May 3, 2015

Not Sure Whether You Believe in God(s)?

Atheist Bus - TorontoDo you believe in god(s)? What's that? You say you're not sure you believe in god(s). It sounds like you might be an atheist. Specifically, it sounds like you might be an agnostic atheist like me. Wait a second! How can you be an atheist if you aren't sure about god(s)? Actually, atheism does not require certainty on the question of god(s).

A theist is someone who believes in god(s). When you say you aren't sure whether you believe, you sound like more of an atheist than a theist. An atheist is someone who lacks god belief. For some atheists (i.e., gnostic atheists), this means that they do not believe and feel confident that there are no gods. Other atheists (i.e., agnostic atheists) do not believe in gods but make no claim about knowing with certainty. Some may even go so far as to say that they aren't terribly concerned with trying to know because it is not relevant to them.

May 1, 2015

Christian Pastor Says LGBT Persons Deserve Death

According to WGXA News, a Christian pastor in Milledgeville, GA, has placed a sign outside his church that reads, "Homosexuality is A Death Worthy Crime!" and references Leviticus 20:13. They note that Pastor Robert Lee of the Ten Commandments Church does not see anything wrong with his sign and has a history of posting provocative signs in front of his church.

They quote Pastor Lee as saying:
The institution of marriage was instituted by God and it should not be changed by people who deserve not to live.
Clearly, Pastor Lee believes that LGBT persons deserve to die, and he bases this belief on his bible.



April 30, 2015

Third Party Voting

Ralph Nader speaking in front of the White Hou...
Ralph Nader speaking in front of the White House at the September 15, 2007 protest against the Iraq War. The full speech (ca. 10 minutes) was broadcasted on C-SPAN on September 16, 2007. See: http://rawstory.com/news/2007/Ralph_Nader_how_many_Impeachable_offences_0916.html (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Election season already seems to be in full swing here in the U.S., and I'd be lying if I said the thought of it hadn't already made me feel nauseous. The colossal waste of money is hard to stomach, but that pales in comparison to the positions of some of the candidates on the issues. Watching mainstream journalists following Hillary Clinton around and reporting on where and what she eats almost makes me feel sorry for them and the sorry state of our news media. And then there is the spectacle of the political tribalism by which one is surrounded on social media. Not only is the 2016 U.S. presidential election "the most important of our lifetimes" (just like every other election), but anyone who does not agree with someone's choice of candidate must be characterized as morally defective.

Case in point, I recently encountered someone on Facebook who claimed that voting for a third party candidate in a U.S. presidential election "is morally and strategically wrong." How is voting for the person one most wants to see elected wrong in any way? Needless to say, I reject this claim. As I have mentioned previously, I have voted for third party candidates in some presidential elections when I found them to be much more representative of the sort of policies I'd like to see or when Democratic candidate was simply not someone I could support in good conscience. In fact, I did this as recently as the last presidential election.

April 29, 2015

How Our Scripts Lead to Apathy

Baltimore Light Rail outside Camden Yards
Baltimore Light Rail outside Camden Yards (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Have you ever had the experience of watching a new episode of a TV show and having the strong feeling that you have seen it before? No, I'm not talking about your "sixth sense" or anything as silly as that. I don't mean that you've actually seen that particular episode before (it is new, remember); I mean that it feels so incredibly derivative that the story line was likely borrowed from another show you previously watched. It doesn't have to rise to the level of plagiarism for you to feel like you are watching something familiar. If you watch a lot of sitcoms, I'm sure you can relate. In my experience, they tend to recycle story lines fairly often.

If you are anything like me, you do not find this terribly appealing. Unless you are already invested in the newer show or it manages to put some sort of clever spin on the old story line, you probably find it less enjoyable once you recognize how derivative it is. You might even find yourself feeling bored and changing the channel.

The question I'd like to consider for this post is whether we have similar reactions to important news stories when the manner in which they are presented and/or how the public reacts to them becomes so highly scripted that we feel like we've seen it all before. I think such scripts are far more common when it comes to the news than we see for entertainment media. I also think that there is a significant downside in that the prevalence of such scripts fuels apathy and maintains the status quo.

April 28, 2015

Obstacles Atheists Face in Gaining Acceptance

Aspergeversperring Muiden
By MartinD (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons
In honor of the recent Openly Secular Day, Tom Krattenmaker wrote an article for USA Today in which he discussed five challenges atheists in the U.S. face as we work to improve the manner in which we are treated by the religious majority. Hemant Mehta (Friendly Atheist) subsequently shared his thoughts on Krattenmaker's article. Now that I've had a few days to think about it, I'd like to do the same here.

I'd like to start by saying that whatever criticisms I have of Krattenmaker's article, I am pleased to see that articles like this are being written and picked up by the mainstream news media. The topic it addresses (i.e., barriers atheists face in our efforts to improve our place in society) is an important one that has been discussed on countless atheist blogs. I expect that it will inspire additional discussions, and that is a good thing.

1. Who Has It Worse?

Krattenmaker begins by acknowledging that atheists do face discrimination...sort of. The only example he provides is the fact that a few states (including the one where I live) have laws on the books prohibiting atheists from holding public office. By not mentioning any of the other far more common and serious examples of the sort of discrimination many atheists face, Krattenmaker is able to suggest that we have it far better than LGBT persons.
While it's true that non-believers face discrimination — as testified by the fact that several states forbid atheists from holding public office — seculars have not faced the severity of demonization, bullying and violence that gays and lesbians endure.
Seriously? I'm really not interested in getting into a "who has it worse" debate because the answer to that question depends heavily on where one lives. Come to Mississippi, meet with teenagers and young adults who have expressed doubts about the Christian faith in which they were raised, and tell me about how they have not faced anything like the "demonization, bullying, and violence" experienced by LGBT youth.

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