You Know What’s Funny?

Mrrrf. [That’s a grunt. A disgruntled grunt. I put the “grunt” in disgruntled.]

 “I finally found where I belong…”

I feel like I have failed you, my reader(s). I feel like a bum of a father who left his wife, and now only comes out to see the kids every couple of months and then wonders why they don’t get more excited to see him when he does show up, and then gets discouraged and comes even less frequently, and the horrible cycle keeps spiraling until finally he’s sitting in a bar in Galveston, Texas crying softly to himself because he’s now 52, and he hasn’t seen his kids for six years, and they don’t want to see him because they think of him as the guy who abandoned them and their mother (which is, of course, not really fair, because they only have their mother’s side of the story, and she neglects to tell them that the divorce was her idea and that he was actually pretty cool about it), and the bartender won’t even come over to try to cheer him up because he does this at least once a week, and it’s getting kind of old, but he could just really use a friend…

That’s sort of how I feel. You, know… about how I haven’t been writing much here.  So… sorry.

I had an interesting conversation the other day. Or rather, I sat there while two of my friends wouldn’t let me get a word in edge-wise in a conversation.  The question at hand was whether, when looked at honestly, the Muslim faith is more homophobic/sexist than the Christian faith.

The answer to that question may seem obvious to you- it may not.  I sat there and listened to my friends battle it out, one on the side of Muslims being more horrible, the other saying it was Christians, and I realized- I really just hate religion.

This may seem obvious coming from a guy who writes an atheist-themed blog, but it shouldn’t.  First off- as I’ve stated before, atheism is not a belief system. There is no set dogma with which you can paint atheists. As a matter of fact, the only thing that all atheists can be said to share is an uncontrollable urge to swear loudly in somebody’s church.

HA! I’m kidding, of course! I’m sure the swearing in church impulse is shared by fewer than nine-thenths of atheists… No, the only common thread that all atheists share is that they don’t have a belief in a specific god. That’s it. Aside from that single lack-of-a-belief, there is nothing that groups us.  Which is why it shouldn’t seem obvious that I dislike religion.  There are plenty of atheists who like religion.  There are actually quite a few who love religion, and wish they could be a part of one.  But they can’t. Because they’re atheist. And they don’t want to be Unitarian.

My point, if I have one, is that the more I look at religion (and yes, I include your religion in this, even though you feel you have several very compelling arguments which clearly demonstrate how much better your religion is than everybody else’s), the more I see how destructive, or at very least counter-productive, religion is.

I’m not talking macro here, though I think it’s pretty easy to make the argument that religions are frequently destructive on a societal level.  I’m thinking here on a micro-scale.  Inside the individual believer.  Psychologically/intellectually.  Religion, without exception, stunts people’s growth. In several ways. In my view. Which I will tell you about. In the next paragraph. Here it is:

First, there’s a fundamental problem with thinking you have the answer to an unanswerable question.  The second you buy in to a system of belief about the way the universe works, you stop looking. And why not? If you have the answer, you no longer need to ask the question.  It’s like continuing to look for your keys after you’ve found them- doesn’t make sense.

The obvious problem with this is that your answer is not only unsupported by any evidence, but is often in direct conflict with what observable facts we do have. That doesn’t make it wrong, but it certainly places a pretty heavy burden of proof on you if you want anybody else to take you seriously. But that’s not what most religious folks think.  Most religious folks feel perfectly free to pronounce their firmly held views with impunity, and get horribly upset if anyone calls them to logical account.  More than that, though, what worries me is that they turn off their brains.  They know the truth, so they don’t have to listen to anybody else.  Anyone who thinks differently is wrong and can just be dismissed.

That brings me to my second point. Religious people are WAY too easy to manipulate. Critical thinking is a skill that must be practiced, and when you’ve turned it off for long enough (or never been trained to use it in the first place), you become very vulnerable to flawed arguments. Couple that with the fact that most religious folks point to some external figure to whom is owed deference and often even obedience.  From popes to bishops to priests to pastors to ministers to imams to rabbis to clerics– everyone in a dogmatic religion has someone that they are used to listening to as some some type of authority.

