Remembering The Skeptical Review

I stumbled across an online article originally published in The Skeptical Review, a print newsletter that turned into a digital edition. The publisher J. Farrell Till has since passed but the site is still up and if you’re nostalgic for old sites like I am, it’s worth a visit. I actually have a couple of the print editions from way back in the day–The 90s! 1996 is around the time when I had discarded my faith in favor of reason. The site also retains the kind of web design you would see in the 90s.

Check out The Skeptical Review at theskepticalreview.com.

The Main Menu button (remember buttons?) will take you to an archive of articles.

Ray Comfort, Marketing To The Deluded

I’ve been getting Twitter recommendations on what their algorithm thinks might interest me and Ray Comfort is popping up regularly with the promotion of his movie The Atheist Delusion, a take on Richard Dawkin’s book The God Delusion.

ray-comfort-atheist-delusion

The theme of the marketing and the movie is apparently destroying a person’s lack of belief with one devastating question. I guess Ray is attempting to be humorous (?) with this ad and other tag lines, but I’ve never known someone Christian or Atheist to be  so susceptible to influence that it only takes one question to change their mind. In the era of social media and online debates, I would say it’s intellectually insulting to both sides of the debate. It’s also unlikely Ray knows what science is. But I guess from the perspective of Twitter wars and YouTube takedowns and Facebook brawls, it’s all in good fun. Let’s just remember that if Ray truly believes in a sky god and a literal interpretation of The Bible then the delusion is all his.

To be fair, as this is going to be released on YouTube, video YouTubers like to use hyperbole to get our attention, including atheists with vid titles like: “Most Brutal Hitch Slap Ever!” “Neil deGrasse Tyson Destroys Bill O’ Reilly!” And on and on.

However, per Ray Comfort’s ad, about Atheism’s days being numbered, atheists and others who identify as unbelievers are on the rise. It may be time to just accept that the world is changing and it’s moving away from “assumed truth” into a healthy debate about what is actually true and what is not and what it means to be a Christian. Ray should realize his brand of Christianity is fading away. I thought for him and his fundie ilk that this would be a good thing because the more unbelievers and “fake Christians” there are would mean that The End Days would be upon us. Him and Kirk Cameron can fly up into the sky and thank God for making bananas so easy to peel.

The 80s Gay And Straight Buddy Cop Film ‘Partners’

Anyone remember Partners? The film starred Ryan O’ Neal from Homicide Division as Sgt. Benson and John Hurt as Officer Kerwin, a records clerk. It was a buddy cop film from 1982 with a straight white male and a closeted gay man who go undercover to catch a killer murdering beefy magazine pinups. Yes? No?

Partners-1982-movie-poster

Okay, it wasn’t a big hit and it wasn’t the finest hour of these notable actors, who by the way are both straight (I was certain John Hurt was gay until I read up on his marriages).

Here’s the reason why I remember the film and why I picked up the DVD to watch it again. I was around 10 when I stayed over at my friend Ryan’s house. His parents rented Partners, but because it was R-rated it was hands off for us two. So Ryan waited until his parents left the next morning to run some errands and then popped the VHS tape into the VCR (yes, VHS!) and we started watching. I honestly didn’t know what we were watching except that it was R and if you were a kid with no access to HBO or Showtime and your allowance of TV at home included The Disney Channel and reruns of Mr. Ed you were desperate to know what all those restricted movies were about.

I can’t remember at the time if I understood what “gay” was? I mean I knew what it meant in terms of slang or derision, but not “gay love.” What I did understand was this movie had female nudity as well as male and so I was fine with seeing gratuitous tit shots…that is until Ryan’s parents returned home about 45 minutes into the film and I never got to see the ending. It wasn’t until I was 20 that I rented the movie for myself and watched the whole thing one night after working my glorious fast food job.

