lives to proselytizing in the hope of gathering millions more into their fold before the divine hammer blow of Armageddon. But the command is not only to “preach” (usually a forlorn offer of a magazine or leaflet); they must also hand in monthly reports detailing the hours they spent “in the field” and how many calls they made. The message at their meetings is relentless and laden with guilt and fear: keep on preaching or you, too, will die at Armageddon.

Back then when my heart was in it, my Saturday mornings were often all about perfecting the soft knock, half-hoping no one would hear me. And I was not alone. For most of those I paired up with on Saturdays, an unopened door was a good door. When it did swing open, revealing a clearly irritated resident, I felt like saying, “Hey, I hate this as much as you do!

Nevertheless,

We were instructed to call at every home and return later if they were out. If they weren’t warned about the coming cataclysm, their blood would be on our hands… I plodded on, did my service to God and man. Everything was about counting hours. Not the hours to the Apocalypse, but the hours I wrote on my monthly report. Clever JWs would “do a door” on the way to the meetings where witnessing territory was assigned, just to start the clock and take them closer to their quota… We’d linger at doors when there was clearly no one home before dawdling out to the street again.

Hammond’s story has a happy ending, of sorts.

When my family and I finally quit, our eyes opened and feeling foolish about having stayed so long, family and former “friends” cut us off. What the hell. We were just glad to get our lives back.

(Cartoon via videobash. If you know who the artist is… we’d like to give credit and a linkback)

Friendly Atheist Podcast Episode 25: Elizabeth Cavell, Freedom From Religion Foundation

Our latest podcast guest is Elizabeth Cavell, an attorney with the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Cavell graduated from Tulane University Law School in 2009 and worked for a while as a deputy public defender in southern Colorado before becoming an FFRF staff attorney.

We spoke with her about which kind of complaints are the most numerous at FFRF, how the Christian claim of “persecution” has become a way to protect privilege, and whether she ever speaks with her cultural counterparts.

This episode is sponsored by Be Secular. Readers of this site can get a 10% discount on products by using the promo code “Friendly”!

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the podcast. If you have any suggestions for people we should chat with, please leave them in the comments, too.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, get the MP3 directly, check it out on Stitcher, or just listen to the whole thing below.

And if you like what you’re hearing, please consider supporting this site on Patreon and leaving us a positive rating!



Religion matters more than education when it comes to creationist beliefs

The USA is a conundrum when it comes to creationist beliefs. While the US comes about average in high-school science education results, staggering numbers of American adults are not only creationists but young earth creationists - believing that the earth is a mere 6,000 years old.

Now, there's quite a lot of research to suggest that this is due to widespread fundamentalist Christian beliefs. But quite how that manifests is unclear. Are fundamentalists generally ignorant of science - or is it just evolution?

A study by Leslie Rissler and colleagues at the University of Alabama suggests that it's mostly the latter - but with a few twists.

They surveyed nearly 3,000 students at their university on their understanding of evolution, and found that understanding of evolution and acceptance of evolution were closely linked. Those who could correctly answer some basic questions about how evolution works also tended to believe it to be true.

However, when they looked at the basic factors that contributed to understanding and knowledge of evolution, they found that academic level (freshman, sophomore, etc), whether evolution was taught at high school and whether or not the student majored in science were all relatively unimportant (although they all had a small positive effect).


The overwhelming factors were religious attendance and religious identification - which both had a large, negative effect.

They went on to show that, while those who took a science major had better understanding of evolution than those who did not, understanding of evolution increased similarly for all as their academic years progressed. Similarly, those who had been taught creationism improved during university - although they never caught up with those who had been taught evolution.


However, those who were frequent churchgoers were much less likely to improve their knowledge and understanding of evolution while at university.

This groovy figure is called a bean plot. The left hand side of each bean shows the scores of students before taking an introductory class in biology. They grey area on the right of each bean shows the scores after the class.

Keep your eye on the horizontal lines, which show the averages in each case. You can see that it starts higher and shifts up more for the 'hardly ever' churchgoers. Whereas it starts low and barely shifts for the frequent churchgoers.

One last thing they found was that religious students did understand that most scientists accept evolution. If they were asked what scientists think and understand about evolution, they were generally reasonably accurate.

So a major reason why they score low in tests of understanding is not that they don't get it, but that they refuse to believe it!


ResearchBlogging.org
Rissler, L., Duncan, S., & Caruso, N. (2014). The relative importance of religion and education on university students’ views of evolution in the Deep South and state science standards across the United States Evolution: Education and Outreach, 7 (1) DOI: 10.1186/s12052-014-0024-1

Creative Commons License This article by Tom Rees was first published on Epiphenom. It is licensed under Creative Commons.

