Comics

Censorship Watch

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Steve Lieber, a comic book artist of note, sends news of the "Parents' Empowerment Act," a proposed bill that would

allow the parent or guardian of a minor to sue in federal court anyone who knowingly disseminates any media containing "material that is harmful to minors" if the material is distributed in a way that "a reasonable person can expect a substantial number of minors to be exposed to the material and the minor, as a result to exposure to the material, is likely to suffer personal or emotional injury or injury to mental or moral welfare." The bill has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.

The bill allows compensatory damages starting at no less than $10,000 for any instance in which a minor is exposed to "harmful to minors" entertainment products. The bill also allows that punitive damages and reasonable fees may be awarded to the prevailing party at the discretion of the court….

"This bill is troubling on several levels," explains [Comic Book Legal Defense Fund] Director Charles Brownstein. "It appears to allow for civil actions against any, or every, member of the dissemination food chain, from the retailer to the distributor to the publisher, of work that an individual parent may object to. So any citizen, using their own sense of what is obscene or harmful to minors, can bring suit. Considering that comics still suffer the cultural and legal stigma of being perceived as a juvenile medium, this bill could become a dangerous weapon in the hands of an individual who walks into a comic book store and is shocked to find that comics offer much more than Archie and Superman."

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  1. Whoops! Hey Jesse! We need a correction down here!

  2. I’d think the educational establishment would be solidly behind this idea, as it takes a lot of pressure off them.

    After all, if any publisher of anything can be bankrupted by any one parent’s lawsuit there won’t be any reason to care whether high school graduates can read or not.

  3. The Serpent –

    I love your way with language, particularly defining atheism as a religion instead of the absence of one. We have a talk show host here in Des Moines who pulls that all the time. Never fails to make me laugh, which annoys him as he thinks he’s being erudite.

    I agree that Classic Bible Stories Comics would fall under this statute. In my youth, I remember rather lurid covers on Bible comics featuring David and Bathsheba, or David about to whale on Goliath with his sling, or even in the act of beheading the giant afterwards. Seems ol’ Dave got a lot of ink in those days.

    The Bible is full of smut like that – Abraham doing his wife’s servant in order to successfully “beget,” for example, not to mention the erotic poetry of “The Song Of Solomon” which supposedly made Omar Khyyam blush. And violence? How about the second chapter of II Kings where God sends two bears to rip 42 children to bloody bits for teasing the prophet Elisha about his bald spot.

    Better write your congressman and make sure there’s a “Bible Smut Exemption” amendment to this bill, or Sunday school is out.

  4. Reason better fire Peter Bagge or they’re just asking for trouble.

  5. The Hit & Run post is misleading–this was introduced in the US House of Representatives, not the California Legislature

    Fixed. Thanks!

  6. I thought The Serpent’s point was simply that the bill would give just about anyone with an axe to grind an opportunity to sue anyone on grounds of “harm to minors.” The bill might very well give fundies an opportunity to sue distributors of media promoting secular views.

  7. Jeff C.

    To some people, Atheism IS a religion, requiring just as much piety as any other organized religion, and engendering (if not requiring) just as much proselytizing. The need to PROVE those who believe in a god wrong can take the same forms as those who need to PROVE that you must give your life to Jesus. Not all atheists take the benign (or bemused) look at other faiths that you assume for them.

  8. “likely to suffer injury to moral welfare” ???

    How do they come up with this stuff? Watching C-Span is going to be illegal.

    And I think a case could be made that schools distributing report cards could result in emotional injury (so could watching Disney’s “Bambi”)

    Regarding your solution, Mike. I like it a lot, but at the very least, I’d like to see ethics charges brought up against legislators like this for violating their oath to support the Constitution, which clearly states “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech…”

  9. Highway –

    Hmm, where to start…

    “To some people…” This isn’t a matter of opinion, it is a matter of objective definitions, or perhaps inaccurate labelling of a concept.

    Merriam-Webster Online defines atheism:

    Main Entry: athe?ism
    Pronunciation: ‘A-thE-“i-z&m
    Function: noun
    Etymology: Middle French ath?isme, from ath?e atheist, from Greek atheos godless, from a- + theos god
    1 archaic : UNGODLINESS, WICKEDNESS
    2 a : a disbelief in the existence of deity b : the doctrine that there is no deity

    and it defines “religion” this way:

    Main Entry: re?li?gion
    Pronunciation: ri-‘li-j&n
    Function: noun
    Etymology: Middle English religioun, from Latin religion-, religio supernatural constraint, sanction, religious practice, perhaps from religare to restrain, tie back — more at RELY
    1 a : the state of a religious b (1) : the service and worship of God or the supernatural (2) : commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance
    2 : a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices
    3 archaic : scrupulous conformity : CONSCIENTIOUSNESS
    4 : a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith

    So…

    You might say an atheist is ‘wicked” from the archaic definition, or you could say that one professes or practices a “disbelief,” or that such a person follows a “doctrine.” But I honestly can’t see an objective definition which would allow someone with no faith in a deity or supernatural belief system to be said to practice a religion, per se, unless you hold disbelief to be actually a type of belief. This is patently absurd, as something cannot be its own opposite, at least not in this dimension.

    If you are saying that religion only hinges on one’s desire to promulgate or evangelize, one might as well consider salesmen to be priests and advertising executives to be bishops.