What’s interesting about my life around 20 is that I was a Jesus Freak and I would say it was fair to call me a fundamentalist in my views even though I didn’t look the part. I was into Christian Metal and wore ripped jeans, T-shirts with gospel messages and long hair. I also volunteered my time with a pro-life group that had as part of its agenda to fight “the gay agenda.” After all, man on man sex didn’t equal babies and being pro-life is all about babies. Add to that the political climate with the OCA (Oregon Citizens Alliance) who put an anti-gay rights initiative on the local ballot and it was definitely the right time to watch a film like Partners. And yes, sadly, I voted with the OCA based on my Christian beliefs. Told ya I was a fundamentalist.

I know from doing a little surfing that Partners is not well liked by gay reviewers and Gene Siskel and Rex Reed hated it when it came out. The complaints range from stereotyping to  John Hurt’s character being a mouse of a gay man to the use of the word “fag” with no repercussions to outright homophobia. The other film that attracts this kind of criticism is William Friedkin’s Cruising starring Al Pacino, which I also watched when I was 20. Fact is, Partners is almost like a light-hearted version of Cruising.

As a straight male, I’m sure I don’t have the perspective to grasp the complaints of the gay community or be offended by stereotypes. I do know that certain movies are maligned by activist groups (gay, political, religious, etc.,) because they are perceived to represent every gay man or every Christian or every Democrat or Republican and so forth. In reality, the gay community is very complex and it has a multitude of personality types–some, dare I say, are stereotypical because I have met them–and it does include a leather scene and an interest in gay porn (which is what Partners and Cruising focused on). So to say that Partners is homophobic simply because it is not about showing gay people in a perfect light I think is unfair. You can certainly say it is a two star cheesy movie though and critique its shortcomings.

And it’s shortcomings are that the comedy is lacking, many of the jokes are cheap, the mystery is convoluted and it fails to show more of what the movie was supposed to be about: the gay community, or rather for the sake of straight couples what it was like to be gay. But I will defend the film for what it’s worth because I don’t think this movie was meant to be mean-hearted or its intention was to make fun of the gay community. It’s a curiosity film for straights. At least that’s my best guess because what was the profit motivation for Paramount Pictures? To make a minor gay film to sell tickets to a gay audience? I don’t think so. The profit was to be found in straight people who wanted to know what gay people were like (without having to get near them, let’s be honest) and to laugh at the awkward moments between gays and straights. In a way, you could view it as an exploitation film. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing with Partners.

When I watched Partners at 20 it was exactly for that reason: a matter of curiosity (how can a man love a man?). And I can say I didn’t react like you would think a homophobe would. My mind didn’t shut down with fear, I didn’t start praying over the TV or vomit over the thought of male on male intimacy. I liked the character of Officer Kerwin, he was human. That may sound patronizing, but this was important because the religious political right was making the gay community less than human. At the same time I watched Partners I also watched a propaganda film that said gays wanted special rights in order to spread disease and indoctrinate kids as well as molest them (that’s not an exaggeration). If you were looking for negative stereotypes, the propaganda film had it in droves. Imperfect as Partners was, it countered the negative propaganda. Even Sgt. Benson in the film, who acts like a dick and is filled with straight male anxieties, changes his outlook and looks forward to Kerwin’s attention (as long as it doesn’t involve touching).

Between Partners and the propaganda I was left in a constant debate about the gay lifestyle. Was it a sin above others or was it just a failure to procreate? Did God hate fags or did God forgive all? The Bible certainly didn’t seem to like gay people which unfortunately is what I kept coming back to as a conclusion. Rules are rules! But still, it’s not like gay people were all that bad, were they?

Four years later I lost my Christian faith (a story in of itself) and as far as I was concerned it didn’t matter if you were gay. One of the reasons was that after going to art school I had met several gay people and I really couldn’t think of them as “them” anymore. Since then I continue to work with coworkers/friends who happen to be gay and I would suggest that Officer Kerwin helped straight people like myself get to know someone who was gay before actually embracing real world gays. Wasn’t it Will and Grace that helped straight audiences get to know the gay community? You can view it as cultural propaganda, as exploitation, as stereotypes for straights, but whatever it is I think it works. Too bad there isn’t a popular sitcom about atheists (well, Big Bang Theory, sort of–talk about atheist stereotypes!).

