April 30, 2005

Americans United Urges Senate Judiciary Committee To Reject Federal Appeals Court Nomination

In this press release from Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, we learn our Christian politicians are attempting to appoint another federal judge who clearly opposes church-and-state separation. This guy has said some scary stuff, especially for a judge.

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April 23, 2005

Public Displays of Christianity Coming to Mississippi

Deciding that their image as a haven for conservatives, Bible-thumpers, racists, and others found to be lacking in intelligence (or at least education) just isn't enough, the state of Mississippi has passed a new law allowing Christian displays in public buildings. The governor already has a Ten Commandments display in his office and has now decided that everyone else should do the same. This action follows a 2001 law requiring public schools to display "In God We Trust" in every classroom.

Not surprisingly, the Christians are coming out in vocal support of the new law. They seem to take the poor image of Mississippi as a matter of pride. I guess it is more fun to be Christian when you can rub everyone else's face in it and wallow in your own ignorance.

Also not surprisingly, an ACLU response is already being anticipated. The ACLU is being demonized in virtually every story printed or broadcast about the new law. Even though they haven't done anything yet, public outrage is being elicited. Every politician knows that coming out against such a measure would be political suicide in this state.

This issue is important to me because I am currently living in Mississippi. This is something that will impact me each time I enter a public building. I will find myself thinking about it every day, whether I want to or not. This is something that will probably compel me to take action in some form, even though I am certain that to do so would jeopardize my safety.

What's the big deal? First, these Christian displays foster religious intolerance by demonstrating a clear preference for Christianity over other religions. While this might not impact me directly as an atheist, it maintains an environment hostile to diversity, and this is something I oppose on principle. Second, these displays are offensive to those of us who base our systems of belief of reasoned inquiry and empirical evidence as opposed to mindless faith and superstition. Each time I see such a display, I am reminded of the ignorance of my neighbors and worry that the stake burnings can't be far behind. Third, such displays contribute to the further dumbing-down of our culture - both locally and nationally. By continuing to publicize this mass embrace of irrational and maladaptive beliefs, we insure that future generations will fail to progress beyond our current limitations.

Expect to hear more from me on this topic in future posts.

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April 22, 2005

New Pope Already in Trouble

Days after being announced as the new Pope, it sounds like Ratzinger is already in trouble. News has surfaced that he was briefly a member of the Hitler Youth during WWII. Of course, he claims to have been opposed to the Nazi party. I'm sure that was why he joined the Hitler Youth.

In case you think that his WWII activities are merely ancient history and should not be relevant today, Ron at God is For Suckers points out that Ratzinger has been in charge of the Holy Office of the Inquisition since the 1980s (read more here). This should tell you something about the values of this Pope.

Still not concerned? Okay, try this on for size - Ratzinger has been accused of intentionally blocking investigations into reports of sexual abuse in the Church. A story in the Boston Herald quotes Stephen Pope, the chairman of theology at Boston College, as saying, "He tends to regard the abuse crisis as a result of the decadence of American society seeping into the seminaries and into the clergy, with the understanding that the American press exaggerates it because it's interested in sensationalism and titillation." Given that reports of molestation by priests do not appear to be going away any time soon, this is a problem.

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Second Thoughts About Influence of Christian Extremists

Salt Lake Tribune - Opinion

Upon reading this article from the Salt Lake Tribune, I am happy to say that I agree 100% with the author. I hope America is starting to wake up to the prospect of a Christian theocracy.

April 18, 2005

The End of Reason

AlterNet: The End of Reason

This is a great op-ed by David Morris at AlterNet. Here is a concise summary of his argument: "Organized religion elevates superstition to an entirely new level, so let's call its institutons by their proper name: superstition-based institutions." He traces the history of religion's influence on American politics and discusses the detrimental effects of superstition (i.e., faith) on society. Highly recommended read.

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April 17, 2005

Are Atheist Websites and Blogs Dangerous?

Evidently, the folks at SonicWALL Content Filtering System think so. Ron at God is for Suckers! (GifS) discovered that his blog is being blocked by this filtering software. GifS is an excellent blog that certainly doesn't seem to warrant filtering. No porn, nobody is advocating violence, etc. It sounds like filtering is due to his site being classified under the "Cult/Occult" category that SonicWALL uses.

