Rights, Atheists, and Earth

The United Nations is considering a proposal that would grant the Earth rights similar to those of humans.

What is a right?  Where does it come from?  Perhaps Merriam-Webster can help:

  • right: something to which one has a just claim (So what makes a claim just?)
  • just: acting or being in conformity with what is morally upright or good (What is moral?)
  • moral: conforming to a standard of right behavior (What is right?  Oh crap.  That’s where we started.  And where do we get this “standard” from?)


If you’re a theist, and you believe that God has revealed to us rights and wrongs, it’s simple; God grants and ultimately enforces those rights.

What if you don’t believe in God?
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Should Liberals Back The Libertarian?

Charles Davis suggests that they should.  He says that Ron Paul…

…would – and this is important, I think – stop killing poor foreigners with cluster bombs and Predator drones. Unlike the Nobel Peace Prize winner-in-chief, Paul would also bring the troops home from not just Afghanistan and Iraq, but Europe, Korea and Okinawa. There’d be no need for a School of the Americas because the U.S. wouldn’t be busy training foreign military personnel the finer points of human rights abuses. Israel would have to carry out its war crimes on its own dime.

Even on on the most pressing domestic issues of the day, Paul strikes me as a hell of a lot more progressive than Obama. Look at the war on drugs: Obama has continued the same failed prohibitionist policies as his predecessors, maintaining a status quo that has placed 2.3 million – or one in 100 – Americans behind bars, the vast majority African-American and Hispanic. Paul, on the other hand, has called for ending the drug war and said he would pardon non-violent offenders, which would be the single greatest reform a president could make in the domestic sphere, equivalent in magnitude to ending Jim Crow.

Davis notes the leftist’s readiness to abandon principle, as long as that principle is defiled by their own man:

Democratic partisans – liberals – are willing to trade the lives of a couple thousand poor Pakistani tribesman in exchange for a few liberal catnip-filled speeches and NPR tote bags for the underprivileged…liberals, especially the pundit class, don’t much care about dead foreigners. They’re a political problem at best – will the Afghan war derail Obama’s re-election campaign? – not a moral one. And liberals are more than willing to accept a few charred women and children in some country they’ll never visit in exchange for increasing social welfare spending by 0.02 percent, or at least not cutting it by as much as a mean ‘ol Rethuglican.

We are so consumed with fighting for our side that we are apathetic when our own party abandons our core principles.  This touches on a post I made a while back on the danger of the us vs. them mentality.

Morality by Association

You don’t get cosmic moral credit by association. If you believe that something “ought to be done” about any issue, it isn’t enough to merely associate with a particular church, organization, or political party. T-shirts and bumper stickers (and even blog posts) don’t change the world. The only measure of how much a person cares is how much they do.

Government Expansion—Inevitability

Government is the abusive spouse toward whom we persist in love. We know that that the relationship is unhealthy and against our own best interest, but we refuse to abandon hope. Even when we have no reason to trust the rhetoric, the promises, and the assurances, we believe. We have a will to believe, and so we do.

The right continues to believe even when their man expands spending faster than the left.

The left continues to believe even when their man, on foreign policy, is virtually indistinguishable from George W. Bush, the man they revile.

Obama embraces the drug war.

Bush embraced the welfare state.

This is not new.

Ronald Reagan raised taxes.

Not only did Lyndon Baines Johnson expand the war in Vietnam, he did it under false pretext.

History teaches us that, regardless of rhetoric, government expands in every way, and never contracts. So if the government is involved in anything that you do not approve of, you can be virtually sure that they will continue to spend more of your dollars on that very thing. It does not matter who you elect. This will not change.

Almost everyone says that politicians are opportunistic and untrustworthy—we have plenty of experience to reinforce this assertion—and yet with our pet politician, we replace that cynicism with faith. But that faith contradicts what experience tells us; it is the nature of government to expand and it will not do otherwise.

We need to reevaluate our confidence in any individual politician, in any political party, and in the political system as we know it.

We Are Terrible at Democracy

Cracked published an excellent article entitled 5 Reasons Humanity is Terrible at Democracy. It is a very entertaining—yet disturbing—read.  The article shows that the typical person’s thought process is so biased and distorted into a hypocritical, narcissistic, nonsensical mess by sensationalist, collectivist propaganda and cheerleading that little hope exists for the average voter to make decisions in the interest of “the greater good”.

The article touches on several of the points I make in my essay on the dangers of a collectivist mindset.


Why Do We Believe what We Believe?

If you do not know why you believe what you believe, then your beliefs are opinions grounded in emotion.  And one person’s opinion grounded in emotion is just as good as the next person’s.  And if everybody’s opinion is just as good as the next, then you can’t really say things like, “This is the way the world should work,” or, “This is what you ought to be doing,” or, “You should not be doing that.”.