  10. Hey, what a surprise that an abomination of a bill like this was sponsored by Republicans. It astonishes me to no end that ostensible libertarians continue to think that there’s common ground to be found with Republicans…although I must admit to having harbored that particular delusion myself for quite a while. For those of us who understand and subscribe to libertarian principles, it ought to now be undeniably clear that Republicans are not our allies. Never were, never will be.

  11. Over fifteen years ago, they charged Jello Biafra with distributing harmful material to minors (the cover art of Dead Kennedys’ “Frankenchrist”) so it ain’t nuthin’ new.

  12. Amen to the last two posts. These guys spout “liberty” all the time while doing their best to restrict it for those who disagree with them.

  13. I think many of the poster have missed the larger problem and that is the use of children to restrict the rights of adults.

    As a teacher I hear frequent arguments that we need to restrict the rights of adultst to “protect” children. I am convinced that when anyone tries to pass a law to “protect children” it is because that is the only way the law could possibly be justified.

    It use to be said that patriotism was the last refuge of a scoundrel. I am becoming more convinced that “children protection” is now the last refuge of scoundrels.

    Regards

    Joe

  14. Agammamon: You should actually check up on the laws your complaining about. Not allowing you to promote your particular religion in school is not the same as promoting atheism.

    I reject your assertion that Atheism is not a Religion.

    Agammamon: Or would you prefer that instead of teaching math and geography we give courses in Fundamentalist Christianity, Liberal Christianity, the assorted religions that are sort of related to Christianity, all the various types of Judaism and Islam and Buddism, Anamism, Obscure religions held by isolated tribes in the South American jungles with no more than a hundred members, and pretty much any insane or crazy purple Nike wearing, comet-chasing cult that pops up?

    I think that if the public schools are going to teach religion, then there should be some balance. They can?t just brainwash children with Atheistic nonsense against the will of the parents and taxpayers.

    ALL religions should get equal treatment, or the government needs to get out of the business of brainwashing our children altogether (privatize public education).

    Agammamon: People think we’re falling behind other countries in educational standards now.

    Yet we still have people desperately beating a path to our shores ? go figure?

  15. garym: I thought The Serpent’s point was simply that the bill would give just about anyone with an axe to grind an opportunity to sue anyone on grounds of “harm to minors.” The bill might very well give fundies an opportunity to sue distributors of media promoting secular views.

    That was my original point.

    You articulated it better than I did.

  16. I don’t now if any of us missed it Joe. I’ll give the posters the benefit of the doubt and say that that we haven’t had the chance to bring it up yet. But you’re right.

    If tyranny is to befall America it won’t be from groups like the KKK or the CPUSA, but from the local PTA ,church groups, and our two major political parties. It will not be at the hands of foreign troops in tanks, but weeping soccer moms driving SUVs armed with 8×10 glossies of deceased child who could have been saved if we passed some piece of oppressive legislation.

    Forget slogans like “Land, Bread, and Peace,” or “Deutchland uber alles.” The mantra of American authoritarianism will be “What about the children?”

    It’s not the extremes of society we have to be afraid of. There are plenty of wannabe dictators in mainstream America, and sadly they’re the ones who primarily vote and hold office.

  17. Jeff,

    Yeah, I can use the dictionary too, but if I were arguing your point, I sure would have left out definition #4 of the one for ‘religion’. Certainly a belief structure based on “2 a : a disbelief in the existence of deity b : the doctrine that there is no deity” can exist, since it is not ‘believing in nothing’, but instead ‘believing there is no god’ . Therefore, I think it can and should be classified as something that could be “4 : a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith”.

    How come you will accept a belief structure based on a god as valid, but do not accept a belief structure based on not god as valid? I think it is analogous. Do atheists have NO belief structure? I can’t agree with this, as I am an atheist, yet I still believe in many things.

  18. I should probably start off by mentioning that I am not a Christian.

    Jeff Clothier: I love your way with language, particularly defining atheism as a religion instead of the absence of one.

    Religion = One?s fundamental beliefs regarding the nature and origin of existence.

    Atheism is not only a Religion, but it is a mystical (i.e. Supernatural) religion.

    Jeff Clothier: We have a talk show host here in Des Moines who pulls that all the time. Never fails to make me laugh, which annoys him as he thinks he’s being erudite.

    I get the distinct impression you think you are being profound this very moment.

    Atheism = A Mystical belief system which denies the existence of ?God?.

    If Atheism isn?t a religion (a belief system or worldview) then what would you classify it as? You are claiming that Atheism isn?t inherently a ?theory of reality??

    Jeff Clothier: I agree that Classic Bible Stories Comics would fall under this statute. In my youth, I remember rather lurid covers on Bible comics featuring David and Bathsheba, or David about to whale on Goliath with his sling, or even in the act of beheading the giant afterwards. Seems ol’ Dave got a lot of ink in those days.

    I?m not sure how this disproves that Atheism is a Religion?

    Is it any more ?logical? to assert that you possess ?free will??

    Is it any more ?logical? to assert that ?matter? exist independent of observation than it is to assert that ?God? exists independent of observation?

    Maybe you are ?God? and you are only imagining the ?matter??

    Jeff Clothier: The Bible is full of smut like that – Abraham doing his wife’s servant in order to successfully “beget,” for example, not to mention the erotic poetry of “The Song Of Solomon” which supposedly made Omar Khyyam blush. And violence? How about the second chapter of II Kings where God sends two bears to rip 42 children to bloody bits for teasing the prophet Elisha about his bald spot.

    I have nothing against Christians, but you will not hear me making the argument that the Bible is inerrant or without contradiction.

