OPB, NPR, and Media's Role in Politics

I've been listening to Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) for a few months now. A large portion of their content comes from National Public Radio (NPR). I decided to support OPB financially last month, and now that I have I feel justified in publicly criticizing them. I guess it's the impression that if they want my money, they should care what I think.

Here's a portion of a message I sent to them in a contact form today:

Two Complaints:
1. (omitted)
2. OPB's participation in the Ron Paul media blackout. To be fair, OPB is better than most. However, every 'news' headline about the republican nomination mentions Romney and has for the duration. Listening to yesterday and today's 'news' blurbs, someone who didn't know better might think there were only 2 candidates on the ballot in Michigan and Arizona. 
It's time for media to realize their influencing our political process (or admit it, as they probably already realize it). Count the number of times "Mitt" "Romney" "Santorum" and "Ron Paul" have been broadcast for any period of time - then compare that with election results.
Compare mentions of "Santorum" back when there were more candidates vying for nomination with his poll numbers and election results at the time.
While definitely not illegal, what's going on is certainly unjust. If you actually have the public interest at heart, try being less unjust.

Tough Love for NBC's Grimm

I ended up watching Grimm after hearing about it from a fellow PDXer. I didn't expect to like it. However, it is not only filmed in Portland but is also set in Portland, and that fact gave it much more leverage than other shows competing for my time. There's a unique enjoyment/satisfaction that comes from seeing places you've been on your television.

Grimm has a simple yet alluring premise: Grimm's Fairy Tales weren't BS

However, after finishing the twelfth episode, I have serious concerns about the potential this show seems to be wasting and whether or not its writers are killing its chances of becoming a successful series. What follows is an evaluation of it's strengths, weaknesses, and unrealized potential.

Fantasy and the Unknown
The Idea that legends, myths, and fairy tales have a grain of truth to them is fun. We live in a bubble designed to make us feel safe. A safe society is nice to wake up in but is invariably rather dull. Danger is exciting. The idea that there's more going on under the surface of our safety gives us a thrill. We like to fantasize our lives are more exciting, especially from the safety of our homes.

Nerd Appeal
As technology has advanced, the stigma of nerdage has wilted a great deal. The skills and knowledge that nerds wield can be demonstrated frequently thanks to the ubiquity of tech devices. Being a Trekkie isn't necessarily something to be embarrassed about any more.

Grimm has nerd appeal in the same way X-Files had it when I was in the 18-23 demographic. In the world of Grimm, the nerd who has studied ancient mythology and the like has an advantage over those that might have an advantage over them in the real world.

It's comforting to be told the same story in a different way. There's the alternate ending appeal as well as the slight reminder of the time when we first heard the story. It's comforting to be reminded of the comfortable times in our lives. You know, before we had to pay bills and such.

Fairy Tales are for Children stigma.
Gender stereotypes are still prevalent and this hurts Grimm's appeal to single males. Single males don't want to be associated with childish things, they want to be associated with manly things to help attract feminine mates. Being manly requires setting aside childish things, and a potential mate discovering you're watching fairy tales is evidence to the contrary.

Gimmicks are a draw that make you stand out from your competitors. However, when gimmicks are overused their value diminishes greatly. The problem with the fairy tale gimmick is that it results in predictability, and with Grimm in particular it often seems they're trying too hard to make that connection.

It was to be expected in the first few episodes. In fact, it was likely necessary to deliver on the premise. The red-riding hood aspect of the first episode was great and could even have been considered an homage. However, the writers are pulling from the fairy tales too literally too often. Did there really need to be three bears for the Goldilocks episode? Did she have to be blond? Was the 'nail in the paw' scene really necessary in the Lion episode?

The Potential
Make use of the alternate reality. 
You have the potential of an alternate reality to explore. Explore it! What's fascinating is how the humans haven't noticed these creature-people for so long, particularly if they're going to behave in a stereotypical fashion. The rites and habits of the different creatures, focusing on the way the world of Grimm varies from our own, THAT is the story that will keep us watching. Which fairy tale you're going to work into the next episode - notsomuch.