I guess anything that questions the veracity of mainstream religion must be evil. If you aren't an evangelical Christian, you are the spawn of Satan (i.e., occult). Young minds must be protected from having to confront difficult questions about their worldview. The continued existence of religion must be protected at all costs, even when one of the obvious costs involves discarding the truth.

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April 16, 2005

Christian Propaganda Seeks to Claim International Converts

Turning America into a theocracy isn't enough for Christian extremists; they aim to convert the world. Never mind that Christians often criticize Muslims for attempting to do the same thing.

Christian propaganda film, The Days of Noah, is making its way to Hong Kong, with the hope of winning new converts. Must we pollute the world with this superstitious nonsense? Is the world really going to be a better place if we manage to eliminate diverse viewpoints and unite under one mass delusion?

Evidently, it is working. All over the world, superstitious people came together to mourn the loss of the Pope, one of the best known symbols of superstition. Even Cuba got into the act. I guess that contributing to the spread of AIDS through opposing contraception is praiseworthy. At least he managed to rid the priesthood of pedophiles...oh wait...he completely ignored that issue.

Turning to Australia, we find that Christian groups are protesting the country's Religious Tolerance Act. What? Isn't this counterintuitive? Ah, but look at why they are protesting. "...the law, which was promulgated by the Victorian government despite concerns raised by Christian groups that it could stifle evangelism or end the right to question the validity of other faiths." Christians oppose religious tolerance legislation because it might restrict their right to attack other religions! Is that revealing or what? I guess religion just isn't worth much unless it permits members to criticize persons with different belief systems.

Russia now appears to be a shining example what Christian extremists seek to establish in America - their state church openly criticizes other religions and has banned atheism and agnosticism. It should be fairly obvious that there are many in America who would love to be able to make atheism and agnosticism punishable offenses. Let the stake burnings commence!

April 15, 2005

The Crusaders: Christian Evangelicals Are Plotting to Remake America in Their Own Image

RollingStone.com: The Crusaders : Politics

This is a great article by Bob Moser in Rolling Stone about the "Dominionists." If you are not familiar with this term or its meaning, make sure you read this article. Scary stuff.

April 14, 2005

Christian Terrorists

God is For Suckers has a great post about the unwillingness of the media to use the term "Christian terrorist" to describe individuals who clearly deserve such a label. Check it out here.

Readers of my last few posts may have noticed that I have been using the phrase "Christian extremist" in place of "conservative Christian" or "evangelical Christian." I believe that the term "extremist" is a much more descriptive of these individuals. Like "terrorist," it is fascinating how the media readily applies "extremist" to Muslims but not Christians.

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April 12, 2005

Assault on the Courts: Religious Extremism in America

It looks like the Schiavo case is going to be much more important than most of us realized. As the details of the case emerged, I figured that the primary impact of the case would be focusing national attention on the right-to-die issue. I was wrong. Rather than stimulating a dialogue on relevant end-of-life issues (e.g., an individual’s right to die with dignity, medical decision making, etc.), the real importance of the Schiavo case was that it served as the impetus for an all-out Republican assault on the judiciary.

In the latest example of how the Christian right has taken over the Republican party, Republicans are claiming that “activist judges” are attacking religion (of course, we all know that they only case about one particular religion). Tom Delay, a man who epitomizes the close-minded bigotry that has come to characterize extremist Christians in America, even referred to a “judicial war on faith” as he made thinly veiled threats toward American judges. If this isn’t clear and convincing evidence that Delay and pals desire a Christian theocracy, I am not sure what would be! Lest this be dismissed as another example of Delay’s insanity, it is important to remember that President Bush has repeatedly spoken about “activist judges.”

Do we need to take this seriously? Isn’t this just another example of Republicans pandering to their Christian base? During a recent banquet in Shreveport, LA, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia praised fundamentalist Christians and urged his colleagues in the legal profession not to dismiss “traditional Christians” as simple-minded. He quoted passages from the Christian bible and encouraged the audience to accept “the possibility of miracles.” This is a U.S. Supreme Court Justice advocating Christianity in public! Yeah, I think we better take this seriously.