    Jeff Clothier: Better write your congressman and make sure there’s a “Bible Smut Exemption” amendment to this bill, or Sunday school is out.

    Like I said, I am no Christian. But in the same way I do not want my children brainwashed as Christians in the public schools at taxpayer expense, I do not want my children brainwashed into Atheists in the public schools at taxpayer expense.

    The Secular/Atheists/Liberals are trying to convert our country from a Democracy into an Intolerant Theocracy.

  19. “I think that if the public schools are going to teach religion, then there should be some balance. They can?t just brainwash children with Atheistic nonsense against the will of the parents and taxpayers.”

    Serpent: I don’t want the public schools teaching religion. You don’t want the public schools to teach “Atheistic nonsense” (whatever that means). Since no one gets recompenced for the taxes government takes from you if you don’t use public schools, I can see only one solution to this en passe: Ending public education.

    This way, I can send my kids (if I ever choose to have any) to the school of my choice, and you can send kids to the school of choice, provided we can come up with the money to pay for it.

  20. “Atheism is not only a Religion, but it is a mystical (i.e. Supernatural) religion. ”

    WHAT??? How can a philosophy that rejects the belief of anything supernatural be considered “mystical (i.e. Supernatural)?”

    Granted, there are exceptions: My ex-girlfriend claimed to be an atheist yet she believed in astrology, reincarnation, and other New Age nonsense. However, she was hardly the rule.

    “Atheism = A Mystical belief system which denies the existence of ‘God.’ ”

    Where are you getting these definitions you keep using? Cite a source please, because I’m begining to think you’re just pulling them out of your ass.

    “Like I said, I am no Christian…”

    You could have fooled me.

    “The Secular/Atheists/Liberals are trying to convert our country from a Democracy into an Intolerant Theocracy. ”

    GAH! First of all, this makes as much sense as your line about atheism beling a supernatural philosophy. You can’t be “secular” and “theocratic.” It’s a contradiction in terms!

    Secondly, I want some specific, unbiased, examples of the efforts of these pesky “Secular/Atheist/Librals” you are so afraid of. At least I can cite specific examples of bible-beaters who want the public schools to teach their brand of religion.

    The more and more you talk, Serpent, the more and more I think you’re off your meds.

  21. Mark S.: Serpent: I don’t want the public schools teaching religion. You don’t want the public schools to teach “Atheistic nonsense” (whatever that means). Since no one gets recompenced for the taxes government takes from you if you don’t use public schools, I can see only one solution to this en passe: Ending public education.

    Ending public education would be a preferable solution to the system in place today. The problem is that the Atheist Theocrats have a vested interest in brainwashing your children. And they won?t relinquish that hold without a fight.

    But there is also an argument to be made that Educating the young is in the ultimate best interest of Society (Society is the entity which controls Government). In my mind the best system would be a system of vouchers which could be redeemed at any private school. This would have the effect of removing the government from the business of brainwashing the young.

    Now I realize that some anarcho-capitalist-pretending-to-be-liberatarians will object that this system would force those without children to subsidize those that do have children, but that argument makes about as much sense as asserting that only the victims of crime should pay for the police and justice/court systems.

    Mark S.: This way, I can send my kids (if I ever choose to have any) to the school of my choice, and you can send kids to the school of choice, provided we can come up with the money to pay for it.

    It is in Society?s best long-term interest to promote population growth, and to promote an educated population. You reward (i.e. subsidize) the behaviors you wish to encourage, and you punish (i.e. tax) the behaviors you wish to discourage.

    It is a very ancient and simple formula.

  22. biology is a religion. seriously. origins of existence and everything.

    the wwf stoner philosophy cage match will never die, serpent!

    YOU’RE GOING DOWN!!!

    (fwiw, i have met fundamentalist atheists, who are more fun to annoy than fundamentalist christians, really)

  23. Serpent – Your arguments are wide-ranging, and you make assertions without support, but let me ask you a question, then answer some of yours:

    First, where are you getting YOUR definitions of religion and atheism, or are they just your own subjective ones? It seems to me your arguments – and Highway’s, for that matter – hinge on imprecise and rather fluid definitions you must force your opponent to accept in order to make those arguments valid. For purposes of discussion there must be some common ground, which is why I resort to dictionary definitions based, as they tend to be, on most common usage and practice.

    Now to your questions:

    “I?m not sure how this disproves that Atheism is a Religion?”

    It doesn’t. My point in citing lurid Bible stories was simply to illustrate that the proposed bill could be stretched to include the Bible and publications based on passages of it.

    “Is it any more ?logical? to assert that you possess ?free will??”

    Non sequitur to this conversation, really, but “free will” is common to the theology of most Christian denominations. Mankind’s use of free will in choosing to disobey God is what constituted our falling into original sin according to Genesis. It is both a logical and a religious point of view that humans possess free will. Without it there can be no sin, and therefore, no need of redemption. Incidentally, without it there would be no way for us to engage in this debate, as well.

    “Is it any more ?logical? to assert that ?matter? exist independent of observation than it is to assert that ?God? exists independent of observation?”

    Independent of observation, it is illogical to assert *anything* exists. Fortunately, we are able to observe a great deal, and verify a great deal without having to resort to mere belief in order to know things exist. It is necessary for there to be something to be conscious *of* before consciousness has any meaning, or as Ayn Rand put it: “Existence comes before Consciousness.”

    “Maybe you are ?God? and you are only imagining the ?matter??”