Harness the Nerd Appeal. 
While you're showing us the alternate reality, walk us through the events that resulted in the fairy tale from inside the trailer. Reading is sexy. Talk nerdy to me. The encounter in present time shouldn't be based on the fairy tale, but researching of the creatures in the trailer should allow viewers to connect the original story to present events.
Adult it up. 
At least one writer on your staff gets this already. The writer/writers who showed the dangers of the creatures knowing Burkhardt's address and had Munroe get lured out and jumped: Those are the writers you should listen to most often.

Cut back on the gimmicks. 
It is starting to seem like the formula for the show is: a new creature/fairy tale every episode. Slow it down. Focus on the alternate reality and work the different creatures in realistically. The bear people didn't need to be a single episode; their territorial behavior causing conflicts would have been a great subplot. Keep us guessing. Focus on reducing predictability.

Address the character flaws. 
Munroe shouldn't be the damsel in distress. Personally, I'd make him the stay at home type, the enlightened one. He can be the Alfred to Burkhardt's Batman. Entrust him with the trailer's contents and move those to a more secure location.

Man up Burkhardt. He needs to be a badass, and he can't always do the right thing. He has to hunt the bad ones down. If the bad ones always off each other or themselves, or if they are always dealt with by other characters, we don't get to see Burkhardt struggle with the burden of what he has to do. If we do get to see it, we can armchair quarterback his decisions. That will add an important depth to the viewing experience; it also might get Giuntoli his own estrogen brigade.

Let Griffin be the partner in the field rather than Munroe, it's just a better fit. The ogre episode was a missed opportunity to bring to the Grimm side of reality. Letting him in on the secret allows for all sorts of fun stuff, like hunting down the Grimm Reapers to protect his friend and partner.


Quick Note of Apology

For those of you kind enough to follow my blog and those of you who have indicated you'd like to be notified of full-text postings on Google+, I'd like to offer a quick note of apology. Recent domestic circumstances have kept me from writing as much as I would like, and a domestic relocation will likely continue to keep me from it for the next week or two.

I have plenty in my head intended to share with you, and when time permits I will continue my efforts to provide unique perspectives on these lives we share. Planned posts include:
Blood as Money
Posts answering americanselect.org's platform of questions
Proposed Alternative to Capitalism
Why Capitalism is Doomed To Fail

I hope you'll bear with me and still be around when time and I can come to an arrangement.

- Grizwald Grim


Americans Elect: Recommendation Pending

I would very much like to recommend a website to every American citizen, but as of today I cannot in good conscience do so. Instead of that recommendation, I'd like to tell you a little about that site and the reason I cannot give that recommendation.

The site I wish I could recommend to you is AmericansElect.org. They state their purpose is as follows:

THE GOAL OF AMERICANS ELECT is to nominate a presidential ticket that answers directly to voters—not the political system.
American voters are tired of politics as usual. They want leaders that will put their country before their party, and American interests before special interests. Leaders who will work together to develop fresh solutions to the serious challenges facing our country. We believe a secure, online nominating process will prove that America is ready for a competitive, nonpartisan ticket.
Why I can't recommend AmericansElect.org
Americans Elect is a patriotic dissident's wet dream - Where issues are determined by the populace, free from the influence of the Democratic or Republican parties. Unfortunately, there's not enough indicating that they are actually pursuing that dream and not just taking advantage of patriotic dissidents.


Dissecting an Internet Atheist

Robert Fischer has offered a counterpoint to the case I set forth the second post in my series on Atheism in 2012, regarding the faith. A lot of what he says is reasonable, and on the first read through I found little fault with it. On closer inspection however, I find fault in more of it. There is one part in particular that stood out on first read, so I'll dissect that below. The rest I find fault with I will address in the comments of his post.
Which brings us right along to the second counterclaim; that is, that one must have faith in atheism, as one must have faith in any idea that one holds to be true. 
The error this statement commits should now be obvious to you. This is a blatant attempt to use the wrong definition of faith. Clearly, yes, one must have confidence in the efficacy and truth of one’s ideas as a matter of course in holding them to be true. This much is a tautology. But the definition of faith that one would commonly understand to be the one in use when discussing religious issues is the confidence due to authority or testimony and a belief that is not based on truth
To use any other definition of faith, explicitly or implicitly, is to not only miss the point, but is also to derail the discussion from productivity to mere point-and-counterpoint semantic quibbling.
Let me start by engaging in the very behavior inline with the behaviors I intended to criticize with my post on faith. I'm aware of the hypocrisy, but as it also serves the purpose of an example I'm doing it anyway:

