Saturday, January 24, 2015

Veiled Threats and Other Nonsense

An atheist friend of mine had the unfortune to run into a militant asshole. In their exchange the asshole told my friend he should go to one of the Islamic countries that murders atheists.

My friend took his tone, along with his suggestion that he ought to go die, as a threat.

Almost instantly more assholes crawled out of the woodwork to defend the rudeness of the first asshole, saying that his "suggestion" was not a threat per se, although they conceded to the fact that it was rather insensitive.

I took the opportunity to defend my friend and got called names, told I needed to educate myself, got read to from a dictionary, and was told that my contention to their insensitivity, which I felt added insult to injury, wasn't a conversation worthy of the fifth grader.

I am going to illucidate exactly why it was a threat.

Here is why...

Because my friend took it as a threat! That's why.

We don't know his situation or circumstances. We don't know any additional facts about the exchange. Just that in my friend's mind there was more than the mere suggestion to go into harm's way, something which made him feel threatened. 

And really, that's all we need to know.

Except, as the conversation progressed, more and more dictionary thumpers did their best to keep on informing him is wasn't a threat, but just a suggestion. Ha! A suggestion? Right. I guess it could be a suggestion in the same way a Nazi sympathizer telling a Jew to go walk into a furnace would never be considered anything more than merely a harmless suggestion.

Allow me to inform as to why suggestions can also be classified as threats.

Because the law says so. That's why.

In law a threat is anything that constitutes the menace of harm. It doesn't need to be direct. It can be indirect, veiled, or even merely suggested.

A tactless man, for example, might call a girl he doesn't like a whore and suggest she do what he tells her lest she get what's coming to her, and this is a threat, plain and simple.

If this same man threatened to rape the girl, this would also be a threat. If he said he'd have his friends rape her too, still a threat.

Now this next part is where many people who abide by a strict dictionary definition of the word "threat" get hung up.

If, with the woman's prior knowledge that the man wants to rape her, she receives a  disconcerting message that suggests she come over to his place so she can be properly "taken care of," let me ask you, would this not constitute a threat?

In legal terms, yes. It's a threat. In this case there is the menace of harm, existing from prior conditions, and the prior knowledge that this man will likely rape the woman.

Thus the law clearly states that even suggestions can be considered serious threats when there is even the slightest hint of the menace to do harm.

But if you are holding to a strict dictionary definition of the word "threat," basically the admission that you desire to physically harm someone, then you could apologize on behalf of would be rapist everywhere and say they are all merely making suggestions.


As we all know, most social interactions among human beings aren't so black and white. Nor is the way we communicate, express ourselves, or use language. Words and phrases can carry multiple meanings and subtexts and you can never be entirely certain how somebody else will take something that is said, especially when it might only be vaguely suggested. But herein lies the problem, if one possesses a prior knowledge that contained in the words is the suggestion that entails abuse, suffering, and harm -- then that suggest comes with it the explicit intent to have harm done, which constitutes the menace of harm, which by law is a type of threat.

What you cannot do is say the woman in the example was over reacting when it was suggested she enter into harms way where there is a near certain chance she will be raped, because it was merely a suggestion.

No, it wasn't. It was more than a suggestion, it was a threat. A threat against her safety, well being, and freedom not to be harassed or assaulted or have it suggested that she should endure these things because someone is sick in the head and finds pleasure from suggesting it.

The same goes for my atheist friend of whom it was suggested he enter into harm's  way where there is a near certain chance of his being murdered.

But, but, but it was only a suggestion! 

No, it wasn't. It was a threat.

Look, I have no tolerance for indirect, mealy-mouthed, fifty-shades of gray type of ways some callous jerk-wad can say they want someone to endure abuse and be harmed. If you intimidate, insinuate, use a condescending and abusive language, and/or hold fear over someone to menace them and cause them to fear for their safety and well-being by suggesting they place themselves in harm's way, it's a threat.

So we have every right to call these assholes out, and my atheist friend has every right to feel intimidated and threatened by someone like this.

And if you still think it was only a suggestion done in bad taste but not a genuine threat, well you are entitled to your opinion, but you'll still be wrong. Not because I say so, or because the law says so, but because my friend... who was the one who feels threatened (not you), took it as though it was a threat.

I hope that instead of telling him he is overreacting to some rather terrible advice, we might be more mindful of his situation and take the time to try to consider what reasons he might have for taking it in a different way than we might have.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

On Pro-Choice: Why It's the Only Moral Choice

“One method of destroying a concept is by diluting its meaning. Observe that by ascribing rights to the unborn, i.e., the nonliving, the anti-abortionists obliterate the rights of the living.”