This sets up a parent-child dynamic, where congregations are asked to submit to the preaching of this authority figure, and are shunned and scolded if they stray from that. Once an adult subjugates his/her intelligence to the preaching of some other person, they’re in dangerous headspace.

Frankly, could there be a better recipe for a dupe than someone who is used to willingly submitting to the will of others, who has also allowed their reason and skepticism to atrophy? Well, other than, you know, like a bunch of robots, or a clone army, or Canadians, or whatever…

Grieving Without God

Howdy y'all! I thought I'd interrupt the flow of podcast notes with an actual blog post! How 'bout that!

The impetus for this increasingly rare occurrence ("Captain! We've spotted a wild blog-post!" "Arr… this be a glorious day") is that I recently went out for a beer with a friend. Well, ok… that, in and of itself is not that interesting, I know. But we had a lovely conversation, and it touched on some juicy stuff, and I thought I'd share.

Our little chat meandered through all sorts of topics, and included several interruptions by a very outgoing drunk young man who turned out to have a wealth of "Jesus" jokes

Get it? 
"Cause she heard he was hung like this!"

(What's the difference between Jesus and a hooker? The face they make when you nail 'em! *Rimshot*).

Anyhoo, the conversation eventually rolled around to the fact that my dad just passed away, and his dad is currently in the process of dying of cancer.

We were talking about how difficult and unfair a position it is to be the only atheist in a grieving family situation. Here's the thing: in our society, a believer can feel free to speak about their belief with absolute impunity.  Even if they know that there is someone in the room who doesn't believe as they do, they can spout their nonsense as though it's undisputed fact, with no worry of refutation.

Why? Because it's completely unacceptable to say anything about it. Ironically, turning the tables– that is, an atheist making an unqualified statement of his or her belief in the same situation– is also completely unacceptable. Hell, it's downright offensive. It's hurtful. How dare you.

Por ejemplo:

Situation- A family mourns the impending death of a beloved patriarch.

Mom: I just feel so comforted to know that he'll be safe in Jesus' arms in the next life.

Sister: I honestly believe that if we pray earnestly enough, God will help dad. I don't care what the doctors say, miracles happen every day, you know.

Uncle: We're all so blessed to be going through this with him.

Atheist Son: I have to say- while, as someone who doesn't believe in God, I obviously don't take comfort in any of those thoughts, I do think there's comfort in just being here with each other and expressing our feelings. I guess my take is that dad's a mammal, and mammals get cancer, and medical science hasn't figured out how to stop it yet. We know he's going to die soon, and regardless of what you believe happens after death, none of us will have the pleasure of his company ever again in this life, and that's really hard to deal with. But I think we'll all be a lot better off if we just face that fact bravely, band together as a family, and seek whatever additional help we may need in processing our feelings.

Mom: [begins to cry] Why would you say that? Why do you hate us so?

Uncle: You ought to be ashamed of yourself. How could you treat your mother that way?

Sister: I'm going to pray for you, you monster.

Fin.

 This was not actually my dad's funeral...
 Can you spot the atheist being nice?

My chat with my buddy ended with him feeling comforted by my reminding him that the death of a loved one entails really just one or two tough days of smiling and nodding and biting his tongue, and then life just sorta goes on. At least that's how it was for me.

But it still kinda sucks, you know?  To be the one who's grieving, and still have to politely put up with people inanely preaching their "comforting" nonsense to you without even checking in to see if it might not, in point of fact, be a belief you share. I actually found much of the admittedly well-intentioned proffered solace kind of disturbing. Even if I believed that my pop was happily in heaven now, that doesn't change the fact that I have to do without him. That's what I'm dealing with right now. That's the reality of mourning- everything else is just distraction. The cosmological questions can wait.

To say nothing of the downright rudeness and judgment that hides behind religion in these situations. How is it ok for someone to come up to me after a funeral and with as much passive-aggression as she can muster, ask me "Now why did you have him cremated?". See, she's Mormon, and Mormons frown on cremation. "Well gosh, lady… I didn't realize that these deeply personal choices were ANY OF YOUR FUCKING BUSINESS!" … I wanted to say… Instead I smiled gently and said something about it being what dad wanted.