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April 10, 2005

"Culture of Life" Agenda May Prompt Change on Death Penalty

Pendulum begins swing away from death penalty / 'Culture of life' agenda pushes advocates of capital punishment to rethink positions

I knew this metaphor wasn't going to go away anytime soon! After years of seeking to outlaw abortion while supporting capital punishment, it sounds like some conservative Christians might be having second thoughts. Is this another political ploy, or could it actually represent a shift in policy? Given that increasing numbers of fundamentalist Christians appear to be opposing the death penalty, it sounds like it may be time for Republicans to rethink their positions.

Even if this is another example of Republicans pandering to their extremist Christian base, I'll try not to complain too loudly if it results in the abolition of the death penalty. If we could just do without all the "culture of life" crap and view ourselves as a civilized and rational society, that would be even better. The reason to abolish the death penalty should be scientific (it does not deter crime) and not religious.

April 9, 2005

"Culture of Life" or Culture of Ignorance?

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Led by conservative Christians, Republicans have adopted a new metaphor for misleading the American people - "the culture of life." They use it to characterize their stance on abortion. It sounds better than acknowledging their desire to prevent women from engaging in a medical procedure which is morally comparable to having a cyst removed. Say what? An abortion is a medical procedure that when performed during the first trimester involves removing a collection of cells from a woman’s uterus. At this stage in the pregnancy, the group of cells cannot even be called a fetus, much less a human being. To inspire their legions of mindless troops to action, they spin this into a noble crusade to protect “the culture of life.”

The metaphor was repeatedly thrust on the public during the Schiavo case. Republicans sought to violate the wishes of a terminal patient and her husband by keeping her “alive” in a vegetative state. Similar to the group of cells involved in the abortion debate, they sought to protect a life that really wasn't a life at all. It was clear from the beginning that Ms. Schiavo was irrelevant – this was nothing more than a political opportunity to expand their metaphor and rally the Christian base.

Now the metaphor is being used as the GOP is eager to compare their policies with those of the late Pope John Paul II. Of course, they refuse to discuss the numerous ways in which their politics opposed those of the Pope. Remember, the Pope spoke out against the war in Iraq, against the death penalty, and for government-funded social assistance programs.

It seems that the "culture of life" does not apply to actual humans outside the womb who have awareness of their surroundings. The Christian Right supports the death penalty and opposes inexpensive health care that would reduce infant mortality. They oppose any restrictions on the most commonly used method of inflicting serious harm on humans - guns. They are pro-war and have no problem with preemptive attacks on other nations. Clearly, this isn't about the sanctity of life at all.

This "culture of life" is an updated version of "family values." It is an advertising slogan that will persuade legions of weak-minded Christians if it is not exposed for the political strategy that it is. As conservative Christians continue to work their "culture of life" metaphor into every political speech, op-ed column, and talk-show, remember that this is nothing more than a clever strategy that is motivated primarily by self-interest. Don't be fooled. Theirs is a culture of ignorance where religious dogma pushes science, critical thinking, and reason itself out of public discourse.

April 8, 2005

Sick of Hearing About the Pope Yet?

Since John Paul II's death, it seems to be all the news media can talk about. There seems to be a backlash of sorts going on in Europe, where critics are saying enough is enough. I certainly agree with them that flying flags at half-mast for a religious leader is not appropriate. Interesting that their media is being criticized for excessive coverage. I guess the U.S. media doesn't have to worry about that.

God is for Suckers presents a concise summary of the dead pope situation. Nothing more needs to be said on the issue.

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Keep Your Religious Beliefs to Yourself

The State News - www.statenews.com

I couldn't have said it better myself. This outstanding op-ed argues that "Society would benefit from people keeping [religious] beliefs to themselves." I agree 110%. Here is my favorite quote from the article: "Religious fundamentalism represents humanity's most ongoing and intractable problem."

April 7, 2005

ACLU accuses Tangi school board of contempt for athletic prayer

ACLU accuses Tangi school board of contempt for athletic prayer

I applaud the ACLU's efforts in this case. It is nice that someone still cares about upholding the Constitution and protecting the rights of the minority. They can certainly count on my continued membership.

