Partnership by Any Other Name

Since this is topical once again, I moved it forward from its original April 30th publication and added an addendum to the end discussing current events. If I had perfect knowledge of future events before they happened, like a god, I would have held off posting this and Homophobia in Denial until now.

On The Other Hand, If god is really what people say he is, he could have fixed this problem as well as the slavery problem in advance by giving detailed instructions to the people who wrote his books; rather than letting them write down their own customs and fears as if they were instructions from him.  But then I was going to leave that specific discussion to Jim over at Stonekettle Station. I’m trying to stick to the legality of the issue at hand here.


It slipped my mind that I was actually being topical with my piece Homophobia in Denial, that the SCOTUS was going to be debating the legality of marriage being broadened to include two people of the same sex.  Given the contents of that piece, it should be pretty obvious that I have no problem with two people of the same sex getting married.

I actually go a bit farther than just not having a problem with that. I really don’t see the point in marriage in the first place, as far as being separated from other business contracts.

I know, I know, I’m a soulless bastard that has no emotions. Trust me, I’ve heard that a few times. Still, I have to wonder why marriage is different than any other joint partnership? Why are there special rules for this business arrangement that are completely different from all the others?

The Wife and I have a prenuptial agreement that involves a rather grisly death if either of us strays, sexually.  I know that I wouldn’t have to make that deal with a business partner.  But I also know that we are complete weirdos and discuss every point of an agreement before we enter into them.  This is true with everything we purchase, not just with the agreement that started our relationship.

Most people don’t even know what their partner wants in the case of medical incapacity. We’ve discussed so many different scenarios that I’d be hard pressed to name an event we haven’t discussed and what her wishes would be.  Without that level of discussion, marriage is just a business arrangement, with no more emotional investment than the subject of which TV to buy.  Fully half of the people who get married will stay married less than 5 years.   The first TV they buy as a couple will still be working when the divorce is settled.

That is not a sacrament, that is an agreement made on an emotional whim. A moment of sexual lust, lost as soon as the dopamine receptors become habituated to the reward.

Given that marriage is expected before sexual gratification is achieved because of religious teachings, who is to blame for its being entered into so lightly? Not the government, which is tasked with simply keeping track of the business agreements made in its jurisdiction.  That blame rests solely on the shoulders of religious leaders who push the agenda of sexual abstinence (which is in reality a perversion) onto our unsuspecting children. The selfsame leaders who are now leading the charge against so-called gay marriage.

I’d like to offer the counter-argument that gay marriage is actually better than heterosexual marriage. How is that possible, you ask? Because homosexuals who want to get married have at least thought about what marriage means. Have at least talked to their partner about future plans. Want to tie each other together in a binding relationship that means more than a few months of hot sex. They at least understand that marriage should be a lifetime commitment, not something entered into because they have to do it before sexual gratification occurs.

The real sacrament, if there is one at all, is the gay marriage; because they’re making a pledge with the full knowledge of what that pledge means, not blinded by the passion of unfulfilled lust.

As for how to address those naysayers out there who think that marriage is some holy union too good for homosexuals to share in, I’ll leave that to Stonekettle.  He does a much better job of taking them apart than I ever could.

You are the very absolutists, the very religious fanatics, this country was designed to protect its citizens from. 

Stonekettle Station

The NYT article that debunks the 50% divorce rate myth (yes, it is a myth) has a lot of good information in it on the subject of marriage and divorce.

About 70 percent of marriages that began in the 1990s reached their 15th anniversary (excluding those in which a spouse died), up from about 65 percent of those that began in the 1970s and 1980s. Those who married in the 2000s are so far divorcing at even lower rates. If current trends continue, nearly two-thirds of marriages will never involve a divorce, according to data from Justin Wolfers, a University of Michigan economist

 Among the many facts in the article is the notation that the less educated, more traditionalist male-lead households still suffer from divorce rates at the previous high levels. So it is a myth for every group outside of traditional christian households lead by a male breadwinner.

It is also worth noting that the progressive changes of the 70’s persist today. The feminist revolution, the achievement of reproductive rights for women, and the more relaxed attitudes towards living together before marriage have lead to reduced rates of divorce, with women holding an equal place in modern society alongside men. This comes as no surprise to me, that women being formally allowed to now pick their mates instead of being prizes handed out by their fathers has lead to fewer bad marriages.

Fewer people marry these days.  That statistic has also lead to a reduction in divorce.  Can’t get divorced if you never marry.

The point that is made statistically in the article is synonymous with the point I made in this blog post; that marriage has already changed and will continue to change. That escaping from the confines of christian dogma has been a positive change in US society. That testing a relationship with co-habitation before actually getting married is a very good idea.

The Wife hates that I compare marriage to a business arrangement.  She has always hated that comparison when I have made it. I’m sure most romantics of both sexes hate the very notion that marriage is anything like a business deal.  Their rejection of this observation doesn’t actually change the reality of the situation. That there are financial concerns that have to be addressed when contemplating any union. That marriage is desirable to homosexuals because it fixes problems with custody of children, inheritance and survivor’s benefits. These are largely financial calculations, and marriage exists to address them.  Not because of love. The notion of romantic marriage was an unrealized ideal before the 1970’s.  That is the hard-nosed fact about marriage that romantics ignore.