That isn't true, by the way. What dad really wanted was for us to take his body and dump it in the wilderness for the wolves and coyotes. Maybe I should've told her that.

Announcing… PODCAST!

tgia-podcast-large.jpg

TGIA HAS A PODCAST! WOOHOO!

Isn’t that FUN? It’s me (Dan) and fellow non-believer Frank opining away about current events and livin’ la vida ateo…

So, if you want to listen, you can stream it from our web site, or scoot on over to here, or (recommended) go to iTunes and type “Thank God I’m Atheist” into the search bar. Then click “subscribe”, and sounds of joy and jubilation will spring forth from your computer, and choirs of angels will sing, and confetti and balloons will drop from your ceiling, and the lion shall lie down with the lamb, and all will be well in the Universe. Thus sayeth the Lord. And by Lord, I mean me. And I could be lying….

The Search For Meaning (and other stupid human compulsions)

Meaning.

I really shouldn't own photoshop... 
 ????

The search for meaning is the stupidest, most meaningless (see what I did there?) endeavor in the universe (unless you count The Amazing Race). I blame farmers.  Farms gave humans enough food that they weren't using every minute of every day trying to find some way to stave off hunger.  That meant that they had time to think. And talk to each other philosophically. And THAT, my friends, was the beginning of the search for meaning.

"My mother's hut was on fire- what does that mean?"

"My hair is falling out- what does that mean?"

"That french phrase you just said- what does that mean?"

It's all a worthless pursuit.  And yet we humans are compelled to pursue it. Doggedly. Religiously.

Is a life without any over-arching meaning really so horrible? If nothing actually means anything, are we any worse off? I look at my life (such as it is), and I can see nothing cosmically significant about it. Sure, I have an effect on the world in the arbitrary "butterfly effect" sense. My actions have ripples of consequence that, I'm sure, could be quite important somehow, but nothing that would change anything in any "meaningful" sort of way.

What kind of consequence? What's a "butterfly effect"? Well, dear reader, I guess I'm thinking of the kind of action/reaction sequence that follows small, seemingly inconsequential doings as they cause larger and larger repercussions, until some grand thing has resulted. Por ejemplo (and I want to be clear that this is totally hypothetical):

I choose to write some claptrap on this dumb website, and some poor schlub reads it. The schlub, then despondent that so much of his or her time has been wasted, grumps at their co-worker who, until that moment was having a pretty good week. That co-worker, now quite annoyed, decides to channel that annoyance into writing a particularly scathing review of Bill O'Reilly's Those Who Trespass: A Novel of Television and Murder.

Take THAT, Billo! 
 Don't read this book

This review, (which, let's be honest, was more motivated by a hatred of the author's politics than his "clunky prose") is so clever in its snark, that several popular blogs reproduce it, and it goes viral. This delights Mr O'Reilly, who knows that any publicity is good publicity, but manages to positively infuriate one Ronald J. Lupinski, a middle-aged ex marine living in Florence, KY. Ronald (Ronny to his coworkers at the "Steak and Shake" off Houston Road), who loved the book, decides he's fed up with all the damned liberals thinking they're so much smarter than everybody else, and is finally ready to do something about it. So he drives his beat-up Ford Festiva across the river into Cincinnati, OH (which he has always thought was way too "uppity" a city), and plants the bomb that he believes will knock some sense into the liberal media, at the building that houses local ABC affiliate WCPO, Channel 9 ("WCPO: On Your Side").

With the bomb he leaves a note, outlining his political views, his reasoning behind the bombing, and his absolute hatred for WCPO's anchor man, Clyde Gray. Ronny's triumphant excitement as he drives away, however, is interrupted by his realization that nobody will be able to read his note if the bomb blows it up. Panicked, he grabs his cell phone and calls the station telling them that somebody should go read that note, and maybe broadcast it, before it's too late. This, of course leads to the calling of police, and the deployment of the bomb squad, who, after four hours of extremely careful work, realize that the "bomb" amounts to little more than a gym bag full of gasoline cans and a crude (and, it turns out, ineffective) timing device meant to cause a spark at exactly 11:00 PM, the moment when Clyde Gray gives his cloyingly cheerful greeting for the nightly news.

