The Battle Against Violent Video Games Continues

It’s amusing to see the continuing battle cries of politicians against violent video games as if they are saving the nation’s children. A nice biased article in favor of the gaming industry with updates on the issue  can be found on MSNBC.com by Winda Benedetti called “Fight over violent video games far from over.” That’s why I called my post title “The Battle Against Violent Video Games Continues.” See it’s sort of a pun on violence and, oh, never mind.

The important part of the article is that this past Monday, June 27th, the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional “a California law that would have criminalized the sale of violent video games to children.” Now parents reading this will say what’s wrong with that, but it has to do with freedom of speech and the freedom of the gaming industry to do its own ratings and regulation. Similar to the MPAA for movies, video games have their own age appropriate categories and store owners for the most part will not sell mature games to younger kids. It’s usually not a moral issue per se, but a good business decision as most game stores do not want angry parents coming after them.

To show you why it is necessary to leave the government out of the violent video games regulation and ratings arena consider California Congressman Joe Baca’s insistence on what it would amount to. He would mandate a cigarette style label on the games “citing the health risks of excessive exposure to violent media.” In other words, he is insisting that game makers place “bad science” on a label to possibly deter purchases and punish those games that he deems unsuitable. There is no solid evidence of “health risk” beyond the obvious problem of kids sitting around too much and not getting enough exercise. As I have noted on Freethunk before, violence–real violence–is decreasing even as fantasy violence becomes more vivid with CGI graphics. No moral guardian of the state wants to admit that possibly the increase in violent entertainment either has a correlation with a decrease in real violence or that it is a reflection of a decrease in real violence. They always like to say violent video games cause aggression…as if that doesn’t happen in sports and other activities where kids get excited and roughhouse.

The health risks are just bullshit. Again, much like anti-porn arguments trying to link sexually explicit material to rape, the average kid who plays violent video games is not out killing other members of society. It is all pretend, as simple as cowboys and indians play fighting. This is nothing more than the “new scare” much like violent comic books, satanic metal music and horror movies.

The irony is that it is not Republicans who are at the forefront of this “fight” against perceived threats to children. You would think so considering the emphasis on family values and the decrying of unwholesome entertainment. Those who want to regulate entertainment seem to be primarily Democrats. In the past it was Al Gore’s wife Tipper and the PMRC against evil metal and rap music. Now it is Congressman Joe Baca and Senator Leland Yee, two more Democrats from California. That should give pause since these two should be spending their time dealing with California’s economy instead of trying to censor video games. Politicians love to be the moral authority, especially where it is not needed.

The author of the MSNBC article provides a good overview of the current situation. Gamers are fighting back and telling politicians to mind their own business. The economy is in the shit, get to work on that instead.

SIDENOTE: Why do I harp on this issue of censoring/state regulating violent video games? Because it means politicians are shirking their duties and making a show of moral superiority. Don’t get suckered. It takes more brains and effort and sometimes even moral guts to solve issues of poverty, loss of jobs and education than going after an easy target like fantasy violence. When politicians can solve the real problems first then maybe they’ve earned the right to question the fantasies we indulge in such as chopping off the head of a demon warlord.

Joe Dixon’s Atheist Bible Study, He Can Preach!

When I first started cartooning online back in 2000 I was mainly aware of Infidel Guy and his radio show. Since then we’ve seen numerous atheist and other freethinking podcasts and with YouTube atheists really started to take advantage of the video medium to create their arguments. A lot of it has been questionably bad, but then that’s YouTube in general. The trick is to find the bright spots. I found one in Joe Dixon, a persistent atheist teacher of the Bible with 61 episodes. There’s nothing unusual about the format, it’s the familiar monologue we’ve seen numerous times, but Joe has “personality.”

I watched episode 60 after finding it on The Good Atheist website and I really didn’t know what to make of it until he got going and when he does he is talking fast, preaching the word and bringing to life his version of gospel events with angels talking and other Biblical characters having their say. It’s like an improv comedy routine that’s hard to describe because Joe is just Joe talking away and he has plenty to say. I don’t think these are scripted, maybe a few notes, but when he takes off he really draws you in.

