Atheists for Liberty News - Issue #2
To say that CPAC continues to be a success for Atheists for Liberty is an understatement. This year was our third exhibition at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference and unlike past years, we had a large optics change. When premiering our Vaccine Mandate Equality Project our two large bags of needle pens ran out like hotcakes. New flashy brochures and promotional flyers with QR codes were spread out across the table, making it much easier for the growing secular demographic in the Conservative Movement to follow us on social media. Our presence at media row also continued with myself and Advisory Board Chairman David Silverman leading the way with a fiery tone, now with most of those interviews being up on YouTube. And the flow of interest in our volunteer committees, once a mere concept only six months ago, was on full display. Now thanks to the planning our team engaged in from our breaks at the booth to our long discussions at our Air BNB, many of those attendees are now volunteers, and our State Director program (once a hot tub topic of discussion in Florida), now has a presence in ten states. Many thanks to our volunteers, drivers, YouTubers, and supporters in the movement for continuing to welcome us back with open arms.
- Thomas Sheedy
Opening Conversations: Methods For Talking About Atheism
By Max Carlisle
Find Common Ground By Acknowledging Extremism
Given the politically polarized culture that we currently live in, finding the courage to initiate conversations about religion, politics, or atheism can be a difficult task. It often feels the safest to simply keep our views and opinions to ourselves, despite the environment of self-isolation that this creates. One method of starting a conversation on the aforementioned topics, is to find common ground with another person by acknowledging extremist views within your own “side” or group.
The Partisan Divide
A simple example would be with a Democrat and a Republican trying to have a conversation. If one side, let's say the Republican, can acknowledge the far-right extremist views of their own party and point out the problems this creates, this would create potential common ground between the members of these opposing parties.
Having this common ground at the beginning of the conversation helps it to start off with a friendly atmosphere. It is easier to have polite disagreement when it is clear that both parties have things they agree on.
Another example would be with the progressive/regressive concept of “defunding the police”. If you're taking a stance against defunding the police, you could first start by talking about how you disagree with those who want to fund the police to levels similar to the military and remove all accountability from police departments. That would be the extremist view that you would first acknowledge. In all likeliness, someone who was in favor of defunding the police would be against that position and they would agree with you. You then have a starting point that you both agree on.
The Devil in the Details
Also, get specific. Talk about particular cases. Generalizations and rants lead to both participants talking in circles and then both dig in but using facts and specifics can diffuse these vicious cycles.
For example, in 2021 the city of Minneapolis held a referendum to place the Minneapolis Police Force under the authority of the City Council. Michelle Gross, activist and president of Communities United Against Police Brutality, came out against this measure on the grounds that this “power grab” would prevent a post-licensed police chief from leading the police department while removing the power of the mayor to discipline officers and adding three layers of bureaucracy to police oversight and accountability. Digging into the details—where the “devil” lives—is another way to slow down the conversation so it doesn’t spiral into insults.
Better Angels of Our Nature
Starting from the position that you have at least something in common with the person you're having the conversation with creates the sense that you can discover other bits of common ground as the conversation progresses. As you continue talking, you will always have that original common ground to fall back on, in case you find things that you disagree on, and the conversation becomes too adversarial.
The concept of acknowledging extremism is one of the many helpful concepts that is taught in the book How to Have Impossible Conversations by Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay. The book is designed to enable everyone to have thoughtful, polite, and useful conversations about traditionally difficult topics. Both Boghossian and Lindsay are on the AFL board of directors, and often speak publicly about politics, atheism, and religion.
Vapers of the Worlds, Unite!
By Autumn Berend
You have nothing to lose but your gains
“The only freedom which deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good, in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it.” - John Stuart Mill, On Liberty
As Americans, we must stand against the revocation of individual rights as a tyranny. Otherwise, such acts will fester and become worse. It should be permissible for individuals to inject themselves with substances that would only affect them.
To meet these important standards, it is imperative that we adhere to the principles of individual rights, self-determination, and individuality. The question is: who is to say, dear reader, what is right and what is wrong? How do you select the candidate for this position? How do you decide what to read, watch, or listen to? Whom do you choose to decide what is best for you?
John Milton wrote Areopagitica in 1644, which has become one of the most well-known works in English literature history. It criticizes the concept of censorship in literature. Although we are not claiming free speech is hindered, we do see that the freedom of what I do with my body and the censorship of it completely is coming soon.