Friday Night Frights (One Minion learns love doesn’t grow where Rosemary goes)

1minionsopinion:

For the run-up to Halloween, I bring back some old favourite posts I did with a horror movie theme. Enjoy.

Originally posted on One Minion's Opinion:

“Why have you conjured me into existence, Mistress Minion?”
“Because I can! I found the secret book hidden away, thought lost for all time! Now I have the power over those bigger and stronger than myself! Mauahaahaah!!!! Now, I command you to attack and devour my enemies! Leave not even their bones unbitten!”
“But I’m a vegetarian.”

View original 565 more words


Filed under: Uncategorized

Alternet Removes CJ Werleman’s Articles from Site Following Plagiarism Accusations

In response to the multiple accusations of plagiarism against atheist CJ Werleman (below), his editors at Alternet released a brief statement this afternoon:

Dear Reader, it is with regret that we announce that frequent AlterNet author CJ Werleman was discovered to have failed to attribute text taken directly from other news and information sources. AlterNet takes allegations of plagiarism seriously, and has removed Werleman’s articles from our archives. Our apologies to the various sources and writers whose work was misappropriated in Werleman’s articles published on AlterNet.

Now, will Salon do the same?

Werleman, on his way down, also accused Sam Harris of plagiarism, though Harris has pretty thoroughly debunked that on his site.

What, this is a thing?

A paper that made extravagant weight loss claims for green coffee beans has been retracted. This study had been touted by Dr Oz, of course — no fraud is to ludicrous for him — and rebutted by Scott Gavura, and I’m generally suspicious of any dietary supplement that promises weight loss without reducing calories or increasing exercise. But there’s one bit that surprised me. The study was done in India by a guy named Mysore Nagendran, and it was sponsored by Applied Food Sciences, Inc. (AFS), the company trying to exploit this Miracle Weight Loss Supplement. They couldn’t get it published, so…

The FTC charges that the study’s lead investigator repeatedly altered the weights and other key measurements of the subjects, changed the length of the trial, and misstated which subjects were taking the placebo or GCA during the trial. When the lead investigator was unable to get the study published, the FTC says that AFS hired researchers Joe Vinson and Bryan Burnham at the University of Scranton to rewrite it. Despite receiving conflicting data, Vinson, Burnham, and AFS never verified the authenticity of the information used in the study, according to the complaint.

Whoa. They brought in a couple of American ronin to rewrite and publish the story? I’m an innocent; I can’t imagine this. If someone told me they had a pile of data I had no part in generating, could I please write the paper so it’s publishable, I’d say no way, and I can’t imagine an inducement that would persuade me.

Which makes me wonder: were these guys paid to do this? Or was the incentive the privilege of getting a first-authorship on research that they didn’t do?

‘Immodest’ hijab wearers under threat

A series of acid attacks on ‘loose hijab’ women have taken place in Iran.

The attacks, according to this report, coincide with a law recently passed by the Iranian parliament that gives further powers to morality patrols.

Ansar-e-Hezbollah – or the “Supporters of the Party of God” – a militant fundamentalist group, announced it would be resuming its street activities, which include harassing women who don’t wearing what the zealots deem to be proper Islamic headscarves.

For the past two weeks there have been rumours that a group of motorcyclists are throwing acid on women whose obligatory hijabs,do not meet the gang’s standards. They target women’s faces, and the attacks are said to have been concentrated in Isfahan.

On October 16 the Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA) confirmed one report: a woman in a car had been attacked, and acid was thrown in her face. There was widespread speculation that it was done as a means of punishment because the woman was wearing an “improper” hijab arranged to show too much of the hair and face beneath.

Colonel Hossein Hosseinzadeh, deputy commander of the security forces in Isfahan, confirmed that two such attacks had taken place, but he said the motive was not clear and the police were pursuing the matter.

Fazlollah Kafil, Isfahan’s governor, said that the victim was a married woman.

It is possible that the motive was personal. We have to investigate such cases carefully. If we are too hasty, we will make people feel unsafe. Police will let us know what they find out as soon as possible.

But residents of Isfahan feel unsafe already. According to some reports, up to six women have been taken to Isfahan’s Feyz Hospital in connection with acid attacks. The hospital specialises in treating eye conditions. The average age of the victims is about 30.

There were other reports of attacks. A doctor at Isfahan’s Burn Centre said:

I had two patients who were burned by acid. I am not at the hospital every day and every hour, so it is possible there have been other cases that I don’t know about.