The one complaint I do want to address by reviewers is the accusation that Officer Kerwin is a verbally abused wallflower. I say so what? He’s human! In the film, Sgt. Benson forces him to dance with another gay man and go up to the man’s apartment to have a drink in order to obtain information about the murders. I don’t understand why a gay man can’t be reluctantly shy, or why he should feel the need to hop in bed with every gay man he meets? My interpretation of Kerwin is that he is a closet homosexual who is a romantic traditionalist (old-fashioned, if you will) and just hasn’t met the right man.

There’s plenty of straight shy and insecure guys and gals out there who are the same way towards the opposite sex. Because Kerwin works for the police he may feel alienated from both the gay community and his peers. His main sin by today’s standards is that he’s in the closet. I get that positive films about gay people were rare in the early 80s, but can’t we consider Kerwin to be a person with flaws and insecurities and even strengths that make him an interesting character versus a shiny super gay man with a seal of approval by the LGBT crowd? And yes, he falls in love with his straight partner (another criticism). Isn’t that possible? (It’s also a friggin’ movie! A fantasy!) Sgt. Benson doesn’t seem to care in the end, he deals with it much like any of us would deal with that kind of awkwardness because it can happen with an unwanted gay crush or an unwanted straight crush. Have we never dealt with the adoration of the opposite sex who we were not interested in? As long as Kerwin is not forcing himself on Benson there’s no foul. It’s just uncomfortable at times and that’s life.

Again, Partners is a two star rental for those interested in 80s films and how the gay community was depicted. I’m not denying there are valid criticisms, but I think it’s worth a look and I don’t think it counts as homophobia. It’s cheesy fun. It may also remind you of how far we’ve come in our attitudes about being gay. Most young people growing up these days don’t think twice about it. “What’s the big deal about being gay?” If only they knew how much has changed.

The Last Thing Brussels Needs Is Prayer

Prayer isn’t going to help Brussels on the latest Islamofascist attack on The West. If there is a god, he/she/it is incompetent or doesn’t care (or, let’s be honest, doesn’t exist). We need less call to prayer and a larger call to promoting unbelief so that we reduce adherents willing to kill themselves for a mythical afterlife; and then subsequently we will produce individuals who will help win against the religious propaganda war.

There is an unprecedented opportunity to integrate Muslims into Western culture due to the refugee crisis from Syria and allow for an introduction to secularization and most importantly the idea of “doubt.” It does not have to be forced, freedom of religion should be held in high regard, but if Europe and the United States can do their part we may have a second or third generation of Muslims who either will liberalize their faith in favor of a progressive society or may abandon their faith altogether.

A very idealistic notion I agree, but as I continually hear from our politicians that we should keep the people of Brussels in our “thoughts and prayers” and then at the same time I hear for calls to ban Syrian refugees or even ban all Muslims from the United States I think of how futile that is. Forget the prayers to absent ears! Let’s welcome Muslim refugees and show them a better way…a road to becoming secular Muslims and ex-Muslims. The elimination of the kind of radical belief that ISIS generates is not going to disappear in my lifetime, but exponentially we can, person by person, put in place the efforts needed to eradicate it in the future.

My heart goes out to Brussels just as it went out to Paris. And it breaks my heart to see that the terrorists are creating the kind of xenophobia and holy war thinking that they intended. Imagine there is no god and think of how utterly stupid all this killing is in the name of nothing.

Trump Chicago Rally And Free Speech

Trump is a dick. I think even some of his supporters would agree, which is why they think he can take on Hillary. And I would add that I think he’s a “xenophobic-narcissistic-lie-at-any-cost-opportunist-dick.” But I’m bothered by the protests that have resulted in some incidents of violence and the shut down of the Trump rally in Chicago on Friday, March 11th.

The reason being is that the protesters are coming inside the event and disrupting it versus a protest outside the event or even a counter rally on the same night. Per CNN,”Hundreds of demonstrators packed into an arena, breaking out into protest even before Trump had shown up.” This is what eventually led to law enforcement conferring with the Trump campaign and he agreed to shut it down for the safety of all involved.