He starts this section by putting forth a counterclaim that begins "one must have faith in atheism" after not long before stating that atheism is a non-belief and cannot be the recipient of faith. Then asserts is a blatant attempt to use the wrong definition of faith.

However, it's actually a misuse of the term atheism. It is the norm, not the exception that anti-theists (those that believe there is no god) refer to themselves as atheists. While technically incorrect, those who simply lack belief in a god and lack belief in no god refer to themselves as agnostic more often than as atheist. I suspect this is because anti-theism doesn't flow off of the tongue very well and the actual atheists would rather misuse the term agnostic than be associated with anti-theists.

What I just did was ignore his argument and respond to his use of terms. This is common behavior among atheists (or anti-theists) when someone makes the implication that an atheist exercises faith. I criticize this tactic because it ends the discussion where the presenter of the argument is misunderstood and stops in frustration, and the term-jockey feels he won the argument because he used the terms more correctly.

I criticize this because it serves no purpose other than to fuel the term-jockey's ego. If the goal of entering the discussion with the religious is solely to stroke ones own ego, that makes you an ass. The misguided religious at least can lay a claim to entering the discussion with the noble goal of trying to save someone's soul.

To dismiss the views of the under-educated on the basis of terminology, particularly when the dismisser is supposedly so intelligent, is to do yourself an injustice. Just because your debate opponent doesn't use the term you would use to make the same point doesn't mean the point is invalid - particularly when you're smart enough to recognize the point. To me, if you know what the person meant - if you know which terms were used wrong and which the person should have used instead, and then choose to ignore the point they were trying to make and argue terminology - you're admitting their point is valid. You attack the terminology because you can't redress the point they were trying to make.

I can, and will, address the point Robert was trying to make:
But the definition of faith that one would commonly understand to be the one in use when discussing religious issues is the confidence due to authority or testimony and a belief that is not based on truth
This is a false assumption, unless you are very particular about how you define who "one" is. First off, the religious wouldn't commonly understand to the term faith to be indicative of a belief that is not based on truth, as their usage of faith indicates they believe it to be based on truth.

Secondly, an atheist can't use that definition of faith either - as believing the existence of God is an untruth is to believe that no God exists, pushing them out of Robert's own definition of atheism and into anti-theism.

If you chop off the truth part - possibly replacing it with evidence, I can start to accept that definition of faith for the purposes of discussion. Even then, there's evidence that Jesus of Nazareth did in fact exist, or at least evidence that points in that direction. So, to include belief that is not based on evidence is pretty flimsy as well. Best to chop off everything after testimony - limiting faith to confidence due to authority or testimony - also known as the ability to accept secondhand data as accurate.

In which case, the person making the claim meant anti-theism rather than atheism, and at least a fair share of atheists balking at the claim should recognize the person's intended meaning rather than "derail the discussion from productivity to mere point-and-counterpoint semantic quibbling."


Atheism 2012: Deal with the Devil

This is the third post in my series on Atheism, a series of observations with the goal of leading to a hypothesis as to why atheism has yet to become the dominant belief structure of society, particularly among technologically wealthy cultures. 
To some observers, it may seem that I give the atheists a hard time... or perhaps a disproportionately hard time. This is true. However, I feel that it is justified by the following two reasons:
  1. They talk about God too much. 
  2. They're doing it wrong.
One of the most annoying things about the religious is the constant discussion of their religion. Every topic of conversation becomes a chance for them to share their belief of their God's divine hand playing a part in our daily lives. Believe what you want, copulate with who you want, but come on... keep it to yourself.