Another Isfahan resident said:

Two weeks ago a group of motorcyclists threw a bucket at the faces of some women to frighten them. There was no acid in the bucket, just water mixed with some cleansers, which gave the sensation of burning. They just wanted to frighten people. But in recent weeks there have been real acid-throwing attacks.

Ansar-e-Hezbollah said in the past that sexual violence against women can be attributed to instances of female “impropriety”.

Anothert resident said:

There have been calls for women to observe rules around wearing a proper hijab, in order to prevent certain people from being provoked.

Akbar Pakzad, a well-known commander of the Revolutionary Guards in Isfahan said:

I heard the news a couple of hours ago and it really shocked me. Such actions are forbidden, whether by religion, by sharia or by the law. They are not human. Anybody who takes such actions under any pretext has committed a crime and must be punished under the maximum penalty.  He considers throwing acid a deadly sin, which must be punishable by death.

Hojatoleslam Kamil Kaveh,  head of Ansar-e-Hezbollah in Isfahan, denies having heard about the attacks.

Unfortunately or fortunately I have not heard anything about it. A Muslim would not even think about doing such a thing even if he has only a drop of religion in him.

The photo used to illustrate this report is of Ameneh Bahrami, who was blinded in an acid attack by Majid Movahedi after she repeatedly spurned his offer of marriage. Movahedi was sentenced in February 2009 to be blinded in both eyes, but in July 2011, he was given an 11th hour reprieve when Bahrami pardoned him, saying she would accept €2-million in ‘blood money’ instead.

Bahrami said she she pardoned her attacker because:

God talks about ‘qesas’ [eye for an eye justice] in the Koran but he also recommends pardon since pardon is greater than ‘qesas’.

Maryland Delegate Spreads Story of Anti-Christian Discrimination at Sheriff’s Office… Turns Out It’s All Wrong

Michael Smigiel (below) is a Delegate to the Maryland state House and a Tea Party activist. Yesterday, on his website, he posted a damning story about the supposedly unethical hiring practices of the Harford County Sheriff’s Office:

I received a call recently from a very well respected Pastor whose son had applied to be a Harford County Sheriff’s Deputy and passed all the physical and mental tests he was given. The final thing he was asked to do was supply his high school diploma. The Pastor’s son provided his Maryland high school diploma from a high school certified by the Maryland State Board of Education but was told the Harford County Sheriff’s Office does not accept the high school diplomas from Christian Schools!

Believing there had to be some mistake in what was happening in this instance I called the Harford County Sheriff’s Office to inquire about the policy. The Sheriff was not available to speak with me but I was able to speak with a knowledgeable staff member who confirmed for me that this was a policy of the Harford County Sheriff’s Office but she explained this was an interpretation of a regulation of the Maryland Police Correctional Training Commission, (MPCT).

As of today, I do not know how extensive this practice is among the various Sheriff’s offices. I don’t know how many years the Harford County Sheriff’s Office has been discriminating against Christian applicants.

Wow… if students who attended a Christian school were banned from working in the Sheriff’s Office, even I’d be against that.

But it can’t be true, right? It sounds more like a Todd Starnes wet dream, pure fiction in the guise of Christian discrimination.

Smigiel may not have been able to chat with Harford County Sheriff L. Jesse Bane… but I got through pretty quickly.

In fact, we just had a lengthy conversation about everything Smigiel got wrong.

Here’s the deal: Sheriff Bane wants to make sure everyone has the opportunity to work for him regardless of religious background. Today, he had someone from Human Resources go through the personnel files of all current employees to see where they went to high school.

When I called him, they were at last names beginning with “P” and had already found 51 graduates of Christian high schools. That includes two commanders and a Chief Deputy.

Clearly, going to a Christian school isn’t a barrier for entry.

Bane added that the only “requirement” in this area is that the high school must be accredited by the state — but most religious schools usually are. Furthermore, Bane added, if a student went to a school that wasn’t accredited, he’d encourage those applicants to just send him a transcript and letter of intent; if he felt the student was qualified, he’d gladly sign a waiver.

Because he’s been inundated with calls over the past 24 hours stemming from Smigiel’s posting, and because there’s so much misinformation out there now (and more to come, I’m sure), Bane visited Harford Christian School this morning to send the message to students that he welcomes their applications. He plans to visit The John Carroll School (a Catholic institution) later today to do the same thing.

Simply put, Smigiel’s story is bullshit on stilts. He’s willfully ignorant regarding the Sheriff’s Office’s practices and he has yet to issue any corrections.

