October 20, 2016

An October Fright

Haunted HouseI suppose that not all fear is irrational. If you are facing a genuine threat to your safety or well-being, fear could be a perfectly rational response. Still, I think it is fair to say that much of the fear we experience is irrational. Even though we may be aware of this at the time, it does not always help. The fear sometimes wins out. Here's an example I remember from my childhood.

When I was growing up, my parents did quite a bit of entertaining. They belonged to several groups of couples that would take turns hosting various dinners. It was one of their many social outlets and one that did not have anything to do with church. Because children were never invited, it really didn't do much for me. The nights they hosted, I generally stayed in my room.

On one particular October evening while my parents were hosting one of these things, another opportunity presented itself. My family was house-sitting for our neighbors across the street, which meant picking up their mail, watering their plants, and feeding their dog while they were away. I was 12 or 13 at the time, and it was decided that this should be my responsibility. On this particular night, I had been complaining about how I was going to miss the horror movie I wanted to watch on TV (I think it was Friday the 13th Part 3, but it could have been any of the first few films in that series) because I'd be banished to my room where there was no TV. It was suggested that I go watch it at our neighbors' house. They wouldn't care, and their dog would almost certainly enjoy the company. Sounded good to me.

October 19, 2016

2016 Voter Turnout May Be Better Than Anticipated


At this point in time, I'm not sure I have much interest in the outcome of the upcoming U.S. presidential election. None of the candidates are the sort of leaders I'd like to see running things, and I am not going to feel good about voting for any of them. I am, however, still interested in the process of the election. One example of this includes the undue influence on the democratic process being exerted by our cable news media. Another involves what will happen with regard to overall voter turnout. I have been quite curious about whether we will see record low voter turnout in the upcoming election as a function of how unpopular the two major party candidates are. From what I have heard of the early voting numbers, there is some reason to believe that this might not happen. At least so far, it seems like the numbers are decent.

Given the number of eligible voters who do not want to see either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton in the White House, I've been imagining three scenarios:
  1. We see record low voter turnout.
  2. Third party candidates do much better than expected but still fall far short of winning.
  3. We see little difference in voter turnout because people are motivated to vote against one candidate rather than for another.

October 18, 2016

Halloween and Zombie Jesus

Zombie JesusAn earlier version of this post appeared on the Mississippi Atheists blog in 2009. It has been revised and updated.

Technically, I suppose that Easter is Zombie Jesus Day. Still, Halloween always seems like a good excuse to remember that many Christians believe in ghosts, think that angels and demons are battling for their "souls," and insist that they have "a personal relationship" with a 2,000 year-old zombie. It is almost as if every day is Halloween for Christians.

Since moving to Mississippi, I have found the local reactions to Halloween to be quite fascinating and very different from anything I've encountered elsewhere. While there are certainly people here who enjoy the holiday as much as I do, it seems that many Southern Baptists are absolutely terrified of the day. They drag their children to a variety of church activities to make sure that they aren't possessed by evil spirits. They seek to keep their children away from the "demonic" forces they assume prowl their neighborhoods each year around this time. And of course, they love to use this time of year to remind everyone else of their hell, especially those with whom they disagree about various social and political issues.

October 16, 2016

Replacing Religion With Something Else

Old Rock Church, St. Olaf, Texas

 I have seen a few posts recently on social media written by atheists lamenting the lack of progress we've made in replacing religion with something else. Some have been at least moderately critical of other atheists for not working harder to develop an alternative to religion. For the record, I do not believe any of those I have seen posting about this were associated with Atheism+, so that does not seem to be the issue here. I'm curious to know what you think. Should we, as atheists, be working to develop some sort of replacement for religion (e.g., a replacement ideology, community-based institutions that provide some of the functions churches provide)?

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