Almost everybody argues with other people over the things that they believe, whether or not they know why they believe those things. If you think you do know why you believe what you believe, please play the How-Why-What game and make sure. Once you know what you believe and why you believe that it is true, you can actually make a case to other people who also want to believe what is true.

But if you don’t take the time to understand why you believe what you believe yourself, it doesn’t make much sense to try to get other people to believe what you believe—that is just being bossy and intrusive.

Furthermore, if you use your beliefs to advocate the use of force on other people, and you don’t know why you believe what you believe, then you flirt with evil.

Their Threat Is Your Threat

He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from opposition; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach himself.

– Thomas Paine

We Ally with the Different, yet Closely Related…

As I’ve discussed previously, people tend to form collective groups and then campaign only for the interests of those groups.  But an interesting thing happens when these groups, though separate, recognize a common threat.  They ally.

Consider all of the people who attend a gay rights parade who are not actually gay. At these gatherings you will find practitioners of all kinds of unconventional sexual behavior: polyamory, transvestitism, BDSM, and fetishism.  We see different groups of people united out of the recognition of a common threat: people who would forcefully limit the sexual behavior of consenting adults.  They correctly recognize that successful forceful action against any of these groups sets a precedent.  That precedent says that it is okay to use force to limit private consensual behavior that some people do not like.  And once that precedent is set, these different groups know that they could be targeted next.
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What Happened to the Anti-War Movement?

The deterioration of the anti-war movement under the Obama administration clearly illustrates what happens when collectivist identity trumps principle.  To Democrats, what is far less important than a President who is anti-war is a President who is—a Democrat.

NPR and The Federal Reserve

NPR’s This American Life has produced an excellent piece on the origin of money and the Federal Reserve.

In the prologue they illustrate that money is an elaborate illusion (The Onion has seized upon this reality satirically—or perhaps not so satirically?)  Listen through 10 minutes.  Very interesting.

In act one (starting at 10:05) we learn that the Brazilian government, as all governments do, printed money to pay for their programs, and in the process destroyed all faith in the currency by devaluing it to the point of worthlessness.  To overcome this, they essentially rebranded the currency and convinced the population that this currency wouldn’t be so radically inflated.  And it wasn’t.

Act two, at 29:12, is the most fascinating part.  Listen to this if nothing else. They sum up all of the key facts about the Federal Reserve: that it is not a wing of the government, that it actually creates money from nothing, and that it operates in secret and basically under the radar.  They speak in terms of “magical” and “dangerous”.  Throughout the piece, a healthy tone of skepticism prevails regarding the wisdom of all of this.

After listening, I would highly suggest a visit to The Slideshow on the Federal Reserve and the economy, which this pieces leads into directly.

Religious Fanaticism vs. Hypocrisy—An OkCupid Message

So I use OkCupid to find cool women with whom to speak.  I do.  I figured that if I’m going to apply the brainpower to craft messages, I might as well share with the world.  No?

If you aren’t already familiar with OkCupid, it is a system that revolves around questions and answers.  You answer hundreds, or even thousands, of questions and then the system matches you up with other people who answered in compatible ways.  It works pretty well for nerds like me.

One woman’s profile caught my attention.  She prefers reason over fantasy.  And coffee.  I commented on one of our “disagree” questions:

I share your enthusiasm for reason over mythology. We don’t make a lot of progress in understanding anything if we’re content to say, “God did it.”

But one thing about that!

A question on which we disagreed was: What of the following is most offensive to you? Religious fanaticism or general hypocrisy?

A lot of atheists immediately respond with the “fanaticism”, but I suspect that the underlying offense is with hypocrisy, not personal adherence to zany beliefs. I mean, people believe in all kinds of nonsensical things: astrology, healing crystals, etc. Those are obnoxious, but not particularly offensive. Religion is offensive because of the religious people who want to forcefully impose on the non-religious. And they want to forcefully impose their beliefs while at the same time arguing for their right to be free of forceful imposition on the part of those with whom THEY disagree. And so it is the hypocrisy with which they operate that makes what they believe so offensive. It’s when they actually become a threat that they become offensive and even scary.

Nonsensical beliefs are a mild annoyance until people hypocritically and forcefully prioritize their belief-system over everyone else’s. I think that if people were content to stay at home and do their voodoo in private, it would be no big thing.


And I like coffee too. I just ground some beans, pressed a pot, and am indulging in a bit of funky caffeine-induced nirvana. ahhhh.

I’m Matt. Nice to meet you.

I doubt she’ll respond.  Oh well.   🙂

Take a look at my essay on the danger of forceful imposition.