I guess what I’m saying is, that while I like the more laid back intellectual approach of certain podcasts and Youtube atheist apologetics, it’s nice to see such an overwhelmingly strong personality. With some more show development, better production values and possibly even some occasional guests or a sidekick to verbally joust with I think Joe Dixon could take it to the next level. Because his vibrant, confident personality makes you feel “less crazy” about being an atheist yourself–which is the theme at Freethunk.

He breaks down how twisted and stupid many of the Biblical scenarios are compared to how we’ve been brought up to see the Bible as respectable and true. This is usually because when you see depictions of Bible stories in books or film they’re basking in holy light and there’s the choir music and it gives validity to what’s being shown, no matter how ridiculous. The same is true of how well known TV and megachurch preachers spin these stories, usually with a message to relate them to our lives.  Joe Dixon shatters all those illusions and if he weren’t an atheist I would expect to see him in front of a pulpit. He can really work up a good story into a frenzy and it ain’t the Holy Ghost (as many preachers attribute their speaking abilities to).

Okay, maybe he has a ways to go before the show meets a professional level, but if you haven’t already checked him out I would recommend it. There’s definite potential going on here and it’s a good way to review the Bible just for the hell of it. Plus you can have a drink with him since he tries a new “adult beverage” for every show. In particular, and I don’t mean to play the race card (but I will), if you have black friends who are heavy church-goers send them his YouTube link. I remember being trapped at a lunch table once with 3 very nice African American Women I worked with–and me the white guy atheist.  When the subject of how “mean” online atheists are came up I said, “Well, not all of them. I’m an atheist and I’m nice.” I was looked at as a charity case (kind of patronizing even though they meant well). We need Joe Dixon to preach the atheist word, brother!

SIDENOTE: I love the bow tie on Joe. I know he has to take it off when it gets hot, but it adds a lot of character and “flair” to his Bible study.

Morgan Freeman Believes in a Sixth Sense

Morgan Freeman is again hosting Through the Wormhole, now in its second season. It is a series that explores the questions of the universe and the first series was filled with wonder at the possibilities of what Science may find next. It’s highly recommend, but I was reading an article on The Huffington Post that Morgan Freeman believes in a sixth sense. Here’s the quote:

“I think we do,” have a sixth sense, he says. “I think it’s been proven a number of times that, you know, you’re in a crowded room and you look around and you’re looking into someone’s eye and [you know what they’re thinking]. We know that thoughts are energy, they create an energy and they can be directed. You go off into an empty house, you can tell it’s empty before you get there.”

From a skeptical perspective, I don’t think a sixth sense is proven at all. We are good at guessing what someone might be thinking by reading them, their body language or what they say in a conversation. It’s what a mentalist does and we sell ourselves short because I believe we all have some of those abilities. To say that your brain is somehow grabbing on to a thought as if it is energy just floating detached from someone else’s brain? That’s nonsense. Or that we can direct thoughts into someone’s brain? More nonsense. And I thought energy could not be created or destroyed unless there are new findings?  The process of thinking may involve energy as it is a physical process, but the energy itself doesn’t house the idea.

Thoughts do not exist independent of a physical device as far as I’m aware. An idea has to be stored, whether  it is recorded in a brain, written down on a piece of paper or placed on audio or video media. The storage is waiting for the idea to be transferred (you read a book for example) but not through free-floating energy–which is to suggest psychic phenomena or reading minds. You can’t shoot an idea to someone else mentally without talking or communicating in some manner. Otherwise, why wouldn’t Freeman transmit this entire show series to us using his directed thoughts and dispense with airing it on a communication platform called TV (would be pretty cool, huh?)

Freeman’s quote about knowing if a house is empty before entering it, I don’t know what the hell he’s talking about? If this is true, it would help a lot of people out to avoid being attacked by criminals hiding in the dark or women who have been raped thinking no one was in their apartment. We don’t know if a house is empty or not before going in. We’re guessing and most of the time if a house feels empty it is because we don’t hear anyone or see lights on. Again, we’re reading the situation to the best of our knowledge. Statistically speaking, we’re right a large percentage of the time.