    Hardly.

    As to your last two paragraphs about the schools – I taught for 13 years. Most teachers have no time for philosophy or indoctrination. Parents who complain that their kid’s teacher isn’t parroting whatever worldview they hear at home don’t stop to realize that teacher has to deal with 20 or more other kids, from 20 or more other families, each with its own peculiar set of beliefs. They also deny that teacher the right to a worldview of his or her own.

    We have as teachers, on the average, forty minutes to an hour per day per class to get through a period’s worth of material. It is inevitable that someone will feel slighted at some point. That doesn’t mean there is some educational conspiracy to indoctrinate kids into one religion or other, or into atheism, Wicca, Zen Buddhism or Krishna Consciousness. It simply means we teach biology in biology class, English in English class, etc. In confirmation, Sunday school or whatever, they can teach whatever mythology they jolly well please.

    Finally, and this is my opinion only, your statement that “The Secular/Atheists/Liberals are trying to convert our country from a Democracy into an Intolerant Theocracy.” is:

    A. Unproven and unproveable,
    B. A blanket generalization – who are these Secular/Atheist/Liberals anyway?,
    C. Limbaugh-esque hype, and
    D. A rather wacky conspiracy theory.

    I don’t mean to be offensive, but Jeez Louise, man…

  24. How come nobody has mentioned the other weird thing Serpent said in his original post? That atheists want “to destroy any sense of objective morality”. Atheists are the only ones with any chance of justifying an objective morality: it’s theists who weirdly base all morality on the arbitrary whims of the gods. How did acting based on the threats and blandishments of some supposed supernatural tyrant ever get to be considered particularly moral? Isn’t it just the ordinary selfishness that you’d even expect from criminals? This has been pointed out over and over again throughout the years. (Take a look at something as old as Plato’s Republic, Book 2, for example.) But still we have to keep hearing this ridiculous nonsense about religious people being moral.

  25. I can tell you right now this is gonna be too far a trip for you to go ?

    Serpent: Atheism is not only a Religion, but it is a mystical (i.e. Supernatural) religion.

    Mark S.: WHAT??? How can a philosophy that rejects the belief of anything supernatural be considered “mystical (i.e. Supernatural)?

    Atheism is based on the premises of Materialism and materialism is a supernatural (i.e. mystical) philosophy.

    Materialism asserts that matter exists independently of observation. There is no empirical evidence for this belief.

    But that?s just the tip of the ice berg.

    Mark S.: Where are you getting these definitions you keep using? Cite a source please, because I’m beginning to think you’re just pulling them out of your ass.

    Theism/Deism = ?God? exists (HEADS)
    Atheism = ?God does not exist (TAILS)
    Agnosticism = ?God? is Unknown, or not enough information to make a determination (NO CALL)

    Mark, suppose that I am about to flip a coin ? does the fact that there is no evidence the coin will land HEADs up mean that it is only ?Logical? to conclude that the coin will land TAILs up?

    Serpent: I am no Christian…

    Mark S.: You could have fooled me.

    Yes, but you are an Atheist. Atheists are very easy to fool (manipulate/beguile). I?d be willing to bet that you are absolutely positively confident that you possess ?free will?.

    Serpent: The Secular/Atheists/Liberals are trying to convert our country from a Democracy into an Intolerant Theocracy.

    Mark S.: GAH! First of all, this makes as much sense as your line about atheism being a supernatural philosophy. You can’t be “secular” and “theocratic.” It’s a contradiction in terms!

    The Atheists are word-manglers. They destroy language. They thrive in an atmosphere of chaos and discord. But the rank and file Atheists are merely hapless puppets, controlled entirely by their more self-aware Masters.

    Mark S.: Secondly, I want some specific, unbiased, examples of the efforts of these pesky “Secular/Atheist/Liberals” you are so afraid of.

    As a Fatalist it is rather pointless for me to ?fear? that which is inevitable.

    Of course I would say it is more accurate that I ?pity? the Secular/Atheist/Liberals.

    Mark S.: At least I can cite specific examples of bible-beaters who want the public schools to teach their brand of religion.

    Christianity isn?t a bad religion. In fact, the vast majority of Christians I have encountered tend to behave as if they believe they will ultimately be held accountable for all their actions.

    Mark S.: The more and more you talk, Serpent, the more and more I think you’re off your meds.

    Yes, for the moment it is probably best if we both pretend that I am the one who is ?insane? in reality.

  26. To an agnostic, I’m sure theocrats and militant atheists are birds of a feather. Not sure that was what Serpent was driving at, but still…

  27. Highway –

    “How come you will accept a belief structure based on a god as valid, but do not accept a belief structure based on not god as valid?”

    It’s hard to answer that unless you have some background in symbolic logic or formal rhetoric, but it’s a good question, so let me take a stab at it:

    Say I point to a volume of air about the size of the average doughnut hole. I tell you, “That is a donut hole.”

    “No,” you say. “That is only empty space.”

    “I believe it is a doughnut hole,” I assert, “because I believe that around it, in a dimension we cannot see, there is a doughnut. Therefore, it is a doughnut hole.”

    I believe there is a doughnut hole there. I believe it with all my heart and soul DESPITE there being absolutely no evidence of it.

    You see only empty air. You have no evidence for doughnuts, in this dimension or any other. In fact, NEITHER of us sees any physical, verifiable evidence for either hole, or doughnut.