If people don’t get hired, it’s not because they’re Christians. It’s because they’re not qualified.

By the way, Sheriff Bane has been doing this job for eight years and this is the first time anyone’s ever suggested religious discrimination in his office.

That’s probably because there’s no religious discrimination at play.

(Thanks to Steve for the link)

Ocean Atlas

After that last post, here’s a little palate cleanser: Ocean Atlas, an underwater sculpture of a Bahamian girl supporting the weight of the ocean, by Jason deCaires Taylor.

decaires-hero

One of the loveliest things about it is that it’s going to get more attractive over time: it’s made of a pH-neutral cement that makes a good home for reef organisms, so it’s going to get gradually encrusted with life. See the link above for more examples of his work.

May all my enemies be this stupid

I really, really don’t understand the minds behind this: I’m getting a bunch of messages from sniggering puerile slymepit types who have jumped on a hashtag bandwagon, #wherespzmyers. They’ve got a photo of my face photoshopped onto a plush doll, and then they photoshop that into various scenes.

Warning: the very first image that turned up at that link above is a smiling picture of me spliced into a graphic ISIS beheading photo.

I don’t quite get the point. Do they think I’ll be sitting here, crying “Oh, no…don’t photoshop my picture there! Boo hoo.” Is there sympathetic magic involved? Do they think I’ll get dizzy if they photoshop my effigy upside down? Or do they seek to impress with their amazing photoshop skills? (Hint: their photoshop skills aren’t particularly amazing. They could go back to MS Paint and do the same thing.) Or perhaps they’re just trying to express their contempt as shrilly as they can.

I suspect the latter, but I can only appreciate the fact that people who don’t like me — and really, I already knew you didn’t much care for me — are doing it in such a way as to make their own juvenile incompetence and tastelessness as prominent as possible. Keep it up!

By the way, it’s atheists doing this, which is the only part that hurts. I roused a great deal of hate from the Christian community a few years ago, and got a lot of angry screeds and people trying to tell me how wicked I was, but surprisingly, Bill Donohue did not draw cartoons of me and stick pins in it, and Ken Ham doesn’t smirk while pasting a photo of me in scenes of hellfire. I had to stir up atheists to truly see the depths of inanity possible in human beings.

Keep that in mind when you hear people wonder why anyone would want to associate with those amoral atheists.

An Interview with Robert Wilson (a.k.a. rwlawoffice), the Commenter Who Always Seems to Disagree With What I Write

For more than a year now, it feels like a day hasn’t gone by without a comment thread involving “rwlawoffice,” a Christian lawyer who seems to disagree with everything I write. Even on what I believe are air-tight church/state separation cases, I can always count on Robert Wilson to tell me I’m completely wrong — albeit politely, without CAPITAL LETTERS, Bible verses, or snide/sarcastic jabs. It’s gotten to the point where, if he doesn’t chime in, other commenters wonder where he is, which is especially evident on posts about Christians behaving badly, where commenters openly wonder how he’ll spin the story when he finally speaks up.

It made me wonder: Is this guy just another Christian troll on an atheist site, trying (poorly) to convert us all? Or is it more complicated than that?

So I asked him.

I asked him several questions, actually, over the course of a few emails. Our (edited) conversation is below:

Robert Wilson in Liberia with students who attend school on scholarships from the organization that his church and foundation support

Are you really a lawyer…? What kind of law do you practice?

Yes I really am a lawyer. I graduated from Baylor University School of Law in 1986. I have been practicing in Texas since that time. I have had my own law firm since 1990. My practice is mainly commercial litigation trial law that involves business disputes, real estate, employment law, civil rights law, and some family law. I practice in state and federal court. I also do pro bono work for non-profits and churches that includes issues related to religious liberty and pro life issues.

With all of that, how does your faith play out in your everyday life?

My faith is a large part of my life. I try to live my faith daily in the decisions i make and how I treat others. I pray daily and read my Bible. I try to follow Christ’s teaching of grace, love and forgiveness. I’m not perfect and I make mistakes.

I am in seminary currently obtaining my masters degree in Biblical Studies. I don’t think that I will become a pastor, but I do know that these studies will help me in the mission work that I do through our family foundation. This is mainly conducted in Africa — Liberia and Uganda. It includes church planting, supporting an orphanage and school, and providing health care through equipment, supplies, medicine, training, and medical team visits.

What’s your religious background?

I am a religious mutt. My parents were Lutheran and Baptist. I was born while they were deciding where to attend church and so I was baptized Methodist. I was raised in a Lutheran church and went to a Baptist university. As an adult, I was confirmed as a Catholic and went to a Catholic church for a number of years. I now attend a nondenominational church. This church and the seminary I am in follows free grace theology which I believe is the correct interpretation of the Bible and of Christ’s teachings.