Freeman is involved with an incredibly unique series. Is there something I’m missing on thought energy or the science thereof? I’m sure there is, I’m no expert.  I just don’t think it’s the old mysticism of a sixth sense.

The second series is taking on subjects not usually presented as something for science enthusiasts such as The AfterLife. Is there a soul, an energy that survives the body? The trailer suggests that the series has run out of ideas concerning real wonders of science and therefore is going into pseudoscience. I hope that’s not the case.

SIDENOTE: I know my evalution of thoughts and energy is very crude and I’m sure someone with a scientific background, even a philosophy background, could do a better job. But I think it’s rather simple. An idea is recorded, it doesn’t float freely as a thing in of itself out in space waiting to transfer into someone’s head. An idea can actually be lost because of this.

SIDENOTE 2: I admittedly did not see every episode of Season One. Maybe they were already going into a direction of pseudoscience and I missed the episode that did it? I will have to pick up the series and rewatch it.

Draw Muhammad Day, Friendly Atheist Selections

Quick news bite here. If you like looking at different versions of Mohammed then take a look at the submissions to The Friendly Atheist website. It’s similar to seeing a big fridge covered in drawings.

Per Hemant, The Friendly Atheist, “Why should we draw Muhammad? Because Muslims say we can’t. ” That may sound simple but it is. Another way to put it is that Muslims don’t own free speech concerning their own religion. They may think it is offensive to draw their holy man, but nonMuslims do not. In a free society we are allowed to do this and show what  a ridiculous rule that is, made all the more ridiculous with the violence that has been involved over Mohammed cartoons in general.

In particular, I liked the Mohammed images displaying the peace sign. It’s a satirical jab, but all we’re saying is enough, guys. It’s not necessary to get so upset about a line drawing. Even if it is determined to be wrong, it is more wrong to use physical violence to protest.

Hemant says, “Feel free to spread them around as you wish” so grab the ones you like and Facebook them, blog ’em, or whatever you do online. I thought this one below was a nice graphic.

The Friendly Atheist Raises Money for Vandalized Church

It’s pretty impressive to see what Hemant Mehta, known as The Friendly Atheist, has done with his public relation efforts and charitable giving (not to mention PZ Meyers). He really means it when he says he’s “The Friendly Atheist” and was disgusted like many atheists were to see someone spray painting FSM on two church buildings in Oregon. FSM, if you don’t know, stands for Flying Spaghetti Monster and is meant to be a satirical god of sorts parodying religion in general. It’s pretty well known within the atheist community. Why anyone would think it is cool to do that I don’t know? It shows immaturity. The majority of atheists I know encourage satire, activism, forum discussion and even some heated debate, but not destruction of property.

So Hemant Mehta “stepped up to the plate” as the Fox News anchor suggested and raised $3000 towards cleaning up the tagging. Pastor John Bluebaugh got it right when he said there are nonfriendly atheists and there are nonfriendly Christians, but in this case friendly people of belief and nonbelief rose above that nonsense. For Hemant, it was not so much about donating to the church, it was about righting a wrong.

Hemant did get the last word in on the Fox story saying that there is not a need for Jesus in order to be good and his website and the people who donated to the cause are proof of that. I think Christians are realizing this more and more and getting back to their theological roots that being good doesn’t make you saved, belief in Christ does (does depend on what sect you are though). Therefore, the moral argument continues to fail if there is no difference between the goodness of believers and the goodness of nonbelievers. If you want to argue moral authority–well, that’s where the “heated debate” comes in. All in good fun.

I’m glad to see that there was no bitterness on the part of Pastor John Bluebaugh. He could have taken advantage of the situation due to FSM being in the tagging, but he was a better man for not going there. I hope atheists can find areas to compromise and concede where necessary too. Hemant is setting the bar for media relations between atheists and believers. It doesn’t mean both atheists and Christians should shy away from criticism of each other–perish the thought–but it does mean when a line is crossed we make it right. It’s the same reason a majority of Christians disapprove of Westboro Church and their God Hates Fags campaign–a line has been crossed. Our society’s moral progress sometimes seems slow but we’re getting there…