The atheists that I give a hard time to are just as guilty. Every topic of conversation becomes a chance for them to share their belief that no deity played any sort of role in the matter at hand. If they truly believe God doesn't exist, they should shut up about him already. They're like the annoying kid in class who got the answer right, but then won't shut up about the question.

If they're not going to shut up about God not existing - if they have some self-assigned moral obligation to cure society of its mass delusion - they're doing it wrong.


How YOU can make the world a better place with Google+

What's your personal code of conduct on social networks?

Don't have one? Whether you do or not, I'd like you to consider adding the following simple guideline to your social network behavior.

If the world would be a better place if more people saw the thing you currently see, click share and select "Public."

Not exactly rocket science, but much easier than recycling. Join the experiment, try it for a month and let's see what happens. As a bonus for actually clicking this link, below you'll find the things I shared on Google+ in September and October of 2011 that fit this criteria. I'll be going through the subsequent months in separate posts.

While I have your attention:
I'd also like to share a different project with you, The OnePost Project.

Founded on the principle that the one question you could ask any stranger and get an interesting answer to is:
"If you could tell the whole world just one thing, what would it be?"

Instructions for participating can be found a the link above.

The Bonus Stuff:


Atheism in 2012: The Faithful Deniers of Faith

This is the second post in my series on Atheism, a series of observations with the goal of leading to a hypothesis as to why atheism has yet to become the dominant belief structure of society, particularly among technologically wealthy cultures. 

Deniers of Faith
In my interactions with Atheists of late, there seems to be a vocal subset that not only does not believe in a God or gods, but also finds any assertion of similarity between themselves and the religious to be personally insulting. They present themselves in such a way that indicates they view a person having 'faith' or 'a religion' as worthy of disdain, and seem insist they do not possess such contemptible qualities.

This vocal subset will readily make itself known, simply imply that 'Atheists have faith' or that 'Atheism is a religion'. They will quickly self-identify in response. A concentration of this behavior can be found where I encountered it, a Logos group discussion resulting from the question: Is faith a good thing? 

My good friend Larry has grown weary of correcting misinterpretations of what he claims New Atheists criticize about faith. He'll absolutely loathe this then. However, many of my interactions with the vocal subset mentioned above have been with those who refer to themselves as New Atheists.

New Atheists and Occupy 
The New Atheism movement bears some similarity to the Occupy movement in this way. There is no 'official line' to tow (as far as I'm aware, maybe Dawkins or Hitchens are ambassador enough of the movement that their take is the official line - but unless someone donates an e-book of their work or quotes the 'official line' to me, I'm sticking with there is no 'official line').

Both movements seem to be essentially leaderless, or at least lacking representatives unanimously endorsed to speak for the movement. While everyone in the movement may agree that 'there is no God or gods,' like everyone in the Occupy movement seems to agree 'shit is fucked up and stuff' - the actual details of what's wrong and how to fix it will vary widely within each movement.

This post is directed at those who would react to the phrase "you have just as much faith as the religious" as if you had just said "you have herpes." However, the argument within is worth your consideration - even if you're just interested in telling me how wrong I am.

Redefining Faith
A core tactic this subgroup employs is to very carefully define 'faith' in a way to limit the application of the term to faith in certain situations. Specifically, if a person has faith in a belief based on science, reason, or common knowledge, that isn't faith, it's something else: knowledge, reason, etc. However, if a person has a faith in a belief based solely on acceptance of that belief or on religious texts, etc. that is faith.

A clear example of this behavior can be found on Robert Paul Fischer's blog post on faith:
Faith is a noun. It means a belief that was formed in the absence of evidence and/or experience, or that is held despite evidence and/or experience to the contrary, regardless of whether that evidence and/or experience was available at the time the belief was formed.
and another from the Logos discussion linked above:
"What happening here is a very typical rhetorical device which the faithful use in an attempt to discredit the rational. They claim that our understanding of science is just as faith based as their supernatural beliefs and that somehow makes their beliefs more legitimate; it somehow puts us on an equal platform. But it's only a rhetorical device, there is no actual equivalency between 'believing' in gravity and 'believing' in fairies."
Dictionary.com defines faith as:
  1. Confidence or trust in a person or thing.
  2. Belief that is not based on proof.
This subset of atheists fails to see or fails to admit that both definitions are simultaneously correct and focus solely on the second. I posit that both are simultaneously correct and that the second definition is merely a subset of the first, a specific variant of faith.