When seen in that light as opposed to the notion of fee for sex being the business arrangement (you dirty-minded people. I wasn’t even thinking of it that way) it becomes understandable that the largest concerns in any marriage are financial.  If you fail to discuss these issues before tying the knot, you will regret it later.


The SCOTUS did render the correct decision and not force the people at large to add marriage equality to the long list of changes we’re going to have to make when the Constitutional Convention is called to reverse Citizens United.  It would have been nice if the court had made its decision based on the unconstitutional sexual discrimination which all the objections to same-sex marriage exhibit, as discussed in this article on Salon;

The Supreme Court has long held that laws that discriminate based on sex must be presumed unconstitutional and invalidated unless the government can prove that they can pass rigorous, heightened judicial scrutiny. Relying on that doctrine would answer the crucial question why the Court was deciding the same-sex marriage question at all. The sex discrimination shifts the burden of proof to the state, and the state hasn’t met that burden. The argument is clear and based on decades-old precedent. An amicus brief I coauthored developed this claim, and Chief Justice Roberts raised it when the case was argued.

But any vehicle that gets you where you want to go is better than no vehicle at all.

No need to repeal DOMA now. That act has been rendered invalid with the decision handed down last week.  We still need to repeal RFRA and apologize to religious minorities and the non-religious for ever passing it in the first place.  Still hoping for a congress that is more useful and less obstructionist than it has been for as long as I can remember now.

One way to get that might be to hold certain attorneys feet to the fire.  Attorneys like Greg Abbott and Ted Cruz who have violated the ethical rules for their profession;

The American Bar Association designed the Model Rules of Professional Conduct to define ethical duties of attorneys. State Supreme Courts have adopted versions of the Model Rules as binding upon attorneys who practice law in their jurisdictions. Attorneys are not free to ignore them–compliance is conditioned upon being licensed to practice law–and failure to obey could result in disbarment.

Disbarring them for ethical violations (Cruz’s behavior on several subject warrants this, not just this one) would be a supreme irony, considering the arguments that they are making.

Let’s Talk About Religion Then: The Westboro Baptist Wannabe Martyrs

The Westboro Baptist Church was forced to cancel its plans to protest at Leonard Nimoy’s funeral at the weekend when no-one would tell them where it was.

The group often descends upon the funerals of celebrities and soldiers with neon signs filled with homophobic slurs, but couldn’t locate the late Star Trek actor’s after planners decided to make the memorial private.

The Independent, Westboro Baptist Church

I’ve said my piece about Leonard Nimoy’s passing, albeit it took me two years to write what I thought about it and never posted the article anywhere aside from this blog. It is like a lot of entries on this public blog. They are here if anyone is interested enough to go back through the archive and look for them. These articles aren’t for general consumption, they are my thoughts set down for my own reasons, thoughts that I don’t mind sharing with the curious if there are people who are curious. So this blog entry really isn’t about Leonard or my feelings for Leonard or Spock. This is about a penchant for grandstanding in self-destructive ways by a particular religious cult in the US.

I have broached this subject several times on bulletin board systems and email groups, but I’ve never said a word about Westboro Baptist church on this blog because I really don’t have much of an opinion about the beliefs of others unless they potentially impact me or the people I love. I don’t talk about things that don’t interest me on my blog, so I generally don’t talk about religion. Being an atheist and freethinker myself, I have almost no use for religion, but there are occasions when the discussion of religion can’t be helped. This is one of those times.

The Westboro Baptist Church members are essentially the same as most other christianist/dominionist cults in that they think we are in the end times and they want to bring about the second coming of Christ. They hope to do this by provoking attacks upon themselves, and they do this by inciting rage in people who really cannot be relied upon to be sensible in the face of provocation. Those people are the survivors of tragedy, the funeral parties for the recently deceased.

What has evolved over the years that these protestors show up at funerals is, the Westboro Baptists are penned into a protest area where they are out of sight and hopefully out of earshot of the grieving. This is stalemate between the grieving and the protesting is achieved by local police forces who are understandably just trying to keep the peace. I believe that this entire effort is counter-productive and in the end ineffectual. There is a simpler, albeit more violent, solution that will end this stalemate, permanently.

We should not be protecting the Westboro Baptists when they attempt to picket funerals. What should be done instead is that local law enforcement takes the time to explain to the leadership of this church that the grieving are statutorily exempt from criminal charges if they attack outsiders who attempt to disrupt funerals. Funeral attendees are demonstrably not of their right mind. The leadership should be informed that picketing funerals is an attempt to have oneself killed as a martyr. That attempting suicide in this fashion is an admission of insanity on the part of the Westboro Baptists; and that they consequently can be detained without trial for mental evaluation indefinitely, and possibly committed to a mental institution for the rest of their lives if they insist on persevering in this deranged behavior. Then we as a culture sit back and wait. If the Westboro Baptists picket, they get to go talk to headshrinkers for the rest of their lives, the few of them that survive. I’m good with that, and they do need help.