Mr. Lupinski is subsequently arrested and quickly imprisoned. His note, entitled "You Are All Hores [sic] And Deserves [sic] To Die" is published by the station, and itself goes viral. Becoming both a leftist anti-violence rallying cry and internet humor meme rivaling "all your base are belong to us," "you are all hores and deserves to die" takes off as a popular catchphrase. 

The End.

So now you can see how one innocent little post on a blog can lead to a popular internet catchphrase. Or… I mean… I suppose there are less roundabout ways that could happen, too… but… um…. What point was I trying to illustrate? The butterfly effect? Why the hell was I on about the butterfly effect? Jesus, now I have to go back and check what the hell I was trying to say in the first place… Hang on…

MEANING? I started this whole rant as a "there is no meaning" thing? How the hell did I get that off track? You see?! This is what happens when I just let my mind run free and write without paying any attention to what I'm trying to say! Just writing for my own enjoyment, with no worrying about making any sort of real statement. 

Gibberish! 

I kind of like it. 

 

Mormons Are Liars, But Not In A Fun Way

So, a few weekends from now there will be a big deal in Salt Lake City. Every Spring and Fall, the LDS church (ya know, the Mormons) have their "General Conference", and people come from around the world to attend. For two weekends a year, downtown SLC is awash with white dress shirts and floral patterned dresses. And bad shoes. Always and consistently– the true hallmark of Mormonism– really bad shoes.

 The great and spacious building
 "Is that Joel Osteen?" "Shut up."

If you've never experienced the Mormon General Conference, please, allow me to set the stage:  Imagine a huge room, tastefully decorated in warm wood tones and understated but classy decor.  In it, 20,000 faithful members sit in quiet decorum as the top leaders of their religion impart messages of scripture and doctrzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz… Oops. Sorry. Dozed off for a moment there.  As I was saying, the "brethren" give heart-felt talks about how to live better livzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…  

What? Huh? Oh… sorry. What was I saying? Oh yeah- I was saying that General Conference is TORTUROUSLY BORING! It's old men in dark business suits intoning the same old recycled messages year after year after year after year after year….  If you're used to Catholic or Anglican church (or the like), just imagine if the "sermon" part of the service (as opposed to the stand-up-sit-down, recite, recite, recite part of the service) lasted much, MUCH longer and was given by someone who never formally studied theology or public speaking, but just had to pick it up as they went along. So they all just mimic each other, with the effect being that there is a distinctive "General Conference" cadence.  A drone that is absolutely unique to this event, and is instantly recognizable to Mormons the world over. Mormons who, sadly, are expected to watch and/or listen to this miserable broadcast semi-anually (can't we do something to help these poor people???).

 
 Look-they even bore themselves!

You may ask yourself, if G.C. is so boring, what's to keep members paying attention? If they've heard the messages before, why don't they all just glaze over and go to their happy-place for two hours? First- you should know that most Mo's will tell you that Conference is their happy place. They will say this because they get the glorious opportunity to hear their god's message through his appointed representatives here on Earth. They will tell you that Conference is a special time, because they feel "the spirit." They will tell you how much they LOVE conference.  They are liars.

NOBODY can love that drivel! It's awful! However… people can so muddle their own brains that they can convince themselves that they love it. When I say that the "conference lovers" are lying, I don't think they mean to purposefully deceive you or me. I mean that they are constantly and completely lying to themselves. It's fascinating. I've even tried confronting some of my hard-core Mormon friends about the lie that they love conference. The mental twists and turns that they've had to navigate to convince themselves that conference is even tolerable is far too thick a maze to ever penetrate with logic.

I'll say something like "But at it's core, he's saying EXACTLY the same thing they always say, just with a different [made up] "inspirational" story to illustrate the point."