While the dictionary.com definitions generally work for me, I believe them to be woefully incomplete. Faith is a function of the brain, just as imagination is a function of a brain. Lesser developed brains have a limited ability to imagine, and similarly have a limited ability to exercise faith.

The simplest way for me to explain faith is through the following equation:

Faith is the human ability to act as if an idea is a truth. Apply faith to an idea and it becomes a belief. Remove faith from a belief and it becomes an idea.

Imagination allows us to create and see things in our mind that may exist and may not. We can imagine a how a living T-Rex might look despite never seeing one, we can even imagine one with feathers. If a person were to apply enough faith to the idea that the T-Rex had feathers, it's existence can become a belief.

The Nature of Faith
Just as the human mind is capable of advanced imagination, it is capable of advanced faith. Faith is what allows us to behave as if the data we use to make behavioral choices is accurate. 

As a function of the human mind, it is subject to disease and chemical reaction. Take the acid example for instance. Someone on acid might interpret skin tingling as spiders crawling inside their skin. Misapplication of faith can turn this interpretation into a belief, and the user could end up scratching open their skin to get the spiders out.

Measuring Faith
Though I am unaware of a formal methodology for measuring faith, there are enough visible variations of faith to indicate that one could be developed. Faith can increase and decrease: ideas can become beliefs and beliefs can become ideas. For the purposes of this post, I will refer to 'base faith' and 'advanced faith'. Without a formal system of measurement, it's very difficult to determine where 'base faith' ends and 'advanced faith' begins, though I will attempt to give you enough examples to form a frame of reference.

Base Faith and Robert's Chair
Though I'm open to debate on the subject, I have the idea that any creature with a brain is not only capable of base faith, but uses it on a daily basis. As Robert indicates, the chair argument is most often used to illustrate this level of faith.

In the chair example, the claim is made that faith is in evidence when a person sits in a chair. If the subject did not have faith that the chair would hold his/her weight, they would either not sit in the chair or do so very cautiously to prevent injury.

Keeping in mind that Robert is using only the second dictionary.com definition of faith (belief without proof), he argues that both faith and reason are alternative means to the same end: Belief. He claims faith is unnecessary for one to have confidence and trust that the chair will hold one's weight, because one can reason and rationalize that the chair will hold the weight.

His err is not that reason and rationalize do not factor into chair-sitting, but in that they can result in a belief. This is not the case. Reason and rationalization can result in ideas, and barring other influence (such as experience) one could come to the idea that the chair could hold one's weight - but without faith that idea would never become a belief. The subject would remain skeptical, and perhaps gingerly test the chair's stability, but certainly would not plop into the chair with confidence and trust in the chair's weight-holding ability.

What reason and rationalization do is more about justification of the application of faith. We are justified in our faith that the chair would hold us - we have reasons we can site, we can rationalize the safety of the belief.

Base Faith and Senses
Base Faith does not require language, only senses, memory, and the tiniest bit of imagination. Imagination is required for prediction, and as temporal species, prediction is necessary for directed action.

As sensory data accumulates, we begin to predict the outcome of our interactions with the world. Infants constantly conduct experiments, which is likely the reason they're always putting things in their mouths. The first faith we develop, without language or conscious analysis, is faith in our senses. This is quickly followed by the most powerful and dangerous faith, faith in the accuracy of our predictions.

When a child takes his/her first step, they have but tiny faith in the predicted outcome. They are very skeptical and cautious (not to mention clumsy). As this experiment is repeated faith in the prediction increases. With increasing confidence each step is taken, and before long you're chasing the toddler all over the house trying to pin it down and change it's diaper. 

