October 22, 2014

Join the #AtheistVoter Campaign

The #NormalizeAtheism campaign used Twitter to bring attention to the important goal of normalizing atheism, and now American Atheists has brought us a new one. On October 21, American Atheists announced a two-week #AtheistVoter campaign. This one is a bit different than just encouraging use of a hashtag. You see, American Atheists is encouraging all of us in the U.S. to contact our elected officials (especially those running in the midterm elections), let them know that we are atheist voters, and tell them about the issues that matter to us.

I just posted about this over at Mississippi Atheists because I think our state is in desperate need of this sort of thing, but I wanted to mention it here too. I imagine that many of you have elected officials who tend to forget that the represent many atheist, humanist, and other non-religious persons.

Here is a step-by-step description of how you can help:
  1. Visit AtheistVoter.org and look up the social media accounts of your elected officials (scroll down the page and enter your zip code into the "Locate your Senators and Representative" search box).
  2. Contact them on Twitter using the #AtheistVoter hashtag and tell them about what matters to you.
And that's it. Pretty damn simple, isn't it? To see many great examples of the sort of thing others are tweeting, check out the #AtheistVoter hashtag.

H/Ts to Friendly Atheist and What Would JT Do?

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October 21, 2014

A Blogging Revival

Gothic revival church of St John the Baptist (...
Gothic revival church of St John the Baptist (1894 – 96) in Dohalice, Hradec Králové District, Czech Republic (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The evangelical fundamentalist Christians in the part of the U.S. where I live have something called revival. I cannot pretend to understand all it entails, but it appears to be a brief period of increased church-related activity intended to restore and refresh one's faith and commitment to one's church. Yes, the sort of tent revivals you have seen in the movies do still take place, but many of the local Southern Baptist churches simply schedule more frequent services, sometimes meeting daily during their revivals. As if going to church once a week wasn't bad enough!

I was thinking about a different sort of revival the other day, one related to blogging. Anybody who has been writing a blog for more than a couple years will inevitably have a vast collection of old posts containing some that will never have been seen by the blogger's current audience. The longer the blogger has been at it, the more of these posts will be out there. The question of what - if anything - to do with these old posts is something I've never been clear on. Perhaps they could be dusted off, disseminated to an audience who hadn't seen them before, and used to revive the blog (and the blogger) in some meaningful ways.

October 19, 2014

Religious Atrocities in the Age of Transparency

English: Daniel Dennett at the 17. Göttinger L...
Daniel Dennett at the 17. Göttinger Literaturherbst, October 19th, 2008, in Göttingen, Germany. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Sooner or later, every atheist blogger writes about religious atrocities (e.g., clergy sexual abuse). Howls of protest sound from religious readers as they insist that the behavior in question would have happened without religion and that it is unfair to characterize it as religious in nature. And while we acknowledge that i is true that something like sexual abuse certainly takes place outside of religious organizations, we also point out that it is the religious who continue to insist that they are morally superior to the rest of us. We may also address how clergy are put on pedestals and children are taught to trust and respect them in ways that we rarely see elsewhere. Sure, the teacher or Scout leader occupies a position of respect, but few can threaten one with hell for failing to keep a secret quite as convincingly as a priest.

Cepheus (Bitchspot) has been writing his Horror Show Sunday series for some time. In today's post, one about a Christian pastor's arrest on allegations that he sexually assaulted a 16 year-old girl during a private prayer session, he asks an important question:
So what do we do about this? I don’t know that there’s anything we can do, mostly because the people we need to convince not to trust these preachers are exactly the people who fall most heavily under their sway. If the flood of sex abuse cases in the media isn’t enough to keep parents from leaving their children with religious workers, I have no idea what is.
I suspect that this is one of those questions that almost every atheist blogger has asked. It screams out for a satisfactory answer.

I left a comment on Cephus' post in which I said,
The question of what we do about this is a great one. For now, I think that posts like this are an important part of the answer. We need to keep informing people that this crap continues to happen and that it happens more frequently than many realize. I consider spreading the word about this sort of thing to be an important public service.
I had something in mind when I wrote that: a YouTube video of Daniel Dennett's presentation from TAM 2014, "Can Churches Survive the New Transparency" (I've included the video below).

October 18, 2014

Daily Show Mocks Exorcism

I love The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, and the clip below is an example of why. The clip reminds viewers that the Catholic Church is still performing exorcisms. I know you knew that; I'm not sure the entire audience did, and so I think that was an important contribution all by itself. The part where the traditional exorcist is trying to explain what is wrong with Skype exorcisms is fantastic, and so is the part where the guy doing Skype exorcisms agrees that doing exorcisms via Twitter would be "ridiculous." Love it!

My hope is that clips like this - even if they are entirely staged and neither of the priests featured take what they said seriously - will help more people recognize that one form of exorcism is as silly as the next and that the underlying belief in demons that guides these archaic rituals is absurd too.

To be sure, some will try to dismiss this as anti-Catholic. But this seems like an unfair allegation given that clips like this are merely holding up a mirror to reflect Catholic beliefs and practices. Accurately communicating what a group believes is hardly a form of bias.

Sadly, the belief in demonic possession and the practice of exorcism are not something we can afford to dismiss as mere jokes. Exorcism is a barbaric practice that causes real harm. I hope that mocking it and continuing to highlight its absurdity will help to hasten its demise. In the meantime, we also need to do more to protect people from those who would use it against them.

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October 17, 2014

Reducing Spam Comments

no spam!
no spam! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I made a change to the commenting system here today. I'm not sure this will affect any of you, but I wanted to let you know about it just in case.

The Intense Debate commenting system appears to use a low-quality spam filter, and I've been seeing a sharp increase in the number of spam comments lately. This led me to disable what they call "guest commenting" to see if that would help. What this is supposed to do is require people to login using credentials from one of the following services before they can leave a comment: IntenseDebate, Wordpress, Facebook, or Twitter.

Since it seems like almost everyone commenting here (except the spammers and a few trolls) is already doing this, I'm hoping there won't be much of an impact.


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