Another alphabet government agency—in the “alphabet soup” of government bureaucracy—wishes to regulate further items. This time the victim is synthetic nicotine juice, normally used for vaping rather than relying on nicotine drawn and extracted from tobacco.
We the Children
With the new spending bill passed, the FDA now has control to potentially put businesses like the popular Puff Bar out of business. This isn’t the first time this has happened. In the state of Oregon, in 2019, Governor Kate Brown (D) ordered a ban on flavored nicotine juice that consenting adults had inhaled. She put a ban on these products in order to “protect the children” or “young people” using them. Her justification was the “safeguarding of all Oregonians.”
This flies in the face of all logic and evidence. As atheists, we should try to be logical. The evidence suggests no to little carcinogens in the vaping products as compared to cigarettes. In a Nov. 24, 2020 article from Vaping Daily, they focus on the study from Brown University that recently came out comparing the safety of cigarettes, vaping, and those that do both.
As a result of the fact that 186 individuals participated in the study, all of whom were smokers at the beginning of the study, they were divided into two groups. First, there was a vaping, or e-cigarette group (125) formed outside the other, the group that continued smoking cigarettes (61). The pod group was given 5% nicotine salt juice to vape.
The study took place over a period of six weeks and had the end result showing that the e-cigarette group tested to look at three important markers that they were looking for. Results showed significantly reduced levels of NNAL (a pulmonary carcinogen that derives specifically from tobacco). Participants using vapes in the study also displayed much fewer respiratory symptoms, and reduced cigarette consumption.
Additional markers included blood pressure and the presence of degraded nicotine, which is common to all smokers and vapers. These markers remained nearly the same. For lung function and blood pressure, they’d need to study more than the six weeks that was given to them.
More important findings included 28 percent of participants used only their provided e-cigarette, a habit shown in the study instead of relying on regular cigarettes. 58 percent used both e-cigarettes and cigarettes. Finally, 14 percent used only cigarettes. The study called for more research.
A More Perfect Paranoia
In December of 2020, the County Commissioners for Oregon's Washington County voted to ban all nicotine flavors and even menthol cigarettes. This too was to their detriment as the fear around vaping is contrived. Even the vaping epidemic was contrived, as the reason for the deaths and hospitalizations was from illegal, black market cannabis pens. Both Gov. Brown’s and Washington county bans were eventually lifted, but the damage was already done. I-Vape, Henry’s Vape Shop, etc. All closed down as these were their biggest sellers.
Due to the fact that they do not affect anyone other than the user, the evidence for second-hand smoke is lacking, more so with vaping, and since they do not cause fires or stain walls in the manner that cigarettes do, it makes sense that they should not be banned. My health is not Brown's responsibility; it is mine and mine alone.
With respect to the Prohibition era, the War on Drugs, and even the war on anything that is not harmful to another person, it is clear that these policies failed and only fueled the fire that is the black market. We must stand up and speak out now, or we will be subjected to further abuse of power in the future, which will gradually worsen as time passes. The line of demarcation should be drawn.
Whenever there is a great need, or a great desire, the government prides itself on embarking on a campaign to strip us of our rights. We were founded upon a principle of individualism, after all wouldn't it be absurd if we were to allow such transgressions to occur?
Promote the General Paranoia
Because the FDA now regulates synthetic nicotine in juices, it is important that all vapers unite, since if all businesses are closed because the FDA controls them, our country will be a less democratic one. The use of such a product should not be viewed as a cause for concern, but if they do, at least it is not as harmful as smoking.
Even the CDC’s website repeats these alarmist claims about e-cigarettes. Vaping doesn’t make you more likely to use a cigarette and no evidence shows this. In fact, it’s the opposite. Further enhancing this point is that vaping does not need nicotine. There are plenty of nicotine-free juices. There are also no other harmful chemicals in them besides nicotine, so it's fine. Even its claim on chemicals is false.
We must rise up and stand for liberty. Similarly to the mask and vaccine mandates, this is a form of government overreach. We must stand up for liberty. Our unity is essential in opposing such presumptive abuse of power. We cannot allow the government to interfere in every aspect of our daily lives, let alone what we breathe in.
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