Advanced Faith
When faith is applied on the basis of non-sensory data, it is what I consider 'Advanced Faith'. The line

of advanced faith is not drawn between human and animal, as a great multitude of animals possess advanced faith. When a lioness drops a hunk of meat in front of her cub encouraging it to eat, the cub exercises a measure of advanced faith when it bites into the meet. Advanced faith requires communication. That communication can be through body language, such as nudging the meat toward the cub. 'This is food, it's safe to eat' is communicated - faith is applied to the idea that was what was communicated, and the cub comes to believe the meat is indeed food. Chomp, chomp - and the faith is reinforced.

When a mother warns a child that the stove is hot and dangerous to touch, the child may take it on faith or be skeptical and find out the hard way. When the data communicated by the mother proves to be accurate, faith in the accuracy of data from that particular source (the mother) is increased.

As the child grows and matures, data communicated by other humans is proven to be accurate on many occasions. Faith in the accuracy of data communicated grows, and gullibility results. This is why I recommend lying to your children, to instill a healthy level of skepticism - though I also recommend to come clean and be honest once they've demonstrated their gullibility. 

The Justification of Faith
"Mama said that alligators are ornery because they got all them teeth and no toothbrush."
As beliefs are collected by the rational mind, they begin to form a world view. This world view becomes a filter by which all future data is interpreted. If the data presented fits into the established world view, the idea represented is much more likely to have faith applied and become a belief. Think "Santa Claus" and "Tooth Fairy."

When data is acquired that is contradictory to this world view, faith in that belief can be reduced to the point of skepticism and the belief can return to the idea-state. If the data acquired is of significant enough caliber or enough contradictory data is amassed, the idea can be rejected as outright falsehood and no longer helps comprise the child's world view. Not getting the presents from the Letter to Santa, recognition of the handwriting on the gifts supposedly from Santa, and an inconvenient potty break late on Christmas Eve could all individually or collectively dispel the belief in Santa Claus.

First-hand data, generally from the senses, rightly has greater influence on the faith applied to an idea/belief. For data from external sources, the influence of the data on the idea/belief depends greatly on the source of the data. By this point, parents are likely to have proven to be fairly reliable sources of accurate external data. Memories of a burnt hand reinforce the credibility of the parent who warned of the hot stove, and that credibility lends greater influence to more abstract data, such as the existence of God.

When the data is commonly held as truth within the society in which the child exists, credibility as to the accuracy of that data is increased. In an integrated society, conflicting beliefs of other members of society have the opposite effect. For example, it seems reasonable that a child from a Jewish family in America living in a society of mostly Christian families would be more skeptical about the accuracy of the beliefs espoused by his/her parents.

Commonly held beliefs can have the application of faith revoked when convincing credible contradictory data is introduced, but as such data is ingrained into the world view of the believer, the bar for convincing can be set pretty high. I suspect there are many who reject the idea that Pluto is actually just an ordinary slab of ice, having held on to the belief of its planet status for so long.

Faith, Religion, and Atheism
The faith utilized by atheists and the religious is no different in its core nature. It performs the same function of allowing an idea to become a belief. The difference between the atheists and the religious is not their faith, but the justification of how they apply that faith.

In both cases, new data that supports and reinforces the current world view is given preference. When new data is presented, existing beliefs from the world view are applied to that data so that it can be incorporated into that world view. If I walked into a room containing an atheist and a Christian with gaping wounds in my hands, it might be considered an unfortunate accident by the atheist and a miracle by the Christian.

At some point in the development of the mind, atheists become much more selective about the justification of their faith. A belief being held by a great number of people becomes insufficient to justify faith. The persistence of a set of beliefs over centuries of human existence becomes insufficient to justify faith. 

In general, a stricter criteria for the application of faith is a good thing. In fact, I would consider it a great benefit to society if this stricter criteria was applied to all beliefs (particularly in regard to politics and politicians).

The Denial of Faith
The problem with the denial of faith, particularly among this vocal subset of atheists, is that in their haste to disassociate themselves with 'faith' and 'religion,' they force themselves into an adversarial approach that does nothing to increase the credibility of the data they present.

Rather than accepting the nature of faith, they choose to reserve the term for the second definition. They deny that they have faith because their criteria for applying their own faith requires a certain standard of evidence. They insist the justification required for them to apply faith qualifies the ideas to which they apply their faith as 'knowledge' rather than ideas. They've accepted the idea that the term faith only applies to beliefs not properly justified by their standards. They apply faith to that idea, turning it into a belief and part of their world view.