Why bother commenting on an atheist blog in the first place?

The main reasons I visit and comment on the blog is to show a different perspective, to correct misconceptions about Christianity, and to explain my faith including the theology of free grace. I believe it is worthwhile to engage in these discussions because the issues involved are important to our culture and to the Church. I have learned a lot from your posts and the comments. Frankly I have had little exposure to outspoken atheists and it is helpful to get your point of view.

My experience on the blog shows that the majority of those that comment have had very negatives experiences with the Church a lot of times arising from a hurtful or harmful experience. This is understandable and very unfortunate. I know that happens and don’t discount it. I also know however that most of this hurt is caused by a warped view of Christianity and that if some of these misunderstandings can be corrected I will try to correct them. Please don’t take this as a “no true Scotsman” argument. I am not saying a true Christian would not behave this way. I am saying that Christian theology can be distorted and often is.

What is your philosophy when it comes to church/state separation? When, if ever, do you support it? Where do you think atheists get it wrong?

I do believe in the separation of church and state. In no way do I think that we have a theocracy nor would I want one. I think that atheists get this issue wrong because they ignore the reason why there is a separation. It is not to protect the government from the church, it is to protect the church from the government. In other words, the protection is to allow people to freely practice their faith unless the state can show there is a reason for the limitation that cannot be handled in a less intrusive manner.

This also means of course that government cannot establish a religion because it would preclude the free exercise by those that are of a different religion or affect those that have no religion. Atheists, however, take this to mean that any mention of religion or faith equals establishment of religion and the reaction is to complain. They ignore that we do have a history of religion in our country, even in public life, involving our government. So if the government acknowledges this heritage and recognizes that the vast majority of people in this country are people of faith, they view this as the establishment of religion when it is not in most cases.

Atheists also go too far in trying to prevent individuals from expressing their own faith in the public arena, including those who are public officials. When atheists complain about faith being mentioned in the public sphere, the reaction of people of faith is that atheists are attempting to silence any reference to religion outside of the four walls of the church and to limit religious liberty to the right to belief and worship. The constitutional protection of religious liberty goes beyond merely freedom to worship and freedom to believe. It allows people to express their faith in public, including in how they operate their businesses. This of course does have limitations so I am not saying it is absolute.

Do you know when you make a comment that it’ll get a ton of pushback? The comment threads you begin tend to be the longest ones on many posts…

I know that there are some issues that people are very passionate about and that when I raise a different point of view it will get a reaction. I do not comment on these simply to get a reaction. These are the same issues that I am passionate about so I want to engage in the discussion, not simply say something to make people angry.

Do you think you’ve convinced any commenters to come around to your way of thinking?

I am not naïve enough to think that I have convinced any of the commentators to become Christians (at least from those that comment regularly), and I do not think many of them will be accepting Christ (though I truly and sincerely pray for them to) or will now vote conservative based upon my arguments. But what I do hope is that I have shown them a different way to view Christians, that I have corrected some misconceptions about the faith, and that I’ve made them think more about their positions.

Have I ever written anything that made you think, “Okay, you win this round…”? Have I shaken your faith at all?

I cannot say that I have read anything that has caused me to question my faith. You and the commentators have however raised issues that forced me to conduct research and I view this as very helpful. I will say I appreciate the posts about Christians behaving badly. I love my faith and I love the universal Christian church, and I hate to see people’s behavior distracting from its message.

Which famous Christians do you see your faith lining up with?

My theology is in line with Charles Swindoll, Tony Evans, and Max Lucado.

Do you ever comment on any other atheist blogs?

I rarely comment on other blogs.

Are there any well-known atheists you respect despite your disagreement with them?

I respected the wit, intellect, and speaking ability of Christopher Hitchens even though he took some positions that I strongly disagreed with. I respect Bill Gates and Richard Branson for their philanthropic work. I am not just saying this because I am talking with you, but I also respect your work in trying to bridge the relationship gap between people of faith and atheists and for raising funds for good causes even if those that are receiving the funds disagree with you on this issue.

So there you have it. rwlawoffice isn’t just a troll. He’s a real guy… who just happens to be wrong about many, many things :)

But he’s not a drive-by Christian commenter spouting Bible verses and then closing the tab. He, like many of you, is interested in a broader debate on these subjects. Coming from a polar opposite worldview (in many ways), I hope you all continue to treat him with respect as you chip away at his beliefs.