Then they'll say something like "Yes, but the story was so beautiful, and it's always good to be reminded of god's love/forgiveness/laws…"

Then I'll say "Yeah, but… it was… such a long talk, and not particularly well written…"

Then, they won't say anything, because they're too absorbed in feeling sad about how I'm not going to be with them in Heaven, but I have free agency, and I make my own decisions, so I'm bringing it on myself, and why would I be trying to make them feel bad about the church, anyway, when it brings them so much happiness, but that's Satan's way of luring people away from god, and it's really sad that Satan has such a hold on me, but maybe there's a way that they can bring me back into the fold if they just can be a good enough example and show me how happy the gospel of god has made them…. Then their eyes glaze over and their mouths freeze in an awkward (and frequently Prozac-enhanced) half-smile. That's when the conversation is over.

It's tricky inside a Mormon brain. 

Anyhoo- if you want to see this phenomenon for yourself, you can come to downtown SLC this April or October and wander among the flock. Just mind that you don't get stepped on- those shoes are DEADLY!

Atheists Really Know Their Religion

This morning, a couple of my Facebook friends posted a quiz they'd taken on their walls.  That's usual. As you know, dear internet savvy reader, people take stupid quizzes on FB all the time. How else are they going to know which 19th Century novel heroine they most resemble or how well they would fare in a zombie attack? Or this?

This quiz was different, though. It wasn't from Facebook.  It was from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. It's called the U.S. Religious Knowledge Quiz (you can take it yourself here). Its goal is simply to test basic knowledge of the world's major religions (and, apparently, Mormonism… What, Pew guys, nothing about the "Society of Friends"?). 

I, of course, immediately took the quiz and, not surprisingly for someone who occasionally writes a religion-themed blog, I aced it (honestly, I guessed on the last one…).  Actually, I spent most of the quiz asking myself how anyone who had any religious history at all in the U.S. could get any of the questions wrong (except, as I mentioned, that last one… guess I should bone-up on my "preachers of the First Great Awakening"…).  But then, nobody lately has accused Americans of being over-educated. 

Things became more interesting when I looked at the analysis of the results (which you can find here)(I'm using an awful lot of parentheses in this post). As it turns out, "religion bloggers" is not one of the categories of people who were rated for accuracy on the test.  Atheists and agnostics, however, were.  And they really knew their stuff!  

Take THAT, "Nothing in Particular"s! 
 Just like white folks- to "mainline" Protestantism

This chart, which I simply stole from their website, 'cause that's easier than typing out the results myself, shows something I've often suspected: Hispanic Catholics don't know shit about religion! HA HA… I kid, of course. Actually, I honestly would've thought Hispanic Catholics would be closer to the top.  They seem like such churchy people. Do you think there was a language barrier? But I digress…

No, what I suspected is that atheists (American atheists, anyway) are more knowledgeable about world religions than the people who practice them.  It makes sense to me that this is the case. Many American atheists were raised in one religion or another. That means two things: A) They learned about at least that one religion pretty well, and B) they probably went through some sort of process of intellectual examination of that and other religions.  People who believe in a religion all the way turn off their critical eye.  They no longer look honestly at their beliefs, they just skip blindly down the path that's been laid out for them (and let's face it- if you feel like somebody's given you the combination to the "eternal glory" safe, you don't want to rock the boat)

I suppose that one possible interpretation of these results would be that the more you know about religion, the less likely you are to want to be a part of it.  While that seems likely to be the case to me, I don't think that you can come to that conclusion just from these little statistics.  It's a fun thought, though.

Anyhoo- just thought I'd make you aware of this.  We'll bring you new developments as they come…  Or whatever.

Fox Vs. Real Journalism

When Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled today that California’s infamous Proposition 8 was unconstitutional, I was thrilled.  It seems perfectly obvious that the measure has absolutely no constitutional basis and clearly violates the “equal protection” clause of the 14th amendment.  Also- I’m a fan of fairness.  And I’m a fan of not letting one group’s religious beliefs become the basis for the laws of a land that’s supposed to be inclusive of all…

Anyway, I was so excited that I read every article I could about it.  I went to all sorts of news outlets to see who was reporting what tidbits.  I really wanted to know everything I could about this decision.  That thirst for knowledge led me to a place I hate to go.  A dark, evil place that trades more in lies, half-truths and propaganda than news.  A place that revels in hatred, bigotry and mean-spiritedness, and does it all under the banner of Jesus.  As you’ve no doubt guessed, the place I’m talking about is… Taco Bell.

