Maybe There Is A God After All…

Can it be? Is it really true? Yes, it appears that it is. An Iowa judge has allowed gays to marry in that state:

DES MOINES, Iowa – A county judge struck down Iowa’s decade-old gay marriage ban as unconstitutional Thursday and ordered local officials to process marriage licenses for six gay couples.

Gay couples from anywhere in Iowa could apply for a marriage license from Polk County under Judge Robert Hanson’s ruling.

Less than two hours after word of the ruling was publicized, two Des Moines men applied for a license, the first time the county had accepted a same-sex application. The approval process takes three days.

This is huge news, folks. Iowa is a red, culturally conservative state. If gay marriage has been recognized in Iowa, then hopefully it will be realized elsewhere in the country, including my home state of Kansas. I applaud Judge Hanson’s decision and his courage in undertaking it. I can only imagine that the Christian Right will be up in arms, with its more unhinged elements undoubtedly making claims on the judge’s life. I admire that he nonetheless capable and willing to do the right thing.

Open Topic: Smoking

So I was lurking around earlier and noticed LuckyJohn19’s announcement of going four months smoke-free. I too have officially been off cigarettes since early February. I didn’t think I could ever do it, but with the help of friends, family, and Nicorette I’ve managed to do so. Not only that, but just a few weeks ago I talked my eighteen-year-old brother into giving up the cancer sticks (which is no easy task for a college freshman).

I tried quitting many times in the twelve years that I smoked, yet I never really believed that I would ever be permanently off cigarettes. Now that I have truly quit, there’s no going back. I have to avoid being in the presence of certain friends during breaks because I know they’re going to light up, and I can’t face that temptation. Above all else I’ve realized just how much of a subculture exists among smokers. People who may otherwise be as different as night and day are united in their addictions to nicotine. While I was definitely aware of this in my heavy smoking days, the impact of this realization had never before been so blunt. Everywhere I go I see people puffing away, and it fully dawns on me that I’m no longer a part of their aggregate.

Here at SEB I recently made a crack about accepting a cigarette from Nowiser. This was a mistake, and a painful one at that. Even though the quip was made entirely in jest, it made me think about how difficult it can be to escape the lure of smoking.

I’m simply curious about the gang here: how many of you smoke or have quit/tried to?

More Proof That Right-Wingers Aren’t Even Trying Anymore

Please allow me to introduce you to the latest contraption from The Land of Small-Mindedness: Conservapedia. Get it? Conservapedia? Isn’t that oh-so cute and clever? Apparently dissatisfied with Wikipedia’s general tendency toward striving for factual accuracy, far-Right twits have devised this insult to human intellect. Why the need for a “conservative” version of Wikipedia? Look no further than this alarming fact:

On Wikipedia, many of the dates are provided in the anti-Christian “C.E.” instead of “A.D.”, which Conservapedia uses.

How dare those liberal Jesus-haters reference an alternative dating standard! Why, that’s certainly anti-Christian!

Seriously, this is demagogical lunacy of the highest order. For even more of a giggle I suggest you search for “homosexuality,” “abortion,” and “evolution.” Just be careful you don’t laugh so hard you make yourself sick.

Back in the U.S.S.R.

Russia is one country that I have not traveled to, but it appears that it’s not my kind of place anyway, seeing how the country’s lower house introduced a bill seeking to criminalize homosexuality:

A bill introduced in Russia’s lower house will impose a five year prison sentence for anyone convicted of homosexuality.
Gay sex was illegal under the Soviets but was decriminalized in 1993 when Communism fell.

The legislation, introduced Monday by Deputy Nikolay Kuryanovich would bring back the old law, and make it a crime for gays to congregate – a provision that would bar gay pride parades or meetings.

This kind of medieval authoritarianism surprises me even for Russia, which we all know has a widespread history of political and social repression. I think someone needs to call up Mr. Kuryanovich and remind him of what year we’re living in.

Found via Dispatches From The Culture Wars.

Arnold’s Not All Bad

California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill yesterday that protects LGBT individuals from discrimination in state programs. According to gay.com:

The Nondiscrimination in State Programs and Activities Act, sponsored by state Sen. Sheila Kuehl, an out lesbian Democrat from Santa Monica, bans discrimination in state-operated or state-funded programs on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

The bill, which faced strong opposition from conservative religious groups, will protect all Californians who use services such as food stamps, financial aid and police and fire protection.

This is a step in the right direction, I believe. Although Ahnold‘s record on LGBT issues has been mixed (in 2005 he vetoed a bill that would have legalized California same-sex marraiges), I am happy to see him finally recognize the need to give sexual orientation anti-discrimination status. Needless to say, the Christian Right is not amused.

Props to Ed Brayton.

Congratulations, Kansas!

It turns out that my native state is not a complete embarrassment after all. In the primary elections for the state Board of Education, two pro-science candidates picked up seats to join a third, retained pro-science seat. From Ed Brayton’s Dispatches From the Culture Wars:

It’s pretty much settled now. We picked up two seats (Cauble and Shaver) and retained a third (Waugh). That is enough to shift the power back in favor of science and against ID, 6-4. An absolutely huge victory, especially given how much money and effort the DI, IDNet and others put into their candidates. Congratulations, Kansas, and welcome back to the reality-based community.