    I, therefore, am a doughnut/doughnut hole religionist. Are you, therefore, a non-doughnut/doughnut hole religionist? No, because there is no “believing” that needs to be done to accept your point of view, merely to accept the physical/sensory evidence available.

    Likewise, it takes no faith or religion NOT to believe in a God for which there is no direct physical or sensory evidence. Contrarily, it takes a whole lot of blind faith to believe in the Big Bearded Dude when He doesn’t make a habit of showing up to say howdy. That is why the opposite of belief, or religion, is not in itself a belief or religion.

    Not-A cannot also be A. Opposites are called so for a reason.

  28. Geoff: How come nobody has mentioned the other weird thing Serpent said in his original post? That atheists want “to destroy any sense of objective morality”.

    Are you an ?Atheist?, Mr. Geoff?

    Do you believe that Morality is Subjective or Objective?

    If you assert that morality is Objective, then what is the basis (i.e. the Source) of the Objectivity?

    Certainly it can?t be ?God? (a ?higher power?) ? can it?

    Geoff: Atheists are the only ones with any chance of justifying an objective morality.

    How do you arrive at this conclusion?

    Geoff: It’s theists who weirdly base all morality on the arbitrary whims of the gods.

    Could you explain the precise difference to me between ?God? and ?Tlop??

    [TLOP = The Laws of Physics]

    Geoff: How did acting based on the threats and blandishments of some supposed supernatural tyrant ever get to be considered particularly moral?

    Do you consider TLOP ?supernatural??

    TLOP made YOU ? right?

    Or did you make TLOP???

    TLOP seems to be controlling you this very instant as well. Maybe you are obeying God?s will and you don?t even realize it?

    Geoff: Isn’t it just the ordinary selfishness that you’d even expect from criminals?

    Individuals who do not believe in ultimate consequences for their actions tend to behave exactly as if that is what they believe.

    Belief manifest in Action.

    Or put another way, to claim that you ?cease to exist? when you ?die? is logically equivalent to asserting that the Universe ?ceases to exist? (relative to you) when you ?die?.

    You believe in a disposable universe and you treat the universe (and everything in it) as if it were disposable. But then again how many times has some ?smart? Atheist told you that existence was ?meaningless??

    Geoff: This has been pointed out over and over again throughout the years. (Take a look at something as old as Plato’s Republic, Book 2, for example.) But still we have to keep hearing this ridiculous nonsense about religious people being moral.

    Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Shintoism, they are all good religions (to name but a few) they all tend to produce moral (compatible) individuals.

    But Atheism is a religion of conformity and Solipsism. It is a deeply flawed and conflicted system of belief.

  29. “They thrive in an atmosphere of chaos and discord.”

    are you now trying to impunge the good name of She Who What Done It All?

    fatalist schmatalist! where are my spandex overalls?

  30. “”Could you explain the precise difference to me between ?God? and ?Tlop??””

    God is personal
    TLOP is impersonal

    like, DUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUH!

  31. “…are you now trying to impunge the good name of She Who What Done It All?”

    HAIL ERIS! ALL HAIL DISCORDIA!!!

    Fnord.

  32. The Serpent:
    “But there is also an argument to be made that Educating the young is in the ultimate best interest of Society (Society is the entity which controls Government). In my mind the best system would be a system of vouchers which could be redeemed at any private school. This would have the effect of removing the government from the business of brainwashing the young.

    “Now I realize that some anarcho-capitalist-pretending-to-be-liberatarians will object that this system would force those without children to subsidize those that do have children, but that argument makes about as much sense as asserting that only the victims of crime should pay for the police and justice/court systems.”

    I sympathize with much of what you say. However, government money comes with strings attached. There will be “standards”, of course, that schools will have to meet before being allowed to receive the vouchers. Those strings will result in the State ultimately running ALL schools.

    I am NOT a Rand disciple, but she wrote a great essay on abolishing public schools. The essay is included in the mostly forgettable book “Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.”

  33. Serpent: What?s the specific difference between ?God? and ?TLOP??

    dhex: God is personal
    TLOP is impersonal

    You think you are talking to me right now?

    I think you are talking to TLOP. These ?words? you read are actually photons in reality (a pattern in the Energy).

    But you say that TLOP is impersonal. I disagree, or at least I should say that I don?t perceive it the way you do.

    Look, I would assume that given enough Time and Materials that YOU could probably make (build/create) a CAR ? correct?

    And YOU could certainly drive (i.e. control) a CAR ? right?

    And relative to YOU the CAR has no ?free will?. The CAR is not conscious relative to YOU ? would you agree?

    Okay, so now replace YOU with TLOP and CAR with YOU and let?s try it again ?

    TLOP made/created/built YOU.

    TLOP controls YOU completely from cradle to grave. All of your actions, thoughts, emotions, judgments, choices, decisions, etc, are all actually the orderly functioning of atoms doing what atoms are preprogrammed to do by TLOP.

    Relative to TLOP YOU have no ?free will?, and relative to TLOP you are not conscious (i.e. in the same way YOU are ?more conscious? than you CAR, TLOP is ?more conscious? than YOU).

    I think that you just cannot tolerate the concept of ?God?. It threatens your sanity. The notion that an entity (or entities) exists which is (are) more evolved than you challenges your cherished notions about who and what you are.

  34. Kent (in DC): I sympathize with much of what you say. However, government money comes with strings attached.

    Not necessarily. They certainly don?t tell old widows how they have to spend their social security checks.

    In other words, it is possible a system could be devised whereby the ?voucher money? would merely be included as an ?child – income tax credit?.