I’m kidding, of course; it was FOXNews.  I gotta say: it really does hurt me every time I venture onto that stupid site.  I keep thinking, “I’m going to give them a fair shake this time.  Maybe it’s my bias that’s the problem.  Maybe they’ll just report the news without putting some obviously hateful spin on it.”  I’m wrong.  Every fucking time.

When I started reading their coverage of the Prop 8 decision, the first thing I noticed was that they misspelled the judge’s name.  I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that it was just an unintentional typo, but one can’t help believing that Freud would have something to say about what was happening in the sub-conscious of the person who made that mistake (not to mention the editor who, I presume, reviewed it), especially considering the fact that at least one spell-check (Microsoft Word) catches the mistake.

The second thing I noticed was that this was the first article I had seen about the case that mentioned that judge Williams was openly gay.  Now I had not heard that before, and even though I don’t think anyone can honestly argue that it necessarily affects the case in any meaningful way (all judges have real lives, and therefore have personal points of view on various topics…), it still seems like it might be relevant to the case.  Then again, if the judge had been a fundamentalist Christian, I’m sure the right would’ve voiced their extreme disappointment if anyone had tried to make hay of that fact, so maybe it’s not so fair… I’m not a journalist- I don’t know where that line should be drawn. 

The third thing I noticed was that I had read this before!  About halfway through, I suddenly started to recognize the verbiage I was seeing.  I was very confused.  Had FOXNews (love the inter-cap logo!) been plagiarizing?  Why hadn’t I noticed it earlier?  I zipped up to the beginning of the article to see the by-line.  There was none!  “That’s weird,” I thought.  Then I read to the bottom, and saw this quote:

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contributed, eh?  I went back and found the AP article I had read earlier.  It had, indeed, “contributed”. Which is to say that FOX had taken the article, used about 70% of it as it stood, but altered and added to it enough to make sure that patented FOXSpin was firmly in place

I’ll include the articles in their entirety later, but here are the differences.  You can decide for yourself it they constitute just a different, yet still journalistically valid, take on the story, or if they are tweaking it to engender a specific and biased reaction (hint: it’s the second one):

1st paragraph—

Original AP article:

A federal judge overturned California's same-sex marriage ban Wednesday in a landmark case that could eventually land before the U.S. Supreme Court to decide if gays have a constitutional right to marry in America.

FOXNews:

A federal judge on Wednesday overturned a California ban on same-sex marriage, ruling that the Proposition 8 ballot initiative was unconstitutional.

Ok, FOX went for brevity here.  It could be argued that they just wanted a quicker, catchier opening.  That argument, of course, is stupid when you see what was eliminated.  They cut the word “landmark,” and the reference to the

Supreme Court, which diminishes the perceived importance of the ruling.  FOX also made sure their wording did not include the phrase indicating marriage might be a “right” for gays.

2nd paragraph—

AP:

Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker made his ruling in a lawsuit filed by two gay couples who claimed the voter-approved ban violated their civil rights.

FOX:

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Vaugh [sic] Walker, one of three openly gay federal judges in the country, gave opponents of the controversial Proposition 8 ballot a major victory.

FOX obviously inserts the bit about judge Walker’s sexuality here, but also eliminates the phrase “civil rights,” and takes away the image of the “two gay couples” who filed the suit.  They instead label the plaintiffs in the case “opponents,” giving them an obviously negative feel.

Now FOXNews adds their own paragraph which is best compared to the 11th and 12th paragraphs of the AP article—

AP:

Former U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson delivered the closing argument for opponents of the ban. He told Judge Walker that tradition or fears of harm to heterosexual unions were legally insufficient grounds to discriminate against gay couples.

Olson teamed up with David Boies to argue the case, bringing together the two litigators best known for representing George W. Bush and Al Gore in the disputed 2000 election.