There are many activist organizations worth belonging to, but I particularly recommend membership in the ACLU.

April 6, 2005

Coalition of Non-Believers: A Step in the Right Direction

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reviewjournal.com -- Living: NEW COALITION: Like Minds

This is certainly a step in the right direction - atheist, humanist, and other groups coming together to take a stand against our increasing theocracy. In my experience, there is often a bit of conflict among these various groups due to relatively minor philosophical differences. However, these kind of alliances are crucial in allowing our voice to be heard in Washington DC. Despite our differences, it makes no sense to refuse to align with anyone who opposes religion in politics.

Of course, the problem is that efforts at coalition-building are likely to result in increased mainstreaming. Thus, there is always the danger that the real message will get lost. For example, if a militant atheist group joins up with less militant groups or moderate religious groups who also hope to avoid a theocracy, it is hard to imagine them not having to set aside their core message. This is where the conflict comes from. And yet, some compromise may be necessary to achieve a partial victory.

April 5, 2005

TheocracyWatch: Monitoring the Rise of the Religious Right in the Republican Party

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Rise of the Religious Right in the Republican Party

TheocracyWatch.org is an outstanding website that I have added to my list of Atheist Resources. They have some great information for those of us who are interested in preventing an American theocracy.

April 3, 2005

Scientific Community Issues "Call to Arms" on Evolution

USATODAY.com - 'Call to arms' on evolution

Another story on the debate over teaching evolution in the schools. Conservative Christians are attempting to argue that evolution is somehow controversial within the scientific community. It isn't.

It doesn't look like this debate is going to go away anytime soon. In the meantime, we continue to dumb-down the American educational system and lose ground to other countries where science is not impeded by superstition. It is refreshing to see more scientists coming forward to speak out against the idea of teaching creation as a plausible alternative to evolution.

April 2, 2005

Sam Harris on Why Even Moderate Religious Belief Must Go

The virus of religious moderation - Comment - Times Online

Many well-intentioned, reasonable people believe some version of the following statement: "Religious extremists are a problem, but religious belief itself is a positive force that is simply misused by extremists." Until the past couple years, I too held this belief. I know belief that all forms of faith in religious dogma are damaging to our world. One of the things that helped change my mind was Sam Harris' book, The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason.

Here is a recent op-ed piece where Harris summarizes the argument he makes in his book. His central thesis is that religious belief, even in moderate forms, continues to inspire violent conflict and ignorance about the natural world. In other words, faith in religious dogma is problematic. "The problem with religious moderation is that it offers us no bulwark against the spread of religious extremism and religious violence."

This article and Harris' book are highly recommended.

April 1, 2005

Keeping Up With Your Favorite Blogs

There are several excellent atheist blogs out there, not to mention the many news portals gathering information of interest to atheists, agnostics, and other freethinkers. How does one cope with the volume of information, staying current without getting overwhelmed?

What if there was a program that would automatically inform you everytime your favorite blogs were updated or every time a news story was published anywhere in the world dealing with topics relevant to atheism (e.g., Ten Commandments, Christian right, church and state, etc.)? If this sounds appealing, then it is time to discover the world of RSS feeds.

For a brief explanation of RSS and what it can do for you, look here or here. Now that you have some idea what I'm talking about, it is time to get an RSS Reader program. For a free reader, I recommend FeedReader. Try it and discover how useful RSS can be.

Once you have the program, it is time to set up some feeds. The Atheist Revolution feed can be accessed here. All you have to do is cut and paste the URL into FeedReader. Clicking on the orange XML button you will find on many sites will do the same thing. Once set up, FeedReader will run in the background and pop-up links to new posts so that you can decide whether or not they are worth checking out. Most reputable news sites now offer RSS (e.g., CNN, Yahoo, USAToday, etc.).

When you are ready to discover the real power of RSS, head over to Yahoo and scroll down the page until you see "Create your own RSS news feeds" and see the search box. Enter a keyword of your choice in this search box, and Yahoo will create a personalized RSS feed for you. For example, if you enter "atheist," an RSS feed will be created that will pull news stories from around the world in which the word "atheist" appears. This is a great way to track news about topics that are of interest to you.
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