When it was announced that the venue would be moved to a later date, the protestors inside were chanting “We shut shit down.” Yes, but did you have a right to? Did your strategy just embolden the Trump base and add new members? The one thing Americans hate is when they feel someone has been censored and therefore the censorship validates the candidate. He must be important if “they” are willing to shut his speech down.

Free speech in America is about allowing for “shit” including Trump. The aim of any protest should be to counter the rhetoric, not censor it or shut it down. So when the question comes up of who is instigating the violence as the media has been showing the now famous sucker punch landing on a black protestor…well? It seems to be the far left goading the right into becoming so frustrated with disruptions and the recent shut down that they start swinging. When you take away their free speech (their candidate’s ability to speak) what do they have left? Violence! And according to CNN, on Friday night the left was swinging back too. Hardly the nonviolent Civil Rights protests that we’ve come to admire from the past.

I can’t condone the self-congragulatory chanting much like I can’t condone Black Lives Matters disrupting rallies by Bernie and Hillary. And I’m not condoning that sucker punch or any violence by Trumpites or Trump’s line about how back in the day you could punch protestors and carrying them out on stretchers. Like I said, Trump is a dick and I think he has attracted this volcanic atmosphere and is loving it, but he has the right to be heard. And if the best idea protestors have is to shut down his rallies causing concerns for safety then that doesn’t sound like free speech to me. It sounds like a losing strategy for elevating Trump to a false martyr status amongst Republicans, Independents and maybe even some moderate Democrats.

BTW: Trump rallies as far as I have read are a mix of first-come-first-in-the-door. Tickets are available but don’t guarantee a seat. And there are rules given to attendees as it is considered a private event by the candidate. Signs, banners, etc are prohibited in advance. If protestors wanted to be clever they could silently come in, take a seat and wear T-shirts with “Elect Bernie.” I’m all for being subversive. Where I take exception is when protestors prevent a candidate from speaking at his own event. The far left is notorious for shutting down speech because I fear they can’t handle the concept.

Utah Votes Porn Is A Problem…Because They Keep Watching It!

The Utah Senate has voted that porn is a public health crisis for their state. Why? Maybe because Harvard research shows that Utah consumes it so much they top the the list. PC World gave them the embarrassing title of “Online Porn Capital Of America.”

SCR9, the resolution approving porn is a menace, doesn’t actually do anything specific. It’s simply a declaration. Utah senator Todd Weiler would like to treat porn much like they do tobacco or alcohol as they say it’s a health risk due to recent scientific findings. I guess that means they’re going to put a special tax on Utah citizens whenever they visit a porn site?

I’m not sure what research Todd is referring to, but if he knows anything about the history of declaring porn a menace he might want to do some reading. There is no conclusive evidence that porn is solely harmful. The presidential commission in 1970 could not find anything substantial and the same was true for the 1985 Meese Commission. Fact is, the Meese Commission was worried about the spread of porn via VHS tapes (remember VHS?) and predicted we would have an eventual epidemic on our hands if it wasn’t curbed. …Could they even fathom Internet porn? We have more porn, more varieties of porn and more ease of access to porn than ever–and America hasn’t ended! So much for the link to rape, depravity, and violence that fundamentalists and feminists thought would run rampant.

I don’t want to say there aren’t any ill effects to porn. There’s good and bad with any “product.” But if Utah is now the capital of online consumption of porn they should look in their own backyard to see why? Because wouldn’t porn be the symptom and not the cause? Sexual repression, outdated family values, unhappy marriages, church hype on how one spouse is supposed to fulfill all your desires? It seems the more religiously conservative a person is the more likely they will secretly watch porn or commit adultery or be caught with a hooker.

BTW: SCR9 declares porn a public health hazard? I wonder how far a state can reach into the private sex lives of individuals when something is declared as such?

 

Hitler Had A Small Dick

A joke about compensating would be obvious, but, according to Fox News Health, Hitler had a genital deformity called Hypospadius. Sufferers have a urethra that opens up on the underside of the penis which is often accompanied by another abnormality, an undescended testicle. Historians, based on medical records, do say Hitler had a ball that did not drop and a small dick.