FOX:

It was also a victory for former U.S. Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson and attorney David Boies, who represented opposing sides in 2000 Bush v. Gore presidential election challenge and filed the lawsuit last year in federal court on behalf of two gay men and two gay women who claimed the voter-approved ban violated their civil rights.

I actually prefer FOX’s wording about Olson and Boies going head-to-head in Bush v. Gore.  And LOOK! There’s that phrase about civil rights!  It’s back! But instead of  two couples wanting rights, it’s “two gay men and two gay women.”  These aren’t committed, loving relationships, no! It’s just a random grouping of gay guys and lesbos.

FOX’s paragraphs 4 and 5 are exactly the same as AP’s 3 and 4. Then FOX completely eliminates one of the AP paragraphs—

AP:

"Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples," the judge wrote in a 136-page ruling that laid out in precise detail why the ban does not pass constitutional muster.

Well, gee.  I can’t see how eliminating that paragraph changes the tenor of the story at all…  It’s not like this paragraph contains the most pertinent information in the entire article or anything!  I mean, what does the reasoning behind the judge’s ruling have to do with this story? Especially if it’s succinct and difficult to refute… Moving on.

The next two paragraphs match up again.  Then FOX eliminates another of AP’s tidbits—

AP:

The ruling puts Walker at the forefront of the gay marriage debate. The longtime federal judge was appointed by President Ronald Reagan.

It should first be noted that the AP seems to have gotten this wrong.  Reagan nominated him in 1987, but a bunch of liberals led by Nancy Polosi blocked his appointment, ironically because of his seeming insensitivity to gays, among other things.  He was then successfully appointed by George “daddy” Bush in 1989.  I suppose FOX could claim to have stricken this paragraph because it’s false, but if that were the only reason, they could’ve just replaced it with one that was correct.  The truth is that they HATE the fact that their heroes nominated this guy, and don’t want their readers to suffer any cognitive dissonance due to the fact that someone they’re supposed to hate had the approval of their beloved Reagan and Bush.

The rest of the article is pretty much the same.

Wasn’t that a fun exercise?  We should play “Spot the Spin” more often, don’t you think?  I think so!

Here are the two articles in their entirety:

From the AP–

By LISA LEFF (AP) [Isn't it nice to know that an actual person wrote this?]

SAN FRANCISCO — A federal judge overturned California's same-sex marriage ban Wednesday in a landmark case that could eventually land before the U.S. Supreme Court to decide if gays have a constitutional right to marry in America.

Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker made his ruling in a lawsuit filed by two gay couples who claimed the voter-approved ban violated their civil rights.

Supporters argued the ban was necessary to safeguard the traditional understanding of marriage and to encourage responsible childbearing.

California voters passed the ban as Proposition 8 in November 2008, five months after the state Supreme Court legalized gay marriage.

"Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples," the judge wrote in a 136-page ruling that laid out in precise detail why the ban does not pass constitutional muster.

Both sides previously said an appeal was c

ertain if Walker did not rule in their favor. The case would go first to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, then the Supreme Court if the high court justices agree to review it.

Walker heard 13 days of testimony and arguments since January during the first trial in federal court to examine if states can prohibit gays from getting married.

The ruling puts Walker at the forefront of the gay marriage debate. The longtime federal judge was appointed by President Ronald Reagan.

The verdict was the second in a federal gay marriage case to come down in recent weeks. A federal judge in Massachusetts decided last month the state's legally married gay couples had been wrongly denied the federal financial benefits of marriage because of a law preventing the U.S. government from recognizing same-sex unions.

The plaintiffs in the California case presented 18 witnesses. Academic experts testified about topics ranging from the fitness of gay parents and religious views on homosexuality to the historical meaning of marriage and the political influence of the gay rights movement.

Former U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson delivered the closing argument for opponents of the ban. He told Judge Walker that tradition or fears of harm to heterosexual unions were legally insufficient grounds to discriminate against gay couples.

Olson teamed up with David Boies to argue the case, bringing together the two litigators best known for representing George W. Bush and Al Gore in the disputed 2000 election.