The reason this becomes a problem is that it almost invariably results in a semantic, time-wasting derailment of the conversation. This (rather unjustified) belief must be defended. In its defense, the conversation generally results in neither side budging, locked in the quagmire of belief.

This adversarial position, regardless of the eloquence of the argument, is not conducive to the goal of having the other party examine their own justifications for how they apply faith. It's far more reasonable to find common ground with those holding an opposing viewpoint from which to explain your position.

If the goal of the vocal atheist entering such a conversation is to demonstrate the merits of stricter rationalization requirements of belief, it's difficult not to see it as tragically ironic that their faith in their definition of faith undermining that goal.


Why YOU should be Pro-Internet Piracy

If you oppose #sopa, #pipa, and #acta on the grounds of censorship or some other noble cause:
This post is for you.
If oppose internet piracy because 'stealing is wrong':
This post is for you.
If you are an artist/author that wants to protect his/her income from unscrupulous characters:
This post is for you.


These Atheists are Bullies: Translated

What follows is essentially a guest post by Jon Kelly, who in my mind should either have a blog of his own or regularly contributing to existing blogs. I asked his permission to repost this here, as I feel it is a more less layperson translation of the points I tried to make in my earlier controversial post and would perhaps be better understood by more the more intellectual crowd.

long-winded rant
Before I start, I would like to let it be known that I consider myself neither an atheist, nor religious, and do not particularly have any stake in this argument one way or another. I try to view things from a perspective of pragmatism (primarily) and logic/rationality (secondarily). Thus when people dismiss religion outright without considering its functional value within an emotional and/or societal context, while claiming to do so under the guise of reason, I tend to get annoyed. Even if religion does not offer any value to an individual, it seems indisputable that there are individuals (and societies and cultures) that have benefited greatly from religion in one way or another. Whether or not we would be better off as a whole without religion, another common topic, is another matter entirely, and beyond the scope of this discussion.

I will now make explicit one of my personal biases. I believe that different people have different values. I have my own set of values, some of which I expect others to adhere to, but for the most part I believe people should be allowed to choose what is important to them in life. As such, as least a portion of my evaluation of others is based upon their adherence to their self-reported values. If someone cares about compassion and self-sacrifice, and gives freely and selflessly of their time and assets, then that reflects positively on them. If they live a lavish lifestyle and occasionally donate money to charity, not so much. Similarly, if someone claims that logic and reason are important to them, then I am going to expect them to apply them more consistently than someone who does not value them. I do not believe that logic and reason hold any intrinsic value (they are useful tools, but as noted above, pragmatism is, to me, a higher value than any other). I am not saying that this is how I expect everyone else to live, but am providing this to explain some of the implicit biases in my statements (indeed, I know that I, like everyone else, am not without bias).

Without further rambling:

I think it goes without saying that "religious" people who respond to mockery with death threats (when murder and violence are explicitly decried within their faith) are hypocrites. Also, I try not to generalize 'atheists' into a single group, since it seems like there are two main 'factions', one of which simply doesn't believe in any specific religion, and another which claims that religion as a whole is false. The primary distinction being that one makes no assertions, and thus need not provide support for anything, while the other makes a positive assertion (there is no god), for which I have yet to see solid logical support.

Memetic Self-Defense
Hypocrisy is often not apparent from within the ideological construct that many of what I refer to as 'religious atheists' operate within, just as the inherent hypocrisy in issuing death threat in defense of a religion that condemns murder is not apparent to the religious zealot from within the framework of his beliefs.

Consider the following:
Religion is an archetypal exemplar of a highly evolved meme (or, due to the complexity of world religions, it might be more accurate to say species of memetic organism). As such, it is necessarily resilient to attack. As a side note, I would group any form of atheism in which unsupported positive assertions (i.e. "God does not exist") are an integral portion of the belief system in with these religions, due to structural similarities.