    Kent (in DC): There will be “standards”, of course, that schools will have to meet before being allowed to receive the vouchers. Those strings will result in the State ultimately running ALL schools.

    I have heard this argument before, and I must confess that there may be some merit to it.

    I?d be interested in discussing this with you, but as the day is late, and this thread is slowly dipping from view I fear we will have to wait for another Time my Friend.

  35. Sure, I’m an atheist. That doesn’t mean I know for sure how I can prove that morality is objective, though of course I think it is, as do most atheists who have seriously thought about the matter. You can either claim that right and wrong mean something in and of themselves, or that right and wrong are just what somebody with real power is deciding they are. The point, which I didn’t make clear, is that having gods doesn’t make it any easier to claim that what is good is objective, since it still just bases morality on the point of view of particular minds. And if you want to claim the gods are good, then you already have accepted that “good” means something in itself apart from the gods and their super-powers and super-knowledge. This is what atheists think.

    The meaning of life as it relates to the legendary immortality of minds is a similar issue. The Serpent writes, “But then again how many times has some ?smart? Atheist told you that existence was ?meaningless??”. Answer: never. You must know some pretty dopey atheists. But I have heard theists say that life can have no meaning unless people have immortal souls, or unless the gods want us mortals to be around. How making my life longer makes it “meaningful” is a complete mystery. Can’t something temporary be meaningful? Can’t there be a pointless eternity? And how exactly would the fact that some god thought I would be a funny toy to play with make my life meaningful?

    Admittedly, I was being a little rude, just because I’m tired of being told by theists that atheists are a bunch of people who don’t believe in right and wrong. So I wanted to show how easy it is to “prove” that the theists are the ones’ who don’t believe in right and wrong, since they just believe in rewards and punishment.

    And as for your claim that “good religions … tend to produce moral individuals”, it turns out that only .2 % of prison inmates doubt the existence of the gods. That’s right — 99.8% of them claim to be theists — somewhat higher than the percentage in society as a whole. On the other hand, 92% of members of the National Academy of Science, none of whom, as far as I know, are locked up for trying to hurt or steal from their fellow citizens, claim to be atheists or agnostics. Don’t you find facts like this just a little inconvenient for the “religion makes people good” theory?

    (By the way, I never said anything about the laws of physics which have nothing to do with this argument about morality. Though it is hard to believe that you really don’t think there’s any difference between what these physicists have tried to figure out and spooky stuff like burning bushes that talk. I’ll leave it to others to attack religion; I’m just trying to protect atheism’s good name.)

  36. I am an atheist. But my atheism isn’t a faith that a god or gods does not exist. It is merely a working hypothesis. To the statement, “There is a god” I merely answer, “sorry, you haven’t proved that yet.” There is always the possibility, however remote, that some supernatural entity may someday be revealed to the satisfaction of a skeptic such as myself, but until then I will make the working assumption that that won’t happen. Some people waffle over this and call themselves “agnostic.”

    As for “TLOP”, calling scientific principles “laws” carries some unfortunate anthropomorphic baggage. Some folks can’t conceive of the idea of “law” without a lawmaker. (Dudes seriously need to read some Mises and Hayek.) So when a moral law is discovered, attributing that to the Giant Tree Ape In The Sky comes naturally to them.

    Now, what if an atheist Mom or Dad sued a comics shop, its distributor and the publisher for selling their kid a copy of The Mighty Thor or The New Gods? Shoe would be on the other foot, then. Oh, and a prosecution of the cabal that puts out the Left Behind: Kids series would be hilarious!

    Kevin

  37. “moral welfare”, good grief. Sounds like something from Nazi legislation.

  38. 1. DNFTT

    2. The very concept “more evolved” is nonsensical on its face, for reasons that should be obvious.

  39. If I can just get my kids [ages 47 and 43] to log on to moveon.com, I will file one hellatious lawsuit, you betcha!

  40. The greatest deterent to this sort of legislation would be a federal law saying that you may seek the death penalty against the legislators who proposed legislation that was ruled unconstitutional on the grounds they engaged in a deliberate attempt to overthrow the U.S. Government.

  41. Sounds like the Bible (as well as the Koran and Torah) would qualify 100% based on the definition encoded in this bill. I hope they prosecute priests, rabbis, imans, and other religious charlatans to the fullest extent of this bill.

  42. Sounds more like Parental Responsibility Transfer than parental empowerment.

  43. Mike: It sounds like a great idea. However, I doubt we’ll get the politicians to sign onto it. 😉

  44. just tell them its an intern-banging bill.

  45. JJB: Sounds like the Bible (as well as the Koran and Torah) would qualify 100% based on the definition encoded in this bill. I hope they prosecute priests, rabbis, imans, and other religious charlatans to the fullest extent of this bill.

    Sounds like promoting the religion of Atheism in schools could also qualify.

    allow the parent or guardian of a minor to sue in federal court anyone who knowingly disseminates any media containing “material that is harmful to minors” if the material is distributed in a way that “a reasonable person can expect a substantial number of minors to be exposed to the material and the minor, as a result to exposure to the material, is likely to suffer personal or emotional injury or injury to mental or moral welfare.

    Your Honor, we intend to demonstrate to the court that the [insert name of school board] systematically endeavored to manipulate my clients children into believing there were no ultimate consequences for their actions in order to destroy any sense of objective morality. This action was undertaken without the consent or approval of the parents or the PTA, and is completely against the wishes of the families filing suit.