Sure, it’s only a primary election, and the actual election is yet to come in November, but this is a wonderful sign nonetheless. A native Kansan girl can hope, can’t she?

Goodbye Blue Sky.

Sad news for classic rock fans today: Syd Barrett has passed away.

    Syd Barrett, the troubled Pink Floyd co-founder who spent his last years in reclusive anonymity, has died, the band said Tuesday. He was 60.

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A spokeswoman for the band said Barrett died several days ago, but she did not disclose the cause of death. Barrett had suffered from diabetes for years.

Syd was a tortured, complicated individual who suffered from mental illness that was likely compounded by his heavy use of LSD. In his final years he became a virtual recluse. In spite of (or perhaps because of) his personal demons, Barrett helped to co-found one of the most unique and influential rock acts of the twentieth century. Pink Floyd has always been one of my favorite bands in rock history; their music holds a special place in my life. In the past, John and I have held “Pink Floyd parties” where we listen to the band’s entire repertoire from the mid-Sixties psychedelic era to the “A Momentary Lapse of Reason” era of beautiful moody ballads and beyond to “The Division Bell.”

Barrett’s efforts and his legacy will continue to be loved and appreciated by millions.

Even Atheism Has Its Heretics

Meet Larry Darby. The founder of the Atheist Law Center, he’s an outspoken atheist who’s running for Attorney General of Alabama as a Democrat. Oh, and he’s also a Holocaust denier and a white supremacist.

According to an article in Newsday,

Democratic candidate for Alabama attorney general denies the Holocaust occurred and said Friday he will speak this weekend in New Jersey to a “pro-white” organization that is widely viewed as being racist.

Larry Darby concedes his views are radical, but he said they should help him win wide support among Alabama voters as he tries to “reawaken white racial awareness” with his campaign against Mobile County District Attorney John Tyson.

Of course, the fact that Darby is an atheist almost guarantees the fact that he will not be elected into office, seeing how atheists are the most hated group in the country. I suppose that in this case America’s anti-atheist bigotry will incur a positive outcome. Still, the case of Larry Darby raises some interesting questions. Can one fairly and accurately make generalizations about atheists? Is it right to assume that all or even most atheists hold similar political beliefs? Darby may be running on the Democratic ticket, but he sure as hell isn’t what I would call a liberal. Hence the intentionally ironic title of this post, which treats atheism as a religion—the truth is that the only thing that unites atheists is a lack of belief in god(s).

I am not an atheist, but I am a liberal. Many atheists are liberals, but the link is not as strong as some might assume. I personally believe that political orientation is influenced by many different factors, including one’s upbringing and life experiences, and not merely one’s religious beliefs. Look at The Raving Atheist, for example. This is an individual who is very outspoken about his lack of belief in god(s), yet he holds some very socially conservative views (particularly on the topic of abortion).

In conclusion, Larry Darby is a good example of how generalizations regarding a lack of religious convictions (or generalizations people who are religious) do not always mirror reality. As stated above, the one thing that all atheists have in common is a lack of religious belief.

Happy Earth Day!

It’s time for my favorite holiday again. I love spring, and what prettier time of the year is there to celebrate our mother planet? For my part, I plan on giving my car a rest tomorrow (that means either walking or biking anywhere I have to go—preferably the latter) and finally taking in the recyclables that have been gathering in a box in our kitchen for weeks. Does anyone else have interesting plans—Earth Day-related or not—for tomorrow?

What Goes Around Comes Around

My last entry—here—addressed shady “Christian” programs that attempt to “reform” gay teens and how such programs obviously are harmful to teens and should therefore be monitored more closely by the authorities.  Now it seems that a Christian group calling itself Exodus International has made headlines for threatening litigation against blogger Justin Watt, who posted a parody of Exodus International’s message. The ACLU stepped in to defend Justin, and Exodus International has agreed to drop the case. From the USA TODAY:

Exodus International initially claimed the altered image of one of its billboards by Justin Watt infringed its copyright. But Exodus is no longer pursuing the matter after Watt stopped using its “watermark” logo, Exodus President Alan Chambers said.

Watt, operator of the Justinsomnia blog, says he exercised free speech when he parodied the Exodus billboard, which says, “Gay? Unhappy? http://www.exodus.to.” Wyatt re-created the billboard on his site so it read, “Straight? Unhappy? http://www.gay.com.”

Obviously I find homophobia and intolerance abhorrent, but as a liberal I respect this Christian outfit’s right to voice such opinions (I am far more wary of their actual methods of dealing with gay teens via “reform” programs, however, but that is another issue).  One can preach all the hate and ignorance that one wants, but don’t expect others to remain silent in turn. Justin Watt has proven this, and the ACLU has rightly defended him.

Have I mentioned that I love the ACLU? Because I do. smile

Link to USA TODAY found at BOING BOING.