Biological organisms that host these memetic organisms will typically respond strongly to attacks on them. This is analogous to the strong response seen when deeply rooted societal memes are violated (such as proscription against murder, cannibalism, etc., which I suspect would elicit a similarly strong reaction from many atheists). Just as the host of religious memes might react adversely to an attack on those memes, a host to a set of non-religious memes as above will do the same if the memes are deeply rooted and self-perpetuating enough. I suspect that for any given atheist, there is an example of such a meme that would elicit a strong defensive reaction. This is why I think that it is inane to be shocked that people react negatively when their cherished beliefs are attacked, when in reality, those who are so shocked might behave in a functionally similar manner were the tables turned. And often do.

The hypocrisy exists in the tacit assertion that OTHER (religious) people should behave differently than OTHER OTHER (atheists) people. Ignore for a moment the question of degree (i.e. threats of violence/murder vs. personal attacks as per Larry, etc.), and consider the nature of the reaction.

It is obviously a predictable reaction, and one that is fairly universal among humanity. Acting surprised at a very predictable negative outcome to an action is childish... most (good) parents wouldn't let their child get away with pretending like they had know way of foreseeing the logical consequence of their action when it is obvious that they did.

For a clever (in my mind) illustration, imagine religion X, a highly evolved, competitive memetic organism as a big grizzly. If you poke the grizzly with a sharp stick, it is fairly obvious the direction that encounter is going to go.

Doctors are Jerks
Please do not confuse this with blaming the victim. The actions of the people threatening another individual for exercising free speech are inexcusable, and should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. Those promulgating exclusion and discrimination based upon beliefs should be similarly castigated (this goes for ALL parties, religious or not). I unequivocally condemn such actions. I don't think it is even worth discussing them further, as by virtually any standard of morality, they are indefensible. These actions are not the victim's responsibility, and they cannot be blamed for them. They CAN, however, be held accountable for their own actions.

Imagine I walk into a convention for medical professionals, and put up a big sign saying "DOCTORS ARE JERKS". I then proceed to act surprised when people get upset at me. When people claim that it is in fact I who am the jerk, I say "WHOAH! I am just exercising free speech and poking fun at doctors... look at the way they act, they are obviously proving me right! Doctors are jerks! Medicine is stupid! I am not a jerk!"

Maybe hypocrisy isn't the right word. Maybe juvenile and ignorant is a better descriptor. Either way, it really rubs me the wrong way. The REAL hypocrisy is the lack of logic and rationality often exhibited (see entire above argument) by those who claim logic and rationality as their motivation behind rejecting religion. Note for atheists who simply don't care/believe, and don't outright reject religion: none of this applies to you, you are more or less beyond reproach from a philosophical standpoint, and as long as you're happy and whatever (non-religious) belief system you have constructed and/or elected to utilize is working for you, then high fives all around. For people who vehemently reject religion as false... why? I don't reject the notion that the sky is made out of invisible tortoises... it is simply completely irrelevant to my belief system. I don't have to accept or reject it, and if someone else chooses to believe it, why would that bother me?

Footnote: Is Bill a jerk?
"If you want to mock atheism, feel free. I doubt you'll get any death threats"
Premise: Atheism is not a religion, but rather the rejection of religion.
Given that premise, then that statement is somewhat nonsensical. To whit:
Let's go with apples. Bob is an appletarian, who eats only apples. He owns an apple farm, has apple art on his wall, and uses only Apple computer products. Bill refuses to eat apples, and really doesn't like them at all. When Jim satirizes apples, and accuses apple-eaters of being a bunch of namby-pamby riffraff, this, needless to say, upsets Bob. He cries a little bit, and say to himself, "That Jim guy is a real jerk!" When Jim makes fun of Bill for not liking apples, this, unsurprisingly, probably does not have as much impact. If Bill says, "Wow, Bob, you're a big baby, he's just making fun of apples. Apples are stupid anyway!" then we can conclude that Bill is also a jerk. If, instead, Bill says, "You know Bob, I think that apples are kinda silly, but I respect you, and I respect that you like them. Jim should be more constructive in his feedback!" then we can all buy each other a beer and be friends. None of this is rocket science.