  46. May we count on Arnold to terminate this nonsense via veto? (assuming, of course, that the veto is not overridden)

  47. Whenever you see a politician trying to “empower parents” or “protect children,” run for your life!

  48. Hey The Serpent,

    You shuld actually check up on the laws your complaining about. Not allowing you to promote your particular religion in school is not the same as promoting atheism.

    Or would you prefer that instead of teaching math and geography we give courses in Fundamentalist Christianity, Liberal Christianity, the assorted religions that are sort of related to Christianity, all the various types of Judaism and Islam and Buddism, Anamism, Obscure religions held by isolated tribes in the South American jungles with no more than a hundred members, and pretty much any insane or crazy purple Nike wearing, comet-chasing cult that pops up?

    People think we’re falling behind other countries in educational standards now.

  49. And I should check on my spelling before I post.

  50. Why is it that state legislatures can make laws allowing suits to be filed in federal court, rather than taking care of their own mess in state court? I must have skipped that day in school.

  51. “Or would you prefer that instead of teaching math and geography we give courses in Fundamentalist Christianity…”

    Well, given the fundies’ attempts to make the public schools teach “intellegent design” and “abstinace only” sex ed, I’d say yes.

  52. The Hit & Run post is misleading–this was introduced in the US House of Representatives, not the California Legislature: H.R. 4239, if you care to look it up.

  53. Geoff: Sure, I’m an atheist. That doesn’t mean I know for sure how I can prove that morality is objective, though of course I think it is, as do most atheists who have seriously thought about the matter. You can either claim that right and wrong mean something in and of themselves, or that right and wrong are just what somebody with real power is deciding they are.

    The latter sounds more like Subjective morality to me.

    Geoff: The point, which I didn’t make clear, is that having gods doesn’t make it any easier to claim that what is good is objective, since it still just bases morality on the point of view of particular minds. And if you want to claim the gods are good, then you already have accepted that “good” means something in itself apart from the gods and their super-powers and super-knowledge. This is what atheists think.

    For me it is much simpler. I would say that the basis of Objective morality is TLOP or ?God? if you prefer.

    TLOP = The (objective) Laws of Physics

    Geoff: The meaning of life as it relates to the legendary immortality of minds is a similar issue. The Serpent writes, “But then again how many times has some ?smart? Atheist told you that existence was ?meaningless??”. Answer: never. You must know some pretty dopey atheists.

    Lots.

    Geoff: But I have heard theists say that life can have no meaning unless people have immortal souls, or unless the gods want us mortals to be around. How making my life longer makes it “meaningful” is a complete mystery.

    While I do not deny that some Individuals may make this connection, I do not. Meaning and Immortality are two separate issues in my mind.

    Geoff: Can’t something temporary be meaningful? Can’t there be a pointless eternity? And how exactly would the fact that some god thought I would be a funny toy to play with make my life meaningful?

    Meaning comes from Purpose (or specifically a Higher (more evolved) purpose). If you are the ?toy? (tool, algorithm) of some superior entity than I would say that is your purpose (function).

    Geoff: Admittedly, I was being a little rude, just because I’m tired of being told by theists that atheists are a bunch of people who don’t believe in right and wrong. So I wanted to show how easy it is to “prove” that the theists are the ones’ who don’t believe in right and wrong, since they just believe in rewards and punishment.

    Are you suggesting that there is something other than Rewards and Punishments, which motivates (initiates/causes/controls) behavior?

    What would that ?thing? be?

    Geoff: And as for your claim that “good religions … tend to produce moral individuals”, it turns out that only .2 % of prison inmates doubt the existence of the gods.

    Yes, I have noticed that Atheists are big on accepting convicted criminals at their word.

    But I am more interested with the manner in which individuals Act.

    Actions speak louder (more truthfully) than Words.

    Geoff: That’s right — 99.8% of them claim to be theists — somewhat higher than the percentage in society as a whole.

    Yep, and amazingly 95%+ of convicted criminals will also tell you that they are innocent of the crime they were convicted of.

    I guess you also believe those statements are ?Gospel truth??

    Geoff: On the other hand, 92% of members of the National Academy of Science, none of whom, as far as I know, are locked up for trying to hurt or steal from their fellow citizens, claim to be atheists or agnostics. Don’t you find facts like this just a little inconvenient for the “religion makes people good” theory?

    So am I supposed to be surprised that an Atheist Association is full of Atheists?

    Were you aware that most people at a Scientology seminar tend to be Scientologists?

    Geoff: (By the way, I never said anything about the laws of physics which have nothing to do with this argument about morality. Though it is hard to believe that you really don’t think there’s any difference between what these physicists have tried to figure out and spooky stuff like burning bushes that talk. I’ll leave it to others to attack religion; I’m just trying to protect atheism’s good name.)

    Atheism is thinly veiled dishonesty.

    The only difference between what the Atheists call TLOP and what all the other Religions refer to as ?God? is that the Atheists don?t call their ?God?, God.

    It?s kind of like a Muslim claiming that he doesn?t believe in ?God? either.

    (he believes in ?Allah? ? same difference ? rose by another name)

  54. The Serpent,
    I think one difference in the social security check and the school voucher is that the money from the social security check is dispersed to so many places and there are so many recipients that it would not be practical to monitor the spending. The voucher would almost certainly go directly to the school (have to make sure everyone spends the money on what the State says, after all), making it much easier to monitor.