– Ayn Rand

Apologies in advance, but a recent debate I have had has caused me to get up on my soapbox here regarding abortion as it pertains to women’s rights.
The problem with the pro-life position is painfully obvious: It’s not a moral position.
You simply cannot tell a fully autonomous woman that she has no right to an abortion without stripping her of the right to choose for herself whether or not such a thing is in her best interest in the first place.
What this means is before you can even deny her the abortion, you have to take away her right and responsibility to make her own decisions what happens to her body regarding a highly technical medical procedure of which the surrounding circumstances which you are completely unaware of.
This just strikes me as all kinds of wrong.
And simply put, if you are not in the woman’s position and you are not the woman’s doctor, then chances are there is simply nothing you will be able to say which will convince me you have a right to choose for her, on her behalf, what is in her best interest medically, morally, or otherwise.
It’s peculiar, to say the least, how so many pro-life advocates claim abortion is a moral issue but their first act is to disregard any moral precepts whatsoever so as to wrangle the freedoms and rights away from women in order to enact unfair, hostile, or damaging laws and thereby ensure the spread misery all in the name of their so-called “moral” superiority.
To even think for one moment that you had the right to do that, let alone have the nerve to seek to gain authority over another human being simply to save what you feel is in your best interest (not theirs) is beyond the pale. So enough with pretending pro-life is a moral position, it’s not.
As my friend Ashley so perfectly summed up, “You mean I can’t tell others what’s in their best medical interest based on my personal opinions, even though I know nothing of them and their personal history and circumstances? Well ... shit.”
But pro-lifers want it to be the only position. So, realizing they cannot control women like marionettes, they do the next best thing: they try to redefine the legal definition of human life saying that fully autonomous life begins at conception. This strategy is designed to invoke a sense of injustice whenever a woman has an abortion because then they wouldn’t be killing an unborn nothing, they’d be murdering a human life!
It’s a strategy that’s worked well in the past, which is why they continue to attempt to bully anyone who doesn’t use their arbitrary selected definition of “life” by calling them “baby-killers” and “murderers.” The maturity level is very low on the pro-life side of the debate, I think you’ll find.
First of all, you cannot just redefine the definition of life any way you’d like and then call people who do not accept your arbitrary definition “baby-killers” and “murders.” Before your definition even gets considered you must first have scientifically valid reasons for describing and independent human life as beginning at conception. But this is where things get problematic.
The claim that an independent human life begins at conception is based off a desire for life (mostly human life) to be sacred. But ask these same people if they feel an 18 or 19 year old teenager has the right to freely choose to enlist in the military and truck off to war, and they will probably say something like, “Damn straight!”
But maybe this is why they rally so hard against abortion, because if they couldn’t send innocent kids off to die in the wars they started, then they might be in danger of being enlisted themselves!
Or if you ask them whether they are in support of capital punishment, i.e. the death penalty, many will likely say yes, which makes them little more than hypocrites since one cannot define a human life as sacred and then allow for people’s lives to constantly be terminated because of programs and policies they support. To me, supporting the termination of a life sounds an awfully lot like abortion, but minus any of the medically relevant reasons which might justify an abortion.
In the first place, if you truly felt that all human life was sacred, then there would be no greater threat to this sanctity of human life than allowing for adolescents to go off to a war to possibly die or supporting policies like capital punishment whereby you vote for the state to be a person’s executioner and idly sit by and watch while they are put to death. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t say that unborn fetuses are a sacred life and thus needs to be protected then allow your children to die in your wars for you and your criminals to die in inhumane ways. That’s reneging your belief that human life is sacred and should be protected at all costs.
Second of all, if a teenager has the right to freely choose to enlist in the Armed Forces, and freely choose to make themselves a foot soldier for some greater cause, why shouldn’t a woman have the right to dictate her own fate as well?
If the sanctity of life isn’t enough to prevent people from shipping off to war, then it certainly isn’t enough to prevent abortions of entities not yet even recognizable as part of their biological species (e.g., it takes approximately 11 weeks for a zygote to grow into a fetus with functioning organs and distinct biological features allowing us to classify it as say, human, and not a duckbill platypus).
At least what the pro-choice side of the debate maintains consistent definitions and isn’t in danger of being hypocritical because it’s not playing a “moral” trump card to try and shoehorn people into accepting an arbitrary, unscientific definition for human life with respect to human biological reproduction, nor does it seek to implement laws dictating how others ought to live according to one’s own limited awareness or worldview, and it respects women enough to give them the benefit of the doubt when it comes to deciding what happens to their own bodies.
Pro-choicer proponents want to protect women, their rights, and if possible the life of unborn (potential) children. That’s right. Pro-choice advocates don’t want unnecessary abortions either, but pro-choice stops here and says to demand anything more than the basic right of the woman to choose what is in her best interest is to step over a line we have no right stepping across.
Pro-lifers, on the other hand, want to safeguard the life of the unborn child, but only if they can legally own the woman and her unborn child first. They’d gladly shred the line of moral decency if it meant they could get their way in gaining power and control over women by stripping women their rights to have sovereign autonomy over their own bodies and decisions.
Which is why, if you are pro-life, the fact of the matter is, you are hostile to women and women’s rights. Period.
The only way to fully back the pro-life movement is to stop caring about women and the rights of women. Some might call me a feminist because I advocate women’s rights, and in this case I’d gladly accept such a charge, especially when it is women’s rights that are being threatened by myopic or outright hostile policies sponsored by those still catering to knuckle dragging chauvinistic philosophies that still believe women aren’t bright enough, well suited enough, apt enough, or wise enough to choose for themselves what is in their best interests.
I’m sorry to inform, but when it comes to the hot topic issue of abortion, well, being pro-choice is rational, being pro-life is not. Doubly so if you are a woman.

Simply put, there is no case that can be made by pro-life advocates that doesn’t automatically devolve into a greater moral peril than that of pro-choice, and for this reason, they simply cannot claim to have the moral high ground here.

Advocatus Atheist

Advocatus Atheist