Problems associated with the condition are spraying while urinating or having to sit down to pee, and sexual intercourse. The article says Hitler ‘s personal doctor Theodor Morell prescribed “hormones, amphetamines and cocaine.” Exactly the kind of stuff you want an egomaniac racist to ingest.

The more you read about Adolph Hitler the more you find how inferior he was to any concept of a master race both physically and mentally. Of course, no one can help the way they were born, but that’s the point–you don’t go and kill six million Jews because your penis is small and pees funny. That’s a dick thing to do.

John Kasich, Not So Moderate

While one is tempted to say all Republicans are extreme in the current campaign, John Kasich was looking like the moderate. Maybe “moderate” in an extremist environment is comparing the lesser of two evils.

Per CNN, Kasich has signed a bill for his home state of Ohio that will block an estimated one million in funding to Planned Parenthood because they perform abortion services. The bill doesn’t take into account that Planned Parenthood also provides health services for women including testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, health screenings and domestic violence prevention.

Planned Parenthood is not the only provider affected, any nonprofit clinic that offers abortion services will also be barred from funding. But the tactic does fall in step with the Republican effort to target Planned Parenthood following the faked videos by anti-abortionist activist David Daleiden who intended to prove the organization illegally sells fetal body parts. He has since admitted the video was a fraud in his own convoluted way. For him, the ends justified the means.

Bernie In Seattle; Let Him Speak, Speech Bullies

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I was disappointed to see that Bernie Sanders had his speaking time taken away from him in Washington State by the Black Lives Matters crowd, Seattle division, at Westlake Park. I’m not sure I would vote for him or agree with all his proposals (free stuff is often too good to be true), but it was his turn to speak and, with the exception of Trump (whether you like his buffoonish comments or not), he seems to speak his mind. Plus, if anyone is going to be open to the demands of Black Lives Matter it’s going to be him. By interrupting him, I believe the black women who took over the stage were working against their best interests and the best interests of the African American community who want these issues to continue to be addressed by the next president.

Politics  is about compromise and negotiation (and bribery doesn’t hurt either) and forcing Bernie and the crowd to listen to an unscheduled speech plus demanding a moment of silence for Michael Brown was censorship and insincerity  (the social issue was more important than the actual death, it’s like forcing people to pray because they happen to be at church). Remember, they refused to let Bernie speak while grabbing the mic away from him, it wasn’t a shout-out prior to him taking the stage or a request to debate him. And Bernie’s camp finally capitulated instead of forcing these protesters off the stage (considering the situation, it might have been detrimental to his campaign to have that scene on video).

Plus, if we’re going to give 4.5 minutes of silence to Michael Brown, what about the other black victims of police brutality they forgot? Should we be forced to spend hours in moments of silence? And what about the nonblack victims, including other races, gender or the LGBT community? Do they get to grab the mic from Bernie too or any politician scheduled to speak? Right, Bernie is such a big liberal bigot that he didn’t ask the police to remove the speech bullies–because they knew he wouldn’t. All they did was pick on the nice guy who had the most to lose from this situation if he did kick them off. They picked on the most left leaning politician in the two-party presidential race?

Yes, black lives matter and, yes, police brutality is an important issue–which is making great strides this year in awareness and action. It’s great to see! But it’s not the only issue the country is facing and you don’t get to grab the mic away from potential presidents we want to hear to give your own speech. Your issue–even an important one–doesn’t entitle you to someone else’s platform. Create your own damn forum. The black women interpreted the booing from what was apparently a majority white “liberal” audience as racist instead of what was obvious frustration with not being able to hear the speaker they came to listen to (and Seattle traffic is a bitch to get through to go to any event!). If a gay white man grabbed the mic at a Black Lives Matter “official” speaking event (or any black speaking event) to protest how the gay community is still demonized by the overall black community then I suppose he could call the primarily black audience a bunch of homophobic bigots for hissing at his interruption.

I embrace protesting, I embrace free speech even when it’s thrust in my face downtown. But this was childish behavior. I’m tired of leftist speech bullies.