    Holland has had a “voucher” system allowing parents to use government disbursements to send their kids to sectarian or secular schools since 1927 (I think.). Last I heard, about two thirds of Dutch kids attend non-government schools. I don’t know the details of how the system works, but have no doubt that the schools must meet certain State requirements for eligibility. In addition, I think the Dutch in some respects tend to be more willing to accept the personal choices of their unconventional neighbors than Americans. Maybe someone with experience in the Dutch system could enlighten us.

  55. The Serpent,

    I think you misread everything I wrote.

    1 In my post I never claimed that Atheism was not a religion (granted I do believe that it is not but I have no intention of getting into that arguement here). I only claimed that Atheism is not being taught in school. Conventional religions are not being taught in school but that doesn’t mean that Atheism is by default.

    2 As for the second part, I guess you really would like to drop everything but the “ethical training” that teaching hundreds of mostly contradictory religions would bring. This is of course to “bring balance” to our educational system.

    3 If people are flocking to our shores anyway, then perhaps our secular school system provides some sort of advantage that these people aren’t getting in other countries that organized religion has a strong hold on.

  56. I’ve got it! I just remembered where I’ve seen the nutty philosophy and word mangling like serpants. Serpant must be Archimedes (nee Ludwig) Plutonium’s alter ego! It’s got to be!

    It would be WAY COOL if Mr Plutonium would start a discussion with Mr Serpant.

  57. Jeff,

    I still think your analogy is missing the point a bit. On the static issue of ‘donut hole vs. empty space’ there is a unmeasurable vs. measurable difference. However, imo this doesn’t carry to comparing individual belief STRUCTURES based on a god or not-god. As I stated earlier, atheists do not believe in nothingness. The issue is limited to the existence of a god. While those who believe in a god exercise faith towards that concept, those who do not believe in a deity put faith in OTHER STRUCTURES. Not in nothingness. As the definition of religion stated, what counts is the ‘system of beliefs’. Those who do not believe in a god, as I stated earlier, still believe in SOMETHING, whether it be total luck, properties of physics and biology, Murphy’s Law, what have you. The structure still exists, and there are those who will defend its beliefs ‘with ardor or faith’, thereby meeting the definition of religion. I’m not claiming that something must be its opposite, but rather that the basis of religion does not have to be god.

  58. ahh, serpy serpy serpy…you lose!

    whether or not your determinism is true – which matters not one way or the other – the point is that most, but not all, religions posit gods or God with a personality. regardless of free will or lack thereof, TLOP ain’t got no personality, regardless of what control it has or does not have.

    I HAVE TEH WIN!

    i rather like the idea that all religions are true, all gods do exist and they’re all fighting all of the time with their followers, a la the mid 90s classic pc game populous.

    we’ll meet again!!!

  59. A (final?) attempt to get through to the Serpent:

    I just don’t see how having gods makes right and wrong objective.

    Do we mean something different by “objective”? I mean something like “independent of a particular persons point of view” or “not just what so-and-so says it is”.

    Do we mean something different by “god”? I mean some supernatural person who has magic powers and is (I guess) immortal. I’m willing to add on other attributes if I’m missing something important. Although I hope you’ll admit that adding on the attribute “provides an objective basis for right and wrong” is cheating.

    If all you mean by “god” is “something independent of human minds and wills”, then this whole argument is ridiculous, since nobody is disagreeing with the idea that something exists independently of human beings or of my mind. Atheism is not the same as solipsism. Atheists are just claiming there aren’t super-powered magical beings who made the universe and continue to meddle with it when people pray to them. If you don’t believe in the super-powered-magical-being theory, then you’re just as much an atheist as I am.

    Antway, you ought to at least explain (for your own good, even if not for the rest of us) what you mean by “objective” and “god”, and why you think having gods around makes morality objective.

    Otherwise this just seems like a bunch of ranting.

  60. Geoff: I just don’t see how having gods makes right and wrong objective.

    Can you see how TLOP makes things Objective?

    Geoff: Do we mean something different by “objective”? I mean something like “independent of a particular persons point of view” or “not just what so-and-so says it is”.

    You?re assuming that TLOP is non-conscious? What line of reasoning leads you to that assumption?

    Geoff: Do we mean something different by “god”? I mean some supernatural person who has magic powers and is (I guess) immortal. I’m willing to add on other attributes if I’m missing something important. Although I hope you’ll admit that adding on the attribute “provides an objective basis for right and wrong” is cheating.

    God = a superior (conscious) entity capable of generating a ?Universe?.

    Universe = a shared frame of reference (a ?reality?).

    Geoff: If all you mean by “god” is “something independent of human minds and wills”, then this whole argument is ridiculous, since nobody is disagreeing with the idea that something exists independently of human beings or of my mind. Atheism is not the same as solipsism. Atheists are just claiming there aren’t super-powered magical beings who made the universe and continue to meddle with it when people pray to them. If you don’t believe in the super-powered-magical-being theory, then you’re just as much an atheist as I am.

    I do not deny a belief in a Deity (a non-supernatural Deity (or at least no more ?supernatural? than You)), ergo it would be dishonest for me to label myself as an ?Atheist?.

    Geoff: Anyway, you ought to at least explain (for your own good, even if not for the rest of us) what you mean by “objective” and “god”, and why you think having gods around makes morality objective.

    I posted my definitions.

    I?m still not sure why you believe that TLOP is less conscious than You?

    TLOP controls YOU which implies that TLOP must be more conscious than you are. You haven?t made any attempt to reconcile this contradiction.

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