As a side note, I’ve had quite a few people object that we shouldn’t require funeral attendees to kill the Westboro Baptists in this fashion. I agree. We should be able to have the insane committed for their demonstrable insanity. Insanity like believing that if they die martyrs they’ll go to heaven. That Jesus hates homosexuals (he doesn’t, that passage is in the part of the Bible that came from the Torah, the Old Testament) There are a whole host of ideas which are insane on their face that the religious really should be cautioned about espousing belief in, in public. What they believe inside their own heads is their own business. Just don’t expect the rest of us to endorse these ideas when you speak them or act upon them, because there are broader concerns that should be of more importance than their personal insanity.

Facebook status update backdated and expanded upon for the blog. This is the first of the Let’s Talk About Religion Then articles which will be published eventually. Chronologically it will appear before Atheism is Not a Belief System but that can’t be helped now. I’ve written many things in other places over the years and this monologue about Westboro Baptists emerged about the same time as my original authorship of the atheism article on that now defunct BBS that I continually mention.

Pledging Allegiance is contrary to Freedom

Below is the text of a letter I sent to the local school district (and my state reps) in response to a notice informing me that my children would be required to recite the pledge of allegiance, and observe a minute of silent prayer.

To Whom It May Concern:

I received a flyer amongst several other pieces of documentation sent home from school with my child yesterday; a flyer informing me that Texas has taken another step down the path towards worshiping the omnipotent state (and the christian god that walks hand in hand with it here in the US) and will be requiring all students to mouth the words of the United States pledge of allegiance, as well as the newly revised Texas pledge of allegiance (HB 1034) in addition to observing a moment of silence once each day (SB 83) a practice that is obviously intended to re-introduce morning prayer into the public schools.

I don’t recall ever seeing this particular notice (even though the requirement to recite the pledges has been on the books since 2003) but having noticed it, I now feel compelled to respond to it. Dictators and cult leaders require the slaves under their rule to swear allegiance to them, because power is jealous of rivals. It is far more than mere coincidence that the author of the United States Pledge was a self-proclaimed socialist, and that most pledges currently in existence came into being at about the same time; a time before the discrediting of socialism. They are an outgrowth of socialist sentiment, the elevation of The State above the individual. In a free society, pledges of allegiance should not be required, because individuals are free of any allegiance other than to rational self interest. Additionally, pledges required of the public are contrary to the sentiments of the founders of the United States, as it reverses the role of the subservient state and places it above We The People.

Obviously, from the tone of this letter, you will be able to discern that I am hereby notifying you in writing that my children will be exempted from this practice. They will not be required to recite any pledges, nor will they be required to observe a minute of silence. This notice is given pro forma, because my children have abstained from reciting the pledges for the entire time that they have attended school; and they have done this without asking me or the omnipotent state for permission to do so. They have remained silent during pledges even in my presence, when I have recited the pledge autonomically; and I applaud them for their strength of will.

If it was possible, I would extend this exemption to any student of AISD, of any school district in Texas, or of any state in the United States, who wished to abstain from reciting the pledge, but lacks the permission that the state requires.

Finally, I’d like to add this tidbit of information. The sponsor of HB 1034, when queried on the subject of religion, had this to say (source, Capitol Annex: More HB 1034 Exchanges):

BURNAM: Are you aware that Governor Perry has recently said, “Freedom of religion should not be taken as freedom from religion.” And my question is, do you agree with that statement, Ms. Riddle?
RIDDLE: I would say, Amen.

Which pretty much sums up the intent of the modification of the pledge, and the accompanying minute of silence; a blatant attempt to force religion back into the government schools. It also shows the utter contempt the governor and the majority of the legislature has for anyone who doesn’t share their particular christian beliefs. Freedom of religion is a meaningless concept unless it includes freedom from religion; requiring someone to have a religion places constraints upon the person, negating any freedom that might be present.

Sincerely,
R. Anthony Steele


As I sit here in 2015 looking back on this letter, I wonder how the leadership of the school read this letter when they received it.  I hope they had protective face shields for the spittle-flecked rant they were about to embark on.

The sad thing is that the bogeyman of the omnipotent state has faded away, yet the insistence by the blindly religious that we should all be christian remains.  If anything the Religious Right have simply become more strident over the years, not less.  They do not appear to have learned anything from the many battles they have engaged in and lost when it comes to the subject of making the US a christian nation against the will of the majority who like it just the way it is.

Socialism is not a bad word, and socialists are not bad people as long as they aren’t state socialists.  State socialists like the ones who wanted to get children to say pledges before they understood what pledging really means.  Another bogeyman that really should be retired, since the mindset that inspired the pledges now looks as alien to us as most of the other concepts of the time do.