Defense lawyers called just two witnesses, claiming they did not need to present expert testimony because U.S. Supreme Court precedent was on their side. The attorneys also said gay marriage was an experiment with unknown social consequences that should be left to voters to accept or reject.

Former U.S. Justice Department lawyer Charles Cooper, who represented the religious and conservative groups that sponsored the ban, said cultures around the world, previous courts and Congress all accepted the "common sense belief that children do best when they are raised by their own mother and father."

In an unusual move, the original defendants, California Attorney General Jerry Brown and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, refused to support Proposition 8 in court.

That left the work of defending the law to Protect Marriage, the group that successfully sponsored the ballot measure that passed with 52 percent of the vote after the most expensive political campaign on a social issue in U.S. history.

Currently, same-sex couples can only legally wed in Massachusetts, Iowa, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire and Washington, D.C.

 

From FOXNews—

A federal judge on Wednesday overturned a California ban on same-sex marriage, ruling that the Proposition 8 ballot initiative was unconstitutional.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Vaugh Walker, one of three openly gay federal judges in the country, gave opponents of the controversial Proposition 8 ballot a major victory.

It was also a victory for former U.S. Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson and attorney David Boies, who represented opposing sides in 2000 Bush v. Gore presidential election challenge and filed the lawsuit last year in federal court on behalf of two gay men and two gay women who claimed the voter-approved ban violated their civil rights.

Supporters argued the ban was necessary to safeguard the traditional understanding of marriage and to encourage responsible childbearing.

California voters passed the ban as Proposition 8 in November 2008, five months after the state Supreme Court legalized gay marriage.

Both sides previously said an appeal was certain if Walker did not rule in their favor. The case would go first to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, then the Supreme Court if the high court justices agree to review it.

Walker heard 13 days of testimony and arguments since January during the first trial in federal court to examine if states can prohibit gays from getting married.

The verdict was the second in a federal gay marriage case to come down in recent weeks. A federal judge in Massachusetts decided last month the state's legally married gay couples had been wrongly denied the federal financial benefits of marriage because of a law preventing the U.S. government from recognizing same-sex unions.

The plaintiffs in the California case presented 18 witnesses. Academic experts testified about topics ranging from the fitness of gay parents and religious views on homosexuality to the historical meaning of marriage and the political influence of the gay rights movement.

Olson delivered the closing argument for opponents of the ban. He told Judge Walker that tradition or fears of harm to heterosexual unions were legally insufficient grounds to discriminate against gay couples.

Defense lawyers called just two witnesses, claiming they did not need to present expert testimony because U.S. Supreme Court precedent was on their side. The attorneys also said gay marriage was an experiment with unknown social consequences that should be left to voters to accept or reject.

Former U.S. Justice Department lawyer Charles Cooper, who represented the religious and conservative groups that sponsored the ban, said cultures around the world, previous courts and Congress all accepted the "common sense belief that children do best when they are raised by their own mother and father."

In an unusual move, the original defendants, California Attorney General Jerry Brown and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, refused to support Proposition 8 in court.

That left the work of defending the law to Protect Marriage, the group that successfully sponsored the ballot measure that passed with 52 percent of the vote after the most expensive political campaign on a social issue in U.S. history.

Currently, same-sex couples can only legally wed in Massachusetts, Iowa, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire and Washington, D.C.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

A Confession…

Horrible lack of integrity or delicious irony- you be the judge:

I'm in London right now (the one in England), and on Sunday, the group that I'm with plans on heading to the Tower of London.  But we don't want to pay. Solution? Well apparently, there's a church on the property, and if you say you're just going to church, you can then sneak out and check out the Tower fo' free. 

 
 What is that- four stories high? Maybe five? Some tower…
  • Ticket to get into Tower of London: £16.
  • Using "god's house" as a cover to get in for free: priceless.
  • Going with the now horribly cliche "priceless" ad format: horribly cliche.
  • Not being able to think of two "cost to do x" items before the "priceless" line, even though you KNOW that comedy works in threes: even worse.
  • Fact that I'm still doing bullet points long after the joke has played out: whatever.